The Postmodern Pedophile

By Anne Hendershott, Witherspoon Institute

Meet the academics who try to redefine pedophilia as “intergenerational intimacy.”
The anger and disgust that most of us experienced when we learned of the allegations of sexual abuse of boys in the sports programs at Penn State and Syracuse University suggest that our cultural norms about the sexual abuse of minors are intact. Yet it was only a decade ago that a parallel movement had begun on some college campuses to redefine pedophilia as the more innocuous “intergenerational sexual intimacy.”
The publication of Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex promised readers a “radical, refreshing, and long overdue reassessment of how we think and act about children’s and teens’ sexuality.” The book was published by University of Minnesota Press in 2003 (with a foreword by Joycelyn Elders, who had been the U.S. Surgeon General in the Clinton administration), after which the author, Judith Levine, posted an interview on the university’s website decrying the fact that “there are people pushing a conservative religious agenda that would deny minors access to sexual expression,” and adding that “we do have to protect children from real dangers … but that doesn’t mean protecting some fantasy of their sexual innocence.”
This redefinition of childhood innocence as “fantasy” is key to the defining down of the deviance of pedophilia that permeated college campuses and beyond. Drawing upon the language of postmodern theory, those working to redefine pedophilia are first redefining childhood by claiming that “childhood” is not a biological given. Rather, it is socially constructed—an historically produced social object. Such deconstruction has resulted from the efforts of a powerful advocacy community supported by university-affiliated scholars and a large number of writers, researchers, and publishers who were willing to question what most of us view as taboo behavior.

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