The latest scandal to hit Britain concerns Sir Jimmy Savile, DJ, TV personality, indefatigable charity worker, and it now appears prolific paedophile. The controversy centres around why the BBC, Savile’s employer, ditched an expose of the sex offender in favour of a laudatory tribute. Media attention is focused on this aspect of the scandal for obvious reasons; the BBC in order to defend itself, other media outlets in order to point the finger at the BBC.
There are, however, other aspects to be exposed. With the breaking scandal we have a flood of media types who acknowledge awareness that something was going on but who did not raise the matter. This raises two questions: Just how many in positions of power at the BBC, then and today, were aware of Savile’s activities and tolerated them? Also, instead of exposing them to public gaze to what extent does the culture of celebrity serve as a shield for the activities of those in the limelight?
These questions are beginning to be raised, but we are still not asking the fundamental question. To what extent did the cult of sexual permissiveness in the 60’s and 70’s prepare us for the acceptance that any and all types of sexual activity was acceptable?
Today we view paedophilia with horror. Not so in the permissive progressive 70’s. PIE (Paedophile Information Exchange) was at the forefront of a campaign to lower and even abolish the age of consent. From 1978, until eventually excluded in 1983, it was affiliated to, and supported by, the National Council for Civil Liberties, now known as Liberty.
At the urging of MIND the mental health charity PIE submitted a report to the Home Office Criminal Law Revision Committee on the age of consent. Their 17-page report proposed that there should be no age of consent, and that the criminal law should concern itself only with sexual activities to which consent is not given, or which continue after prohibition by a civil court.
When the Albany Trust, which developed into a counselling organisation for homosexual men, lesbians and sexual minorities, asked PIE to take part in production of a booklet on paedophilia to be produced by the Trust they were opposed by morality campaigner, and one of 20th century Britain’s greatest and bravest women, Mary Whitehouse.
Mrs Whitehouse and her supporters were of course excoriated by the self-anointed progressive elite . ‘Bigot,’ ‘prude,’ ‘prig,’ ‘repressed,’ these were just a few of the more printable terms used by those who today hold up their hands in horror at what they themselves have brought about.
PIE produced a bulletin Contact Page in which members placed advertisements which included details of their sexual preferences. In a survey conducted in 1978-9 PIE found that its members preferred girls aged 8-11 and boys aged 11-15. Contact Page eventually resulted in a prosecution for a “conspiracy to corrupt public morals.”
Officially disbanded in 1984 the last of PIE’s members was arrested on child pornography charges in 2006. Its then leader David Joy was warned by the judge that given his beliefs he may never be released from prison.
PIE proposed banning the concept of child pornography, in this they were supported by the NCCL whose General Secretary for nine years from 1974 was Patricia Hewitt, later a Labour MP and Secretary for Health in the Blair government.
NCCL’s Legal Officer at the time was Harriet Harman. Harman who also became a Labour MP was interim leader of the Labour Party following Gordon Brown’s resignation and is at present Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
Although she now considers Savile’s activities a “stain” on the BBC Harman was not always so opposed to the sexual exploitation of children. In a parliamentary submission in 1978 Harman argued that “childhood sexual experiences willingly engaged in with an adult result in no identifiable damage.” She also argued that the Protection of Children Bill would lead to “damaging and absurd prosecutions.” Today, as well as being Labour’s shadow Secretary for Culture, Harman sits on a Cabinet committee on child welfare.
In the time of Hewitt and Harman, whilst PIE was affiliated with the NCCL, it argued for incest to be decriminalised. It further argued that sexually explicit photographs of children should be legal unless it could be proven that the child had suffered harm or that it could be reasonably inferred that harm might have been caused. In support Harman argued that opposing proposal this would “increase censorship”
If Harman and other progressives have been shocked into recognising their errors let us be grateful. Those proponents of the 60’s and 70’s moral devastation should, however, beware of holding up their hands in horror at what has occurred. The cultural devastation they have caused goes beyond one sexual scandal.
This concerns more than the Savile issue. When sexual activity is considered mainly as a recreational pastime and a ‘right’ no matter what form it takes there are bound to be harmful results. That those at risk are to be found amongst the weakest and most vulnerable appear to have been of little concern to the anointed. More important was that they, their friends, and any fellow ‘boundary pusher’ should be able to express themselves.
Savile did, and was protected. Expressions of horror from the anointed ring hollow today.