2.8. A course: Terror & Sexuality
Here below the announcement of a course given by Anarchist U
in Toronto, Canada.
What is Anarchist U?
The Anarchist U is a volunteer-run collective which organizes a variety of courses on arts and sciences. Most courses run for ten weeks, and meet once a week; there are no admission fees. The Anarchist U follows the tradition of free schools in that it is open, non-hierarchic and questions the roles of teachers and students.
Course: Terror & Sexuality
Child protection, sexuality and the construction of the pedophile: Investigating current modes of social and sexual regulation - July/August 2005
Facilitated by: Rob Teixeira email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To many the whole subject of pedophilia is an open and shut case. Those who harm children, especially, it seems in a sexual manner, deserve all the punishment they get. There is nothing left to be done, no ethical issues attached to an unruly subject who is deemed unable to govern themselves. The protection of children takes precedence over the subtleties of jurisprudence and scientific inquiry on the abject subject of pedophilia.
As such, there is very little room for critical thinking, no layers of subtlety and certainly no place for opposition or dissent in a culture which has declared the pursuit of pedophiles and the abuse of children a permanent state of emergency. Then, as is often the case in a political state of emergency, dialogue shuts down, coercion increases and dissenters are jailed.
This scenario would not be too far afield in describing the current state of affairs involving contemporary Western culture’s dealings with child sexuality and sex offenders.
There is an increasing sexual panic afoot which surrounds these lurid cases of sexual predators that are ubiquitous in the media. The effects of this sexual panic are manifold, producing rigid social polarities and regulating social responses. The panic over children's sexuality and its corollary, the hysteria over pedophilia, are fused together, producing multiple effects. Yet continuing critical examination of the sources and effects of this sexual panic is badly needed.
Those who have called attention to the panic surrounding children’s sexuality and have pointed to our culture’s obtuse dealings with the sexuality of the young have, just for holding critical or dissenting views, often been accused of being “pedophile apologists” or covert pedophiles themselves.
This course is an attempt at unpack these confounded subjects, and to try to make sense of their complex entanglements. It is an attempt to turn down the volume on our habitual reactions, in order to see what other sounds we can discover, what other layers we have yet to uncover and to discuss.
This course is an attempt to answer the question as to why pedophilia, understood in specific ways, has become a prominent concern for the overdeveloped West. At the same time, this acute concern does not surface in the same way in other countries, and in other locales, fails to manifest at all.
It is curious that this fact has failed to register more deeply. It is also striking that the discourse of pedophilia betrays stark gender hierarchies, and these divisions inhere deeply within how the issue comes to be configured in popular and scientific discourse.
The discourses of social and sexual regulation that are anchored firmly in how the pedophile is “deployed” has particular impact on non-normative, queer and non-hegemonic forms of sexuality, childhood, and “family” relations. The terror of the pedophile is, in many ways, the terror of reactionary family forms undergirding its “authority” with reference to the danger that lies in wait for those who stray outside or who dissent from hegemony in its intimate and so-called “private” forms.
The way the sexual and moral panic of pedophilia is enacted shapes the way we come to understand and respond to sexual violence, non-normative sexualities, children’s social worlds and children’s rights, schemes of protection, and the management of risk vis-à-vis social relations as it intersects with the lives of children.
I suggest that contemporary perceptions and modes of governing pedophilia are continuous with other social phenomena. Thus, the existence of pedophilia as a social problem can be understood in broader context. It is not merely a matter of isolated deviance and pathology.
My goal is to see how the concept of pedophilia can be disturbed from its (un)stable moorings, in order to allow new perspectives to emerge. This approach wrests the conceptualizations of pedophilia from their over-determined axes as individualizing pathology toward an approach which views the pedophile as a cultural figure and a category of knowledge production, embedded in a set of hegemonic discourses.
Week 1: Exploring the framework for our investigation
This course will begin with a brief introduction to ideas around social construction in which we will investigate ideas from Michel Foucault as well as contemporary post-structuralist thought and specifically its feminist elaborations. This will set a framework for investigating how notions of sexuality are taken-up by social actors and how various discursive regimes produce understandings of the configuration of the social, the sexual and shapes the “moves” that can occur within this regulated terrain for understanding. The emphasis will be to uncover how the way we come to “know” sexuality, specifically through the dominant domains of medicine, science and psychiatry, and its epistemological dimensions have an impact on how various forms of social regulation are enacted and enforced.
Week 2: Taking custody of the child, or one childhood or many?
[Read] Selections from:
Week 3: Terror and Sexuality - I: Producing 'the pedophile'
The appearance of a dangerous and unruly sexual offender has appeared at other times in history, yet there is a sense that 'the pedophile' in image and reality is also entirely new.
In post-war America during the cold war there was a combined campaign which tied sexual non-conformity and political subversion into a national threat. Are terrorists and pedophiles the new communists and homosexuals?
We will take a close look at how the emergence of a codified image of 'the pedophile' produces much more “work” that its purported intent to protect children. We can analyze these relations as no less than a sexualized terror campaign with an aim to buttress highly suspect and renewed attempts at a radical biologization of human sexuality. Also this strident image of 'the pedophile' attempts to regulate the boundaries of the normal (through terror) with specific intent to shore up hegemonic notions of the “family” and to truncate and prevent the emergence of more radical understandings of sexual difference and desire in the lives of children and youth.
Week 4: Terror & Sexuality - II: Governing the ‘Normal’
Governing sexual relations and the new terrorism of the unruly sex offender; consequences for non-normative childhoods and sexualities.
Week 5: Terror & Sexuality - III: The Precarious Aspirations of Queer Childhood
Regulating the social through the image of childhood. Infantilizing the social through future-oriented heteronormative discourses embedded in the fundamentalism of childhood capacity. Resisting difference, contingency and specificity in the worlds of children. A little bit of anarchy mixed in with a little bit of queer psychoanalytic thought.
Week 6: “You learn better on an old bicycle” or, consensual adult-child sex