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We must resist the sexualisation of children
On the sexual adultification of childhood
Sexualization is to make something sexual in character or quality or to become aware of sexuality, especially in relation to men and women. Sexualization is linked to sexual objectification. Wikipedia
Do you want pre-pubescent pupils to participate in masturbation lessons and to be taught that there are 100 genders?
Do you want young primary school children to listen to their teachers holding forth on anal and rough sex?
Do you want young kids to be exposed to teaching materials that deal with ‘anal fun and frolics’ and the ‘problem with heteronormativity’?
Do you want young pupils to be taught their pronouns in secret so that their parents are not aware of what their children are learning?
If you are happy to allow schools to sexualise the curriculum, don’t bother reading on. But if you believe that it is not the job of schools to promote a decadent ideology that recycles adult obsessions with decadent sexual practices through the classroom, beware! It is only a matter of time before the sexual adultification of children ascendant in the Anglo-American world becomes normalised throughout the European Union. As I explain below, the sexualisation of children is at the heart of the conflict between the Euracracy and Hungary.
The conflict between Hungary and the European Commission Explained
Who gets to decide what is needed to protect the welfare of Hungarian children? A government elected by the majority of the Hungarian people or unelected Eurocrats based in far-away Brussels?
The European Commission believes that it possesses an authority that allows it to decide what is in the best interest of Hungarian children. That is why it has decided to take Hungary to the Court of Justice of the EU over a law passed by its Parliament in June 2021. The law bans publishing material directed at children that promotes LGBTQ material in any media.
The Hungarian Government has justified its law on the ground of protecting children from exposure to potentially disorienting propaganda. It has stated that it is seriously concerned about the sexualisation of childhood. Officials indicate that, in particular, they wish to shield children from the influence of the trans-gender ideology promoted in Anglo-American schools.
The Commission claims that it, too, takes the protection of children seriously and declared that the ‘protection of children is an absolute priority for the EU and its Member States’. However, it asserts that the law passed by the Hungarian Government ‘contains provisions which are not justified on the basis of promoting this fundamental interest or are disproportionate to achieve the stated objective’.
As far as the Commission is concerned, the law violated fundamental EU rights because it ‘singles out and targets content that “promotes or portrays” what it refers to as ‘divergence from self-identity corresponding to sex at birth, sex change or homosexuality for individuals under 18’.
The Commission believes that providing children with publications and resources promoting transgender ideology and homosexuality is a fundamental human right. In contrast, the Hungarian Government believes that the values embodied by the Commission’s version of a human right are antithetical to its moral outlook.
Western media and celebrity culture constantly place sexuality at the centre of the human condition. Cultural and educational institutions have internalised this perspective and assume that sexuality represents the core of children’s identity. What follows is the sexualisation of childhood and, increasingly, the school curriculum. It is noteworthy that EU documents have replaced sex education with sexuality education.
No sooner was the Hungarian law passed before it came under attack from Eurocrats and Members of the European Parliament wedded to identity politics. In June 2021, the Commission sent s strongly worded letter outlining its concerns with the law. On 7 July 2021, Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, gave a speech in Council criticising the law. A day later, the European Parliament passed a resolution criticising the law and urging the EU to take legal action. On 15 July, the Commission announced infringement procedures against Hungary. In February, after months of toing and froing, the Commission referred the case to the European Court of Justice.
Hungary’s law on protecting minors has become a target of unprecedented hostility from the Euracracy and its political allies. That the stakes are extraordinarily high is demonstrated by the fact that this is the first time a Member State has been referred to the Court of Justice for a potential breach of fundamental EU values in Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union. Article 2 states that
‘The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities’.
It is far from evident why a law that bans the portrayal of gay, lesbian or trans people or fictional characters in any media that children could see violates the values embodied by article 2.
To be sure, the backlash against the Hungarian law indicates that there is a clear clash of values between Budapest and Brussels. But the most important point of difference is not over the values embodied in article 2 but the question of who is ultimately responsible for the socialisation and education of children.
The institutions of the EU have no moral or legal authority over managing family life, parenting and children's education. It is not up to Brussels to interfere and question the strategy that the Government of a nation-state adopts towards the socialisation and education of its children. The European Commission’s assertion that the law ‘discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity’ is based on the erroneous assumption that the absence of LGBTQ-related material in the curriculum, by definition, discriminates against a section of young people. According to this logic, the curriculum aims not so much to educate but to validate every form of sexual identity. From the worldview of identity politics, this is an understandable stance to take. From the standpoint of an authoritative orientation to pedagogy, the task of schools is to educate children rather than to validate their sexual identity.
From the standpoint of academic education, the content of a curriculum ought to be determined according to pedagogic and not political criteria. A curriculum is not a political statement of rights but a medium for transmitting academic knowledge and cultural ideals to young people. To be sure, it discriminates between different subjects and cultural ideals but not between different people. Similarly, parents discriminate between what books and films they wish their children to see and not to see. That is their right as parents, and their decision has nothing to do with attacking human rights.
One can disagree with what subjects and themes are included and excluded from a curriculum. But such disagreements need to be couched in the language of pedagogy and socialisation and not that of political rights. It is, of course, entirely legitimate to criticise Hungary’s law and to call into question its assumptions. What is entirely illegitimate is to usurp the right of the Hungarian Government to implement laws that affect children's education. No outside body or institution has the competence or authority to call into question an elected Government’s laws pertaining to teaching childhood. And certainly, according to the principle of subsidiarity, ‘family matters should be left to the competencies of the nation state’.
It is the advocates of the infringement procedures against Hungary who are violating the spirit of Article 2. Forcing an elected Government of a sovereign nation to embrace the ideological premise of identity politics violates the norms of real freedom and democracy. They would do well to take the value of tolerance seriously and recognise that political disagreement on how children should be raised and educated is not a cultural crime.
See Donati, P. (2013) ‘What are the directions of family policy within the EU?’, ITAMS 19, p.217.