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The Age of Consent: The Great Kiddy-Porn Panic of '77

by Pat Califia

in: The Culture of Radical Sex

At what age did you realize you were a sexual being? Most people (if they're honest) can recall having tingly feelings and nasty thoughts when they were little cherubs with lamentable table manners. I have a much clearer memory of naughty experiments performed with my prepubescent companions (oh, those golden days of carefree crossdressing, lighthearted medical malpractice, and simulated white slavery) than I do of more pragmatic experiments with shoelaces and buttons, the telephone, and prayer. I was more worried about finding enough privacy to masturbate than I was about almost anything else except perhaps getting rid of my lima beans before my mother got back to the dinner table. I don't remember learning my alphabet or singing nursery rhymes, but I do remember prying sex secrets out of my mother while she gave me my bath.

Culturally induced schizophrenia allows parents to make sentimental speeches about the fleeting innocence of childhood and the happiness of years unburdened by carnal lust—and then exhaust themselves policing the sex lives of their children. Children are celibate because their parents prevent them from playing with other little kids or adults. They are shy because they are not allowed to go naked any longer than is absolutely necessary to take a bath. They are not innocent; they are ignorant, and that ignorance is deliberately created and maintained by parents who won't answer questions about sex and often punish their children for being bold enough to ask. This does not make sex disappear. The erotic becomes a vast, unmapped wilderness whose boundaries are clearly delineated by averted eyes. Sex becomes the thing not seen, the word not spoken, the forbidden impulse, the action that must be denied.

Even though many prominent sex researchers have documented the existence of sexual capacity in children (for instance, Kinsey verified the occurrence of orgasm in girls and boys at less than six months of age),1 our society is fanatically determined to deny it. Legally, young people are assumed to be incapable of agreeing to engage in a sexual act until they reach the age of consent, which in many states is still eighteen. Sex between an adult and a minor is called statutory rape, and someone convicted of this dubious crime can receive a heavier sentence than someone convicted of manslaughter. Contrary to what you would expect from a system ostensibly committed to protecting and nurturing its children, the minor partner is often subjected to blackmail, humiliating and punitive police interrogations, and public exposure (which can lead to painful conflicts with parents and peers). She or he may be coerced into testifying against her or his adult partner or lover in court. Age-of-consent laws don't make sense even if you believe that the desire and ability to have sex don't develop fully until puberty. These laws are completely arbitrary and do not take into account the varying degrees of physical and emotional maturity possessed by young people or the fact that puberty is occurring at earlier and earlier ages. Unfortunately, new laws that make this bad situation truly nightmarish were railroaded through state and federal legislatures in 1977 and 1978.

* * *

There are few adult lesbians and gay men who have not suffered under the campaign to extirpate any sign of eroticism in young people. Even heterosexuality, the choice approved by church and state, is hedged about with ominous warnings and tainted with guilt. Young women and men who would like to have sex with each other are impeded by lack of privacy and free time and by very limited access to birth control, abortion, sex counseling, and medical treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. Parents are so panicked by the possibility that their children might grow up to be gay that they sometimes try to prevent their children from even hearing the words “homosexual” or “lesbian.” I don't know what's worse—having a persistent, vague, uneasy feeling that you just won't grow up to be like Mommy and Daddy or hearing your secret self described with mockery, pity, and opprobrium. Many kids who should be gay because they would be happier that way probably give up and conform and never find their way into our community. The young women and men who refuse to recant have an ugly fight on their hands. At the very least, they must learn to do without approval and love from their families and friends. They may have to cope with the loss of economic support and defend themselves against physical violence at home or at school. If they are religious, they will be threatened by the loss of salvation and Cod's love. They may be forced to submit to homophobic “counseling.” As a last resort, parents may turn an “incorrigible” youth over to the juvenile justice system and wash their hands of her or him.

These young people are our next generation. Whatever we suffered in the process of coming out is still being inflicted on them. Why is there no systematic attempt to reach out to them, bring them into our movement and our community, and help them to reach healthy gay adulthood?

The squeamish attitude of today's lesbian and gay movement toward youth liberation can be traced directly to the Great Kiddy-Porn Panic of 1977. We all know that 1977, the year of Hurricane Anita and Dade County, was a very bad year for gay liberation. But most of us don't realize just how serious it was. In 1977 our march toward civil rights was met by a tidal wave of hysteria over the issue of gay sex and kids. The mainstream lesbian and gay movement was frightened into a hasty and ill-conceived retreat from this issue, which allowed the police to mount a terrorist campaign against gay youth and their adult lovers. In 1980 we are in the middle of a homophobic backlash that can only be compared to McCarthyism. Boy-lovers (and girl-lovers, though they are less visible) are the new communists, the new niggers, the new witches.

The flurry of panic over child prostitution, kiddy porn, and gay youth was engineered on a national level by a group of right-wing politicians, would-be celebrities, fundamentalist Christians, and vice cops. These people took advantage of the public's ignorance, fear of sex, and hatred of homosexuality to pass repressive laws that are probably unconstitutional; obtain state and federal grants; build powerful Careers; and make themselves famous. Unfortunately, they succeeded in doing even more than that: They split our movement. Other gay men are turning against boy-lovers, and lesbians are turning against all gay men. No matter what your position on the issue of young people and sex, it is clear that this split makes it much more difficult for us to organize action on any gay issue. The April 12, 1980, “March on Albany for Lesbian and Gay Rights” is a perfect example. Because David Thorstad of the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) was asked to speak, the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights and New York NOW withdrew their endorsement of the march. Participation was drastically reduced to only a couple of hundred people.

This controversy could destroy the modern gay movement, which is why we must understand how and why the Great Kiddy-Porn Panic of 1977 developed. In February 1977, Dr. Judianne Densen-Gerber, director of New York's Odyssey House, a drug-addiction treatment facility, toured the country, making inflammatory speeches about the “huge” child pornography industry and warning Americans that homosexuals were seducing their children into prostitution. Robert Leonard, president of the National District Attorneys' Association, set up a special Task Force on Sexual Exploitation of Children at the Association's spring meeting. CBS, that great friend of gay people, broadcast a “60 Minutes” special on kiddy porn on May 15.2 After a brief mention of adult males with sexual interests in young girls, the program focused on magazines full of erotic pictures of young boys and footage of teenage male hustlers working the streets. Also in May 1977. the Chicago Tribune ran a series of articles linking rape, prostitution, pornography, and child molestation with gay liberation. Shortly thereafter, three Chicago men were arrested and accused in the press of constituting a child pornography ring. One of the men was eighteen years old. It turned out that they could hardly have formed a “ring” of any kind since they didn't know each other. Anita Bryant surfaced in the news with her crusade to Save Our Children from the lavender menace, and Los Angeles cop Lloyd Martin traveled to many cities, making speeches similar to Dr. DensenGerber's and helping local police track down pedophiles. Martin's Sexually Exploited Child Unit received funding from the city of Los Angeles in 1977, which supposedly made him a national expert on the subject.

All this furor culminated in a call for federal legislation against the sexual abuse of children. On May 23, 1977, the Kildee-Murphy hearings began. Congressmen Dale E. Kildee and John W Murphy proposed federal legislation that would make it a felony to photograph or film a “child” (anyone under sixteen years of age) in the nude, engaged in sexual activity with another person, or masturbating. The penalty would be a fine not to exceed $50,000 or up to twenty years in prison or both. The Kildee-Murphy Bill would impose a similar penalty on depictions of simulated acts, clerks who knowingly sold child pornography, or anyone who knowingly permitted a child to engage in prohibited sex acts. The existence of a “feminist” antipornography movement made it possible for some politically active women to sympathize with the campaign against kiddy porn and cross-generational sex, which Ms. magazine exploited in a special issue in August 1977 (“Is Child Pornography... About Sex?”). Ms. included an article, 'America Discovers Child Pornography” by Helen Dudar, which featured uncritical interviews with Densen-Gerber and Martin.

As the media blitz continued, so did arrests. Peter LeGrow, the owner of a Seattle disco for gay youth, was busted on August 30 and charged with promoting the prostitution of two teenage boys. The local newspapers covered his arrest in a distorted way; columnist Hilda Bryant's series on boy hustlers debuted the next day. LeGrow was clearly the victim of entrapment. His alleged crime was assisting an undercover cop to find two young men for a date. He took no money for making this introduction, and one of the boys was also employed by the police as an informer. But the most outrageous bust of the year occurred on December 8 1977. Twenty-four men were arrested in the Boston area and indicted in what the newspapers called a child-pornography and prostitution ring. The police established a hotline to take anonymous tips that would lead to further arrests, and lesbian legislator Elaine Noble actually urged the gay community to cooperate. Luckily, her point of view did not prevail, and the Boston/Boise Committee organized to publicize the arrests, challenge the media's sensationalistic coverage, and help the defendants.3 As a matter of fact, none of the indictments were for pornography, none of the men arrested knew each other, and of the sixty-three boys involved, most were fourteen years of age or older.

This pattern of homophobic mass-media exposés, arrests, and public pressure for harsher penalties for cross-generational sex was not limited to the United States. In December of 1977, The Body Politic, a Toronto gay monthly, was busted for obscenity after publishing an article on boy-love. The article included no erotic illustrations or descriptions, and The Body Politic is still in court defending itself against these charges in 198O.4 Similar campaigns against kiddy porn, child prostitution, and boy-lovers have been conducted in Australia, England, Turkey, Sweden, Denmark, and other countries. Kiddy porn was outlawed or penalties dramatically increased in England, Australia, Sweden, and Denmark.

The language used by Densen-Gerber, et al, makes it difficult to figure out what is wrong with their position. The term “child abuse” conjures up images of babies scalded with boiling water or children beaten with blunt instruments. “Sexual exploitation of children” makes us think of teenagers being fed drugs and forced onto the street by unscrupulous pimps. “Kiddy porn” evokes a picture of little bodies torn and damaged from copulation with adults. Who wouldn't oppose such dreadful things? Who doesn't feel heart-rending sympathy for the children who are helpless to resist the violence of their parents, teachers, or other adults? Three-minute “interviews” on television or one-page articles in Time magazine don't give detailed enough pictures of what Densen-Gerber, Martin, Leonard, etc., think of human sexuality. Happily, all of the stars of the kiddy-porn crusade turned up to testify at the Kildee-Murphy hearings, and their testimony has been published by the U.S. Government Printing Office. This book, Sexual Exploitation of Children, should be required reading for membership in the gay liberation movement. It should certainly have received closer attention from the editors of Ms., who should be embarrassed for not digging a little deeper into the political beliefs of Lloyd Martin and Judianne Densen-Gerber.

The hearings (portions of which were televised) provided an amusing yet distressing glimpse into American sexual mores. Everyone on the committee and every speaker assumed that it is a terrible thing for children to have sex—any kind of sex. It was stated as fact that sexually active children grow up to be prostitutes, drug addicts, incestuous parents, impotent, frigid, homosexual, or some combination of the above. Yet no research was cited to prove this. Numbers were tossed around: there were 1 million children being used in pornography; no, 2 million; 30,000 boys in Los Angeles were working as prostitutes and 120,000 in New York; the child pornography industry was grossing $1 million a year; no, $1 billion. None of these statistics was substantiated. The testimony revealed the unexamined beliefs that fondling a child's genitals is just as abusive as punching her or him in the mouth; that the term “child prostitution” just as accurately describes a man who picks up a teenage runaway and gives him a ride, $5, and a blow job as it describes a pimp with his stable of addicts; and that “kiddy porn” includes snapshots taken by boy-lovers of their young friends as well as the commercial material sold in adult bookstores. The committee was not concerned with preventing rape or violence against children. It was concerned with keeping them asexual. Information indicating that children may seek sexual contact or enjoy it was manipulated as additional evidence that society has become hopelessly corrupt. Descriptions of affectionate, cross-generational relationships were presented as the ultimate perversion—as if people who would engage in such relationships were too sick and depraved to feel the appropriate guilt and remorse. The term “child” was used indiscriminately to refer to infants, grade-schoolers, and teenagers. The only witness to offer a dissenting opinion was Heather Grant Florence of the American Civil Liberties Union. She said:

The ACLU's basic position is that while it is perfectly proper to prosecute those who engage in illegal action, constitutionally protected speech cannot be the vehicle. Accordingly, the ACLU submits that those who directly cause and induce a minor to engage in a sexual act, or engage in it with a minor, are those who violate the laws; those who recruit and offer children for sexual acts clearly should be prosecuted.. In contrast, those who have not participated in causing or engaging in the sexual activity but who may profit as a result of it, such as a publisher, editor, distributor, or retailer, are not violating the law.5

Florence's only objection to the Kildee-Murphy bill was the threat it posed to the First Amendment. She did not object to the committee's position that sex is bad for children, and she even suggested that it would be appropriate for them to increase the legal penalties for adults who have sex with minors. The committee greeted this comparatively mild speech with derision and outrage.

* * *

Who are the stars of the Great Kiddy-Porn Panic, and how have they fared since their moment in the limelight? Ironically, after making it easier for police to entrap pedophiles, Congressman John Murphy was himself the victim of entrapment, caught in the Abscam scandal. Anita Bryant (who did not testify at the Kildee-Murphy hearings) is getting a divorce, and her Ministries for Counseling Homosexuals have been charged with financial mismanagement; 1978 tax returns show that the Ministries raised $1 million; $450,000 was spent on “direct fees for raising contributions,” including the antiporn and anti-child abuse activities of the illegal subsidiary Protect America's Children. Only $150 was spent on counseling.6

The National District Attorneys' Association's Robert Leonard's primary contribution to the hearings was a diagram drawn for him by an incarcerated boy-lover which was supposed to outline a “national network” of pedophiles. This ridiculous document consists of a page of boxes, circles, and triangles connected by a tangled network of arrows and dotted lines. The “network” is apparently made up of such entities as the Internal Revenue Service, The Advocate, porno shops, mail-omatic operations, children's nudist camps in Vermont, a geologist, the Church of the New Revelation, Walnut Creek, legal assistance, Frank's second car, Big Brothers of Ann Arbor, Wayne State University, and the European network. After condemning those who would corrupt the morals of youth by buying their sexual favors, Leonard was convicted of embezzling $100,000 in federal money to build himself a house on the California coast.

Detective Lloyd Martin is still going strong, so he bears closer examination. Martin began working on the sexual exploitation of children in 1971, when Sam Yorty was mayor of Los Angeles and Ed Davis was chief of police. He was assigned to the pornography squad in 1973 and founded the Sexually Exploited Child (SEC) unit in 1976. His main contribution to the hearings was to provide estimates of the number of children involved in prostitution and pornography and to reaffirm the paranoid fantasy of a national porn/boy hustler ring by claiming that a book called Where the Young Ones Are had sold seventy thousand copies. This book, supposedly a directory of playgrounds and bus stations where loose kiddies convene, was never presented for the committee's examination.

Martin wants every police department in the country to set up an SEC unit. To this end, he frequently gives interviews and helps organize entrapment schemes. He readily admits that children can initiate sexual activity with adults. In his testimony at the Kildee-Murphy hearings, he said, “The most difficult concept for most people to understand and accept is that very often, these children are consenting partners in the sexual activity. In some cases they initiate the sexual activity with direct propositions or with seductive behavior.”7 Martin has also said that the relationship between a man and boy is often very warm and affectionate, and that “only 1 case in 200 involves a child who is the victim of force.”8 He complains that the affection children feel for their adult “molesters” is so intense that they rarely can be forced to testify against them. He defines a pedophile as “somebody paying more attention to the child than the parent would,”9 an odd definition that would place all kinds of people under suspicion and hardly seems to imply sinister or damaging behavior. Nevertheless, Detective Martin has made a career of hunting down boy-lovers because he believes that having sex with minors is worse than murdering them:

To me a crime against a child has no equal. It's worse than a homicide. A homicide is terrible, but it is over with very shortly. The victim of sexual exploitation has to live the rest of his or her life with those memories of what pornography and sexual deviation brings upon them.10

The “sexual deviation” Martin refers to is homosexuality. He believes that boys who have sex with men grow up to be gay, and it is obvious to him that they would be better off dead. Martin is so obsessed with homosexuality that he hardly mentions heterosexual pedophilia when discussing the sexual exploitation of children. He tries to hide his homophobia by publicly stating that he is not after homosexuals, just boy-lovers, but he urges other gay men to turn in pedophiles to the police. He believes that pedophiles cannot be cured, so they should receive lifetime prison sentences.

Martin advocates raising the age of consent in California to eighteen. He teaches a course on child sexuality and the exploitation of children at the University of Southern California and announces that he has never read the Kinsey reports.11 Some of the most colorful testimony for the Kildee-Murphy bill was given by Dr. Judianne Densen-Gerber. She turned up at the hearings with a trunk full of child pornography which she told the committee had been purchased by her seventeen-year-old daughter and a friend. To the consternation of the committee, she flashed covers and read titles while the TV cameras rolled. When Congressman Ertel chided her for displaying this material on television where his children might see it, she snapped, “So why don't you clean it up so I don't have any magazines to show?”12 Densen-Gerber has a lot of spunk.

She also has a lot of ambition. Her career began in 1966 when she established Odyssey House, a drug-addiction treatment program in New York City. What is the connection between drug addiction, kiddy porn, and child prostitution? Densen-Gerber believes that sexual activity in childhood is one of the primary causes of drug addiction and prostitution, and that drug addicts and prostitutes (she makes little or no distinction between these two groups) sexually abuse their own children.

By making powerful friends, capturing the attention of the mass media, and putting pressure on government agencies, Densen-Gerber expanded Odyssey House into a little empire, including programs in seven other American cities and in Australia. At its high point, Odyssey was receiving about $3 million annually in state and federal funding. Odyssey's spin-offs included a briefly funded program for teenage prostitutes and a house for addicted mothers. Densen-Gerber did not restrict her activities to the United States. She instigated another kiddy-porn panic in Australia and traveled to England to help Mary Whitehouse and Cyril Townsend pass the Protection of Childhood Act, a measure that resembles the Kildee-Murphy bill.13

In 1979 Attorney General Robert Abrams announced that he was launching an investigation of alleged financial mismanagement at Odyssey. Former staff members and patients have claimed that private donations and government funds were used to maintain DensenGerber's expensive lifestyle; that the census of patients was tampered with to inflate reimbursements from state and local agencies; that patients were kept in filthy conditions and sent to beg for food at supermarkets; that residents were forced to wear paper donkey ears and tails or made to scrub the floor with toothbrushes to learn humility; that Densen-Gerber used patients as personal servants; that staff were asked to light candles to her to pledge their loyalty; that residents were punished for such things as holding hands; that the treatment program was not clearly understood by staff; that patients were allowed to write their own evaluations; and that there was no follow-up to determine whether or not Odyssey successfully treated drug addiction.14 These accusations are still under investigation.

In January 1979, Odyssey received a federal grant of $90,000 for the Midtown Adolescent Resource Center (MARC), a program for teenage prostitutes. This grant proposal was funded after being turned down by the three reviewers, which is very unusual. After about nine months of controversy, which included the resignation of two directors and apparent difficulty keeping kids in the program, the federal government sent out a review team and cut off funding for MARC. Had they not done so, the original grant could have been renewed for three years. The first director of MARC claims he quit because Densen-Gerber was exploiting two teenage prostitutes in national-television appearances instead of treating them. The review team found that these two young women were housed with, treated like, and counted as addicts to boost state funds. They were subjected to strip searches, including rectal examinations, when they entered and left the building. Their personal belongings were confiscated, and they were forced to wear punishment signs—cards with humiliating messages written on them, such as “I lie” or “I steal”—when they misbehaved. One member of the review team said these women had been “misused” and quoted Densen-Gerber as stating, “There are times when as in war children must be sacrificed for other long range ends.” This evaluator believed that some Odyssey practices “might have constituted child abuse.”15

Odyssey's Mabon program on Ward's Island, the project to assist addicted mothers, has encountered similar embarrassing charges. The Mabon project sometimes included women who were not addicts but needed temporary shelter for themselves and their children. On at least three occasions, when such women tried to leave, Odyssey officials reportedly tried to keep them in the program by refusing to release their children. Mobilization for Youth had to get a writ of habeas corpus to get two children returned to their mother and filed a $100,000 suit for false imprisonment that is still pending.16

In her Kildee-Murphy testimony, interviews with the press, and her own writings, Densen-Gerber shows herself to be a flamboyant source of misinformation. She repeatedly refers to child pornography as “mutilation” and agrees with Detective Lloyd Martin that parents who batter their children cause less psychological damage than parents who have sex with them.17 Among her bloopers are such curious statements as “The fact that the children for sexual snuff films are.. .purchased from Mexico is well known,”18 and “The prepubescent child having intercourse does not have a vaginal pH which protects against infection... children who have prepubeseent intercourse have the highest incidence of cervical carcinoma of all women.”19 While she concedes that good sex education is needed, she believes that “anatomy and warnings about masturbation are not a substitute for dealing with the very real concerns and frustrations of adolescence.20 The fact that such distortions were never questioned by the committee is a gauge of its total lack of objectivity. Most child pornography consists of nude pictures of kids and teenagers. There are no commercially available snuff films, despite rabid references to them in feminist antipornography literature and the Kildee-Murphy hearings. Pedophiles report that they rarely engage in intercourse with their young partners. Oral and manual techniques are most commonly used, and if anyone gets fucked, it is usually the older partner.21 Densen-Gerber's claim that sex with a parent is more damaging than being beaten and her apparent belief that sex education should include warnings about masturbation are ludicrous.

It was easy to classify Anita Bryant as politically regressive since she enthusiastically identified herself with the right wing. DensenGerber, on the other hand, has won a lot of liberal support. After all, she was involved in treating drug addiction and ending child abuse. But her sexual politics don't really seem to be that different from Anita Bryant's. Densen-Gerber believes that “something has to be done to help the American family be able to rear its children in less oppressive permissiveness”22 and warned the Kildee-Murphy committee that “present child rearing is not working. We can't leave it all in the present laissez-faire state.”23 She blames politically liberal and permissive parents for child abuse (which includes allowing a child to be sexually active), drug addiction, prostitution, pornography, and homosexuality.

At least one researcher, Dr. James W. Prescott, would dispute Densen-Cerber's beliefs about the causes of child abuse. His cross-cultural studies and other investigations have led him to conclude that child abuse is caused by our society's acceptance of violence and hatred of sexual pleasure. He points to corporal punishment by parents and schools, unwanted births, lack of physical affection between parent and child, and repression of premarital and extramarital sexuality as factors that lead to brutal treatment or the murder of children. Dr. Prescott theorizes that people who espouse traditional values (e.g., that pain and suffering build character, that sex is dirty, that war is necessary, that adultery should be punished by law and abortion made unavailable) are more likely to batter or murder their children than people with more Positive attitudes toward sex, who do not believe violence is an effective way for individuals or nations to resolve conflicts.24 Densen-Gerber believes that the fringe or minority elements of our society are not entitled to rear children. Referring to Harlow and Prescott's work on infant monkeys who were separated from their mothers, she says:

Their work showed that when there is no family socialization these monkeys compensated by precocious and promiscuous sexualization. That is what we are seeing. We have 2.4 million children in the care of substance-abusing mothers. Prostitutes average 2.8 children and they are selling their kids.25 [Author's note: This study actually showed that infant monkeys deprived of physical contact with their mothers were unable to engage in sexual activity.]

Densen-Gerber also told the committee that foster parents are led to abuse children in their care when the state gives them financial aid. Monetary assistance supposedly encourages foster parents to view these children as potential sources of profit, and from there it's one short step to the porno studio.26 She also told the committee that “researchers working with deviant women report that 50 to 70 percent have been sexually traumatized as children,”27 and went on to repeat her theory that depraved parents prey on their children, who then grow up equally depraved and ready to prey on their children. Her list of unfit parents thus includes “deviant” women as well as prostitutes, drug addicts, poor people, and those whose politics are not conservative. Frankly, this reminds me of a Nazi eugenics program.

People who are nonconformists, disenfranchised, or underprivileged can raise children with love and care. But Densen-Gerber and her compatriots in the Great Kiddy Porn Panic are concerned with maintaining the nuclear family and everything it stands for—middle-class values, homophobia, uniformity, and puritanism—at all costs. The Kildee-Murphy committee bewailed the existence of one million runaways, acknowledged that most of them were mistreated at home, and did nothing to address this problem but outlaw child pornography and prostitution. A minor in America is, with rare exceptions, unemployable. A young woman or man who wants to exist independent of the family has few options other than the sex industry. Closing down this industry without providing alternative employment is equivalent to sentencing young people to frustration, abuse, or suicide in cozy little suburban ranch-style prisons. The fact that Densen-Gerber hinted at ending financial aid to foster parents, thus closing off another escape route from a bad family situation, is an outrage. The Great Kiddy-Porn Panic of 1977 was a huge success. The Kildee-Murphy Bill is now Public Law No. 95-225, and many states have enacted similar legislation. Police have closed down many boy-love publications in this country and are using confiscated mailing lists and entrapment to bust shocking numbers of gay men. Sentences of twenty to forty years are common. The campaign against kiddy porn succeeded because it confused the issue of violence against children with the issue of children and sexuality. Everyone, gay and straight, is appalled at the idea of children or teenagers being raped, forced into performing sex acts in front of a camera, or exploited by a pimp. But many gay people are not appalled at the idea that young people want to break away from their families and sometimes grow up to be gay.

The members of the Kildee-Murphy committee were much more upset by a teenage hustler who leaves home to get away from his alcoholic father than they were by parents who starve their kids or beat them. The law that they passed is being used to punish gay men who cross the barrier of age and establish sexual intimacy with consenting young men. It has done nothing to prevent violent child abuse. Kids need better sex education, so they can understand the implications of sexual proposals and make informed choices. They need economic independence so that their parents can no longer use money to coerce them into stultifying lifestyles. They need protection from adults who use or threaten assault to intimidate them. Instead the Great Kiddy-Porn Panic has locked minors even more firmly into the status of property and has increased the risk that parents who do not raise their children according to traditional values will lose them.


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