One lesson very controversial people must learn is that they will eventually say something they ought not say. This is not a matter telling them to silence their free expression. Rather, it is a basic truth. It is not because what they say will be wrong, but that it can easily be used against them.
Milo Yiannopoulos is a self-professed provocateur. He says things he does not necessarily believe because of the reaction it will get. He also happens to say things he does believe that prompt the same outrage. Unless you follow his comments and understand his mannerisms, it is easy to confuse one of his jokes for his actual opinion. He also tends to mire his genuine opinion in with outrageous commentary, making even more difficult to parse his intention.
I think this is what happened with his comments about cross-generational sex. The Reagan Battalion released an edited version of a Drunken Peasants podcast Milo was on in 2016. In the podcast, Milo makes several statements regarding adult men having sexual encounters with teen boys. I think it is important to hear the exchange in context to understand precisely what Milo said. Here is the beginning of the exchange:
The reason I started at this point is because something not reported in the media is that Milo starts the conversation by attacking someone for taking pictures of an eight-year-old girl and publishing them online. He clearly opposes any type of sexual activity with prepubescent children and does not support anything that is exploitative.
The point of making that distinction is that the Reagan Battalion and the media accuse Milo of supporting and condoning pedophilia. That is not what he said. Pedophilia is the sexual attraction to prepubescent children, i.e. children who have not reached puberty. This is most children under the age of 12. Milo explicitly states he is against this at least twice during the Drunken Peasants podcast, the second time giving the above definition of pedophilia.
Where Milo gets himself caught is in his comment about the age range. One of the Drunken Peasants named Ben states that he would be creeped out if he knew someone who was in their thirties who had sex with a 13-year-old. Milo asks for the Ben’s age, which is almost 35, to which Milo replies that he is speaking about someone who is 28. Given Milo’s tone and delivery, it is unclear if he is joking. He proceeds to talk about sexual interactions between 13-year-olds and 25 to 28-year-olds, specifically commenting about women who have sex with teen boys.
This where it gets mirky, because his comment about these women is that they are the victims of boys who deliberately sought them out. Granted, Milo is making a specific claim that there are some teenagers, in this case boys, who are sexually mature and actively seek sex with older people, particularly. This is not a contentious issue. It happens and we all know it happens. Both boys and girls will do this, and they can often find adults willing to do it with them.
The problem is that Milo first implies and then states that these instances of consensual encounters are essentially harmless and potentially beneficial. This has been a contentious issue between me and other people because my opinion is that such “relationships” are unacceptable. Like Milo, I fully understand that there are teenagers who are sexually mature and may actively pursue sex with adults. Unlike Milo and others who have commented on this blog, I do not think these sexual experiences are necessarily harmless. I think an adult should know better than to have sex with a 13-year-old.
Even in instances where it is clear both the teen and the adult are consenting and there is no direct threat or harm being done, even when they are genuinely in love and will remain together for some time, it is still inappropriate. I would think that if you truly loved someone and wished to spend the rest of your life with them, you could wait until they were of the age of consent.
Drunken Peasants member Paul states in a follow-up that consent laws need to exist to ensure that children are at an age where we as a society can be sure that they can understand the decision they are making. This is essentially my position. I have been around enough young teenagers to know that even the toughest 13-year-old will break down in tears over some of the smallest things that in three or four years they could not care less about. It is their lack of development, lack of understanding, and general immaturity that causes that response. There is a reason we do not allow 13-year-olds to sign contracts, and it is because of how easily they can be manipulated but also how little they actually understand.
Milo does not disagree with this position. On the podcast, he concedes that the law is probably right. That portion was conveniently left out of the video as well. These caveats he gave offer an explanation for his intentions. He is not saying that people should have sex with teenagers. He is not saying that these encounters are never abusive. His position is that sometimes the child actively pursues sex with an adult, and in those circumstances it may not be as harmful as we think.
Had he stated his position in that manner, I do not think there would have been a problem. But he did not. Instead, Milo said it in the most provocative manner possible.
He does this with another portion that was edited out of context. Milo argues that the sexual relationship between “young boys and older men” may provide a sense of safety and help for those “young boys” struggling with their identities. He states:
In the homosexual world, particularly, some of those relationships between younger boys and older men — the sort of ‘coming of age’ relationship — those relationships in which those older men help those young boys discover who they are and give them security and safety and provide them with love and a reliable, sort of rock, where they can’t speak to their parents.
Ben states that this sounds like Catholic priest pedophilia, which is where the edited video ends, and on its face it does. Milo does not give an age range for the “young boys”. That term can meaning anything from a two-year-old to an 18-year-old. Milo tries to explain on his Facebook page what he meant:
I shouldn’t have used the word “boy” when I talked about those relationships between older men and younger gay men. (I was talking about my own relationship when I was 17 with a man who was 29. The age of consent in the UK is 16.) That was a mistake. Gay men often use the word “boy” when they refer to consenting adults. I understand that heterosexual people might not know that, so it was a sloppy choice of words that I regret.
Let us be fair and honest: that is not what Milo said nor was it what he meant. The context of the conversation revolved around boys as young as thirteen. He clearly was not talking about adults, which even if that were not apparent from the context would become clear from the use of the phrase “coming of age”. That implies a specific age range and “adult” is not part of that.
This is precisely how Paul received the comment, which he took as Milo endorsing pedophilia. Milo gave his explanation of pedophilia, which Paul accepted and retracted his prior statement. However, it does not help Milo because this implies that he thinks it is okay to have sex with children who have reached puberty. Paul calls Milo on this as well, stating that Milo is essentially supporting cross-generational relationships. Milo agrees, again restating the benefit that these relationships can have for young gay boys.
There is no getting around that statement. It is not that what Milo says is untrue. TJ, the Amazing Atheist, stated in support of Milo that he knows gay men who have spoken about their sexual exploits with men starting at young ages. I know gay men of various ages whose first consensual sexual encounter was with an adult man. These men do not see the acts as abuse, and some of them are still partnered to these older men. This is not unusual in the gay community.
Based what these men share with me, these older men did seem concerned about other men preying on the boys and appear to have formed these “relationships” as a means of protecting them from predators as well as out of genuine compassion and love for the boys. Only a few of these “relationships” ended poorly, and in all but one the men state that it was their behavior and immaturity that led to them, not the older men, breaking off the “relationships.”
In that sense, Milo and TJ both have a point: it does appear that some young boys find these interactions helpful. Milo is likely correct that it saves some boys’ lives because they have someone who appears to care about them when their friends and family abandon them. They may provide these boys not only with the love and attention they seek, but also a place to stay. This may keep those boys off the streets and out of situations where they may turn to drugs or prostitution.
He is not wrong that these consensual interactions may not be that harmful. It is possible that in some instances the boys will be fine. The problem is that they are still minors, still under the age of consent, and it still a questionable situation.
The above comments I made are essentially the argument Milo made. The difference is in the presentation. I do not make it sound like I am endorsing the activities whereas Milo does. Milo explains himself at the end of the exchange with Paul. He states that he does not think this applies in every case and that boys like himself were outliers. Unfortunately, that comment was edited out of the video and neither the left or right leaning media has any interest in linking to or playing the comments in context with Milo’s caveats and explanations.
This why it is so important for someone like Milo to choose his words more carefully. It is one thing to push the envelope. It is another to push it to such a degree you cannot pull it back. In this case, Milo was able to do this on the podcast, yet he made enough statements that could be edited that it ultimately did not matter. Anyone who wanted to make him look bad only needed about a minute or two of the exchange.
I highly doubt that Milo is a pedophile. I highly doubt that Milo actually thinks it is okay for adults to have sex with teenagers in general. I suspect his position is that if both parties are consenting and we can be sure that this is the case, then he thinks there is no problem with the interaction. I do not agree with that position, but it is a defensible position. One can reasonably argue that if a teen genuinely consented and understood the potential consequences, there is less likelihood they would be harmed by the interaction.
Unfortunately, that is not the way he put it, and so he brought this on himself. It would be helpful if the media were honest about his comments, but he sets off the left too easily and many on the right do not like him either. It is also a controversial topic that no one wants to be perceived as excusing. Defending Milo would give that appearance to some, so it is not surprising the media is not correcting the misinformation.
There is one other element to this that bothers me, and that is Milo’s response. He released a video response last night, and I linked to his Facebook. Most of the points he lists on Facebook are valid and not worth addressing. I addressed one them above and I take issue one more:
The videos do not show what people say they show. I *did* joke about giving better head as a result of clerical sexual abuse committed against me when I was a teen. If I choose to deal in an edgy way on an internet livestream with a crime I was the victim of that’s my prerogative. It’s no different to gallows humor from AIDS sufferers.
On the Drunken Peasants show he did joke about performing oral sex on a priest when he was a teen. In context, it would appear that he made a joke at his own expense. However, Milo made the same comment on Joe Rogan’s show a short time before that. During that show, Rogan asks if Milo was molested by this priest, to which Milo stated several times that he was not abused. He was also unclear about his age at the time. It appears that he may have been 14 but possible 17-years-old.
I am not disputing whether or not he was abused. I am disputing his framing because he clearly stated that it was not abuse and that he was the “predator”. Milo cannot have it both ways. He cannot say that he knew what he wanted and pursued older men because he knew it would upset people and he wanted to control them (his comments to Rogan) and then present it as victimization when people accuse him of supporting pedophilia.
That said, he has every right to present his experiences however he wants. If he wants to see it as him being the predator, so be it. If he found it enjoyable, so be it. If he wants to make a joke out of it, so be it. None of those are endorsements of or excuses for pedophilia.
This leaves me with one final issue: why did this happen now? The Rogan show happened over a year and a half ago. The Drunken Peasants show happened a year ago. Milo’s critics did not suddenly come into existence over the past weekend. None of those people saw these comments? None of them thought to reveal this to anyone?
I do not buy into conspiracy theories, however, I am also not naive. It is far too coincidental that this happened following Milo’s appearance on Real Time and preceding his keynote speech CPAC, which has now be cancelled, along with his book. It is even more baffling that this came from a right wing group.
It looks like a deliberate attack on Milo to silence him. It will likely be effective in the short term. Few people will come anywhere near Milo now, regardless of how they view his statements. He will not be invited to anymore TV shows, he will not be allowed on anymore campuses, and he will likely lose his job with Breitbart. He has a large enough social media following that he can survive that, although it is entirely possible that Facebook could boot him off the site as well.
That said, this could not have happened without Milo saying what he said.