The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there #1
Sixties hero revealed as kindergarten sex author
A respected Green MEP and leading figure of the Sixties protest movement has admitted to The Observer that he wrote an article claiming he had sexual contact with very young children. Daniel Cohn-Bendit, MEP for the French Greens, wrote about how flirtatious encounters in the early Seventies with children in his care as young as five had taken on 'erotic characteristics' and soon developed into more intimate contact from which he did not walk away.
When confronted last week with the article, which appeared in the August 1976 edition of the racy, now defunct cultural-political magazine das da, Cohn-Bendit said what he had written was 'unacceptable and unbearable'. He claimed his descriptions of sexual activity with the children were based on fantasy. No disclaimer to this effect appears in the article.
The article was a spin-off from a best-selling book, The Big Madness, that Cohn-Bendit wrote in 1975 about child education. The book drew on his two-year experience working in a Frankfurt kindergarten with children aged from two to five. In the article, he wrote: 'My constant flirt with all the children soon took on erotic characteristics. I could really feel how from the age of five the small girls had already learnt to make passes at me. It's hardly believable. Most of the time I was fairly defenceless.'
Later he added: 'It has happened to me several times that a few children opened the flies of my trousers and started to stroke me. I reacted differently each time according to the circumstances, but their desire confronted me with problems. I asked them: "Why don't you play with each other, why have you chosen me and not other children?" But when they insisted on it, I then stroked them. For that reason I was accused of perverted behaviour.'
Speaking by phone from his Frankfurt home, where he lives with his wife and daughter, Cohn-Bendit said on Friday that the damning paragraphs had been written as 'verbal provocation'. 'It was meant to illustrate the difficulty of the educator in bringing up children: how does one accept that children have a sexuality, and also to recognise the resistance against which educators have to work. It was written in an autobiographical way and wasn't scientific - it was a literary exaggeration.'
But he added: 'I admit that what I wrote is unacceptable nowadays. When I look at those sentences today, I say to myself, "Hey Danni, that's impossible!" It's quite legitimate that personalities should be forced to confront their pasts.'