There’s no acceptable face of paedophilia, especially not Joe Orton

Aug 16, 2019 by

by Paul T Horgan, The Conservative Woman:

SO Jeffrey Epstein is dead. He procured under-age girls to satisfy the carnal desires of himself and his acquaintances. His crimes were committed on American soil. But they would have been equally illegal if he had committed them overseas. By any standards, whatever the location, Epstein was a paedophile. The only sorrow at his premature death is that it will make it harder to bring his acquaintances to justice.

The playwright Joe Orton had similar tastes to Epstein. Both men liked to have sex with children under the age of consent. The difference is that Orton’s taste was for boys. Orton was gay in Britain at a time when gay sex, irrespective of the age of the participants, was a criminal offence. So he used to travel to Morocco to satisfy his desires. Even when gay sex was decriminalised in the UK for consenting males over the age of 21 Orton protested, confiding to a friend: ‘It’s only legal over twenty-one? I like boys of fifteen.’

Orton was an iconoclast, in the mould of Wilde and Shaw. While Wilde lampooned the dignity of the upper classes and Shaw the habit of the professions to conspire against the laity, Orton railed against the hypocrisy of a morality that was imposed from above by those who did not practise it themselves. He pushed against cultural boundaries weakened by scandal and the end of deference. For this he was celebrated in life. His premature death at the hands of his lover Kenneth Halliwell only added to his fame.

There are calls to have a statue of Orton erected in his home town of Leicester. An appeal to raise £100,000 has attracted the support of numerous figures in the arts world.

What message does this send out to the victims of child sexual exploitation? Orton’s crimes were no different from those committed by Paul Gadd (aka Gary Glitter), Stuart Hall, Rolf Harris and Max Clifford. Like Gadd, Orton committed his sex crimes overseas. Defenders of Orton might argue that his exploitation of boys was not a crime at the time they were committed, but that misses the point.

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