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.

13 Comments:

Anonymous skidmarx said...

So you're quite happy to equate inter-generational sex with paedophilia when it comes to Peter Tatchell, but when it comes to the church it's an excuse? Motes and beams.And to suggest that those using the authority of divine judgement to frighten their victims into silence is mostly consensual requires some evidence to back up such a ludicrous proposition
Some of the clerical abuse dates back to when such ideas were in vogue among some of the New Left. So the New Left were running the church at the time?

Reading any of this makes me think that your post is not the result of rational enquiry but grim faced fanaticism.

9/11/2010 8:00 AM  
Anonymous Flossie said...

It's not an excuse, skidmarx.

It just seems a bit rich for Peter Tatchell to be organising protests against the Pope for allegedly covering up (which he didn't) the kind of thing he himself advocates.

There were plenty of lefties in positions of power advocating the same behaviour, but the church has never advocated it - quite the opposite.

You cannot condemn a whole huge organisation because of the actions of a few rogue members, however reprehensible.

9/11/2010 9:24 AM  
Blogger Hestor said...

Thank you for exposing these vicious anti-Catholic bigots like Tatchell.

9/11/2010 10:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Flossie - child sex abuse is not "the kind of thing" he advocates. There were not lefties in positions of power advocating the same thing. As I understand it the current Pope ordered in 2001 that all allegations of child sex abuse be relayed to the Vatican rather than directly to the secular authorities, the church has no global policy in place to prevent further abuse, even in England and Wales where there is such a policy there is complacency that no such thing could ever occur again. An organisation that claims divine authority should certainly be held to a higher standard, it is not good enough to say that when when it does good things that can be rendered to God and all the bad things can be rendered to Caesar. Not a few rogue elements - some of the abusers have been leaders of the Church, and the cover has been endemic at the highest levels. The attempt to present Benedict as a shing white night, flawed as it is, is never accompanied by condemnation of John Paul II.

Hestor - you obviously have a different undertanding of the meaning of the words "vicious" and "bigot" from mine.

I see Jack Valero and Cristina Odone were on Sunday Morning Live today, and one of them was citing Edward Green again on the inefficacy of condoms. In the Guardian, Ben Goldacre had the science.

9/12/2010 5:34 AM  
Blogger seaon said...

I can understand that some people are concerned by certain of Peter
Tatchell's writings on under-age sex. But I don't think you have given
a fair and accurate picture of what Tatchell is saying and why he is
saying it. The quotes you cite from Tatchell are too selective and
partial. You quote too many of his words out of context.

Tatchell offers a different explanation, which I am posting below. I
hope you might engage with what he is actually saying.

Peter Tatchell writes:

The idea that I advocate paedophilia is laughable, sick, untrue and defamatory.

Unlike many Catholic clergy, I have never abused anyone. Unlike the
Pope, I have never failed to report abusers or covered up their
crimes. I do not support sex with children. Full stop.

My Guardian letter cited examples of Papuan tribes and some of my
friends who had sex with adults while they were still children, but
who do not feel they were harmed. I was not endorsing their viewpoint
but merely stating that they had a different perspective from the
mainstream one about inter-generational sex. They have every right for
their perspective to be heard. If they say they were not harmed, we
should respect that (while also recognising that many people are
harmed by early sexual experiences).

My Guardian letter did say very clearly that paedophilia is
"impossible" to condone - meaning that I don't condone it.

Here's an example of what he wrote in the Irish Independent last year:

Irish Independent – 10 March 2008

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/lowering-the-unrealistic-age-of-consent-will-help-teens-1312148.html

See this Guardian article, published in September last year:

http://www.petertatchell.net/age%20of%20consent/dontcriminaliseyoungsex.html

9/15/2010 4:11 AM  
Blogger seaon said...

I can understand that some people are concerned by certain of Peter
Tatchell's writings on under-age sex. But I don't think you have given
a fair and accurate picture of what Tatchell is saying and why he is
saying it. The quotes you cite from Tatchell are too selective and
partial. You quote too many of his words out of context.

Tatchell offers a different explanation, which I am posting below. I
hope you might engage with what he is actually saying.

Peter Tatchell writes:

The idea that I advocate paedophilia is laughable, sick, untrue and defamatory.

Unlike many Catholic clergy, I have never abused anyone. Unlike the
Pope, I have never failed to report abusers or covered up their
crimes. I do not support sex with children. Full stop.

My Guardian letter cited examples of Papuan tribes and some of my
friends who had sex with adults while they were still children, but
who do not feel they were harmed. I was not endorsing their viewpoint
but merely stating that they had a different perspective from the
mainstream one about inter-generational sex. They have every right for
their perspective to be heard. If they say they were not harmed, we
should respect that (while also recognising that many people are
harmed by early sexual experiences).

My Guardian letter did say very clearly that paedophilia is
"impossible" to condone - meaning that I don't condone it.

Here's an example of what he wrote in the Irish Independent last year:

Irish Independent – 10 March 2008

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/lowering-the-unrealistic-age-of-consent-will-help-teens-1312148.html

See this Guardian article, published in September last year:

http://www.petertatchell.net/age%20of%20consent/dontcriminaliseyoungsex.html

9/15/2010 4:12 AM  
Anonymous Kate Ahrens said...

Do you also consider rape of women to be equivalent to "inter-gender" sex?

It is an entirely legitimate opinion (and overwhelmingly the majority view) to think that all sexual relations with children must be without the consent of the child. If Peter Tatchell thinks otherwise, then he has the right to explain that opinion. That is NOT the same as believing that no sexual relations with children are without the consent of the child.

It is a nonsense to suggest that because Tatchell holds this view that prevents him from condemning the rape of children.

Flossie: There does appear to be quite a lot of evidence now that Ratzinger himself was involved in the attempt to cover up child sexual abuse within the church and certainly that he is now head of an institution which systematically tried to hide the extent of the problem and protected (and is still protecting) priests from the secular authorities.

Its not the actions of "rogue" individuals that is the cause of the condemnation, it is the reaction of the church to it.

9/20/2010 1:20 AM  
Blogger Red Maria said...

@Skidmarx,

Good to see you back here, sir. I think you've missed the central point of my argument which is that Church's response to sex abuse in the 60s and 70s mirrored that of wider society. She doesn't operate in a vacuum, she is influenced by ideological currents around her; a good deal of the expert advice at the time was that ephebophiles - most sex abuse was ephebophilic not paedophilic, a distinction which may seem pedantic to you but is, I think, important - could be therapeutically treated.

In my post I was happy to put Tatchell's 1997 letter in historic and political context. I don't think it's asking too much for him to do the same thing for the Catholic Church.

@Kate Ahrens, hello and welcome to Dolphinarium where a free speech policy is in full effect ;-)

First of all, I don't object to Peter Tatchell, or anybody else, expressing their opinion on any matter under the sun. Let them do so. Secondly, I have not argued that Tatchell's 1997 letter, the contents of which he has not resiled from, prevents him from condemning child-rape. That said, it seems to me that his objection to child rape is rendered less than coherent in light of his speaking of the "positive nature" of some child-adult sexual relations and his claim that a number of friends of his from the ages of 9 to 13 had sex with adults which was their "conscious choice" and "gave them great joy".

Whenever people speak of a lot of evidence, or even more excitably overwhelming evidence that Cardinal Ratzinger, as the then was, was involved in attempts to cover up clerical sex-abuse, I'm always keen for them to cite it. Thus far I've been disappointed but in the spirit of free and frank debate I extend that invitation to you, as well.

Indeed I would be interested to see the evidence for your subsequent claim that the Catholic Church is still protecting priests from the secular authorities.

Condemning the Church's response to sex abuse in previous decades is easily done. It's less easy, indeed far less tempting to venture an honest audit of her actions, especially when one is at ideological loggerheads with her, as Peter Tatchell is.

9/20/2010 4:15 PM  
Anonymous Kate Ahrens said...

Hi Maria.

Thanks for publishing my comment.

Evidence of Ratzinger's culpability? Well, I'm by no means an expert in these matters (hence the reason why I said "appears to be") but a quick Google search reveals that Cardinal Ratzinger was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - the body that conducted internal investigations into accusations of abuse for the Church. And that he used that position to reinforce the idea that sexual and other forms of abuse committed by priests should be investigated internally only without involvement of the relevant police authorities.

He issued a letter to American priests in 2001 instructing them that their investigations were "subject to the pontifical secret".

And despite widespread calls for full disclosure now, Pope Benedict has still not given any signal that he will release Vatican investigations to the relevant authorities to assist with their enquiries. That sounds like a continuation of the attempt to cover up to me.

You can say that in the 60s and 70s, the Catholic Church's reaction to allegations of abuse mirrored that of general society. I'm not sure how justifiable that can be in an organisation that acts as a moral arbiter of society. But regardless, its clear that the institutional attempts to cover up the extent of abuse has continued far longer than that.

For sure its true that my objections to the Catholic church are more to do with my atheism than anything else and so perhaps I am not objective, but since the Church doesn't seem to have a problem in criticising my life choices and the choices of millions of other people who are not Catholics, I think they are fair game for us too ;-)

9/21/2010 12:25 AM  
Anonymous shane said...

Good blog. There was a fascinating article a while back in Der Spegiel on the connection between 1968ers and paedophilia http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,702679,00.html

Patricia Casey, professor of psychiatry at University College Dublin, also wrote a good article in the Irish Independent about the culpablity of psychiatrists
http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/patricia-casey-psychiatrists-must-take-share-of-blame-on-abuse-2105623.html

10/01/2010 1:45 PM  
Blogger seaon said...

I can understand that some people are concerned by certain of Peter
Tatchell's writings on under-age sex. But I don't think you have given
a fair and accurate picture of what Tatchell is saying and why he is
saying it. The quotes you cite from Tatchell are too selective and
partial. You quote too many of his words out of context.

Tatchell offers a different explanation, which I am posting below. I
hope you might engage with what he is actually saying.

Peter Tatchell writes:

The idea that I advocate paedophilia is laughable, sick, untrue and defamatory.

Unlike many Catholic clergy, I have never abused anyone. Unlike the
Pope, I have never failed to report abusers or covered up their
crimes. I do not support sex with children. Full stop.

My Guardian letter did say very clearly that paedophilia is
"impossible" to condone - meaning that I don't condone it.

Here's an example of what he wrote in the Irish Independent last year:

Irish Independent – 10 March 2008

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/lowering-the-unrealistic-age-of-consent-will-help-teens-1312148.html

“The time has come for a calm, rational debate about the age of
consent. It should be premised on four aims. First, protecting young
people against sex abuse. Second, empowering them to make wise,
responsible sexual choices. Third, removing the legal obstacles to
earlier, more effective sex education. Fourth, ensuring better
contraception and condom provision to prevent unwanted pregnancies and
abortions and to cut the spread of sexual infections like HIV.”

You can see that he made protecting young people against sex abuse his
first priority.

he has said similar things in many other articles and interviews.

See this Guardian article, published in September last year:

http://www.petertatchell.net/age%20of%20consent/dontcriminaliseyoungsex.html

It is true that I support reducing the legal consent age to 14. But I
support 14 in order to end the criminalisation of the many young
people who have sexual contact with each other from this age onwards.
More than half of all British teenagers have their first sexual
experience (not necessarily full intercourse) at around the age of 14.
I do not advocate them having sex at this early age. It is best if
they wait. But I don’t think that consenting 14 years olds should be
dragged to court and threatened with prison. I certainly do not
endorse adults having sex with young people aged 14.

My critics may disagree with me on the age of consent, but I have
advocated a clear ethical stance and moral framework, which stresses
sex with mutual consent and respect . My arguments and
articles are not about abusing young people but protecting them.
That's my motive.

10/14/2010 2:07 AM  
Blogger seaon said...

I can understand that some people are concerned by certain of Peter
Tatchell's writings on under-age sex. But I don't think you have given
a fair and accurate picture of what Tatchell is saying and why he is
saying it. The quotes you cite from Tatchell are too selective and
partial. You quote too many of his words out of context.

Tatchell offers a different explanation, which I am posting below. I
hope you might engage with what he is actually saying.

Peter Tatchell writes:

The idea that I advocate paedophilia is laughable, sick, untrue and defamatory.

Unlike many Catholic clergy, I have never abused anyone. Unlike the
Pope, I have never failed to report abusers or covered up their
crimes. I do not support sex with children. Full stop.

My Guardian letter did say very clearly that paedophilia is
"impossible" to condone - meaning that I don't condone it.

Here's an example of what he wrote in the Irish Independent last year:

Irish Independent – 10 March 2008

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/lowering-the-unrealistic-age-of-consent-will-help-teens-1312148.html

“The time has come for a calm, rational debate about the age of
consent. It should be premised on four aims. First, protecting young
people against sex abuse. Second, empowering them to make wise,
responsible sexual choices. Third, removing the legal obstacles to
earlier, more effective sex education. Fourth, ensuring better
contraception and condom provision to prevent unwanted pregnancies and
abortions and to cut the spread of sexual infections like HIV.”

You can see that he made protecting young people against sex abuse his
first priority.

he has said similar things in many other articles and interviews.

See this Guardian article, published in September last year:

http://www.petertatchell.net/age%20of%20consent/dontcriminaliseyoungsex.html

It is true that I support reducing the legal consent age to 14. But I
support 14 in order to end the criminalisation of the many young
people who have sexual contact with each other from this age onwards.
More than half of all British teenagers have their first sexual
experience (not necessarily full intercourse) at around the age of 14.
I do not advocate them having sex at this early age. It is best if
they wait. But I don’t think that consenting 14 years olds should be
dragged to court and threatened with prison. I certainly do not
endorse adults having sex with young people aged 14.

My critics may disagree with me on the age of consent, but I have
advocated a clear ethical stance and moral framework, which stresses
sex with mutual consent and respect . My arguments and
articles are not about abusing young people but protecting them.
That's my motive.

10/14/2010 2:08 AM  
Blogger seaon said...

I can understand that some people are concerned by certain of Peter
Tatchell's writings on under-age sex. But I don't think you have given
a fair and accurate picture of what Tatchell is saying and why he is
saying it. The quotes you cite from Tatchell are too selective and
partial. You quote too many of his words out of context.

Tatchell offers a different explanation, which I am posting below. I
hope you might engage with what he is actually saying.

Peter Tatchell writes:

The idea that I advocate paedophilia is laughable, sick, untrue and defamatory.

Unlike many Catholic clergy, I have never abused anyone. Unlike the
Pope, I have never failed to report abusers or covered up their
crimes. I do not support sex with children. Full stop.

My Guardian letter did say very clearly that paedophilia is
"impossible" to condone - meaning that I don't condone it.

Here's an example of what he wrote in the Irish Independent last year:

Irish Independent – 10 March 2008

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/lowering-the-unrealistic-age-of-consent-will-help-teens-1312148.html

You can see that he made protecting young people against sex abuse his
first priority.

he has said similar things in many other articles and interviews.

See this Guardian article, published in September last year:

http://www.petertatchell.net/age%20of%20consent/dontcriminaliseyoungsex.html

It is true that I support reducing the legal consent age to 14. But I
support 14 in order to end the criminalisation of the many young
people who have sexual contact with each other from this age onwards.
More than half of all British teenagers have their first sexual
experience (not necessarily full intercourse) at around the age of 14.

10/14/2010 2:11 AM  

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