The LA Times recently ran a story about the Child Exploitation Section of the Toronto Sex Crimes Unit, which contained a mind-boggling statistic: of the more than 100 offenders the unit has arrested over the last four years, "all but one" has been "a hard-core Trekkie." Blogger Ernest Miller thought this claim was improbable. "I could go to a science fiction convention," he explained "and be less likely to find that 99+ percent of the attendees were hard-core Trekkies." While there may be quibbling about the exact numbers, the Toronto detectives claim that the connection is undeniable.
In fact, Star Trek paraphernalia has so routinely been found at the homes of the pedophiles they've arrested that it has become a gruesome joke in the squad room. (On the wall, there is a Star Trek poster with the detectives' faces replacing those of the crew members). This does not mean that watching Star Trek makes you a pedophile. It does mean that if you're a pedophile, odds are you've watched a lot of Star Trek.
This is not the first time Star Trek has been linked to bizarre sexual practices. Those involved in the Heaven's Gate mass suicides in Rancho Sante Fe in March 1997 also purported themselves to be avid Star Trek fans. One may recall that the cult forced its members to wear unisex clothing, had a strict policy of celibacy, a ban on all sexual thoughts, and eight of the members had surgically castrated themselves.
So why would sexual deviants be attracted to Star Trek? The link between Star Trek and pedophilia is obscure, even to the detectives in the sex crimes unit: "It has something to do with a fantasy world where mutants and monsters have power and where the usual rules don't apply," Det. Constable Warren Bulmer told the LAT. "But beyond that I can't really explain it." Explain it or not, one thing is clear: the detectives identify the pedophiles with the mutants and monsters and themselves with the crew of the Enterprise. But, in fact, the detectives probably have more in common with the pedophiles than they think, because the pedophiles, too, are almost certainly identifying with the crew of the Enterprise, and not with the mutants and monsters.
After reviewing a bunch of episodes from the original Star Trek series, what became apparent is that sexuality on the Enterprise is pretty peculiar. At first blush, the crew might seem kind of sexy -- big-breasted, scantily clad female crew members, men in skin-tight uniforms, and Captain Kirk ripping off his shirt at the slightest hint of heat -- but the features of their sexuality are exaggerated in the manner of a comic book, creating a hygienic distance from anything to do with real sexuality.
Despite the cartoonish trappings of sexiness, there are, in fact, no sexual or romantic relationships aboard the Enterprise. The male crew members demurely ignore the sexually enticing (if antiseptic) female crew members. There seems to be a tacit agreement that any sexual relationships would destroy the unity of the crew. In one episode, Mirror Mirror, the crew members are confronted by their evil, mirror counterparts in a parallel universe and discover that the parallel Starship is a hotbed of sexual activity, with no moral code.
And when it comes to relationships off the ship, Captain Kirk displays a truly astonishing emotional poverty. He goes from planet to planet, having trysts with an assortment of nubile women, but never forms any real attachments. By the next episode, the last female partner is forgotten. (Although we don't know all that much about pedophilic sexual offenders, one thing we do know is that they have trouble forming authentic adult romantic relationships.)
Despite this apparent promiscuity, Kirk's sexuality is anything but clear. His relationships are certainly never based on his own wants or desires. If he seduces a woman, it's usually in order to escape danger on behalf of his crew, or else he's overtaken by some alien power that makes him behave like a sex fiend. (e.g., a woman's tears contain a love potion that causes Kirk to become amorous).
There's a pervasive message that women are toxic. In an episode called Cat's Paw, there is an evil sorceress who separates the crew from each other and from the starship. The perpetually indignant Dr. McCoy cautions Kirk, "Don't let her touch your wand Jim, or you'll lose all your power! On the very rare occasions where Kirk seems to find love, his partners quickly die off. After one of his loves has croaked, Kirk admonishes Spock "Love, you're better off without it."
The one longstanding attachment Kirk has is to Mr. Spock. In fact, their bond is so intense that there's an abundance of gay porn written about the two. (Oddly enough, it's frequently written by heterosexual women.)
Spock, of course, doesn't have the emotional apparatus for a romantic or emotional relationship. It's easy to imagine how the garden variety pedophile might identify with the half-human, half-Vulcan character who is bereft of human feeling, essentially neither male nor female, and living in a society where those around him seem to have a different set of rules. (It turns out that autistics also strongly identify with Spock, but that's another story).
For both Kirk and Spock, their true shared love object is the luminous Starship Enterprise, and it essentially serves the purpose of a fetish object – a non-human, inanimate detour for evading anxieties belonging to genuine intimacy. In an episode called I, Mudd , when one of Harry Mudd's androids asks Kirk what it is he desires: he replies, "The Enterprise." "But the Enterprise is not a want or desire" says the android. "It's a mechanical device." "It's a beautiful lady," Kirk interjects sharply "and we love her."
So if the pedophiles are identifying with the crew members, who do the monsters represent? Possibly aspects of the pedophile's mind that are split off because they are unthinkable, and projected into someone else. On the Enterprise, aggressive impulses aren't battling it out with libidinal ones as they are here on earth. In the Star Trek universe, every "bad" impulse is attributed to an external force. When it comes to sex, for example, it's always an outside influence that takes possession of the crew's minds and bodies, causing them to behave in erotically driven ways. Child molesters have a similar mechanism at work. They deny having any sexual impulses themselves; they frequently claim that it was the children who seduced them.
There is another aspect of Star Trek that likely makes it irresistible to perverts. It is utopian, in the sense that all the differences and distinctions which create tensions here on earth have been eradicated. Despite their exaggerated sexual characteristics, for example, the crew members are citizens of a utopian interracial and interplanetary world where the usual conflicts associated with gender do not apply.
In perversion, there is an attempt to obliterate any distinctions that provoke unconscious anxiety. First and foremost, this entails a denial of the difference between the sexes and the difference between the generations. Pedophiles are, at the very least, attempting to deny the difference between the generations. The utopian fantasy here is to normalize sex between adults and children.
According to Dr. Peter Mezan, a psychoanalyst in New York City, "There is an impulse that is common to perversion and to utopian thinking. The wish is to create a world in which differences make no difference. The great utopian thinkers have been immensely inspiring, but there is a reason that utopian communities have never worked out. In the name of equality of every sort and in the attempt to eliminate the tensions that normally divide us, they propose to create a marvelously unnatural world without the usual boundaries. But then it gets all fucked up."
Think of Michael Jackson. He has attempted to eradicate just about every sexual, generational, and racial difference – and to construct an alternate utopian reality in Neverland. While there is certainly a futuristic quality to his clothing and mask-like facial features, it is unclear whether he watches Star Trek or just looks as if he does.