This is not a culture war. It is a war on safeguarding
Why my Twitter account has been suspended
Twitter has locked me out of my account unless I delete a tweet which was part of a thread about child safeguarding, the pressures against speaking up, and how the Pedophile Information Exchange infiltrated and silenced civil society in the 1970s.
The thread was about Mermaids, but not just about Mermaids.
The tweet included two shocking photographs.
One, from 2020, is of an 11-year-old boy dressed up in Lolita schoolgirl outfit in a “caught in the act” pose, sitting on a bed in a hyper-girlish bedroom, with an adult man also dressed as a fantasy of a school girl. This photograph was part of the “Mermaid’s tales” promotion campaign sponsored by Starbucks and promoted by the BBC.
This is not OK.
The second photograph was this one (unredacted) which features a kaleidoscope of pornographic poses by Mermaid’s Digital Engagement Manager, Darren Mew. It features 11 shots of of Mew’s erect penis, one of his anus and several disembodied cartoon-like breasts, on a dreamy pink and blue background of flowers and clouds.
If you want to see the full picture it is not hard to find. It was published in Haus magazine (a pay-to-download artistic porn magazine) and the picture was tweeted with Mew’s name by the magazine (the tweet has since been deleted).
This is not OK.
Darren Mew also posted the picture below to Instagram. It features Mew dressed in school-girl-style long knee-socks and plaid skirt, leaning back with legs spread, on what looks like a pink and blue bed.
This is not OK.
This follows hot on the heels of the departure of LSE academic Jacob Breslow from the Mermaid’s board of Trustees. Breslow’s work focuses on the “queer life of children’s desires”. He quit as a trustee after women on Twitter publicised his involvement in a pro-pedophilia conference, where he presented a paper in which he compared molesting a child to masturbating on a shoe.
My Twitter account was frozen due to mass reporting by people who had accused me of “posting nudes” (the picture of Darren Mew from the magazine) without permission, and of “terrorism”.
The NSPCC, Munroe Bergdorf and James Makings
I am reminded of similar events in 2019 involving the NSPCC and an employee called James Makings. Makings is a man with a leather fetish who enjoys posting amateur porn videos of himself online, including one of him masturbating in his workplace toilets.
NSPCC Employee Films Himself Masturbating at Work
Earlier this week the news broke on Twitter that James Makings, Celebrity and Talent Officer at the NSPCC, had made…
Women who raised concerns were accused of being homophobic pearl-clutchers, allied to the far right.
The NSPCC’s response was to encourage people to report those expressing concern to Twitter.
The NSPCC later decided that Makings behaviour was in fact “inconsistent with the values expected of an employee” of the children’s charity. But it never apologised for smearing those who brought his activities to its attention.
The Makings affair happened after the NSPCC hurriedly cut ties with another person they had hired without adequate checks, Munroe Bergdorf. You can read the concerns about Bergdorf in this letter from Safe Schools Alliance.
Bergdorf had promoted US “drag kid” Desmond is Amazing who performs in nightclubs, saying kids are never too young to “be who they want to be”.
Another concern was that Bergdorf encouraged children to make contact privately by direct message.
The NSPCC clumsily dismissed its new ambassador and tried to memory hole the whole thing.
CEO Peter Wanless then apologised to Bergdorf for the way the charity handled the affair. 150 members of the charity’s staff signed a letter condemning the decision “to cut ties with Munroe Bergdorf” and saying they felt “embarrassment and shame”. The Guardian and the Independent published articles criticising the NSPCC for listening to those with safeguarding concerns (the Independent called them “anti-trans trolls”).
Pride in London (which, interestingly, is where Darren Mew worked before he went to Mermaids) thought that Wanless’s apology was not enough and demanded the NSPCC take further steps to “heal the pain” or else be thrown out of the Pride parade.
James Makings later wrote a reflection on his experience, defending his behaviour.
He dismissed concerns about men exhibiting their fetishes in front of children at Pride.
Firstly, he said, Pride isn’t for children and families (in which case why is the NSPCC participating, and taking orders from Pride in London on how to run its affairs?)
Secondly, he said:
“when a child sees a man in a full rubber suit at a Pride parade, they don’t think its a sexual thing. I have friends that have had incredible experiences at Pride parades and such where a child has been captivated by their rubber or leather — why wouldn’t they be, its soft and shiny — and they almost always ask if they are a superhero. Children don’t have the knowledge to know that it might be sexual, those thoughts are put in their heads by parents that seem intent on sexualising everything rather than just seeing things from an innocent child’s perspective.”
This is exactly the point.
Children aren’t adults. They don’t always know when they are being sexually exploited or put in a vulnerable position. It is up to adults, and organisations that work with children, to protect them, from things like Lolita photo-shoots, drag performances, and fetishists in leather harnesses or dressed up as puppies.
In 2019 Mermaids promoted a drag calendar sold to raise money for the charity, featuring sexualised and transgressive pictures. It called the calendar “Mer-mazing” and glamorous.
You can see all 12 images from the calendar here.
In 2022 it promoted a fundraiser with a highly disturbing livestream featuring a man in a hot tub, wearing a baby mask, and telling viewers to put their nipples to the screen.
None of this is OK.
Munroe Bergdorf, who the NSPCC decided was not appropriate to be a celebrity ambassador, is a patron of Mermaids and has responded to the safeguarding concerns threatening that without access to Mermaids children will commit suicide. Bergdorf calls the concerns “hatreds, lies and sabotage”, raised by “middle-aged cisgender women in positions of power”.
It is a basic principle of safeguarding that organisations must not advertise, through lax due diligence and an “anything goes” attitude, that they are an easy touch for predators, or they will invite predators.
This means children’s charities should not be employing pornographers who put their work in the public domain, or pro-paedophile professors, or soft-porn models who promote children to perform sexualised acts in front of men in clubs for money. They should not be raising money by selling calendars featuring BDSM, or livestreams with breastfeeding fetishists.
They should not be normalising any of this as being appropriate for children.
And they should not be punishing whistleblowers and making it hard to speak up and say this is not OK.
The hounding of gender-critical women and men from their jobs and from public forums (which Breslow wrote in support of) and attempts to brand organisations such as Transgender Trend and LGB Alliance as “hate groups” is not a culture war. It is a war on safeguarding.
This video shows Dr Julia Long at an event called “Transmission” asking Bergdorf about the interview with Desmond is Amazing, and whether it is really OK for children to perform sexualised dance routines for men in nightclubs. For asking the question she was boo’ed, accused of derailing the event and disrupting the safe space. Eventually she was told to “shut up” and made to leave.
Berdorf replied: “if you have ever been to a New York drag club that is completely normal.”
James Makings’ defence came from a man who had been trained on safeguarding by the NSPCC. 150 members of NSPCC staff joined in the condemnation when the charity finally put safeguarding ahead of woke approval.
Almost the whole voluntary sector has been complicit in saying this is OK, and in disparaging those that challenge it.
Organisations appear to be finally waking up to concerns. The Department for Education has removed Mermaids from the resources they link to. The NSPCC has just agreed to remove a misleading video featuring Mermaids Patron Charlie Martin & youtuber Alex Bertie making misleading statements about about puberty blockers, saying the video was “more appropriate for its time then than now.”
The Charity Commission has now opened a compliance case about Mermaids. One of the incidents reported was from a mother whose 14-year-old son had been communicating with strangers in secret on the Mermaids website, and then, encouraged by Mermaids staff, moved on to Discord, where strangers persuaded him to send photos of himself in sexualised poses in his bedroom. “He felt they were his friends,” she said.
Jolyon Maugham, who together with Mermaids and the LGBT Consortium initiated a case to have the LGB Alliance struck off as a registered charity, gives an indication of their defence. He called the Times’ tweet about this child being abused online “pathologically dishonest” and said Mermaids is blameless and deserving of solidarity, because it was not on the Mermaids website where the child had sent and received sexually explicit images from strangers.
Mermaids may not have been running the server, but it has a culture where staff promote the idea that it ok for children to talk about their bodies with strangers on the internet, to keep secrets from their parents (including receiving breast binders), and to share and be exposed to sexualised and disturbing photographs.
It is good news that the Charity Commission is reviewing Mermaids’ safeguarding compliance. But safeguarding is not the Charity Commission’s core competence, and the problem isn’t really one charity.
The corruption of safeguarding, by queer theory, and fear-driven overindulgence of anything justified as LGBTQIA+ inclusion, has been going on in plain sight across large parts of the voluntary sector, the arts, the public sector, universities and beyond, for years. It requires more than a few face-saving exits, by expendable fall-guys like Bergdorf, Makings, Breslow and Mew.
It is time the Children’s Commissioner stepped in to investigate how policies and cultures driven by concern for “LGBTQIA+ inclusion” have undermined safeguarding. And it is time the leadership of these organisations is held accountable.
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