299. Contemplation (IX)
For a time I belonged to a small Marxist reading group; one day, we were joined by a friend of a friend, a man in his late twenties with a PhD in psychology. He arrived in a multi-coloured cardigan and was soft in speech and manner. Indeed, perhaps the way he dressed could almost be described as childish. Years passed, my life took me away from the city and the book group. My commitment to Marxism, already weak as very milky tea, faded altogether. About seven years later, I returned to my home town and bumped into the friend who recommended the psychologist; we had coffee and he mentioned in a circumspect voice, as the cups drained, that his friend—a friend since schooldays—had been convicted of possession of child pornography. The sentence was five years, quite stiff; so this was more than risqué shots of girls between twelve and sixteen; we were in prepubescent territory.
This caused me to reflect on the man I had known, a man whose aura was certainly not evil. What struck me most about him was that he was a Doctor Who fan; now, I do not suggest that to like Doctor Who makes you a child sex offender—many adults watch it with their families, and even adults without families will watch the odd episode. What we are talking about here is someone who is a fan, by which I mean they build their social identity around the show: the way he dressed reflected a “Whovian” sensibility—the bright colours, the eccentric demeanour. Simply, a strong interest in Doctor Who fandom would grant him access to children.
True; yet I am not sure it is so Machiavellian; to me, the Doctor Who obsession indicates a personality that has not grown up—a personality that is still, at some level, a child—and so would not see any problem with sex with children. Doctor Who could be looked at as a magical man who abducts people—his assistants—and, though not usually children, the Doctor’s assistants are there for the children who watch the show to identify with. So perhaps he saw himself as a magical man who could “borrow” children and take them on—as a literal doctor, a PhD—a magical adventure.
He was also dirty; his hair was greasy and he was always unshaven. His bedroom suffered from a bedbug infestation that lasted for months; he was reluctant to do anything about it—high tolerance for disgust, psychologists would say, including for sexual images of children. I have seen other child sex cases in the news; and it has struck me that the perpetrators—often middle-class people—live in considerable filth. It is as if they are simply constitutionally filthy people; it is hard to say what comes first, the physical squalor or the moral squalor; perhaps it relates to some biochemical malfunction, perhaps not.
His long-time friend seemed relatively unperturbed by it all; he had written a character reference for the trial and was supportive. It was only a few months later that it struck me he was also a very dirty character; although not a Doctor Who fan, he associated with several other Doctor Who fans. He was also a single academic who, so far as I knew, never had a girlfriend. And who stands by someone, however old a friend, convicted of child sex crimes? Who even writes them a letter of support? Someone who, in all probability, has the same predilections himself.
Is it the Marxism, a tendency to norm violation? Is it Doctor Who? Is it just that highly intelligent people are bored and seek novelty in sex? Is it the physical dirt—or the spiritual dirt? I am not sure, but I knew a computer technician at an Oxbridge college who told me there were more attempts to access child pornography from the university computer network than could be reasonably reported to the police. We only prosecute the worst offenders…