Breastfeeding is freaky. Not the sucking bit...No, it's because when my baby attached to my breast, there was an incredible chemical cascade that ran through my entire body like lightning. Imagine the most electric thing a partner has ever done to you, then multiply it by 10. I could feel my brain rewiring, creating pathways that would permanently connect me to my child. (And yeah, I kind of got off on it. Don't judge.)
— Dana Fried, a transgender man writing for The Stranger magazine (2017)
Not long ago, if a grown man placed his nipple into the mouth of a baby, the act would be properly understood as criminal sexual abuse of a child. If he was caught on video, you might at least consider it damning evidence. But in the year 2021, on the Facebook series “9 Months with Courtney Cox,” as if it was normal, buoyed by a sympathetic overture, a man did just that.
Plain language has its charms. The man in question suffers under the delusion that he is a woman. His wife, the same: she gave birth with a full beard. Where breasts once were, two jagged scars remain. Shortly after birth, the infant’s father orally penetrated the child with his surgically constructed secondary sex organ. The child’s suckling reflex helped the man satisfy his particular itch to feel “like a mother.” No milk was excreted from his silicone implant in the process. As for other bodily fluids, it remains unclear.
As “chestfeeding” becomes common practice, replacing “breastfeeding” in legal and medical literature, one among many incidents of transgender men imposing themselves onto women and childrens’ spaces, uncomfortable questions linger on the minds of mothers who remain at least somewhat attached to reality: especially in relation to women and children, where do the “rights” of adult males to sexual liberty and self-expression find their terminus?
Similar questions in another form haunted earlier generations of modern women. During factory reforms in the late 19th and early 20th century, reformers opined that many unfortunate children were being exploited at the behest of a mercantile class whose primary concern was neither their good nor that of the community, but personal gain. “Where do man’s economic liberties end?” they asked. The answer emerged over time and through great political effort by mothers: the bodily integrity and proper emotional formation of kids outweigh the needs of business owners to drive profit.
The argument against economic exploitation appealed to the idea that children had a right to their innocence, which had two components. Industrial working conditions took children away from education and play and also immersed them in environments unfit for children on the basis of sexually degenerate company. Clare Graffenfried wrote in Child Labour (1890): “Worse than physical hardship, more blighting than cold or ill-treatment is the inevitable insight of the childish mind into duplicity and vice. A gradual hardening of the sensibilities ensues from constantly hearing words unfit for the ears of youth and witnessing the degrading acts and ugly passions which are too frequent in some workrooms where the sexes indiscriminately mingle.”
Today’s children may not slave away on the factory floor, but they are nonetheless subject to a regime that seeks to harden their sensibilities—to enslave them in a cycle of vice that makes them permanently confused, malleable, emotionally dead, reliable consumers. The abolition of the rights of children can be traced back to the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and the establishment of the cultural and legal regime that followed.
Central to the libertine project was the notion that morality and the body have nothing to do with one another, and besides, that neither really exist in an objective sense. By neutralizing the metaphysical component of sex, revolutionaries eliminated the reason for children’s rights in the first place: innocence. Of course, pedophilia was not normalized overnight. But the essential logic of the sexual revolution quickly descends to extremely dark places. If sex is a totally morally neutral act, like eating, then why should children be protected from it? In fact, if sex is like eating, why shouldn’t children participate? By defanging sex, the groundwork was laid for true deviants to eventually have their way on a technicality. Lacking any meaningful moral framework beyond consent and sentiment, the once-clearly necessary separation of children from fetish blurred over time.
Children have thus been stewing in the unbounded sexual fantasies of adult cultural producers for many generations. The passive consumer is desensitized; the active consumer is consumed. And it’s not just the autogynephiles and self-professed “Minor-Attracted Persons” who have shockingly carved out a visible place for themselves in polite society. Self-professed “kinky parents” have become more vocal over time: a few weeks ago in the Washington Post, one couple published an op-ed about the supposed benefits of intentionally exposing children to pornography and public group sex entitled “Yes, kink belongs at Pride. And I want my kids to see it.” Operating under the fantasy of sexual neutrality, there is no argument (consistent with contemporary mores) against this form of parenting. One step down this line of thinking and there remains no reason parents shouldn’t use their children as indirect pawns in their own sexual delusion. Similarly, there is no culturally mainstream argument against castrating children who exhibit sexual confusion in a sexually confusing environment.
What of legal recourse? Children’s rights crumble under the current civil rights law regime because children, unlike sexual deviants, have no discernible history of oppression from which they might justify their political dignity. Arguments in favor of a child's moral or bodily integrity no longer stand a chance in a legal setting which prioritizes the feelings and delusions of the “sexual minorities,” who are designated as a protected political class according to this self-identified history of oppression. Because children have no history in that sense, and because they cannot speak for themselves, their natural entitlement to innocence simply matters less than the manufactured entitlement of such groups to non-discrimination. Christopher Caldwelll makes this point in Age of Entitlement: by making the elimination of bias into our chief political principle, there is no violation of basic dignity that we will not happily justify, especially against groups with no discernible victimhood to speak of. Abortion comes to mind.
Ultimately, the answer to the questions that today’s mothers ask themselves is simply “no.” Short of rape, limits to sexual license have diminished greatly over time. Soon there will remain very few official protections for women and children to their own spaces, general and personal. Sooner still, there will be no such legal classification as womanhood—or motherhood, or fatherhood, or if we are to believe the more radical contingents of leftist politics, childhood. No recourse. No stopping us; we’re coming for your children.
But there is another path. Better answers are possible if people are willing to resurrect childhood innocence as a legitimate principle of political action. Culturally, this would require a dramatic revolt against the principles and consequences of the sexual revolution. Legally, it would require something even more dramatic. Only once we reevaluate the current conception of “civil rights,” under which predators easily capture undue privilege, might children be entitled to their own.