Paedophilia: The Radical Case

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Paedophilia: The Radical Case
Paedophilia, The Radical Case.jpg
AuthorTom O'Carroll
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherPeter Owen Publishers
Publication date
Media typePrint (Paperback)

Paedophilia: The Radical Case is a 1980 book about paedophilia by the paedophile activist Tom O'Carroll, former chairman of the defunct Paedophile Information Exchange, in which the author advocates the normalization of adult-child sexual relationships. It had a mixed reception. Critics of O'Carroll's arguments pointed out that young girls need protection from sexual abuse by adult men.


The book is partly autobiographical, and the first part is devoted to O'Carroll's life history. The second is about the concept of paedophilia and the third concerns the activities of the Paedophile Information Exchange. "I am not interested in why I am a paedophile," he writes "any more than others are interested in why they are 'normal'".[1]

O'Carroll advocates the normalization of adult-child sexual relationships. He states his belief that each stage of the sexual relationship between an adult and child can be "negotiated", with "hints and signals, verbal and nonverbal, by which each indicates to the other what is acceptable and what is not... the man might start by saying what pretty knickers the girl was wearing, and he would be far more likely to proceed to the next stage of negotiation if she seemed pleased by the remark".[2]


Mainstream media[edit]

Paedophilia: The Radical Case was reviewed by the journalist Mary-Kay Wilmers in the London Review of Books,[1] the psychoanalyst Charles Rycroft in The Times Literary Supplement,[3] John Rae in the Times Educational Supplement,[4] Maurice Yaffé in New Statesman,[5] and Eric Taylor in New Society.[6] Reviewers were sharply divided. Wilmers, Rycroft and Rae were dismissive,[1][3][4] while Yaffé and Taylor were strongly supportive of the author, if not entirely of the "radical case" he had set out.[5][6]

Gay media[edit]

Paedophilia: The Radical Case was reviewed by Ken Plummer in Gay News, Hubert Kennedy Books in The Advocate, and Wallace Hamilton in Christopher Street. These reviews were broadly sympathetic.[7][8][9] Jim Monk reviewed the book in The Body Politic, writing that while O'Carroll carefully researched and documented his arguments, O'Carroll's personal interest in having sex with children meant that he was not "disinterested" and his work was not academic. While he granted that many of O'Carroll's arguments had been made before, he credited O'Carroll with being the first to bring those arguments together into a comprehensive work, and with making a compelling case. He accepted O'Carroll's view that consensual sex does not interfere with a child's emotional or sexual maturation. Nevertheless, he had reservations, pointing to the possibility of heterosexual men sexually abusing young girls. He criticised O'Carroll's treatment of incest, writing that while O'Carroll stated he would not deal with the topic, he nevertheless implied that "sex play between parents and their children" was desirable. He argued in response that "father-daughter affairs" were not "healthy". He concluded that the book was the solution to problems facing the gay rights movement in Canada, which according to him was suffering from a feeling that its strategies were lacking.[10]

Academic assessments[edit]

Gerald Jones gave Paedophilia: The Radical Case a positive review in the Journal of Homosexuality. Although he described the book as "plainly a political manifesto" and observed that O'Carroll faced the "problem of his own credibility as a pedophile writing a book about pedophilia", he nevertheless credited O'Carroll with "remarkable objectivity".[11]

In Sexuality and Its Discontents (1985), the sociologist Jeffrey Weeks described Paedophilia: The Radical Case as "the most sustained advocacy" of "intergenerational sex". However, he believed that there were two powerful arguments against O'Carroll's views about the possibility of children consenting to sex: the feminist argument that "young people, especially young girls, do need protection from adult men in an exploitative and patriarchal society" and the argument that while adults are fully aware of the sexual connotations of their actions, young people are not, and that there is thus "an inherent and inevitable structural imbalance in awareness of the situation."[12]

In Anticlimax (2011), the political scientist Sheila Jeffreys, discussing what she saw as inappropriate support for paedophilia by gay men, noted that in an autobiographical section of Paedophilia: The Radical Case, O'Carroll denied that he is homosexual. She argued that O'Carroll's "interest in children stems from a determination not to become a homosexual", suggesting that when he was growing up, O'Carroll dealt with his "fear of losing face and status by following a sexual interest in boys his own age" by "developing an interest in younger and less powerful boys who could not cause him any loss of power." She further argued that this was "a familiar problem in the male gay subculture."[13]

The criminology lecturer Kieran Mccartan uses Paedophilia: The Radical Case as an example of "how sex offenders justify themselves".[14]

The sexologist Richard Green included the book as recommended reading for his students at Cambridge University.[15]


  1. ^ a b c Wilmers, Mary-Kay (4 December 1980). "Young Love". London Review of Books. pp. 9–10. Retrieved 1 March 2017. (subscription required)
  2. ^ Tom O'Carroll, Paedophilia : The Radical Case, Peter Owen Ltd, London, 1980 (hardback); Alyson Publications, Boston, Mass., 1982 (paperback). ISBN 0-7206-0546-6
  3. ^ a b Charles Rycroft "Sensuality from the start", Times Literary Supplement, 21 November 1980
  4. ^ a b John Rae "Suffer little children", Times Educational Supplement, 17 October 1980
  5. ^ a b Maurice Yaffé "Age of Consent", New Statesman, 7 November 1980, p.31
  6. ^ a b Eric Taylor "'Too young to love?", New Society, 30 October 1980, p.246
  7. ^ Ken Plummer Gay News, No.202
  8. ^ Hubert Kennedy Books, The Advocate, March 1982
  9. ^ Wallace Hamilton "Honor Thy Son", Christopher Street, February 1981, pp.55-7
  10. ^ Jim Monk The Body Politic, Issue 78, p. 31  – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  11. ^ Gerald Jones Journal of Homosexuality, Vol. 9, issue 4, pp. 95-102
  12. ^ Jeffrey Weeks, Sexuality and Its Discontents, Routledge, London, 1993, pp.225-226
  13. ^ Sheila Jeffreys, Anticlimax: A feminist perspective on the sexual revolution, Spinifex, North Melbourne, 2011, p.206
  14. ^ Henley, Jon (3 January 2013). "Paedophilia: bringing dark desires to light". The Guardian.
  15. ^ Mega, Marcello (23 November 2001). "If no rules have been broken, perhaps the rulebook requires some attention?". Times Higher Education Supplement. Retrieved 1 March 2017.