Tossing men out with the bathwater

It’s like watching Cyanide poured into the town drinking water because two rats were seen at a dripping tap. Watching… and keeping your mouth shut and sitting on your hands. Rats carry plague… And whatever the cost, you don’t want to chance being identified with the rats, not even to save the people in the town.

Increasingly we seem to do this. Make rules, decisions, take steps which… actually rarely affect the rats, but ruin our lives, our society, our hopes for a future, our past.

The hell with it all. I daresay this post, misquoted and/or selectively quoted will come back to haunt me for the rest of my life. Nothing dies on the Internet.
Shrug. It needs to be said.

I like children. No, let’s go further, and be honest. I love children, especially my own. In any group, I’m the one you’ll find being mobbed by dogs and kids. And yes, I am a man. Let’s be clear here. I love liver and onions too, and yet no-one assumes I want stick my personal Polyphemus into a steaming hot plateful of it, or that I might keep pictures of it on my computer to quiver over. There almost certainly is some freak out there who does this, but no-one makes that assumption about every bloke who enjoys the dish. I’m heterosexual, but really sexual immaturity has about the same appeal as eating the liver while it’s still part of the live sheep. I like women to have all the bits fully grown (And not being a gay fashion designer, who likes androgynous women if he must put up with women, I like them to look like women.) and know what those bits are, and how they work, and what to do with them. Trust me, unless my own youthful disaster areas were atypical in the extreme, the first time is not likely to be the best, unless it really got dismal after that. Experience is good. (Okay, my own take on this is that a male who wants a lack of experience, is a weakling terrified of comparison. But then I look at old men with young trophy wives and think – ‘what a loser you are, and what a slag she is’. Yes, my wife is two years older than I am.) I’ve no sympathy for those who sexually abuse children, and that drops away to less than none at all when you’re talking about pre-pubescent kids. On the other hand I believe and think the evidence is overwhelming that male affection, care, nurturing, mentoring… of both boys and girls has enormously beneficial outcomes for kids. AND MOST OF IT HAS NOTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH SEX. The Greeks — who had some mighty odd ideas — said there were many kinds of love (they even had different words for it, which maybe is what we need). Assuming they’re all ‘sexual love’ is to destroy all the others too.

I wonder if anyone ever did the maths. Look at that child sex offenders register. Assume that the capture rate is rotten. 1:100. Hell, say 1:1000, or even 10 000 -over generations. Look at the population – and even just the population to which this refers – where such statistic would exclude rural tribal societies etc… and you’re looking at what sort of percentage of the conservative 1.5 billion males it could apply to? Yes. We’re poisoning the entire water supply to destroy two rats, who probably won’t drink the water. It’s like the stupid rules about pen-knives etc on airliners. So tell me: A bunch of nutbars who think sex with transparent virgins would be better than what they can get otherwise (yes really. Old Mo’s description was not inspiring to normal men.) gets up on tomorrow’s flight to NY and threatens an airliner of passengers with box-cutters (or even machetes) — how many seconds do you think they’ll last? I’ll tell you: slightly more time than they would if most passengers hadn’t been subjected to this idiocy, but not very long. The nutbars worked it out, and they’re stupider than pig-dung, so there have been no more attempts. But it still hasn’t got through to the authorities… And the same applies to ‘all men are pedophiles’. If we were, pedophilia would be a lot more ‘normal’ than homosexuality. It isn’t. We’re excluding so much of value to the kids, often in circumstances where this could be avoided. One of the best ways to my mind anyway, would be to have more men involved with child-related situations, so there would be a group of dads with the camp, rather than making it something where you only get one male who is prepared to jump through the hoops required to teach etc.(odds increase then, that he’s the clever rat). It needs thought, and takes, however, more than the knee-jerk ‘no knives on airliners’ reaction.

Look: I’m not saying that the problem is to be ignored. I’m all for rat-poison in the holes, and rat-traps and cats and terriers. I’m all for keeping things rats like in rat-proof containers. Hunt down and destroy without mercy or tolerance those who make and put this noxious filth on the Internet. Humiliate and jail the users. Be sensible about sending your daughter – or son, off with a solitary man, or woman (yes, it’s less frequent. It happens. Women do abuse boys, and women do abuse girls, even their own kids. I’d guess it’s going to rise for reasons of our changing society. It will still be a minuscule proportion. But, if you’re a woman, thinking ‘so what: what they lose in male contact is worth their safety’ – down this route in time you’re going also get treated like a criminal for a picture of your baby Jimmy playing in the bath, never mind how often you changed his diaper).

As a writer, the part that worries me is that I’m seeing this creep into writing too. Books like Margaret Mahy’s excellent ‘PIRATE UNCLE’ (where a young boy and his sister are sent off to live with their bachelor uncle, much to the benefit of the kids, the uncle, and the parents) are conspicuously absent in the current generation of books. Solitary men, in fact men, are seen as ‘the bad guys’. And it does spill through. Men not wanting to be scoutmasters. Men avoiding teaching… It’s curious to have sat on the sidelines while a group of (female) YA writers were discussing sex in their books. Mine are terribly dull, as the Kirkus reviewer who (judging by her ‘rave’ reviews) wanted kinky teen sex for her titillation found, and don’t actually have any. The writers posited that as 50% of girls of, I forget, barely past puberty as far as I was concerned, certainly still immature in mind if not body, were sexually active, it was the norm, and the question was just how much gay, threesome, S&M and/or other variants there should be and how much detail, and explanations on condoms, rubber gloves and dental dams… after all, it was important for these young people not feel left out, isolated and strange… Several things went through my mind (beside my feet, as I landed hard). The first was well, what about the other 50%? And I bet they’re the 50% who read (and, um, I’ll bet most of these writers were in that group too, as teens.) What about that sector feeling left out, isolated, strange because they’re not? You’re not pressuring young, socially insecure humans into accepting your adult norms are you? The second was: unless the world has changed very abruptly, an age gap has always existed in the male choice of post-pubescent girls who haven’t finished maturing yet. When they grow up, partners their own age, or even a little younger are just fine. But judging by my own experiences growing up, and more recently my sons’ and their friends at a co-ed school, girls found enormous status in older boys. 2-5 years was the hunting range, largely, I think because even there, the peer pressure on boys was such that chicken-hawking is seen as the behavior of weaklings (and rightly so IMO). To pull a boy who was at college when you were a scrubby school-brat was a major status symbol, and for a girl to date a younger boy… well, she had to be brave or desperate. So: while some countries have statutory rape provisions excluding relationships between minors or where the age gap is close (South Africa was IIRC 2 years), and taking the 50%… by accepting this 50% as a norm you’re green-lighting child abuse, because a lot of the 50% will be minors, role modelling on what you write, with the sort of partner who likes chicken-hawking. Eugh!

So: here’s my position, what I write and what I’d ask you to think about writing yourselves, or if you’re buying books for younger readers, to target.

1) Adults, regardless of gender, can be decent human beings. Not have to be, but can be. Men or women behaving that way are to be admired and liked.

2) Partners / lovers of more or less your own age are pretty cool. (And yes, if you’re going to get graphic, how to put on a condom, use a dental dam etc… is important. But for heaven’s sake try to insert the concept that if the fancy already knows all the intimate details of these things… they’re probably not exactly your maturity age, and taking advantage.). Mental and maturity parity is important. It’s actually about more than just sex. (It’s why Eric and I sent Goth back in time to where she was older than Pausert in SORCERESS OF KARRES.

The original Schmitz gave me the willies. It’s why in the relationship between Clara and Tim in CUTTLEFISH is based on

developing a respect for each other, and the values of the other, and finding common ground. (Yes, and a grave shortage of angst and sex. Sorry. That’s me.))

3) The sort of ‘target’ (male or female) who will respond to someone a lot younger than themselves isn’t a sign that you’re sexy and mature, it’s a sign that they’re a weakling and a loser, who can’t cut it with their peers. It’s not much of a prize.

Crossposted in Coal Fired Cuttlefish

26 comments

  1. Dave,

    You really can’t go leaving logic like this lying around on the internet. Not only does it distort the quality of available data, it confuses the vast majority who trip over it. Honestly, a large number of people who read this will no doubt think you intended to submit this to Cracked.com or TheOnion.com.

  2. I tip-toed around a story idea for some time because of the “non-parent adult + kids = sexual thing” idiocy. Two kids get scared in a storm, run to their adopted aunt, who is babysitting, and dive into her bed. The aunt loves the children dearly and would never, ever betray their trust. But would readers accept that, or has the well been poisoned? I ended up leaving the scene as it is because that is how the characters would act in that situation, but I still feel as if I have to defend the adult character’s actions. I should add that my stories are not specifically YA, but you could rate most of them PG-13 (language, violence, occasional adult content).

    1. (nod) The well has been poisoned (slightly less poisonous than had it been uncle Fred) but what is a normal reaction is now assumed to have other connotations (and, under most circumstances, sensible for the children. If a kid is scared, or in real danger, what they need is a caring adult).

      1. Just so the situation _can’t_ be misconstrued without hard work, you could have the kids end up wrapped up warm on the couch with the aunt supplying hot cocoa and a fire in the fireplace.

        This is such a ridiculous situation for us to have arrived in.

  3. One problem with writing YA, is having the teenage protagonists solve the problem. Having a more realistic situation, where the responsible parents jump in and dropkick the problem into the next hemisphere is cheating.

    But so is making the parents weak, bad, or absent. It gets tough, rationalizing why the kid didn’t consult the parent, if the parent is such a paragon.

    In the YA cyberpunk I’m writing at the moment, I’m trying to reasonably portray a father who’s a bit of a control freak, and is having trouble ajusting to his daughter’s normal teenage drive for independence (AKA rebellion), without making him into a total loss. And another father who is divorced, trying to raise his son alone, and doing a good job of it, despite being highly absent minded and casual about it all.

    Sex. Nuh. Uh. Zero, zip, nada. This does not compute. Except when it constitutes sexual abuse of the child reading it. My kids, growing up, jumped from Jim Kjelgaard to adult novels. “Adult” in this case meaning there were emotional relations, generally healthy, and if there’s any sex, it’s off the page.

    1. “I’m trying to reasonably portray a father who’s a bit of a control freak, and is having trouble ajusting to his daughter’s normal teenage drive for independence (AKA rebellion), without making him into a total loss. And another father who is divorced, trying to raise his son alone, and doing a good job of it, despite being highly absent minded and casual about it all.”

      Both of these are – at least to my mind – realistic situations.

      1. Yeah, I’m just worried I’m making the one father into someone easily read as abusive. I’ll have to find some extra Beta readers for a spectrum of reactions.

  4. Yeah, straight guys are basically useless when it comes to choosing an MC to drive your story forward. There are so many limitations on what’s acceptable behaviour for them, it’s easier to leave them out altogether. Which is exactly what I’ve done with my last few shorts. Amazing how much easier it is to sell a story with a female MC I’ve noticed.

    If an Armageddon-style meteor was heading toward Earth right now, we all know who’d be last into the bunker. Women, children, dogs, cats, rodents…

    1. LOL! Men of today are too stupid to find their way into the bunker without the wise direction of their wives and children. Am I right?

  5. “developing a respect for each other, and the values of the other, and finding common ground.”

    My 60+ year old wife of 30 years and I joke about how boring it would be to turn her in for two 30’s. Who else could I laugh with about obscure references from the ’60’s and ’70’s. Would a 20something could really understand the meaning and humor of, “I am not a crook!”, lava lamps or platform shoes? We’re just too old to start over building that sort of common memories. We’ll just finish this out together.

    1. Yep!!!!! We’re edging on that, and I guess if I found another 30 year old rock climbing huntin’shootin’fishing girl who reads a lot, we might get on okay, but all those layers of background and experience? I’d miss it

  6. While I tend to agree with the general gist of what you’re saying … Dear lord is that a lot of hemming and hawing.

    Men are generally more attracted to younger sexually mature women. This in no way indicates a moral failing or weakness of character. This is simply behavior that men have inherited from millions of years of evolutionary adaptation.

    1. I was trying to avoid giving prats the space to latch onto an irrelevancy and straw-man dismissals or tangents. If I’d said “I love kids and they need men.” can you imagine the loonies?

  7. Why’d you have to spend so much time clearing your throat? “I don’t do this, I don’t do that. This is good, this is bad.”

    Why do you have to explain all that? It’s almost as if the new social norm is that unless you say something, you are presumed to be some sort of perv. And you followed their script in order to complain about their script.

    I think the whole attempt to exclude men is deliberate. If you exclude men from the raising of children and you demonize typical male behaviors and you punish boys in school for failing to act like girls, you will get boys who quit school at the first available opportunity who turn into uneducated men who won’t marry and don’t have or want to raise children. When you couple that with the well known tendency of unmarried women to vote to the Left of the rest of society you can see some obvious practical benefits for certain political parties to damage marriage and screw up the raising of the next generation of boys.

    1. Because the well is pretty toxic and I don’t want to poison myself in the attempt to fix it. I think you overate the intellect and capacity of the left to conspire, and these are side-effects of stupid, rather than a clever plan. However there is big wide internet out there. Go do better.

  8. “The sort of ‘target’ (male or female) who will respond to someone a lot younger than themselves isn’t a sign that you’re sexy and mature, it’s a sign that they’re a weakling and a loser, who can’t cut it with their peers. It’s not much of a prize.”

    Shaming language is a dead giveaway for not actually having any concrete argument available and trying to shout one’s opponents down instead of convincing them.

    Also, as a general rule it’s just plain false. Women are most attractive between 20 and 30. A 40-year-old guy doesn’t look for a woman in her mid to late 20s because he’s insecure, but because that’s what’s attractive. If given a choice between a 45-year-old and a 28-year-old, he’s not going to look twice at the 45. Attraction is not a choice. Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. See Roissy/Heartiste for more discussions of this. I realize you may have written that intending “younger” to mean “young” as in under 18, but that’s not what you actually wrote.

    I have been told that Aristotle’s rule for age of marriage was: half the man’s age, plus 7 years. That doesn’t seem to be too far off what people actually tend to go for.

    1. Firstly the whole piece is about pedophilia and writing, and referring to children below the age of 16, and if you missed that, I’m a lot worse writer than I thought. My apologies. On your tangent however: You’re conflating I’d like to have sex with you right now, with I’d like to have sex with you on a fairly regular basis. YMMV, but that involves for me a lot of time when we’re not actually at it like rabbits. And in that time I personally like the company of someone I share intellect (which is at least partially experience), interests (which again often relates to experience) and background (which is frikking difficult when you’re a a generation apart) so I don’t for example have to explain what a piton is, and she doesn’t have explain what Dolce et Gabbana is or who Adele is (I have no idea, and couldn’t give a shit, which probably exactly how someone half my age +7 would feel about archaic rock climbing gear.) The oh you are so clever and wise (because you know so much more than me) does it for some people – on both sides it seems. Shrug. It would bore me silly, and looking at some older friends – in their 70’s with wives 20-30 years younger, bores them too. Of course if they have developed common interest and experience in the intervening time it may work fine.

      As for Aristotle: you think the Taliban are strange? They’re like your next door neighbor compared to ancient Greeks, in terms of society, mores, lifespan, situation and the speed thing changed. My kids – who are at the age you say would acceptable mates live in world which is vastly different to the one I grew up in.

  9. The rule for males is the female has to be at least half your age plus 7. Works for any age from 14 up.

    1. Uh huh. For that 2 minutes of sex maybe. But your dinner table when she’s 37 and you’re 60… unless you share a lot of common interests is going to be her talking about Spice Girls and you the Beatles. 😉

  10. Your viewpoints are too narrow when it comes to reasons why a person would seek a sexually inexperienced partner. It isn’t always about weakness. Sometimes its about the joys and thrills of teaching a partner how to be intimate and introducing your partner to new physical pleasures and sexual experiences.

    Please note that the statement above does not support or condone adults having sex with teens who have not reached the age of consent.

    1. Did you want a thesis or a 1000 word post? I’m afraid I don’t have space, time or really the interest to explore the outliers and complexities, and I’d agree that it’s more complex and there are many more factors. But we’re talking about a narrow generalization being applied to men based on a perceived norm. I was stating I thought it crap, based mea culpa, on more generalizations and norms. Already you have a few readers moaning that I am beating about the bush – and you wanted more? Shows you can’t please all the people any of the time I guess.

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