In the course of researching this article we sent Peter Tatchell detailed questions regarding his connections to individuals involved in pro-paedophile groups and comments he had made. Mr Tatchell responded in detail and all 46 questions, and Peter Tatchell’s answers, can be found at the bottom of this piece, in full and unedited.
UPDATE 23.07.20: Peter Tatchell responded to the publication of this piece with comments regarding the factual accuracy of three sections of the piece. We have included an update at the bottom of the piece, before the interview with Mr Tatchell, discussing those concerns and why we have decided all of the highlighted sections are accurate and free of factual error. Click Here
Peter Tatchell, born on the 25th of January 1952, is one of the most high-profile LGBT activists in the UK, and arguably one of the most high-profile LGBT activists in the world. He has worked primarily in Britain, although he himself is Australian by birth, but also in many other countries across the world.
He has been involved in LGBT advocacy in the UK since the earliest days, when being openly gay in the UK and advocating greater rights for homosexuals carried real physical risks to one’s health. He has remained active in the LGBT movement as it has grown from a small number of tightly knit groups into the broader, more popular, more professional movement that it is today.
His work promoting LGBT rights, both individually and through his Peter Tatchell Foundation, has, in recent years, been widely lauded. In 2006 Tatchell won sixth place in the New Statesman’s list of ‘Heroes of Our Time’, coming ahead of Noam Chomsky, Bill Gates, the Dalai Lama, and Mikhail Gorbachev. The list defined a hero as: a man or woman whose actions have been in the service of the greater good and whose influence is national or international; someone who is prepared to act in pursuit of a freer, more equitable and democratic future, without recourse to violence
Tatchell has always had his critics both inside and outside the LGBT movement, and some of his actions, such as his work to “out” gay men who were not publicly known to be gay, have drawn negative coverage to Tatchell. Despite that Tatchell’s work on LGBT issues is now widely praised, with these incidents of negative coverage being minor, transient things.
However, over the last number of years criticism of Tatchell has moved from his LGBT advocacy methods to focus primarily on his comments regarding adults having sex with children, his campaigns to lower the age of consent, and his links to individuals associated with a group called the Paedophile Information Exchange, or PIE.
PIE was an organisation set up in 1974 to advocate for the legalisation and normalisation of “intergenerational sex.” It is perhaps best known for its campaign to reduce the age of consent to four years old. It disbanded in the mid-1980s after many of its founding members were arrested on charges related to the sexual exploitation of children.
PIE was not a secret organisation which worked underground and consisted of a small number of men in dingy overcoats who met in dark rooms. At its height it had hundreds of members and the organisation worked closely with government and NGO officials. Its members included Peter Righton, the Director of Education at the National Institute of Social Work.
According to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse [IICSA], “It openly campaigned for the lowering of the age of consent and made concerted efforts to normalise and justify sexual relationships between adults and children.” The IICSA say that, “PIE was not simply tolerated as part of the authorities’ proper commitment to freedom of speech and freedom of association but was accepted as a legitimate voice of an oppressed sexual minority by respected and well-established civil society organisations such as the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL, now known as Liberty) and the Albany Trust (a specialist counselling and psychotherapy charity).”
PIE also made numerous, and often successful, attempts to insinuate themselves into LGBT groups and to equate PIE’s objectives with sexual liberation and with gay rights. PIE’s material talked about the sexual liberation of children, arguing sexual rights were human rights, and that children could not be denied their human rights – so children must have a right to consent to sex. The Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) passed resolutions explicitly in favour of PIE at their 1975, 1977, and 1983 annual conferences, with the CHE executive board supporting PIE up to the early 80s.
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In 1975 the then head of PIE Keith Hose spoke at the CHE annual conference. According to the BBC, Mr Hose once told a newspaper, “I am a paedophile. I am attracted to boys from about 10, 11, and 12 years of age. I may have had sexual relations with children, but it would be unwise to say.”
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In 1976 the paedophile activist Roger Moody wrote a letter to Gay Left magazine which stated, “Paedophile politics, such as they are, consist of wagon-hitching to the mainstream gay movement.”
All of this was covered in the national press at the time and PIE was very much a known entity, although its membership lists were private. According to a BBC report PIE “campaigned for ‘children’s sexuality’. It wanted the government to axe or lower the age of consent. It offered ‘support to adults in legal difficulties concerning sexual acts with consenting “under age” partners”. The real aim was to normalise sex with children.”
There is no suggestion that Peter Tatchell was ever a member of PIE. The organisation’s membership list was eventually leaked; Tatchell’s name is not on that list.
In Ireland, Tatchell recently come to the attention of social media following the discovery of several photos of Tatchell standing beside Roderick O’Gorman, the newly appointed Minister for Children. The photo was captioned “Happy Pride! Delighted that Peter Tatchell is marching with the Green Party today.” The Green Party itself also put up a similar photo of Tatchell with a similar caption.
— Green Party Ireland (@greenparty_ie) June 30, 2018
It is not surprising that the new Minister would be delighted to see Tatchell, most people’s knowledge of Tatchell is limited to his extensive LGBT advocacy, for which again he has been widely lauded, and Tatchell is himself a member of the Green Party of England and Wales. Tatchell was in fact the spokesperson on human rights of the Green Party of England and Wales for many years.
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The photos of Tatchell and the Minister quickly became a focal point of criticism as they were linked to a letter Tatchell wrote in 1997 in which Tatchell defended a pro-paedophilia book. The resulting fracas trended on Twitter for days with no response from the Minister. Minister O’Gorman eventually issued a statement saying he was unaware of the letter written by Tatchell and accusing the social media storm of being driven by homophobia. Media figures and mainstream politicians rushed to condemn any questions about Tatchell’s views and the nature of his relationship with the Minister as homophobic rhetoric being pushed by a far-right fringe looking for any excuse to destroy a gay man.
Tatchell was interviewed on the Last Word with Matt Cooper, one of Ireland’s most well-known radio presenters, about the entire affair. Cooper asked Tatchell if he condemned child abuse, Tatchell said he did and that he always had, and then they moved on to the real issue – what this unfortunate and tawdry affair shows us about the impact of homophobia upon Irish society.
The interview was reviewed by Mick Heaney of the Irish Times, Ireland’s paper of record, as “courageous”. He said Cooper was ‘calm and serious” during his “forensic examination” of the issue. He likened him to a boxer, saying he “goes toe to toe to get facts straight with Peter Tatchell.”
Critics said the interview served as basically nothing more than a PR exercise aiming to allow Tatchell to push back against his critics whilst being protected by the warm glow of Cooper’s whole-hearted support. Cooper has since said that he “did the research and asked the questions. I’m satisfied the answers I got today were honest.”
Questions can be asked about the actual research Cooper claims to have done as very little appeared to be presented in the interview. An examination into Tatchell’s past reveals that he does have questions to answer about his views and his connections to high-ranking members of PIE, and we are long past the time that someone started to ask him seriously about the elements of his past that you don’t find on his foundation’s corporate brochure.
In particular there are four instances which we believe deserve to be examined in far more detail than they have been so far: his 1997 letters to the Guardian to defend the pro-paedophilia book Dares to Speak; the obituary he wrote for Ian Campbell Dunn, one of the founders of the Paedophile Information Exchange [PIE]; a chapter he wrote in a book called Betrayal of Youth [BOY], which was edited by a man who had been the vice-chair of PIE; and an interview with a 14 year old former prostitute which he posted on his website in 2011.
1. 1997 letters to the Guardian – Dares to Speak
For all the discussion of Tatchell in the Irish media over the last week, extraordinarily little attention has been paid to the context and content of the letter, or more correctly letters, he wrote to the Guardian in 1997. Most of the media coverage has not even mentioned that Tatchell sent more than one letter to the Guardian about Dares to Speak.
Tatchell wrote his letters in response to a review by Ros Coward in the Guardian of the book Dares to Speak. Coward had slammed the book, saying that it “refuses to take seriously sexual abuse and its consequences” and that the book was “a sneaky defence of an exploitative activity.” She linked the book to earlier attempts by pro-paedophile groups to infiltrate the gay movement.
The book’s title is drawn from a phrase commonly attributed to Oscar Wilde, “the love that dare not speak its name”, although the phrase may actually originate from Wilde’s lover Lord Alfred Douglas. During his trial for obscenity Wilde said the term described, “a great affection of an elder for a younger man…there is nothing unnatural about it… it repeatedly exists between an elder and a younger man, when the elder man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so, the world does not understand.”
The book itself was edited by a man called Joseph Geraci. Geraci was the editor of a magazine called Paidika: The Journal of Paedophilia. It published 12 issues between 1987 and 1995 under his editorship. He was also an author, having penned a book which one “boy-love” site described as, “A warmly realistic novel about an American professor who has an affair with a twelve-year-old Dutch boy while visiting Holland.” Geraci was himself an American who had moved to live in Amsterdam.
Paidika was a term used in Ancient Greece to refer to the younger partner in a pederastic, sexual relationship with an older man.
Articles published in Paidika include: “On seeing a Beautiful Boy at Play”; “The Life of a Christian Boy Lover”; “The Irresistible Beauty of Boys”; “Two Lesson Plans about Paedophilia”; “Man-Boy Sexual Relationships in a Cross-Cultural Perspective”; & “The World is Bursting with Adults, so I’m always Glad to See a Little Girl.”
Paidika was openly a magazine for paedophiles, by paedophiles. Their mission statement said, “The starting point of Paidika is necessarily our consciousness of ourselves as pedophiles… The ground on which we stand is the emergence and evolution of paedophile consciousness and identity in history.” They went on to say that, “to speak today of paedophilia, which we understand to be consensual intergenerational sexual relationships, is to speak of the politics of oppression…there is no country where there are not proscriptions against even the most innocent consensual paedophile relationships… It is our contention that the oppression of pedophilia is part of the larger repression of sexuality.”
Dares to Speak, which Peter Tatchell is defending in his letter to the Guardian, consisted largely of reprints of Paidika articles. Peter Tatchell told us that he had not read Dares to Speak when he wrote his letter, that he had never seen or read Paidika, and that he wished to “emphatically denounce the normalisation of acceptance of paedophilia.” Tatchell says he was moved to defend the book based on a summary that “someone” had sent him “out of a concern that there were calls to ban or prosecute the book, which I took as an attack on free speech.” That summary, he says, described Paidika as an “academic journal by researchers, psychologists, anthropologists and sociologists, similar to academic journals on criminality, prostitution and drug use, which do not advocate for their subject matter.” He says he would not have written the letter if he had known the truth about Paidika, and that what it stood for was “ghastly and vile.”
We asked Tatchell if he was aware of the fact that Geraci was the editor of Paidika: The Journal of Paedophilia when he wrote his letter in support of the book. He said that he had been aware of the editorship but that he was unaware Paidika was involved in “paedophilia advocacy and normalisation”. He said he was told that Geraci sat on the board of the “prominent and esteemed Catholic newspaper, Catholic Worker”, and so “assumed him to be a person of moral integrity and uprightness.”
We have asked the Catholic Worker to confirm if Geraci was ever involved with them, and what the extent of that involvement was, but so far have received no response.
Tatchell started his letter by saying it was “courageous” of the Gay Men’s Press to publish a book which “challenges the assumption that all sex involving children and adults is abusive.” He moved on to say that the book cited “distinguished psychologists and anthropologists” and offered “a rational, informed perspective on sexual relations between younger and older people”, documenting societies “where consenting inter-generational sex is considered normal, beneficial and enjoyable by old and young alike.” He added: “The positive nature of some child–adult sexual relationships is not confined to non-Western cultures. Several of my friends – gay and straight, male and female – had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13. None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy.”
We asked Tatchell if he still stood over his descriptions of the contents of the book. He told us that the statements he had made were factual statements about “the book’s documentation of practices in other societies” but he added that “I strongly disagree with them and with the thesis that paedophilia is acceptable.”
Of the distinguished psychologists and anthropologists cited in the book Tatchell only drew attention to one by name – Professor Gilbert Herdt, a man who had researched the Sambia tribe of Papua New Guinea. Professor Herdt had previously been interviewed by Paidika. In that interview he had discussed the Sambia tribe, but he had also discussed, in detail, how best to normalise paedophilia.
We asked Tatchell if he was aware of that interview when he wrote his letter to the Guardian, he told us he was not. The interview in which Herdt made that comment was reprinted in Dares to Speak and was in fact the first chapter of Dares to Speak.
It is, of course, perfectly reasonable and normal for Tatchell not to have had an awareness of the material covered in Paidika in the normal course of events, but in this instance Tatchell, a major public figure, was publicly defending a book which he knew was edited by the editor of Paidika: The Journal of Paedophilia, apparently without having performed the most basic due diligence beforehand.
We asked Tatchell if he still thought Professor Herdt was a distinguished and respectable expert, he told us that Professor Herdt was a “distinguished anthropologist who has taught at some of the world’s most prestigious universities”, who had “presented evidence of a society where there are socially acceptable sexual relations between older and younger people.” Tatchell added that, “As an anthropologist who researches different cultures, it is valid for him to present that factual evidence.” He also added that he “robustly” condemned any of Professor Herdt’s views that seek to justify or normalise paedophilia.
Tatchell has said he defended the book on the grounds of free speech, and there are certainly free speech arguments that could be made to defend the right of publication of material such as Dares to Speak. But Tatchell’s letter goes far, far beyond what would have been required for that defence. An argument based on free speech would have been based on either support for the publishing of the book regardless of the content, or support for the book based on the rights of the author to make their held views known. It is not an argument from free speech to write, as Peter Tatchell did, that “the positive nature of some child-adult sexual relationships is not confined to non-Western cultures”, or that “it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful.”
A statement regarding the book, available on his personal website, reads “The book does not endorse or excuse sexual relationships with young people that involve coercion, manipulation, exploitation or damage.” The book review that Tatchell was responding to includes this quote from the book, given by a campaigner for “paedophile emancipation”, “paedophilia is not a problem for the paedophile; it is apparently also not a problem for the child. Paedophilia is primarily a problem for the non-paedophile, for society.” The book also dismisses what it calls “the abuse industry”, arguing that rates of childhood sexual abuse have been heavily exaggerated.
He closes the letter with a line which he has repeatedly misrepresented, including during his recent media appearances. When talking to Matt Cooper Tatchell said that the letter stated “‘paedophilia is impossible to condone”. He said that this was a direct quote from the letter. That claimed quote has been repeated as correct in much of the recent media coverage of this letter.
His actual words in the letter were “it may be impossible to condone paedophilia” or, more fully, “Whilst it may be impossible to condone paedophilia it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful.” And that final statement came at the end of a letter which was discussing adult-child sexual relations, not sexual relations between two minors of a similar age.
Tatchell told us that when he wrote “it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful” that he was merely repeating the view of adults who say “that when they were children they had sex with adults and that the sex was not unwanted, abusive or harmful”, and that he accepts that “this is their sincerely held view as mature, responsible, ethical adults.” He added that he does not agree with this view and that “children cannot give valid consent to sex.” It is unclear why Tatchell did not attribute the phrase to someone else, if it is indeed not his view, rather than simply stating that society must now “acknowledged the truth” regarding sexual relationships with children.
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When he made the claim on Matt Cooper’s show (07.07.2020) Cooper did not challenge him on the misrepresentation. But Cooper has said he had “done the research” and presumably part of that research included reading the letter the entire affair had been based on. Yet, when Tatchell misrepresented his letter, Cooper let Tatchell do so unchallenged.
Tatchell has said repeatedly that the letter was edited. This claim has been repeated in recent media coverage as if it were a revelation rather than an allegation.
We asked Tatchell if he had a copy of the original letter. He told us that no copy other than that sent to the Guardian existed. He said that points were omitted from the published version of the letter, including additional lines saying that he opposed adults having sex with children, supported victims of child sex abuse, and that he believe academic research of these areas is legitimate and “should not be misinterpreted as support for any form of child sex abuse.” He made no claim that the words of the letter that were printed are not his own or have been edited.
During Tatchell’s recent radio interview with Niall Boylan (Classic Hits FM, 19.07.20), in which Boylan showed considerably more evidence of someone having done the research than Matt Cooper, he was asked why he had not sued the Guardian for the error. Tatchell said that he had not sued the Guardian for three primary reasons. Firstly that the letter had not caused controversy, that “there was no public outcry…people did not misinterpret it as an endorsement of child abuse”, secondly that libel cases are very expensive to pursue, and that thirdly the Guardian had apologised to him privately and that they were “very, very apologetic” about the entire affair.
In relation to his first stated reason for not suing the Guardian we can see that the letter did indeed cause a great deal of controversy at the time, and people did interpret it as either supporting or justifying child abuse.
Two days after his letter was printed the Guardian received so many letters of complaint that they headlined a substantial portion of their letter page, “Tatchell comes in for abuse.” The next day they printed a letter headlined “That child-sex row won’t go away.” Letters said that Tatchell was “harmful to the cause of gay rights” and “justifying the sexual abuse of children.” One letter discussed Paidika and the articles they had published in detail, and both the Director of Accuracy About Abuse and the CEO of Childline wrote in concerning Tatchell’s letter and Dares to Speak. Neither supported him.
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Enough letters were sent to the Guardian in response to Tatchell’s letter that he was moved to write a second letter defending himself. That second letter, in which he is directly defending the content of the letter he now says was edited, does not make any claim that the initial letter was edited.
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And yet Tatchell told us, when we asked him, that “My letter did not create a public outcry when it was published in 1997. It was not intended or interpreted as support for child sex abuse. People did not read it that way. It has only many years later been misrepresented.”
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On his second reason for not suing the Guardian it is perfectly correct that libel cases are horrendously expensive and that he likely did not have the funds to pay for such a case out of pocket. However, if it was true that the Guardian edited his letter to the extent that he appeared to be speaking approvingly of paedophilia, when he was not, it would certainly have been a matter which would have secured a very substantial payment to Tatchell given his prominence and the severity of the damage to his reputation.
The case would have been straightforward, as Tatchell could simply oblige the Guardian to show the original of the letter to show that the editing carried out was material, and could show the outraged responses his edited letter had gotten in order to demonstrate the harm the Guardian had done to his reputation, that it would have been trivial in the extreme to find legal representation which was willing to take the case on with final payment deferred until after the case cleared and Tatchell was awarded his restitution.
In relation to his third reason for not suing the Guardian, that the Guardian had privately apologised to him for the editing of his letter, it is possible that the Guardian did privately apologise to him for editing his letter. We asked the Guardian, repeatedly, to confirm if that was the case, and if they had ever published a public apology to Tatchell for any edits they may have done, but we received no relevant response to that question.
Overall, we sent the Guardian four requests for comment on the letter. We asked them to confirm if the letter had been edited and, if so, to what extent. We have so far received no relevant response to our questions, although they have sent us a copy of their current policy on editing letters, which is obviously absolutely useless in this particular instance.
In summary, in Tatchell’s letter to the Guardian in 1997, he defended a book published by advocates of paedophilia following a review which explicitly stated that the book had been published by Paidika: The Journal of Paedophilia. Tatchell said it was “courageous” to publish a book defending paedophilia, that children ages 9 to 13 who had sex with adults later told him they did not feel abused and that it “gave them great joy”, and that “it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful.” The section of the letter he says was edited would not have changed any of those statements.
2. The Obituary of Ian Campbell Dunn
In 1998 Tatchell wrote an obituary for the Scottish LGBT activist Ian Campbell Dunn in the Independent.
In Tatchell’s obituary he described Dunn as a “pioneer for homosexual and gay human rights.” Dunn was indeed heavily involved in LGBT activism having founded, or helped found, numerous LGBT organisations. In 1969 he had founded the Scottish Minorities Group, one of Britain’s first gay rights groups. He was also involved in the setting up of Gay News, Britain’s first national gay newspaper, in 1972, and the International Lesbian & Gay Association in 1974. He also ran a bookshop called Lavender Menace.
At the time of his death he was still actively involved in LGBT activism, most notably as convenor of Outright Scotland.
Ian Campbell Dunn was also publicly known to be one of the co-founders of the Paedophile Information Exchange. Famously at Dunn’s funeral, which took place 3 days before Tatchell published his obituary, a young man told the gathered crowd that Dunn had raped him and that he had attended the funeral “just to make sure he was dead.” Tatchell told us that he had never heard this story and that he was “shocked and appalled to hear that”, saying “I condemn that rape. My sympathies are with the victim. If Ian Dunn raped that youth, he should have been prosecuted.”
In 1984, 14 years before Tatchell wrote the obituary, the Sunday Mail had published a story, titled “Evil Secrets of a Scots Address”, which said that Dunn was one of the heads of PIE. Dunn himself actually admitted to the Sunday Mail that he was both one of the founders of PIE and that his address was used “as the main contact address for Britain and the whole of Europe for paedophiles”, although he denied being a paedophile himself.
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The Sunday Mail was able to identify Dunn after he put a signed letter urging people to support PIE in a magazine called Minor Problems, which used his address as their contact point. Minor Problems was the in-house magazine of PIE. Its name is a play on the word minor. Tatchell told us that he was unaware of this article.
The Sunday Mail may have been aware of Dunn before that as, according to the Times, Ian Dunn organised, and openly advertised, pro-paedophile meetings in at least two cities. They quote him as saying, “I am not one of those homosexuals who get cross or nervous when the subject of love between men and boys is raised.”
By the time of Dunn’s death, he had also been named as a co-founder of PIE in the book Child Pornography – An Investigation, by the journalist Tim Tate. That book was published nearly 8 years before Dunn’s death.
Dunn fundraised heavily amongst the LGBT community for a libel action against the Sunday Mail, eventually raising in the region of 20,000 pounds, which would be worth roughly 65,000 pounds today. Tatchell told us that he was unaware of this.
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That libel action was quietly dropped some time later, reportedly because a a tape in which Dunn said he had sex with a 14-year-old boy was found. The tape certainly exists, the only uncertainty is if it was the tape’s discovery that led to the dropping of the libel case.
Ian Campbell Dunn admitted sleeping with a 14 year old boy, publicly admitted that he was a founder of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), signed his own name to at least one letter asking people to support PIE in PIE’s own in-house magazine, and openly advertised paedophile meetings. None of these facts made it into the obituary Tatchell wrote and Tatchell says he was unaware of all of them.
Tatchell told us he “barely knew” Dunn although they “cooperated very occasionally on LGBT+ equality campaigns”. He said he decided to write the obituary for Ian Dunn because “Ian was a leading figure in the Scottish LGBT+ movement for many decades and made a big contribution to ending discrimination against the LGBT+ community.” We asked Tatchell what research he had conducted before writing the obituary, given that there was a great deal of material publicly available which linked Dunn to PIE, and there would have been a great number of LGBT activists aware of those links given Dunn’s public fundraising. He told us that, “I based my obituary on what I knew about Ian’s work for LGBT+ equality. I did not read or hear about any news stories or rumours involving Dunn and child sex abuse.”
Dunn, for all of the work he did for LGBT rights during his life, does not appear to have been generally recognised in national obituaries when he died. InsideOut, a small “bi-monthly magazine for the lesbian, gay and bisexual community in Scotland” which was available online at the time, did cover the death of Ian Dunn in their March 1998 issue. Their obituary mentions that Ian Dunn was a founder of PIE, the Sunday Mail story, his attempts to sue the paper, that that attempt was quietly dropped, and that a young man had turned up at the funeral saying Dunn had raped him, although they say they think this was “more a case of mixed signals than any mens rea on Ian’s part.”
Regardless of the intent of Tatchell’s obituary the end result was that the obituary, through its failure to include damning material from Mr Dunn’s life and its publication in a national newspaper, burnished the public image of a man who was deeply involved in the promotion of paedophilia.
3. Betrayal of Youth
In 1986, Tatchell wrote a chapter for a book which was edited by the former vice-chairman of PIE, Warren Middleton, also known as John Parratt. Middleton would later be convicted of possession of indecent images after police found over 5,000 images of young boys in his home. PIE had, by this point, formally disbanded, but many of its members, particularly the high-ranking ones such as Middleton, remained in contact with each other and circulated images of the sexual abuse of children amongst themselves.
Middleton and Tatchell had both been members of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), although Tatchell has said he was unaware that Middleton was in the GLF and that the GLF did not support paedophilia. The GLF didn’t support paedophilia but it did actually spawn its own paedophile splinter group, Paedophile Action for Liberation (PAL), although the group quickly merged with the more successful PIE.
The book was called Betrayal of Youth, or BOY; Tatchell’s chapter, which he told us he was not paid for, was titled, “Questioning Ages of Majority and Ages of Consent.” The chapter which followed Tatchell’s was called “Ways & Means: How to make paedophilia acceptable.” It was written by Roger Moody, a paedophile activist who authored a book defending paedophilia and who described himself as “one of the pioneers of libertarian (“adventure”) playgrounds.”
The topics which the book deals with include incest, child pornography and erotica, child prostitution, power and consent, potential avenues to make paedophilia more acceptable to general society, and a history of PIE from 1980 to 1985. Its topic selection is very similar to that of Dares to Speak.
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In the acknowledgements section of the book Middleton openly thanked the members of the now defunct PIE Executive Committee for their help bringing the book to print, drawing particular attention to the input of Tom O’Carroll, chair of PIE from 1977 to 1979. Middleton thanks several individuals who have subsequently been arrested for offences relating to child pornography and/or the sexual abuse of young boys. The acknowledgements close by thanking “children and young people themselves; for it was they who inspired the present study.”
In his chapter Tatchell wrote that the “notion of legally enforced ages of sexual consent” has been, until recently, “overwhelmingly informed by a metaphysical moral fiction rather than biological and psychological fact.” He wrote “It seems quite reasonable, therefore, that we should question the present social and legal definitions of the age of majority” asking “what purpose does it serve other than reinforcing a set of increasingly quaint, minority moral values left over from the Victorian era?”
The age of majority refers to the age at which a minor is legally recognised as an adult, and is distinct from the age of consent, which is the age at which a minor is judged legally competent to meaningfully consent to sexual experiences. They are separate concepts, but they are closely linked in that the age of majority defines when one becomes an adult and a situation in which the age of majority was lower than the age of consent would be logically incoherent, and so any significant reduction in the age of majority would, ipso facto, also reduce the age of consent.
Tatchell told us that the chapter had been edited, that sections he had written regarding “voting rights and other legal rights and responsibilities for teenagers had been removed”, and that this gave it “a stronger focus towards the age of consent than I had written.” According to Tatchell the “Notes and References” section of the piece were also added without his knowledge. However, much like the Guardian letter, Tatchell does not deny that he wrote the words that were published, merely that additional contextual information was removed.
Tatchell has said he did not make any argument that mentioned or endorsed adults having sex with children. He says his chapter “merely questioned whether 16 was the appropriate legal age of consent.”
Tatchell argued that “in the realm of sexual ages of consent, we need to ask whether the law has any legitimate role to play in criminalising consenting, victimless sexual activity” and that, when discussing the “self-destroying feelings of guilt and anxiety” which are “so often stirred up by sexual encounters outside the ages of consent precisely because they are illicit and regarded as shameful”, it is important to note that it is “usually this social shame, more than the sexual act itself, which harms young people…the psychological scars of court cases and societal disapproval often remain long after the actual sexual encounter is forgotten.” Laws on rape and sexual assault, he says, would protect the young even if the age of consent was modified, and the laws regarding consent do not protect against those “self-destroying feelings of guilt and anxiety.”
In relation to the last quote we asked Tatchell if he believed that the negative impact of paedophilia upon children was primarily due to the way in which society views sexuality and sexual acts rather than being directly caused by sexual acts between an adult and a child. He told us that “I do not agree with that statement. Paedophilia is abusive, harmful, degrading and damaging. It is vile, unacceptable and should not be tolerated. When under-age sex involves genuine consent between young people of similar ages, say between two 15 year-olds, negative and hostile reactions may cause the young person more harm psychologically and emotionally than the sexual act. Again, I stress that I do not encourage or support under-age sex. It is best if young people wait until they are older.”
Tatchell told us that he did not recall who had asked him to contribute to the book, and that as he receives “about 500 requests each year to write for books, magazines, websites, etc” it was “impossible for me to remember the names of all 20,000 people who asked me – especially those from four decades ago.” We would note here that Tatchell requested an extension of the time we had given him to respond to our questions so that he could consult with his files and private diaries, and so this answer comes after consultation with those resources. Given the age of the book it is certainly possible that the name of the man who made the request could be forgotten and diaries misplaced.
Tatchell told us that, years later, when he discovered that Middleton was the editor of the book, he was “horrified and angry.”
However, in late 2012 Tatchell published a statement on his personal website defending himself from claims regarding his involvement with Betrayal of Youth. That statement does not claim he was unaware of the identity of the editor of the book. It instead names Warren Middleton, says that Tatchell had “no idea that he was involved in paedophilia advocacy when I was asked to write my essay”, and that Tatchell contributed on the basis it was a book about children’s rights. It would appear logical to assume, based on that statement, that Tatchell was once aware Middleton was the editor and, at some point, simply forgot that information.
It is perhaps unsurprising that Tatchell was unable to find this information as that statement was edited in 2017 and Middleton’s name, and any reference to him, was excised from the page. The original statement also makes no claim that the chapter was edited, it is only after the 2017 edit that the statement is amended to make that claim.
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In early 1981, Middleton was charged with criminal offences in relation to his work for PIE’s magazine, alongside several other men, and was openly named as one of the leaders of PIE. This was reported in multiple newspapers, and his membership of the group was reported multiple times. At least 4 stories on his case were printed in national newspapers. 3 of those were published in the Guardian, which would have been the paper a man of Peter Tatchell’s political views was most likely to have read and which we know Tatchell read in later years.
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Peter Tatchell says on his website that he was “invited to write a chapter in 1982” – a year after newspapers had reported Middleton’s charges.
4. Interview with “Lee”.
In 2011, Peter Tatchell published an interview, originally from Thud magazine, with a 14-year-old boy to his website. The boy, who Tatchell called Lee, uses the interview to explain in detail his concerns with the laws regarding children and sexual consent and his support for consensual adult-child relationships. At the time the interview took place Tatchell was campaigning to reduce the age of consent, and so that topic is a large part of the interview.
Critics have said that the interview reads as an apology or justification for paedophilia due to the tone of the piece. That criticism intensified after it was discovered that the interview was republished in full in the newsletter of International Paedophile and Child Emancipation [ICPE], an organisation which has been described as comprising the “elite of paedophiles.”
Tatchell has told us that he was unaware of the republication and that ICPE were “disgusting.” We asked if he had any thoughts on why the newsletter of an organisation like the ICPE would republish his interview with Lee but his answer did not provide any.
Tatchell has confirmed to us that Lee was a real person, one of the teenagers who contacted him during a campaign to change the age of consent. Tatchell also said that the comments made during the piece are “what he told me. They are not my views.”
The interview shares an interesting commonality with Tatchell’s first letter to the Guardian in 1997 in that both pieces state that children and adults can have sexual relations which are solely positive, both pieces distinguish between the sexual assault of children and consensual sexual relationships between children and adults, and both pieces also present that view as coming from someone other than Tatchell. In the letter he says it is the view of his friends, in this interview it is Lee’s view. He is not saying he believes it is correct, he is simply telling you what other people think. But in both instances, it is Tatchell who decided to bring these views, these particular arguments, into the public sphere. He choose to do so. And he brought them into the public sphere in a way which allows him to separate himself from the views by stating that they are not his views, whilst also limiting the ability of others to argue against those views because Tatchell is merely an unbiased and disinterested intermediary of the views and so won’t defend them.
You can see it at 00:32 in the video below. Tatchell chooses to put into play the idea that children and adults can have perfectly functional sexual relationships, according to one of his friends, and then preempts any pushback by saying, “That’s what he’s saying…who am I, or you, to dispute it?”
Tatchell opens the piece by saying that Lee has been having sex with boys since the age of eight, and with men since he was 12. But, he says, “Lee has a serious problem”. Lee’s problem is that he has “been going out recently with a guy in his mid-twenties.” This meant that Lee’s partner was, in the eyes of the law, a paedophile and that Lee was a victim of child abuse. Tatchell tells us that “that’s not, however, the way Lee sees it” saying that Lee wants to have a boyfriend, doesn’t consider himself to be being abused, and doesn’t think he and his partner should be treated like criminals.
Tatchell says that Lee’s “sophisticated gay image makes him look older than 14”, that “he comes across as bright, articulate, sure of himself and mature beyond his years” and that “It’s hard to imagine anyone getting away with taking advantage of him.” Later in the interview Lee will tell Tatchell that was tied up and raped by a man he prostituted himself to in order to fund his drug habit.
Lee tells Tatchell he prefers older men, men in their 20s or early 30s. He says they “are more experienced and serious.” He says “the law is stupid. If I know what I’m doing and I’m not harming anyone else, I should be allowed to have sex with who I want.”
Lee says his first sexual experience was at eight and a half years old, he says “I liked it a lot. It was great.”
Lee says his mother accepted his homosexuality but that he ended up in a children’s home because of family difficulties. Lee talked about spending 18 months, at the age of 11, prostituting himself and a 14 year old friend called Andrew, whom Lee was in a sexual relationship with, to older men for money, saying they picked up men at local gardens and bus stations. He says they did it to fund their drug use and says he has had some bad experience with the men – he says that he and Andrew were tied up and raped on one occasion. Tatchell does not comment on this during the interview.
The conversation moves to Lee’s thoughts on paedophiles. Lee says he ran away from the children’s home and stayed with a paedophile he had met at one of the local gardens. Lee says he was “okay” and that “there was no pressure for me to have sex, but I did. I had sex with him because I wanted to feel loved and respected.”
Lee says that his view on paedophiles depends what kind of paedophile is being discussed. He says “Those who have sex with little kids should be strung up by the bollocks. The paedophiles I knew always asked me if I wanted sex. They didn’t pressure me. If you consent to having sex with a paedophile, it’s fine. If you don’t, it’s not.”
Tatchell does, at this point, put it to Lee that he and his friends may simply be “particularly mature for their age.” Lee swats that away without issue. Tatchell asks how a young child can understand meaningful consent? Lee says the “really young ones can’t. But I was 12 when I first had sex with an adult man. I knew what was happening.” He says the other boys he knew who had sex with men in their early teens “understood what they were doing.”
Lee suggests a change to the age of consent which was, incidentally, nearly exactly the policy change Peter Tatchell said he supported at this time – for the age of consent to be reduced to 14 with those under 14 allowed to legally have sex so long as there was no more than 3 years between their ages. But, Tatchell helpfully points out, Lee’s relationship with Andrew would have still been illegal under those proposals, given that Andrew was more than three year’s older than Lee. No, says Tatchell, “something a bit more flexible is required.”
Tatchell says that “the nub of the problem“ is that “our current legal system refuses to acknowledge that young people have a sexuality.”
The piece closes with Lee stating that the laws regarding the age of consent are stopping from having what he wants, to be allowed to have sex with men before he’s 18. He says “a perfect relationship is what I want. It would make me very happy. So why is the law trying to stop?” Tatchell does not provide any answer to the question of why the law might try and prevent men in their mid-twenties from having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old former prostitute with drug dependency issues.
We asked Tatchell if he thought it was appropriate to write up an interview in which a young boy reveals that he has been sleeping with adult men since he was 12, and that he was tied up and raped whilst working as a prostitute to fund his drug habit, without once mentioning the phrases “sexual assault”, “rape”, or “child abuse” in your commentary. He told us that “I would class what happened to him as sexual assault, child abuse and rape. But the interview was about him, not me. This interview was a journalistic piece for a magazine and my duty as an occasional professional journalist is to be as objective as possible and not impose my views on the interviewee.”
Tatchell also said that he had told Lee that he should report the men who slept with him to the police, and that he urged Lee to get support.
There is a scene in the famous 1966 film A Man for all Seasons, which details the life of Sir Thomas More, in which the trial of Sir Thomas More takes place. During that scene More’s testimony is met with the retort that what he says, “is not evidence.” Sir Thomas More responds by saying “true, but is it probable?”
Peter Tatchell emphatically denies knowing anything about anything and anyone connected with PIE, or to have ever said anything positive about child-adult sexual relationships. And yet he has repeatedly found himself in unusual situations and he has repeatedly made comments that a reasonable person could have read in a very different way than what he says he intended.
We know that Tatchell says he assumed the best of the pro-paedophilia book Dares to Speak because he had been informed its editor was on the board of a Catholic newspapers, and so “assumed him to be a person of moral integrity and uprightness.” We know that Tatchell said, in defense of the letter he sent regarding Dares to Speak, that “Unlike many Catholic clergy, I have never abused anyone. Unlike the Pope, I have never failed to report abusers or covered up their crimes. I do not support sex with children. Full stop.” We know that he rather famously said, “The Bible is to gays what Mein Kampf is to Jews.” So, is it probable that Peter Tatchell could make those sorts of statements whilst also thinking that sitting on the board of a prominent Catholic newspaper means one is a person of the utmost moral integrity and uprightness who should be left to edit The Journal of Paedophilia without having to face questions?
We know that Tatchell says he knew nothing of the nature and affiliations of Ian Campbell Dunn. We know that Dunn’s relationship to PIE was reported in a national newspaper over a decade before he died and that his fundraising of a libel action was heavily discussed in the LGBT community. We know Dunn was a man who said, “I am not one of those homosexuals who get cross or nervous when the subject of love between men and boys is raised” and that he organised, and openly advertised, pro-paedophilia meetings in multiple cities. We know a book had been published which discussed his ties to PIE nearly 8 years before Tatchell wrote his obituary. And we know that a separate obituary, published at roughly the same time, mentioned the negative aspects of Dunn’s life that Tatchell’s obituary did not. So, is it probable that Peter Tatchell had heard nothing of Dunn’s activities before Ian Dunn’s death, and discovered nothing noteworthy whilst researching and writing the obituary?
We know that Tatchell says that he was tricked into writing a chapter of a pro-paedophilia book. We know that he has said he did not know who the editor of that book would be. We know that someone with access to Peter Tatchell’s personal website edited Peter Tatchell’s statement on his involvement with the book to remove the name of Warren Middleton, the editor of the book. We know Tatchell’s original statement on the book did not make any claim that the book was edited to remove additional material. We know that Warren Middleton was widely reported to be a high-ranking member of PIE the year before Tatchell agreed to contribute to the book. We know a number of those reports were made in the Guardian, the paper a man of Tatchell’s political leanings would be most likely to read, regarding Middleton’s affiliates and we know that Tatchell definitely reads the Guardian years later because he responds to a book review in it. So, is it probable that Peter Tatchell either did not know who the editor of the book was, and wrote a chapter for the book anyway, or that he did know, but has forgotten, and initially did the work because he did not know that Middleton was involved with PIE?
We know that Tatchell says his interview of Lee was about Lee’s views, not Tatchell’s. We know that Tatchell says Lee is a real person who reached out to him. We know Tatchell has said he merely delivered the views others have on the idea of children and adults having sex, without judgement. We know that he has, on multiple occasions, chosen to bring up the views of people that he says were unharmed by engaging in sex with adults when they were children. We know that Tatchell has pushed back on criticism of that idea by asking who his critics are to question the lived experiences of the people he is quoting. We know that he says the men who had sex with Lee when he was 12 are guilty of rape, but it’s unclear why Tatchell doesn’t believe Lee to be the same as the friends Tatchell said had found “great joy” in having sexual relations with adults when they were children. We know Lee is three years older than the youngest person Tatchell claims found “great joy” in sexual acts with adults. So, is it probable that Peter Tatchell is unaware of why some of the views he puts forward on this issue might be seen, by reasonable people, as minimising the impact of the sexual assault and rape of children?
Regardless of our answers none of the above is new information, blogs have been talking about this, about Peter Tatchell, for years. Julie Bindel, the prominent feminist, published an article in the Guardian in 2001 titled ‘’Gay men need to talk straight about paedophilia” which quoted Tatchell’s 1997 letter to the Guardian. She wrote more directly on Tatchell in her 2018 article “Peter Tatchell dismisses feminists like me as “transphobes”. But he has his own skeleton in the closet.” That article discussed what Bindel described as Tatchell’s “apparent defence of child sexual abuse”, saying “the Dares to Speak debacle is far from the only example of Tatchell’s apologism for child abuse.” Peter Hitchens wrote a similar article on Tatchell in 2010 for the Mail on Sunday, saying he was grateful that “that Mr Tatchell, unlike most of his allies, is honest enough to discuss openly where the sexual revolution may really be headed.”
What we know to be true is that Peter Tatchell is an immensely respected advocate for LGBT rights, with a proven track record of caring for the rights of minorities of various types, and that he has unambiguously stated that adults should not have sex with children and that child sexual abuse is always wrong. We also know that Peter Tatchell has publicly defended a pro-paedophilia work in a national newspaper; that he has described people looking to normalise paedophilia as “respected and distinguished”; that he has written about people he should have known were involved with paedophilia advocacy in a way which erased that work from their past; that he has introduced the view that children and adults can engage in solely positive sexual relations into the public sphere multiple times; and that he contributed to a book edited by someone publicly known to have been one of the leaders of a paedophile network.
That is what we know, but what we have to decide, based on the evidence available to us, is if Peter Tatchell’s explanations are probable.
UPDATE 23.07.20: Peter Tatchell’s response to this piece.
Mr Tatchell was sent a copy of this piece for comment following its publication, and he has responded with concerns regarding the factual accuracy of three sections of this piece.
We have reviewed the sections which he believes contain factual errors and, upon review, we believe that all of the highlighted sections are accurate and free of error. Below are the three sections which Tatchell felt contained factual errors and our reasoning behind rejecting each claim.
Firstly, Tatchell says that it is incorrect to say that he took part in outing gay men and that the men were instead “exposed because they were public figures who were homophobic and hypocritical: they preached against homosexuality in public while they themselves were privately homosexual.” Tatchell says, “It was this two-faced attitude and their collusion with the persecution of LGBT+ people that was the reason we named them.”
Whilst that may have been the reason behind the outings it is clearly true that Tatchell took part in the outing of gay men. That he did so because he had decided that they deserved to be outed due to his perception of their public opinion on homosexuality does not change that fact.
As such we reject the claim that it was factually incorrect to state that Tatchell was involved in the outing of gay men.
Secondly, Tatchell says that the publication date of the Lee interview was not 2011 but rather 1997. He says that the interview was “transferred from my old website to my new one, with the rest of my archive, in 2011”, and that “it was not published or republished in 2011.”
The piece states that the interview is originally from Thud magazine, a gay lifestyle magazine which appears to have closed around 1999/2000, and so readers were already aware that the piece on Tatchell’s website was a republication of an older interview. As to the claim that the piece was not published or republished in 2011 the argument that uploading material to a public website does not constitute a publication or republication is not an argument we believe to be compelling.
As such we reject the claim that it was factually incorrect to state that the article was published or republished on Tatchell’s personal website in 2011.
Thirdly, Tatchell says that our usage of the use of the word ‘multiple’ in sentences referring to him bringing the idea of a positive child-adult sexual relationship into the public sphere is inaccurate as, “my dictionary definition of multiple is: ‘Numerous and often varied.’ I have not made those comments numerous times. Only twice.” Tatchell says that the video linked above should not be counted as an example as, “The video interview was me being asked about the Guardian letter. I did not raise the issue voluntarily myself.”
In relation to the video and the idea that it cannot be counted as Tatchell was asked a question; it is true that Tatchell does not control the questions he is asked, but it also true that he absolutely controls how he chooses to respond to those questions.
In relation to the claim that Tatchell has only made these sorts of comments twice the piece contains three examples, four if you include the video, of Tatchell making the claim that he knew people who had slept with adults when they were children and had told him they had had positive experiences, those being: the two letters to the Guardian, as both make the claim; his interview with Lee; and the video interview in the piece. Tatchell also repeated that line during his recent interview with Niall Boylan.
Tatchell’s statement in his chapter of the book Betrayal of Youth that it is “usually this social shame, more than the sexual act itself, which harms young people…the psychological scars of court cases and societal disapproval often remain long after the actual sexual encounter is forgotten”, could arguably also be put into this category.
As such we reject the claim that it was factually incorrect to use the word ‘multiple’ when we said, “We know that he has, on multiple occasions, chosen to bring up the views of people that he says were unharmed by engaging in sex with adults when they were children” and that “he has introduced the view that children and adults can engage in solely positive sexual relations into the public sphere multiple times”.
Tatchell also requested that the piece be amended to: take more account of his currently stated views on child-adult sexual relationships; to note more heavily that he condemns totally the sexual abuse of children; to reiterate that he believes the age of consent should remain at 16; and that he was unaware that Warren Middleton was the editor of Betrayal of Youth when he agreed to contribute to the book.
We have decided not to amend the article in light of these concerns as we believe the article states Tatchell’s stated views consistently and fully, as does the totally unedited interview at the bottom of this piece.
What Peter Tatchell really said about child sex abuse
Our PTF Director speaks out against lies & smears
Dublin, Ireland – 13 July 2020
Gript.ie website interview with Peter Tatchell
Interviewer Gary Kavanagh
Peter Tatchell – Introduction
First, let me say that I condemn without reservation child sex abuse, the rape of children and adults having sex with kids. It is abhorrent, totally wrong and unacceptable. The perpetrators should be jailed. I have never condoned paedophilia. There are no circumstances where it is acceptable for adults to have sex with children.
My writing on the age of consent has been solely concerned with ending the criminalisation of young people of similar ages. I have never supported adults having sex with children. I have campaigned against child sex abuse, supported victims seeking justice and proposed ways of strengthening action against paedophilia. See this article from 2015:
Young people should not have sex at an early age. They should wait until they are over 16. The age of consent should remain at 16 but consenting sex involving teens under 16 should not be prosecuted, providing there is no more than two or three years difference in their ages, which is the law in several European countries including Germany and Switzerland. This means sex between persons aged 14 and 15 would not be prosecuted, but sex between a 14-year old and a person aged 18 or older should remain a criminal offence.
The false allegation that I support paedophilia has whipped up extreme violent hate against me; some of it threatening and menacing, including images of nooses. I worry that I might be in danger of violent attack.
Guardian letter 1997
These questions relate to the letter you sent to the Guardian in 1997, in which you defended the book Dares to Speak following a negative review of the book in that publication.
Gary Kavanagh: You have said the letter you sent to the Guardian was edited, but how exactly, and to what extent, was it edited? Do you have a copy of the original?
Peter Tatchell: My letter said paedophilia is “impossible” to condone. This means I do not condone it. I wholeheartedly condemn it. I find it repulsive and inexcusable. Whatever else my letter said, and no matter how it has been misinterpreted by others, my use of the word “impossible” makes it clear that I do not support paedophilia in any way. And I never will.
I don’t have a copy of my Guardian letter. It was done on a typewriter and I did not have a photocopier. Some points that were omitted from the published version of the letter include a specific statement that I opposed adults having sex with children, that I empathise with and support the victims of child sex abuse and that I believe an academic discussion of these issues, based on research and evidence, is legitimate and should not be misinterpreted as support for any form of child sex abuse. Such abuse is monstrous and should be punished.
Did you lodge a complaint with the Guardian, or with a relevant press oversight body, or engage in legal action, regarding the editing of the letter?
I complained to the Guardian by phone. They apologised. I accepted their explanation that it was an inadvertent unintentional mistake. They said they thought that by including my statement that paedophilia was “impossible to condone” it was clear that I was not endorsing child sex abuse. I am not rich enough to sue for libel and defamation. Nor did I want to, given the Guardian’s sincere apology and the fact that the mix up was not deliberate. There was no effective press complaints body at that time. My letter did not create a public outcry when it was published in 1997. It was not intended or interpreted as support for child sex abuse. People did not read it that way. It has only many years later been mispresented.
Do you stand by your statement that the book offers “a rational, informed perspective on sexual relations between younger and older people” and documents “examples of societies where consenting inter-generational sex is considered normal, beneficial and enjoyable by old and young alike”?
That is a factual statement about the book’s documentation of practices in other societies but I strongly disagree with them and with the thesis that paedophilia is acceptable. Child sex abuse is vile and deplorable.
Do you stand by your statement that “the positive nature of some child-adult sexual relationships is not confined to Western cultures”? If so, how do you square that with your recently stated belief that adults having sex with children is always wrong?
I made a factual statement about what others think but this does not mean that I agree with them. I reiterate my view that sexual relations with children are despicable and always wrong, even if other people document societies where these relationships are acceptable and deemed positive. They are profoundly mistaken and are colluding with child sex abuse.
Do you stand by your statement that “it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful”, particularly given that the statement occurs at the end of a piece discussing adults having sex with children and not children having sex with others of their same age group?
Some adults say that when they were children they had sex with adults and that the sex was not unwanted, abusive or harmful. They say that, not me. I merely repeated their view. I accept that this is their sincerely held view as mature, responsible, ethical adults. But I do not agree with them. Their view is not my view. I disagree with it, which is why my letter said that paedophilia is “impossible” to condone. This means I do not condone it. I condemn it. Children cannot give valid consent to sex. It is abuse and is rightly illegal.
If you no longer stand over some or all of those statements why did your view(s) change, and when did it/they change?
I have never said it is okay for adults to have sex with children. I have always believed that adults should never have sex with children. It is gross and wrong full stop. I condemn it unreservedly and emphatically.
At the time you wrote the letter, in which you referred to the publication of the book as “courageous” were you aware that the editor of the book was also the editor of Paidika: The Journal of Paedophilia? If not, when did you become aware of that connection?
The book was only courageous in the sense that it was discussing issues that most people, including me, find completely unacceptable. The authors were rendering themselves liable to social ostracism, loss of their jobs and worse. Even very bad people are capable of courageous acts. For example, the WW1 German flying ace Baron von Richthofen was courageous, even though he was on the enemy aggressor side in that war.
The book’s editor Joseph Geraci had been on the board of a prominent and esteemed Catholic newspaper, Catholic Worker, so I assumed him to be a person of moral integrity and uprightness.
I wrote the Guardian letter on the basis that Dares to Speak was an academic book, not a book advocating paedophilia. I had not read Dares to Speak – only a summary that someone sent me out of a concern that there were calls to ban or prosecute the book, which I saw as an attack on free speech. This summary did not mention that the book gave any support for paedophilia. It said the book was about research on the subject by academics.
In writing my letter, I was not endorsing any pro-paedophile connections or views that the editor and contributors may have had. I deplore and condemn Paidika and what it stands for. I have never read Paidika.
I was told it was an academic journal by researchers, psychologists, anthropologists and sociologists, similar to academic journals on criminality, prostitution and drug use, which do not advocate for their subject matter.
I was not aware when I wrote the letter that Paidika was involved in paedophilia advocacy and normalisation – which I totally disagree with and condemn. When, some weeks later, I was informed that Paidika was a pro-paedophile journal, I was shocked, appalled and furious. I would not have written the letter about the book if I had known the truth about Paidika. What it stands for is ghastly and vile.
What is your view on this segment of Paidika’s Statement of Purpose: “But to speak today of paedophilia, which we understand to be consensual intergenerational sexual relationships, is to speak of the politics of oppression. This is the milieu in which we are enmeshed, the fabric of our daily life and struggle. There is no country where there are not proscriptions against even the most innocent consensual paedophile relationships… It is our contention that the oppression of paedophilia is part of the larger repression of sexuality”? Were you aware of their statement of purpose when you wrote in support of the book?
I was not aware of Paidika’s statement of purpose when I wrote the letter. I strongly disagree with that statement and I condemn Paidika and its way of thinking in the strongest possible terms. It is not a journal that I have read or would ever want to read. It is obnoxious.
Did you know, or know of, Joseph Geraci when you wrote your letter?
I did not know or know of Joseph Geraci at the time; other than he was the book’s editor and that he had been involved with a newspaper, the Catholic Worker, which I was told was well respected. I deplore his views. They are outrageous and disgusting. I have never met him and would never want to meet him.
In your letter you say that the book contains the work of several “distinguished” researchers who offer “a rational, informed perspective on sexual relations between younger and older people.” The only researcher whose work you call out by name is Professor Gilbert Herdt who discusses the Sambia tribe as one example of a culture in which child-adult sex produces “happy, well adjusted” adults. When you pointed to Professor Herdt as an expert on this area, were you aware of the following quote from the Professor: “The category ‘child’ is a rhetorical device for inflaming what is really an irrational set of attitudes”? If so, were you aware that the quote comes from a conversation between Joseph Geraci and Professor Herdt which had been published in Paidika? The topic of discussion was the ways and means through which paedophilia could be “normalized”.
I have never seen or read Paidika. I was not aware of that quote by Prof Herdt and not aware of where it was published, until you now mention it. Nor was I aware of any conversations between Geraci and Herdt. I emphatically denounce the normalisation of acceptance of paedophilia. It is morally wrong.
Do you still think that Professor Herdt is a distinguished expert who offers a rational and informed perspective on sexual relations between younger and older people? If not, when and why did you change your view?
Prof Herdt is a distinguished anthropologist who has taught at some of the world’s most prestigious universities but that does not mean that I agree with him. He presented evidence of a society where there are socially acceptable sexual relations between older and younger people. As an anthropologist who researches different cultures, it is valid for him to present that factual evidence. However, I do not approve of those relations. I robustly condemn any of his views that seek to justify or normalise paedophilia.
What part of Ms Coward’s review moved you to respond so forcibly to the letter? You have said that it was due to your wish to stop attempts to “censor” the book but I don’t believe Ms Coward called for the book to be censored.
Other people suggested that the book should be censored or even banned and that there should be no public discussion about the research it presented. I defended the right of the book to be published and discussed on free speech grounds. But I never agreed with any suggestion that paedophilia is acceptable. I condemn it emphatically.
Do you agree with Ms Coward that the book was a “sneaky defence of an exploitative activity”?
The authors included academics who were not, to my knowledge at that time, advocates or defenders of paedophilia. I cannot say what the authors intended but if it was to legitimate the sexual abuse of children then I totally disagree with them. I deplore and reject that. There are no circumstances where it is acceptable for adults to have sex with children.
Ian Dunn and the Paedophile Information Exchange [PIE]
These questions relation the obituary you wrote for Ian Campbell Dunn, a Scottish gay rights activist and one of the founders of the Paedophile Information Exchange.
You described him in your obituary as a “pioneer for lesbian and gay human rights, remaining a central figure in the battle for homosexual equality…for 30 years.” You did not discuss his past as a central figure in PIE or his pro-paedophile work.
I never knew that Ian Dunn was linked to PIE when I wrote his obituary. PIE is disgusting. I condemn it. I only found out many years later that Dunn had been involved in PIE. I would not have written the obituary if I had known this. I wrote his obituary solely because Dunn had made a huge contribution to LGBT+ rights in Scotland over many decades, as evidenced by the many public figures who attended the church service in his remembrance. They were also, I presume, unaware of his involvement with PIE, otherwise they would not have attended his commemoration.
What exactly was the nature of your relationship with Ian Dunn, were you friends and, if so, how involved were you in each other’s lives? Did you ever work together, formally or informally, in any organisation?
We barely knew each other. We were not close friends. Dunn lived in Scotland and I lived in London. We cooperated very occasionally on LGBT+ equality campaigns, like working to secure legislation to protect LGBT+ people against discrimination in housing and employment. We were never involved in the same organisation. I only met Dunn a few times. I knew nothing about his personal life.
You have said that you were not aware of Dunn’s links with PIE when you wrote his obituary, and that it was years after the fact that you became aware. Could you explain how you had missed the Sunday Mail expose on Mr Dunn, which had linked Mr Dunn to PIE directly? I know Mr Dunn had fundraised heavily amongst the LGBT community, following the release of that piece, for a legal challenge against the Sunday Mail, something which appears to have been quietly dropped, and so I would have thought you would have become aware of Mr Dunn’s links with PIE at that point, particularly given that he was such a well-known figure at the time.
I did not read the Sunday Mail. It is a Scottish tabloid newspaper. I do not read the tabloid press and the Sunday Mail is not published in London where I live. I was not aware of Dunn’s legal challenge or any fundraising for that. The Scottish LGBT+ movement that Ian Dunn was involved with was very separate from the London one where I was engaged. There was little contact between the two.
When did you become aware that a young man went to Mr Dunn’s funeral and announced that Mr Dunn had raped him when he was 14/15?
I was never aware of any rape until you mention it now. I am shocked and appalled to hear that. I never heard anyone announce that they were raped by Dunn – either at his funeral or since then. Your mention is the first time I have heard about it. I condemn that rape. My sympathies are with the victim. If Ian Dunn raped that youth, he should have been prosecuted. I would have supported his prosecution. Rape is a shocking, evil crime.
Some have said that Mr Dunn dropped his case against the Sunday Mail because a tape of him admitting to the sexual assault of a minor was found. Did you ever hear that allegation, either as a fact or a rumour?
I never heard any allegation or rumour about him committing or admitting the sexual assault of a minor. I would have reported it to the police, had I heard it. I absolutely condemn such abhorrent criminal behaviour.
Why did you decide to write an obituary for Mr Dunn?
I wrote the obituary because Ian was a leading figure in the Scottish LGBT+ movement for many decades and made a big contribution to ending discrimination against the LGBT+ community.
When you decided to write the obituary for Mr Dunn did you conduct any research before publication? If so, how did you miss two major news stories about Mr Dunn?
I based my obituary on what I knew about Ian’s work for LGBT+ equality. I did not read or hear about any news stories or rumours involving Dunn and child sex abuse. Both stories were in papers I never or rarely read.
The Times has reported that Mr Dunn openly advertised pro-paedophile meetings in Glasgow and Edinburgh. They report him as saying, “I am not one of those homosexuals who get cross or nervous when the subject of love between men and boys is raised.” Were you aware of either that fact or that statement before you wrote the obituary? If not, when did you learn of them? If so, why did you omit that information from his obituary?
I lived hundreds of miles away in London and I rarely read The Times newspaper. I was not aware of those advertisements, that statement or any similar statement until you mentioned it now. I condemn them.
Do you believe that Ian Campbell Dunn was a paedophile?
I have no knowledge that Dunn was a paedophile. I rarely met him. He never discussed the issue or his private life with me. If he was a child sex abuser, I would have reported him had I known about that.
What is your view on PIE’s campaign to lower the age of consent to 4 years old?
It is a vile abusive suggestion. I oppose and condemn it. Children cannot consent.
Do you believe that paedophiles can rightly be classed as an oppressed minority?
Paedophiles are not an oppressed minority. They are perpetrators, not victims. I will never support any person or campaign that makes such an absurd, disgraceful and immoral suggestion.
Did you ever meet Tom O’Carroll, the chair of PIE from 1977 to 1979, and, if so, what was the nature of your relationship?
I never met Tom O’Carroll and would never want to. I condemn all that he stands for. His views are disgusting.
Chapter in Betrayal of Youth
These questions relate to a chapter you wrote for a book titled “Betrayal of Youth”, or BOY. The book was edited by Warren Middleton, the vice-chairman of PIE, and the acknowledgement section of the book directly thanks the Executive Committee of PIE for their help in putting the book together.
You have said you were tricked into writing a chapter for Betrayal of Youth, when did you become aware that you had been misled? Who in particular reached out to you to ask you to write a piece for the book, was it Warren Middleton?
For nearly 40 years, I have received an average about 500 requests each year to write for books, magazines, websites etc. It is impossible for me to remember the names of all 20,000 people who asked me – especially those from four decades ago. The request to write for the Betrayal of Youth was in about 1981 or 1982. It was made by phone call and I was given an address to post it to. I do not remember who asked me to write the chapter or the address to which I sent it. No mention was made of PIE or paedophilia when I was asked to write my chapter. Paedophiles are devious. They knew I would not write for a PIE book, so I was told it was a book about child welfare and rights, with contributions by child welfare experts, psychologists and the Labour politician Ken Livingstone. It seemed a legitimate book and a reasonable request. I had no idea that it had any connection to PIE and that it would even mention paedophilia, let alone justify it. If I had known, I would not have agreed to write anything for that dreadful, nauseating book.
Were you aware of who the editor of the book would be before you wrote your piece?
I was not aware of the editor of the book. I did not find out who the book’s editor was until after the book was published and I was posted a copy – about four or more years after I wrote my chapter. I was horrified and angry. I wanted to complain but the book had no contact address.
Were you paid for writing your piece?
I was not paid for my chapter. What I wrote did not even mention paedophilia, let alone endorse child sex abuse. Nothing in my chapter could be construed as approving the abuse of children. Such abuse is obnoxious and evil.
What was the nature of your relationship with Warren Middleton? Did you know him when you were both in the Gay Liberation Front?
I have never associated with Warren Middleton. I had no relationship with him. I was not aware that he was in the Gay Liberation Front. If he was involved in GLF, he had no place there. GLF did not support paedophilia – and nor do I. I oppose child sex abuse and urge the prosecution of perpetrators.
When did you become aware that Mr Middleton was heavily involved with PIE?
Several years later, when the book was published. I was enraged, appalled and felt conned.
When you became aware that you had been misled did you make any attempt to stop the publication of the book?
I did not become aware that I had been misled until after the book was published when someone sent me a copy in about 1986 or 1987. I had no contact details for the publisher. It was self-published. I was shocked, disgusted and angry. I was posted a copy, with no note about who sent it and no contact details on the book to whom I could complain.
Did you ever speak publicly, in the years immediately after the publication of the book, about your displeasure at being deceived into being involved in the book and/or denounce the book? If not, why not?
The book was amateurishly produced and self-published. My only consolation was that no bookshop would want to stock it and it would doubtless (and thankfully) have a very tiny circulation. I presume that hardly anyone outside PIE circles saw it. On the very rare occasions that people mentioned the book many years later, I explained that I had been deceived, expressed my anger and made it clear that I totally disagreed with what the other authors were saying. I denounced the book and child sex abuse.
Did you ever conduct any other work, paid or unpaid, or engage in any activity, formally or informally, which was to the benefit of PIE or its members? Did you ever write, under your own name or under a pen name/unnamed, for any other PIE publication?
Apart from being tricked to write the chapter in Betrayal of Youth, I have never written for any PIE-linked publication or in any way endorsed PIE or done anything to benefit PIE or its members. I have never written anything anonymously or under a pen name. I have never done any work with or for PIE members. PIE’s ideas are repellent and against my human rights values.
Do you still think, as you say in your piece, that the concept of an age of majority serves no purpose other than “reinforcing a set of increasingly quaint, minority moral values left over from the Victorian era”?
I was alluding to the now rejected Victorian view that children should be seen and not heard; and that children have no rights and are the mere property of adults. This attitude plays into the hands of child sex abusers, who rely on children’s deference, compliance and submission to get away with their vile deeds. Arguing in favour of young people as young citizens with rights and responsibilities, I suggested that any fixed age of majority is arbitrary for things like voting, drinking, marriage, buying cigarettes, joining the army or consenting to sex. A person one day below a fixed legal age is deemed incapable or unfit to decide, whereas a person one day older is not. This is not logical. Nor does it take into account that different people mature at different ages.
My chapter in the book did not mention or endorse adults having sex with children. It merely questioned whether 16 was the appropriate legal age of consent. There are many countries that have diverse ages of consent, some higher and some lower than 16. I did not advocate the abolition of the age of consent or specify at what age sex should become lawful.
The section in my chapter about voting rights and other legal rights and responsibilities for teenagers was deleted by the editor; giving it a stronger focus towards the age of consent issue than I had written. The Notes and References to my chapter were added by the book’s publishers – not by me and without my knowledge or permission. I was furious.
What is your view of the content of the book, particularly the section immediately after yours, written by Roger Moody and titled “Ends and Means: How to Make Paedophilia Acceptable”?
I totally reject the pro-paedophilia content of the book and the abhorrent views of Roger Moody. I never knew he wrote for the book, or what others wrote, until several years later, after the book was published. If I had known that he and they were writing chapters, I would have never agreed to write for that vile book. I do not believe in making child sex abuse acceptable. It is an immoral, criminal act. The perpetrators should be prosecuted and punished.
When did you become aware that Mr Middleton had the distinction of being the first person in the UK to be arrested for “making drawings of children being raped”?
I was not aware of his arrest until now you mention it. I do not know or follow the activities of Middleton or any paedophiles. I loathe them. I was possibly out of the country on my many human rights trips abroad when his case was reported. I would have spoken out against such gross behaviour if I had known about it.
Interview with Lee
These questions relate to an interview you published on your website in which you talked to “Lee”, a 14 year-old boy who had been having sex with boys since the age of 8, and with men since he was 12.
Can you confirm that Lee was a real person and explain how he reached out to you? I ask as Lee articulates views that appear to be largely in line with views you have yourself campaigned for, and he does so with a level of articulation that one would not expect from a 14 year-old.
Lee is a real person and was one of several young male and female teenagers who contacted me during the OutRage! campaign to equalise the age of consent at 16. They wanted to tell their stories and opinions about the age of consent. I agree that Lee was surprisingly articulate. The views that I wrote about were his own. They are what he told me. They are not my views.
Are you aware that the interview, in full, has been republished in the newsletter of International Paedophile and Child Emancipation [IPCE]? If so, why do you think they republished it and how do you feel about that publication?
I was not aware that the interview was republished in a paedophile journal. I did not give permission and I would have refused permission if I had been asked. That publication is disgusting.
Do you feel you pushed back sufficiently against Lee when he said that sex at age 9 “was great”?
I challenged Lee on several occasions during the interview. My challenges included asking:
“How can a young child understand sex and give meaningful consent?
“Perhaps your friends were particularly mature for their age. Most young people are not so sophisticated about sex.
“Many people worry that the power imbalance in a relationship between a youth and an adult means the younger person can be easily manipulated and exploited.
“Many people fear that making sex easier for under-age teenagers will expose them to dangers like HIV. Isn’t that a legitimate worry?
I do not agree with 9 year olds having sex and do not agree with Lee that it is “great.” Children aged 9 cannot consent to sex. I disapproved and told him so. I advised Lee to contact Childline and LGBT youth groups. I told him he should not be having sex with adults, that he should report his abusers and, that if he was going to have sex, it would be better to have sex with young people his own age. He assured me that he was being supervised by his social worker and by a woman in her 30s who he had befriended and was helping look after him.
Do you believe that Lee was raped or sexually assaulted by the adult men who slept with him when he was 12 years old?
Yes, Lee was raped when 12 years old. The persons responsible should be jailed.
You say that Lee “has a serious problem” and then describe how the legal system has created that problem. Do you think that was the most pressing problem in Lee’s life? Particularly given how Lee details his sex with older men and working as an underage prostitute to fund his drug habit.
Lee should not have been having sex with older men, doing drugs or working as a prostitute. I told him so. I urged him to get support and to report his abusers to the police.
Do you think it was appropriate to say about a minor who had been having sex with men “since he was 12″ that he was ‘bright, articulate, sure of himself, and mature beyond his years” and “It’s hard to imagine anyone getting away with taking advantage of him.” Particularly given that Lee himself had said he was “tied up and raped” by one of the men he prostituted himself to.
I made that comment about Lee as he presented himself when I spoke to him. It was a factual statement about his maturity, which is reflected in his answers during the interview. I was shocked and distressed when Lee said he had been sexually exploited and raped. I told him that the things done to him by adults were serious crimes and that even though they had happened years previously he should report the assailants to the police. He said he did not know their names or where to find them. I told him he should go the police anyway.
Do you think it was appropriate to engage in a discussion with a young boy, in which he reveals that he has been sleeping with adult men since he was 12, and to then print an interview in which the phrases “sexual assault”, “rape” and/or “child abuse” do not appear once?
I was quoting Lee’s words. He did not use the words that you cite. However, I would class what happened to him as sexual assault, child abuse and rape. But the interview was about him, not me. This interview was a journalistic piece for a magazine and my duty as an occasional professional journalist is to be as objective as possible and not impose my views on the interviewee. The article used the words Lee used. And I several times challenged him. What happened to him was criminal abuse and the abusers should behind bars.
The interview seems to have been removed from your site. Why was it removed?
The interview is not removed from my website. Having it on my website does not mean that I approve of what Lee said or did. He is entitled to his view. You and I are entitled to disagree with it. This is called free speech. It is vital to listen to young people’s personal experiences and perspectives, even if we disagree with them; just as it is vital to listen to people who say they were abused and to prosecute their abusers. All young people should be listened to. Reporting the facts and a young person’s opinion is not an endorsement. Other items on my website quote various human rights abusers. By so doing, I am not supporting them. I am merely reporting what they said.
Can you confirm the photos, which show you holding an OutRage! placard which says “16 is just the start” are authentic and explain what the phrase “16 is just the start” is referring to?
The OutRage! placard “16 is just a start” referred to the fact the battle for an equal age of consent at 16 was just the start of a larger campaign to repeal all anti-gay discrimination. The adjacent placards in the same photos indicated that. They said: “Scrap ALL anti-gay laws.”
You’ve said recently that you don’t support adults having sex with a child, but given your views on the age of majority could you define for me what you mean when you say “child”? Do you measure that in age or do you measure that in mental and emotional maturity?
Adults should not have sex with youngsters under 16 in any circumstances or with a person over 16 who lacks mental and emotional maturity. They cannot give informed consent by knowing and understanding the implications and consequences of a sexual relationship.
Do you still agree with your statement, made during your speech to the Sex and Law Conference in Sheffield in 2010, that “Despite what the puritans and sex-haters say, under-age sex is mostly consenting, safe and fun. It does not result in any damage. If there is harm caused, it is usually not as a result of sex per se”?
I was talking about consenting under-age sexual relations involving young people of similar ages. Clearly, even among teens around the same age, some people are damaged by consensual sexual experiences. This damage may be because of the sexual act or because the relationship involved emotional abuse and harm. Perhaps they were treated badly by their girlfriend or boyfriend who cheated on them or denied them love and affection. That is deplorable. Because of possible sexual and emotional harm, I said in that same speech it is better for young people to wait until they are older and more mature. I advised that it is best if young people do not have sex at an early age.
Factually speaking, most under-age sex involves young people of similar ages, around 14-16. It rarely involves people much older. When it does involve adults, I condemn that and believe those adults should be prosecuted. Child sex abuse is grotesque and the perpetrators should be jailed.
Do you hold the view that the negative impact of paedophilia upon children is primarily due to the way in which society views sexuality and sexual acts, particularly those involving children, rather than directly caused by any sex acts that may occur?
I do not agree with that statement. Paedophilia is abusive, harmful, degrading and damaging. It is vile, unacceptable and should not be tolerated. When under-age sex involves genuine consent between young people of similar ages, say between two 15 year-olds, negative and hostile reactions may cause the young person more harm psychologically and emotionally than the sexual act. Again, I stress that I do not encourage or support under-age sex. It is best if young people wait until they are older.
Finally, let me repeat: Child sex abuse is never right. It is always wrong. The same goes for those who justify or excuse paedophilia. They are never right and always wrong. Adults should not have sex with children full stop, end of story.
Peter Tatchell – 13 July 2020