In Defence of Cub Porn

27 Jul 2015 |

This article was originally published in June 2012.

There is a lot of cub porn out there.

Discussions around the topic tend to be highjacked by those making the biggest noise, either pro or con. Extreme viewpoints tend to attract extreme reactions, which produces a familiar deathspiral of invective. Such conversations tend to shed a lot of heat and precious little light.

In furry, such drama tends to appear whenever unusual sexual practices or identities are discussed - zoophilia or coprophilia for example. I speculated in a recent article that the haters are often closeted versions of the object of their hate. I think this might also apply to someone who is anti-cub porn, however it's a more complex issue from a moral, legal, and ethical perspective.

There is certainly a disconnect between the prevalence of cub porn and the level of conversation. On sites where it is allowed (and even sometimes when it is not), it's ubiquitous. A full 4.4% (out of 650,000) of posts on e621.net* are tagged "cub". Yet attraction to underage characters is discussed as if it existed in the extreme margins of furry.

* As of July 2015.

The prevalence of cub porn suggests that a significant minority of furries are paedophiles. Or, to use a less inflammatory phrase, many furries are sexually attracted to underage characters.

Paedophilia is considered to be a paraphilia (i.e. a fetish) rather than a sexual orientation. A sexual orientation is usually assessed based on three criteria:

1. Affectional orientation (who we emotionally bond with)
2. Sexual fantasy orientation (who we fantasize about)
3. Erotic orientation (who we prefer to have sex with)

Paedophilia fails on the conflict between the first and third points: to have sex with a child, even consensual sex, you must lack regard for their emotional health.

It is, of course, illegal to be a practising paedophile. Child pornography is also illegal in most countries. The legality of furry cub porn is less clear.

The United States, EU and Australia have bans on simulated child pornography, however the legitimacy of such laws is mostly untested. The strongest flaw with such laws is probably their failure to define at which point an image becomes illegal, as cleverly explained by William Saletan writing in Slate (full article here):

I'm now going to depict an adult and a minor having sex. The adult is represented by the character on the left. The minor is represented by the character on the right. Here is my depiction:

&i

Have I just committed a crime punishable by 10 years in jail?

 

The furry world has reacted to such laws, preventing or restricting the hosting or sale of sexually explicit images with underage characters.

  • The administrators of Fchan have banned cub porn based on a conservative interpretation of such laws.
  • Permission to sell (the now defunct) Softpaw Magazine had been denied at Further Confusion and Eurofurence, partly due to legal uncertainty.
  • The largest furry website, Fur Affinity, had taken a more liberal approach to cub porn until 2010, when their payment processor cited it as a reason to cancel the site's account.

However the fact remains that cub porn is common and easy to find. Inkbunny is a competitor to FA that has grown quickly in membership in recent times, driven in part by its acceptance of cub porn. There are also dedicated sites such as CubCentral.org*. Publications such as Softpaw are openly available for purchase from vendors such as Rabbit Valley.

* July 2015 update: CubCentral was closed earlier this year following the founder's death.

There is demand for cub porn, principally, because some people are sexually attracted to underage characters.

Some people are sexually attracted to children too. The silent majority of such people who don't act on their impulses - the good paedophiles - are often forced to manage their sexual impulses without any support. Dr James Cantor (@JamesCantorPhD), a psychologist, associate professor at the University of Toronto, and editor-in-chief of Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment refers to such people as "gold star paedophiles".

Dr Cantor has led research that has shown strong evidence that paedophiles are born, not made: MRI tests have shown that paedophiles have impaired communication between different regions in the brain; they perform more poorly on various tests of brain function; they tend to be shorter; they are three times more likely to be left-handed or ambidextrous. As he puts it, one cannot choose to not be a paedophile, but one can choose to not be a child molester. He authored an article in late June 2012 for CNN (here) that gives a good summary of the science.

The struggles of gold-star paedophiles have also been highlighted on occasion by sex columnist and ethicist Dan Savage (@fakedansavage). Savage echoes Dr Cantor's opinion (this excerpt from his 4 February 2010 column):

We should acknowledge the existence of "good pedophiles," people who are burdened with a sexual interest in children but who possess the moral sense to resist acting on that interest.

 

Anyone openly identifying as a paedophile can expect hatred. Bruce Rind, assistant professor of psychology at Temple University and high-profile researcher into the effects of child sex abuse, calls it “America's current insane moral panic". This panic makes it difficult for paedophiles to seek help and advice, such that they may go through life without acting on their impulses.

For furries with such impulses, cub porn provides a resource for sexual release that does no harm. (This is not the case for anyone consuming real-world child pornography, as they are providing demand for the images. This is true even if the images are 'free': as we all know, the cachet provided by attention on the internet can encourage people to engage in all sorts of behaviour.) Accordingly, exposure to cub porn may reduce the risk of destructive behaviour in the future.

There is also a free speech argument for cub porn, as espoused by the FA administrators before their hand was forced by their payment processor. At the core of that argument is that cub porn is enjoyed by non-paedophiles: furries who imagine themselves as the child, or perhaps furries who fondly remember experimenting with sex at a young age.

From a moral standpoint, cub porn is not a special case in the furry world. Many illegal or immoral acts are shown in furry porn for the purposes of sexual gratification. Examples include rape, mutilation, and murder, none of which are objectively worse than the rape of a child.

The 'stepping stone' argument - that exposure to cub porn may lead to a fantasy life that may allow a paedophile to consider the real possibility of raping a child - is applicable. The logic is similar to the argument against comics depicting rape (that they provide a 'how-to' for prospective rapists), or the argument that cannabis is a 'gateway' to more dangerous drugs.

However the 'stepping-stone' argument is flawed: people masturbating to images of child sex abuse aren't necessarily abusers. However abusers will be predisposed towards viewing such images, just as violent people are drawn towards violent video games. In the case of cub porn, abusers and gold-star paedophiles alike will consume the images, which means that a high(er) proportion of cub porn consumers will be abusers. However the images are not creating abusers: as outlined earlier, it's likely that they are reducing the risk.

The 'stepping-stone' argument is a simple case of confusion of cause and effect. Paedophiles are attracted to cub porn; cub porn does not create paedophiles.

The legality of cub porn is a grey area in most parts of the world, and I am not qualified to give legal advice. However I see four ethical arguments for the continued existence of creative, artistic, and explicit cub porn:

Firstly, there is no evidence to link illegal behaviour with consumption of art depicting illegal behaviour.

Secondly, a ban on cub porn would deprive the responsible consumers of the art.

Thirdly, the art may reduce the incidence of child molestation by providing an outlet for those who are sexually attracted to children.

And finally, there are already ad hoc communities of cub-porn lovers brought together around sites like CubCentral. If such groups are rejected, they will demonize the mainstream using the sort of language common to any flamewar on the subject. This language will become normal within the group, emboldening more extreme members. And in an environment where extremists are tolerated, destructive behaviour - such as consumption of real-world child pornography - is more likely to be accepted.

Groups of cub-porn lovers will be exposed to a broader and more moderate range of opinions as happy members of the general furry population. Extreme behaviour in such a moderate group will be discouraged, and more vulnerable members will find it easier to resist potentially destructive behaviour. More paedophiles will keep their gold star.

Acceptance of cub porn makes for a better furry community.

 

Further reading on [a][s]: