by Gunter Schmidt
INTRODUCTION to this article.
This article was originally written by Dr. Gunter Schmidt for the German "Pro Familia Magazin", a journal published by the Federal Association for Families. This is a Catholic association for the protection of the family, and is engaged in social welfare and as a family-planning consultancy.
The article was planned for a special release of that magazine, which was focused on *sexual abuse*. However, despite the fact that it was commissioned from Schmidt by "Pro Familia", it was refused. (Readers will be able to understand why this was so.) The article was finally published in "KONKRET" - a German non-conformist magazine - in their edition 3/89. Although it is therefore not a recent publication, the contents are as applicable today as they ever were.
Gunter Schmidt is a Professor of Sexology at the renowned Abteilung fuer Sexualforschung, Universitaetskrankenhaus Hamburg (Department of Sexual Research at the University Hospital in Hamburg, Germany). He is a Dr. Phil (roughly equivalent to a Ph.D.), and comes from the discipline of psychology. Currently, he is the director of that department, and as such, the successor of Professor Schorsch. Schorsch was widely known for his subtly differentiated, liberal, and humane statements about pedophilia. Schmidt continues in this tradition.
Dr. Schmidt will be known to the readers of PAIDIKA, since he was interviewed in an earlier number of that scholarly journal. He also wrote the introduction to the special number on pedophilia for the "Journal of Homosexuality".
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by Gunter Schmidt
Pedophilia is traditionally one of the taboo topics of Sexology. Sexologists avoided it whenever they could, and when they did deal with it, they did so mostly in a conformist, moralizing, and cowardly manner. This attitude has a long history. Magnus Hirschfeld, who so tirelessly and courageously engaged in the struggle for the rights of homosexuals, dedicated only a few words to pedophilia from the tens of thousands of pages of his output. These words were always the same: For homosexuals the pedophiles are a "side issue", he said, but "without doubt, the one with the most unfortunate constitution". Hirschfeld said not a word about this "peripheral" group's distress and persecution, which he was able to see clearly and which he fought against, but only as long as it concerned the "main (homosexual) group".
The tendency to exclude and to outlaw pedophiles is not so different today, as the present policy of the Gay Movement shows. Solidarity stops where the Gay's self-interest and reputation can be touched. This may be good tactics, but the "peripheral group" is abandoned to the bigotry of "mainstream society" - just as it was by Hirschfeld. For many sexologists and the many activists of the Gay Liberation Movement, "respectable" homosexuality begins wherever the State sets the so-called age-of-consent. These age-limits, however, are set too high so that, rather than protecting children from sexual exploitation, they have as their aim the protection of young people from their own sexuality.
In reaction to this defamation, pedophiles have begun to organize, and are developing an idealized, euphemistic, played-down and defensive argument. Consequently pedophilia sometimes now turns out to be an especially intense form of parental love; the pedophile becomes a selfless facilitator and developer of the sexual wishes of the child. The euphemism of a desexualized "inter-generational intimacy" appears as a ghost in many texts. The pedophile is allowed to be anything but <sexual>; even by other pedophiles. But pedophilia - just as with other forms of love - is before everything else a physical longing. It is lust, sensuality, sexual passion, horniness. To pretend otherwise would be, as Martin Dannecker says, "a boundless denial of the sexual wishes" of the pedophiles. So, it's nothing more than a bland apologia - a form of verbal kitsch.
Speaking of pedophilia in its strict sense (i.e. sexual relationships between adults and <pre-pubertal> children), there are two particularities which such relationships risk more than any others and which, therefore, need to be addressed:
<First>, there is the structural asymmetry of power between children and adults, which cannot be eliminated. This asymmetry is incompatible with the concept of equality in love relationships. (But this concept is rarely, if ever, realized anyway. If you start with the radical analysis of the structural power-relationship between man and woman, as was done by Christine Thuermer-Rohrs, and with her concept of complicity, then you might draw the conclusion that sexual relationships between men and women are potentially even more devastating than those between men and boys, simply because the latter, at least, are confined to the same sex.) The risk of exploitation of one by the other, the disregard of the partner's wishes and interests, i.e. of children's wishes and interests, comes high in many pedophile relationships, even if - as is the case with the majority of such relationships - physical power and physical coercion are absent. Though power-imbalances do not necessarily have to be made use of, too often this is the case - and not only by pedophiles - as the intrusions and attacks by parents upon their own children show. Because, obviously, there are more parents than pedophiles, the potential for the use of power against children, comes mainly from parents and therefore this potential is much larger than that coming from pedophiles. The handicaps and destruction which parents can create in the sexual development of their children, even if they don't abuse them sexually, are much more frequent. But this does not alter the fact that pedophile relationships are especially "at risk" of becoming destabilized in a repressive way.
This becomes clear with the <second> particularity. As long ago as the 1930's, psychoanalyst Sandro Ferenczi pointed out that the sexuality of young children and that of adults is entirely different, and that this difference becomes blurred at the expense of the child. Ferenczi spoke of the "confusion of tongues" between the adult and the child; of the disparity between "the tenderness-oriented infantile eroticism" and "the violence inherent in the eroticism of the adult." According to Ferenczi, children aren't interested in genital sex with adults, and if they get involved in such sexual activity, this is often the price these children pay for the affection and care they then receive. Ferenczi admonishes: "If, in the phase of tenderness, you impose upon children <more love>, or a <different kind> of love, than they wish, this may have as pathogenic a consequence as would the <denial of love>, which has been the sole opinion up to now."
The imbalance of power and the incompatibility of the sexual wishes of adults and children are central aspects to the debate on pedophilia. Guenter Amendt says, "Children's and young persons' right to sexuality (on which activist pedophiles properly insist) does not include the right of adults to the sexuality of the children". However, these aspects, if seriously discussed (without zealous persecution on the one hand or apologetic understatement on the other) are not sufficient to label <all> pedophile relationships. Age and age-difference do not say enough about the nature and quality of a sexual relationship that one could or should base laws merely on these factors alone. The diversity of pedophile relationships is huge - too large, in spite of common peculiarities which they share, for anyone to use the term "sexual abuse" as a synonym for all of them, without defaming and discriminating against the whole of this minority group. (It is depressing to see how thoughtless and stereotyped the term "sexual abuse" is, as used today - and not only with regard to paedophilia. It is equally depressing that, in many places, the discussion does not proceed in any more differentiated way than did the one about child protection and "child molesters" in the 60's.)
There are pedophile relationships which, though without physical coercion or repression, are exploitative and painful and which deny the interests of the child. But there are also some where the children, who are by no means "little innocents" either, realize the vulnerability of the adult to legal sanction and try out their power in forms of blackmail. One such example is where men - for whatever strange reason - expose themselves to the children and are arrested for this. However, as with Alfred Kinsey, one can ask: "What have we done to our children, and their sexual development, if they react in such a disturbed fashion to such a harmless event?" And too, there are successful pedophile relationships, which help and nurture the child. Sometimes maybe, at the high price of a sexual relationship, where the child is just looking for care, warmth and protection. My experience is that these children are often the emotionally neglected, the very lonely and socially isolated. They are the children who search for the comfort of a home in the relationship with the adult. In all their misery, they are lucky to have found such an "enormously caring relationship", as John De Cecco has formulated recently. (And it looks as if children who are not deprived of parental affection do not respond to sexual overtures from adults.)
One has to do justice to the variety of pedophile relationships. Therefore a general threat of punishment for all pedophile actions cannot be called civilized; it is unjust, it is a persecution of a minority. It needs to be abolished.
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