The real lesson of the Jimmy Savile scandal
Published in: Daily Mail
The Jimmy Savile scandal is fast escalating into one of the most shocking cases of a sexual predator that has ever been uncovered.
As the BBC tears itself apart over its role in Savile’s unchecked, five-decade sexual rampage, the scale of his abuse of under-age girls and boys is turning out to be unimaginably vast.
So the question that’s been voiced from the start — how on earth so many people could have turned a blind eye to so much horror for so long — grows ever louder.
The answer must involve the threatening character of Savile, the cult of celebrity and the mind-twisting fact of his charity work.
But the elephant in this most sordid of rooms is surely the way in which our culture of permissiveness gave a green light to depravity. For decriminalising paedophilia was once a liberal cause.
Back in 1978, an organisation called the Paedophile Information Exchange affiliated itself to the National Council for Civil Liberties — known today as Liberty.
PIE — whose members were reportedly attracted to boys and girls — set out to make paedophilia respectable. It campaigned to reduce the age of consent and resist controls on child pornography.
Until it excluded PIE in 1983, the NCCL thus backed this disgusting agenda of child abuse. Indeed, even before PIE was affiliated to it the NCCL was campaigning to liberalise paedophilia and reduce the age of sexual consent to 14.
In 1976, the NCCL argued ‘childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in with an adult, result in no identifiable damage’.
And in 1977 it said: ‘NCCL has no policy on [PIE’s] aims, other than the evidence that children are harmed if, after a mutual relationship with an adult, they are exposed to the attentions of the police, Press and court.’
The assumption that paedophilia did not harm a child, and that the only harm was done instead by reporting it to the police, was, of course, grotesque.
Yet during this time, when PIE members were being prosecuted on indecency and pornography charges, the General Secretary of the NCCL was Patricia Hewitt — later to become a Labour Cabinet minister.
A second future Labour minister, Harriet Harman, served as the NCCL’s legal officer for four years from 1978.
Harman has called the Savile revelations ‘a stain’ on the BBC. Yet while she was at the NCCL she seemed untroubled by its PIE affiliate. Moreover, she campaigned for a liberalisation of child porn laws.
In the NCCL’s response to a Bill that aimed to ban indecent images of under-16s, she stated absurdly that pornographic photographs or films of children should not be considered indecent unless it could be shown the subject had suffered, claiming that the new law could lead to ‘damaging and absurd prosecutions’ and ‘increase censorship’.
Embarrassed by this reminder, Harman now insists she never condoned pornography and had merely wanted to ensure the new law delivered child protection rather than censorship.
How disingenuous. For in such liberal circles, freedom unconstrained by any rules at all had become the shibboleth. Not just freedom of expression but — fatefully — freedom to have sex without any constraints.
Any form of sexual activity was seen as a ‘right’ — regardless of with whom you did it. That’s why the NCCL also campaigned to decriminalise incest.
Objectors were damned as prigs, prudes and bigots. Their silence was enforced by the vicious, politically correct demonisation of anyone who tried to blow the whistle on licentious behaviour, which was blessed by liberals and thus deemed to be untouchable.
The result was that in case after case over the years, the authorities turned a blind eye to the systematic sexual abuse of children in care homes, principally through the terror of being labelled ‘homophobic’.
Now we are being told by commentators that the culture which covered up Savile’s abuses belonged to a quite different age, that times have radically changed and paedophilia would no longer be tolerated.
But this is just not true. We know that, over the past 20 years or so, paedophile rings were allowed to perpetrate the organised sexual abuse of girls in the North of England, unchecked by police or council officials.
This failure was due to two things: fear of being thought racist, as the perpetrators were overwhelmingly of Pakistani origin; and indifference to the plight of under-age girls who were in care or otherwise troubled and thus written off as sexualised and promiscuous trouble-makers. Their sexual experiences elicited but a shrug.
It is that last element which surely links all these cases. For while paedophilia has become a word that engenders not just social opprobrium but a degree of hysteria, at the same time Britain has, in effect, turned into a paedophile culture. It accepts — even expects — that the very young will be sexually active.
This is because sex has been redefined as a kind of recreational sport whose sole purpose is physical pleasure. The belief that if it is detached from the context of marriage and children it degrades the human spirit is dismissed as laughable or sinister.
Accordingly, sex education in schools promotes all kinds of sexual activity, even to primary school children. So no one listens to protests that such programmes rob young children of their childhood.
The law to protect under-age children has been all but eroded by such toleration of child sexual activity. Even some senior police officers are reluctant to enforce the age of consent, because they no longer see 14 or 15-year-olds as children needing protection.
Meanwhile, even much younger children are targeted by sexually explicit pop lyrics, magazine articles, cosmetics and tarty clothes. Treated as sexualised mini-adults, they behave accordingly.
Ten years ago, a BBC documentary showed how 11-year-old children were preoccupied by fancying each other, snogging their boy and girlfriends and taunting other children who were holding back.
And their parents were complicit in this, telling their children such behaviour was ‘cool’. Teachers were also going along with it, discussing who was ‘in love’ with whom in their class.
The belief that sex was inappropriate for young children had vanished. As one mother said to her young daughter, sex should start ‘when you think it’s right for you’.
As our society recoils in disgust from the accounts of how Jimmy Savile groomed children for sex, the horrible fact is that this society itself grooms children for that very same purpose.
So how can we explain the hysteria over paedophilia? My view is that inflating paedophiles into larger-than-life monsters deflects attention from child abuse dressed up as sexual liberation.
It is notable that hysteria over paedophilia is most pronounced in areas where the traditional family has been smashed, married fathers are rarer than hen’s teeth and women and children are abused physically and sexually by the procession through their houses of stepfathers, boyfriends and one-night stands.
People don’t want to accept that sexual permissiveness has eroded the basics of a civilised society. So the fixation with paedophile bogeymen arises from a grossly displaced sense of personal responsibility.
But the belief that we can all make up the sexual rules as we go along has created a society which quite simply has stopped protecting children.
And that is surely the real lesson of the Jimmy Savile scandal.