Darling of the Alt-Right in the US, Milo Yiannopoulos, has fallen from grace. His crime? Not his offensive remarks about women, Muslims, and blacks.
Instead it was his comments defending sex between children and adults. Citing the example of his own childhood abuse by a priest, he denied such acts were always harmful, and could be beneficial.
Yiannopoulos was always controversial. Himself gay, he voiced extreme right-wing prejudices against a number of people groups, as he campaigned for Trump’s election.
But it raises the question whether arguments about the ‘slippery slope’ may be valid. This is a favourite riposte of conservatives and reactionaries, to campaigns for equal rights.
“If we allow this”, they claim, “what else will happen?”. “There will nothing to prevent the worse-case scenario”.
‘If we allow same-sex marriage, then we have to permit, for example, polygamy and bestiality.’ Such statements are laughed out of court by progressives.
Certainly there is nothing logical about positing such a development. But might not the trajectory be socio-logical, psycho—logical or chrono-logical?
That is, certain changes may be indicators, portending how things might be in the future? Once one taboo is broken, then others are easier to break.
Radical feminist lesbian, Suzanna Danuta Walters, in her book “The tolerance trap”, has challenged the usual, liberal, defence of, for example, same-sex marriage.
This is usually that it need not mean any change for straight people or traditional marriage, if gays join the club.
Walters, however, admits it will. Once options are presented as socially-acceptable, then people will opt, and traditional marriage will fall; rightly so, for Walters.
In addition, she acknowledges that the legitimating rhetoric has shifted from ‘born this way’, to individual freedom of choice.
But when human autonomy is the supreme value, there are few acceptable reasons to restrict it, in sexual or other areas.
Regarding child sex, Jesse Bering’s book “Perv:. The sexual deviant in all of us”, suggests age preference is just another variant in human sexuality, like gender preference; and equally unchangeable.
Himself gay, Bering suggests, like Yiannopoulos, there may be situations where consensual sex between adults and children may be possible, and permissible.
After all, since Freud we’ve known that children have erotic feelings; and the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s included elements like the Paedophile Information Exchange.
The stages in this progression of progressivism are clear in recent history.
When civil partnerships were established in Britain, many saw the pressure would be on for full equality, same-sex marriage.
As this law passed, it was clear that trans issues were coming onto the agenda. And now, there are moves to legitimise polyamory, perhaps multiple marriages – or polygamy.
Emily Witt’s recent book, “Future sex”, presented as a neutral journalistic account of sex in contemporary US America, is actually a defence of sexual experimentation, including polyamory.
Surely, moves will begin to legitimate bestiality next?
While there may be permissible limits on sexuality within a liberal ideology, careful thought will have to be given as to their foundations.