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The the recent release of “Leaving Neverland” and “Surviving R. Kelly” have resurfaced accusations of sexual assault, physical abuse, and kidnapping by music icons Michael Jackson and R. Kelly. Many in the African-American community have mixed feelings about “Leaving Neverland” in begging the question: “why now?” Michael Jackson cannot defend himself.

Several individuals who, attended Horace Mann Middle School in South Los Angeles in the early ‘90s reminisced about visiting Neverland Ranch, in Santa Barbara County during summer camp trips. They attest that nothing unusual happened to them. Others have pointed out that both documentaries have been released during sweeps week which would bolster the viewership of both the HBO and Lifetime networks. Sweeps Week refers to a survey that is taken four times a year to give advertisers a chance to rate viewing patterns of the television audience.

Celebrities and sexual proclivity

When African-Americans were questioned about the sexual habits of R. Kelly, most agreed he had a problem and that it was old news at best. Many of them said, he was no different from Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, or Woody Allen who were also named in so-called sexual dalliances with young girls.

Michelle Wilson, a biological scientist, believes the United States has a terrible history in race relations, noting that she understands the suspicion within the African-American community as related to the timing of both documentaries. However, in looking at the allegations leveled against of both entertainers, she believes they failed to sexually evolve when they were young.

As a child, Wilson explained, being attracted to your classmates body blossoming during puberty is considered normal, and not a problem. But what if a person’s attractions do not mature as they age, and instead remains fixated on adolescents? Sexuality develops during puberty, and is influenced by biological, evolutionary, and societal factors. In the cases of Jackson and Kelly, Wilson suggested, a traumatic incident during their formative years may have influenced their sexuality (or capacity for sexual feelings) which may have stunted their growth as sexual beings, thereby encouraging an attraction for children range in age from eight to 14 years. A more technical term for this adult lifestyle would be pedophilia.

A scientific explanation

Adults in Western society can be categorized as one of the following based on what type of individual arouses them.

Pedophilia—erotically attracted to those 8 to 11 years

Hebephilia—erotically attracted to 11- to 14-year-olds

Ephebophilia—attracted to 15- to 16-year-olds

Teleiophilia—primarily attracted to those 17 years old or older

Gerontophilia—primarily attracted to the aged

In layman’s terms, as a person advances in age one tends to be attracted to individuals within proximity to your age. Your attraction towards individuals evolves with age. In essence, a 14-year-old is not sexually attracted to an 8-year-old. The documentary paints Jackson as a pedophile based on his sexuality not evolving beyond being attracted to 8- to 11-year-old males. Wilson said R. Kelly’s sexuality may have ceased to evolve in his early teens, therefore may be classified as a hebephile.

Peter Smith, a Seattle social worker, agrees with Wilson. He said individuals who are sexually attracted to prepubescent children are called pedophiles. They are often male.

‘Age themselves down’

Pedophilic sexual offenders are often called fixated/dedicated, meaning the alleged perpetrator’s sexual attraction to children is their primary, often sole sexual attraction. Typically, Smith explained, when interacting with prepubescent children, these individuals “age themselves down,” becoming childlike (in their own minds) as a way to relate to and feel a sense of connection with their victims. They see themselves in a childlike way, and they invite children into their childlike world. This is their form of seduction. Jackson’s opulent Neverland Ranch was a well-known example, specifically the amusement-park environment where he is purported to have enticed victims into “sleep-over parties” and similar child-play events.

In 1993, Robert Hodge aka “Speedy” was an armed guard at Neverland. According to Speedy, he was hired in part because of his connection with the Piru street gang from South LA. He recalled that a number of Piru members became Neverland employees shortly after the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.

“ We were transported to Neverland by someone who was affiliated with community activism or the Nation of Islam,” Hodge said. “I believe it was a guy we called Brother Troy who lived in “The Jungle” (near Baldwin Hills). We would load up in a white van that took us to Neverland. Once there, we would patrol certain areas of Neverland. We were told to not interact with any staff and appear unfriendly. We had to sign a lot of documents and were told to not discuss anything we saw on grounds.”

An eyewitness at Neverland

Hodge said he was eventually fired by an official security staff member after asking about reported floor sensors Jackson had installed in the hallway leading to his bedroom. He had inadvertently listened in on a conversation taking place between two technicians discussing a problem with the sensors.

“Man that place must have had listening devices [everywhere] because all of a sudden this Black dude introduced himself as Anthony and informed me that my services were no longer needed by Mr. Jackson due to me discussing floor sensors,” Hodge explained.

These listening devices outside Jackson’s bedroom have been covered in several articles, particularly in Time and Vanity Fair magazines. The latter publication also listed members of the the Blood street gang being employed at Neverland as “armed members of tough South L.A. gangs, including the notorious Bloods, were transported to Neverland. The employment of these [gang members], according to the Vanity Fair article, was said to have sent a strong message to Neverland employees who might have considered cooperating in the Jordie Chandler investigation (the individual who sparked the investigation into Jackson in the mid-1990s), not to mention the subliminal message it gave out to other boys and their families who might have been thinking of coming forward with allegations of sexual impropriety against Jackson.

Hodge said he was surprised at how many White parents would show up to Neverland with their young boys who would spend time with Michael. “I hate to say it, but I believe Mr. Jackson used Neverland as a ‘kiddy magnet’ to attract and then select his victims,” Hodge added.

R. Kelly’s sordid tales

Smith calls Jackson a “fixated-dedicated child offender,” based on the construction of Neverland. He believes a fixated-dedicated offender does not do well in treatment because their arousal template tends to struggle in treatment. According to Patrick Carnes, Ph.D., author of “Facing the Shadow: Starting Sexual and Relationship Recovery,” an arousal template consists of “the total constellation of thoughts, images, behaviors, sounds, smells, sights, fantasies, and objects that arouse us sexually.”

In regard to R Kelly, Smith said that most so-called hebephiles are situational/opportunistic with their offending (rather than fixated/dedicated), meaning they offend when the opportunity arises. For instance, these individuals may stumble across child pornography while surfing for adult porn and then choose to explore that. These offenders tend to “age their victims up,” viewing them as acting or looking like adults. Typically, these offenders are attracted to adults as well as minors. Smith explained that may such individuals may have long-term romantic attachments with adults as well. R. Kelly, Smith said, is an “example of this type of offender,” as he has had numerous relationships with adult women in addition to his relationships with and victimization of underage girls. Many of Kelly’s alleged victims were young females attempting to break into the music industry; Kelly’s fame allowed him to attract young individuals trying to make it in show business.

Fame may have also played a role for alleged offenders like Kelly and Jackson. The awe and respect they have derived through their music may have provided access to an almost endless supply of underage victims. Kids who saw these men as heroes wanted to be around them and felt special because of the attention they were given by them. And sadly, as clearly seen in “Surviving R. Kelly,” the parents of these kids often saw an opportunity for their talented tots to learn from the best and become stars themselves, so they ignored obvious warning signs of sexual danger.

How money and fame corrupt

How does money and fame inevitably corrupt people into believing they can get away with anything?

It can’t. But huge wealth and notoriety may make it easier for sex offenders to find victims, to discredit accusers, to pay people for their silence, as well as to fend off negative press, and to fight legal battles. A similar circumstance could be witnessed in the ongoing legal troubles of Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Les Moonves, and the jail term of Bill Cosby.

Both Wilson and Smith commented on what may cause a person to be attracted to under-age persons male or female. Each agreed that individuals who may have been sexually abused in their youth typically go onto become sexual offenders. Roughly between 30 and 75 percent of adult sex offenders report being sexually abused as children.

Then there are others who have not been abused as children but find children sexually attractive. Research suggests there may be a biological reason for this some offenders are wired to find immature faces attractive. Wilson also said that drug and alcohol abuse often play a significant role in child molestation cases.