from Social Issues
In that Fact Sheet, NARTH brought public attention to an article published in Psychological Bulletin which downplayed the damage done by man-boy sexual relationships as long as they were "not coerced." After publication of the Fact Sheet, Dr. Laura Schlessinger carried the controversy into the realm of major media.
The issue appeared to fade into the background again until January of this year, when The Weekly Standard ran a cover story on the same problem ("Pedophilia Chic Reconsidered," by Mary Eberstadt, January 1 and 8, 2001) which reexamined the same trend: the gradual breakdown of the social consensus against man-boy pedophilia.
Ms. Eberstadt identifies gay culture as to some extent, harboring--and in the best-case scenario, failing to condemn--the man-boy "love" movement as it gradually gains visibility. "Many, many leaders and members of that movement [gay activism] draw a firm line at consenting adults," Ms. Eberstadt says. But "then," she adds, "there are other opinions."
As she explains:
"Today instead of standing foursquare with the rest of the public against this evil, the gay rights movement appears divided. A few proclaim boys to be sexual fair game. Influential others disavow pedophilia per se, but tolerate its advocacy on the grounds of political solidarity with persecuted groups.
"Still others, in a relatively new development noted earlier, appear to have opted for a kind of anti-anti-pedophilia, according to which the 'real' problems for the movement are somehow Dr. Laura and the religious right, rather than the facts to which such critics draw attention: e.g., that efforts are being made to destigmatize the sexual exploitation of boy children; or that positive portrayals of 'inter-generational sex,' which are extremely rare in the rest of the culture, are not rare in gay literature and journalism."
The problem is particular to the gay movement. "Nobody, but nobody," Ms. Eberstadt notes, "has been allowed to make the case for girl pedophilia with the backing of any reputable institution...contemporary efforts to rationalize, legitimize, and justify pedophilia are about boys."
While the response from traditionalists to the Psychological Bulletin study was outrage, the reaction from the gay community was (as Family Research Council observed) "notably muted...Some, including prominent author and activist Andrew Sullivan and respected reporter and political analyst Jonathan Rauch, defended the study."
Most defenders of that study said that traditionalists should be pleased the meta-analysis found little or no harm in most man-boy sexual relationships. Many were in fact harshly critical of the traditionalists' outrage. Jonathan Rauch, for example, said that it was the critics of the piece who were the ones who were turning out the 'stomach-churning stuff.'"
"According to that view," Ms. Eberstadt wrote, "the problem is less sex with minors, than the people who declare themselves against it."
Ms. Eberstadt found new evidence for concern in the Washington Post's "effusive praise" of a novel portraying sexual predation upon teen-agers, in which the reviewer said the novel "takes off from a sensational subject--forbidden sexuality--to arrive at unexpected heights and subtleties." The child partner in the novel became "a better, more engaged student after the affair gets under way."
The Washington Post story was joined by other reviews which have been noncommital and blase in their portrayal of pedophile relationships. A writer for the New York Times Book Review, for example, said of another such novel: 'Lost in his new environment and shunned by the other boys, the 9-year-old James turns for comfort to a kindly, handsome teacher named Mr. Wolfe--comfort that very quickly ( and on both sides, very willingly) turns to sex.'"
"Well, there it is," Ms. Eberstadt concludes. "The idea of an adult male having sex with a 9-year-old either horrifies you, or it doesn't. You either viscerally reject the idea that such a man is 'kindly,' or you don't."
Musing about the letters-to-the-editor that criticized her expose on the problem of pedophilia, Ms. Eberstadt observed that "the taboo against pedophilia is eroding....The meaning of it all is plain, and exceedingly sad."
"If the sexual abuse of minors isn't wrong," she concluded, "then nothing is."