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2.8. A course: Terror & Sexuality

Here below the announcement of a course given by Anarchist U in Toronto, Canada.
The announcement gives some thoughts and relevant questions, as well a list of literature.

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.

Location: Toronto

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: satyr9@sympatico.ca

Childhood is the most intensely governed sector of social existence.
—Nikolas Rose

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.

“We have,” to quote U.S. sexuality scholar Gayle Rubin, “become dangerously crazy about sexuality.”

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.


Foucault, The political technology of individuals; “the dangerous individual”
Butler: “Contingent Foundations”
Moral Regulation: Doyle and Brock: “John Robin Sharpe case and moral panics”

Week 2: Taking custody of the child, or one childhood or many?

How do we come to know what the “child” is?
How has social institutions (family, education, etc.) enacted and enforced highly regulated ideas & sites for children and their capacities and how are these linked to forms of social and moral and sexual regulation?
What aspects of children’s social worlds and experiences press against the limits and boundaries of what is deemed “normal” in the social life of the child?
How are disruptions, difference and social experiences that exceed these limits dealt with?
How do we even come to know childhood as difference, contingency and specificity?
What impact does this highly enforced “normalization” in the lives of children have especially on children that are exist in spaces and potentialities for non-normative sexualities and genders?
What do we mean by listening to the child?
Can children construct their own epistemologies in whatever form that may take?

[Read] Selections from:

Allison James, Chris Jenks & Alan Prout. (1998). Theorizing Childhood. New York: Columbia University.
Floyd M. Martinson (1994). The Sexual Life of Children. London: Bergin & Garvey
Gareth Matthews. (1994) The Philosophy of Childhood Boston: Harvard University Press.
Steven Bruhm & Natasha Hurley. (2004). Curioser: On the Queerness of Children. University of Minnesota Press.

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.


Judith Levine. 2002. Harmful to Minors?
Tom O’Carroll. 1980. Pedophilia: The Radical Case. Shulamith Firestone. 1970.
“Down with Childhood” in The Dialectics of Sex: The Case for a Feminist Revolution. Women’s Press.
Su Negrin, “Ageism” in Begin at Start: Some thoughts on Personal and Social Change. New York: Times Change Press, 1972.

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.


Mary Louise Adams. “On Children, Innocence and Definitions of Sex” Selections from Rob Teixeira. 2004.
Child protection and the Discursive production of pedophilia (MA Thesis/OISE)

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.


Colin Ward, 1996. “Open and Closed Families” in Anarchy in Action. London: Freedom Press.
Eve K. Sedgewick, “How to Bring your Kids up Gay” in Warner 1993. Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics & Social Theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Lee Edelman. 2004. “The Future is Kid Stuff” in No Future: Queer Theory & the Death Drive. Duke University Press.

Week 6: “You learn better on an old bicycle” or, consensual adult-child sex

Can there be consensual adult-child sex and what are the complex social relations attendant on this possibility?
What are the implications for social change as we begin to excavate a terrain of child/youth sexuality that intersects with adult sexuality?
For the child? For the adult?
Is the highly regulated notion of childhood capacities within liberal and modernist discourse the lynchpin that turns on the social possibilities of realizing an expanded conception of human freedom and retooled possibilities for radical, anarchist (economic, social, political) democracy?


Beth Kelly, On Woman/Girl Love Or, “Lesbians do Do it” In Paidika: The Journal of Pedophilia.
Tom Reeves, “Loving Boys” in D. Tsang, The Age Taboo. Alyson, 1981.
Joel Featherstone “Consensual Adult-child sex.” Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, (1992).
There can be No Emancipation of Women without the Emancipation of Children: The Kanalratten* Manifesto, in Paidika: The Journal of Pedophilia (1992) Women’s Issue. (* anarchist women & children’s commune)

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