Tiger, Tiger: A Memoir

Some time ago I found myself sitting in a doctor’s office, waiting. I’m sure there exist places that are more boring, but honest to god I can’t think of any. Even the magazines lying around are about as exiting as watching paint dry. Nonetheless, I picked up one of those ladies magazines full of recepies, romance novels and Dear Abby columns.
My eye caught a small article about Margaux Fragoso. I had never heard about her, but apparently she is a woman who was abused as a child and now have written a book about her childhood. Judging from the short article the book had caused a lot of debate. Most things relating to pedophilia have a way of doing so.
Back home I googled the book and got still more curious, so I ended up buying the Kindle edition and have now read it. I am talking about the book ”Tiger, Tiger. A Memoir”. I have spent a few days coming to grips with my feelings about the book and whether I should try to write a review of sorts.
I am myself a gay male and thus I belong to an erotic minority. Oh, just to set the record straight (this shouldn’t be necessary but apparently it is), being gay isn’t another word for being pedophile, despite what some imbeciles like to state. But being from an erotic minority myself it feels more than a little hypocritical to condemn another erotic minority. At least if one, as I do, believe that we are born with our sexualities.
So, can you write about pedophilia without bringing out the usual rhetoric of cut of their balls and feed ‘em to the lions?
In fact you can. It you have talent. I don’t, but Margaux Fragoso has.
The book is, as its title reveals, a memoir. It’s the story about the relationship between Margaux who at age seven meets the 51 year old Peter Curran. The two of them spend 15 years as friends, lovers, abusee and abuser, adult and child – and finally adult and adult. It takes the suicide of Peter to end the relationship and allow Margaux to start her adult life for real. No spoiler here as this is known from the start of the book.
The truly chilling thing about the book is the way Margaux Fragoso refrains from portraying Peter as the proverbial boogeyman. Instead she portrays a man caught up in the tragedy of his own sexuality, and the methods Peter use to deceive himself and Margaux about the true nature of their relationship. Margaux Fragoso describes the development of a friendship, albeit a terribly skewed one, where the adult’s sexuality invades the child’s life, and thus radically transforms a normal childhood into something much, much different. This description is carried out in an almost neutral, descriptive way at times. It’s very brilliantly done. As a reader one is sort of invited along the route of a relationship changing from a platonic friendship into a sexual one. All the time viewed from Margaux’s point of view, not the adult Margaux, but Margaux at her various ages.
Only in the afterword of the book does Margaux Fragoso speak directly about abuse and pedophilia. Even then not in a hateful way towards Peter. She condemns abuse, but not the individual pedophile. Her advise is to bring the subject of abuse out into the open, to act, to see things for what they are. Her abuse where allowed to go on for so many years. Why? Because people chose not to see and not to act. What to do about the individual pedophile? Margaux Fragoso recommends offering the pedophiles methods of living without hurting children. Medcine is one way to go, testosterone-inhibiting drugs are mentioned. Counselling and trying to treat the pedophile before the actual abuse ever starts is another.
This brings me back to my starting point. Can you actually treat a person of his or her sexuality? Is it okay to remove a sex drive of a human? This is the stuff of philosophical and ethical debates. Some people still advocate treating homosexuality. Is this different from treating pedophilia? And can it be any more successful? I doubt it. But the difference when it comes to the consequences of practicing the sexuality are blatantly obvious.
I certainly acknowledge that the attempt to treat or using pharmaceuticals castrating is more humane than the one with the balls and lions I mentioned to begin with. Removing the sex drive completely from the pedohile rescues potential victims and provides for a life where the forbidden object of desire is hopefully removed from the equation. Is this the best solution. Or the best of the bad ones? At the end of the day the focus has to be on the victims, the children whose lives are changed, whose childhoods are ruined, who are made into little adults by subjecting to a grown up sexuality of a kind they are not ready for and never should be forced into, lured into or sweet-talked into.
Margaux Fragosos memoir is a chilling description of this reality for a seven year old girl growing into a 22 year old young lady. It is the story of a girl and young lady isolated from nearly everyone except her abuser. And it is the story of a serial abuser trying to come to grips with himself, trying to convince himself that his way of viewing the world is the right one, but only ending up hurting the girl he claims to love and giving up his life as an result. The title might have been ”Tiger, Tiger. A Tragedy”. But luckily it isn’t. Margaux gives us a glimpse of her new life. Her post-Peter life. A life with a husband and daughter. And a life where the chain of abuse stops. Margaux’s mother was abused. Margaux was. But her book is a testament to the fact that her daughter never will be. Because Margaux won’t stand by, ignoring the obvious, and let it happen as her own mother did. You do not stop abuse by cutting off balls. You might do by being awake, by acting and offering whatever help might work to both the abused and the potential abuser. If ”Tiger, tiger. A Memoir” helps save only one young person then it is a truly important book.