"...The positive nature of some child-adult sexual relationships is not confined to non-Western cultures. Several of my friends – gay and straight, male and female – had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13. None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy.
"While it may be impossible to condone paedophilia, it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful."
It appears that Peter Hitchens picked up on Red Maria's Quiz Post, and the answer (though it may have been a complete coincidence) when he wrote his blog post for the Mail Online (which was also his Mail on Sunday column.)
A good journalist, Peter Hitchens contacted Tatchell to ask him about his letter (written in June 1997 to The Guardian newspaper.) Tatchell immediately tried to distance himself from the letter - saying that he was actually defending free speech in calling for a book, Boy Love, not to be censored.
Hitchens points out in his article that actually, Tatchell was going much further than just calling for a book not to be censored.
Peter Tatchell appears to have been sufficiently rattled by the article to add a comment on the blog itself. As, to date, there are four pages of comments, I thought the whole comment would be worth reproducing here. Note that, in order not to lay myself open to accusations of selective reporting, I have cut and pasted the whole comment, along with the editorial decisions of the Mail Online not to include links...
Peter Hitchens was commendably fair in contacting me to fact-check before writing his column. But contrary to what he suggests, I don't see any hypocrisy in my stance. Unlike many Catholic clergy, I have never abused anyone. Unlike the Pope, I have never failed to report abusers or covered up their crimes. I am against child sex abuse and the protection of abusers. Full stop.
My 1997 letter to The Guardian concerned the book Dares to Speak. This was an academic book, authored by professors, anthropologists, a Dutch senator and a former editor of a Catholic newspaper. They were, among other things, attempting to examine the vexed issue of the age of consent and the balance between giving young people rights and protecting them against abuse. I think this is a valid matter for debate. Even though I disagree with some of the authors, I believe they have a right to be heard.
My Guardian letter was in defence of free speech and open debate about the issue, in opposition to those who said that the questions raised by the book were without value and should not be heard.
As Peter Hitchens mentions, my letter to the Guardian cited examples of Papuan tribes and some of my friends who had sex with adults when they were under-age, but who do not feel they were harmed. I was not endorsing their viewpoint but merely stating that they had a different perspective from the mainstream one. They have every right for their perspective to be heard. If they say they were not harmed, we should respect that (while also acknowledging that others are harmed by early sexual contact and do suffer).
My letter did say that sex with children is "impossible" to condone - meaning that I don't condone it.
This is reflected in my various writings.
Here's an example of what I wrote in the Irish Independent two years ago:
Irish Independent – 10 March 2008
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"The time has come for a calm, rational debate about the age of consent. It should be premised on four aims. First, protecting young people against sex abuse. Second, empowering them to make wise, responsible sexual choices. Third, removing the legal obstacles to earlier, more effective sex education. Fourth, ensuring better
contraception and condom provision to prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions and to cut the spread of sexual infections like HIV."
Note that my first priority is protecting children against abuse.
I have said similar things in many other articles and interviews.
See this Guardian article, published in September last year:
[edited by admin - links not allowed]
People may disagree with me, but I am taking a clear ethical stance and moral framework, which stresses mutual consent, respect and fulfilment. My arguments and articles are not about abusing young people but protecting them. That's my motive.
I hope this clarifies and reassures.
Best wishes, Peter Tatchell
Posted by: Peter Tatchell | 12 September 2010 at 12:55 PM
I'm sorry, but Tatchell's attempt to eat his cake and have it too just doesn't wash. It doesn't clarify, and it certainly doesn't reassure. To say that "it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful" in the context of his friends' having sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13 is just ludicrous. Whether a person believes he or she was harmed by a sexual relationship with an adult is immaterial. The fact remains that an adult has abused them, by taking advantage of their inability to give full and free consent to a sexual relationship.
Why Tatchell is held up by the mainstream media as someone worth giving airtime to is beyond my comprehension - but then, I didn't understand the media's views as to Roman Polanski's exploits, either. I think I'm going to stop writing this because it's making me feel quite ill...