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A key to understanding attitudes in the late '60s to mid-70s is to remember that the baby-boom generation was the mass operator of the shift in sexual mores, and that we were then adolescents, post-adolescents, not-very-adult young adults. And that the claim to freedom was about our youthful sexuality first and foremost. All of us had close memories of post-puberty frustration, and it was a commonplace to assert that young teenagers should be free to choose to have sex if they wanted. Theories about pre-pubescent sexual desires seemed to fit quite naturally into that thinking.

Why didn't that shock us? Mainly, what shocked us was the reactionary, repressive atmosphere in which our own childhood and early adolescence had taken place, and that we were rapidly freeing ourselves from. What still astounds me about my 1950s childhood is how appallingly ignorant we were about anything to do with the body and above all anything sexual, concerning either children or adults (I don't know how old I was before I learned that adults had pubic hair). We were brought up in a vacuum where sex didn't exist and entire parts of the body were not spoken of. In my case, it was due to religious bigotry, but none of the kids, of religious or non-religious family, that I went to primary school with knew any more than I did. There was some dirty whispering among boys, but an "underground" ethos surrounded it and it could not come out into the open. It was mostly ill-informed anyway - I remember a boy bursting with the news that babies (we had no idea of what caused babies to happen) came out of women's bums ("must be brown," another boy commented).

After this, in the fast-moving sexual liberation of the '60s and '70s, the notion that we had always wanted sex seemed self-evident. What's more, remembering some of my own pre-pubescent experiences (under the cloak of utter ignorance, and therefore all the more convincing imo), I'd say there certainly are pre-pubescent desires. What we did not do was look at that with any kind of nuance as to what those desires were exactly, and to whom they were addressed. And by the turn of the '70s the agenda was provocation and ridicule to chase the guardians of the old order away, and there was no room for nuance there. We really thought nothing could stop us from turning the old world upside down.

I'm quite sure we didn't think that it was OK for dirty old men to molest children. We just weren't thinking about dirty old men, or not very seriously. What we were saying was, if you want it, get it on.

Insofar as that served as a pretext for some adults to prey on children and do them harm, we were wrong. Insofar as we were blowing up a dismally repressive old order, I still think we were right.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jun 11th, 2013 at 03:29:14 PM EST
The Eastern Europe had the "repressive" climate up until Perestroika. There was no sex in the USSR...

I have to notice that I did not watch the blockbuster films of the last Soviet years, Little Vera (with the first actual sex scene for their cinematography) and Intergirl at that time. So I missed that initiation... Little Vera is interesting in depicting the lower-average Soviet living. Intergirl seems to be made as an introduction to prostitution for the girls of a falling empire. Isn't that kind?

Change in sexual culture makes other changes easier, apparently. It surely distracts, exites, while other transformative things are going on. Could this version of Bread-and-Circus be an old trick?

by das monde on Wed Jun 12th, 2013 at 07:47:17 AM EST
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In contrast, in Central European film-making, the Sixties did arrive, and there was a tolerated (though not at all liked) beatnik-semi-hippie counter-culture.

The apparently 'glamorous' plot of Intergirl reminds me of the regime's contradictory policy on prostitution at the end of the eighties: it was mostly suppressed, but the few prostitutes who were tolerated in specific areas were also 'employed' as 'hosts' of foreign state visitors (and later any convertible-currency-paying Western hotel guests), which also meant secret service connections.

BTW, the Intergirl of Hungary was the 1989 movie K, a not at all glamorous documentary about these 'privileged' prostitutes. (I haven't seen it, I only heard from an acquaintance who went to see it believing it to be a sex film, then was disgusted to the extent that he left half-way.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jun 12th, 2013 at 02:17:50 PM EST
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Here we go again with the ideologic clichés and oversimplifications about the "Eastern Europe repressive climate"... You cannot lump together highly religious cultures like Poland, or with historically documented sexual repression like Russia with the relatively agnostic and more tolerant societies like Bulgaria, which was otherwise a staunch ally of the USSR. What definitely did not exist prior the Perestroika was the bourgeois fixation on sexuality and sexualisation of daily life; and the manic desire to control it. In fact some Eastern Block countries like Bulgaria were much more tolerant to sexuality than the Anglo-Saxon countries, which were - and still are - the most repressive in the developed world.
by Ivo on Sun Jun 30th, 2013 at 04:03:25 AM EST
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there have been anecdotes wherein chinese exchange students have come to christian countries and found them sexually repressed and full of 'hangups', to use a 60's word that seems to have dropped out of semantic sight.

which is odd considering our progress for LBGT, and their lack of tolerance in this dept, one wonders what 'liberated' het-sex means in china...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jun 30th, 2013 at 05:18:02 AM EST
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afew:

I'm quite sure we didn't think that it was OK for dirty old men to molest children. We just weren't thinking about dirty old men, or not very seriously. What we were saying was, if you want it, get it on.

Insofar as that served as a pretext for some adults to prey on children and do them harm, we were wrong. Insofar as we were blowing up a dismally repressive old order, I still think we were right.

so many taboos were insane, there was the idea that they maybe all were, so let's toss them all and restart from scratch. there was also some 'respected' literature at the time which exalted sex in some very dodgy situations, enfant-terriblisme, gutter-love, (genet), lolita-ism, sayings like 'incest is best' etc.

after too much liberality, and the brakes applied by HIV and other STDs awareness, people came to realise there were maybe many significant reasons bonobos were bonobos, and humans were not...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jun 30th, 2013 at 05:56:03 AM EST
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