The Telegraph‘s sub-editor chose the provocative headline ‘Paedophilia is natural and normal for males’ with only the easily missed quotation marks to tell the reader flipping through the newspaper or website that the newspaper was merely reporting and not declaring. Attention the headline would draw.
The writer, Andrew Gilligan, is quoting a Philip Tromovitch, a professor at Doshisha University in Japan who was speaking at a conference held at Cambridge University last July. You may have thought that this was one thing no one would come within a million miles of seeming to endorse or even “understand” by claiming it to be “normal,” but you would have been wrong. Gilligan gives some of the history of the academic mainstreaming of child-molesting, or as its advocates like to put it, “intergenerational intimacy.” One significant moment came in 1981, when
a respectable publisher, Batsford, published Perspectives on Paedophilia, edited by Brian Taylor, a sociology lecturer at Sussex University, to challenge what Dr Taylor’s introduction called the “prejudice” against child sex. Disturbingly, the book was aimed at “social workers, community workers, probation officers and child care workers”.
One writer was director of education at the National Institute for Social Work as well as a member of the Pedophile Information Exchange, and was later convicted on child sex crimes. (One can imagine how his desires affected the Institute’s educational programs.) The book included a chapter by an Essex University sociologist named Ken Plummer, who was also a member of “PIE,” though he says now that he joined to “facilitate” his research.
“The isolation, secrecy, guilt and anguish of many paedophiles,” he wrote in Perspectives on Paedophilia, “are not intrinsic to the phenomen[on] but are derived from the extreme social repression placed on minorities . . . .
“Paedophiles are told they are the seducers and rapists of children; they know their experiences are often loving and tender ones. They are told that children are pure and innocent, devoid of sexuality; they know both from their own experiences of childhood and from the children they meet that this is not the case.”
As recently as 2012, Prof Plummer published on his personal blog a chapter he wrote in another book, Male Intergenerational Intimacy, in 1991. “As homosexuality has become slightly less open to sustained moral panic, the new pariah of ‘child molester’ has become the latest folk devil,” he wrote. “Many adult paedophiles say that boys actively seek out sex partners . . . ‘childhood’ itself is not a biological given but an historically produced social object.”Academic readers will recognize the relativizing moves given in “moral panic,” “folk devil,” “not a biological given,” and “historically produced social object.” Even if Plummer did not endorse such behavior (see below), he at least skirted the edges of endorsement. It is not far from this kind of understanding to approval.
Plummer still teaches courses at the university and Gilligan seems to have called the school to find out what they thought about his ideas.
A spokesman for Essex University claimed Prof Plummer’s work “did not express support for paedophilia” and cited the university’s charter which gave academic staff “freedom within the law to put forward controversial and unpopular opinions without placing themselves in jeopardy”.
Would the university have invoked academic freedom were the professor a Holocaust denier who claimed he only wanted to raise questions and teach the controversy? One very much doubts it, and that distinction by itself tells us a great deal about academia’s real boundaries. And did a Catholic priest or bishop write what Plummer wrote? We would not hear the end of the howling, screaming, vein-bulging outrage.