Friday, June 02, 2006

Kink Cults, Continued...
In my column this week, I make reference to an incident in Darlington, England involving something that mainstream journalists were delighted to call "a sex slave cult". You can read coverage of the story here or here, or just Google “sex slavery cult Darlington”.

It all looked to me like a rather messy private drama that worked its way to the local papers simply because of the kink angle. It must have been a slow news day, although newspapers and the TV news love it when they can run leering stories about sex while simultaneously seeming to denounce such nasty perversion. (Hey, did someone say "Robert Jamieson"? Huh, I thought I heard someone say... Oh, never mind.)

And I actually just used it as a jumping-off place to talk generally about the BDSM commune fantasy. So imagine my surprise when I got the following email.

Hello there Mistress Matisse,

It was I that originally broke this story to the local, national and international press. I am the father of the young teenager that Lee Thompson recruited into his Kaotian cult. My name is Tony Nicodemous, my son is Zachary.

Lee Thompson groomed my son over the internet from age 17 for six to eight months before my son decided to up and leave to join him. His mother and I, along with a family friend, have been campaigning for his 'release'. I say 'release' because it has been our firm belief that Zach has been manipulated, mentally brainwashed into accepting the values of this 'man' and is emotionally enslaved to this man. I recently managed to get a TV programme to 'go with the story' called The Trisha Show (similar to Jerry Springer format and they convinced my son and Thompson to attend. My son would not talk to me or even look at me.

Let me also clarify that Thompson is on the sex offenders register for having sex with a minor and has a history of mental health problems. He was beaten at age 10 and sexually abuse by his uncle at age 13. He was in a displaced family and in foster care for all his young life. It is this man’s values that I object to. And to this man being a mentor to my son withy Zach being at such a tender, naive and gullible age.

Please see this is the family friends efforts to help us.

If you require any additional information or elaboration on any point please do let me know.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Nicodemous.

Okay, Tony, since you opened up a conversation, here’s my take on this.

I hear that your son has a friend you don’t approve of and he’s not pursuing the professional goals you want him to achieve. He’s adopted a type of personal/sexual self expression you can’t stand. Well, I think that’s what often happens when one’s children grow up. I myself have people as friends that my parents probably wouldn’t approve of, and my mother definitely would not have chosen for me to be a sex worker. I chose a life less ordinary, and I’m quite happy with the choices I’ve made, so I have some sympathy for your son’s point of view.

Your remarks about Thompson’s background do not strengthen your case in my eyes. I hate to tell you this, but having an unhappy, abusive childhood actually doesn’t disqualify you from having sex. Even kinky sex. Neither does having “mental health problems”. If that was true, a lot of people in the world would have to be celibate.

The “sex with a minor” thing? According to this source, he was 16 and his partner was 15. I don't call that child molestation. He was younger than your son is now, and you’re anxious to assure me that your kid isn’t capable of making adult decisions. (Oh, and please tell whoever put that MSN site up: the word is "pedophile". What the heck with that “Peed Oh File” thing? That’s incredibly annoying. In fact, the whole page is written so badly it's often hard to understand what the writer is trying to say.)

There are some allegations on that MSN site about Thompson doing BDSM in front of his kids. None of the news stories I found said anything about children. However, I agree that you should not do BDSM in front of children. If that has happened, that’s not okay.

Nothing I’ve read indicates your son has been brainwashed, as I understand the term. Introducing someone to a new idea he thinks is cool actually isn’t brainwashing, even if it’s an idea his parents don’t like.

Now that I’ve said all that, I will grant you that even allowing for the usual media distortion, Lee Thompson doesn’t come off like someone I’d want in my circle of friends. He sounds like a needy insecure guy who wants attention and isn’t picky about how he gets it. Some of his behavior seems very socially inappropriate and disrespectful to others. He might very well be mentally out of balance. However, this talk about “cults”… it’s one man, his partner, his submissive and now your son. That’s not exactly a compound in Waco. I think calling this particular group of people a “cult” is wildly inflammatory, at least by any of these definitions. Dominance and submission is an avenue of personal and sexual expression. Yes, Thompson and his people do share certain styles of expression with people the world over. Not surprising, given that they have based their play on popular (if really trite and badly-written) science fiction novels. But that doesn’t make Thompson a powerful cult leader with the power to brainwash anyone. (Although I sense he might enjoy having people think he's that powerful.)

I will give you the benefit of the doubt, Tony, just as I gave Thompson. I’m sure you love your son. But you handled this badly. This should have been kept private. By going to the media you’ve made it impossible for your son to abandon his friendship with Thompson even if he wanted to. His pride is at stake, and to a young person, pride means a lot. You’ve publicly painted him as a passive victim when he obviously wants to be seen as powerful.

He listens to you and he hears his parents telling him “you’re too dumb to pick your friends, your method of expressing yourself isn’t okay, and you need to behave yourself and obey us, now.” On the other side, he’s got an older man giving him attention and respect and telling him he can be in control of that intimidating group of people, women. Which way do you think he’s going to go?

It’s quite possible that this guy Thompson may be a total loser and a bad egg, and your son may wind up regretting the steps he’s taken. Everybody makes dumb choices sometimes, especially when they’re quite young. That’s part of life. Your son has to make his own mistakes. Unfortunately for him, you’ve made his name and his choice extremely public, so it’s going to stay a part of his life a lot longer than it would have if you’d kept it out of the papers. You went on TV? What the hell were you thinking?

If you love him, just make sure he knows you’ll be there for him if he decides he wants your help. Aside from that, the best thing you can do at this stage is shut up, back off, let him make his own choices and let him learn from them.

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