The Sexual Revolution and Children How the Left Took Things Too Far
Germany's left has its own tales of abuse. 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.
The briefcase contained a stack of paper -- the typewritten daily reports on educational work at an after-school center in Berlin's Kreuzberg neighborhood, where up to 15 children aged 8 to 14 were taken care of during the afternoon. The first report was dated Aug. 13, 1969, and the last one was written on Jan. 14, 1970.
Even a cursory review of the material revealed that the educational work at the Rote Freiheit ("Red Freedom") after-school center was unorthodox. The goal of the center was to shape the students into "socialist personalities," and its educational mission went well beyond supervised play. The center's agenda included "agitprop" on the situation in Vietnam and "street fighting," in which the children were divided into "students" and "cops."
According to the records, a "sex exercise" was conducted on Dec. 11 and a "fucking hour" on Jan. 14. An entry made on Nov. 26 reads: "In general, by lying there we repeatedly provoked, openly or in a hidden way, sexual innuendoes, which were then expressed in pantomimes, which Kurt and Rita performed together on the low table (as a stage) in front of us."
The material introduced the broader public to a byproduct of the student movement for the first time: the sexual liberation of children. Besser passed on the reports to an editor at the West Berlin newspaper Der Abend, who published excerpts of the material. On April 7, 1970, the Berlin state parliament discussed the Rote Freiheit after-school center. As it turned out, the Psychology Institute at the Free University of Berlin was behind the center. In fact, the institute had established the facility and provided the educators who worked there. Besser now believes that it was a concerned employee who dropped off the reports at her door.
It has since faded into obscurity, but the members of the 1968 movement and their successors were caught up in a strange obsession about childhood sexuality. It is a chapter of the movement's history which is never mentioned in the more glowing accounts of the era. On this issue, the veterans of the late '60s student movement seem to have succumbed to acute amnesia; an analysis of this aspect of the student revolution would certainly be worthwhile.
The Possibility of Sex with Children
In the debate on sexual abuse, one of the elements is confusion as to where the line should be drawn in interactions with children. It is a confusion not limited to the Catholic Church. Indeed, it was precisely in so-called progressive circles that an eroticization of childhood and a gradual lowering of taboos began. It was a shift that even allowed for the possibility of sex with children.
The incidents at the Odenwald School in the western state of Hesse -- a boarding school with no religious affiliation -- showed that there was a connection between calls for reform and the removal of inhibition. The case of Klaus Rainer Röhl, the former publisher of the leftist magazine Konkret, also makes little sense without its historical context. The articles in Konkret that openly advocated sex with minors are at least as disturbing as the accusations of Röhl's daughters Anja and Bettina that he molested them, which Röhl denies.
The left has its own history of abuse, and it is more complicated than it would seem at first glance. When leaders of the student movement of the late 1960s are asked about it, they offer hesitant or evasive answers. "At the core of the movement of 1968, there was in fact a lack of respect for the necessary boundaries between children and adults. The extent to which this endangerment led to abuse cases is unclear," Wolfgang Kraushaar, a political scientist and chronicler of the movement, writes in retrospect.
A lack of respect for boundaries is putting it mildly. One could also say that the boundaries were violently torn open.
Sexual liberation was at the top of the agenda of the young revolutionaries who, in 1967, began turning society upside down. The control of sexual desire was seen as an instrument of domination, which bourgeois society used to uphold its power. Everything that the innovators perceived as wrong and harmful has its origins in this concept: man's aggression, greed and desire to own things, as well as his willingness to submit to authority. The student radicals believed that only those who liberated themselves from sexual repression could be truly free.
'Hostile Treatment of Sexual Pleasure'
To them, it seemed obvious that liberation should begin at an early age. Once sexual inhibitions had taken root, they reasoned, everything that followed was merely the treatment of symptoms. They were convinced that it was much better to prevent those inhibitions from developing in the first place. Hardly any leftist texts of the day did not address the subject of sexuality.
For instance, "Revolution der Erziehung" ("The Revolution in Education"), a work published by Rowohlt in 1971, which quickly became a bestseller, addresses sexuality as follows: "The de-eroticization of family life, from the prohibition of sexual activity among children to the taboo of incest, serves as preparation for total assimilation -- as preparation for the hostile treatment of sexual pleasure in school and voluntary subjugation to a dehumanizing labor system."
The members of this commune also felt compelled to write down their experiences, which explains why some of the incidents that occurred were reliably documented. On April 4, 1968, Eberhard Schultz describes how he is lying in bed with little Grischa, and how she begins to stroke him, first in the face, then on the stomach and buttocks, and finally on his penis, until he becomes "very excited" and his "cock gets hard." The little girl pulls down her tights and asks Schultz to "stick it in," to which he responds that his penis is "probably too big." Then he strokes the girl's vagina.