2. BERLIN: ETHICS
The four principles
Frans's paper for the Paris conference led to discussion on IMO [Ipce Meets Online, the mailing List for Ipce members] as to whether it can ever be right these days to have sexual relations with a child. The worry is, of course, that even if a child participates with enthusiasm, he or she may later come to regret it. As a result of society's fierce condemnation of such contacts they may come to feel guilty over what happened or feel they have been victimized and damaged by them, especially if such thoughts are encouraged through counseling.
In this regard, Frans commended to IMO's attention an official Ipce statement on the Ipce website known as the Four Principles, which outline conditions under which a sexual relationship with a child could be considered ethically acceptable. Frans also posted a copy of his paper called I didn't know how to deal with it, which discusses these principles in the light of various negative reactions reported to him from young people following a sexually expressed relationship some years before - contacts which had been reported by reliable adult partners as consensual at the time.
In his own paper, Frans went so far as to say he believes that conditions are now so bad in society that it has become impossible to have a relationship in conformity with all these principles. As a result, he personally has decided he should not have sexual contacts with a child. Well, that is a decision for him and he is surely to be commended on his strength of character in his Stoical, or some might even say positively saintly, acceptance of reality. It is principled behaviour in the most literal sense.
But is it the last word on the subject? I hope we will all behave in a principled, ethical fashion, but does that mean that unlike other people the only correct life for a paedophile is that of a saint? That prescription would have been too hard for many of the saints themselves, including the great St Augustine, who famously asked God on the question of celibacy to make him good, but not just yet.
I feel a challenge can validly be made to the even more saintly approach of our very our own modern St Francis, or St Frans, but I should say straight away that it is not my intention to make a formal challenge to the Four Principles or to suggest they ought to be rejected. On the contrary I believe they are sound and valuable as far as they go. However, as I indicated in an IMO posting, I believe the ethical position they represent is conceived rather narrowly. We will be able to dig deeper, I believe, if we cut into a broader patch of philosophical ground (and with less chance of the sides caving in on us!)
My starting point for this broader approach is essentially this book [indicate Peter Singer (ed) Ethics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1994)] , which has not a single word in it about paedophilia but does suggest features we should be looking for and analyzing in any ethical proposition. So, forgive me if I start first with some very abstract points which I hope we can all apply later in the discussion, or at least begin to think about, with regard to paedophilia. These abstractions necessarily take us into a very deep labyrinth of thought, the passages and tunnels dug over more than two millennia since the days of Plato. I might well get lost in them. You might help me find a way out. But I would not even begin this hazardous exploration without being pretty sure there are great riches to be mined.
However, the essential concepts I feel it necessary to introduce are mercifully few in number. Just two.
The most important thing to be aware of when judging the merit of particular actions is that there is a great divide in ethics between those who
Those who judge acts by their consequences are now known as consequentialists. They used to be called utilitarians but that term became confusing because it referred to only one type of consequentialist, namely those who judge all acts by the net amount of pleasure or happiness they produce. Referring back to our first essential concept, because there is a variety of arguably good things to aim for besides happiness - the service of God, for instance, is another - not all consequentialists can be called utilitarians. Broadly speaking, my own belief is that aiming for the greatest happiness of people in general is about the best we can do in terms of ultimate ethical goals. Apparently different goals, such as service to others, and the encouragement of virtues such as courage, honesty, artistic appreciation and so on are really only sub-sets, or aspects, of a happy society. So, I am a utilitarian, which also means I am a type of consequentialist. And I am a paedophile. Lots of big words!
Opponents of consequentialism support several different theories. One of these is natural law theory, the idea behind this being that we have, within our own nature, a guide to what is good for us. If we follow our own nature we will flourish. This thinking derives from figures such as Aristotle and St Thomas Aquinas but is also very modern - many people today think we should study our evolutionary genetic and behavioural development in order to discover the kinds of behaviour most "natural" to us. As developed by theologians, natural law theory, however, became very unempirical and indeed highly artificial and unnatural.
Of much more importance to us is an alternative natural law tradition that started with John Locke in the 17th century. This body of theory was based on rights that supposedly exist in a state of nature and are retained even in modern society. This view of rights had a major influence on the development of the American constitution and thereby on the whole idea of human rights. But why is the idea of rights so important? Why can't we just say we must each act in ways consistent with maximizing the sum total of happiness?
This question brings us up against a major problem, a major clash of moral sentiments.
The classic illustration of this is to imagine seven sailors in a lifeboat. They have enough water on board but they are starving. They have six strong oarsmen who calculate they can reach land before they die but only if they can keep their strength up by eating. The seventh sailor is a little cabin boy who isn't strong enough to row but would be very good to eat. The six rowers can eat him, and survive, or all seven will certainly die unless there is a very unlikely rescue. Now these happen to be very brutal, nasty sailors who would not be troubled by a bad conscience over eating the boy. If they reach land they will be very happy about it. Should they eat the boy? To do so would bring the maximum amount of happiness to the group, thus satisfying the declared social aim of utilitarianism. But many people would find this idea revolting and quickly conclude it would be better for all seven to die than to have six happy survivors. Such people would be human rights advocates who would wish to set out rules, or principles, defining minimum rights, such as the right to life, which it is simply wrong to set aside even in extreme circumstances. Those same people, however, might agree that war is sometimes justifiable even though entirely innocent parties are likely to lose their lives. These matters are not simple.
Compromise is possible
Without going into the complexities, I state as my position that I think a compromise position is best. In a just war, as I believe the war against Hitler to have been, we may have to accept that it is not right to set the rights of individuals above the achievement of a social goal. This is a dangerous position. Stalin also believed that brutal means were justified to achieve an ultimately better society. Whether one is justified in riding roughshod over the rights of some individuals (or merely risking that this might happen) ultimately depends on making a judgment - as well informed as possible - about the likely outcome of one's actions. The defeat of Hitler was a realizable goal; the enforced achievement by Stalin of a communist ideal society was an altogether more distant and elusive proposition.
So, I believe in human rights. I believe in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - a doctrine set out by Jefferson in the US Declaration of Independence in a sentence which on the face of things neatly appears to marry a broadly consequentialist aim with natural rights principles. In my book Paedophilia: The Radical Case I also made use of rights theory with regards to children's rights, including the right to sexual expression, in the shape of John Rawls's theory of justice, which uses an updated version of the old natural rights idea in order to resolve the tensions and incompatibilities between consequentialist and rules-based thinking.
So much, then, by way of introduction to my general position and the very abstract ethical ideas I feel we can usefully apply . Now we can at last get down to the business of actually applying them to the ethics of adult-child sexual relations. I started by suggesting the Four Principles accepted as Ipce policy are rather too narrowly conceived in my view. Now we can begin to explore the basis of that claim.
Back to the four principles
Looking at the principles again in the light of my introduction, we might first of all notice that they are indeed principles, or rules. They are not exactly a list of do's and don'ts. They are not a rigid code like the Ten Commandments, which one is expected to obey regardless of the consequences. There is considerable scope for individual interpretation. Indeed they appear to have been drawn up with consequences in mind, namely the potential bad outcomes for a youngster if his adult friend does not exercise sexual restraint. But in one very important respect they are not consequentialist in the way I have distinguished.
The consequentialist way of looking at things is to consider each case on its merits. All sets of rules and codes, and even broad principles, by contrast tend characteristically to do less than full justice to the complexities of the particular circumstances in which they are applied. This is a weakness of all rules-based ethical systems, just as failure to consider the rights of individuals is, as we have seen, a weakness of pure consequentialism in pursuit of a social goal such as the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Only the very broadest of all principles, such as the so-called Golden Rule - "Do to others as you would want them to do to you" - or the Wiccan principle, "Do what you like as you like as long as it is harmless", may be said to escape this weakness.
Is this weakness a serious one in the case of Ipce's Four Principles? Yes it is, I believe, and I'll say why. First, though, it is necessary to draw attention to an absolutely fundamental question the Four Principles do not address. Going back to my first concept, what is it that the Four Principles do not explicitly tackle at all? There is no explicit statement of what social good, what desirable end, the principles are designed to promote. There is no stated goal that the principles are designed to bring about a generally happier state of affairs. No concern is expressed for the state of society nor is there any acknowledgement that anything is of any importance other than the possibility (admittedly an important possibility, but not the only one) of negative consequences of an adult-child relationship. The principles are all about bad things to avoid rather than good things to achieve.
It may be felt there is no need to be explicit in this context about what we want to achieve. We can do that in conference papers and website position statements. Why go into all that in a set of ethical principles wisely designed simply to avoid relationships that end in tears?
Well, let's look in detail at the principles, where I think we will find that
Paul M's argument freedom
Actually these problems have already been exposed to a considerable extent in two excellent IMO postings. Part of Principle 3 states "Love and dedication must be unconditional. Sex is never allowed to be a bargaining tool." About this Paul M said: "What is this to do with 'freedom'? And what is wrong with bargaining anyway? And doesn't all this then conflict with #1 and #2? I.e. if the younger partner has the self-determination and initiative then that person is also who decides whether conditions and bargaining are allowed or not. (I have known young hustlers who did very well out of me, God bless them.)
What Paul has exposed here is
Point (a) seems to me self-evident but point (b) needs explanation. Paul talks about "young hustlers". Now the word "hustlers" is vague enough to conjure up a variety of possible scenarios. I don't want to get personal or pin Paul down to anything specific. Paul, you may wish to comment further in due course, but for the moment I'd like to use the word to make my own point.
The Four Principles do not, to put it mildly, appear to have been framed with hustling in mind, however that word might be defined. The ethical vision appears, rather, to be somewhat blinkered, narrowly confined to settled friendships in which the adult assumes a quasi-parental sense of responsibility. In my view many kinds of contact - short-term hustler or long-term friend, or even long-term hustler or short-term friend - can be conducted ethically. However, the so-called "rules" of ethical conduct will differ significantly according to the circumstances. The degree of self-determination that it is appropriate for a child to have actually varies greatly, both with the age, experience and maturity of the child and with the nature of the child's relationship with the adult. Even in the case of an emotionally rather dependent youngster in a long-term friendship, however, the desirable principle of self-determination remains, as Paul pointed out, at odds with wording which appears to indicate a wish to wrap children in cotton wool, to "protect" them in ways all too characteristic of those who oppose any sexual expression for children.
Randy's argument about openness
The second excellent IMO posting was from Randy, commenting on Principle 4, on Openness. He said: "It seems to me that if a child has consciously chosen a relationship with an adult then they would know that revealing some of the details of that relationship may get one or both of them in trouble. The mere fact that a child has chosen to ignore the indoctrination against these relationships indicates that they would willingly keep it a secret if necessary. There is obviously something about this adult that the child likes. They can derive strength and support from the adult and his/her friends and not necessarily feel that they were carrying a terrible burden."
Like Paul, Randy is here exposing an inconsistency: for an adult to decide on the child's behalf, as a matter of principle, that the child should not engage in an activity that needs to be kept secret is to impose a limit on that child's self-determination. Note that Randy, quite reasonably, says youngsters would "not necessarily" feel they were carrying a terrible burden. He is here acknowledging that in some circumstances secrets would not be a good idea. Once again, it all depends on particular circumstances and judgments about them. This is half-heartedly admitted even in the wording of Principle 4, which refers to "unreasonable" secrets, leaving open the possibility that some such secrets might be acceptable, depending on the circumstances. The PS, too , is a belated admission that particular circumstances are important.
Randy also made a further, very perceptive, observation. He wrote: "The real danger is if the relationship were discovered and reported. It has been said that it is not the relationships that cause trauma but the reaction of the authorities. I keep hoping that the children will remember the quality of the relationship despite what they are told. If this is not possible, it would be better to never have any kind of relationship with a child because even Platonic relationships can invoke suspicion and the child could be convinced that we have ulterior motives. So the question remains: do we deprive ourselves and the children of the potential benefits of a positive relationship or talk to them about the possible risks, let them make a choice, and then enjoy each other's company?"
Randy's comment here once again takes us back to what is lacking in the principles: any statement of a positive goal, the benefits, not just the pitfalls: what good are we seeking; what good can we do. In his discussion of the Four Principles in his paper entitled I didn't know how to deal with it, Frans sees the possibility of doing good in non-sexual contacts with youngsters. So do I. In the right circumstances. But Randy is on strong ground when he points out that even such contacts may not be very positive, or may even be downright negative in their impact if they are hedged about with suspicion. Nor is suspicion of the adult the only problem.
The whole idea of Platonic love is in my view deeply suspect in itself. The phrase is generally taken to mean love which is too pure to be sullied with a bodily expression. Putting a high value on so-called pure love in this way inevitably reinforces the idea that sex is dirty and degrading, so actually leading us away from, not towards, the original goals of our ethical system, had we bothered to make such goals explicit. Incidentally, so far as I can tell from my limited researches, the idea of so-called Platonic love finds very little clear expression in the writings of Plato himself. The supposed anti-sexual element in Plato, derived from his theory of forms, was played up out of proportion by Mediaeval theologians who were trying to reconcile ancient philosophy with the strictures of the Christian church.
So, although a Platonic relationship may - with luck - appear "respectable" and be accepted in society, and may enable he who exercises the required saintly restraint to feel a good conscience, the messages such restraint sends out to the youngster are likely to be damagingly negative where sex is concerned.
In this regard, I would remind everyone of John Money's writings describing the often tragic consequences of love and lust being separated: tragic especially in terms of producing a guilty, furtive attitude to sexual desire, particularly to forms of sexual expression such as homosexuality and masturbation which do not fit the traditional, socially approved aim of reproduction within marriage. The problem is less acute these days, perhaps, than in Money's heyday. Nowadays, for adults, pretty well anything goes except paedophilia. But that seldom applies to schoolkids just discovering that they are gay. Their introduction to being gay is still likely to be the taunts of the playground bullies. These youngsters especially can greatly benefit from at least someone in their surroundings giving them positive messages about their desires: the very last thing they need is to have their bodies kept at arm's length by terribly pure paragons of virtue who have apparently conquered physical desire. If even a paedophile won't touch them, what sort of a pariah will the gay youngster feel himself to be?
Incidentally, while what we have come to call Platonic love is plainly a poisoned chalice, the writings of Plato himself on the subject of love are still worth reading. Plato's Symposium, in particular, has an extended discussion on love and the proper relationship between a lover and a loved one, in a context highly relevant to us and to our consideration of what is "good", because the lovers in question are men and the loved ones are the youths they befriend. But the discussion needs to be read very critically. The character Pausanias, in his main speech, makes what may very well be the first recorded put-down of a paedophile by a gay in literature. Paedophilia and homosexuality are of course modern social constructions and some of the arguments in Plato about valid and non-valid sexual behaviour are clearly based on different social patterns to ours. Nevertheless, the put-down by Pausanias is very instructive for us. Here is the relevant part of what he says:
Note the grounds on which Pausanius makes his put-down. We can easily agree with him that exploiting young boys' inexperience by deceiving them is wrong, but that is not his main point. His real worry is that the boys may turn out to be unworthy of a cultured and virtuous lover: they may be a waste of time. Now on this point it seems to me Pausanius may be getting somewhere.
The Four Principles of Ipce, and the solemn, self-denying stance that Frans feels he must draw from them are slightly at odds with what Pausanius is saying. The Four Principles are completely silent on the question of a particular boy's personality and character. It's as though all children are like Ming vases, precious, fragile, with no mind of their own but very likely to be dropped and smashed by a clumsy paedophile.
Pausanias feels men should only have young lovers who are worthy of them: not boys of weak character concerned only with trivial things or whose minds are easily turned. I am not saying we should do the same. All kids need love and affection, especially perhaps some of the so-called weak or troubled kids at whom Pausanius would turn up his nose. But if we are really to respect kids as humans, as free moral agents, that does mean being critical of them, it does mean making judgments about what's good and bad in them -- just as some of them, it seems, are very ready to be critical of us. It is not "respecting" youngsters to treat them uniformly just as potential "victims".
Love in our society
And if we do think in this way, where do we stop? Do we wait for a perfect society before physical contact is OK? How much risk is too much? What about the man-boy relationships described in Theo Sandfort's research of two decades ago? Those consenting relationships seemed beneficial to the youngsters at the time by rigorous scientific standards. But society has changed. Some of those boys may now say they regret what happened. Does this mean that all those years ago, in a more liberal climate, the men should have refrained from sex because of the risk that society might become more conservative?
And what about Randy's point? Even non-sexual closeness can end in tears and trauma. An old friend of mine, not a paedophile, told me many years back of such a case. It was when he was a student and had spent his long summer holiday with a family in a remote cottage. He and the young boy of the household spent a lot of time together. They both loved fishing and went out on long expeditions together. Nothing sexual in it at all. But the boy became attached to him in a way he had not anticipated. When the time came for parting the child was not just sad, he was inconsolably upset and tearful to an extent my friend found disturbing. Should he never have allowed that friendship to grow? Should he have shunned the boy from the start and told him to stay at home with his mother?
The logic of always avoiding potential harm would suggest exactly that. But what would the boy have thought of such a policy? I am reminded of the poet Alfred Tennyson, deep in profound grief over the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam. His view, famously, was that despite his grief and pain "It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all".
In another interesting case, a woman came to a conclusion very close to the heart of the matter. Some of you will remember it as coming from the interview with a woman named as Heidi, published in the Special Women's Issue of the journal Paidika. Heidi tells us she had been 13 when she had had a romantic friendship with one of her teachers. The pair were in love. They hugged and kissed and spent time together. There was no sex but the relationship was risky. Heidi said: "I needed someone to trust, someone who did not treat me as a child. It's easy to fall in love with someone who gives you that. She was also willing to take a big risk because of me. I was a minor, a girl, a student. It was all forbidden. Her taking a risk for me also made me trust her. It made her special. She thought I was important enough to take such a big risk." However, in this case the grown-up eventually decided the risk was too great and put a stop to the affair, which is exactly what the ethics of caution would suggest as the correct, moral thing to do. But Heidi recalls in the clearest possible terms that what she found hurtful was the rejection. As an adult, she looked back saying she wished that more risk had been taken, not less. She wished the relationship had become fully sexual.
Up to new ethics?
So do we steer clear of emotional involvement as well? On a consequentialist basis, one might propose a sliding scale of risk: the greater the risk of a bad ultimate outcome, the more one should refrain. The greater the hope of a good outcome, the more love and lust can be allowed to come together -- the more love both adult and child can express and enjoy. But is there ever a point at which we can absolutely say never? Or should do so? In particular cases, yes, of course. But not for all.
However, the consequentialist "sliding scale" approach leaves one open to arguments about the "slippery slope" to perdition. If there are no rules then too much is left to the individual to decide. Answer: moral rules are for the individual to enforce upon himself. An absolute standard of socially enforceable laws is available to ensure minimum standards are not breached. Also guidelines and codes of practice -- of which the Four Principles are an example -- are also a good thing in ensuring that people think carefully and they leave individuals with little excuse for falling short of socially acceptable standards.
But it is an illusion to suppose even these general standards are very fixed and solid. Society at large fails even the lifeboat test discussed earlier. I mentioned the deliberate sacrifice of innocent civilians in war. As recently as last month I see the government of Sri Lanka (which these days has a very vocal policy against so-called child abuse by Western visitors) was calling on its citizens to produce more babies, with the specific stated purpose of producing soldiers to fight in its civil war. Children, in other words, brought into the world specifically to be fed to machine-guns. But no doubt the Sri Lankan government sees the issue as a matter of life and death for the entire nation, and it is no easy matter to prove them wrong.
Parents, also, sometimes feel justified in exposing their children to considerable risk. What about the risk of bringing up a child as a Jew in a society where Jews are oppressed? Should the parents abandon their faith? Why privilege religion in this regard but not love? Note that the closer and longer we are in contact with a loved child (the more our investment is like that of a parent) the more entitled we may feel to "mould" the child -- to educate etc. Indeed the longer we are close the more this becomes inevitable. Thus we move away from Paul's model of free negotiation with an "equal" hustler. We can even turn the usual assumption about power imbalance on its head: it is the parent who has most power vis-à-vis the kid, not the sex tourist.
Negative emotions afterwards
Let us turn to the negative emotions expressed by youngsters that Frans raises in his paper I didn't know how to deal with it . I wonder, were all these kids of a certain type? All "tough" or difficult kids, in contact a lot with social services? I am not saying avoid such youngsters. Far from it. Boy-lovers, especially, often seem to have an affinity with troubled youth: we are often able to offer kindness, help and useful guidance with such kids even though their parents, teachers and social services figures have failed to do so. This is very important. And let me say on a personal note that I know that in some such cases it may indeed be necessary to avoid sex with the kids in order to do two things:
But not all kids are difficult. While I like boisterous fun with lively kids, I also find myself very much attracted to quiet, thoughtful, sensitive youngsters. Even at the age of nine or ten there are kids of this kind who know their own mind and, I believe, can be relied upon not to change it in the ways that Frans describes in his paper.
I would like to conclude by mentioning one such youngster, a boy whom I shall call David. David played an important part in the life of a friend of mine, who shares my tastes, whom I shall call Chris. Chris had known David from his very early years but the two inevitably saw much less of each other when Chris's work took him abroad. However, they wrote to each other, and at the age of 14, looking back to a long time earlier, David wrote this: "I am missing your cuddles and you feeling my body and making me happy. I have got a bigger one since you last saw me and far more hairs, but please don't tell dad what I said, that please is between you and me!!! Look forward to seeing you again my love!!!"
Chris felt it wise to destroy the quite long letter of which this was a part, something he found very hard to do, but the words I have read to you were recorded and kept in code. David is now at university, a law student, and I am very happy to say he shows no sign whatever of using his new skills to sue Chris for compensation! On the contrary, they remain on very friendly terms.
I would remark also on what you will already have noticed -- that David said "Please don't tell my dad". He was content to have a secret. And why did he say this? Because in earlier years Chris had been perhaps a little bit too open with his father, too concerned to comply with Principle 4 of our Four Principles long before this principle had been put in writing.
These principles, I suggest, while they are a wonderful aid to ethical thought, should not be regarded as a commandment to be broken on pain of going to hell. They are not tablets of stone. I say take a consequentialist view, not a rules-based view. Use your best judgment in any individual case.
For some among us the inclination may still be the path of abstinence in every case. Some may fear they have to stick to this rule with iron discipline as the only means to guarantee themselves against their own potential folly. OK, that's fine. Once again, it's a matter of assessing the perceived consequences for the individuals concerned. But what I would prefer not to see is for such decisions, like that of Frans, to be in any way considered as an Ipce policy. Frans himself has been at pains to say this is a decision for himself and it is for others to make up their own minds. However, I would ask Frans to ponder the implications in terms of his influence on others. I would say, Frans, that your stance makes a very good message when talking to academics and medical professionals such as those in Paris. It makes an excellent message also for any nosy police officers or child abuse industry people visiting the Ipce website. They must find themselves daunted by our respectability.
What to advise the young child-lovers?
But is it such a good message to give to fellow child-lovers? Frans, you and I have plenty of grey hairs between us. We are old. We ought to be wise. Your message certainly seems to be very wise in its message of restraint and as such it is sure to have great influence, not least on younger child-lovers. We may expect to find younger people in growing numbers discovering Ipce' s site and others, such as Boy Links and so on, sites whose policies may be subtly influenced by ours as we no doubt are by theirs. A number of us in this room, the grey-haired ones, may be able to follow your personal example, Frans, without too much personal difficulty. One is reminded of the novice priest who asks an elderly priest about the temptations of the flesh and how to avoid them. The priest replies, "Oh, don't worry, my boy, the first forty years are the worst. After that it gets a little easier."
Is that what we want to say to the young child-lover? It may make us look very wise and even feel very saintly to do so. But in making my judgment I go right back to the beginning of this argument. My philosophy is based on calculations of happiness. How, overall, can we maximize it for everyone within the constraints of an imperfect society? And when I say everyone, that includes not just children, to whom we have a great responsibility in our deliberations, but also to child-lovers as well, and even to some extent to their families, which is why we have an interest in the Bologna project, in writing to prisoners and so forth. Part of our mission, I suggest, is avoiding the suicides and the long agony of misery and despair that leads to such tragedies. If we are to fulfill this part of our mission, I believe there is one part of our message we must not forget - and that is the message of hope.
It is a daunting thing to say to a young child-lover, perhaps still in his teens, that all he can reasonably look forward to is a life of constant yearning with no hope of fulfillment. Must we really tell this young man or woman - by the message of our own abstention - that in order to behave ethically in our society he must never, ever, hold a child in a way that brings love and desire together? Must we tell him that for his whole life he must take the fox to his breast and let it gnaw in the way of the Spartans - even those heroic figures, remember, famed for their discipline and fortitude, were also great boy-lovers. This negative way of thinking is like Kant's dull ethics of duty in which the only actions regarded as truly ethical are when we do burdensome things we'd really rather get out of if we could.
Better, I suggest, to offer hope. In practice, the young man or woman in our society will of course more often than not be wise to exercise restraint. In practice there may not be all that much difference between the path of total abstinence on the one hand, and the path of rejecting dangerous possibilities on a one-by-one basis, as they occur. But if we say to the young child-lover "Here are some principles, think about them, but make your own mind up" we do two things. We give him a tool to help his thinking but we also leave him with some hope for the future. Not a lot, but as much as we reasonably can. Such hope, I suggest, is utterly vital.