• An anti contact look at youth liberation


    I’d like to preface this text by saying that I don’t believe youth liberation itself to be so strongly tied to contact discourse that talking about it should immediately invoke that discourse and prompt the speaker to identify their stance. Neither any stance by itself, without any wider context clarifying what exactly the person wants, is “the youth lib stance”. But the whole question of whether it is ethical for a significantly older person to pursue a relationship with a child/young adolescent or access real life pornographic materials featuring them cannot be resolved without bringing in youth liberation. 

    The roots of both anti contact and pro contact activism largely ignore agency of children. The first proto-anti-c site I could find focuses on legalism instead of the youth’s wellbeing, and pro contact texts from around the same time period also enforce normative values:

    “VIII. The Childlover will always work in unison along with the parents, and respect the role and authority of a child’s parents as well as maintain absolute discourse with the parents as to every aspect of the relationship. The parents should know about any aspect of the relationship, including the sexual aspect if it is present. The Childlover will never seek to undermine the parental role by use of the child. The Childlover will support the parent’s decision when they are in agreement as to quality or content of the child’s life, but will support the child when the Childlover disagrees with parental decree, and will not seek to undermine the authority of the parent’s enforcement of the decision, but will seek support elsewhere in society for their love’s benefit.
    XII. The Childlover will encourage a healthy attitude within the child for school; encourage their young friends to remain in school and work to live. They will always encourage the child to shun crime, <…>
    XIV. The Childlover will always uphold the laws of any legislature, or any governing body in the state or country that the child and/or the Childlover lives, when accompanied with the child. They will always attempt to act as a positive role model by upholding the law, but remain constant activists for their cause.” 

    The Childlove Manifesto

    “In most societies, pedophilia is an emotionally charged concept. Because of the many prejudices, pedophiles will be afraid to be open about a (sexual) relationship towards the child’s parents. Nonetheless, openness is a crucial condition. Children should always be protected from self-oriented pedophiles. A child’s parents should be able to determine to what extent the three other guidelines are being respected. Your feelings are private, but your actions are not. The parents of the child have the right to know what you are up to with their child… and what their child is up to with you.”

    CLogo Pamphlet

    It’s possible to say youth liberation started affecting contact discourse only recently. I heard about it for the first time from a fellow map in 2019, although I wouldn’t pin it as the earliest point of entry. From that moment onward youth liberation gained more and more publicity within the community. 

    There have been both pro c and anti c people who responded to the concept of youth liberation very negatively, as well as those who claimed it was synonymous with their contact stance. I personally believe the anti contact stance to be the one most compatible with youth liberation.

    Responses to pro cs

    Many pro youthlib pro cs like to reframe the contact discourse as something connected to sexual (and romantic) behavior of the youth, rather than behavior of older people that involves the youth. They believe social limitations placed on children’s and teens’ sexual self expression are the only possible source of the age of consent and vice versa – that the age of consent causes these limitations. In reality the laws that limit the youth’s access to pornography, sex toys, sexual sites, contraceptives, abortion are not byproducts of the age of consent, but the age of majority and the social construct of a “minor”. The age of majority and regulates the youth’s autonomy, the age of consent regulates older persons’ actions that target the youth. Removing one does not mean removing the other, I am pro abolition of the age of majority and everything connected to it, and I’d like to keep the age of consent (with some reforms) as a way to regulate what older people can or cannot do. It is true that the youth’s sexual autonomy needs to be respected and there need to be legal documents that ensure adults do not bar children and teens from exploring their own sexuality. But tacking “and therefore adults should be legally allowed to have sex with children” at the end does not create a logically sound conclusion. Often such sexual contacts already happen in the world we’re in currently, legal or no, and often they’re perpetrated by an adult who holds some authority over the child. 

    It has some merit to believe that child/adult sexual involvement should be decriminalized due to how severe the punishments are and how the fear of hurting someone dear can prevent the child from reporting. Indeed, harsh prison sentences can prevent someone from reporting their abuser – but this is an argument for prison abolition and justice system reform, not an argument in defense of such relationships. Neither the idea of iatrogenic harm – trauma originating from the society, not the sex act – is an argument in defense, because it only proves the society makes everything worse, not that everything is fine in absence of intervention. 

    “But isn’t it limiting the child’s freedom if they’re the one who wants it?” is an argument I also hear often. But I don’t believe wants of a statistically unclear number of people should be followed by legal decisions that affect the life of the entire population these people belong to. Especially given how there isn’t a movement of children and teens campaigning for abolition of the age of consent, and major youthlib organizations are not involving themselves in this matter either. The pro contact ideology is overwhelmingly promoted by adults not connected to youthlib, and the young people who also follow it are mostly older teenagers near or over the common ages of consent. There will be better ways to resolve it, by creating a discussion about it and allowing all young people to participate in this discussion. But this can’t happen till actual obstacles to age equality are removed. 

    My own perspective 

    For me personally, being anti contact overlaps with being pro youthlib because I include opposition to sexual and romantic acts with children that happen within family into my contact stance. Parents often, completely legally, involve themselves with their children in ways that are traumatizing for the child. This can take form of forcing sexual conversations onto children, sexual physical punishments, like spanking, monitoring children for masturbation. It also may be romantic actions, like trying to persuade children they’re bonded forever and should be the priority number one. I firmly believe that all of this needs to go. It may be impossible to change these parents themselves, but their role in the children’s lives can be artificially lessened to the point that they don’t have a way to impose themselves. My opposition to sexual/romantic acts from strangers is mostly an extension of the above. I see allowing child/adult relationships as strengthening another axis of abuse, abuse that can coincide with or replace abuse from parents. Our society is bad at recognizing abuse that comes from a place of love and care, and it certainly does not teach children to recognize it. I wrote more on the topic of love as a masking tool of abuse in my older post on love nihilism. 

    Many other anti cs are not my allies here, because their opposition starts and ends at relationships with strangers, leaving parental authority unquestioned. Their presence in the anti c community is what I mean when I say no contact stance is inherently pro youthlib without wider context. These people created hostile surroundings for the map youth and often side with non-map ageists.

    Instead of letting contact discourse be influenced by what is normal/natural/healthy for the society (or vice versa, more subversive), we need to consider input from youth liberation activists. 

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