The NCCL at the time argued that “we support any organisation that seeks to campaign for anything it wants within the law. They have that right.” This is an argument for freedom of speech, something which the Daily Mail together with many politicians and activists today appear to be uncomfortable with. NCCL’s official response to the then Government’s plans to reform the sexual offences laws, included recommending that the age of consent should be reduced to fourteen. NCCL also argued that “childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in, with an adult result in no identifiable damage”. It claimed that children can suffer more from having to retell their experiences in court. On the subject of indecent images of children NCCL claimed that this could lead to “damaging and absurd prosecutions” and “increased censorship”, adding that an image of a child should not be considered indecent unless it could be shown that the subject had suffered. Prosecutors would have to prove harm rather than defendants having to justify themselves. With regard to the term 'indecent’ NCCL recommended that an image of a child should not be considered indecent “by reason only that the model is in a state of undress (whether complete or partial)”. As might be expected PIE wanted to go a lot further, for example reducing the age of consent to ten, or even lower according to some reports.
The views of the NCCL on “indecent” images are manifestly reasonable, provided no criminal acts have taken place, and no apology need be given for what is just common sense. However, they are on weaker ground on sexual relations between adults and children. Clearly penetrative sexual activity with pre-pubescent children must be always out of bounds. On other sexual activity not involving such physical harm the question of exploitation arises; under normal circumstances pre-pubescent children are unlikely to be willing participants in any kind of sexual activity with adults. However, if this has occurred instilling guilt, or regurgitating child protection mantras over victimhood, is unlikely to be beneficial to the child. It should be remembered that today we can, and do, prosecute ten year olds for sexual offences.
The late seventies was the relatively short period between the ending of the Victorian puritanical attitude towards sex, but before the modern wave of feminist social purity had moved into gear and infiltrated itself into leftist orthodoxy. The battleground then was between the “progressive” sexual liberationists of the left and the “reactionary” opponents of sexual permissiveness on the right, exempified most notably by Mary Whitehouse. The NCCL was very much in the former camp and would have been very hostile to the puritanical views of Mrs Whitehouse and her supporters. The NCCL would have shared the progressive outlook of the time that sexual freedom was liberating for the individual, freeing them from the sexual guilt and oppression that had blighted previous generations since Victorian times. It was part of the reason why the sixties and seventies was seen as an exciting time to be living through, especially for the young. There was no hysteria over paedophiles at that time, the term “sexual abuse” had not been coined nor was any kind of adult male contact with children branded as sexual grooming. Even children’s charities had nothing to say about child sexual abuse which has now become an obsession and fixation with them. The notion that young teenage girls were not, or should not be seen as, physically attractive, would have been considered risible by just about everyone. Harriet Harman is undoubtedly right when she suggests that the affiliation of PIE was an almost complete non issue during her time with NCCL.
Harriet Harman is the Mary Whitehouse of our age. Her prudery is not motivated by religious indoctrination but by a feminist agenda that demonizes male heterosexuality and malignantly stokes up concerns about the supposed “objectification” of women. She has campaigned against Page 3 of The Sun, and fuelled exaggerated fears over the so called “sexualisation” of girls. Witch-hunts come to an end when the witch-hunters themselves are accused of being insufficiently zealous in hunting out witches. By that time everyone is at risk of the accusation of being a witch and the madness dies down. It is to be hoped that the current paedophile hysteria is moving towards this climax, after which we can get back to the balanced rationality we enjoyed in the seventies on child protection and feminine appeal.