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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

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