John P. De Cecco
John Paul De Cecco (April 18, 1925 – November 2, 2017) was an American academic. He was a professor of psychology at San Francisco State University (SFSU), a member of the editorial board of Paidika: The Journal of Paedophilia (1987-1995), and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Homosexuality from 1975 to 2009, which published many non-sensationalist articles about topics relating to age and age-disparate relationships. This included a 1990 special issue on boylove under the title Male intergenerational intimacy, with guest editors Theo Sandfort, Edward Brongersma and Alex Van Naerssen, which remains as one of the most important scholarly works on the topic. De Cecco co-founded the Center for Homosexual Education, Evaluation and Research (CHEER) at SFSU in 1975, and a member of the Gay Activists Alliance and was a "member and sponsor" of the GLBT Historical Society. His university obituary described him as a "pioneer of sexuality studies", and stated that he was:
a staunch (even strident) advocate of sexual and social justice and spent the majority of his career righting the wrongs done to sexual minorities. He believed strongly in academic freedom and took unpopular stances both in the classroom and in his own academic work to advance the rights of those who were outside of societal sexual norms. He never backed away from controversy and was unflinching in his convictions. (University obituary in Wind City Times).
Minor attraction and the journal of homosexuality
Under De Cecco's editorial lead, many significant publications relevant to MAPs and other sexual minorities were published. Examples include: Tindall's study of loved boys that grow to be heterosexuals (1978), Jones' bibliographical survey of pederasty (1982), Sandfort's article on pedophilia and the gay movement (1986), and Harris Mirkin's articles on pedophile politics (1999) and the social construction of child pornography (2009), Graupner's work on the Age of Consent (1999). Other relevant articles include C.K. Li's community sample study of self-identified pedophiles (1991) Donald Mader's article on Uranian homosexuality (2005), and James Hunter's ‘The Political use and abuse of the “pedophile” (2008).
In the academic journal Sexualities (founded by MAP ally Ken Plummer), after being informed by Dr. Richard Yuill, the PhD independent scholar Dean Durber summarized how Haworth Press - the publisher of the Journal of Homosexuality - censored a planned journal issue on pederasty which was to contain a lengthy article by psychologist Bruce Rind, with responses from other academics. While discussion of pederasty and age-disparate sex and desire was not uncommon in the journal, the publisher conceded to Right-wing political pressure. De Cecco's radical freedom of speech position as editor-in-chief was undercut by the journal's publisher. Durber wrote:
It was to include a chapter – ‘Pederasty: An Integration of Cross-Cultural, Cross-Species, and Empirical Data’ – written by Bruce Rind, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Temple University. In his abstract for this proposed chapter, Rind makes the claim that ‘empirical data show that pederasty is not only not predestined to injure, but can benefit the adolescent when practiced according to the ancient Greek form’ (Rind, 2005). Such an assertion challenges the current dominant narrative that speaks loudly of the abuse involved in all sexual relationships between adults and children. (p. 487).
In response to this censorship, most of the planned articles saw publication in a separate book: Censoring Sex Research: The Debate Over Male Intergenerational Relationships, ed. by Thomas Hubbard and Beert Verstraete (Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2013).
De Cecco and Paidika
In 1987, as a visiting professor at the University of Amsterdam, De Cecco gave an interview to Paidika: The Journal of Pedophilia. Click here for an archived PDF copy. We recommend reading the full context, but, in brief, De Cecco argues (similar to Gert Hekma) that sexuality studies ought to focus on sexual feelings and acts within people's everyday lives and in social context, rather than fixating on identity categories. Research should not focus on "pedophiles" as a category of fixed identity, but on people's experiences and desires which may involve pedophiles and pedophilic elements (p. 4).
De Cecco discusses the complexity and social context of incest (p. 6), and argues that opposition to age-disparate relationships is an effort to maintain the nuclear family and and its control over children's lives, restricting their access to alternative ways of thinking, living and relating which do not benefit a capitalist society (p. 5). He points out that the nuclear family is often a space where "outrageous" violence occurs, including beating one's children. He challenges the idea that adults can give meaningful consent to sex if they are held to the same "impossible" standards / consent criteria which minors are often held to (p. 8), where an unspecified baseline of sexual knowledge is usually presumed as well as the assumption that individuals can predict with any level of precision the myriad of potential long-term consequences arising from a given sexual experience ("what he will feel like thirty years later about the experience"). He said:
If you lay out all those qualifications, I don't think there are many adult acts of full consent. In a way, if we could know that much ahead of time, much of the sexual excitement would be gone, because what we often hope for, I think, in a sexual encounter, is that something new and unexpected might occur. (p. 8).
For De Cecco, there are "non-consensual elements in relationships which people value" - the "roller coaster" of "romance" for which, "if you could anticipate all the suffering that's gong to be involved, you probably wouldn't start it, but you know there's at least going to be this thrilling undulating effect." (p. 8).
He criticizes feminism and essentialist identity-based feminists as being "jealous of men who show the kind of nurturance that only females are supposed to posses":
From what I know of pedophile relationships, they are supremely nurturant, in a way that should make most parents crumble with shame. The children respond so well to the care in paedophile relationships because they are getting what they want, their desires and their needs are getting met. The fact that these relationships are seen as only sexual is a way of hiding the inadequacies of biological parents. (p. 5).
In 1994, De Cecco's involvement with Paidika was the subject of local media scandal. After receiving a death threat, he was escorted off campus by police and supported by the left-wing Sparticist League's San Francisco University youth chapter - the Spartacus Youth Club (SYC) - which organized a speakout protest/rally at the university on November 3, 1994. A magazine article recalled the event, writing:
Students from De Cecco's class joined the rally, which grew to 75 people. Amid chants of "1,2,3,4, effective consent is what we're for! 5,6,7,8, it's not the business of the state!" [...] The capitalist state's busybody snooping in private life must be opposed (p. 2)
At the rally, Keith Hill of the SYC pointed out, "Traditional 'family values' is a code word for all-sided social reaction. How can anyone expect this racist, criminal ruling class to protect the interests of children? It was a bloody fight to get kids out of the coal mines and factories and into public schools. This government ensures that blacks have an infant mortality rate analogous to the Third World. This government bombs baby formula factories in Iraq. This government, in the name of stopping child abuse, incinerated 86 men, women and children in Waco, Texas. That's the capitalist program for 'fighting' child abuse." (p. 3).
When Ellen Bass & Co. go after De Cecco as "socially unacceptable," whose interests are they serving? There is a campaign against sexuality in general by the powers that be that has nothing to do with the protection of women or children. Rather we are smack in the middle of a "moral rearmament" of the American people in a conscious attempt to force women back into the home, instill fear of sex into young people and shore up the "sacred" monogamous family-where most of the real oppression and abuse of women and children takes place. The American bourgeoisie wants to mold a more compliant population that will march with blind obedience (p. 16).
We in the SYC oppose attempts to fit human sexuality into legislated or decreed "norms." The guiding principle of sexual relations should be that of effective consent, nothing more than mutual agreement and understanding. Determining effective consent is always tricky, particularly when young people are involved with older ones; but such relationships must be viewed individually and not as prima-facie evidence of abuse or coercion. [...] We fight for a society where sexual relations between people can be truly loving and voluntary. (p. 17).
- Journal of Homosexuality: Vol 20, No 1-2 (tandfonline.com). See especially Robert Bauserman, ‘Objective and Ideology: Criticism of Theo Sandfort’s Research on Man-Boy Sexual Relations’, which summarizes Sandfort's research and responds powerfully to his critics.
- San Francisco State University (2017). PASSAGES: John Paul De Cecco, pioneer of sexuality studies, dies at 92. Wind City Times.
- Ralph Tindall, ‘The Male Adolescent Involved With a Pederast Becomes an Adult’, in Journal of Homosexuality, 3:4 (1978), 373-382 <https://doi.org/10.1300/J082v03n04_05>
- Gerald P. Jones. (1982). The Social Study of Pederasty: In Search of a Literature Base, Journal of Homosexuality, 8:1, 61-96 <https://doi.org/10.1300/J082v08n01_06>
- Theo Sandfort, ‘Pedophilia and the Gay Movement’, (1987), <https://doi.org/10.1300/J082v13n02_08>
- Mirkin (1999). The Pattern of Sexual Politics: Feminism, Homosexuality and Pedophilia, J.Homosexuality, Vol. 37, No. 2.
- Harris Mirkin, ‘The Social, Political, and Legal Construction of the Concept of Child Pornography’, in Journal of Homosexuality, 56:2 (2009), 233-267 <https://doi.org/10.1080/00918360802623198>
- Helmut Graupner, ‘Love versus abuse: Crossgenerational sexual relations of minors — A gay rights issue?’, in Journal of Homosexuality, 37:4 (1999), 23-56 <https://doi.org/10.1300/J082v37n04_03>
- Chin-Keung Li, "The Main Thing Is Being Wanted": Some Case Studies on Adult Sexual Experiences with Children’, in Journal of Homosexuality, 20:1-2, (1991) 129-143, <https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J082v20n01_09>
- Mader, The Greek Mirror: the Uranians and their use of Greece, Journal of Homosexuality 49, nos. 3/4 (2005): 377-420 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/J082v49n03_14>
- James Hunter, ‘The Political use and abuse of the “pedophile”, in Journal of Homosexuality, 55:3 (2008), 350-387 <https://doi.org/10.1080/00918360802345073>
- Dean Durber, Haworth’s End to the Pederasty Debate, in Sexualities, Vol 9(4): 487–492 DOI: 10.1177/1363460706068046