I’m an artist. During the course of my yet short career I’ve naturally been making friends (or co-existing in friendly terms, with most) with other artists and clients and it has been excellent so far. However, a few days ago I was made aware of a rather difficult situation that has been making rounds in my head ever since.
Turns out one of these persons has covered up and remains friends with someone who was outed as a child groomer some time ago, and doing something about it wouldn’t pose a problem for me if it weren’t for the fact that said person (the one who’s friends with the predator) lives an incredibly active social life and is also friends with the vast majority of artists and clients I’m also friends with.
I know some of them are aware of this fact, while some others aren’t. The whole group of people goes around connecting with tons and tons of people in different artist owned servers, including mine, so it’s really weird to look at them and have to suspect everyone all of a sudden.
I don’t know what to do about this. I don’t want to be the reason a lot of these people end up fighting each other. I don’t even know if it’s something I should meddle with to begin with. They’ve been friends with each other for far longer than I have. I’ve only known them since this past year and I feel like a complete outsider to the overall group and the whole situation.
I’m not a really big artist. I know that if I spoke up I would probably be eaten alive and that I don’t stand a chance against a group as big as this in my current state, including that I would probably lose a lot of friends in the process. I know they have harassed people in the past because of stuff like this. It’s scary to think that most of my support would completely disappear if I make the wrong move, especially considering that being from a third world country with an ever dying economy, making art on the internet is my only chance of living a slightly better life.
Furthermore, I have plans of moving countries in the future. I'm incredibly scared of the criminality rate of my current place and many people are murdered just in my city alone each year, so I'd go as far as to think my physical health is in danger if I don't move out quickly and art is the thing that will help me on that.
My question is, if someone knows that something around them is bad but doesn't have the power to do anything about it, does that make them equally as bad? I don’t like the idea of allowing these people to keep existing in my space but, is it valid when it’s for the sake of keeping a low profile for self preservation?
I would love to have your opinion on this matter, and I deeply appreciate your time. Thank you.
Anonymous (age 23)
* * *
Interesting question. I assume that by "child" you mean someone who is not of legal age to consent to sex. So, first of all, this is, of course, illegal if we are talking actual sex. Now, you are from outside the USA, apparently, but I don't know where the other parties are. Are they in the United States? If this is criminal behavior outside your own country, it's rather difficult to report.
Another thing to consider is evidence. Is there any solid evidence for what is being claimed or is it just internet chatter? There is a lot of posting on social websites that is complete and utter baloney, and you don't want to contribute to that rumor mill. I'm looking at posts you shared with me on Twitter [not shared here], and even the person making the accusations is using words like "allegedly." I'm also reading these tweets, one of them saying the minor is 17 versus the groomer being 27. Seventeen (and 16), actually, is legal age in 41 of the states in the USA, with 18 being the age of consent in the other nine states. So, if all parties concerned are in one of the 41 states, it's really not a crime.
As for "grooming," it sounds as if the older person is supplying the younger person with pornographic images to try and get them aroused. It is illegal in the USA to show minors pornography, and by "minor," we are again dealing with different laws in different states. So, again, if they aren't in one of those 9 states, it's not illegal. What WOULD be illegal in ALL 50 states would be to have the young person, who is under 18, pose for naked photos or be in a porno film.
So, you see, this can be complicated. As for you making posts about it on, say, art social groups on the internet, I'd say that's unnecessary. Someone other than you has already, clearly, posted a lot about this. There is no obligation to you to warn people and, honestly, it's kind of none of your business. Also, as you said, your posting about it would not help the matter in any way. And, no, you are not a bad person for not raising a flag. You are not the Police of the World's Bad Behavior.
I'm glad you sent me this query as it highlights a problem I see all the time online: People think that it is their job to condemn people vocally on the internet whenever someone does something they consider bad or questionable. The reason this is a problem is that most of the time people are making accusations based on assumptions, rumors, gossip, and opinion, and when you participate in the rumor mill, the result can be the destruction of an innocent person's reputation--or worse. Furthermore, if you are proven wrong, you end up destroying your own respectability and looking like a fool.
Do yourself a favor and stay out of the public forum of dirty laundry. If someone has, indeed, done something immoral or criminal, believe me, people will find out without your help. Now, if someone does something to YOU that is criminal, you obviously should report it to the authorities. That's a no-brainer. Or, if they are simply being an asshole to you, the solution is to cut them out of your life, forget about them, and move on. And if a friend of yours is being hurt, you should go to them in private and offer them your support.
The internet has become a dung heap of trash-talk and lies. Don't become one of the flies attracted by the stench.
Hey, Papa Bear,
I wanted to write this letter to inform that certain things have improved recently. As you can probably tell from the latter part of the letter, I do have issues to tell but things otherwise have improved in some meaningful capacity. I now have a volunteer job working in retail (food bank) and I’m really happy with the position and made new friends. Also, as of last year, I became an uncle. My sister’s baby boy is so precious to me. He’s turned 1 fairly recently and I cannot be prouder of him. I realised as I reread your response letter to me from 2020 that I’m simply not ready to be a dad. It’ll come unexpectedly but I only want to be the best I can be, learning from my own parents and of course, my nephew. But right now, being there for him is my priority.
Also, that horrible person who abused my mum was arrested after breaking AVO [Apprehended Violence Order, which is used to protect people against domestic violence] the following morning. I’m glad he’s out of my family’s (and my) life, but I’m left trying to cope with the last three years he’s been so abusive to my mum (and indirectly, my family). I was only indirectly affected (the night before he was arrested, I actually confronted the horrible man to get out and he did but I was terrified of him, I still felt the need to stand up to him and with a furious glare I told him to get out while my mum screamed at me to leave the room out of terror for my safety, but I claimed I wasn’t afraid of him, which was a lie), but the last three years left a mental scar on me which has left me trying to heal by talking with friends and being honest with my mum (also helping her with shopping), who finally cut ties with him for good. I hope he never returns as nobody in my family wants him around.
However, this is my question: was I stupid/reckless to confront him while trying to be brave while also trying to protect my mother and brother (he was also confronting him) knowing how cowardly and terrified I actually am, or should I have just not bothered out of a desire to live and to not be killed by that monster (he had no weapons but he was still dangerous having a terrifying abusive mental state)?
I understand this is a heavy question but I needed to know if I did the right thing. I have a disability (autism), but he has one, too, but that shouldn’t excuse his disgusting actions given how long this was occurring. Still, I don’t need potential PTSD in my life. A lot of horrible domestic abuse cases often end in either severe injuries or mostly death (I saw a lot of news reports of this and I hate how common it is), and I don’t wanna lose my mum due to my cowardice, so I had to be brave. Nobody got hurt physically, but I still feel stupid knowing he could’ve beaten me to death if he wanted to. The past three years have been rather traumatic. I just wanna know if I did the right thing or not. My nephew is one of my few bright spots in my life that remind me what is truly important: family.
I've really appreciated your helpful and kindhearted letters to me over the years, Papa Bear. I would appreciate it if you answered my letter soon.
Sam the Dog
* * *
I'm glad you have finally extricated the problem from your family situation. It is a tough question you ask about whether you did the "right thing." If I were to give the standard police answer, then no, you should not have put yourself at risk like that and you should have tried to avoid violence at all cost, call the police, and let the police do the touch work for you.
In this bear's humble opinion, though, you did the right thing. You faced up to a bully, and he backed down. It worked. And you were brave to do it. And if you were scared, that just means you were even braver yet because, you see, the bravest man is the one who faces his fears and does what needs to be done. If you have no fear, then no bravery is needed.
Sometimes we have to dare to be brave because help is not on the way. The police are often busy or just don't show up. Sometimes, as you might have heard, they show up at the wrong place and kill or arrest the wrong person. Work within the law, but don't trust anyone, including the police. and know your rights. Hell, one time, the police wanted to arrest my mother on suspicion of killing my grandfather when he merely died in bed of natural causes. And they treated me like a criminal when I was trying to report a car accident (one in which I wasn't even involved). Another time, my house was robbed. The cops even admitted they thought they knew who did it, but they did nothing, and when I went to report missing items at the station, the cop was more interested in talking to his buddies about his planned summer vacation than taking my list of items stolen. I don't have a great history with police, and that's coming from someone who has never even committed a crime except for getting one speeding ticket. Sheesh.
Did you do the right thing? Is the jerk gone? Yes. Is your mother now safe? Yes. Are you okay? Yes. Given the evidence, I would say, yes, you did the right thing. You can't argue with good results. You have a right to defend yourself and your family, and you especially have that right when you are inside your own home. The law is on your side in this case, most definitely.
This is not to say you should always behave forcefully. Sometimes the situation calls for it, sometimes not. For example, just a few days ago, I was at the library and one of the patrons was being forcefully removed by a security officer. He was kicking the officer and yelling at her, but I stood to one side. Obviously, people were already there to handle the situation, and if I had tried to help I likely would have just been in the way or gotten myself injured.
I'm not clear as to what the guy did, specifically, that caused you to toss him out, unless you had just had enough, but then you got the police involved and they arrested him, so all's well.
Again, take things on a case-by-case basis. You knew this jerk for three years, so you likely understood that he was really just a bully, and all bullies are cowards. You assessed the situation, faced up to the bully, got rid of him, and then reported him to the authorities.
Hi, Papa Bear,
I'm glad to hear you're doing well, and also glad to hear you're getting a chance to visit relatives.
Well, about what I wanted to ask... As you might guess from the length of this email, it might be a much simpler question, but I provided quite a bit of context so maybe you can help me identify a pattern here. Some of it does get explicit and heavy, so I would suggest reading this at a time when you're sure you won't get too phased, when and if you do.
How do you stop yourself from wanting to be a hero of a rescuer to your friends, before it only gets overbearing for them? And in the case of the second story I share with you, how can one really forgive oneself for not having done what was best to do?
It seems as though as if attempting to have a hero, rescuer or guru complex has been doing nothing but harm, in the sense that I've been getting results that were the polar opposite of what I was expecting, and in several occasions it has been precisely because I didn't stop to listen to people or to think about the situation that they were in before I made my own assessment of what I thought I should say to them.
Almost a month ago, a friend that I had been out of touch with since 2017, and that I had been trying to get back in touch with since 2019, added me on Discord and we were going to catch up; however, when I asked her how things were going when she last messaged me, came the subject of her marriage, which had went far from well. As a matter of fact, she was divorced and she didn't want to talk about it, but I kept asking. As she finally began to open up, it was clear she had been in a physically abusive relationship. I feel bad admitting to this now, but I've always had this firm belief that if someone gets into an abusive relationship, it's partly their own responsibility, because they're indirectly looking to have someone else take control of their lives--because they don't have faith in themselves, or whatever may be the case, but I believe it's a subconscious choice that stems out of poor self esteem, since abusers don't abuse people who are assertive, but people who are weak.
Anyway, as she told me more about her story, I didn't give her any signs that I was actually listening. As a matter of fact, I kept on trying to find comparisons between the kind of abuse she lived and the kind that I experienced (which was much milder in comparison, definitely not the same situation); and ultimately, she opened up about something she didn't want to bring up to begin with, and I didn't listen because I was too focused on wanting to share my own experiences, and I suppose that it was to attempt to make it look like I had learned things that I could share with her... And well, she has virtually not talked back to me ever since and it's not difficult to see why now.
I don't know why she still hasn't removed me yet, but I have a feeling that I've ruined things beyond repair, or at least I have no idea how I can repair any of it. I sent her an apology without trying to dip too much exactly into what went wrong (for the sake of not rubbing salt into the wound) but I doubt that's made things any better, and without any feedback, I don't know if she's taking temporary distance from me, or if she wants me to be the one who makes the decision to walk away.
(This next part is a bit explicit and it contains (albeit unintentional) animal cruelty...)
And today, I had the displeasure to witness how a puppy got ran over (or rather... Crushed ) by a pickup truck, and I couldn't react fast enough, I couldn't yell to the driver in time for him to stop the truck, and I could have because he was parking... I had no better idea than to yell at him angrily for what he did when he stepped out of the truck, and he got angry at me because I just told him off instead of trying to help, and he attempted to fight me, before checking in on the dog and then just driving off. I didn't even think of taking the license plate number. The owner's daughter was crying, I got up close to them to try and offer moral support but by then I noticed there was nothing I could do and... I just felt so useless and stupid. I wanted to play hero by showing this driver my outrage and all I did was giving him a reason for him to drive off, and the one thing I could have done which was to take his license plate number, I didn't think of until he was gone.
Now... As you might have noticed I have a bit of a problem with brevity. I don't know how many of these details I could have spared, I often have this idea in my head than in order to get a proper grasp of the situation, the listener should have all the context available, but I don't know how much of all of this that I've told you was gratuitous or not.
If you've read this far, I would also like to ask you how I can convey a point to someone (someone that I want to have input from about something), without needing to barrage them with so much stuff for the sake of giving them context.
I hope you're doing well, I'm sorry if this was too heavy to read, I guess I'll find out when I read your response.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to have a space to talk about this stuff.
Mihael / Jun / Kyū
* * *
Dear Mihael (or Jun or Kyū):
Thank you for writing a very important letter, and I apologize for my delayed reply. What you've written here is highly relevant to what I do as the "Ask Papabear" advice columnist. You might have noted that I have a Disclaimer page that explicitly points out that I do not have a degree in psychology or social work and that if you have a serious issue you should see a professional therapist for help. The column was started innocently enough to be about informing furries on the ins and outs of the fandom, but it has become much more than that.
I take this column extremely seriously when it comes to responding to people with relationship or health issues. I draw on my decades of personal experiences that include everything from weddings and divorces to parental abuse and attempted suicide, but even with all my best intentions, I do not always get it right. Sometimes, you have to recognize that you are in over your head and you should just give the person a hug and let them go. I'll give you an example. I was living in Michigan, and I was at a Meijer store and bumped into a former coworker I had worked with at a publishing house. Her clothes were stained and unkempt. I started talking with her, and she proceeded to tell me how her life had gone south. People, she said, were spying on her, conspiring against her, even burning down her mobile home and she was now homeless. The more I listened, the more I realized that she was suffering from extreme paranoia. She was not a well woman. I wanted to do something, but I didn't know what. After talking for what must have been about 20 or more minutes, I wished her well and left the store. Later, I talked to one of my friends who had also been there at my old job, and she wisely said, "There are some things you can't fix and shouldn't try to because it is beyond your ability to help." That's a tough pill to swallow, but it is true.
You can't rescue everyone, and it is not your job to do so. Now, don't think that I mean you shouldn't try to be a friend. After my husbear Jim died in 2015, I learned about the two types of friends who try to console you. One type tries to "cure" you of your grief and, eventually, tells you that you should "try to move on." This is the worst possible thing you can say to a grieving person because the reason would-be consolers do this, quite frankly, is that they don't want to hear about your grief anymore. They want you to be happy only because you are making them sad. The other type of friend is the one who won't try--you might think this is ironic--to offer you advice or force you to feel better. These are the people who give you a shoulder to cry on. They listen and hug you. They offer to make you a meal or (as my dear friend Bart did) accompany you to a concert to try and give you a little something fun to do, a break from your grief.
So, to answer your first question, don't try to be a hero or rescuer. DO be a friend. Real, true friends are the most precious gift anyone could have.
About the friend who was in an abusive relationship. I think you know by now, but I want to make clear that it is never the fault of the abused person when they are in an abusive relationship. I cannot stress that enough. There are three things you should do if this ever happens again: 1) Listen. 2) Listen. 3) Listen. Keep your focus on the other person and do not go into rescue mode. Be there for the other person.
Here's the next point I need to vehemently stress that you might find surprising: If you believe that your neighbor is being victimized, do not call the police unless you see violence occurring right in front of you and you fear for the immediate safety and life of someone (just as you should for any violent crime). Here is why: you could actually make the problem worse and put the abused person in more serious danger. Imagine this scene. You contact the police and they visit your neighbor's house and the husband opens the door. The police say there have been reports of domestic violence. Without any evidence (or being caught in the act), they can't just walk into the house and rescue the wife. So, the husband tells the police to get out of his house unless they have a warrant, and then turns on his wife and beats her for calling the cops. I've heard many stories, too, in which police arrive at a scene and don't believe the woman when she says she is being punched or raped.
As noted in a Brick Underground article: "It’s very dangerous to call the police if you don’t know that’s something the person who’s being victimized really wants," explains Lorien Castelle, director of prevention at the New York State Coalition Against Domsetic Violence (NYSCADV). "Because there can be dire consequences if the police are called and then the victim is blamed for them showing up. Sometimes the violence escalates." She adds: "The problem is that all of our systems are a little bit broken, and people don't always understand domestic violence in the way they need to in order to responsibly help. Quite often, when the police get called, it starts this ripple-out effect of services and systems involved in a person's life, all of which tend to assume that once a victim leaves the home, they'll be safer. But women living apart from their abusers experience nearly four times the amount of physical assault, sexual assault, and stalking than they do when they live with their abuser."
The Office on Women's Health provides a list of resources concerning domestic violence at https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/get-help/state-resources. You can do some research and discreetly offer the information to the victim, as well as offering them a sympathetic ear.
The same can be true when you think someone might be suicidal. I have made this mistake once. Years ago, I was chatting with a furry. They told me with increasing earnestness that they were going to kill themselves. Alarmed--and knowing where they lived--I contacted the local police. The officers showed up at his door and he got rid of them. Then, he called me and read me the riot act and never spoke to me again. Now, that wasn't an incident involving my column, but I sure learned my lesson. When someone writes to "Ask Papabear" and expresses suicidal thoughts, I urge them to call the national suicide hotline for help, and then I step out of the way. If you are unsure what to do, you yourself can contact domestic abuse or suicide prevention hotlines and ask them for advice on what you can do to help victims. ALWAYS seek guidance from the people who have training and expertise in such matters.
Regarding the puppy incident: this is really a whole nuther animal, so to speak, and worthy of a separate column, but let's address it here and now. Let's not get into the whole thing about your yelling at the guy who hit the animal, causing an argument without results. Here is what you need to know about car/animal accidents....
Here is a good article all about hitting pets. https://pethelpful.com/pet-ownership/I-Hit-a-Dog-with-My-Car-What-Am-I-Legally-Required-to-Do.
One does not play the hero by yelling at someone you believe has done something wrong. If you witness something that is criminal behavior or dangerous and violent, the thing to do is not take matters in your own hands. Ask for help.
I hope this helps.
I feel like I've really needed to get this off my chest with somebody not close to me, but also semi-anonymously. I guess I'll just get the main thing mentioned and out of the way first. I have an attraction to kids, but I've never offended and would do my utmost best to maintain that. I guess I'm what you call a gold-star pedophile. I just feel so terrible for having this attraction, even if I've never offended. I want to be a good person; the best I could be, but this part of me feels like deep down I'm evil or corrupted. I wish I didn't feel this way, but I can't change it; I've already tried. It makes me hate myself.
It started when I was just a kid at school and a little after sex ed. At first, it was normal, since while I was imagining kids, they were my age. Then I started imagining younger and I really liked that. I was a dumb kid and didn't know better or that it was wrong, but luckily never did anything with anybody. After I learned it was wrong, it seemed to stop for a little. I found furry porn and was satisfied with adult characters. Then I was looking into size difference stuff, and then stumbled upon some explicit cub art. Just like when I was a kid, I really liked it, but this time I knew it was wrong. The temptation was too much though and so I kept looking at more. I figured it wouldn't be too bad, since it was only fictional images and animations.
After a little while, I found out that where I live, even fictional stuff is illegal, so I tried to stop. I searched up different things, like maybe it's some form of OCD, maybe it's some extreme form of porn addiction, that kinda stuff. I tried to stop looking at any and all porn for as long as I could to "reset" the sexual part of my brain as I read somewhere online. Even so, I kept imagining stuff. I tried to imagine adults, but it was difficult for me to get off to that, so I imagined kids. After a while I gave up and went back to looking at fictional stuff and simply disagree with the law, since it's a victimless crime with nobody being hurt. Every now and then I still try to stop though.
I really don't want to admit this, but I should get this off my chest... After some time, I then started looking at 3D stuff of fictional humans, then I stumbled upon real stuff. I feel absolutely terrible for it, and only a monster could have enjoyed that. It makes me feel like I'm a broken, corrupted person or monster who simply shouldn't exist. I then stopped looking at it and tried my very best to stop being into this stuff, even fictional stuff. On the slightly bright side, I've avoided real stuff since. I don't want to be a bad person, but only a bad person could be into that. Even somebody as wonderfully kind as you probably wouldn't even accept me after admitting that. I just wish I could stop being into it.
I want to reach out for help to stop the interest, but I'm too scared to get it. I'm afraid that if I go get help for this, I'll be put on some sort of list, which may as well ruin what life I have. It'd be near impossible to get jobs, and finding a place to live would be just as hard. I don't want that, but I don't want to be bad. This whole letter is probably pointless, and you probably won't be able to help, or won't want to help. Still, some part of me hopes you might have at least something to say that may help even a tiny bit. And if not, at least I've gotten all this off my chest...
A terrified and self-hating dragon (age 23, Australia)
* * *
You are very brave to reach out like this. I congratulate you on a couple of things: 1) recognizing you have a problem; 2) not acting out physically on your desire to have sexual relations with children; and 3) trying to do something about it. There is help for people like you.
For the sake of my readers, we'll need to clarify some things about pedophilia.
Pedophilia is defined as a strong sexual attraction for children who are prepubescent (younger than 13, in most cases). The pedophile, furthermore, should be at least 16 years old and five or more years older than the person to whom they are attracted. To be considered to have pedophilic disorder one must either act on this desire by sexually molesting a child or become so obsessed with doing so (without actually doing so) that the desire is disruptive to your normal, day-to-day functioning (i.e., e.g., you are having trouble focusing on work, school, or family because you are so preoccupied). If neither of these is true, you are considered to have a pedophilic orientation, but not a pedophilic disorder. It is estimated that about 2-3% of the U.S. population have this paraphilia, the vast majority of whom are male (a tiny fraction of a percent are female).
So, why is pedophilia wrong? Obviously, one reason would be because it is illegal here in the United States and most countries, although one could note that some countries allow men to marry prepubescent girls, and, interestingly, only ten U.S. states legally forbid marriage to girls under the age of 18 (and there are states that allow girls to marry as young as 14). Marriage to very young women was fairly common some time ago in the United States. The reason why it has become illegal here and elsewhere is that marriage to underage girls is tantamount to child slavery. The much older husband, by marrying such a young bride, obtains total control of her life and basically has a free servant. Furthermore, prepubescent children are not sexually mature and therefore are not willingly consenting to sex, which makes it rape. So, you have two crimes here: slavery and rape. The same is true if it involves a homosexual relationship with a boy.
An interesting sidebar question is why is it illegal to view child pornography? Well, if it is child porn with real girls and boys, clearly that is a form of child slavery and prostitution. But what about simple illustrations? This is a tricky one. U.S. law (Coroners and Justice Act 2009, sections 62-68) defines illustrations and animation as child porn if they are explicitly sexual, focus on genitalia, and/or are aimed at provoking arousal in the viewer. The PROTECT Act of 2003 broadened this definition into more non-sexual images but only if those images were more photo-realistic. It is important to note that these laws are focused against people who make and/or distribute such images and animation rather than those who possess it because in the case of the former it is easier to show that harm was intended toward a child while in the case of the latter it is difficult to show any actual harm was intended. Even so, there have been cases of people being arrested for possessing child porn on their computers (e.g. R. C. Fox https://dogpatch.press/2017/10/23/r-c-fox-arrested/). So, consider this a warning to furries into cub porn.
What causes this paraphilia? Psychologists don't know, though there are theories about the pedophile either being sexually abused or observing inappropriate behavior in the household. There are theories, too, that there is a genetic component. None of these hypotheses have been demonstrated scientifically. I also have a theory that it has something to do with an attraction to innocence and purity that, ironically, stirs sexual urges. There is no connection to OCD, however, as you theorized.
Whatever the cause, pedophiles can receive treatment. I want to note here, too, that when you seek help from a psychologist or psychiatrist that you are protected by doctor-patient confidentiality (that was a concern of yours, so please don't worry about that). To find help, you can start with Pedo.Help, which offers a log of good information, including links to organizations across the world. In Australia, where you are, there is Phoenix House, so I would look there, too. You will not be put on "some list." This is not a sexual offender registry. You've gone this far trying to do the right thing, so the next step is finding a qualified therapist.
Proud of you. Keep going. Good luck!
I'm going to be blunt. This one problem is like a hydra - you cut one head off, two more take its place. I've been through the procedure mentioned in my last letter and survived, but with the world currently as it is, I'm not sure whether I'd really want to.
I'm really, really worried about the UK and my life and where I'll be in the next few years and I feel like I'm losing my grip on things. It's overwhelming when I wake up in the morning and just feel constantly depressed over how my life is falling apart and I don't have any control over it.
This first started back in 2016 with the EU referendum. I was too young to vote in it, but my family voted leave. I was at the time a remainer in secret, as my grandmother has this habit of force feeding her opinion to everyone else. Flash forward three years and it's approaching Brexit day. Whatever side people voted on, it's clear it's going to hit our economy pretty hard. There's talks of diverting already stretched police forces to the border to help with new customs checks etc., and food prices facing a significant increase.
But then there's the other side of the problem. In the past, I've used the fandom to escape from all of this, but this is now under threat from Article 13 (since renamed to Article 17) of the EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. This law, while it does not explicitly state this in writing, would force all Internet sites to install filters to check for copyright infringement at the point of upload for user generated content (basically YouTube's Content ID system but stricter and for everything). I run a furry YouTube channel that I fear will get deleted (YouTube's CEO has said they might have to block EU uploads) and the problem only gets worse from there. While there are exceptions written for small sites, the vast majority of sites don't fall into these. And back when GDPR [General Date Protection Regulation] was introduced, a lot of websites restricted EU access. I worry that sites such as FurAffinity and Furry Amino will choose this option instead of spending a fortune on filters (that are expected to be 100% perfect and non erroneous, which is effectively impossible) and simply choose to block all internet traffic from the EU, effectively cutting me off from the fandom. (The final Parliamentary vote on this law is on Tuesday at midday UTC therefore please read up on the result before replying to this.)
So that's the position I'm in. I'm worried about my economic future, my safety (more police at border equals less police dealing with the rise in knife crime) and also worried about losing the community that has helped me weather this storm.
I'm just getting so overwhelmed - every time I try to ignore any of this, I just feel the urge to do 'one quick Google search' to see the latest news, but end up sinking hours into analysing the outcome and trying to wonder how I'll cope in the coming months.
* * *
I'm glad the operation went well, and I hope it has helped with your hearing!
Okay, Brexit. Oy vay, right? I'm in agreement with you that the UK exit from the EU is a moronic decision that was inspired mostly by people (mostly older, conservative people like your parents and grandmother) who are afraid of change, immigrants, and international cooperation. It's totally idiotic and, yes, many people like you believe you're going to be hit hard economically. I'm sorry for you.
My understanding of the GDPR is that it is mostly about websites complying with privacy regulations set up by the EU, especially regarding personal data collection. Any website that interacts with citizens in the EU has a laundry list of policies to conform to, including providing opt-out options, adding SSL if not currently doing so, having written cookie and privacy policies, making sure that any third-party gateways (such as for shopping carts) are compliant if you use them, informing users in your policies that you use Google Analytics (if you do), and so on. Actually, all of the above are good ideas that websites and phone apps should do anyway.
If a website is not compliant, I believe that, yes, it could be blocked by the EU countries, but you won't be in an EU country anymore, so, if it applies to your online experience at all, it would only apply to content coming out of the EU, which it would do right now anyway. I could be wrong, but I don't think Brexit and the GDPR are going to affect your online and phone browsing access, including to furry sites.
As for the future of the British economy and issues such as police protection, well, I don't think anyone really knows how that is all going to shake out after Brexit. The government is just fighting with itself, and it is an awful mess. The world is going through a lot right now. I mean, the United States is having serious problems, and there is a rise in dictatorships and dictator-like governments all over the place, especially in South and Central America, Southeast Asia, and former Soviet Bloc countries. The reasons behind this are too complex to get into for this column. England, though, is one of those countries, and it is happening in large part because of the fear of immigration and a fear of loss of cultural identity.
With such challenging times ahead, family, friends, and community will be more important than ever. I think from the furry end, at least, you can rest assured that we will stick around for you and give you moral support and encouragement.
No one can say for sure what the future will bring, but I hope my words provide at least some comfort to you.
I want to write to you about is cannabis. You see, medicinal cannabis is going to be legalised in the UK tomorrow [November 1] for only those who need it the most. If I’m correct, it’s for epileptics whom have had no success with other treatments. I want to say that this is great news and all that, but I’ve had this strong prejudice against cannabis since the first days I learnt what drugs were. I think I can pin it down to 3 key factors:
Since joining the fandom, though, I’ve come to discover that many of the friends I’ve made are cannabis users, to varying degrees, and even those who aren’t tend to have no issue with it. Not to mention a lot of celebs I like, like Morgan Freeman and Whoopi Goldberg, have been outspoken about their use of weed. So, I’ve found myself in this predicament where I’m trying hard to work all the propaganda, bad apples and smoking-bias’s out of my head ever since.
I’ve done a ton of research about cannabis since then. So, I know the difference between CBD-based and THC-based varieties (essentially, it’s the THC kind that makes someone high). I know that the CBD-kind can work wonders to cure/suppress all kinds of medical and psychological issues. I know that even the THC kind is neither as addictive nor as dangerous as a lot other substances, legalised or not. And, I know that legalising it would both increase business and probably make it a lot easier to manage since it’d discourage people from using the black market to get their fix.
But, despite all these positives I know about... I’m still uncomfortable about the prospect of it being legalised. It’s not like I’m denying these facts about it at all, it’s just that they’re not working to change my mind for whatever reason. The friends I have are good people, and I don’t want to think bad of them just because they might use wacky-backy once in a while.
So I ask, how do I get rid of this prejudice against cannabis which I’ve had for so long? How do I make myself okay with it?
* * *
What follows is simply my personal opinion on the subject, so take it with a grain of salt. As with anything else, there are good and bad things about weed. Let’s begin by why weed was illegal and had a bad reputation in the first place.
Why was it considered bad? I can sum it up in a few words: weed has been seen as the drug of the poor and the foreign, and so a campaign of criminalizing and stigmatizing marijuana was initiated by the elite. There is an excellent article about this here. It has nothing to do with “drugs are bad,” since the wealthy and the corporate have been pushing drugs for centuries (from the Opium Wars to today’s opiate crisis in the medical community, rich people are drug pushers of a disgustingly immoral sort).
Naturally, this orchestrated stigmatization perpetrated by those in power includes the public education system, which is where you were indoctrinated into believing weed is evil. Word of advice to all those reading: public education is a scam to brainwash children into becoming good little cogs in the machinery owned and operated by those in power (educate yourself by searching for books in the library and book stores and read read read).
In the last few years, the government stigmatization of cannabis (in America and worldwide) has changed to be more favorable because of three things: the preponderance of evidence that cannabis has many medical benefits, that it is really no worse for you than alcohol, and because there is a lot of money the government can make through taxation if it is legalized.
Moving on to your personal observations with weed users. I know several people who use it (smoking it, eating it, or taking it in pill form), and they are all very nice people. You, apparently, have met a lot of unpleasant people who like to imbibe. The fallacy of reasoning here is that using marijuana makes you a bad person when, in fact, you are simply encountering bad people who happen to use marijuana. Marijuana doesn’t make you a bad person; being a bad person makes you a bad person.
I agree with you that the smell of weed is unpleasant and that those who don’t like it and don’t want to be subjected to it should be free of such a pungent environment. I feel the same about tobacco smokers (except pipes; I love pipes) and people who blast unwanted music in my ears. This is a matter not of weed but of manners, civility, being a polite person. These days, many people forget what it means to be considerate of others. Again, that’s not weed, that’s the decline of manners in society. So, when you come across friends blowing smoke in your face, politely ask them to take it elsewhere. If they don’t respect that, then they aren’t very nice friends. Tell them you don’t object to their using marijuana; you just don’t like the smell. Perhaps they can have some edibles instead?
You are completely within your rights to not like weed and to not use it, but you should also respect the fact that weed is here to stay, whether or not it is legal. Recognize that people have different likes that don’t necessarily reflect your own and accept that, as long as they aren’t doing any harm to anyone, they have the right to enjoy cannabis.
But friendship is a two-way street, and your friends should acknowledge just as much that you don’t like weed, and they should respect your boundaries, too.
Does McDonald’s allow fursuiting without asking them if you could go in with your suit? I have a cheap Walmart head and paw slippers and gloves and tail from 2 different Halloween stores. I really want to go to McDonalds with it and I don't want to ask them cause I want it to be a huge suprise.
* * *
It's Sawina again. I recently went to a corner convienient store in my partial and forgot my head was on until I was already in the store. I quickly took off the head to avoid an incident, but when I returned 2 days later, which was today. I ran into the manager. I apologized for what I did, but she told me if she was working at that time she would have called the cops and even shot me. Was my small mistake really worth the death threat I recieved today?
Thanks in advance, Sawina.
* * *
Dear Rainbowpaws and Sawina,
Because your letters are related, Papabear decided to combine them into one column. It is an important subject to address here: the wearing of fursuit heads in public.
Since the terrorist attacks of 2001, concealing one’s identity in public places has come under greater suspicion by authorities who are concerned about people trying to attack American citizens. Actually, antimask ordinances likely date long before then for reasons such as problems with the KKK, bank robbers, etc. But before we get into that, let’s just talk about going into private businesses, such as a fast-food joint or convenience store.
As you might imagine, such places can be and have been robbed by masked criminals. Masks can be anything from stockings and ski masks to Halloween masks easily bought at party stores. You might see, then, that if you go inside such a place wearing, say, a wolf or lion head, this could make the person behind the cash register understandably very nervous as to what you are up to.
So, my immediate advice is don’t do this. If you are going to a store (or bank!) and want to express your furriness, limit yourself to things like paws, ears, and/or tails. Never conceal your face behind a mask in these situations.
That said, what are the legal implications here? This can be extremely complicated because laws vary from state to state, country to country. Also, there have been federal cases that have revolved around the wearing of identity-concealing masks.
France is an example of a country with a very strong, anti-mask law that was passed in 2010 and has been used to jail people for wearing balaclavas. Predictably, this has inspired protests by the Muslim community.
The U.S. Constitution does protect you when it comes to self-expression and protest, however. For example, during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, the state tried to jail protestors for concealing their faces with scarves, but the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the wearing of masks during protests as a form of free speech. There have been other efforts to make masks illegal to wear at protests on public property or private property when the owner has not given permission for a protest.
Let’s look at the state level. There are eleven U.S. places with anti-mask laws, including California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Usually, when states have a law against masks it is stipulated that they are illegal when used during a crime and not for entertainment purposes such as during Halloween. There are other obvious exceptions, such as if you are wearing a respirator or surgical mask for health reasons.
In your cases, we’re dealing with Massachusetts and California law. Section 185 of the California Penal Code states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to wear any mask, false whiskers, or any personal disguise (whether complete or partial) for the purpose of: One--Evading or escaping discovery, recognition, or identification in the commission of any public offense. Two--Concealment, flight, or escape, when charged with, arrested for, or convicted of, any public offense. Any person violating any of the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 268, Section 34 states: “Whoever disguises himself with intent to obstruct the due execution of the law, or to intimidate, hinder or interrupt an officer or other person in the lawful performance of his duty, or in the exercise of his rights under the constitution or laws of the commonwealth, whether such intent is effected or not, shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not more than one year and may if imprisoned also be bound to good behavior for one year after the expiration of such imprisonment.”
(For a list of other state laws, see http://www.anapsid.org/cnd/mcs/maskcodes.html.)
In both your cases, you are not violating the law, but we shouldn’t assume that store employees are going to be fully aware of the law, so they could call the police on you or toss you out of the store (many stores, after all, do have signs where they say they can refuse service to anyone they wish.)
Bottom line, again, is I would not wear a fursuit head in these cases. While the law is on your side, save it for places where wearing a fursuit is expected (cons and meets) or at events where those running the event are fully aware you will be in suit.
Thanks for your terrific questions!
Weed will be legal July 1st next your for recreation all across Canada, and this terrifies me. What if the economy fails in Canada because people will no longer work and will be unmotivated degenerates sitting in front of their TV screens becoming living 10 pin bowling balls. Because I know very little about weed and what it does other then it's a very bad drug based on what an OPP constable told me in the DARE program in my old public school.
* * *
Thanks for your letter. So, yes, Canada already has legalized medicinal marijuana, and it will be legal for recreational use on July 1, 2018. Marijuana has gotten a bad rap since the early 1900s, when Mexican immigrants started coming in droves to the United States to work, bringing with them "marihuana." (Pardon me for mostly talking about the USA here, but it is still relevant to Canada).
Now, America had a long history of growing hemp to make rope and textiles, but taking it orally was limited to medicinal uses, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, for such things as increasing appetite and libido. When immigration came in from the South, a backlash against Mexicans began, and marihuana use was said to make Mexicans violent and dangerous (just another expression of racism in America). By the 1930s, there were all kinds of crazy exaggerations about marijuana as epitomized in the hysterical 1936 movie Reefer Madness, which portrayed weed use as if it were a mixture of LSD and cocaine. By 1970, the passage of the Controlled Substance Act had classified weed (cannabis) as a Schedule I drug, meaning it had no medicinal value (incorrect) and making it a crime eligible for long prison sentences. Bad propaganda was also spread, saying that weed was a "gateway drug" that led to harder drugs like heroine and crack.
About two decades later, however, the medical community began to recognize that cannabinoids in the plant did have helpful properties, especially regarding pain management, treatment of glaucoma, and for increasing the appetite of people on chemotherapy, but also for epilepsy, cancer, and Alzheimer's. While cannabis remained federally illegal, several states (California, Oregon, Washington, Maine, Arizona, and Alaska) passed their own legislation making medical marijuana use legal.
Recreational use has been approved in five U.S. states: Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and, this year, in California.
Neither the medicinal nor the recreational use of cannabis in these states has resulted in increased crime or any other serious legal or social problems. In the meantime, money from sales has benefited these states. Also, since it is now legal, there is no reason to fill prisons with people who have been caught with a few ounces of Mary Jane in their pockets, so this stands to help reduce prison crowding.
So, who is still against marijuana? Well, liquor and cigarette companies who stand to see a reduction in sales, pharmaceutical companies that will lose sales on their expensive medications for which weed is just as effective, and private prison corporations and their employees (this is more of an American thing than Canadian) that stand to lose money if they lose population. Finally, a lot of old school law enforcement people (like your constable) still believe the hype about marijuana.
As a drug, cannabis use is no worse than alcohol, which is legal, and no worse for your health than cigarettes and e-cigs, which are also legal. So, my Canadian furiend, you are not going to see your fellow countrymen and countrywomen become a bunch of "unmotivated degenerates."
That all said, Papabear is against heavy use of drugs and alcohol because they are, bottom line, not healthy for you. So, avoid them if you can, but there is nothing morally wrong or evil or mind-destroying about weed. Remember, all things in moderation.
Oh, and there is another problem with cannabis cultivation: pollution. In California, marijuana farms in the north overuse fertilizers and pesticides that are damaging water supplies and killing endangered animals such as fishers.
These are all things to bear in mind when it comes to the controversial production and use of Cannabis sativa.
Hope that calms your fears but also gives you something to think about.
Although mass surveillance has made the world safer especially when it comes to the internet why do I feel paranoid everywhere I go in public and whenever I use the Internet to do research I hate being watched like this 24/7/52 also the Feds make me fearful one wrong move and I could be black bagged cuffed and taken away.
* * *
You are not unjustified by your concern. Since the passage of the 2001 “Patriot Act,” there has been considerable concern about American citizens’ privacy, especially regarding their online and phone behavior. Basically, if the government thinks you might have a connection to terrorism in any way, it has carte blanche to access your files and possibly prosecute you. They can wiretap your phone or other device without telling you, and they can do the same monitoring your Internet browsing behavior.
Furthermore, there is increasing surveillance of our streets, airport security is a hassle, and it is probably not far off that they will demand we all have chip implants.
Because computers are easily accessed remotely, and so much is stored on “the Cloud,” it is feasible that government agents could plant incriminating evidence into your files, then get a warrant, “discover” it, and arrest you.
Scary times. Or so it would seem….
Fortunately, there are still laws made to protect Americans like you and me. The Fourth Amendment protects you against being searched without a warrant:
U.S. Constitution Fourth Amendment
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Also, US v. Katz 389 US 347 (1967), a U.S. Supreme Court decision, said that the government cannot eavesdrop on your communications, except in narrow exceptions that must be specifically explained by law.
Now, there is something called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that provides for the government to spy on citizens regarding communications with foreign entities, but the government still needs a court order to do so.
But the government tries to get away with shit all the time. That is when organizations such as the ACLU get involved and defend citizens’ rights and the Constitution.
Do not be afraid to defend and stand up for yourself, getting an attorney if needed. The government is supposed to serve the people, not vice versa.
At any rate, I sincerely doubt you are doing anything of interest to the NSA. Also, you are not being watched 24/7. There simply is not the time or staff or budget in the government to watch everyone do everything. Like any other investigative work, they rely on tips and leads to target suspicious activity.
But if you are concerned, here are some programs that can help shield you from nosy people:
1. Signal (https://whispersystems.org/) encrypts your text messaging and phone calls.
2. Tor Web Browser (https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser.html.en) makes it harder to follow your web activities.
3. 1Password (https://1password.com/) helps you keep lots of passwords safe and makes it so you don’t have to worry if you forget a password.
A few years ago I finished University and my friendship group dispersed; so much has changed since then and people I thought would be my friend for a long time turned sour. The biggest problem was with a friend of mine, whom I lived with, that had a strong crush on me. We were good friends for years but his crush was very domineering. It never was spoken about until he asked me out, and I politely declined.
I had never had a partner before and I did not find him attractive, so never reciprocated his emotions, but he persisted to the point of obsession; as time went by, and graduation loomed, he began stalking me, and on several occasions he threatened my life. He told a friend he could kill me if he wanted, and I got frightened of him. He had a history of depression and we always knew it, but it seemed to become very bad and he would not get help.
I was so offended and scared of who he became after my rejection, I severed all contact with him. Now, three years later, I am seeking a job in a company that I dream of working at and have found out he works there too.
How should I deal with meeting this person again? I have a loving boyfriend now and am nervous of meeting this old friend. How will he react - how should I act? Any advice is appreciated.
Blackwolf (age 25, England)
* * *
The biggest mistake that people make when they feel threatened by others (fearing sexual or other physical violence) is to keep it to themselves. I would also suggest that you familiarize yourself with English law about harassment and stalking (cf. http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/stalking_and_harassment/#a03a).
In retrospect, I would have advised you to keep a record of any and all instances of previous harassment, including taking note of what he told other people, who these people were, and when he said it. I would have recorded conversations on the telephone, emails, etc. For now, though, I would say that it would be a good idea for you to reconstruct everything you can remember about what happened for future reference.
Next, as per the above, I would go to the head of your Human Resources Department and make sure they are aware of the situation. This isn’t the same as bringing charges of any type, since he hasn’t yet done anything at your workplace, but your employer should be aware of your fears now and don’t feel embarrassed to suggest they keep a discreet eye on him, including his Internet activities (many businesses are very capable of seeing what their employees do in emails and Web activities). While you are in the HR office, pick the brains of the people there and ask them for advice on what you should do, whether police should be notified, and what company policies are about harassment and stalking.
If at all possible, avoid meeting or talking to this guy. If you can’t do that and have to deal with him, keep it at a 100% professional level; that is, only talk about business. Do not discuss ANYTHING personal about your life, either now or in the past. He is a robot to you, a functionary, that’s all.
Good luck! HUGS!
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.