When child sexual abuse became an issue of public concern in the 1980’s, people sought a villain to blame and a cause to rally against. This was to fight a problem that has existed for all time. The outrage settled on the occult, and the concept of satanic ritual abuse took off in the public psyche. This moral panic most famously lead to the McMartin preschool trial, where impossible and downright bizarre accusations made against the owners of a California day-care held enough credence to spark one of the most lengthy and expensive trials in U.S history.
As the dust settles from the moral panic of the ’80s and ’90’s, it has become clear that satanists are not hiding in plain sight within our communities and satanic ritual abuse is not being carried out in our daycare’s–yet the problem of child sexual abuse remains.
If it isn’t satanists abusing our children, who is?
It has been well documented that 90% of child sexual abuse victims know their abusers and approximately 30% of abuse cases are carried out at the hands of family members. As many as 40% of children who are sexually abused are abused by other, usually older, children and nearly 5 of every 6 sexual assaults of young juveniles occurred in a residence.
Despite the facts, it still seems easier for people to seek and blame others for the abuse carried out on our children. We would rather marginalize a group of people outside of mainstream society than face the painful reality that CSA is carried out in our own homes and communities by people we know and trust, often our own family members.
Today, we have finally begun to acknowledge pedophilia as an unchosen trait. We fight to separate people with an attraction to children (pedophiles) from criminals who have committed an offense against a child (child molesters). This concept is scary and foreign to most people as it goes against the long-held belief that someone with an attraction to children is by default destined to commit a crime against one. People with an admitted attraction to minors, those who advocate on their behalf, and anyone involved with anything believed to be associated with pedophilia, have replaced satanists in becoming the new targets in the witch hunt against child abusers.
This puts us in the midst of a pedophile panic similar to the satanic panic of decades past. It wasn’t long ago that public imaginations ran wild, and it became reasonable to assume that teenagers playing Dungeons and Dragons were also performing human sacrifices in the neighborhood playground after their parents went to bed. The same suburban moms, politicians, and priests who used their vivid (and often twisted) imaginations to spin yarns of satanic panic have today turned their ire towards pedophiles. This includes anything they see as being associated with them, including cartoon drawings and dolls.
As modern puritans make their case against dolls, two of their fantasies are almost always present. One is that dolls will only stave off a predator’s hunger for children for so long before they grow tired of the doll and move onto the real thing; the second is the idea that dolls serve as some sort of training tool that allows someone to become a more skillful child molester.
An insatiable hunger
Coming from the minds of people who find the concept of child size dolls disturbing, it doesn’t surprise me that these ideas completely miss the mark about why we choose to have dolls as part of our lives.
The idea that a doll will only temporarily satisfy a hunger for children suggests that such a desire is present to begin with. Difficult as it may be to believe, not all doll owners claim an attraction to minors. While some of us may be attracted to the physical features typically associated with younger people, that does not equate to an attraction towards real children. Dolls are an object of fantasy, and the size and shape of a small doll represents something that some find arousing yet unattainable in the real world. People like myself spend a great deal of money and effort in obtaining a child-size doll, specifically because we want nothing to do with real children.
Suggesting that we will eventually tire of our dolls and move on to real children again assumes that we would prefer a child over a doll. In the case of the majority of doll enthusiasts, instead of tiring of our dolls, we have only developed a deeper infatuation with them and discovered that one doll is simply not enough. Just about every doll owner I know has two or more dolls and/or is actively working towards purchasing another. This trend conflicts with the notion that a doll would not be enough to satisfy someone, because it compares us to someone with a desire for something else entirely.
Tools of the trade
A velvet bag of funky looking dice and cryptic game manuals were once seen as tools of occultist guilty of satanic ritual abuse; today, dolls are seen as training tools for child molestation. Besides size and physical appearance, these lifeless dolls lack literally every other characteristic of an actual child, begging the question, what exactly would they provide training for? Never mind that a doll is an expensive, cherished object that requires special care and handling: it is more exciting to imagine the dark fantasy of someone taking notes while getting rough with a doll rather than the reality of someone brushing the hair and posing the delicate limbs before lovingly tucking it in for the night.
You’ve got the wrong guy
Sure, people like myself (adult males with young looking dolls) fit nicely within the current narrative of minor-attracted persons being the perpetrators of abuse. You may feel more at ease knowing that a problem was addressed by outlawing dolls and criminalizing us for owning them, but doing so accomplishes nothing in reducing the number of CSA cases. People like me and the community of doll owners that I surround myself with are not the ones guilty of molesting children. The only thing we are guilty of is playing with dolls in the privacy of our own homes, albeit sometimes in a way that others find objectionable. Having sex with a doll, however, is not a crime. It harms no one. Making this private act a punishable offense only serves to spread the message that it’s not okay to be different. The old ways of keeping sexuality a shameful secret have proven themselves useless. Although it’s uncomfortable, we need to stop being so damn weird about human sexuality. Instead of making it a crime, accept that not everyone expresses themselves in a way that is seen as “normal”.
No compassionate individual supports sexual abuse of children, and owners of childlike dolls are no exception. Instead of trying to ban things people think a pedophile would like, such as dolls, how about we turn the focus towards having open, frank discussions about topics that involve sex. How about we provide realistic and honest sexual education that involves teaching consent in schools. How about we take accounts of real abuse seriously and hold accountable the wealthy and powerful institutions who cover up sexual abuse. How about we allow at-risk individuals access to preventive resources and counseling without fear of being reported for simply having an attraction.
These are all ways we can work to end CSA. Let us not continue with the failed method of pinning a very real problem on another imaginary boogeyman.