Chapter 12 : Home : Bibliography
Chapter 13: A Wider Perspective
On the face of it, the United States might be thought infertile ground in which to nourish sexual change in the coming years: while in the UK we have only one Mary Whitehouse, the Americans have two Anita 'Save Our Children' Bryant and Judianne 'Child Porn' Densen-Gerber plus a formidable supporting cast of moral crusaders,; backed by mainstream news media, often as prurient and sensationalistic as the News of the World.
Judianne Densen-Gerber, it will be recalled, coined the phrase 'spiritual murder' in the Chicago Tribune 'child porn' exposι.1
Anita Bryant is chiefly famed for her attack on legislation designed to prevent discrimination against homosexuals in employment especially against homosexual teachers in schools whence the slogan 'Save Our Children', 2 with which in 1977 she won her most notable victory.
Miami in Florida. There, as in a number of other states, legislation against discrimination had been introduced in the previous few year. In Miami's Dade County, Anita Bryant succeeded in reversing the trend by invoking a constitutional provision for a local referendum on the issue, the referendum then being fought in a campaign which relied on a straightforward appeal to prejudice and fear. A similar campaign in California (the 'Proposition Six' campaign), held later, was defeated but not without gays, to say nothing of paedophiles. being put on the defensive everywhere.
The backlash styled itself as 'pro-family'. and at its heart was detestation of all lifestyles that refused to conform with the tradition roles of women and men in society, as well as of non-traditional erotic behaviour it was thus anti-feminist as well as anti-gay. The easy targets, however, were those at the margin of public acceptability, particularly paedophiles, and most of all - because of the dreaded homosexuality factor - male boy-lovers.
Boy-love came to be for Anita Bryant what communism was to Joe McCarthy. Like McCarthy, the new witch-hunters talked about a 'national conspiracy' and citizens were urged to be ever vigilant to track down and expose the conspirators.
One organization, the Interfaith Committee against Child Molesters, is alleged to have offered a 'Community Action Kit.' People have been urged to 'shadow' their neighbours, friends, and even relatives, and to 'turn them in' if they are suspected of sexual 'irregularities'. Guidelines are apparently being published on what to look for in nailing a boy-lover. If a man is frequently seen with a lad not related to him, then that man is patently up to no good and has to be investigated. 3
Perhaps the most extreme manifestation of this backlash to date has been action taken by the Oklahoma legislature where, amidst scenes of coarse humour and the brandishing of penknives, a bill has been passed 4 which provides for the castration of child molesters.
Also, a woman politician in the State of Maine has proposed a new law which would involve the 'castration' of both men and women convicted of sex offences against children. Punishment for male offenders would involve surgical removal of the nerves within the penis that control a man's ability to have an erection, thus impeding his sexuality far more effectively than traditional castration. Women would have their ovaries removed. This would not prevent a woman from having sex, but a lack of hormones produced by the ovaries would cause her vagina to lose it's elasticity, to 'dry up', making intercourse less satisfactory and possibly painful.
At the same time, the word 'backlash' is of great significance here, for there have been in the United States extensive attitudinal changes to react against changes which made equal rights for homosexuals acceptable to some state legislatures in the first place. At the fringe of such charges, largely beyond the everyday attentions of mainstream politics, there has long existed a rich variety of counter-cultural activity, such as the sexually uninhibited communes studied by Johnston and Deisher, and the new politics of childhood generated by the children's rights movement.
A variety of organizations have also pioneered new thinking on children's sexuality and child-adult sex, particularly 'transgenerational' sex within loosely-knit families. First in the field was the Renι Guyon Society, formed in 1962 by seven couples at a lecture on sexuality at a Los Angeles hotel.
The society was named after a French psychologist who died in Thailand in 1961. Guyon wrote treatises which, echoing Reich, asserted that many of the ills of civilization are products of distorted sexuality. It was from Guyon that the society took it's motto, 'Sex by eight, or else it's too late'. Prior to the 'child porn' scare, a spokesman for the society, Tim O'Hare, was able to use erotic photographs of children to good effect, in an interview with a gay paper called Newswest, which wrote:
'O'Hare has gathered a large collection of photographs showing young boys and girls in various states of intimacy with other children and adults. It is obvious that that enjoy it.' 5
Also on the West Coast, in San Diego, is the Childhood Sensuality Circle, which issued the Child's Sexual Bill of Rights presented earlier. Prominent in this group is a retired social worker, Valida Davila, whose views have much in common with those of Dr. Alayne Yates. The circle works in close contact with the Sexual Freedom League, a group comprising a variety of sexual 'swingers', advocates of 'open marriages', nudists and others (these being heavily overlapping categories).
The importance of nudism for children is understood by the League, one of whose co-founders, Jefferson Poland, has said they 'should be completely spared the morbid sickness of hiding their beautiful bodies like some sort of carrion deemed too foul for the light of day'.6
Most 'swingers' would agree with him, and while some may continue to have reservations about child-adult sex, there is no doubt that they strongly approve of giving a positive emphasis to their children's sexuality. 7
Astonishingly perhaps, the United States has never had an organization like PIE, with a membership of avowed paedophiles, campaigning for the acceptance of consensual sex between girls or boys and women or men. Until its demise during the 'backlash', the monthly magazine Better Life provided the nearest equivalent to a paedophile forum, though it focused entirely on the interests of men attracted to boys with a strong emphasis, it must be added, on the fostering of responsibility within boy-man relationships. 8
These activities have all been fairly precarious and some like Betters Life itself have been swept out of existence in the recent tide of reaction. But already there are signs of a fightback. The Bryants and Densen-Gerbers are not having it all their own way, as the defeat of Proposition Six has shown.
And across the nation on the Eastern seaboard, another tussle has produced some surprises. It all started in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1977, when the nationwide crackdown on sexual nonconformity was a its height. In the 'Revere' case (named after the district involved) twenty-four men were indicted on charges related to a supposed 'sex ring' in which boys aged between nine and fifteen were said to have taken part. 9
The story gave rise to such distorted sensationalism in the media that local gays swiftly formed an active civil rights group to combat what threatened to become a new Salem. The group became known as the Boston-Boise Committee. named after a similar witch-hunt in Boise, Idaho, in 1955. about which John Gerassi wrote in The Boys of Boise.
The Committee soon grew to over five hundred members in the Boston area, including fifty sponsor organizations ranging from churches to legal and even some straight radical and liberal groups. One of its first actions was to go to law over the use of a 'hotline' that had been set up by the District Attorney responsible for the Revere charges in order to solicit gossip from the general public about men seen associating with boys. Helped by the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the case was won. and the 'hotline' withdrawn.
Despite the risk of being tarred with the 'child molester' brush, support for the Boston-Boise Committee from the gay community was strong from the outset. Then, in March 1977, Boston police struck again, this time to arrest 102 men at the Boston Public Library on a variety of charges, mostly of open and gross lewdness and prostitution apparently the library area was an established 'cruising' place among gays, with no connection to the boy-love scene. These new arrests were seen as even more evidence of intent to persecute gays. and encouraged yet more support for the Committee.
One highlight of the Committee's campaign was a fund-raising meeting addressed by author Gore Vidal, and attended by the head of the American Trial Lawyers' Association and several Senators, plus an audience of 1,500. The Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Superior court, who also had the temerity to go along, was suspended from the bench immediately after the meeting, and then impeached before the Supreme Court.
Tom Reeves, one of the leading figures of the Boston-Boise committee, called it 'Probably one of the most ludicrous incidents in the always ludicrous annals of US history ', but at least he was able to add, in a positive vein:
'The Chief Justice and his wife are now friends of ours they spoke radical words at a rally we held against Anita Bryant, to which we drew about 2,000. 10
Reeves himself is a totally 'out' paedophile, having been on many TV and radio shows as a boy-lover, and frequently mentioned on the front page of the Boston newspapers. He told me:
'My neighbours in a working-class Irish neighbourhood know about us and they can see the boys coming and going yet we seem to be better friends with them all .... I am a professor in a college and the faculty there have elected me President since all the notoriety .... The Student Government voted confidence in me last year when several conservative newspapers called for my ouster [sic]. I have not had one nasty incident, and my students and colleagues at work are very warm.' 11
The success of the Boston-Boise Committee was soon followed up. A Boston conference on Man/Boy Love and the Age of Consent, in December 1978, was attended by two hundred people from fifteen states and three Canadian provinces. Out of it grew an organization called the North American Man/Boy Love Association, which was soon active in promoting a further conference, in March 1979, aimed, amongst other things, at consciousness-raising on some of the issues feminists have put forward in connection with boy-love.
In the teeth of a massive, nationwide crusade against paedophiles, how has it been possible for the Boston-Boise Committee and NAMBLA to be so vigorous and open? How, is it they could turn the tables on a District Attorney who was bent on a witch-hunt? 12
How did they tempt a Superior Court judge into supporting such a radical cause? How was it that even some churches offered their support? Despite the fear of persecution, how on earth was it possible to get 1,500 people to turn up at a fund-raising meeting and avoid the violence that attended PIE's debacle at the Conway Hall?
A major part of the answer is that the Boston-Boise Committee was strictly a civil liberties group, which, although it did oppose the age of consent laws in Massachusetts, took no stand on paedophilia as such. It was also far less uncompromising than PIE in that the emphasis to it's public approach was consistently on the sexuality of adolescent boys, of youths, rather than children a fact which probably enabled it to maintain support within the gay community which might otherwise have been frightened off.
Another element perhaps lies deeper in the nature of American society, for I suspect that despite the readily whipped-up hysteria, there is also in the USA a willingness to consider new ideas that is almost wholly lacking in Britain: even the mainstream news media allowed themselves to be influenced positively by the Boston-Boise Committee's campaign, and began to run some open-minded articles.
Even in the context of the 'child porn' furore, for example, it was possible for the Los Angeles Times to carry an enlightened article by an anthropologist, Richard L. Currier, which included the following:
'Kid porn touched a nerve in American society, and the plain truth is that nobody likes it, aside from the people who are buying and selling the merchandise itself. But why has there been this shock wave of public nausea? Why this deep and almost instantaneous revulsion from a public that once tolerated with only minimal discomfort the wholesale slaughter of South-east Asian peasants countless thousands of whom were children as an act of official government policy.
'... Kid porn is particularly disturbing partly because it shows us that children will readily respond to sexual advances and even become active participants in sexual encounters. Like any human potential, the reality of juvenile sexuality can be tapped for evil as well as for good. The pornographers are simply forcing us to confront the fact that this sexual potential in children really exists.
'... The point is that Western society has undergone a revolution in sexual values, but it has tried to apply it exclusively to adults, and this rather arbitrary restriction is simply not working. How do we explain to our kids that while sex is natural, healthy. normal and good, they should refrain from enjoying it until they grow up and leave home? More to the point, how do we explain it to ourselves?' 13
Despite everything, despite the ferocity of the Bryant/Densen-Gerber phenomenon, I feel mildly encouraged by North America's openness to ideas and when I say that, I include Canada, where early in 1979 a major court victory was won by the gay journal Body Politic (through a prosecution appeal is pending at the time of this writing), which had faced a charge in connection with a long, serious article called 'Men Loving Boys Loving Men', which was said to be 'immoral, indecent or scurrilous'.
The charge was dismissed by a judge who spoke of Body Politic as 'a serious journal of news and opinion' and the article as 'a plea for understanding' which 'forcefully argues in favour of a particular attitude of non-condemnation of paedophiles'.
Significantly, although Body Politic at first took a hammering from the mainstream press in Toronto for running the article, attitudes did begin to change. By February 1979, the Toronto Globe ran a full (broadsheet) page article entitled The Paedophile: the myth and the reality, 14 which presented a much fairer and better-informed picture than had been seen before.
If there are small glimmers of encouragement to be detected in North America, there is by comparison a great, warm glow radiating from Holland. It has already been noted that such unlikely groups as the Netherlands Order of Attorneys and the Protestant Union for Child Protection believe that in the case of consensual child-adult sexual activity, prosecution of the adult is not justified.
It cannot yet be said, however, that most Dutch people approve of paedophilia, or that they have no misgivings about it: 15 their culture has too many roots in common with ours for such a carefree outlook.
What appears to have happened is that in recent years the climate has been right for a more liberal approach to be taken to a variety of social issues (a mood which briefly prevailed in the UK during the 1960s), and that in the context of this new climate the discussion of paedophilia was subsumed at a critical phase within a generally more relaxed approach to sexuality an approach which a year or two ago enabled Rotterdam city council, for instance, seriously to contemplate the building of a plush 'Eros Centre', for the improved accommodation of brothels, shops for the sale of erotica, live sex shows, and the like.
Historical accident may have helped the Dutch paedophile cause. Whereas PIE stuck its neck out in an era of conservative reaction and became an isolated target, progress in Holland has been promoted by a large and prestigious umbrella organization, the NVSH, (Netherlands Association for Sexual Reform). The early work of NVSH was in the field of family planning, but it gradually took a variety of sexual liberation causes under its wing, including the campaign for children's sexual rights and, in 1971, paedophilia. 16 A popular organization, it reached a maximum membership of nearly a quarter of a million a few years ago and has had a strong influence on public attitudes towards sex.
There are now paedophile groups under the auspices of NVSH in a dozen Dutch towns. They are publicly visible, too, not under ground: I know of one paedophile who has put up a big, pro-paedophile poster in the front window, just like an election poster, regardless of what the neighbours might think. He has not had his windows smashed.
The Rotterdam group, and others, hold regular open meetings, to which paedophiles are not afraid to take their child lovers, despite the fact that press and police are free to attend, and sometimes do.
A national newspaper, The Hague Post, has run a lengthy feature article in which paedophiles and their young lovers were interviewed about their relationship. 17
A TV programme, watched by two million viewers, 18 feature a Protestant minister with positive views on paedophilia, plus a enlightened mother and a medical student who felt he had received enormous benefit from a relationship he had had with a man from the age of twelve. 19
Feedback from the public did not indicate outrage at the programme. Dr Brongersma, who was one of the principle contributors, told me that, on the contrary, reaction was favourable from the entire press (Communist to Roman Catholic) and from the general public.
There has even been a march through the streets, with placards, banners and, yes, children too, to protest at The Hague's Palace of Justice, during the appeal court hearing in 1978 of a thirty-four-year-old social worker who had been given a three month sentence (one month suspended) for his third conviction on charges relating to sex with boys under sixteen. The sentence itself was lenient by UK standards, especially as the offence in question concerned not one, but three boys, aged fourteen and fifteen.
But the demonstrators were calling for nothing less than the abolition of 'Article 247' of the Dutch penal code the article forbidding indecency with children under sixteen. Interestingly enough, the Netherlands had no age of consent laws for many years, between the Napoleonic occupation and the passing of this article in 1886, and there is no evidence whatsoever that children were exploited more in this period than afterwards, when they became officially 'protected'.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the case is that on appeal, the prosecutor, the Attorney General of the Netherlands, appeared to have some sympathy for the defendant. Instead of backing the lower court's sentence, he himself decided that the offence was 'not so enormously serious' 20 and he called for a complete suspension of the sentence, which was granted by the court plus probation and a fine.
After the trial signatures were collected for a petition to the Minister of Justice, calling for an end to all Dutch legislation on sexual morals. One of those gathering signatures was Gerald Zwerus, Chairperson of the National Paedophile Workgroup of the NVSH, and himself a teacher. Zwerus' campaigning does not appear to have affected his position as a teacher, and he has even been allowed to speak at schools on the subject. Following one such talk, an initiative was taken by some pupils to collect signatures for the petition.
Since then, there has been a further petition calling for the abolition of the age of consent, presented to the Government in June 1979, and signed by the Trade Union of Teachers, the Union of Probation Officers, the Protestant Trade Union of School Teachers, and the Protestant Union for the Family; this last-mentioned group recently published a completely-positive pamphlet on paedophilia, replacing an earlier one in which the emphasis was on 'child molesters'.
Evidently this group, concerned as it is with the family, does not see paedophilia as a threat to family life. What's more, the largest single party in Parliament, Labour, along with smaller ones, supports abolition, and if the Liberals join them (they are presently studying the matter) there will be a Parliamentary majority.
The Dutch psychologist Dr Frits Bernard related to me an amusing and true story which captures the mood of the Netherlands:
A German paedophile, wracked by guilt over his attraction to little girls, knew no one in his home town in whom he could confide. Then he heard that a 'World Sex Fair' was to be held in Rotterdam, and he thought that there he might be able to meet and talk to someone from a paedophile group.
Accordingly, he went along, and discovered that there was indeed an exhibition stand run by volunteers from the local NVSH group. He approached what he took to be the two volunteers on duty and tentatively struck up a conversation with them. They both listened sympathetically to him, and in the relaxed atmosphere he soon found himself pouring out a great many secrets about his relationships with little girls. To his surprise and pleasure neither of his newly-found confidantes seemed in the least bit shocked, or disapproving.
Then one of them had to go.
'Sorry to leave,' he said, 'but I am a policeman and I have to go on duty.'
It was some time before the other man, who really was an NVSH volunteer, could convince the shocked German that he was not going be arrested, or that details of his confession would not he released to police back in his home town.
What the NVSH man knew, and the German did not, was that generally speaking the police in Rotterdam do not now go out of their way to concern themselves with under-age sex. Although the age of consent is sixteen, for both homosexual and heterosexual acts, no action is taken unless complaint is made, when the child is a girl between twelve and sixteen
In the case of boys in this age range being involved with men, the police still sometimes take a dim view. Dr Brongersma has cited a case as recent as 1974 in which the police used highly dubious methods to extract a 'confession' from a thirteen-year-old boy. 21
But things are changing, as the police, like others, become better educated. In the TV programme referred to above, the Protestant minister, Pastor Klammer spoke about this process of enlightenment:
'I have occasionally given courses, lessons to police personnel in authority, and when this subject comes up you realize that even amongst the police the thinking is changing. Their first reaction is "I'll hang those guys if I ever get my hands on them!" That sort of tough guy reaction. But then one of the other officers always disagrees, and we spend the whole time talking about these matters. At the start I sometimes say, "I think I'd better sit by the exit because of your violent reactions." But then you notice that a great many policeman are horrified by their own actions against paedophiles, and parents and children.' 22
At a symposium held in March 1977 by the National Centre for Public Mental Hygiene, the Chief of the Rotterdam Vice Squad announced that in every case they now handle parents are warned of the sometimes disastrous consequences of police investigations for the child, and are left free to decide if they wish to see their child put through such an ordeal.
Even in those cases where action is taken by the police, it is a matter for the discretion of the local public prosecutor whether court action will be taken. The question prosecutors ask themselves these days in all cases, not just sexual ones, is not 'Why shouldn't I prosecute?" but 'Why should I prosecute?' In other words, 'Are there really good reasons for believing that a prosecution is necessary?' Often, it is decided that prosecution would do more harm than good, and the case is dropped.
Dr Brongersma, himself a lawyer, told me of one such case, which he took on in 1977. A teacher had been having a sexual relationship with a young boy (not from his own school). He was foolish enough to give the boy an expensive present. The parents' suspicion was aroused, and he was soon found out. When the police visited the teacher's house, they found photographs which showed him and the boy engaged in erotic acts together and evidence does not come much more conclusive than that.
Yet what happened afterwards would be quite inconceivable in England. Dr Brongersma made representations to the public prosecutor. He pointed out that the teacher had not abused his professional standing, since the boy had not been one of his pupils. It was also a first offence, after some years in the teaching profession.
The relationship in question had been struck up during the summer holidays. During the term-time, the teacher was happy to be amongst children at his school and, feeling involved with them, rather than lonely and alienated from children, it was possible to contain his erotic feelings. If he were to be prosecuted, argued Dr Brongersma, he would probably lose his job. He would no longer have those long term-times of constructive involvement with children. Instead, he would be demoralized. And would have nothing to lose by trying ever more desperately to seek out casual sex with boys.
The public prosecutor accepted Dr Brongersma's arguments. He invited the teacher along to his office, told him that he did not intend to prosecute, and let him go with a friendly warning that in the event of a repetition he would be obliged to do so. He would not necessarily go to prison, even then, the prosecutor said, but he would certainly lose his job.
From 1967 to 1972, the number of prosecutions in the Netherlands under Article 247 went down by 55 per cent. Generally speaking, sentences are much lighter than they used to be, too. The maximum for indecent assault is still severe (six years' imprisonment) but more often sentences are of months, rather than years, if there is any sentence at all.
The idea that a paedophile may he excused or tolerated in his misdemeanours in this way is not one that either Dr Brongersma or I in any way regard as ideal. A consensual relationship involves no offence, so it should not be necessary to make excuses for it. But the spirit of tolerance in the Dutch system has developed in an increasingly questioning atmosphere.
Not only is it now seen as inappropriate to try and bludgeon paedophiles into conformity by savage prison sentences, but other misconceived ideas such as the view that paedophiles are 'sick' are finding it hard to survive in a society which is becoming increasingly educated, thanks to the NVSH and the numerous influential publications of such figures as Dr Bernard and Dr Brongersma.
What are the limits, one might ask, of this public educability? Will the penal laws against consensual paedophilia soon be swept away in Holland as more and more influential people and institutions come to be aware of their negative impact? It would appear not. Not yet, at any rate.
At the time of writing, it seems that the Governmental Advisory Commission on Moral Legislation (the Melai Commission), which has been deliberating, inter alia, the future of Article 247, is going to take a fairly conservative line; even in the most liberal country in Europe, there is some hanging back from total acceptance of paedophilia, some feeling that tolerance is alright, but positive encouragement is not.
My guess is that paedophilia will never be accepted, in Holland or elsewhere, by any society in which paedophiles are singled out as a minority a minority which, like the homosexual minority, cannot help but seem bizarre and alien to even the most understanding onlookers, when the focus of attention is on the peculiar sexual orientation of the 'problem' group involved.
Ultimately, it is no use fighting for paedophile liberation, though this is a stage which has to be worked through. Sexual liberation can only mean something valuable to most people in the context of their own lives, and the lives of their own children, not the lives of some minority group with whom they are asked to sympathize. This fact is recognized by those sexually progressive groups in America who encourage cross-generational sensuality within the family, in a way that comes across as 'natural' and non-threatening, to average parents.
It is not to be overlooked that the dominant culture in most of the Western world is rediscovering corporality. Whereas in the past, the greatest importance was attached in parent-child relations to the inculcation of virtues, such as self-control and cleanliness, the emphasis is now towards the child's more immediate needs, such as the need for attention and security. In this context, the erotic affinity that exists between members of a family is bound to manifest itself, despite everything.
Simple questions arise (of a kind that would never have arisen previously), such as 'Should parents and children have a bath together?'' The trend is clearly apparent in letters to women's magazines, educational publications. radio programmes and so on. 23
Seen in this way, 'paedophilia' doesn't exist independently: it is subsumed into a much wider awakening of the wish to emancipate affectivity in all human relationships.
Will it ever be possible for a 'civilized' society to totally rediscover affectivity?
Will we be able to recreate the best, most sexually guilt-free elements of 'primitive' cultures?
Why were those elements lost in the first place? Is there something in advanced societies necessarily inimical to sexual shame and guilt falling below a certain irreducible plateau level?
Are we doomed to a regime of more or less continuous sexual repression, punctuated by occasional, half-hearted bouts of 'permissiveness'?
Are our social and sexual roles inevitably distorted, as Engels and others have suggested, 24 by the very nature of our economic system?
Or is there something about the late twentieth century the technological revolution, which promises fundamental changes in the way we live that suggests possibilities for a completely new beginning, for a new approach to social and sexual relations?
As I said in the last chapter, we in PIE, did not have any 'revolutionary dialectic' worked out. We did not know what was going to happen, even within the narrow confines of our own society, in either the distant or near future. We just did what was in us to do. And I personally find it as hard now as I did two or three years ago to tell whether in Britain attitudes are progressing, or regressing, or neither.
The limited perspective of the last ten years or so tells us very little: we know that in the early part of the 1970s Gay Lib was a fresh and flourishing phenomenon, which sprouted all sorts of sexually radical blooms including PAL and PIE in an atmosphere relatively free from police, or other official, coercion.
Since then, the outraged forces of reaction have girded up their loins in the battle to see to it that everyone else should do the same. The populist appeal of Mrs. Whitehouse, filling the 'morality' gap left by an established Church that is no longer sure of anything very much, had succeeded in holding in check not only any advances that might have been made by PIE, but by the gay movement generally, and there has been an even more general reaction against 'permissiveness', against 'teenage promiscuity', against the 'soft' or 'do-gooder' attitude to the treatment of criminals, against 'slack discipline' and 'falling standards' in schools.
This wider revival of conservative values, in which there has been a central emphasis in the rhetoric of the major political parties on 'the family', may be seen as a reaction against the 'Jenkinsite' view of society that flourished in the reforming 1960s, (which saw the liberalization of the abortion laws and the abolition of hanging, as well as the reform of the law against homosexuality). In the view of the then Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, the 'permissive' society was a civilized society, based on rationality, tolerance and intellectual understanding not unlike Dutch society now.
The limited perspective of a few years confines one to a superficial analysis. One witnesses a 'reaction' against a fashion that has gone before it, without understanding the forces that make any one fashion prevail at a particular time. Stepping back a little, to view the last century or so as a whole, it becomes possible to assess the impact of a variety of long-range factors influencing society generally: the changing structure of the family in response to economic pressures; the challenges that 'science' has made to religious belief and codes of morality; even perhaps, the response of the British people to national decline and the loss of their empire.
Factors such as the last mentioned, oblige us to then extend our horizons yet again, to compare attitudes towards sexuality as they have developed in other advanced countries, like the United States and Holland in the same period.
Do there appear to be underlying factors in common?
Can we see any coherent reasons why societies have a particular attitude at a particular time'?
If we take a perspective as wide as this, we will find that history affords us some examples of spectacular and unexpected changes in direction: Germany, the country which had the world's best established sexual reform movement in the early part of this century, where the work of Dr Magnus Hirschfield promised to lead the world to a new rationality about homosexual and other aberrant behaviour, was soon in the grip of a massive persecution of homosexuals.
It is hardly coincidental that persecution went hand in hand with the arrival of a regime that was totally oppressive and autocratic: political oppression cannot exist without sexual oppression.
Or can it? An assertion like that more or less obligates us to examine the entire history of the world, including the debauchery of Rome, Persia, the sexual philosophy of the Greeks. and a huge range of anthropological data. It is an exercise of Olympian proportions, which I do not propose to add to my already difficult task in this volume. But in briefly reviewing the scope of the problem. I hope I may have provided the basis for an excuse to refrain from crystal-ball gazing
While I cannot prophesy, it is given to us all to hope, and to work, however falteringly, for better things. I hope, first of all, that it will have been apparent from these pages that the guiding star I have followed in writing them is the same that shines for a diversity of sexual radicals: the vision is not merely the narrow one of 'paedophile liberation', but of liberating the positive potential that resides in everyone's body a liberation which, if effected in the years of infancy and childhood, tends not towards the selfish sexual anarchy and brutalism that some fear, but, on the contrary, towards a loving, and, as we have seen from Stoller, a less perverted attitude to sexual relations and possibly to life as a whole.
Until we stop alienating children from their bodies, by cruelly binding them in swaddling clothes of shame, they will be bound to grow up deformed, as surely as if, like the Chinese of old, we were to bind their feet.
Before the apostles of despair begin to write off the possibility of change, before they suggest, as they always do, that a radical approach is 'unrealistic', let us reflect on the fact that children's feet are no longer bound and on the fact that children are now but rarely subjected to terror, once commonplace, based on the lie that masturbation causes insanity or blindness. In a rapidly changing world, advances in sexual attitudes are not only possible, but are going on around and amongst us all the time.
In this context, I believe it is not a wildly unrealistic dream to work for the achievement of the types of law reform proposed in this book. There is nothing 'PIE in the sky' about PIE's proposals. They could actually work in a society not so unlike our own, given a slight shift towards a more reforming climate such as Holland has experienced, and they could obviate an immense amount of suffering for children and paedophiles alike.
Law reform of this nature is of course only a limited objective, and it may be thought a rather parochial one at that, in so far as it could be considered of direct concern only to that minority of children who become involved in a child-adult sexual relationship, rather than all children. Society may come to accept such reform in a pragmatic spirit, recognizing that the intervention of the criminal law often does more harm than good, while continuing to have reservations about sexual freedom for children as an idea.
What of the higher aspirations?
What of the achievement of a society in which children are genuinely treated as human beings, with rights, including sexual rights; in which it is fully accepted that they are not mere chattels, at the arbitrary disposal of their parents; in which people of all ages and both sexes have full self-determination to engage in consensual sexual activity; in which there is no oppression of any sexual minorities, providing that they do not infringe the rights of others; in which, for that matter, love and peace at last gain the elusive ascendancy over perversion and war for which all people of good will pray, in their own fashion?
All these things are plainly ideals rather than completely attainable targets. But the fact that they are not easily realized is no reason for relinquishing the perpetual struggle to do so for failure to at least define and pursue an ideal can lead only to cynicism and despair.
As a mere sweating, overworked labourer on the New Jerusalem building project, I can offer no authoritative prophesies, but I could do worse than leaving you with the words of one who was the visionary that I am not:
Children of the future age
Reading this indignant page
Know that in a former time
Love, Sweet love! was thought a crime. 25
Chapter 12 : Home : Bibliography