“That today on the left cannot be found an ability to question and radically refuse schools, psychiatry, prisons, or families certainly does not represent an advancement, quite the contrary.”

Translator’s note: I have reservations about some of the positions taken in this text, such as the valorization of “speaking one’s desires.” However, among a flurry of recent articles evaluating Hocquenghem’s legacy after the plaque debacle outlined below, this is the first I have seen to question (a) whether Hocquenghem’s writings on childhood were anything more than rephrehensible apologia or a meaningless “product of the time,” and (b) whether his official commemoration was something he would have wanted at all.

Originally published in French at Trou Noir 28 September 2020, September issue.

Reading Hocquenghem is a baroque response to the “Hocquenghem affair” that has disturbed the militant feminist and homosexual world these last weeks. The text discusses many subjects under tension: the figure of the pedophile, militant memory, sexual liberation, the child as the lightning rod of adults’ frustrated desires, etc.; and is presented [in Trou Noir] as a starting-point for a series of readings of Hocquenghem-thought.

The evening of 30 August 2020, the cameras of RT France followed Cassiopée, a millitant from the feminist collective Les Grenades. Her act: pouring fake blood on the plaque commemorating Guy Hocquenghem affixed at the base of a building where he had lived in Paris. According to her, Hocquenghem would be found guilty of apology for pedocriminality. The city administration took its courage in both hands and stealthily removed the compromising plaque some days later without saying a word. The journalist Amaury Brelet1 was the first to relay the matter, in the reactionary journal Valeurs Actuelles. A successful media operation for these feminists who managed to make people talk about Guy Hocquenghem beyond his usual audience. I will not linger on the recent challenges from the far-right to find the left guilty for the decadence of our century, for that I recommend you read “Why Are Right-Wing Conspiracies so Obsessed With Pedophilia?,” neither will I linger on the historical context recalling that Guy Hocquenghem struggled in the ’70s for the lowering of the age of sexual majority for homosexual relations fixed by the Vichy regime at 18 (compared to 15 for heteros). I discuss more the thought structure of the system of childhood from the last leftist polemicist (today they are right-wing), dead in 1988, namely our dear Guy Hocquenghem.

Return to the Polemic

In the current debates concerning the latent or overt defenses of pedophilia by the militant homosexual Guy Hocquenghem in the 1970s, the confusions, lies, denials and illuminating ideas that they carry have the merit, even if Hocquenghem loses feathers in it, of reopening the badly-healed wounds of the sexual liberation movement. The Grenades collective therefore accuses him of theoretical complicity with pedocriminality and of defending pedophile predation in his texts, his interviews and in his militantism aiming to lower the age of sexual majority.2 As evidence, we got phrases extracted from their (historical and political) context, but also from their argumentative structure (which seems more serious to me). Yet to read Hocquenghem on childhood, one has to understand two things: the first, which distinguishes him from writers invoking their desire for minors, is that he speaks from his position as an adolescent, as a desiring subject. He sustained a loving and carnal relationship with his philosophy professor in high school, and this is how one must understand that phrase often wrongly used against him: “There are children that love elders, including sexually.” The second thing is that he adheres to a way of living his homosexuality by fleeing from identitarian vainglory and any republican integration. The first has the consequence of opening the debate on the possibility or impossibility of the child’s sexual consent, the second of requiring us to remain on the lookout for the normative capture of our desires. What interests him therefore is the enunciation of a desire from the territory of childhood and the system in which this desire is caught in an adult reterritorialization. We arrive at the crucial point of the conflict: what kind of sexual liberation would draw up at the frontier that separates these two territories? Questioning the possibility of a continuum of desire between a child and an adult—that is what he is accused of, because it might maintain what is called “rape culture.”

Everybody wants their slice of child(hood)

When it concerns children, everyone has to put in their two cents: activists of every stripe, feminists, journalists, parents, academics, shrinks and pedopsychiatrists, lawyers, gays, rabid posters and the politicians panicked that one day it might fall on them (thanks! green wave); which is to say, all those who hope in some way or other to take over “childhood” in the “fairest way there could be” according to their own criteria. And anyway, it’s quite exciting, because we have all passed through the “sluice” of childhood and can finally talk among ourselves, the concerned parties. Childhood seems to be that universal condition that we have all come through. But we have also emerged from it to “adulthood” with our differences of achievements, traumas, fantasies, social rises, amorous and sexual experimentations, and interpretations of the world, which today establish the political conflicts on that theology of modernity: childhood. “All society claims to be nannies,” the psychoanalyst Pontalis will say, “…No society can do without an origin myth which serves it as an explanation of the organization of its world. Is ours looking for this myth in the real child? It is not that it celebrates the cult of the child-king, one hastens to add, since it knows how to abuse children, psychically and physically, like any other. But it tends to make the child its cause.”3 And concerning the accentuation of a coercive power on childhood, we must take a closer look today at Justice4 since the recent creation of prisons, in 2002.

We must say that today’s society is afraid (or, alternatingly, bored) because lesbians venture to establish fatherless families, and fags, motherless families, others don’t want any brats at all, drag queens do readings for children at municipal libraries, intersex collectives demand the cessation of genital mutilations done to children, and trans people demand the recognition of trans children. And then, in this same paranoiac and confusionist political period, another troublemaker resurfaces openly, the quintessential monster of a society that puts almost everyone in agreement as to its ignominy: the “pedophile.”

With this matter of the Grenades, we’ve been treated to a succession of heinous articles void of argument, contenting themselves to deploy the word “pedophilia” here and there by letting it freewheel in the collective imagination (besides the Grenades, one could cite the sociologist and former collaborator of Michel Rocard, Frédéric Martel5). There are words like that which seem to do without critical apparatus and putting-into-perspective, arguments, example and placement in political and philosophical context. And the worst of it now just has to take its place in the swamps of Facebook commentary. That today on the left cannot be found an ability to question and radically refuse schools, psychiatry, prisons, or families (and the parental training) certainly does not represent an advancement, quite the contrary.

Counter-Panthéonade and Memory of the Conflict

Then, must we burn comrade Hocquenghem or must we save him? The question does not rest so much on the necessity or legitimacy of attributing a commemorative plaque to the militant Guy Hocquenghem, as of reflecting on this need shared by the majority of glorifying personages, heroes and heroines of militatntism, or rather of sequestering them in a heavy memory empties of substance (a “panthéonade” as Verlaine would say), instead of actualizing the strong potentialities of a political moment which sought to revolutionize everything in its passage, including sensitive subjects. The response is sharp: the figure of Hocquenghem resists any consecration, it’s not the Grenades collective that settled his account, it’s the way he created himself a position which is resolutely irrecuperable because it is too tainted by the impure, negative and antisocial ideas that he always assumed. And it’s fortunate for Hocquenghemian thought to have made its way to this inalienable/irrecuperable point. For those who knew the political and philosophical journey of Guy Hocquenghem sensed already that such a moment would eventually come. It’s already been awhile since Hocquenghem was mentioned, his most “compromising” books concerning childhood ended up being carefully stored in the repressed space of our mental shelves, namely: Co-ire, Album systématique de l’enfance (co-written with René Schérer), Les petits garçons (a novel taking a position within the Coral Affair), and many of his articles published in Libération. These books in question have often been withdrawn from libraries and editors have prefered to avoid renewing their printings.

The polemic is not new since it has already had a place in the 1970s. Now we must ask ourselves the question of whether we are preparing the next collective repression of pedophilia by hunting down the monsters and locking them up far from society (the carceral method), or if one takes up again with patience and sincerity that difficult exploration/reassessment of what a sexuality of childhood can mean. In 2001, the philosopher Geneviève Fraisse (formerly of the MLF) expressed this in the columns of Humanité:

I must say that we—we feminists—have lived in a contradictory way since the start of this debate—this is what perhaps makes things easier for me today. On one hand, we are fully players in a movement of sexual emancipation and liberation, on the other, we were asking, naturally, the question of limits: what does liberation leave to children facing their own sexuality, what to say and what to show them of ours? We have always asked these questions. And we experience very badly the fact that some comrades—the line of investigation around Co-ire, by Guy Hocquenghem—respond: “Children and adults can have a sexuality in common.” They did not say “Let’s appropriate the sexuality of children,” but they defended the representation of a common child/adult sexuality. Yet this was impossible for us women to grant, we who know what such a vision means for little girls…Thus from the outset there was no single conception of sexual liberation, but different points of view, tensions, within the same fight. These are what I call internal contradictions: it’s because we were all of us in agreement to denounce the constraints weighting on sexuality that these tensions manifested themselves.

The relations of power specific to a child/adult relationship must not indeed be be discarded in the name of a liberation of sexuality, and the system of childhood that Hocquenghem and Schérer analyze in Co-ire can, in part, help us reflect on their articulation by simply asking the question: what social imaginary surrounds and structures the world of childhood? And from this, which ventures of predation can ensue from it? The fierce ambiguity that Co-ire adds to this question, and which makes the dialogue with feminist and queer movements so difficult, is the investigation of a practicable continuum of desire between a child and an adult. The problem in the current debate would be thwarting this possibility anew without seeking to complicate its terms. We cannot content ourselves with putting on a fifty-years-late trial for a conflictuality internal to our society that the homosexual and feminist movements of the time chose to bring back to the surface. We have to question equally what is repressed and hidden by a society for which the majority of porn searches on youporn are teen and beurette, but which always shows the pedophile as a monster to coldly butcher and the Arabic woman as an untamed Amazon. It must be addressed: the repressed desires of a society give bith to a monster that tells the horrible truth about it. A deeply pedophilic society makes the pedophile the absolute enemy.

Hocquenghem-thought is not a simple abstraction that can be pushed aside by a gust of wind, hence its always-current dangerousness; it possesses a textual body, where life and writing are not separated. This thought is never finalized, always just beginning, it seeks to stimulate subjects rather than cling to objects; and it carries the memory of a conflict that still has not coped with the hollowness of its subject.

Make your compass of passions

Make your compass of passions

Opening of Co-ire

To embark on a reading of Hocquenghem, I have chosen to take a look at the first part of Co-ire: Album systématique de l’enfance, written with René Schérer in 1977 (they would later write L’Âme atomique together). Co-ire is a book devised in protean fashion, taking support from the literature of childhood and stories, from Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi to The Pupil by Henry James, drawing on the bands of children described by Marx, organizing itself into chapters, into pause and lude, like musical themes. It is opened by these introductory words:

This book is written in the margins of the system which created, defined, and compartmentalized modern childhood, and which sustains it less in a state of subjugation and constraint than one of acquiescence and numbness. But far from us is the pretension of arousing or dictating anything. Our project is not political, and it is barely theoretical; it’s essentially descriptive. Descriptive, not investigative. And it is for this reason we are going on principle, first and above all, to the novelists who spoke best of childhood, because they didn’t care to explain or direct it.

Essentially descriptive, therefore, because what they suppose to be the crux of the problem of childhood is its constant submission to a benevolent educational and familial surveillance.

This first part of Co-ire, entitled “Abduction,” describes the fantasies by which childhood is defined (and produced), and the strategies that it puts in place to negotiate them or free itself of them. Our authors unfold the fantasy specific to childhood of being stolen (the encounter with a unknown person or an animal, a flight, the hope of being an adopted child, the vagabondage of hordes of children, suicide, etc.). The two principal figures that exercise this control on childhood are the Family and the School. And the one drives it to violate these laws is the figure of the Stranger, the intruder third party who blows up the theorem. For example, when Pinocchio is held back in his flight by the Cricket lecturing him, the danger which would be his sentence exercises an irrestible seduction on him:

“Listen to me, Pinocchio, retrace your steps,” says the Cricket.

“On the contrary, I want to go on.”

“It’s getting late.”

“I want to go on.”

“The night is dark.”

“I want to go on.”

“The way is dangerous.”

“I want to go on.”

For Pinocchio, running away is a means to leave the condition of child which Gepetto devoted him to, and the attraction of a foreign land is its motor.

A fearsome, attractive idea, always double-sided, impossible to divide. Because abduction is, for children, feared as much as desired; it is desired through the very fear it inspires. The break it implies with humdrum existence, by an eruption both from the unknown and into the unknown. (Co-ire)

But these same story that describe the seductive functions of danger are etched with morality, and each flight, each adventure, each daydream, is compulsorily ended by a return home: the wooden puppet will return into Gepetto’s arms. Hocquenghem and Schérer impart to childhood a consciousness in its own right, with signs that belong to it and its own way of interpreting them and then making use of them, which are not the same as those of the adult world. I do take the trouble to distinguish the child from childhood, and the adult from the adult world: individualities as opposed to a system. Of course, that does not mean that one must negate the historical moment they represent in the apprenticeship and decadence of a body and a language. We are born, get old and die. But as a system, childhood has no limit, it pursues its existence beyond the threshold that has been fixed for it by a law. That is to say, we are always capable of interpreting the world with this other complexity.

In The Pupil, a short story by Henry James that Hocquenghem was particularly fond of, the childhood described is a childhood that updates the environment of the adult world. The little Morgan has fully understood the comedy of his parents, who want to get rid of him without taking on the financial and moral consequences. The child senses it, he knows, he’s ashamed of it. He begs his tutor Pemberton to take him far from the family he feels embarrassed of: “Take me, take me!” But Pemberton belongs to the adult world where he knows what tacit agreement links him to the other adults. He is denied any kidnapping. The little Morgan will then seek in this story to establish a strategy allowing him to realize his dearest desire to be plucked from his family. For Hocquenghem and Schérer,

it shows the child lifting the adult masks, unveiling the assumptions of discourse, preparing himself, by breaking the loose complicity and providing himself with new ones, the capture that will finally allow him to be, because his own life is at stake.

The little Morgan denounces not only the tacit understanding of adults among themselves, but also reveals that this agreement is directed against childhood.

The impure subject and the silent majority

In a text entitled Anal Terror6 (originally an afterword to the Spanish edition of Hocquenghem’s Homosexual Desire), Paul B. Preciado offers a commentary on the works by Guy Hocquenghem, René Schérer and the FHAR on childhood:

For Scherer, Guy Hocquenghem and the FHAR activists, the educational system is the particular apparatus that produces the child, and it does so through a singular political operation: the de-sexualization of the infantile body and the disqualification of its affects.

Childhood is not a pre-political state, but on the contrary, a moment in which biopolitical apparatuses function in the most despotic and silent way on the body. (157)

Preciado’s argument in the part of his text dedicated to the FHAR’s politics on childhood sexuality consists of understanding desire as an “artifact7 that is culturally constructed,” modeled not only by social violence, by incentives and rewards, “but also by fear of exclusion,” thus determining the paradigm on Western sexuality based on the domination of passive bodies (women, children, homosexuals). To clarify his statements, he recalls the way in which sexuality, especially before the 1970s, was repressed and/or circumscribed from the youngest age (the prohibitions on masturbation and homosexuality, the privatization of the anus), and when there was to be a discovery of sexuality, it had to be essentially phalic, which is to say constructed for bourgeois heterosexuality, hence repressions and incentives.

But he also advances a positioning which interests us in the current polemic: “The anal revolution is impure.” If the eduction that the child recieves breaks its back developing a taboo on anal pleasure in favor of reproductive genital sexuality, consequently condemning homosexuality and autoeroticism as shameful desires, then the revolution that that the FHAR activists and Guy Hocquenghem carried out had to go through childhood, cradle of our repressions, but also to assume the impure qualities of a sexuality which must be reconfigured without model or compass. The anal revolution is practiced gropingly, by putting on the collective table our most shameful and least assumable fantasies. This is clearly the objective of the issue of the review Recherches, Three Billion Perverts, also accused of pedophile propaganda when it came out.8 We must learn to say our fantasies, to speak well or badly, as the expression of these homosexual desires hitherto confined in bedrooms and public urinals sought to join the revolutionary theories that swarmed in the post-May period. It could even be asserted that they had had the courage of asserting the desires of a society as a whole, by taking charge of them and redistributing them endlessly to whoever would take them back. We had to speak so that the silence would stop speaking in our place, and we know how easy it is to hide behind a supposed mystery of of sexuality, to curl up in a comfortable and reassuring cupboard. Unfortunately for everyone, the fags spoke. Few feminists understood this approach. But one can at least note the review made by les Cahiers du Grif (a feminist magazine founded in 1973 by the philosopher Françoise Collin) of Three Billion Perverts: “This issue, banned in France, risks disturbing our readers with souls and sensitive eyes, but it compels one to tackle the problems with an unusual candor.”

The critique of the Phallus as legislator principal associated with an impure anal practice was thus at the foundation of this fall into childhood of the homosexuals in the 1970s. It’s in this way that can affirm with Preciado that

[t]here isn’t, there can’t be, any pretense of purifying the political subject, except at the risk of normalization, oppression, and reproduction of new exclusions. The FHAR activists affirmed a bad political subject, a subject with faults, who is in no way purely revolutionary. A pure (clean) revolution has ceased to be an anal revolution. (156)

Whether in the Rapport contre la normalité or Three Million Perverts, the fags of the FHAR were collectively talking over their different fantasies (intergenerational relationships, fetishization of Arabs, S/M, etc.), which they have frequently been reproached for. But these discussions were not political showcases: they all carry a sens of analysis and self-criticism.

Childhood is presented to us as a silent majority. “…And staying on the lookout for the consciousness of children, there is a strong risk of only hearing the sounds of his own interior dialogue” (Pontalis). Hocquenghem and the milit/aunts [play on tante, “aunt,” a French slur for gay men —Tr.] of the FHAR open the way to another exploration of intimacy, another type of circulation of speech, one speaks not on but with, an exploration that does not confess but gives texture (a textual body) to (impure) desires, just enough to grab onto so as to be able to finally speak to each other freely.

*Les Cahiers du GRIF*, №4, 1974

Les Cahiers du GRIF, №4, 1974


Reading Hocquenghem means reading him as a whole [“as a hole,” more like. —Tr.], as his works communicate among each other, reading his philosophical influences, to establish his discursive genealogy, and reading him between the lines, because what fascinates him are the blind spots of political thought. Hocquenghem-writing acts in movement, it has no object or finality, it trusts our subjective capacities to transform reality. What does this mean? By writing and action, to permanently put at stake a self irreducible to any categorical definition. Better than a liberation (which always presupposes another oppression in counterpoint), a freedom as “what is voiced in invention, event, without model, and without reference to oppression or oppressor” (Hannah Arendt). A practice of freedom which does not accept any return to the fold, a political wandering which does not find its home, lets itself be called by what tends to be excluded, a masochistic tendency for sure—this is the insurrectionary inheritance of Guy Hocquenghem to homosexual memory (a thought not as… but as of…). So yes, sure, we agree: no commemorative plaque below the building where he lived, but why not on a public urinal, at the Tuileries or gardin of Luxembourg, where things started to flare.

Mickaël Tempête.


  • Guy Hocquenghem and René Schérer, Co-ire, Album systématique de l’enfance, revue Recherches, no 22, 1976.

  • Trois milliards de pevers : Grande encyclopédie des homosexualités, Acratie, 1973, 2015.

  • Paul B. Preciado, Anal Terror, in Bædan 3: Journal of Queer Time Travel, Contagion Press, 2015.

  • Jean-Bertrand Pontalis, « La chambre des enfants », in Nouvelle revue de psychanalyse, n°19, 1979.

  • FHAR, Rapport contre la normalité, GayKitschCamp, 1971, 2013.

  • Carlo Collodi, Les aventures de Pinocchio, Presses de la Cité, 1969.

  • Henry James, The Pupil, Project Gutenberg, 1997.

  1. Amaury Brelet, to whom we owe other articles published in Valeurs Actuelles defending Éric Zemmour, Elon Musk or alternately attacking “delirious antiracism and LGBT whining.” In his article revisiting the Grenades’ action (the first to relay it, I emphasise), he assumes without complexity the categorial slippage of homosexual and pedophile: “the essayist and journalist of Libération was one of the most fervent militant pedophiles of the left.” 

  2. In their manifesto published on a Médiapart blog, the Grenades assert simplistically that Guy Hocquenghem is “one of the worst apologists for pedocriminality that France has ever numbered.” Thus they pass from defense of pedophilia to that of pedocriminality, by assuming that Hocquenghem would defend rape against minors. This text is notably co-signed and supported by the sociologist Christine Delphy and the historian Ludivine Bantigny. 

  3. Jean-Bertrand Pontalis, “La chambre des enfants,” an article published in an issue of the Nouvelle revue de psychanalyse dedicated to childhood, published in 1979. Note the numerous references to psychoanalysis and institutional psychotherapy sprinkled throughout Co-ire: Jacques Lacan, Sigmund Freud, Jean Laplanche, Melanie Klein, Maud Mannoni and Fernand Deligny. 

  4. Concerning the role of Justice on childhood, one could note the decree of 2 February 1945 (undoubtedly the “Liberation”…) which brings into existence the first judges for children in the criminal setting, then that of 23 December 1958 (the return of de Gaulle) in the civil area. And in our time, created in 2002, the first penitentiary establishments for minors (EPM) are open. Today, certain prisons for children know the same problems of overpopulation as prisons for adults. To know more on this, cf. this article from the OIP

  5. The sociologist Fréderic Martel, all too happy to again be able to go after those horny FHAR radicals whom he pretends to respect, by making Hocquenghem at the end of his life pass for a barbacker-far-rightist-pedophile-antifeminist-psychologically-unstable-anti-Semite.

    In a history that he has given on French culture following the Grenades affair he explains, “Contrary to most of the gay militants, Guy Hocquenghem thus pursued this immoral fight for the sexuality of children more and more alone, more and more marginalized, in the 1980s. This was his error and the reason for the current polemic.” I have not read a better reply than this one made to him already by Hélène Hazera in 1996:

    For lack of understanding of the 1970s, Frédéric Martel looks for the “leaders” among the FHAR, which was by nature anti-authoritarian. This is how Guy Hocquenghem’s interview in 1972 in the Nouvel Observateur becomes a founding act, and Frédéric Martel will not let go of (I quote) “this curly-haired imp” [always thought our Guy looked very Bilbo Baggins —Tr.], in an unhealthy relationship of fascination-demolition.

  6. Paul B. Preciado, Anal Terror, in Bædan 3: Journal of Queer Time Travel. In this text, he makes the bold choice of confronting, and making explicit, the politicization of childish sexuality in the 1970s by the FHAR:

    The question of childhood and child sexuality, so central to the texts of Hocquenghem and the FHAR, seem like a new taboo in the social sciences and even in contemporary queer critique. Only a few authors such as Steven Angelides or Lee Edelman work today on the “political chronology” of the body.

  7. Artifact: something which has been willed and no longer needs this will to be what it is. 

  8. Incidentally, an online version was revised in the early 2000s, with its section on pedophilia removed. On this subject, see the text by Stéphane Nadaud