Archive for May 9th, 2013

An inability to tell fantasy from reality would normally be considered evidence of psychosis, but in law enforcement it’s a job requirement.  –  Maggie McNeill

Flammarion engravingSince at least the time of Plato, the natural world was generally viewed in Western thought as corrupt, foul and bad; this idea entered Christianity via Gnosticism and dominated philosophy until the advent of the Romantic Era in the late 18th century.  Anything of the natural world (including, of course, sex) was to be looked down upon and avoided wherever possible; the things of the mind and spirit were what was important, and those who wished to appear superior to others removed themselves from the natural world and eschewed the “pleasures of the flesh” (at least in public).  The Romantics, however, rejected all that; they taught that the natural world was innately good, that childhood “innocence” (i.e. closeness to the natural state) was a thing to be cherished, that primitive people were “noble savages” and that “natural” living was purer and better than “artificial”.  This was decidedly a minority viewpoint; the growing middle class of 19th-century Europe and America still saw untamed Nature as rather nasty, and those who lived closer to it than they (in other words, the working class) as inferiors to be “improved” by curing them of their dedication to physical pleasures such as sex and liquor.

But humans are not known for logical consistency, and the bourgeois less so than most; as the Victorian Era wore on, some elements of Romantic philosophy were absorbed into the common weltanschauung, even when they contradicted other aspects of it.  For example, the “innocence” of children became the center of a veritable cult despite the fact that adults were expected to behave in an incredibly artificial manner, and “natural” foods and medicines were all the rage in the “social purity” crowd because they were believed to excite the (natural) physical passions less than highly processed ones!  But if the Victorians’ beliefs were incongruous, those of the neo-Victorians are even worse: while they reject the belief that sex is innately bad, they also believe against all reason and evidence that it’s something like a radioactive material which must be handled with special and elaborate precautions or else it becomes the single most destructive force on Earth.  They imagine that engaging in sex for the “wrong” reasons, or without the benediction of elaborate rituals of consent, or with people separated from one another by more than a very few years of age, is terribly harmful.  They believe that merely taking pictures of the taboo act creates a kind of Gorgonic icon which drives its viewers mad, and that the mere existence of such images harms women and children who are not even in close proximity to it.  And they fervently assert that it is so incredibly dangerous to the sacred “innocence” of “children” (a term which refers not to true children, but to a ritual category which actually includes some adults), for strangers to even imagine sexual contact with them causes such tremendous harm that those who indulge in these Forbidden Thoughts deserve penalties greater than those for violent assault, followed by lifelong social ostracism.

Needless to say, most of this has only the most tenuous basis in reality, and some of it none at all.  But the desire to describe Nature (especially sex) as “good” or “bad” is a very strong one, and for the neo-Victorian mind to accept sex into the “good” category it must be ritually purified by amputating all of its darker aspects, branding even the discussion of them as “violence”, and even pretending that they aren’t even sex at all.  This belief flies in the face of reality; sex, fear, dominance and violence are inextricably bound together, and only by living in a state of complete denial can someone pretend that the only valid, “healthy” and legal sex is that which is so sanitized and neutered that it resembles the real thing about as closely as a hamburger does a heifer.  Even many unadventurous people have a few rather dark fantasies or repressed turn-ons, and a few have fantasies that if acted upon would be evil indeed (as my friend Philippa used to say, “good fantasy, bad reality”).Mad Science by Greg Hildebrandt  But the mere existence of violent, dark fantasies does not indicate a corresponding plan to carry them out; probably 99% of all sexual fantasies are never acted upon, and when it comes to those involving unquestionably evil acts I’m sure the percentage is higher still.  Furthermore, the mere discussion of such fantasies with others does not constitute a conspiracy to turn them into reality.  But in a world where prosecution for thoughtcrime has become a grim reality, it might be wise to restrict such discussions to fully-anonymized online accounts and to encrypt any files referring to the fantasy; otherwise you could end up like Gilberto Valle:

…agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation took Officer Valle into custody…after they uncovered several plots to kidnap, rape, cook and eat women…the officer’s estranged wife recently contacted the F.B.I. to report that…[he] viewed and kept disturbing items on his computer…[though he] never followed through on any of the acts he is accused of discussing.  His lawyer…said the officer committed no crime.  “At worst, this is someone who has sexual fantasies…There is no actual crossing the line from fantasy to reality,” she added…

At first I leaned toward believing the allegations, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that these were almost certainly no more than extreme fantasies used by a vindictive ex to put him away; the only reason I had given the story as much credence as I did was that it’s very easy to believe a cop capable of acts of extreme, non-consensual sadism.  Then just a few weeks ago, I went from “almost certain” to “dead certain”:

A high-ranking police official…and a former high-school librarian were charged…in a plot to kidnap, torture and kill women and children, federal prosecutors said.  Richard Meltz…and Robert Christopher Asch…were held without bail…Peter Brill, an attorney for Mr. Meltz, said his client “had no interest or intention of hurting anybody…it was never anything other than a fantasy”…An official said the case against the men grew out of an investigation in which a former New York Police Department officer was charged and convicted in a plot to kidnap, rape, cook and eat women.  The former officer, Gilberto Valle, was convicted in March and is awaiting sentencing.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of an organized interstate gang of serial killers who plot capers for months on the internet without ever carrying a single one out.  I think it’s pretty obvious that what the defense attorneys in both cases said is true:  these are men with a very extreme BDSM fantasy who are being sacrificed to further the dominant cultural myth that sex can be purified, sanctified and tamed.

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