Following my original post on the pedophile practices of Marion Zimmer Bradley, a victim of another notorious literary pedophile has shared their own experience in the comments section of that article. I won’t post her handle here, but her original comment should be easy enough to find by following the link above. She refers to the award-winning English children’s writer William Mayne, who, according to his Wikipedia entry, was in 2004, “imprisoned for two and a half years and placed on the British sex offenders registry for life after admitting sexual abuse of ‘young girl fans.” Mayne died six years later. Here (with some light editing for punctuation and typos) is what his victim had to say:
I was one of the girls groomed by William Mayne. At the time I thought the stories were excellent, but as a concerned and informed parent I go back and see they are grooming tools – reflections of William Mayne’s pedophile mind envisioning the naked skin of girls together. His books encouraged me to revel in separating from my parents, in seeing them as my antagonists rather than my advocates, and subtly and subliminally groomed me for an invitation to his house in Thornton Rust. Whether he planned this or the books simply innately reflected his pedophilia I can’t say, but by making his pedophilia psyche seem ‘normal’ in his plots (children hiding their actions from their parents, communal nakedness), it made it easier for him to groom me.
Now I previously discussed how far it’s possible to separate a writer’s art from their actions and beliefs. Here we have one victim of those actions stating that the art was crafted, wittingly or unwittingly, as a tool to facilitate sexual abuse of children.
Mayne may present a special case because his writing was specifically directed at his target group, in a way that Bradley’s wasn’t. And others have argued for and against the same issue, but there’s one point of view where I think many can agree. A writer’s work will tend to reflect their worldview – and a fiction author’s writing even more so. If that writer practices certain crimes, as Genet stole and Sade sodomized, for instance, as deliberate choices rather than unconscious aberrations, then their worldview will tend to reflect those. So a pedophile author’s writing may embody a worldview that permits and endorses pedophilia. (And there are quite a few artists and writers, heterosexual or homosexual, whose work might fit that mould.)
It’s then up to the audience to choose how far that worldview is tolerable. We still read Mein Kampf, embodying a worldview that endorses genocide, without restriction. But at the very least, where it does arise, that kind of worldview should be identified and singled out. Maybe readers will still enjoy Mayne, as they enjoy the art and typefaces of Eric Gill, but if there are traps and danger areas in those works, they should be warned.
As a Guardian correspondent wrote back in 2004, “What would single Mayne out for unusually harsh punishment, however, would be the discovery that his books were designed to corrupt, by somehow legitimising, or promoting the activities for which he was jailed.” Well, now one victim has said that they were.
It’s also worth considering those cases where the writer was overt and explicit about their worldview, like Sade or Genet, or covert and duplicitous about it, like Mayne apparently was. At least an open statement of an extreme position invites direct challenge and can be identified from the off. But feeding it covertly into an apparently innocent narrative directed at a vulnerable target group … that’s a whole different story.
The original poster also wonders: “How do I get a copy of Mists of Avalon without inadvertently condoning MZB?” her reason being that “I strongly suspect that on reading it I will see elements that reflect the innate beliefs of a pedophile.” And she warns that: “Sometimes divorcing the art from the pedophile is the naivety of the observer or worse, the willful denial of the existence of grooming aspects in the art because the observer is just a ‘bystander’. In this instance, the bystander (not a victim) condones the behaviour of the pedophile writer by not honouring the pain of the victims.”
Something for any future reader of Bradley or Mayne to reflect on.