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Journal of Homosexuality - American fundamentalists vs. Academic Liberty

by Gert Hekma in History & Politics , 26 december 2005

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

Years ago a very young representative of the organization Martijn came to one of my workshops to tell us about the Dutch pedophile movement. It led to lively discussions and although many students didn’t agree with him at all, it was an educative afternoon for all involved. There’s an angel somewhere in the Netherlands however, who doesn’t like these kinds of things at all and who filed a complaint against me with the Board of Directors of the University of Amsterdam.

After they’d asked my opinion the civil servant responsible decided that discussions about these difficult themes were the essence of universities. It is the place to reconsider taboos.

In the United States pedophilia is much more problematic than in Holland and people respond much less sensibly. The Congress once issued a ridiculous decision that research that doesn’t assume child/adult sexual relations to be wrong, should not be publicly funded. As if the outcome of research can be predicted on the basis of a moral stand. It was the response to an article by Bruce Rind of Temple University of Philadelphia and others in which they concluded that boys only suffered negative repercussions from sexual relations with adults, when it happened by force or by authorities.

Other cases didn’t show any negative effects at all. In contrary, many boys said they valued the sexual experiences positively. This “defense” of pedosexual contacts in the very academic “Psychological Bulletin” 124:1 (1998) caused a flood of negative reactions and ultimately led to the research censorship from the American Congress.

The same Bruce Rind was going to publish an article at the end of this year in a special issue of the “Journal of Homosexuality.” This issue about “Same-Sex Desire and Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity and in the Classical Tradition in the West,” edited by Beert Verstraete and Vernon Provencal, also contains articles by the Dutch scholars Charles Hupperts and Don Mader. Again, the Christian fundamentalists targeted Bruce Rind, this time for selling the pre-modern Greek pedophile sex practices.

Just a summary of the article on the internet was enough to mobilize right wing America to protest. Publisher of the magazine, Haworth Press, also has lots of magazines about gay psychology and “sexual abuse.” The authors of these magazines didn’t like the fact that this article would advertise “sexual abuse.” The cornered publisher lost his nerve and withdrew the planned issue.

This decision cause a lot of turmoil amongst Freedom of Speech defenders, and rightly so. If publishers don’t even dare to publicize controversial work after pressure from public opinion, what will be the fundamentalists’ next step after this success? Finally they reached a compromise. The special issue will appear after all, but without the article of Bruce Rind. This will be published in a later issue. Also, the “Journal of Homosexuality” will publish a special edition dedicated to this issue, in which Bruce Rind gets the opportunity to respond to the accusations. And moreover, his response should not be buried under an avalanche of articles criticizing him.

It’s a bizarre scandal. The “Journal”’s editor is the charming John DeCecco, who’d been accused of defending pedophile relationships before because he was involved with “Paidika.” He received threats and had bodyguards escort him to class in San Francisco. He’s a tough one, still alive in spite of all the threats, though he seemingly has modified his views somewhat under pressure of the Christian lobby.

The director of the publishing company wrote a sympathetic letter to Bruce Rind in which he explained that he had taken the decision under huge pressure, especially that of their own authors - the psychologists that “are in a very unfortunate alliance with the right wing in a ‘zero tolerance’ position on anything involving intergenerational sexuality.” Fortunately they turned around later. But the next scandal is probably around the corner.

An interesting collection of scholarly articles around the same subject, written by people such as Gilbert Herdt, Randy Trumbach, Craig Williams and Theo van der Meer, lies at the University of Chicago Press, gathering dust for a long time already. Will we ever see them published?



In the New Issue of Gay News, 323, July 2018

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