Pederasty in the modern world

In the past century, the term pederasty has seen a number of different uses. In the classic and academic sense, it refers to the erotic relationship between an adult male and an adolescent boy (see pederasty). Such relationships may be sexually expressed or not, consensual or nonconsensual, sentimental or commercial, and their legality will vary depending on local age of consent laws and prohibitions on homosexuality. The term can also be employed of the attraction of the man to the boy, whether or not reciprocated. See definitions below

Pederasty is contrasted with the other two forms of male homosexuality, androphilia and gender-structured relations, which are currently prevalent in modern industrialized societies. It is generally not used of lesbian relations.

The term has also been used, at times in legal parlance, to refer to relations with minors below the age of consent regardless of sex or age. See Pedophilia, Child sexual abuse, and Statutory rape

An alternative use has been to describe anal intercourse with either males or females, regardless of age. See sodomy and anal intercourse

Lexicological considerations

In modern anthropologic and sexologic parlance, "pederasty" is used as a generic term to describe the cultural phenomenon of erotic relations between men and adolescent boys, whether chaste or of a sexual nature. However, dictionary definitions of the practice reduce it to anal intercourse, ranging from moralistic ones based on the Christian discourse on homosexuality (Oxford Compact Edition, 1971, gives, "Unnatural connexion with a boy; sodomy.") to ones focused on the mechanics of a sexual act (Merriam-Webster (on-line edition) gives, "Pederast: one that practices anal intercourse especially with a boy"), or even "insertion of the penis into the anus." One-sided definitions such as these have been criticized as "a homophobic hijacking of a word originally introduced as a polite, learned term, an alternative to ugly words like 'bugger' and 'Sodomite'"

The meaning of the term was further blurred by the feminist movement which, under the aegis of National Organization for Women, adopted in 1980 a resolution on lesbianism which defined pederasty as "the involvement of children by adults in sexual activity," claiming that "over 90% of all pederasts are heterosexual males who seek out young girls as their victims." This resolution was in effect for nineteen years, and was superseded by another which did not broach in any way the topic of pederasty.

The modern popular restriction of that definition to the sexual component of such relationships is also due on one hand to the primacy of sexological discourse in contemporary western culture, and on the other to the demise of pederasty as a social institution. Thus in its contemporary sense, pederasty figures as a sub-category of what some sexologists term ephebophilia, the attraction of an adult towards adolescents, regardless of sex. Nonetheless this medicalization of desire is not widely accepted, and these categories do not figure in any international catalogue of mental dysfunctions.

Currently, the term or its cognate has been appropriated to describe any sexual relations between an adult male and a boy. Sometimes (as in the French pédé), it is used for all male homosexuality - often in a pejorative sense. In the English-speaking world the term is now popularly used to describe sexual relations between adults and boys below the age of consent in their respective community. In the news media and in common parlance, the term tends to be used as a synonym for pedophilia, even though the latter typically designates sexual contact between adults and prepubescent children, which is distinct from pederasty's application to relations between adults and youths who have reached puberty.

Academic definitions

In sexology, anthropology and history, the term "pederasty" has generally been used to describe relationships and desires that conform more to the classical understanding of the practice than to its modern interpretations.

In sexology, pederasty has been defined as "The erotic relationship between an adult male and a youth, generally one between the ages of twelve and seventeen, in which the older partner is attracted to the younger one who returns his affection" Vern L. Bullough. An alternative definition generalizes it to "the relationship between a man and a pubescent or postpubertal boy, generally under the age of eighteen" and goes on to indicate that "modern industrial societies have by and large rejected traditional pederastic relationships." glbtq glossary This status is seen by some not as the result of premeditation, but as a stage in the evolution of modern society's relationship to love and sexuality, in what has been called a "natural history of desire."

Legal status

The legal status of pederastic relations varies from country to country. In many countries they are allowed and included with other same-sex relations, with certain restrictions factoring the ages of the participants and their respective social roles. In other countries they are completely forbidden. In some cases this is due to laws regarding homosexuality, in others it is due to an age of consent that excludes all or most of the teenage years.

Where legal, pederastic relationships, just as relationships with adolescent girls, are restricted by law in that persons in authority are not permitted to establish intimate relations with those under their control, and relations with youths below a given age are forbidden, under often severe penalties.

Parental control of such relationship is rarely legislated. The Netherlands has recently experimented with a statute granting parents a measure of oversight over their offsprings' early sexual lives by not prosecuting adults in relationship with adolescents between the ages of twelve and sixteen unless a parent (or social worker) filed a formal complaint. That law was in effect from the 1970's to 2000 when it was repealed in favor of a blanket proscription of sexual contact between adults and youths under sixteen. A similar regulation is presently in effect in Brazil.

In some jurisdictions, as part of human rights campaigns granting the same freedoms to same-sex relationships as to heterosexual ones, the age of consent is being lowered so as to decriminalize some pederastic relationships.

Fragmentation of the gay liberation movement

The gay liberation movement was in part inspired by, and included, prominent pederasts such as Oscar Wilde, André Gide, Paul Goodman and Allen Ginsberg. Likewise, prominent homosexuals defended consensual relationships between adults and adolescents. For example, Larry Kramer, an AIDS activist and homosexual author writes:

In those instances where children do have sex with their homosexual elders, be they teachers or anyone else, I submit that often, very often, the child desires the activity, and perhaps even solicits it, either because of a natural curiosity that will or will not develop along these lines, or because he or she is homosexual and innately knows it. This is far from "recruitment." Obviously, there are instances in which the child is unwilling, and is a victim of sexual abuse, homo- or heterosexual. But, as with straight children anxious for the experience with someone of the opposite sex, these are kids who seek solicit, and consent willingly to sex with someone of the same sex. And unlike girls or women forced into rape and traumatized, most gay men have warm memories of their earliest and early sexual encounters; when we share these stories with each other, they are invariably positive ones.
Kramer, L (1981) Reports from the Holocaust. NY: St. Martin's Press p.234)

However, in several countries the abolition of laws against sodomy coincided with a separation between the ephebephile and androphile camps of the gay liberation movement (though, as part of the sexual revolution, the legal age of consent was lowered somewhat and usually set as equal to that for heterosexual sex).

In the late 1970's the defense of pederasty appears to have been picked up by NAMBLA, an organization that presses for the abolition of age of consent laws, and that may be associated with the introduction of the euphemistic man-boy love as an alternative to pederasty, a term viewed by some as compromised by prejudice. The expulsion of this organization from the International Lesbian and Gay Association in 1994 seemed to create a definitive break between the ephebephile and adult-homosexual camps. In concert with this shift, gay male archetypes continued their change from boyish to masculine, and relationships to become more equalized in terms of age difference. A progression from pederasty to egalitarian homosexuality has been hypothesised, but is not fully accepted (see external links).

Homosexuals today, while distancing themselves from the practice of modern-day pederasty, often discuss the history of pederasty interchangeably with the history of homosexuality. If they did not do so, they would have to disavow any link between homosexuality and most of the historical figures who practiced - and the artistic works which were inspired by - same-sex love. That is not the case, however: modern-day androphilic men have consistently cited as their forebears Western artists with pederastic leanings.

Cultural influences

During the twentieth century, a number of artists with pederastic leanings attained prominence. André Gide, Thomas Mann, Henry de Montherlant, Eric Satie, Benjamin Britten, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Fernando Vallejo, and Allen Ginsberg were inspired in various degrees by their pederastic attractions - even if these may at times have been denied or hidden. In popular culture, images and themes with pederastic origins or sub-texts continued to surface, though the implied messages underwent changes over time. In the early years of the century, Zeus' abduction of Ganymede, stripped of its erotic symbolism, makes its appearance in Budweiser beer advertising.

In mid-century, Batman, a popular comic strip hero, was denounced by psychologist Fredric Wertham for his association with his assistant, Robin, an adolescent boy. Wertham claimed that the pair led young people to normalize homosexual relationships, at that time still seen in age-structured terms. The studios and the public continued to toy with the sexual ambivalence between the two until the late sixties. Coinciding with the growing marginalization of age-structured homosexuality in the west, in 1969 Robin was removed from the series and later allusions to Batman's pederasty (fiercely repudiated by Batman's character) became the domain of unsympathetic antagonists, such as the Joker in the 1989 graphic novel ''''.

Erotic attraction between men and boys has been explored in a number of films, fictional as well as documentary. These have taken a range of views, from negative to neutral to positive. For a list of such films, see Pederastic filmography. Likewise, it has been featured on television, as in the British serial Queer as Folk which depicted a gay household including a fifteen year old boy exploring his sexuality. The theater also has addressed the topic, most recently in the play The History Boys, which blends both comedy and tragedy, with multiple layers and themes, including growing up, the wider purpose of education in adult life, pederasty, teaching methods, homosexuality, and the English education system.

Pederastic themes often arise in folklore as well, as in the following American proverb,

How do you separate the men from the boys? With a crowbar. It is often used as a jocular slur through attribution to a particular group or locality - the Navy, the US Army, Catholic priests etc.

Advocacy of pederasty

A number of modern writers, artists and scientist have advanced various arguments in defense of pederastic emotions, and liaisons. André Gide reflected on his own experiences:

I love boys with a sensual curiosity, a voluptuousness, a foolishness, which has often led me to run after them as if I were their age, staying out too long in the rain to help find a ball...I remember tarrying with B. in a haystack, my clothes full of bits of straw because I could not resist his pure blue eyes...To destroy the pederasty [within you] is to destroy you as well, your whole nature and personality...I think pederasty is a good thing, that such affection can spring up between man and boy to stir affectionate friendship where in each can find exaltation, protection, and challenge.

Moreover, advocates of the normalization of pederasty have cited scientific studies conducted in recent decades, which suggest that pederasty may not necessarily cause psychological harm. Several studies of sexual relations between adults and young people (including a range of relationships including incest and forcible rape, as well as pederasty) indicate that many youths do experience serious and long-lasting harm as a result of their participation in intergenerational relationships, in particular when those involve coercion, violence, or parental mental disease. However, no risk factor independent of these has yet been identified and the studies indicate that a certain percentage of youths involved in intergenerational relationships report no serious or long-term harm as a result.,,,,,

Probably the best known of these studies is A Meta-Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College Samples, a study carried out by Rind, et al., and published in the Psychological Bulletin in 1998. Noting that prior research regarding adult-minor sexual relationships tended to rely on medical and legal samples (that is, individuals receiving psychological treatment, or engaged in legal proceedings), the researchers used a statistical method known as meta-analysis to analyze samples of college students from 59 previously conducted studies on adult-minor sex. The study found that, of the college males who as minors had had sexual experiences with adults, a majority reported those experiences as having either a neutral or positive impact. The study concluded: "Adolescents are different from children in that they are more likely to have sexual interests, to know whether they want a particular sexual encounter, and to resist an encounter that they do not want. Furthermore, unlike adult-child sex, adult-adolescent sex has been commonplace cross-culturally and historically, often in socially sanctioned forms, and may fall within the 'normal' range of human sexual behaviors."

Criticisms of pederasty

Pederasty is a controversial practice, and a number of different accusations are leveled against it. Religious sources continue to group it in the same moral category as homosexuality in general, labeling both practices "unnatural" and "perverse". Self-described child abuse prevention organizations assert that it is impossible for non-adults to offer "informed consent" to sexual activity - arguing that "consent" assumes certain knowledge and life experiences that a child or teenager is unlikely to have. Many in the psychological community view adult-minor sexual relations as dangerous to the mental health of the minor. Finally, abusive illegal pederastic relationships often are reported in the media, validating certain aspects of such accusations. Such relationships may raise issues of morality and functionality, agency for the youth and parental authority.

Religious opposition

Religious opposition to pederasty makes no distinction between legal and illegal practices, but opposes all such relationships basing itself on scriptural arguments.

Some "gay-positive" writers, in their work of interpreting Christian teachings, have concluded that Paul's criticism of same-sex love do not target those for whom such affections come naturally, but rather those who indulge such pleasures by choice, with the example given being "the Hellenistic practice of erotic behavior with young males." Their work suggests that religious opposition to same sex relations should restrict itself to pederastic relationships, with their presumed abuse of power. But a position paper of the Anglican Church rejects that contention, claiming that,

The Graeco-Roman "ideal" did not entail erotic love of children, but of young (teenage) males, of the same age that young woman would be given in marriage. Frequently the more mature male was only slightly older than the partner. Had Paul intended to proscribe pederasty by using these terms (such as we understand pederasty today), he had recourse to many other more precise terms. In fact, the discussion in Romans, with its inclusion of female homoerotic behaviour, indicates that exploitation and victimisation were not the issue. (Paul has a lot to say about the abuse of power elsewhere). Position paper: How Is Homosexuality Understood in Scripture, Tradition, and in Contemporary Theology

The Catholic Church, while itself implicated in scandals over pederasts in its clergy, is at the same time one of the main groups working to prohibit the practice of pederasty, whether in its legal or illegal manifestations. On Feb. 2, 1961 the Vatican issued a document, "Instruction on the Careful Selection and Training of Candidates for the States of Perfection and Sacred Orders," barring from the priesthood anyone who has "perverse inclinations to homosexuality or pederasty." Then, in 1992, the Church organized an international congress in Bangkok on "The Abuse of Children in Prostitution and Pornography," using the occasion to call for pederasty to be declared a "crime against humanity."

Secular opposition

Secular opposition, unlike religious opposition, does not target pederasty per se, but distinguishes between practices which are legal and those that are illegal. Thus, same-sex relations with male as well as female youths, when against the law, are opposed by many groups, from law enforcement to NGO's such as ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) - a non-religious group working to combat the commercial exploitation of children, such as child prostitution and trafficking in children. Where the relations are permitted by law, as in the case of non-commercial relations with youths above the age of consent, considered legally to fall under the category of legitimate homosexual relationships, secular groups have not expressed an opinion.

Accusation of abuse

Men in such relationships are accused of being necessarily materialistic and manipulative. The claim is that the older partner's interest in the younger is always purely for sexual gratification, and that beneath a guise of caring or loving, and a veneer of acceptability of endowing the younger partner with "choice", these relationships are universally damaging to the youth because they are based on mutual deception. The attention given by the older to the younger is assailed as fundamentally self-interested, and the claim is made that the youths are discarded once past the age of attraction.

Criminality

While sexually expressed pederasty can be lawful within certain legal boundaries in many jurisdictions, several types of laws are usually brought to bear on such relationships. Age of consent laws set a lower limit on the age at which youths are enfranchised to enter into a sexual relationship with another person. This limit varies from one jurisdiction to another, ranging from the early teens to the early twenties.

Other laws restrict adults who are in positions of authority over a youth from entering into a sexual relationship with that youth. However, no laws criminalize love relationships which are not sexually expressed. Relations between adults and youth are also subject to generally applicable laws against rape and kidnapping.

There have been a number of publicized cases of illegal pederastic activity involving the Internet and, more specifically, the use of webcams. Justin Berry, a teenager in Bakersfield, California, began using a webcam at the age of 13, and shortly thereafter received offers of money and gifts from viewers in exchange for disrobing and performing sexual acts. He later created a subscription service aimed at pederasts. Berry ended up meeting at least two viewers/subscribers and had allegedly illegal sexual contact with both men. Berry ultimately shut down his service and, in exchange for immunity from prosecution on allegations of producing and distributing child pornography, assisted authorities in arresting several of his customers, including the men he met, who he alleged were engaging in illegal sexual conduct with other under-age webcam operators; In television and print interviews, Berry expressed anger towards the men and satisfaction at their arrests.

Another possible case of pederastic abuse is the disappearance of Alex Mechisvili, an eleven year old boy of Georgian descent living in northern Greece, after revealing to his parents that he had seen "what happens to kids who are not supervised by anyone." When the local Roma clan head, reputed to be the crime boss of Veria was questioned by the mother of the missing child about his possible complicity, he is reputed to have answered, "No. We don't steal children that old."

In a case alleged to involve both kidnapping and rape, Michael J. Devlin was indicted in early 2007 for abducting and sodomizing, over the course of several years of captivity, a boy in his early teens.

Censorship

The history and scope of pederasty has been the subject of extensive censorship. In the West, the topic was suppressed in academic circles for much of modern history. The unspoken ban was broken only in 1905 by the German historian Erich Bethe with his study Dorian Boy-Love: its Ethic, its Idea. In the USA, as late as 2005, Haworth Press withdrew from publication a volume on homosexuality in classical antiquity titled Same-Sex Desire and Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity and in the Classical Tradition of the West. This was in response to criticism from American right-wing groups that objected to book's depiction of classical pederasty, as well as to the substance of a chapter by the American academic Bruce Rind which integrated observations from history, anthropology, and zoology, and which was interpreted by some readers as advocating pedophilia.

The publisher, in a letter to the editors, attempted to exonerate Rind from the accusation and conceded that the article was sound, but stood by his decision to withdraw it "to avoid negative press" and "economic repercussions." Later Haworth reversed course and announced that the book and journal would be published, but without Rind's controversial essay. Mr. Rind's essay is to be published in a future "supplementary volume" of The Journal of Homosexuality, together with counterarguments advanced by his critics.

The very existence of discussions of pederasty is often condemned and suppressed. In a 2002 review of a work on Albanian folklore by Robert Elsie, Thornton Edwards suggests that a four page examination of pederastic practices would have been better served by a one-paragraph treatment.

Eastern historical material is also reported to be systematically distorted. In his monograph on same-sex relations in the pre-modern Middle East, Khaled El-Rouayheb demonstrates how Persian and Arabic love poetry and other literary material is routinely heterosexualized or devalued in critical studies authored by post-colonial Arab and Islamic scholars. (El-Rouhayeb, 2005) Western scholars likewise devalorize such material. In a 1999 review in The Spectator of an anthology of Classical Arabic literature, the reviewer, R.I. Penguin, defends the editor's censorship - and denigration - of the pederastic poems of a featured author: "Irwin is to be admired for sticking to a fair-minded overview of the whole field; Sanawbari's work, for instance, is described thus: 'Besides nature poems, he also produced mudhakarat, or poems addressed to small boys. However, in this anthology we will stick to the nature poems.' Quite right; the nature poems are much more interesting."

Under the rule of both the Pahlavi dynasty monarchy and the Islamic Republic in Iran, Janet Afary claims that "Classical Persian literature - like the poems of Attar (died 1220), Rumi (d. 1273), Sa'di (d. 1291), Hafez (d. 1389), Jami (d. 1492), and even those of the 20th century Iraj Mirza (d. 1926) - are replete with homoerotic allusions, as well as explicit references to beautiful young boys and to the practice of pederasty." She further states that "professors of literature have been forced to teach that these extraordinarily beautiful gay love poems aren't really gay at all and that their very explicit references to same-sex love are really all about men and women."

Pederastic themes in advertising

Main article: Sex in advertising

Commercial interests have upon occasion made recourse to graphic material evocative of pederastic themes. Early in the 20th century, Anheuser-Busch made use of a depiction of Zeus's abduction of Ganymede for a Budweiser beer ad campaign.

More recently, a number of ads for Calvin Klein jeans in 1995 depicting partially clad teenage boys were accused of having a pederastic subtext. Critics targeted the novelty of tapping the sexuality of teenage boys, rather than teenage girls. Also, they pointed out a perceived "obvious man-boy sexual subtext." The ads were pulled after only a short run in the face of public disapproval.

See also

Academic

  1. Andrews, Walter and Kalpakli, Mehmet. 2005 The Age of Beloveds: Love and the Beloved in Early-Modern Ottoman and European Culture and Society, (p.11)Duke University Press.
  2. Bauserman, R. & Rind, B. 1997. "Psychological Correlates of Male Child and Adolescent Sexual Experiences with Adults: A Review of the Nonclinical Literature," Archives of Sexual Behavior 26:105-141.
  3. Beitchman, J. H., Zucker, K. J., Hood, J. E., DaCosta, G. A., and Akman, D. 1991. "A Review of the Short-term Effects of Child Sexual Abuse," Child Abuse & Neglect 15:537-556.
  4. Beitchman, J. H., Zucker, K. J., Hood, J. E., DaCosta, G. A., Akman, D. and Cassavia, E. 1992. "A Review of the Long-term Effects of Child Sexual Abuse," Child Abuse & Neglect 16:101-118.
  5. Browne, A. and Finkelhor, D. 1986. "Initial and Long-term Effects: A Review of the Research" in D. Finkelhor (Ed.), ''A Sourcebook on Child Sexual Abuse (pp. 143-179). London: Sage.
  6. Constantine, L. L. 1981. "The Effects of Early Sexual Experience: A Review and Synthesis of Research" In L. L. Constantine and F. M. Martinson (Eds.), Children and Sex (pp. 217-244). Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
  7. Kilpatrick, A. 1987. "Childhood Sexual Experiences: Problems and Issues in Studying Long-range Effects," The Journal of Sex Research 23:173-196.
  8. Rind, B., Bauserman, R., and Tromovitch, P. 1998. "A Meta-Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College Samples," Psychological Bulletin 124(1):22-53.

General

Europe

Japan

The Western Hemisphere

Muslim Lands

External links

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