The Sexual Revolution and Children How the Left Took Things Too Far


By and Wiebke Hollersen

Part 2: 'Look, My Vagina'

Kursbuch 17 contained a series of poster-sized photos. Under the headline "Love Play in the Children's Room," it depicted Nessim and Grischa, both naked. The oversized images are of the sort that one would expect to see in a magazine for pedophiles today -- certainly not in an influential publication of the leftist intelligentsia. The caption reads: "Grischa walks over to the mirror, looks at her body, bends forward several times, encircling her buttocks with her hands, and says: 'Look, my vagina.'"

Ulrich Enzensberger, a former member of the commune, later said that Nessim, at any rate, looked back "in horror" at his commune days. Nessim is now a political scientist in Bremen, while Grischa lives in Berlin and works for a publishing company. Nessim and Grischa have lived very private lives ever since they were able to make their own decisions. When asked, Nessim says politely that he only discusses his childhood "and, therefore, intimate subjects, with trusted individuals." Grischa, now 46, is similarly private about her past.

It is tempting to dismiss the "love play" in the commune as an exception, as a radical excess of a revolutionary project, if so many leftist parents hadn't modeled their own lives on the educational experiments on Giesebrechtstrasse. For these contemporaries, Commune 2 was a pilot project in anti-authoritarian education that was quickly followed by private kindergartens in which parents applied the new ideas to raising their children, first in Frankfurt, Berlin, Hamburg and Stuttgart, and eventually in smaller cities like Giessen and Nuremberg.

Initially, the parents addressed practical issues, such as whether to take their children with them to protest marches. But the agenda eventually turned to sex education. In these anti-authoritarian kindergartens and daycare centers, known as Kinderladen, no other subject was discussed at such length as sex, says Alexander Schuller, one of the pioneers of the movement.

Divided Over the Issue

In 1969 Schuller, a sociologist, was one of the founders of a Kinderladen in Berlin's Wilmersdorf neighborhood. Like Schuller, the other parents were academics, journalists or university employees -- a decidedly upper middle-class lot. Schuller's two sons, four and five years old at the time, grew up without the customary rules and punishments of a government-run daycare facility.

But the adults were soon divided over the issue of sex. Some were determined to encourage their children to show and touch their genitalia, while the others were horrified by the idea.

"It was never addressed quite that directly, but it was clear that in the end, sex with the two female teachers was considered," says Schuller. "I found it incredibly difficult to take a stance. I felt that what we were trying to do was fundamentally correct, but when it came to this issue, I thought: This is crazy, it just isn't right. But then I felt ashamed of thinking that way. I think many were in the same position."

After a year of grueling discussion, the more prudish group prevailed, and the parents decided that there would be no sex in the Kinderladen.

Nowadays, the stimulation of a child's sex organs by an adult is clearly seen as criminal sexual assault. But for the revolutionaries of 1968, it was an educational tool that helped "create a new person," according to the "Handbook of Positive Child Indoctrination," published in 1971. "Children can learn to appreciate eroticism and sexual intercourse long before they are capable of understanding how a child is conceived. It is valuable for children to cuddle with adults. It is no less valuable for sexual intercourse to occur during cuddling."

Constant Enlightenment

The self-deception of these supposedly enlightened parents began when they tried to force an uninhibited relationship with sex on the children. In theory, their goal was to enable the children to act on their sexual needs. But because children are not spontaneously inclined to become sexually active in front of adults, they had to be stimulated to do so. The parents were constantly telling sex jokes and using words like "cock," "butt" and "vagina." "Actually, my sons really liked going to the Kinderladen," says Schuller, "but they thought the constant chatter about sex was horrible."

In her novel "Das bleiche Herz der Revolution" ("The Pale Heart of the Revolution"), Sophie Dannenberg strikingly described how agonizing it can be for children when their boundaries of privacy are violated. Dannenberg, whose parents, motivated by their affiliation with the German Communist Party, sent her to a Kinderladen in the western city of Giessen in the 1970s, used the stories told by her mother and other contemporary witnesses to write her account of an atmosphere of constant enlightenment.

The material she used includes an account of a parents' evening where one of the mothers said that she stripped naked in front of her son so that he could "inspect" her. In the process, the woman spread her legs to expose her private parts for his inspection. The game ended when the boy stuck a pencil into his mother's vagina. The parents also spent a long time discussing whether it was a good idea to have sex with their own children, so as to demonstrate the "naturalness" of sexual intercourse.

Although the people Dannenberg interviewed did not recall any instances of physical advances, they did describe "softer forms of sexual assault," such as pushy demands on children to show their naked bodies. In the novel, which is based on Dannenberg's research, the eight-year-old character Simone is told to strip in front of several adults and other children. "Why do you want to hide yourself," the mother says, to the amusement of the people standing around, when the child instinctively holds a pillow in front of her genitalia. "It's a beautiful thing you have there! Show it to us!"


No other scene in the book has provoked such angry reactions as this one. Dannenberg reports that she was literally shouted down during events to discuss the book whenever the scene was mentioned. "Lies, lies," audience members shouted once when she was in a panel discussion with Ulrich Enzensberger and reminded him of the sexual escapades of the day.

It probably wasn't always easy for the adults, either, to be so free. Not everyone knew what to do when the children went from playing with themselves to fondling the adults.

In his 1975 autobiographical book "Der grosse Basar" ("The Great Bazaar"), Green Party politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit describes his experiences as a teacher in a Frankfurt Kinderladen. When the children entrusted to his care opened his fly and began stroking his penis, he writes, "I was usually quite taken aback. My reactions varied, depending on the circumstances."


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donald doug 07/02/2010
1. It never was about the children, but always about the adults.
Let me begin by saying, that I was part of this sexual revolution as a child, and that I am reeling from the aftermath of what happened to me to this very day. That said, I want to point out, that when an adult engages in sexual activity with a child, it is not about love or sensuality, but about power. And it is exactly that level on which the abuse causes damage. No matter how often I was told that in an anti authoritarian household every member has equal rights, at the end of the day, I was still a child with all the limitations that that entails. I have a problem with the term Sexual Revolution. Screwing anything that moves hardly qualifies to be called that. The Left, as you call it, did exactly the same as the "Right". Adults having sex with children know no class boundaries. It happened just as much in conservative households, the only difference being, that the Left did it openly. And that was a huge step, yet clearly not enough. When adults consider children as adequate sex partners, it is about deep seated psychological damage, and has little to do with liberation of any kind. By openly engaging in these kind of practices, the 'Left' put the limelight on a topic that is of utmost importance. What angers me, as someone who happened to be on the child end of the spectrum at the time, is the fact that the issue was merely scratched on the surface and then left at that. It was never about the children, in my opinion, but about an attempt of the adults to confront something from their past, belonging to their childhoods. Considering, that the childhoods of those adults happened to be during World War II, complicates everything exponentially. I was used sexually as a child by various adults. It was never about me and always about them, even though it might have looked differently at the time. I confronted some of them over the years. Most of them belong(ed) to the establishment. Some of them are praised members of the establishment to this very day. Healing from this kind of abuse is a slow and often painful and extremely intimate process. It was very important for me to understand that the adults that chose to engage in sex with me as a child, did so out of their own damaged selves and had nothing to do with me as a human being. And that is exactly my point of critic with the "Left". Throwing a loaded topic like this onto the table could be considered courageous. Being unwilling to understand its true depth and impact is unforgivable.
dein spiegel 07/03/2010
2. lacking arguments
An interesting article, unfortunately it is just communicating the opinion that we're oh-so enlightened today, and back then people were just doing really wrong things because, well, everybody knows that, no? However, if there is no reason given for right or wrongs, the only thing that distinguishes both is the prevailing opinion, and that was what caused the problem to begin with. What is lacking in this article are scientifically well established studies that demonstrate effects of sexual abuse or intrusion into the private sphere on children. Without that, there's no rights or wrongs.
sganarelle 07/03/2010
3. Legends debunked
These are two of the legends that led to the fatal ideologies of the 1968 movement: The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead: A Historical Analysis of Her Samoan Research ( Secret History: Kinsey's Paedophiles (
ibesq 07/05/2010
4. Really?
I left Germany in 1965 and spent the rest of the 60s and 70s in the U.S., with the 70s in San Francisco, so I have experience with left and progressive groups. I find it hard to believe that the conduct and attitude described in this article with questionable source material was so widespread in the late 60s and 70s in Germany. If you read between the lines, the author acknowledges the absence of widespread sexual abuse of children.
mae 07/05/2010
5. s
Zitat von sysopGermany's left has its own tales of abuse. One of the goals of the German 1968 movement was the sexual liberation of children. For some, this meant overcoming all sexual inhibitions, creating a climate in which even pedophilia was considered progressive.,1518,702679,00.html
If leftist politicians have written books admitting to trysts with children, why hasn't the German police filed charges against them for child molestation? It appears that German society has a double standard when it comes to child molestation - one standard for priests and another for intellectuals and the artists. It is quite pathetic how this article tries to justify child molestation by the 68er's by saying they didn't realise they were harming the children - what did the have an IQ of 10? This basic common sense . This is what fanaticism does to people - they lose their morals. Any kind of fanaticism whether of the left or right inevitabley leads to an absence of morals. Fanaticism is not restricted to politics, it can also be fanatical atheism , fanatical environmentalism. Once an fanatical envirnomentalist told me that he didn't give a damn about millions of children dying of poverty becaue it was ultimately beneficial as over population was damaging the environment. He clearly had lost his morals but believed himself to be morally superior everybody else.
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