bjmuirhead

on writing photography life

A spak attack about past uni supervisors and Baha’i

For my amusement, and only for my amusement: I was searching my email for another subject altogether, and up popped the following:

Bruce John Muirhead is undertaking research for a PhD at the University of Southern Queensland under my supervision.  Bruce aims to revisit the subject of the nude in contemporary art after postmodern and related cultural critical assaults on beauty and formalism have left the field with little respect for this art form.  Bruce has demonstrated his willingness to challenge orthodox views and received opinion on the subject of the nude.  His task is formidable.  There is half a century of negative criticism he must engage and yet he appears more determined after six months research that he was at the start of the process.  I have no hesitation in recommending Bruce as a worthy candidate for the ****** scholarship.

The writer was my then supervisor, one David (I’ve never been published and am a junior academic who should not be a PhD supervisor because I only got my PhD 3 years ago) Akenson.

I didn’t realise just how angry I continue to be about the piss poor supervision at USQ until I accidentally discovered this reference again.

It’s not just that he thought my project unworthy, nor that he was  incapable of understanding what I was doing, it’s that he undertook supervision in the first place when he thought these things. In all honesty, it was Akenson and his buddies that convinced me that higher education studies are not worth the effort any more.

Yep, I was bloody pissed off with his intellectual inadequacy. (His personal inadequacy is another matter: the last time I physically saw him, he ducked behind another person and peered anxiously in y direction. Dick.)

But, he is not the only person I have encountered who is intellectually deficient. Just recently an auxiliary board member of the baha’i’s in Australia wanted to talk to me, and arranged to meet with the secretary of the Local Spiritual Assembly to which I putatively belonged. They wanted to talk about this very blog, and my writings on paedophilia.

The difficulty presented to me was twofold:

  1.  I had the temerity to state the children have a sexuality.
  2. I stated in one blog post that I was considering the issues of child sexuality, paedophilia, and adult-child sex outside of any moral theory.

That my work is well referenced and researched (though I continue to research), that it is supported by biology, medicine and psychology, what I was saying went against the basic baha’i moral principle that children are chaste and sexless creatures. I was under the impression, having read loads of Baha’i commentary n this, that Baha’i beliefs were to take into consideration the discoveries of science.

This, therefore, is a public statement that I resign from the Baha’i faith. The following is the main text of a pretty pissed off letter I sent to one of the Baha’i people I spoke to.

Despite the fact that this letter is to you, I have sent a copy of the to the Secretariat, as I have a request at the end that only they can deal with.

I have considered what you had to say, and I have read the document you gave me. In fact, I wrote a rather large response which I have decided not to send to you, as I believe you would not seriously consider what I have to say.

You made it very clear that nineteenth century moral beliefs are far more important than the science, the medical, psychological facts which we now know and need to consider.

My work in respect of childhood sexuality, and adult-child sex is read by (and considered quite highly by some) researchers in psychology. I cannot take your rather petty and completely uninformed comments seriously, except for one thing: you have convinced me that members of the Baha’i Faith do not even attempt to follow one of its most important principles. This, of course, is true of the Universal House of Justice also. (I do read what is sent to me.)

It is without any regret, therefore, and with what little respect I continue to have, that I both ask and demand that my name be removed form the rolls of the faithful.


Any contact other than a statement to the effect that I have been so removed from the rolls will not be entertained or responded to.

Yep, I’m pissed with religious stupidity also.

Of course, Baha’i’s really are quite lovely people. They go out of their way to be lovely. I have nothing against any Baha’i personally, but really. Ya’ll need to grow up intellectually and join the twenty-first century. That was what Bahá’u’lláh wanted, you know: keep up with the times.

Ok, my whinge and bitch is over. It is  in no way amusing to my readers, what few remain after my lengthy and unannounced sabbatical. But, for whatever reason, I felt the need to say these things publicly, and perhaps to note that I am currently trying to write something about the role of morality in purely intellectual research. It might be interesting.

Peace be upon you, because: why not? I certainly feel better!

 

 

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Domestic Disjunction (photograph)

Finally, and at long last, I am beginning to feel somewhat better physically and mentally, thanks to a dose or three of homoeopathic sulphur. This has resulted in a re-discovery of the urge to take photographs, and I can feel an essay, and a story or two stirring somewhere inside. The first product of this recovery is the following:

Black and White art photograph, interior of house.

Domestic Disjunction (Box)

What I am doing, in fact, is having fun with my camera phone (Huawei P9), clicking away whilst gesticulating with camera in hand. I don’t get half as many shots worth doing something with as I would like, but it is fun.

And isn’t that the point of it all?

From the root

This photograph is from a couple of years ago, and although there isn’t a root in sight… ’tis metaphorical, as I am sure you understand.

from-the-root

From the root

I particularly like this photograph because everything in it, bar one piece of vegetation, is dead, and death is the most fascinating form of life that there is.

The first dead creature I remember seeing was a dog that had been crushed by a car. I was three, or thereabout. I don’t remember much else but the intense bright red of the blood coming from its mouth, congealing on the bitumen.

I don’t remember being shocked by the sight, or surprised, or any other emotion that I’ve heard people express and write when talking about similar experiences in their own childhood. I remember the red, the stillness, the white of its teeth.

This next photograph was taken not long after a road train had done its passing.

Kangaroo run over by truck

An inner road

The dog wasn’t the only animal cadaver I saw in my childhood, but it was formative of my visual and intellectual interests, as were the many human cadavers that began to litter my life around age fourteen. Death, for some reason, pursued me; or perhaps I was pursuing death as I walked around my city. (It always was while walking, and often I walked ten or more miles to get where I was going. I was far too energetic in those youthful days.)

It seemed that wherever I went there was someone killed in an accident, or by a heart attack—or something else. I often didn’t know what had caused the death.

I also managed to see innumerable people attacked, usually between eleven in the evening and two in the morning. These people were rarely badly hurt, but for one young policeman, in the mid-seventies, who thought he could handle one old drunk woman, who managed to stab him several times before she fled, leaving him bleeding on the footpath. I never found out if he died. I didn’t want to know. My friend and I continued to our destination, while his copper mates, who should have stopped him going over in the first place, rushed to his aid.

Perhaps there is some answer as to why, for a period of more than twenty years, I encountered four, five, six, or more cadavers a year; sometimes more. Many friends moved around as much as I did, but never saw the same things. In fact, several friends, age 58 and older, still have not seen a human corpse. One wonders how they could achieve such a thing. But…

Such is death.

Step-flower (photograph)

I haven’t pointed a camera at anything for most of this year. But, at last, here is one that I quite like. Hope you like it also.

wildflowers growng through steps

Step-Flower

Childhood sexual rights

Michael Seto (footnote 3, Seto 2012 234) summarises the general view on children desiring sex with adults:

I realise that adults have more opportunities to speak and be heard, at least by other adults, but I have never heard (directly or indirectly) a child speak on behalf of his or her right to have sex with an adult.

This is to say: children do not want sex with adults.

This footnote intrigued me for a variety of reasons. Firstly, there is the fact that I have heard 12 and 13 year olds (in another room, talking with my same age children—the advantages of no soundproofing) talking about wanting sex with people I knew to be 18 and over, i.e., legal adults.1 At the time they were pubescent, and at least one identified then, and now, as “pansexual”. Secondly, there is the fact that, prior to puberty, my children and their friends, questioned me consistently and thoroughly about sex and who they could have sex with.

The answers I gave them are less relevant than the simple fact that they asked me in an attempt to seek guidelines bout who were appropriate sex partners/experimenters for them. They were not arguing for their right to have sex with adults; rather they were assuming that they could, if they wanted, and wondering why it wasn’t so. Hence their questions.

My problem with Seto’s footnote, therefore, is simple:

  • Perhaps he has not listened to children. That would explain why he never heard things that I have heard.

One difficulty in appreciating the verbal expression of a child’s sexual curiosity, needless to say, is that they do not use the same words and conceptual approaches that adults use. Sometimes they talk about their desires and express their curiosity in a frustratingly roundabout manner, but rarely in such a manner that they cannot be understood.

The second issue which his footnote raised for me was one of children’s rights, and specifically children’s sexual rights.

One right which I always have believed children have and always should have is the right to honest, accurate answers to any question they ask, and to have that answer expressed in a manner they are capable of understanding. (If you must use technical language or any “big” words—explain those words and teach them to use them properly.)

Most parents, to the extent that they are able, i.e., depending on their knowledge, education, time and willingness, extend this right to children in all areas other than sex and sexuality. In respect of sex, the primary “right” English speaking Western cultures maintain is the right of children to be, and remain, ignorant. Moreover, this ignorance is extended to a child’s sexual behaviour, which parents frequently, if not always, do their best to stop.

Needless to say, a child’s sexual behaviour, with themselves and with others, is a matter of rights. Concerning this, Haroian (2000) says:

In the western culture, great controversy has been perpetuated over what adult (parent and professional) attitudes about children’s sexual expression should be. Many child rights advocates believe that children are a disenfranchised minority in the age/class system and state that the privilege and responsibility of sexual behaviour is one of the many human rights denied them. They suggest that the proper adult stance is one of permissiveness to encouragement. This argument is more than vaguely akin to the rhetoric of the paedophile groups who have a vested interest in the relaxation or abolishment of child protective (albeit restrictive) laws.

This reference to paedophile groups,2 is disappointing simply because it takes attention away from the very notion that children may have sexual rights which should not be transgressed against. Haroian continues:

Children, by definition, are not consenting adults in sexual matters and may need protection from the liability of sexual contracts in the same manner that they are not held accountable for business or labour contracts.

This position does not suggest that there is inherent harm in sexual expression in childhood; in fact, we have considerable evidence to the contrary. Sexologically, it is based on the knowledge that the benefits of free sexual expression of children can only occur in a sexually supportive society: a society in which all people have sex for sexual reasons, one in which sexual knowledge, skill and pleasure are valued for both males and females. A society that encourages sexual competency rather than constraint and in which every man, woman and child can say yes or no to sex without prejudice or coercion. To encourage children to be sexual in a sexually repressive or permissive/ambivalent culture is to exploit their healthy sexual interest, as they will be left alone to deal with a double standard and the sex-negative, self-serving attitudes of peers and adults.

The mention of paedophile groups now makes a little more sense—we do not, by and large, live in sexually supportive societies; certainly not in the USA or Australia,3 where generally agreed upon socio-cultural views on sex are schizoid and held a long way from coherence; we do not, by and large, accept that children can and often do enjoy sexual pleasures, such as masturbating, mutual fondling, and other activities which usually are described as “foreplay” in adults; we do not live in sex positive societies where children can learn about sex and be sexual safely.

In saying this, I am not taking a side-swipe at paedophiles, or dismissing adult-child sex as wrong or harmful.

I strongly suspect that if we lived in sex positive societies, more children would engage in sex (sexual games, if you prefer) with each other, and that some children would seek and be willing to engage in, sex with older women and men. The best way to learn, after all, is to go to someone with experience. This would not be a large moral and legal issue in a sex positive society where children learnt from the earliest ages, simply because the children would know both what they were getting into, and that they can say no and be heard.

These ideas are bound to be thought to be rosy idealism of the most dangerous variety by many people. And perhaps it is just that when we consider the negativity which surrounds sex in our modern culture. But it has worked well in other cultures and in other times, and one must always maintain some optimism. I have, after all, listened to my kids and their friends grow up, and I have noted the damage done to their sexuality. All I had to do was listen to know just how much they want to be comfortable sexually.

Our research psychologists, however, seem incapable of listening. Fortunately, at least some clinical psychologists fall off the hysteria bandwagon and treat childhood sexuality sensibly. But, it also is true that many clinical psychologists also are incapable of listening.

References

Haroian, Loretta. 2000. “Child Sexual Development.” www.ejhs.org /volume3/Haroian/body.htm.

Seto, Michael C. 2012. “Is Pedophilia a Sexual Orientation?” Archives of Sexual Behavior 41 (1): 231–36. doi:10.1007/s10508-011-9882-6.

Notes

1Sometimes I just had to go in and tell them that they had it all wrong. Inevitably they were astounded that I could hear them, and they would try to talk quietly for a while. But, the quiet rarely lasted for more than a few minutes

2PIE, or the Paedophile Information Exchange, comes immediately to mind.

3I really cannot comment on the non-English speaking West, as I do not know enough about those societies. Nor, by and large, can I comment on the UK, which seems to be following the US and Australia; but I may be wrong about this.

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