Statement # 11
Intimacy: danger or opportunity to grow?
We’ve repeatedly pointed at the importance of intimacy, including intimacy between the young and adult people. The less intimacy, the greater the chance of violence later in life. So we need to have room for intimacy. However, there is a problem.
Nowadays, such intimacy is soon identified with what is called incest or pedophilia. These concepts are directly linked to sexual intimacy, which in turn is usually known as sexual abuse and evokes the notion of permanent damage.
This is a subject for research. We will limit ourselves here to voluntary intimate contact outside the family. We will return to the discussion about incest later on.
Studies indicate that we can only speak of permanent damage in very rare cases.
Resistance to such voluntary contacts can be explained from formalistic and sloppy thinking.
Some authors stress the harmlessness of voluntary contacts, whereas other authors explored the boundaries that should be respected in such contacts.
In the meantime we discovered the research by Prescott [in the "Read More" section of Statement 7]. He shows the connection between intimacy and violent behavior: the more intimacy a society allows its youth, the more peaceful this society will be, the more intimacy it keeps from its youth, the more violence one may expect. We certainly see quite some violence around us nowadays.
Now we might say: Okay, let’s create some room for intimacy, even for intimacy between the generations, including outside the family (to which we limit ourselves here). But then we have a problem: intimacy has become suspect.
Intimacy has become suspectThe fear of homosexuality if a man and boy have an intimate relationship with each other has been long-standing. But recently there have been new fears added to this.
Feminists were right to point at the repression of women by men and at the existence of rape within marriage. They also pointed at something else: the existence of forced father-daughter incest and its consequences. In the analysis of this phenomenon they used the same model, namely that of ‘rape of the powerless woman by the powerful man within marriage’, which was translated as ‘rape of the powerless daughter by the powerful father’. Male sexuality continued to be seen as the bad and wrong factor, man being the perpetrator; woman and daughter received the status of the victim.
Within such relations, between man and woman and between father and daughter this may be a good approach. However, the application of this model of interpretation was also extended to intimate relationships outside the family: school teacher-pupil, sport coach–pupil, groupleader –child, neighbor-child next door, and also to friendships between adults and children or teenagers. As soon as there was intimacy involved, all of these relations were now approached from the feminist model of exploitation. This implied that the adult could only be seen as a perpetrator and the younger party was exclusively seen as the victim.
Intimacy was exclusively regarded as sexual abuse. And just as automatically, this was linked to the notion of permanent damage.
Ever since families, schools, children's homes and clubs have become 'colder'. Adults don’t risk touching children anymore or it is even explicitly prohibited to do so.
We already touched upon this subject in our first statement, and the articles attached about the fear of touching and about cramped reactions in schools.
All the more reason to take a further look at intimate relations between generations: What about the real damage? How correct are the usual ideas and assumptions about this?
Meta-analysis: research of research
Prof. Dr. Bruce Rind and his team already sought publicity for a research report in 1997. Research into Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) used to be exclusively aimed at a very one-sided population, namely the one that populates the clinics and prisons. It is to be expected that you will find a lot of cases of damages there. However, that damage-hypothesis was also applied to the population in general: there would be damage in any case whatsoever. Now, Rind c.s, investigated the population at large and (accordingly) reached very different conclusions.
In 1998 they issued another publication that reports on the analysis of investigations on student populations. This publication also reached another conclusion than what was commonly assumed to be true.
The report of 1997 has not got that much attention, but the one of 1998 has been the focus of much controversy. We will get back to this in statement 13.
So far we can orientate us on a lecture given by Rind in the Paulus Church in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, late in 1998. We have an English version of the lecture that offers a good explanation and discussion of that research, i.e. the meta-analysis.
In the "Read More"-section of this statement we have included three articles that discuss the studies by Rind et al. and explain them in shorter summaries: the articles by Ferguson, and G. G. Because everything is already mentioned in these articles we may limit ourselves to this reference instead of giving a summary here. We have more to discuss.
Voluntary contacts outside the family
Rind’s team investigated all experiences and all sexual experiences, both within and outside the child’s family. However, not all experiences with intimacy are sexual in nature and there are also intimate relations outside the family.
Rind also investigated this topic himself: see statement 15 about gay teenage boys.
Titus Rivas has written a discussion of these contacts: Voluntary and harmless affectionate relationships between minors and adults outside the family. Rivas sharply distinguishes these cases from what is called "sexual abuse". He also discusses questions about possible damage. He approaches the ways people tend to think about these relationships critically and also mentions the reports by Rind and his team. There really is a difference between enforced incest and the relationships we’re talking about here. Damage certainly is not involved in all cases. Therefore it is really possibly to take another stand about these relationships than the way there approached by the (feminist) model of repression or incest.
Where does the resistance come from?
There remains a lot of resistance against the relationships we discuss here. Where do they come from? By now, especially sexologists, psychologists etc. should know that the damage is quite limited. So why the continuing resistance?
We already mentioned a source in statement 4: sexual intolerance for what is or seems to be 'different'. Again it is Titus Rivas who has analyzed this issue. He mentions two types of sources or causes:
Looking for ethics: criteria and boundaries
We also present three authors who have looked for the ethics in this kind of relationships:
In the end the three authors formulate practically identical criteria on which such relationships could be evaluated for ethical soundness. In his "Carefully reconnoitering of the Limits Between Wanted and Unwanted Intimacy", read as a lecture in 1995 and published in 1997, orthopedagogue Frans Gieles is looking for those limits, especially concerning child care workers in his area of expertise.
He identifies the boundary as lying somewhere within the realm of the erotic, namely where a sexual purpose is involved. Critics of this paper point out that the boundary is not very clear, which is partly the result of the various definitions of the word "erotic" (Van Ree 2001).
In his paper "I did not know what to do with it" of 1997, Frans Gieles turns out to be the most cautious author here. He wrote this paper for the Newsletter of the NVSH National Workgroup JORis, a group that discussed the subject for years. Gieles then mentions the four criteria and the PS, as they were formulated and ultimately accepted in the group just mentioned. We will see the same criteria later on in the papers by Van Ree and Roelofs [not translated, but see here below]. That's why we mention them here:
The four criteria (Gieles)
These were developed over the years in the Platform committee of the NVSH National work group JORis and an international platform named Ipce.
As a person and as the author of his paper, Frans Gieles concludes that the fourth principle of openness cannot be put into practice in present-day society. Therefore, he draws the conclusion that sexual relationships between adults and children are not acceptable in contemporary society and should be avoided.
Psychiatrist Gerard Roelofs joins in
He mentions the same four principles and the same PS in an interview in De Limburger [Dutch newspaper] of August 8th 1999, though he does not mention its original source. Roelofs goes against existing prejudices as much as is possible in a newspaper interview. He explains his criteria
According to Roelofs, a sexual relationship with an adult does not have to be detrimental for a child from the age of 12.
He has formulated five conditions a 'healthy' pedophile relation has to comply with.
Two other conditions usually turn out to be the main obstacle for the present generation of pedophiles:
Thus his standpoint remains quite theoretical for the time being, and Roelofs is very aware of it. No responsible parent will allow a sexual relationship between his under-aged child and an adult. Roelofs confesses he would not even do so himself [=PS].
Psychiater Frank van Ree also joins in,
late in 1999, though he does mention the source and gives a rather extensive discussion of the paper by Gieles. Van Ree also mentions the same principles:
Van Ree continues:
A PS dated 2004
The discussion has gone on. From the Ipce Forum, Gieles describes in his article, subtitled as "First, do no harm", 2002, how the discussion went on.
Recently, in 2004 two organizations have taken over the four criteria, be it in a slightly different order and wording. The Association Martijn and the group CLogo have accepted the next four guidelines:
Science and morality
The foregoing paragraphs dealt with the content of the questions we want to discuss here and with what could be revealed about its content by research. However, this content has not always been gratefully received. Especially in the English-speaking world there has been a lot of resistance.
We want to cut subjects into two and discuss them separately. This statement deals with adults, children and teenagers and about the relevant research. Next statement, [# 12 in Dutch, but] # 13 in English. Most papers about this subject are in English, and the attachments to that statement # 13 will consist of English papers: the meta-analysis and the various responses to it.