Wed Jun 12th, 2013 at 04:51:24 AM EST
Daniel Cohn-Bendit is very much attacked for some quotes on "erotic encounters" with children. This triggered off a discussion in today's newsroom. These encounters must have taken place in Frankfurt in the late 1960s or 70s, around the time of a huge reform of the German penal code regarding sexual offences.
To a contemporary reader it is inconceivable how anyone could express such an attitude. It is as if there wasn't a consensus that children's sexual behaviour is incompatible with that of adults, and that adults must not seek or permit "erotic encounters" (fascinating expression, found it in Wikipedia) with children. How could DCB fail to know that? Simple: the consensus wasn't there then.
A travel in time to 1974, to find out who or what was to be to protected by the laws.
front-paged by afew
Imagine the relationship of two children, 13 years old. Peter and Christine are exploring each other's bodies. That means sexual acts with a child under 14, but not punishable because children under 14 can't be punished. Then Christine becomes 14. Shock, she is a person over 14 having sex with a child under 14. A serious offence. Luckily she isn't caught, and a few weeks later it's Peter's birthday. They are now both 14. Shock! He, a male over 14, is having sex with a girl under 16! Another serious offence, this time his. If he was old enough to marry, he could escape punishment by marrying his victim, who would then cease to be a victim.
And this was only heterosexual sex. Gay sex was absolutely banned until 1973 (a Nazi-era law), and there was a higher age of consent than for heterosexual sex until 1994. Lesbian sex on the other hand didn't exist (if under-14-year-olds weren't involved), because female sexuality was denied.
So who or what was protected by this collection of absurdities? Peter or Christine? Hardly. Some sexual mores that require marriage and the wish to procreate, but these mores had become controversial. That's why their defenders tried to claim they were protecting children. These mores were challenged by the concept of self-determination. This is what DCB argues when he writes about children touching him: they wanted it, and they were free. All sexual mores necessarily had to be questioned. Only after self-determination became (at least ostensibly) the criteria for banning sexual behaviour, could the debate move on to limiting this self-determination, but that happened later. DCB wrote exactly in the time when one set of sexual mores had lost all credibility, but wasn't yet replaced by the new consensus.
Is there any way to manage such a radical shift in paradigm without attacking the old one by limitless provocation? I suspect not, and we should bear that in mind for future use, the next time we want to achieve a radical switch of the consensus.