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How well do you know the real Peter Tatchell?

Lisa Severine Nolland

Though I hugely appreciate Peter Tatchell’s (PT) defence of human rights and religious liberty, I am appalled by some of his views because I believe they are toxic to human well-being.  In the past he contributed to a paedophile-advocacy volume. At present on his site[i], he asserts that ‘all sexualities are valid’.   PT also insists ‘porn can be good for you’ which I consider in the same vein as saying that nuclear waste can be good for you.  Moreover, PT  affirms that ‘equality is not enough’ and that ‘the lofty ideals of queer liberation and sexual freedom’ need to be recovered by gays in order to be able to liberate the rest of us from ‘the more general erotophobic and sex-negative nature of contemporary culture, which also harms heterosexuals'. As well as being vividly pornographic—erect penises all over the place— PT's book, Safer Sexy: The Guide to Gay Sex Safely (1994), provides eloquent testimony to his libertarian sexual views. I cannot do a visual ‘Show and Tell’ of it in this document (see below) but will use words to describe some of the graphic content

Like most of us, I imagine, PT is a mixed bag.  Of his commitment to his principles and willingness to sacrifice himself for them over the decades, there is no doubt!  There is also no doubt that Peter and I share certain values, like the importance of free speech, human rights and social justice. I deeply admire his courage and readiness to aid Christians like Dale McAlpine and many other oppressed folk around the globe.     


However,  Greenbelt [GB],  ‘the UK’s largest Christian festival’, is sending out a sub-text that is totally at odds with a Christian understanding of sexuality by including PT  on its programme, and I ask it to reconsider.      

Contrary to wanting Peter ‘censored and banned’  (a claim he made earlier in response to my concerns),  I would like to see his views much better known, so that they can be debated and responded to.  But a public platform at GB is not the place for him to set out these views. Though GB bills him as, among other things, a gay and lesbian ‘equality’ campaigner, what I see as a fuller range of PT’s views remains largely unknown and is certainly not present in GB’s line-up information. If Peter’s views were better known, people might be more aware of the deleterious impact of such views on society, so it is lack of knowledge that concerns me.  

PT appears to believe he has every right to attack the Pope for espousing beliefs he considers to be false or malignant, and thus detrimental to society.  I feel those who attend GB have the right to be made aware of aspects of the lesser-known Peter which I consider malignant.  ‘This’ Peter is the one their kids may come across the following week when, after being taken with him at GB,  they head onto his site — — or track down his work on Amazon or in the library.   

The material point here is that young people who attend GB and hear Peter are given false assurance that PT is the sort of person they should be listening to.  GB has enough respect  for PT as a public figure to place him on the platform; he is good and ‘safe’  enough for trendy, successful, ‘Christian’ GB.  Thus, there is a de facto legitimisation of the plausibility of his views across the board.  And even though these subjects are not the subject to hand — as Peter keeps insisting — the views he holds on them still matter because they are in the public domain.   


Given these concerns, I ask GB to reconsider their inclusion of PT on their platform line-up.

The material below documents some of the key features of PT's views on sexuality, puts them into a larger setting and provides an evaluation and response.

a.     The Age of Consent and Paedophilia

I have spent a great deal of time reading PT’s writing in hard copy and on his site.  I begin with his views on the age of consent and paedophilic sexuality.  On the site, he argues for the age of consent to be lowered to 14 for both gay and straight youngsters; elsewhere also on his site, he considers that if kids under 14 have consentual sex, and if there is no greater than a three year age differential, there should not be a prosecution. 

In relation to the now famous/infamous ‘Lee’ (a 14 year who began having sex with lads at the age of 8 and with adult males at the age of 12), Peter states, ‘It is not an advocacy or approval of his sexual relationships with older men, but merely a reportage of Lee’s perspective.’  Fair enough (I will not even begin to describe the physiological. psychological and developmental reasons for delaying sexual initiation for children and young people).   Back to Peter, though, I believe we have not been given the whole story. 

I would like to know what happened to PT’s earlier, far more radical views.  They were published in The Betrayal of Youth:  Radical Perspectives  on Childhood Sexuality, Intergenerational Sex, and the Social Oppression of Children and Young People, ed. Warren Middleton (London:  CL Publications, 1986).  Middleton’s pedophile credentials are impeccable.  On p. 258, we learn that he ‘has been called “one of the founding fathers of the pedophile movement in Britain”’ no doubt due to, among other factors, his leadership of PIE (Paedophile Information Exchange) and the journal, Understanding Pedophilia

The North American Man/Boy Love Association, NAMBLA, cited Middleton’s volume along with others titles such as Paedophilia: The Radical Case; Sexual Experience Between Men and Boys  and The Age Taboo.[ii]  In Middleton’s volume, Peter contributed the chapter, ‘Questioning Ages of Majority and Ages of Consent’, in which he encourages his readers to re-examine fundamental assumptions and concepts about acceptable sexual behaviour for the young:  


Shouldn’t we be preparing and educating children for greater rights and responsibilities at an earlier age; perhaps critically re-examining our concept of childhood and viewing children more as young citizens?  Certainly, 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.  [p. 118]       

Peter also argues the primary protection the young require (as do their elders) is against coercion and rape, a situation which is already dealt with legally.  Moreover, he asserts  that young people are ‘usually’ damaged more by the social opprobrium  attached to consenting under-age sex than they are by the sex itself.
It gets worse.   On page 157, Middleton declares that


True liberation is contingent upon the right to say no to sex as well as yes.  In this context the authors of this book firmly believe that when the time comes for the ages of consent to be abolished, the potential for exploitation – itself an overworked term –  would be drastically reduced, since with greater freedom there would be less need for subterfuge.

Moreover, on page 179 Middleton assures us that


All the contributors to this study agree that we should be working towards the day when children’s sexual and social rights are both recognised and accepted.

For more see Endnote III.[iii]  


b.    Teach kids that ‘All Sexualities Equally Valid’ (Peter Tatchell, from  ‘Essay Five: The ABC of Sexual Health and Happiness’)


The problem for me here is what about all the other ‘sexualities’ out there?  When PT writes (and the following is found in his essay on sex education), ‘This means presenting the full facts about all three sexual orientations in a straightforward and sympathetic manner’, he fails to include the rest.   

Even TEC bishop, Gene Robinson — and keynote GB speaker in 2009 — has now publicly and positively noted these ‘other sexualities’ twice over the past few months.  The first time I am aware of where Gene ‘came out’ in these terms was this past spring at a TEC (The Episcopalian Church) House of Bishops event.  There he commented that it was time to enlarge the acronym of GLBT —- “’there are so many other letters in the alphabet … there are so many other sexualities to be explored’”.[iv]

Robinson did not elaborate on those other letters and the sexualities they represent.  I will describe a few which I am aware of which are emerging from their closets, a phenomenon which is either unknown or denied by most.  If the latter, most likely this is the case because the public and official LGBT ‘party line’ remains reassuringly  binary, adult. homo-sapien, and in critically important ways, respectable.  However, its days are rapidly drawing to a close. 

Peter himself ought to realise that boy lovers (many prefer that term) believe it is as much a ‘sexuality’ as the GLBT, and the NAMBLA site quotes such lesbian and gay luminaries as Camille Paglia and Oscar Wilde in its defence.[v]

Indeed, prepubertal ‘gender identity or sexual preference’ is acknowledged as a given ‘orientation’ in the following WHO document. According to the 2007 World Health Organisation guide, ‘International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems’, 10th Revision  Version for 2007, egodystonic sexual orientation is where the ‘gender identity or sexual preference (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or prepubertal) is not in doubt, but the individual wishes it were different because of associated psychological and behavioural disorders, and may seek treatment in order to change it.’[vi]

Moreover, that pedophilia is being given a something of a face lift in academic circles is indicated by the following presentations at the May 2009 Budapest conference, Good Sex, Bad Sex:  Sex Law, Crime and Ethics. ‘A Multi-Perspective Examination of Assumptions concerning Age-Discrepant Sexuality’, by Dr Bruce Rind, and ‘Sexual Consent and the Adolescent Male, or What Can We Learn from the Greeks?’ by the University of Texas professor, Thomas K. Hubbard.[vii]

In fact, so impressed was MARTIJN (the leading Dutch pedophile organization  which ’fights for social and societal acceptance of child-adult relationships’) with Rind’s paper that it was placed up on their site.[viii] 

Another sexuality now coming out is that of the ‘polys’.  Polyamorists, or ‘plural loves’, often are comprised of bisexuals; it is not polygamy, which tends to be heterosexually constructed with an alpha male and his bevy of straight female wives.   Polyamory had a ‘coming out’ party last year in the pages of Newsweek (28 July 2010) and one of its bisexual poster girls, Jenny Block (who has at the moment both a husband and a girlfriend) is the flavour of the month in both alternative and increasingly mainstream circles.[ix]

Attorney Ann  Tweedy, of the California Western School of Law in San Diego, argues for ‘Polyamory as a Sexual Orientation’ on the US-based SSRN, the Social Science Research Network[x].  

Moreover, according to the Vancouver Sun (9 June, 2010), poly families have gone to the BC court to challenge the legal reality of the two-adult conjugal family home.[xi]

Other sexual minorities and ‘orientations’ yet to emerge fully are pan, BDSM or kink, and zoophilia.[xii]

c.  ‘Porn can be good for you; Peter Tatchell says pornography doesn’t have to be oppressive. It can be liberating and fulfilling’


Professionals concerned about the deleterious impact of porn have long been blowing the whistle on its alleged beneficial impact, but below is the most recent and substantial indictment of pornography.  Perhaps Peter missed the memo.  This groundbreaking research, ‘The Social Costs of Pornography’, is from the Witherspoon Institute:

‘"The Social Costs of Pornography" assembled leading experts in the fields of psychiatry, psychology, neurophysiology, philosophy, sociology, law, and political theory to present a rigorously argued overview of the problem of pornography in our society and to make recommendations. The primary purpose of the meeting was to examine the real nature of pornography in its moral and social consequences.’

The results of their research are horrifying:  ‘Widespread pornography consumption appears to pose a serious challenge to public health and to personal and familial well-being.’

These are some of the findings from its site which explain how porn is at heart anything but liberating and fulfilling:  

  • Pornography, by offering an endless harem of sexual objects, hyperactivates the appetitive system. Porn viewers develop new maps in their brains, based on the photos and videos they see. Because it is a use-it-or-lose-it brain, when we develop a map area, we long to keep it activated. Just as our muscles become impatient for exercise if we've been sitting all day, so too do our senses hunger to be stimulated.  Norman Doidge, M.D., Columbia University
  •  There is evidence that the prevalence of pornography in the lives of many children and adolescents is far more significant than most adults realize, that pornography is deforming the healthy sexual development of these young viewers, and that it is used to exploit children and adolescents.  Mary Anne Layden, director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program, Center for Cognitive Therapy, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania
  •  Particularly on the Internet, where much of pornography today is consumed, the type of sexuality depicted often has more to do with violence, extreme fetishes and mutual degradation than with sexual or emotional connection. Pamela Paul, author of Pornified

d. ‘Equality is not enough’; ‘The lofty ideals of queer liberation and sexual freedom’ need to be recovered by gays to benefit all: Peter Tatchell  

On his site, Peter writes, ‘Although getting rid of homophobic discrimination is a laudable aim, it doesn't go far enough. Ending anti-gay bias will not resolve all the problems faced by queer people. Some of our difficulties arise not from homophobia, but from the more general erotophobic and sex-negative nature of contemporary culture, which also harms heterosexuals. These destructive puritanical attitudes are evident in the witch-hunting of consensual under-age sex, the censorship of sexual imagery, the inadequacy of sex education lessons, and the criminalisation of sex workers and consensual sadomasochistic relationships.’ 

I bought his book, Safer Sexy:  The Guide to Gay Sex Safely (Freedom Editions, 1994), for I thought I would be able to discover more of his vision of sexual freedom.  Well, I believe I did.  I am not able to give a visual ‘Show and Tell’ because of the stern ‘no photocopying etc.’ warning at the front of the book.  If any wish to see my copy, they are more than welcome to it. Senior colleagues would not even look at it nor have material related to it on their computer, such was their concern about its content.

According to the back cover, the book aims to ‘promote sexual heath and save lives’; it   claims to promote emotional health and well being for gay men both individually and as couples. Moreover, it provides ‘new ways of understanding and enjoying sex, presenting irreverent and provocative arguments in praise of sexual “deviance” and erotic “perversion”’.  Peter’s table of contents covers these aspects.  One can discover ‘information’ on  quite a range of sexual topics.  He discusses condoms, safer sex, ‘love and relationships’, ‘looking after yourself’ and disease-prevention.  He also describes  ‘threesomes and orgies’, ‘anonymous quickies’, ‘watching and showing off’, ‘porn’, ‘piss’, ‘shit’, ‘fisting’, ‘sadomasochism’, ‘bondage’, ‘pain pleasure’, ‘one man or many’.   The images, and there are lots of them, are of mostly naked, muscular young bodies in various sexual positions. We either see or are informed of a surprising number of orgasmic options using different orifices, body parts and wastes, sex toys and SMBD ‘gear’.  We see pierced genitalia (one image was entitled. ‘piercing pleasure:  safe wickedness’),  a male sporting a huge penis ‘riding’ another, who is prostrate, wearing a collar and link chain, and whose head is being pushed/pulled by his ‘rider’, and so on.  Page 70 offers options like ‘whip’, ‘gag’, ‘spank’, and ‘bite’, under the ‘Raunchy without risk’, SMBD rubric, of course.   

In Peter’s thoughts on Fantasy (which he views as a ‘very safe form of sex’), he writes that ‘there is no danger of HIV if we day-dream about swallowing the cum [semen] of the hunky pizza delivery boy or sucking out the arse-juices of the cute plumber’s mate. However, as well as the fantasies that stay in our heads, there are also the fantasies we act out with a partner …  If acted out fantasies include unsafe acts, there can be a risk of HIV.  Occasional fantasies about violent or unsafe sex are unusually harmless.’  (p. 39) 

In Peter’s thoughts on open versus closed relationships, he writes (p. 93) that ’Even among guys who want the sexual exclusivity of monogamy, not all of them can cope with, or live up to it.  In the first couple of years of a relationship, when there is still lots of excitement … sexuality fidelity may be unproblematic.  Later, however, as the thrill and freshness of a relationship wears off, routine and boredom can takeover [sic].  In these circumstances, monogamy is sometimes seen as a suffocating burden.’  He further explains how many gay men differentiate between love and lust, emotional and sexual fidelity.  ‘Sex is one thing and love is another.’ He describes how many come to see that integrating the occasional sexual encounter into the fabric of life-partnerships often seems wise. These couples can manage to avoid the pitfalls associated with sexual license ‘because their love is based on a lot more than sex.  This means when they fuck other men it poses no threat to their mutual commitment’ (pp. 93-4)  He leaves the options open, however, and encourages each couple to find what works best for them.

Well, if this is Peter’s vision of sexual ‘liberation’, love, commitment and relationships, it does not appear liberating  to me, nor would I desire this sort of lifestyle to ‘come out’ even more and influence the rest of us.   Nor do I believe that GB has any business promoting a man who openly advocates the above. 

[i] Because of how Peter Tatchell’s site is structured, I am unable to give web addresses for particular quotes, because the web address for all of them is  Please contact me for specifics.   [email protected]    0117 924 4896


[iii] Finally, on a type-written piece of paper entitled, ‘A Summary of the Betrayal of Youth for the purposes of Review’, and ‘Erratum’, attached to the cover of the back of the volume  with Warren Middleton’s name on it, we can read:

So what about the damaging effects of adult/child sex we often hear about?  The writers of this book concur that where elements of threats, coercion, violence, etc. are present that there will be a strong likelihood of trauma.  When these are absent, however, they suggest that when damage accrues, it is more often the result of negative societal reactions.  ….  It is the opinion of the contributors that if society were to be positive and supportive of consensual adult/child sex, then damage would hardly be an issue


[v]        These days, especially in America, boy-love is not only scandalous and criminal, but somehow in bad taste. On the evening news, one sees handcuffed teachers, priests and Boy Scout leaders hustled into police vans. Therapists call them maladjusted, emotionally immature. But beauty has its own laws, inconsistent with Christian morality. As a woman, I feel free to protest that men today are pilloried for something that was rational and honorable in Greece at the height of its civilization, Camille Paglia;;


Prosecutor:   What is "the love that dare not speak its name"?  

Wilde: "The Love that dare not speak its name" in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep, spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect … It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and 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 world mocks at it and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it."







[xii]      Eg:  I am pansexual. When I say this I mean that I seek physical and emotional partnerships with people of all genders, including men, women, and transgender individuals. I am polyamorous. By this I mean that I see monogamy as one among many stable ways in which people are capable of forming romantic and familial bonds. I mean also that I find joy in my partners’ joy, including when that joy comes through companions and lovers other than myself. Lastly, I am a member of the BDSM community. When I say this I mean that I find fulfillment in consensual relationships and sensations that are not always soft and fuzzy, but can indeed be painful and challenging. Taken together, these three facts mean that I have found love and fulfillment in a wide spectrum of relationships and with a variety of people, and that this diversity of partners figures importantly into my identity. They mean also that I inhabit a small, overlapping sliver of three poorly understood, largely invisible, and utterly unprotected sexual minorities.

Also see;;;
and finally

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