The Great Retreat of Pederasty

I picked up a link from Hot Air a few days ago to a disturbing but fascinating (English-language) article in Der Spiegel Online, The Sexual Revolution and Children: How the Left Took Things Too Far. The article explores the history of post-1968 views on human sexuality, specifically its role in the “liberation” politics of the left wing in the non-communist world, and how that was translated into pedagogy at the Kinderladen (nursery school) level in the more left-leaning communities in Germany. The results, it should come as no surprise, are chilling:

Does what happened in a number of the Kinderladen qualify as abuse? According to the criteria to which Catholic priests have been subjected, it clearly does, says Alexander Schuller, the sociologist. "Objectively speaking, it was abuse, but subjectively it wasn’t," says author Dannenberg. As outlandish as it seems in retrospect, the parents apparently had the welfare of the children in mind, not their own. For the adherents to the new movement, the child did not serve as a sex object to provide the adults with a means of satisfying their sexual urges. This differentiates politically motivated abuse from pedophilia.

As shocking as the idea of politically motivated child abuse might seem, I have to confess to being rather unsurprised to come across its revelation. In no small part, that is because of a short article by Mary Eberstadt I was immediately reminded of having read in the December 2009 issue of First Things, How Pedophilia Lost Its Cool (the FT archives are paid content, but are well worth the price, even if you purchase just a single-day’s pass to them – lots of gold there to mine). In it, she identifies a significant change in a trend which she had traced over the preceding several decades, and on which she had published in The Weekly Standard on a couple of different occasions: with Pedophilia Chic, Part One and Part Two in June of 1996, and again in January 2001 with ‘Pedophilia Chic’ Reconsidered, Part One and Part Two.

In essence, the Weekly Standard articles were exposes of the way in which American cultural elites, especially in literary circles and the social sciences, had been floating the cultural normalization of pederasty, that is, of sexual liaisons between adult men and teenage boys. The change she noted in the 2009 First Things article was that in the face of the Catholic clergy sexual abuse crisis that had rocked American culture over the previous decade, American liberal elites had lost their taste for tolerating the particular pleasures of pederasty. If one was going to stake a high ground upon which to berate the Church for its pederastic sins, after all, this newfound moralism was a necessary regression in the otherwise progressive liberalization of sexual mores and moral standards, and nothing motivates liberal elites quite like excoriating the Catholic Church for some wrong.

To this end, one of the more interesting thoughts Eberstadt drew from all this was the ironic idea that the sexual abuse of boys and young men by Catholic clergy, for all its evil, might ultimately prove the be the decisive event in turning back a social movement toward the widespread acceptance of that self-same pederasty. Perhaps she could be accused of trying to paint a happy face on a dreadful situation, but its awfully hard to argue with the evidence (which she produces) of leading liberal media voices changing their views on the permissibility of pederasty after “the long Lent” of 2001. It also makes a lot of sense on an intuitive level, because the greatest threat (I say ultimately the only threat) to radicalism’s project of overturning the moral order is the Catholic Church, and pretty much everybody knows it. Whatever it costs, the Church must be defeated, or radicalism will fail. Only the naive (most of whom belong to the Church) don’t understand that.

So, as I was reading the Der Spiegel article, and thinking about Eberstadt’s, I couldn’t help being impressed by the timing of it. Why did Der Spiegel, hardly a voice of social conservatism over the sixty or so years of its publication, choose this time, after all these years, to address the issues of pedophilia in the history of Germany’s political left? Why come clean about it now, and try to bury it in the past as an historical anachronism? Could it have anything to do with the fact that the German Catholic clergy’s involvement in the pederasty of the day has finally come to light – in full fury – within the past few months? Maybe Eberstadt is on to something.

After having spent several hours over the past few days reading, re-reading, and thinking about the questions that are raised here, there is much more I would like to say, especially about the relation between pederasty and the larger homosex movement, which Eberstadt treats somewhat in the later Weekly Standard article. There are some common assumptions about that relationship which Eberstadt seems to share, and which I find increasingly troublesome. I hope to find the time in the near future to follow up on this at some length.