Taboos and violations of the sacrosanct
"Nothing is more curious thant the self-satisfied dogmatism with which mankind at each period of its history cherishes the delusion of the finality of its existing beliefs."
-Alfred North Whitehead
Whenever I have encountered material that even vaguely hints at paedophilia, it seems that all minds tends to close. Among the taboos of our modern society, paedophilia tops the list. Those who say that they have dismissed religioous, socialcultural, and political dogma from disabling their capacity for critical thought seem just as zealous in their demonisation of those who hold an attraction to young people that have not yet reached the sacred age at which one is properly allowed to be attractive and sexual are condemned before they can mutter a word.
Why should this be? Why is being considered sexually attractive unhealthy for minors? Why is having an orgasm considered "harmful"?
To answer this, we have to first think about ideas of sexual purity. According to the Christian tradition, sex is the greatest evil to befall mankind. In the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, realise that they are naked, and feel ashamed. According to medieval thought, that knowledge was the knowledge of their innate sexuality, the sin for which they were kicked from the garden.
The church fathers regarded sex as, at best, something to be tolerated, a necessary evil out of which procreation resulted. The dominant western attitudes have been conditioned by these beliefs ever since. Americans, whether or not they are Christians, are heirs to this tradition, and understanding this background might help us come to terms with our own ambiguous feelings about sex.
-Vern L. Bullough and Bonnie Bullough
Early on, agricultural peoples determined that men carried inside themselves seeds, which would be implanted into a woman's womb the same way that wheat was planted and grown in the fields. For this reason, most agricultural communities maintained that their females must maintain their virginity until marriage, so that the husband would not find themselves in the position of harvesting another man's crops (children). This attitude was still prominent well into the beginning of the twentieth century. Thus the earliest form of what has come to be known as "age of consent" laws stood to promote a girls chastity.
At common law, "rape" involved the element of force, and originally it was not a crime to have carnal knowledge of a female with her consent regardless of her age, but in the reign of Queen Elizabeth the age of consent was fixed by statute at 10 years and any violation of a girl under that age with her consent became a "consent rape".
Wilson v. Commonwealth
160 S.W. 2d 649, 651
290 Ky. 223
Around the middle of the nineteenth century, the age of consent laws that were established in England began to take a turn on American shores, along with the acceptance of ideas of childhood innocence that were introduced by the writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau. Thus it was determined that children must remain ignorant of sexual matters until they had reached the "age of accountability", at which point they would be capable of accepting Christian standards and refraining from sinful behaviour.
Therefore, anyone who would introduce a mere child to sex, either in speech or through action, was condemning that child's soul to hell. Christian morality had to be preserved at all cost.
In determining accused's guilt of statutory offense of taking immodest, immoral and indecent liberties with person of child under 16 years old, child's consent or non-consent to acts charged is immaterial. as prime object of statute is to protect morals of youth by punishing those committting acts tending to corrupt such morals.
'35 CSA c. 48?65
So whereas Elizabethean law originally was formulated with the sole intent of maintaining female virginity until marriage, the States took the statute to declare an adherence to Christian views of morality. At the time, discussion was fierce, and there were many in Congress who held that such a law would violate the Constitution. However...
Law and the courts reinforced t he power of one side of the sexual conversation and forced another - it's most radical strand - underground. (sic) Unquestionably, evangelical Christianity won out in numbers.
Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz
Rereading Sex: Battles over Sexual Knowledge and Suppression in Nineteenth Century America
The ideas of psychological and emotional harm that are so dominant in discussions of this nature were not a part of the formulation of the laws, nor were they present in the minds of the people. There was no question in the minds of eighteenth and nineteenth century peoples that sex was enjoyable regardless of age, but only that it was also immoral and must be kept from those who were too young to realise it.
Legal "consent," which will be held sufficient in prosecution for rape, assumes a capacity in the person consenting to understand and appreciate the nature of the act committed, its immoral character, and the probable or natural consequences which may attend it.
People v. Perry
146 P. 44, 45
26 Cal.App. 143
The law in some states even went so far as to consider sex an "act against nature". It was against our supposedly spiritual nature, best left for animals. It was therefore an act of sexual perversion that needed to be hidden from those too "innocent" to recognise their true spiritual nature.
There is a decided difference in law between mere submission and actual "consent". "Consent" in law means a voluntary agreement by person in the possession and exercise of sufficient mentality to make an intelligent choice to do something proposed by another. "Consent" differs very materially from "assent." The former implies some positve action, and always implies submission. The latter means passivity or submission which does not include consent. Participation in an act of sexual perversion by boy of nearly 12 was by "assent" rather than "consent," and hence no corroboration of his testimony was necessary (Pen. Code, ?? 26, Subd.1, 288a, 1111.).
People v. Conklin
10 P.2d98, 101
Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz -
Within a few years the tractarians would seek to reform prostitutes. For such men, free thought was anathema. It threatened to unleash the floodgates of lust-driven sin. The reform physiology of the free-thinker was a threat to the presumed sexual ignorance of children, a critical pillar of sexual restraint.
This thought, that children must be kept "innocent" and any form of sex and sexuality must be kept from them, is by no means universally held.
There are a number of societies around the world where sexual stimulation is used as an aid in weaning older babies from the breast. A number of cultures let children play intercourse during childhood and begin real intercourse at 8 or 10.
The Family in Cross-Cultural Perspective
It is paradoxical that modern love began with Greek love and owes so much to it, although the forms and ideals of Greek love are considered immoral and, to a large extent, illegal in modern society.
The Natural History of Love
There were many other ways that we could have come to view sex, and paedophilia. We simply ended up in a society that takes affront to anything sexual, and has founded a series of ideas and beliefs about sex and childhood that demonizes both.
Obviously there were and are many different approaches to sex that the western world could have adopted; but the fact that it opted for one emphasizeing a distrust of sexual activity has afflicted western culture with an underlying hostility toward sex that has been challenged only in the twentieth century.
Vern L. & Bonnie Bullough
So when it comes to ideas that challenge preconceived notions and ideas, the stronger that your feelings are, the more likely they are to be determinately wrong. For a freethinking individual, there is no topic that is taboo. When judgements are made, they should be evaluated and reevaluated. The history of a certain line of thought needs to be accounted for before even experiential data can be accepted, since remembered experiences can be coloured likewise by historic judgements and ideological prejudices.
If there's a taboo against something, it's usually because a considerable number of people desire to do it. The very taboos that we employ to protect us from each other and ourselves, are a map of our secret natures. When you know a culture's taboos (or an individual's, or a family's) you know it's secrets - you know what it really wants.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds