Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Bit of History

In a fascinating post, Bernard Girard takes a look at the construction of a new social norm regarding pedophilia.


meshplate said...

Except for a brief parenthèse in the 70s, are we to believe that children were ever viewed as acceptable sexual partners? The Marquis de Sade certainly didn't represent a norm of the 18th century. I can certainly remember being given lectures during my childhood about never talking to strangers in the 70s. Hasn't the norm historically been puberty? Obviously Freud discovered infantile sexuality in 1905, and no one denies that children have sexuality of their own. The issue is whether the existence of those precocious impulses license adults to impose their own desires on children. My goodness, in the US, consent by dependents at work and university is also now thought to be generally inadmissible. The latter may be taking things too far. But surely we aren't going to debate that exploitation of children, students and workers can take place.

MYOS said...

Meshplate; for most of Western history, not only were they considered acceptable partners but they were as common as prostitutes as in Thailand nowadays, except not hidden. Some 18th and 19th century texts speak of the 10-year old prostitutes with their cheeks covered in rouge by the Louvre and around the Tuileries as an example of how wretchedness and corruption knows no age. When children were raped they were considered to have led good men astray. (Victorian England actually prosecuted such children.)The first laws against/about the sexual exploitation of children appeared in the late 19th century. Even in the late 19th century, there was little sympathy for little girls being raped - it was almost considered "on the par" or unavoidable. However, little boys being raped brought on a different kind of disapproval.
The exception to this is incest. However it was not defined as "rape of a minor by a relative" but "marriage between blood-related people".
We have to wait until the 1940s (yeah, ironic) to see some progress. Until fairly recently, children were seen as inherently unreliable, either lost in fantasy or natural liars. Until 1997 or 1998, teachers who had "dérapé" ( "slided off" - that was the term commonly used just a dozen years ago!) were simply sent to another school. In that regard, education nationale was very similar to the Catholic Church of the same period. I must add that the person who changed that is Segolene Royal; she decided to make it every adult responsible if they did not "signal" their suspicions. Up until then, adults were liable if they said something but nothing was proved. So they mostly chose to say nothing and let it be. The change made it compulsory - grounds for dismissal - for an adult to indicate they thought a child is abused, whether sexually or physically. If there were signs they did not "signal", they would be liable - not if they signaled something and it turned out Billy REALLY had fallen down the stairs twice in a month, as it had been previously.
Mind you, I've heard of a boy who was, no doubt about it, abused (a 3 year old whose ONLY drawing for a year is that of erected penises? who "plays rape" -sic- on the playground at age 8?) but who stayed with his parents despite 4 "signalisations". In another case, a boy, whose mother routinely (weekly) beats him red *in front of the school* where she picks him up drunk - he is still with his family, this despite welts and bruises and unexplained absences.
While it may have veered too far with the suspicion, one did not know then what we now know of everything related to children interrogation (the way the police conducted the Outreau interviews is a case in point: every mistake presented in "criminal justice 101-102" was committed.) In particular, the fact that they may not lie but may replace their tormentor with someone whom they see as less attached to them, had not been well-studied.
BTW, an interesting reversal: Until the ultimate monster became the child molester, the ultimate monster was the parricide - the child who killed his/her father.