Thursday, September 09, 2010

"It is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful."

As some readers have correctly guessed, the source for that quotation is indeed Peter Tatchell. He expressed his views on "inter-generational sex" - the language is interesting - in a letter to The Guardian in June 1997.

Now I realise it's not the done thing to refer publically to Tatchell's controversial views on age of consent legislation and er, inter-generational sex. The man himself may accuse you, as he did Lisa Nolland, of "McCarthyite smears and insinuations", though let me say at this juncture that if anyone wants to flesh out the Tatchell/Outrage line on these matters, they're quite free to do so in the comments box; or one of his fanatical fans will tell you off for defaming their idol and what is more, threaten to "tell Peter what has been said about him."

Yet since Mr Tatchell, or the brave and courageous human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, as I should properly refer to him, has ventured his own wildly distorted account of Pope Benedict XVI's record in dealing with clerical sex-abuse, since he elected to pose with his posse outside Westminster Cathedral on a day of sacred significance to Roman Catholics bearing placards on which were enscribed such legends as "Pope's 2001 order to bishops: cover up child abuse" - the technical term for which is fucking bullshit - since he has not even been able name the document to which the placards supposedly refer, still less quote from it to support his allegations when questioned in public fora, I submit that it is more than fair for his own public statements on inter-generational sex to be aired. In fact I would go further, I think it's fair to comment on them as well.

To that end I note the following: first Tatchell's Guardian letter was penned exceedingly late on in the debate over sex-abuse. By 1997 both professional and public attitudes on sex-abuse had decisively shifted away from the Freudianesque tolerance which characterised the period roughly dated between 1950 and 1970; as Philip Jenkins has shown, second-wave feminist discourse on rape and sexual coercion on the one hand and therapy culture on the other had such a radical impact on attitudes to sex abuse as to have rendered the sentiments Tatchell expressed by 1997 not so much quaint as shocking to modern sensibilities.

Next, while Tatchell's letter may have shocked people in 1997, arguably it would not have had the same eye-opening effect had it been published some 20 or 15 years earlier. As late as at least 1980 the UK's National Council of Civil Liberties was debating similar issues at its annual general meeting, in 1985 German Green Party members from North Rhine Westphalia argued for "non violent sexuality" between children and adults never to be subject to criminal prosecution, in 1977 a petition addressed to the French parliament calling for the decriminalisation of all consenting sexual relations between adults and minors under 15 years of age was signed by a cluster of all the usual public-spirited intellectuals including, naturally, Sartre and de Beauvoir. Bourgeois jaws probably didn't fly open scattering mouthfuls of croissant on rive gauche cafe floors on the reading of that particular news item in Libération, if Libération even bothered to report it at all, so mild would the petitioners' demands have seemed in those days.

Third, devotees of the Tatchell cult, a zealous bunch at the best of times, would undoubtedly rejoinder that there is a world of difference between expressing dippy views on inter-generational sex and tolerating actual instances of the same and I would agree with them. Yet just as I am happy to put Mr Tatchell's views in context - he was shaped by and remains, to my mind, an exponent of the old New Left - I don't think it's asking too much for him and and his merrie band to put the Church's record on sex-abuse in rational context either.

Fourth, most, if not all of the clerical sex abuse scandals we see reported, indeed screamed in banner headlines by the press date back to the period when freewheeling New Left attitudes to inter-generational sex were in vogue and most of them, for what it's worth, didn't involve paedophilia in the strict sense of the term.

Would reading any of this cause the No Pope protesters to rethink their attitudes to the Pope? To answer in the affirmative would be to assume that their attitudes were the product of rational enquiry in the first place, when clearly they are not. No, these grim-faced fanatics been rendered insensate by repeated exposure to  brain-pulverising rubbish. They've been whipped up into a state of excitement and now they're champing at the bit. That's the intellectual crime Peter Tatchell bears responsibility for, not a crazy letter in the Guardian.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Quiz time: Who said this?

ROS Coward (Why Dares to Speak says nothing useful, June 23) thinks it is “shocking” that Gay Men’s Press has published a book, Dares To Speak, which challenges the assumption that all sex involving children and adults is abusive. I think it is courageous.
The distinguished psychologists and anthropologists cited in this book deserve to be heard. Offering a rational, informed perspective on sexual relations between younger and older people, they document examples of societies where consenting inter-generational sex is considered normal, beneficial and enjoyable by old and young alike.
Prof Gilbert Herdt points to the Sambia tribe of Papua New Guinea, where all young boys have sex with older warriors as part of their initiation into manhood. Far from being harmed, Prof Herdt says the boys grow up to be happy, well-adjusted husbands and fathers.
The positive nature of some child-adult sexual relationships is not confined to non-Western cultures. Several of my friends – gay and straight, male and female – had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13. None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy.
While it may be impossible to condone paedophilia, it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful.

Bonus questions: When and where was it said?