Hewitt, paedophilia and 1970s progressivism


The newspapers in Britain are full of something I mentioned as an
aside in
a post last year—the
fact that 1970s consolidation of progressive power was the phase that
included the dropping of legalised paedophilia as a progressive
goal. The status of the Paedophile Information Exchange as an
affiliate of the National Council of Civil Liberties was what I had in
mind when I wrote that. It was never any secret.
The establishment line, coming from senior policiticans who shared
platforms with paedophile campaigners forty years ago, is that their
progressive movements were “infiltrated” by “evil” paedophiles, later
driven out. Inasmuch as “infiltration” implies any degree of secrecy
or misrepresentation at all, that is very obviously untrue. In the
early 1970s, paedophilia was a progressive cause. Rock stars’ banging
of underage groupies was seen as part of their general wildness and
edginess. It might eventually end in tears, but the same goes for
their other wild behaviour like dropping acid or driving sports cars
at 100mph—sex with teenagers was seen as in the same moral category as
these other excesses.
East Germany legalised homosexual sex in 1968, with an age of consent
of 14. The NCCL, by campaigning a few years later for Britain to
follow that example, was holding a perfectly respectable progressive
position—and going even further. (NCCL supported reducing age of
consent to 10 “in some circumstances”, which I think meant
relationships between children).
The Guardian today
quoted a letter
from Patricia Hewitt, saying “Our proposal that the age of consent be
reduced is based on the belief that neither the police nor the
criminal courts should have the power to intervene in a consenting
sexual activity between two young people.” That was the progressive
position in 1976. There have been pictures of demonstrations against
the PIE, but the placards brandished by the demonstrators carried the
National Front logo—not a respectable organisation.
The question for historians to ask about the 1970s is not, “how could
respectable people have supported paedophilia back then?”, rather, it
is “how did they not succeed?” My original answer was that as the
rebels became the establishment, they were forced to take some small
measure of responsibility for keeping society together, and withdrew
from a few of their most dangerous demands. That’s no more than a
hypothesis really, since I have no particular evidence for it. The
truth could possibly be even more interesting.
Update 16 March 2014
I just noticed on Wikipedia,
that the Labour Party was proposing
reducing the age of consent to 14 as late as 1998.