Are we all Jerry Sanduskys?
That’s the accusation made recently by Anthony Esolen.
Pedophilia, Esolen charges, is not limited to the horrifying cases of the Sanduskys of the world. Rather, we engage in pedophilia whenever we subordinate the welfare of children to the sexual gratification of adults.
In this logic, divorce is nothing but a socially acceptable form of pedophilia. Having children outside of wedlock is pedophilia. Worst of all are the “creeps” at Planned Parenthood (Esolen calls them “Planned Predators”) who teach young children a debased vision of sex. These “pedophiles of the soul,” Esolen accuses, cruelly introduce
children to the delights of meaningless sex, with cartoons of talking penises and vaginas, of a girl bending over with a mirror to inspect her anus, or a boy in his bedroom abusing himself.
What is that, Esolen asks, if not pedophilia of the worst sort? Indeed, such “credentialed spiritual pederasts” use the same strategy as old-fashioned child rapists. They work to separate children from the influence of their parents. In their sexually aggressive ideology, Esolen writes,
Parents are the enemy. The parents are kept in the dark. The parents are too benighted to know what is best. The parents—even such sporadically responsible parents as our generation has produced—wouldn’t know about how happy it is to be sexually free.
As Esolen must have intended, such accusations are profoundly disturbing. There is nothing more heinous than real child molesters. It seems to me to breach the bounds of public civility to accuse the sex-educators at Planned Parenthood of acting like nothing more than “the old man down the street, wheezing and giggling, who likes to show little kids pictures of people masturbating[.]”
But if Esolen’s extreme anger represents the feelings of a broad body of the American public, it certainly helps us understand why sex education has had such a troubled career in America’s public schools. Indeed, as historians such as Jeffrey Moran have argued, sex ed has often been received with the violence and outrage that Esolen’s essay predicts.
Such outrage makes more sense if we understand the way Esolen hopes to redefine pedophilia.