The german pedagogue Gustav Wynekem (1875-1964) coined the terms Jugendkultur (youth culture) and Pädagosisher Eros (pedagogical eros). The former had better diffusion than the latter, thank God. That there should be an eorticism of sorts in pedagogy seems undoubtable, in that a good teacher is always a zealous (jealous?) lover of the best that their student can become and achieve, but Wyneken's thoughts weren't exactly following the path of intellectual love. That's why he ended up in prison. But his ideas were never completely forgotten. They extended in diverse ways throughout the USA (Paul Goodman tackled this topic in his novel Parent's Day, 1951), England (Homer Lane, founder of the Little Commonwealth School, which greatly influenced A.S. Neill, the createor of the Summerhill School, who has been tried for immoral behavior with his students) and Germany, where they met a revival in 98 among the radical left, determined to sexually free the children, even against their own will.
There were schools (of thought?) in Berlin convinced that sexual repression was the subjacent cause to all social neurosis. In their view, the control of sexual desire was the principal instrument of domination by the bourgous society and the cause of the aggressivity inherent to the capitalist system. To create a new man you had to break away from the repression of desire. Thus, the masters went out of their way so that children confronted situations in which erotism was inescapable, even though what they really wanted was to play. It was necessary to awaken their sexual curiosity in order to later be able to satisfy it. One of the books of the moment, Revolution der Erziehung ("the revoultion of education, 1971) criticized the diserotization of family life made manifest by the prohibition of sexual activity between kids and the taboo of incest. In order to reeroticize human relationships, communities were created that wanted to overcome any bourgeois restriction by eliminating private property, monogamic relationships, and the poisonous control of shame exerted by "the system". Whoever wants to delve further in this topic may go for chapter 9 of the autobiography of Daniel Cohn Bendit, Der Grosse Bazar (1975) where he describes his experience as a schoolteacher in a Kinderladen of Frankfurt. Or his declarations in the programme Apostrophes aired the 23rd of april 1982.
Translated from Catalan journal La Vanguardia's 10th of January 2010 issue. Further down I added the urls to wikipedia articles relevant to the people and events discussed, including a fairly lenthy article (the column above appears to be made largely from uncredited quotes of that article, almost word for word) by Der Spiegel (one of the best journals of the world if not the best), describing in detail what some sectors of the German left were, shall we say, experimenting with. It doesn't take any gloves, so I would not recommend it to the faint of heart. The rationale, in a few words, is this:
Sexual liberation was at the top of the agenda of the young revolutionaries who, in 1967, began turning society upside down. The control of sexual desire was seen as an instrument of domination, which bourgeois society used to uphold its power. Everything that the innovators perceived as wrong and harmful has its origins in this concept: man's aggression, greed and desire to own things, as well as his willingness to submit to authority. The student radicals believed that only those who liberated themselves from sexual repression could be truly free.
To them, it seemed obvious that liberation should begin at an early age. Once sexual inhibitions had taken root, they reasoned, everything that followed was merely the treatment of symptoms. They were convinced that it was much better to prevent those inhibitions from developing in the first place. Hardly any leftist texts of the day did not address the subject of sexuality.
... Well, this is thought-provoking to say the least. In fact, I recommend reading the Spiegel article in full. Here's the conclusions I reached:
Which manifestly led the thoughtless parents and teachers into situations they hadn't expected, and weren't prepared to deal with. Namely, that the kids wouldn't just be curious about each other. Several excrepts point out that the adults were mostly very and perplexed in those situations, and really hadn't figured out what to do about it.
It also led to some forms of abuse, since the children were sometimes told to strip and not be ashamed. The adults probably thought of it as simply one more parcel of education to be inflicted on children, on the same level as forcing them to do their homework or to run in gym, which I think proves they weren't as open and progressive as they thought they were.
And, last but not least, it led to some actual paedophiles piggybacking on the movement (what a dreadful image) and taking advantage of the ideological bias against (hetero and other*)normativity and authoritarianism in leftist milieus and in the GLBT movement to advance their agenda. According to the article, they were defeated thanks to, first, the Women's Rights movements, which established that sexual relationships between grown men and women who so young that they were unable to meaningfully consent were a form of abuse, then the extension of that same treatment to male kids (why their case was ever thought to be different mystifies me).
I think this particular bit is very interesting, from an ethical point of view. The sad fact is that most people just don't notice a moral issue at all unless someone else is pointing it out to them. Marrying little girls to much older men in horribly unequal marriages used to be perfectly okay because the consent of the woman was seen as utterly irrelevant: it was part and parcel of the patriarchal system. Then women grew powerful, and questioned that, and fought to give themselves and their daughters rights. Among them the right to have sex with whom they consented to. Women below a certain age being manipulable, impressionable, and vulnerable to other forms of coertion, it was determined safer, for their own protection against both abusive males and their own juvenile rashness, to simply prohibit intercourse between girls under a certain age barrier, and males over it.
(Obviously, like all rules, this one opens a certain number of controversies, such what age that should be, and what to do with borderline cases, such as, say, age 17 girl meeting with age 19 boy when the age limit is 18,or what to do with the fact that, whatever age of consent you choose, there will be some people below it that will exceed the level of maturity of some of the people that are above it, but, and that's just my opinion, as a legal rule of thumb I'd say it's pretty sound, and quite expedient.)
And then someone noticed that, why should male kids be treated any different? Until fairly recently, it was perfecly okay for "men" to abuse "boys", and for older boys to abuse younger boys. To bully, to threaten, to beat, to mistreat and force. Sexual abuse was, in some cases, simply one more aspect of that. And the kids are expeted to shrug it all off, because that's what a man's supposed to do, unless one's a "wimp" or a "cissy". Again, blame pariarchy. This was stopped: boys were acknowledged as being as vulnerable as girls... when confronted to male abuse.
And then, even more recently, people started acknowledging the potency of women's sexuality and the fact that they too could hurt children with it. The The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could segment was progressively removed from most performaces of The Vagina Monologues (or heavily edited, aging the 13-year old protagonsit to 16, and removing the line "If it was rape, it was a good rape."), and older women hitting on underage boys stopped being a laughing matter.
I don't know about you guys, but I like the current trend this is going. If society were to treat any other group of people the way it treats its children, it would be considered a violation of human rights. But for most of the world's children, many of the forms of abuse they are subjected to are the normal expectation from parents, school and the society in which we live. But it's getting better. People are actually starting to pay attention to children beyond being helpless puppets that should be molded into one more cog in the social machinery. Cogs that it was wrong to damage in the process of making only insofar as it affected their future performance as such.
You could say that the ill thought-out experiments of those sixties and seventies revolutionaries were one more botched product of their time, in wich people who had grown up in a messed-up framework tried to fix things, but, their mentalities being strongly shaped by that very framework down to the subconscious level, they botched the job and ended up perpetuating those patterns into the innovations they were trying to achieve. This goes in the same category as Black Supermacism, Misandrist Feminism, Totalitarian Socialism (all three being carriers of the meme "one group oppresses another, therefore the opressed should overthrow their oppressors... and oppress them in turn!"), some egregious trends among the male Gay community (due to buying into and living by the memes "men can't help themselves when it they are horny", "men always want sex", "men should aggressively pursue sexual targets as a matter of course", "homosexuality equals being a girl/girly/a cissy", "men should always tease each other, that is, test each other for weakness, and, once the weak are identified, bully and oppress them"... ) and the like. But it turns out that, well, given time to develop the right mental framework, racial equality, gender equality and the welfare state are turning out just fine, and people both in the GLBT community and in the mainstream are discovering that they can dissociate themselves from any double standards and gender roles society tries to impose on them.
So what about the sexual revolution? Again, you had the sixties half-baked version ("liberated women have sex easily", "sex is good for you, period"). And then the current mainstream version, which is still pretty sketchy, at least from where I stand.
A person's percieved social worth (and self-esteem) is deemed to be heavily dependent on their relationship status (and on the percieved "hotness" of their partner). I've had girls who were hitting on me lie to me about having a girlfriend because they preferred to be thought of as unfaithful rather than as needy/lonely/desperate! And of course males should have sex with many girls! Or, wait, even better, many girls at once! Or, you know what would be even cooler? Twins! (In case you were in doubt, I am being sarcastic.) Okay, that last bit is a bit of a stretch, but the thing is, our culture is still riddled with sexual fantasies that are blatantly sexist and/or objectifying towards either or both of the parties involved.
And girls in particular have to maintain some strange equilibrium between having so little sex they're thought of as prudish, sanctimonious or stupid, and having so much that they get called sluts (and assorted synonyms). Admittedly, boys are beginning to face the same problem: a promiscous boy is progressively being seen and treated as less "stud" and more "slut".
And what about the kids? What about their education, and their protection from adults, themselves, and each other?
When it comes to the teenagers... Well, we do try to give them Sex Ed. Often, the reason Sex Ed is introduced in the first place is for the sake of preventing teen pregnancy: since now it's widely accepted that teens will want sex and will find ways to do it, and that therefore they should be informed in order to prevent the disaster that, in our current society, is teenage pregnancy. However, as a result of this perspective, it's still poorly taught, and focuses almost exclusively on the female body, and the woman's responsibility in preventing her own pregnancy. And little is taught in the way of understanding and appreciating sexual practice, nor on the cultural and social and ethical implications of the way they approach it. Thus irresponsibly leaving them to their own devices. And they won't wait for you to teach them how to use them.
Among most of the youth I know (born in the very late eighties, early nineties), "everyone in class" had had sex at age fourteen (or claims to), often simply because that's what everyone does. No more waiting for Mr. or Mrs. Right, Mr or Mrs. Right Now will have to do. They have been and will continue consuming pornography assiduously, thanks to Internet free contents and to the lack of tech-savviness of their parents. This in particular strikes me as dangerous. Pornography tends to be an enthusiastic carrier of sexist values and preordained gender roles and sexual practices, even when subverting them, since it places the thrill value in the violation of a rule that still stands afterwards, not in exploring/demonstrating its abolition and how sexual practices would be changed in the wake of that event. Especially since no-one would express those mindsets in Real Life, in which they are publically derided.
So, it seems evident that teenagers should get sex-ed, and one that doesn't just consist of "here's what to do so you don't get pregnant or catch a disease, here's what happens when you don't do that or those measures fail, here's what you can do to minimise the damage should you fail to follow those measures or should those measures themselves fail". The question that arises is: should prepubsecent children be given sex-ed, in any form? Would any good come from teaching them not to treat their bodies and their sexualities as taboo or shameful? Should they be taught that as soon as possible, to prevent the deep installment of such prejudice, or should it be delayed as much as possible? And how much is that?
I haven't been able to find much information on the American and British works, authors, and institutions, that I mentioned at the top of this post. I'd be grateful if any of you here could contribute to this.
I was curious as to what reactions the article would cause among the readership, and so I've been exploring the comments section of that article, which is surprisingly civil and not-stupid for an online comments section, and I've found this gem
.Originally Posted by ibesq View Post
I left Germany in 1965 and spent the rest of the 60s and 70s in the U.S., with the 70s in San Francisco, so I have experience with left and progressive groups. I find it hard to believe that the conduct and attitude described in this article with questionable source material was so widespread in the late 60s and 70s in Germany. If you read between the lines, the author acknowledges the absence of widespread sexual abuse of children.
Perhaps it is an attempt to support a bishop who uttered that the sexual revolution had just made the abuse of children done by clerics of the Catholic church possible. It was pure nonsense. I am not sure whether the examples mentioned in the article are representative for the left. There is no question that the headline delivers a wrong picture of the situation. The authors avoid declaring what caused that movement. Instead they take quotes from books where sexual contact which would be regarded as crime nowadays is thoroughly described. The books were never mainstream. They totally ignore that it happened at a time where the sexuality was much more important and even used as mean to liberate the younger people from the bonds their parents and all the generations before them were suffering from.
Indeed, one would wonder "Why bring this topic up now, after so many years?" Which led me to the following article
A five-year study commissioned by the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops to provide a definitive answer to what caused the church’s sexual abuse crisis has concluded that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality were to blame.
Instead, the report says, the abuse occurred because priests who were poorly prepared and monitored, and were under stress, landed amid the social and sexual turmoil of the 1960s and ’70s.
Known occurrences of sexual abuse of minors by priests rose sharply during those decades, the report found, and the problem grew worse when the church’s hierarchy responded by showing more care for the perpetrators than the victims.
The “blame Woodstock” explanation has been floated by bishops since the church was engulfed by scandal in the United States in 2002 and by Pope Benedict XVI after it erupted in Europe in 2010.
Hum! It's official now! Leftism inspires you to have sex with small boys, even when they wouldn't be your first choice! Now I get it!:P
In a few words, people in the Catholic church blame the Left for the sex abuse committed by their priests, and it seems that the Spiegel article (and quite a few ripoffs I found in Italian and Spanish journals) have taken the opportunity to pull out the Left's dark archives and implicitly accuse them of widespread sexual abuse of children over many decades. Many people in the comments section even ask for "those people" to be exposed, and tried. And many of the people involved, looking back, don't know what to think, and are not sure how right or wrong that they did was. This post was largely an attempt by myself at doing precisely that, making my mind up on what to think. And I'll risk taking the following stance: that the intentions were good, they had basically the right idea but were irresponsibly clumsy about it and didn't think it through, there was some fallout (and I wouldn't dare to put forth an estimate of how much, since I feel I don't have enough information), and I'm unsure of what consequences it may have had for today. Also, that these experiments raise questions about the advisability of giving children sex education, and about what sort of sex education should be given, and at what ages. Which is what I wish to debate with you guys.
*notice the pun