Across the West, a war is underway for the minds of the upcoming generation. Sex education is one of the primary battlegrounds, with American public schools facing a parental backlash over LGBT clubs, instruction in gender ideology, and drag shows for children; in the UK, Muslim immigrants have faced off with progressive educators over LGBT education being taught to their sons and daughters; and a sudden surge of children identifying as transgender has caused a fierce debate from Finland to France. More than a half-century after the sexual revolution rocked the West to its very foundations, pelvic politics are again at the centre of cultural discourse.
Conservative writer Douglas Murray’s recent (and brilliant) book The War on the West covers many aspects of this multi-front war, but he is reticent to comment on much of the battle over sex education. In a conversation with Andrew Sullivan, the liberal columnist perhaps most responsible for mainstreaming the idea of same-sex marriage in the United States, the two men discussed their discomfort with the term ‘groomer.’ As progressives and parents face off over sexual indoctrination in public schools (and elsewhere), many conservatives have been using the pithy response “Ok, groomer” to those who insist that children should learn such things. It is a clever derivative of the comeback “Ok, boomer,” and both Sullivan and Murray felt it to be a slur.
The term ‘groomer’ is a particularly potent clapback because it is now generally agreed upon that sexual abuse of children is the very worst of crimes. Pedophiles garner less sympathy than murderers, and reports of their deeds incur instant public wrath. But it is easy to forget that when the sexual revolution began and the Overton Window started to move away from Judeo-Christian values at warp speed, the idea that pedophilia might be normalized was very possible. The term ‘groomer,’ in fact, is a perfect fit for most of the sexual revolution’s architects, who had every intention of championing a world where adults could copulate with minors and even children.
The father of the sexual revolution in America, Dr. Alfred Kinsey, stunned the nation with his twin works Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953). Kinsey and his colleagues had collected an enormous amount of data on the sexual behavior of Americans, and their conclusions presented a picture of an utterly amoral nation where nearly the entire population were, by the standards of 1948 law, sex offenders (the LGBT movement’s claim that 10 to 37% of men engage in homosexual behavior comes from Kinsey). It was later discovered that his data was fraudulent and that Kinsey, a voracious bisexual, had interviewed prisoners, sexual minorities, and prostitutes to get his desired results.
But that wasn’t the worst of it. Kinsey also solicited and encouraged pedophiles to perpetrate crimes against children for his research. Between 317 to 2,035 children were abused for his data on alleged normal ‘child sexuality.’ Many of these crimes—oral and anal sodomy, intercourse, and manual abuse—are laid out in his own graphs for all to read. The infamous Table 34 on page 180 of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male lays out Kinsey’s records of “multiple orgasm in pre-adolescent males.” Children from infants of five months old to four years old were abused while Kinsey researchers watched with stopwatches as the children screamed, thrashed in pain, passed out, and convulsed. These gut-wrenching responses were recorded as ‘orgasms,’ and Kinsey’s work on ‘child sexuality’ formed the foundation of modern sex education.
Despite the existence of Table 34 and the work of historians who have highlighted Kinsey’s evil practices, he is still largely lionized and was even portrayed in a Hollywood biopic starring Liam Neeson as a well-meaning but tormented man seeking sexual freedom. The same goes for gay rights icon Harvey Milk, who was canonized in Milk starring Sean Pean. According to famous gay journalist Randy Shilts in his book, The Mayor of Castro Street, Milk had sex with at least one underage boy, 16-year-old Jack Galen McKinley. McKinley ran away from home, met Milk, and viewed him as a father figure. The age of consent in California was eighteen. Milk, who was twice his age, was unambiguously guilty of statutory rape. McKinley ended up killing himself. Milk now has children’s books written about him and is considered by progressives to be an American hero.
Of course, many of the sexual revolutionaries at that time rejected consent laws out of hand. In 1977, a petition was addressed to the French parliament calling for the repeal of several articles of the consent laws. One motivation was the perceived unfairness of having the age of consent for sex at fifteen, while it was eighteen for sodomy and other sex acts. However, many of the signatories had other reasons for opposing the age of consent. Among the French intellectuals publicly putting their name to the petition were Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Louis Aragon, Roland Barthes, Francis Ponge, and others. The list was a who’s who of progressive and revolutionary thinkers, and it is revealing to consider their views on sex between adults and minors. In the milieu of the time, they had every reason to believe that their campaign would be successful.
Many of the same elites also signed an open letter that same year in Le Monde magazine on the eve of the 1977 trial of Bernard Dejager, Jean-Claude Gallien, and Jean Burckardt, three Frenchmen accused of raping 13- and 14-year-old boys. The 69 signatories included Gilles Deleuze, Roland Barthes, Louis Aragon, and Philippe Sollers. They claimed that it was disgusting that two of the three accused child abusers had been imprisoned since 1973 and stated that if 13-year-old French girls could receive the pill, then they should also be able “to have relations with whomever they choose”—in this case, French intellectuals such as themselves. Two years later in 1979, a similar letter published in Libération magazine (co-founded by Jean-Paul Sartre) garnered 63 signatures in support of an accused sex criminal who had lived with girls aged 6 to 12. Again, these are not private sins or personal views—these are publicly expressed positions articulated by some of the most influential men and women of the postmodern era.
It was not just the French promoting these ideas. In Great Britain, the Pedophile Information Exchange (PIE) openly campaigned for ‘child’s sexuality,’ called for the elimination or reduction of the age of consent, and advertised legal help for pedophiles who got caught. Representatives of PIE defended sex with children on the BBC, and the prominent Campaign for Homosexual Equality passed motions in favor of PIE at their conferences—twice. They had political support, too—when one president of the Young Liberals condemned pedophilia as “a wholly undesirable abnormality,” another Liberal condemned him: “It is sad that Peter has joined the hang ‘em and flog ‘em brigade. His views are not the views of most Young Liberals.” Polly Toynbee of the Guardian later wrote about her “sinking feeling that in another five years or so, their aims would eventually be incorporated into the general liberal credo, and we would all find them acceptable.”
It was not progressives or revolutionaries who halted the Overton Window’s slide towards acceptance of sex with children. It was despised morality campaigners like England’s Mary Whitehouse, who successfully championed the 1978 Protection of Children Act. As I noted in a recent First Things essay, on the issue of child abuse, Whitehouse was right and her critics were wrong—and that should never, ever be forgotten. When the sexual revolutionaries were on the march, their idea of progress included pedophilia. It was backwards, reactionary conservatives with their backwards, reactionary views that halted their revolution.
This brings us to Michel Foucault, the founder of ‘wokeness’ and arguably the most influential philosopher of our era. He was a father of critical theory, his work was the inspiration for queer theory, and like Kinsey he argued that sexuality existed on a spectrum and was socially constructed. Naturally, this meant that there was nothing unnatural—or wrong—in the realm of sex. He was a celebrity intellectual, a post-structuralist philosopher, and an unapologetic hedonist and sadomasochist. He was admired for living ‘out,’ and was much mourned when he died of AIDS in 1984 at the age of 57 in Paris. But, as the Sunday Times revealed in 2021, he was also likely a pedophile rapist.
According to fellow intellectual Guy Sorman, he witnessed this on a holiday to the village of Sidi Bou Said near Tunis in 1969. “Young children were running after Foucault saying ‘what about me? Take me, take me,’” Sorman recalled to the Times. “They were eight, nine, ten years old, he was throwing money at them and would say ‘let’s meet at 10 PM at the usual place.’” The usual place, it turned out, was a local cemetery. “He would make love there on the gravestones with young boys. The question of consent wasn’t even raised. Foucault would not have dared to do it in France.” Sorman compared him to Paul Gauguin, the impressionist artist alleged to have had sex with young girls he painted in Tahiti, and Andre Gide, the novelist who preyed on boys in Africa. “There is a colonial dimension to this. A white imperialism.”
As Douglas Murray noted in The War on the West, if it had been a white conservative raping non-white boys on the gravestones of a cemetery in a former colony, certain conclusions would have immediately been drawn. But Foucault’s god-like status in the progressive world bought him immunity then—Sorman says French journalists and other witnesses saw this behavior and calls his own failure to report this to the police as “extremely morally ugly”—and it has apparently bought him immunity now. Despite the cultural conveyor belt of statue-toppling and cancellations of great Western figures, Foucault seems to have avoided a similar reckoning despite being guilty of actual crimes. When the news broke, French philosopher and former education minister Luc Ferry mused that his contemporaries have much to answer for, writing in Le Figaro that: “People had forgotten that 1968 thinking promoted paedophilia. Every adult had the right, even the duty, they argued, to awaken the sexuality that the bourgeoisie was hiding.”
Again, it is important to note that this was done largely in the open. In 2010, Jan Flesichhauer and Wiebke Hollersen penned a chilling essay for Der Spiegel titled “How the Left Took Things Too Far,” observing that: “One of the goals of the German 1968 movement was the sexual liberation of children. For some, this meant overcoming all sexual inhibitions, creating a climate in which even pedophilia was considered progressive.” That climate involved discussions about whether sex with children might be healthy for the children and musings that this could be part of kindergarten programs: “The educators’ notes indicate that they placed a very strong emphasis on sex education. Almost every day, the students played games that involved taking off their clothes, reading porno magazines together and pantomiming intercourse.” One influential magazine with a circulation of 50,000 printed photographs of nude toddlers accompanied by descriptions of their sexual abuse by adults. As Fleischhauer and Hollersen concluded: “The members of the 1968 movement and their successors were caught up in a strange obsession about childhood sexuality.”
Considering this history, it would be wise not to dismiss the concerns of parents and conservatives about the direction that sex education is heading (and indeed, where it has already arrived). Is it hysterical to be concerned about the sexualization of children when it is not only manifestly taking place, but what the architects of the sexual revolution explicitly intended? Should we not be concerned that the spiritual descendants and sexual disciples of Foucault and Kinsey might wish to pick up where the previous generation of sexual revolutionaries left off? Would Foucault and Kinsey not be pleased to see the Washington Post advocating that children see “kink” at Pride Parades? Or Canada’s state broadcaster encouraging parents to take kids to Pride events despite seeing nude adults and their genitalia? Or another columnist expressing enthusiasm that children coming to such events could get “Beanie babies with giant penises on them”?
I suspect they would. Many of the architects of the sexual revolution were not only groomers; they were also child abusers or supporters of pedophilia. They made their case for the abuse of children openly, and they were embraced by the elites, lionized by the press, and heralded as heroic and courageous thinkers. As the sexualization of children creeps towards the mainstream once again, we must remember that it was progressives who encouraged this last time around, and conservatives who resisted it—and we must not be afraid to call this what it is. History tells us that the term ‘groomers’ is unfortunately no slur.