Pederasty or paederasty (literally 'boy-love', see etymology below) refers to an erotic relationship, sexually expressed or not, between a boy "generally between twelve and seventeen" stemmed from the growing Christian movements in Europe.

Some anthropologists have formulated a broad historical perspective of male homosexual practice according to three cultural models: the Greek model, the Melanesian model, and the Western model. Of these, the first two represent pederastic practices, and the last, a comparatively recent evolution, relations between adults. Today, the Greek model is practised in secret, while the Melanesian - associated mainly with Papua New Guinea - died out before the end of the twentieth century. A further classification proposes three subdivisions of homosexuality as 'age-structured' (man-boy), egalitarian (man-man) and gender-structured. The research has shown that pederasty as a cross-cultural phenomenon is the predominant expression of male-male sexuality as viewed through historical record, though the practice has varied significantly within different cultures. It has for instance been associated with coming-of-age ritual, the acquisition of virility and manly virtue, educational aspiration or even military skill and engagement. In poetry and art, the evanescent beauty of adolescent boys has been celebrated from Classical times: in the Middle East, the Near East and Central Asia, in imperial China, pre-modern Japan, and the European Renaissance and beyond.

The Western model of male adult relations is seen by researchers as a departure from this norm since it has rarely appeared as a pattern in other times and places. Unlike the other models, it 'assumes that homosexuality is not merely a behavior, but something innate to a person's real being.' Whether the emergence of this more-recent phenomenon heralds a new direction in male love or whether the historical evidence of pederasty as an autonomous principle will be upheld in generations to come, only time will tell.

Historical synopsis

In antiquity, pederasty as an educational institution for the inculcation of moral and cultural values, as well as a form of sexual expression, entered history from the Archaic period onwards in Ancient Greece, though Cretan ritual objects reflecting an already formalized practice date to the late Minoan civilization, around 1650 BCE. As idealized by the Greeks, pederasty was a relationship and bond - whether sexual or chaste - between an adolescent boy and an adult man outside of his immediate family. While most Greek men engaged in relations with both women and boys, exceptions to the rule were known, some avoiding relations with women, and others rejecting relations with boys. In Rome, relations with boys took a more informal and less civic path, men either taking advantage of dominant social status to extract sexual favors from their social inferiors, or carrying on illicit relationships with freeborn boys.

Analogous relations were documented among other ancient peoples, such as the Thracians, the Celts and various Germanic peoples such as the Heruli and the Taifali. According to Plutarch, the ancient Persians, too, had long practiced it, an opinion seconded by Sextus Empiricus who asserted that the laws of the Persians "recommended" the practice. Herodotus, however, asserts they learned copulation with boys from the Greeks, by the use of that term reducing their practice to what John Addington Symonds describes as the "vicious form" of pederasty, as opposed to the more restrained and cultured one valued by the Greeks.

Opposition to the carnal aspects of pederasty existed concurrently with the practice, both within and outside of the cultures in which it was found. Among the Greeks, a few cities prohibited it, and in others, such as Sparta, some claimed that only the chaste form of pederasty was permitted. Likewise, Plato's writings devalue and finally condemn sexual intercourse with the boys one loved, while glorifying the self-disciplined lover who abstained from consummating the relationship.

The Judaeo-Christian faiths also condemned sodomy (while defining that term variously), a theme later promulgated by Islam and, later still, by the Baha'i Faith. Within the Baha'i faith, pederasty is the only mention of any type of homosexuality by Bahá'u'lláh. "We shrink, for very shame, from treating of the subject of boys. Fear ye the Merciful, O peoples of the world! Commit not that which is forbidden you in Our Holy Tablet, and be not of those who rove distractedly in the wilderness of their desires."

Within the blanket condemnation of pedophilia in most faiths, pederasty in particular has been a target. The second century preacher Clement of Alexandria used divine pederasty as an indictment of Greek religion: "For your gods did not abstain even from boys. One loved Hylas, another Hyacinthus, another Pelops, another Chrysippus, another Ganymedes. These are the gods your wives are to worship!" The early Christian Roman emperors quashed pederasty, together with the other overtly sexual manifestations of Greco-Roman religion and culture, as part of the imposition of Christianity as a state religion. Early legal codes prescribed harsh penalties for violators. The law code of the Visigothic king Chindasuinth called for both partners to be "emasculated without delay, and be delivered up to the bishop of the diocese where the deed was committed to be placed in solitary confinement in a prison." These punishments were often linked to the penance given after the Sacrament of Confession. At Rome, the punishment was burning at the stake since the time of Theodosius I (390). Nonetheless the practice continued to surface, giving rise to proverbs such as With wine and boys around, the monks have no need of the Devil to tempt them, an early Christian saying from the Middle East.

Pederasty was notable to historians in Moorish Spain, and Tuscany and northern Italy during the Renaissance.

Elsewhere, it was practiced in pre-Modern Japan until the Meiji restoration, in Mughal India until the British colonization, amongst the Aztecs and Maya prior to the Spanish conquest of Mexico and in China and Central Asia until the early 20th century. In the Islamic world spiritual pederasty was incorporated into many mystic Sufi teachings. The tradition of pederasty persists to the present day in certain areas of Afghanistan, the Middle East, North Africa, and Melanesia.

Such relationships raise issues of morality and functionality, agency for the youth, and parental authority. They may also raise issues of legality in those cases where the minor is below the age of consent. Homosexual pederasty have been deemed beneficial by cults such as ancient philosophers, Japanese samurai, and modern writers such as Oscar Wilde. In many societies, it was justified on the grounds that the child needed sexual relations with a man in order to become a man himself and that man-boy relations were superior to relations with a woman, in line with the highly misogynistic cultures in which they were openly practiced. Today, most commentators agree it is criminal and consider that they have a negative effect on the psychological development of the youth. A study countering this position, authored by Bruce Rind and others, was published by the American Psychological Association in 1998. See Historical pederastic relationships and Pederasty in the modern world.

Etymology and usage

"Pederasty" derives from the combination of "" (the Greek stem for boy or child) with "" (Greek for lover; cf. "eros"). Late Latin "pæderasta" was borrowed in the sixteenth century directly from Plato's classical Greek in The Symposium. (Latin transliterates "" as "ae".) The word first appeared in the English language during the Renaissance, as "pæderastie" (e.g. in Samuel Purchas' Pilgrimage.), in the sense of sexual relations between men and boys.

In modern academic parlance, "pederasty" is used as a generic term which includes the cultural phenomenon of erotic relationships between men and adolescent boys, wherever encountered. (See "Reference" section below, esp. Hubbard, El-Rouayheb, Sergent, Percy, Dover, Leupp, and many others.) For example, 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." Another, more detailed version indicates likewise but stipulates that such a relationship is pederastic "whether or not the liaison leads to overt sexual contact." "Pederasty is the erotic relationship between an adult male and a boy, generally one between the ages of twelve and seventeen, in which the older partner is attracted to the younger one who returns his affection, whether or not the liaison leads to overt sexual contact."

However, dictionary definitions of the practice range from the moralistic (Oxford Compact Edition 1971: "Unnatural connexion with a boy; sodomy") to others focused on the mechanics of a sexual act (Merriam-Webster (on-line edition): "one who practices anal intercourse especially with a boy").

Social class factors

Pederastic relationships in a number of different societies were identified with the upper classes, or with class difference between the partners. This class difference at times was seen as facilitating the relationship by providing upward mobility when the man was from the upper class and the boy from a poor family. In other cases it became a symbol of the power of love to transcend class distinctions, as in pre-modern Japan where the fact that high-born lovers entered into devoted relationships with boys from the lower classes was held up to admiration.

In ancient Sparta pederasty was practiced by the aristocracy as an educational device. In Athens the slaves were expressly forbidden from entering into pederastic relations with the free-born boys. In mediaeval Islamic civilization, pederastic relations "were so readily accepted in upper-class circles that there was often little or no effort to conceal their existence."

The ancient world

The Greeks

Main articles: Pederasty in Ancient Greece and Philosophy of Greek pederasty

The ancient Greeks, in the context of the pederastic city-states, were the first to describe, study, systematize, and establish pederasty as an institution. As keystone of the Greek paideia, the relationship between lover and beloved (erastes and eromenos) was valued for fostering excellence in the youth as well as in the man who loved him.

The topic of pederasty was the subject of extensive analysis. Some of the principal questions discussed were:

Plato was an early critic of sexual intercourse in pederastic relationships, proposing that men's love of boys avoid all sexual expression and instead progress from admiration of the lover's specific virtues to love of virtue itself in abstract form. While copulation with boys was often criticized and seen as shameful and brutish, other aspects of the relationship were considered beneficial, as indicated in proverbs such as A lover is the best friend a boy will ever have.

Pederastic relationships were dyadic mentorships. These mentorships were sanctioned by the state, and consecrated by the religious establishment. See Mythology of same-sex love. The pederastic relationship also had to be approved by the boy's father. Boys entered into such relationships in their teens, around the same age that Greek girls were given in marriage. The mentor was expected to teach the young man or to see to his education, and to give him certain appropriate ceremonial gifts. Often such relationships took place in a military context. See Homosexuality in the militaries of ancient Greece.

Pederasty was the idealized form of an age-structured homoeroticism that, like all social institutions, had other, less idyllic, manifestations, such as prostitution or the use of one's slave boys.

The physical dimension ranged from fully chaste to sexual intercourse. Pederastic art usually shows the man standing, grasping the boy's chin with one hand and reaching to fondle his genitals with the other. While historians such as Dover and Halperin hold that only the man experienced pleasure, art and poetry indicate reciprocation of desire, and other historians assert that it is "a modern fairy tale that the younger eromenos was never aroused."

Pederastic relationships were known throughout most of ancient Greece. The state was said to benefit from the fact that the friendship functioned as a restraint on the youth. In Sparta, for example, if he committed a crime it was not the boy but his trainer who was punished. The army was potentiated by the practice, as the two fought side by side, with each vying to shine before the other.

Pederastic couples were also said to be feared by tyrants, because the bond between the friends was stronger than that of obedience to a tyrannical ruler. Plutarch gives as examples the Athenians Harmodius and Aristogeiton. Others, such as Aristotle, claimed that some states encouraged pederasty as a means of population control, by directing love and sexual desire into non-procreative channels, a feature of pederasty later employed by other cultures, such as the Siwan, and perhaps the Melanesian.

The Romans

In Roman times, pederasty largely lost its status as a ritual part of education — a process already begun by the increasingly sophisticated and cosmopolitan Greeks — and was instead seen as an activity primarily driven by one's sexual desires and competing with desire for women. The social acceptance of pederastic relations waxed and waned during the centuries. Conservative thinkers condemned it — along with other forms of indulgence. Tacitus attacks the Greek customs of "gymnasia et otia et turpes amores" (palaestrae, idleness, and shameful loves). The emperors, however, indulged in male love — most of it of a pederastic nature — almost to a man. As Edward Gibbon mentions, of the first fifteen emperors, "Claudius was the only one whose taste in love was entirely correct" — the implication being that he was the only one not to take men or boys as lovers.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla, acknowledged Metrobius, a Roman tragic actor of Greek birth, as his lover in his final speech to the Roman Senate, much to the dismay of the audience.

Widely known in his time, Metrobius (lived 1st century BC) was a Roman tragic actor of Greek birth. He gave up the stage to accompany the former dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla into retirement in the year 79 BC. After Sulla's death, Metrobius disappears from the sources.

Other writers spent no effort censuring pederasty per se, but praised or blamed its various aspects. Martial appears to have favored it, going as far as to essentialize not the sexual use of the catamite but his nature as a boy: upon being discovered by his wife "inside a boy" and offered the "same thing" by her, he retorts with a list of mythological personages who, despite being married, took young male lovers, and concludes by rejecting her offer since "a woman merely has two vaginas." Among the Romans, pederasty reached its last zenith during the time of hellenophile emperor Hadrian. A man whose passion for boys paralleled that of his predecessor, Trajan, he fell in love with Antinous, a young teenage Greek, and had his eromenos deified upon the latter's premature death.


The rise of Christianity led to the suppression of pederasty by the Byzantine emperors, as it was one of the mainstays of a classical pagan culture which the church fathers identified as in conflict with Biblical teaching. Such teaching includes references to the Old Testament, in which Leviticus decrees death as the punishment for a number of sexual improprieties including carnal relations between men.

Paul condemns some sexual actions in his letter to the Romans. However this sexual suppression maybe a result of the larger Greco-Roman culture of which Paul was a part. Recent Pauline scholarship has suggested that Paul was influenced by Stoicism which had its own tradition of suppressing sensuality in general. For the comprehensive treatment of this issue see Troels Engberg-Pedersen's book "Paul and the Stoics." An example of this Stoic suppression of sensuality in a primary source can be seen in Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations." Marcus Aurelius speaks of avoiding pleasure and sensual indulgence as well as avoiding even a desire for things most appropriately "done behind closed doors."

Furthermore within some early second century Christian communities even speech about pederasty was suppressed: "Conversation about deeds of wickedness is appropriately termed filthy [shameful] speaking, as talk about adultery and pederasty and the like," and was to be "put to silence."

There are two pericopes found in two of the synoptic gospels (Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10) which recount the same story in more or less slightly different terms. The same basic the story is found in each book, which recounts the healing of a "beloved slave," (it is this translation that leads to the argument below, alternatives are "dear" or "valuable") has been interpreted by some as supportive of male love. The centurion's servant healed by Jesus is construed to have been his beloved, and this narrative "as Jesus' acceptance of, and even collaboration in a pederastic relationship," according to T. W. Jennings, professor of biblical and constructive theology at Chicago Theological Seminary. In contrast, other Biblical scholars do not view Jesus' healing of the centurion's servant as implicit approval for the Roman's treatment of his servant or any of his actions, especially his leadership of a force occupying Judea. The story was used to illustrate the soldier's faith and cannot be taken to mean that Jesus condoned the lifestyle of a pagan military officer.

Other venues

Pederasty in ancient times was not the exclusive domain of the Greeks and Romans. Athenaeus in the Deipnosophists states that the Celts also partook and despite the beauty of their women, preferred the love of boys. Some would regularly bed down on their animal skins with a lover on each side. Other writers also attest to Celtic pederasty: Aristotle (Politics, II 6.6. Athen. XIII 603a.), Strabo (iv. 199), and Diodorus Siculus (v. 32)). Some moderns have interpreted Athenaeus as meaning that the Celts had a boy on each side, but that interpretation is questioned by Hubbard, who reads it as meaning that they had a boy one side and a woman on the other. (Hubbard, 2003; p.79)

Persian pederasty and its origins was debated even in ancient times. Herodotus claimed they had learned it from the Greeks: "...and [the Persians'] luxurious practices are of all kinds, and all borrowed: the Greeks taught them pederasty." However, Plutarch asserts that the Persians used eunuch boys to that end long before contact between the cultures. In either case, Plato claimed they saw fit to forbid it to the inhabitants of the lands they occupied, since "It does not suit the rulers that their subjects should think noble thoughts, nor that they should form the strong friendships and attachments which these activities, and in particular love, tend to produce."

Post-classical and modern forms

The record of pederastic practices, whether as a continuation of the Mediterranean traditions or as independent native traditions, as in China and Japan, expands greatly, due to the better preservation of more recent literary and historical materials. Before the 20th century, relationships with a more or less pederastic element were the usual pattern of male same-sex love.

The Middle East and Central Asia

For a period starting in the 800s and ending in the mid 1800s, pederastic relationships, poetry, art and spirituality were a prominent and pervasive feature of Islamic culture from Moorish Spain to Northern India. The forms of this pederasty ranged from the chaste and spiritual adoration of beautiful youths at one extreme, to the violent and forcible use of unwilling boys at the other. While sodomy was considered a major sin, other aspects of same-sex relations were not, though they were made problematic to various degrees at various times and places.

Its seeming co-relation with the rise of Islam has been commented on by modern historians, who suggest that the protective attitude of Islam towards women, which removed them from public life, as well as the tendency of Islamic law to accommodate within the domain of "private behavior" activities that would take place regardless, as long as they do not interfere with public order.

Literature and art reflected the fascination with love in general and beautiful boys in particular. The lover was conceived as martyr and hero. His desire, known as ishq, was glorified as mad, unreasonable, ecstatic, impossible to satisfy and leading even to death. An Arab proverb claims that "Ishq is a fire that burns down everything but the object of desire".

The Mughal period saw strong pederastic influences in government, arts and literature. Poetry in ghazal form was a favorite means of such expression, produced by poets such as Mir Taqi Mir.

In central Asia the practice is reputed to have long been widespread, and remains a part of the culture, as exemplified by the proverb, Women for breeding, boys for pleasure, but melons for sheer delight. Though no longer widely practiced, boy marriages nevertheless still occur. In the aftermath of the US-Afghan war, western mainstream media have reported derisively on patterns of adult/adolescent male relationships, documented in Kandahar in Afghanistan. These reports however have been characterized as "privileging a political spin over more precise and informative writing", and as suffering from ethnocentric bias (Stephanie Skier, in queer.).

Besides relationships following the pederastic model, cases of sexual brutality by men against youths — in this instance as one aspect of the military use of children — have also been documented. In the northern, Turkic-speaking areas, one manifestation of the pederastic tradition was the entertainers known as bacchá (a Turkik Uzbeki term etymologically related to the Persian bachcheh, "boy" or "child", sometimes with the connotation of "catamite"). Boy prostitution was also widely reported in Karachi, leading General Sir Charles Napier to attempt in 1845 to have them closed down, worried about the "corrupting" effect on his troops. His attempt was foiled by the local amirs, who had a vested interest in keeping the institutions open. The practice was noted as late as 1932, when League of Nations investigators reported that a number of young Indian boys were engaged in homosexual prostitution, many of them suffering from venereal disease.

The construction of same-sex love in the Middle East has been influenced by its history and geography. Hellenistic elements can be recognized in the use of the wine boy as a symbol of homoerotic passion. Further, in pre-modern Islam there was a "widespread conviction that beardless youths possessed a temptation to adult men as a whole, and not merely to a small minority of deviants." With the advent of Islam, homosexuality and its practices were condemned as an immoral act and a sin against God.

Islamic jurisprudence generally considers that attraction towards beautiful youths is normal and natural. In order for any sexual act to be a punishable offense four witnesses were required.

The manifestations of pederastic attraction vary. At one extreme they are indeed of a chaste nature, incorporated into Islamic mysticism. (see Sufism) Conservative Islamic theologians condemned the custom of contemplating the beauty of young boys. Their suspicions may have been justified, as some dervishes boasted of enjoying far more than "glances", or even kisses. Despite opposition from the clerics, the practice has survived in Islamic countries until only recent years, according to Murray and Roscoe. See References section below

In post-Islamic Persia, where, as Louis Crompton claims, "boy love flourished spectacularly", art and literature also made frequent use of the pederastic topos. These celebrate the love of the wine boy, as do the paintings and drawings of artists such as Reza Abbasi (1565 – 1635). Western travelers reported that at Abbas' court (some time between 1627 and 1629) they saw evidence of homoerotic practices. Male houses of prostitution amrad khaneh, "houses of the beardless", were legally recognized and paid taxes.

In the Ottoman empire, same-sex relations between men and youths were often of a mercantile nature. The sex workers involved were either entertainers such as the köçeks or masseurs in the hammams known as tellak. Although zamparas (men drawn to women) outnumbered kulamparas (men drawn to boys) in society, Ottoman military culture (especially that of Janissary culture) had pederasty as a noteworthy aspect . Osman Agha of Teme?var who fell captive to the Austrians in 1688 wrote in his memoirs that one night an Austrian boy approached him for sex, telling him "for I know all Turks are pederasts".

At times soldiers from the Janissary regiments (named orta) skirmished for rights over a young and beautiful novice (civelek). In 1770s, Â??k Sad?k the poet wrote, in an address to the Sultan: Lût kavmi dö?ü?ür, put kavmi bozar. Askerin lûtîdir, bil Padi?ah?m ("The people of Lot fight, the people of idolatry spoil. Know, my Sultan, that your soldiers are sodomites"). Studies of Ottoman criminal law, which is based on the Sharia, reveal that persistent sodomy with non-consenting boys was a serious offense and those convicted faced capital punishment.

See also Homosexuality and Islam, Köçek, Tellak and Hammam


In tenth-century China courting male couples consisted of the older qi xiong and the younger qi di. (The terms mean, literally, sworn elder brother and younger brother. It is very common in the Chinese culture to conceptualize many kinds of alliances as fictive kinship relationships). Boy marriages, which lasted for a set period after which the younger partner would find a wife (often with the help of the older one) appear to have been part of the culture in the province of Fujian in pre-modern times. The marriages were said to have been celebrated by the two families in traditional fashion, including the ritual "nine cups of tea". The popularity of these pederastic relationships in Fujian, where they even had a patron god, Tu Er Shen, gave rise to one of the euphemistic expressions for same-sex love in China, "the southern custom".

Men's sexual interest in youths was also reflected in prostitution, with young male sex workers fetching higher prices than their female counterparts as recently as the beginning of the twentieth century. In Tianjin there were thirty five male brothels, housing 800 boys, and men from the area were assumed to be expert in anal relations. Though the superintendent of trade at Guangzhou issued an annual warning to the population against permitting westerners access to boy prostitutes ("do not indulge the Western barbarian with all our best favors"), Europeans were increasingly welcomed in the boy brothels.


In Japan, the practice of shudo, "the Way of the Young", paralleled closely the course of European pederasty. It was prevalent in the religious community and samurai society from the mediaeval period on, and eventually grew to permeate all of society. It fell out of favor around the end of the 19th century, concurrently with the growing European influence.

Its legendary founder is K?kai, also known as K?b? Daishi, the founder of the Shingon school of Buddhism, who is said to have brought the teachings of male love over from China, together with the teachings of the Buddha. Monks often entered into love relationships with beautiful youths known as " chigo", which were recorded in literary works known as "chigo monogatari".

Early European visitors were struck by the openness and ubiquity of such relationships. The Portuguese Jesuit Alessandro Valegnani, in 1591 observed that "the youths and their partners, not seeing the matter as grave, do not hide it. Indeed they find honor in it and speak of it openly. To wit, not only does the doctrine of the bonzes not view it as evil, but they themselves engage in this custom, seeing it as completely natural and even virtuous."


One of the earliest mentions of male attraction to boys is that of Gongmin of Goryeo (r. 1351–1374), the 31st king of the Goryeo dynasty, who was famous for his predilection for falling in love with young boys. After the death of his wife in 1365 he is reputed to have spent his time in the practice of Buddhism and relations with boys, establishing an organization for their recruitment.

Paul Michaut, a French physician writing in 1893, described Korea as a country where "[p]ederasty is general, it is part of the mores; it is practiced publicly, in the street, without the least reprobation." He associated its prevalence with that of syphilis which was likewise general.


In Melanesia, many native cultures employed boy insemination rites integral to coming-of-age rituals lasting from mid- to late childhood, as documented in the writings of Gilbert Herdt. In Papua-New Guinea and nearby islands, some native tribes (about 20% at the end of the twentieth century, a proportion that is decreasing as contacts with foreigners cause western morals to become prevalent) consider sperm to be the essence of masculinity and a source of strength, and a substance that does not form spontaneously but must be introduced. As a result, a mentor, chosen by the father and ideally the mother's young adult brother, has the duty of planting it in the body of their prepubescent son as part of extended initiation rites.

The mentor also has the duty of educating the boy and seeing to his proper entry into manhood. They sleep and work together until the boy is mature. Men who have had their first or second child are expected to relinquish the mentoring function to younger adults. Casual encounters between boys and men are also accepted, but the boy must be the recipient, to avoid damaging his growth. Thus the Melanesian male would go through a sexual cycle beginning with homosexuality, passing through bisexuality and ending with heterosexuality.

North America

"Of the Koniagas of Kodiak Island and the Thinkleets we read, 'The most repugnant of all their practices is that of male concubinage. A Kodiak mother will select her handsomest and most promising boy, and dress and rear him as a girl, teaching him only domestic duties, keeping him at women's work, associating him with women and girls, in order to render his effeminacy complete. Arriving at the age of ten or fifteen years, he is married to some wealthy man who regards such a companion as a great acquisition. These male concubines are called Achnutschik or Schopans' (the authorities quoted being Holmberg, Langsdorff, Billing, Choris, Lisiansky and Marchand). The same is the case in Nutka Sound and the Aleutian Islands, where 'male concubinage obtains throughout, but not to the same extent as amongst the Koniagas.' The objects of 'unnatural' affection have their beards carefully plucked out as soon as the face-hair begins to grow, and their chins are tattooed like those of the women. In California the first missionaries found the same practice, the youths being called Joya."

Pederasty is controlled, restricted to older teenagers, and can be considered a form of child abuse in the United States. It remains widely censured, whether legally or illegally expressed. In late 2006, Mark Foley-R, former co-chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, resigned in disgrace after it became public that he had sent sexually explicit e-mails and instant messages to former Congressional pages. (A few years earlier, a sex scandal had occurred among American Catholics when many clergy were discovered to have sexual relations with young altar boys.)

Central America

Bernal Diaz del Castillo, in his The Conquest of New Spain, reported that the Mexica peoples regularly practiced pederastic relationships, and male adolescent sacred prostitutes would congregate in temples. The conquistadores, like most Europeans of the 16th century, were horrified by the widespread acceptance of sex between men and youths in Aztec society, and used it as one justification for the extirpation of native society, religion and culture, and the taking of the lands and wealth; of all customs of the Nahuatl-speaking peoples, only human sacrifice produced a greater disapproval amongst the Spaniards in Mexico. The custom died out with the collapse of the Aztec civilization.

Though early Mayans are thought to have been strongly antagonistic to same-sex relationships, later Mayan states employed pederastic practices. Their introduction was ascribed to the god Chin. One aspect was that of the father procuring a younger lover for his son. Juan de Torquemada mentions that if the (younger) boy was seduced by a stranger, the penalty was equivalent to that for adultery. Bernal Diaz reported statues of male pairs making love in the temples at Cape Catoche, Yucatan.


Pederastic eros in the West, while remaining mostly hidden, has nevertheless revealed itself in a variety of settings. Legal records are one of the more important windows into this secret world, since for much of the time pederastic relations, like other forms of homosexual relations, were illegal. The expression of desire through literature and art, albeit in coded fashion, can also afford a view of the pederastic interests of the author.

Reflecting the conflicted outlook on male loves, some northern European writers ascribed pederastic tendencies to populations in southern latitudes. Richard Francis Burton evolved his theory of the Sotadic zone, an area bounded roughly by N. Lat. 43° N. Lat. 30°, stretching from the western shores of the Mediterranean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Likewise, Wilhelm Kroll, writing in the Pauly-Wissowa encyclopaedia in 1906, asserted that "The roots of pederasty are found first of all in the existence of a contrary sexual feeling that is probably more frequent in southern regions than in countries with moderate climates."

The Renaissance

The Renaissance, inspired by the rediscovery of the philosophy and art of the ancient world, was a fertile time for such relations. Among the luminaries of the time who praised or depicted romantic liaisons with youths were Théophile de Viau, Marsilio Ficino, Benvenuto Cellini, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

Homoerotic desire was primarily conceived as an adult's desire for an adolescent, beardless youth. Consequently, pederastic aesthetics influenced art and literature throughout Europe. "The most conventional object of homoerotic desire was the adolescent youth, usually imagined as beardless."

Concurrent with the ressurgence of pederasty was a strong effort by the ecclesiastical and civil authorities to keep in check male homoerotic practices. Among these, the Ufficiali di Notte in Florence, as well as the moralizing monk Savonarola were more notable.


In his travel journal (October 20th, 1809), Cam Hobhouse reports that pederasty was openly practiced among the Albanians, and Lord Byron includes in his Childe Harold an Albanian song with pederastic themes, suppressed at publication.

As late as the mid-1800s, Albanian young men between 16 and 24 seduced boys from about 12 to 17. In the literature, the lover is called ashik and the beloved, dyllber. A Geg married at the age of 24 or 25, and then he usually, but not always, gave up boy-love.

Victorian England

In England, Marlowe's poetry defied religious proscriptions, flaunting love for beautiful boys and celebrating their androgynous beauty. Shakespeare's sonnets, like his drama, take a more complex view of character and desire. Concurrent with their bisexual erotics, they assert a normative morality, as a "fair youth" is urged to give up sexual adventure, marry, and father children.

By the 19th century, the gradual re-discovery of the sites of antiquity in Italy and Greece fueled a new interest in these old civilizations, particularly in Britain and Germany. Accordingly, pederastic relationships again became en vogue in the life and work of artists, for example in poetry (Lord Byron, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Walt Whitman, Paul Verlaine), literature (Oscar Wilde), paintings (Henry Scott Tuke), and photography (Wilhelm von Gloeden).

By the mid-19th century, the combination of the homosocial environment of the English public schools and colleges, coupled with the close study of the classics gave rise to the resurgence of a discreet homoerotic culture which was at least in part constructed along the lines of classical pederasty. Elite schools such as Eton played a key role. There, William Johnson Cory, a renowned master from 1845 until his forced resignation in 1872, evolved a style of pedagogic pederasty which influenced a number of his pupils - many of whom went on to take their place among the most renowned statesmen of the time. His Ionica, a work of poetry reflecting his pederastic sensibilities, was read in intellectual circles and "made a stir" at Oxford in 1859.

Oscar Browning, another Eton master and past student of Cory, followed in his master's footsteps, only to be likewise dismissed in 1875. Both are thought to have influenced Oxford don Walter Pater, whose aesthetics promoted pederasty as the truest expression of classical culture.

This culture of Victorian pederasty gave rise to the most conspicuous group of pederastic writers in 19th-century England, the Uranian poets. Although most of the writers of Uranian poetry and prose are today considered minor literary figures at best, the prominent Uranian representatives --- Walter Pater, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Oscar Wilde -- are figures of world-standing. Hopkins and Wilde were both deeply influenced by Pater, who had provided private tuition to Hopkins in preparation for Hopkins's final Oxford University examinations (and subsequently became a lifelong friend) and who had become a friend of Wilde while Wilde was still a student at Magdalen College, Oxford. Inspired by the Paterian appeal to a pederastic pedagogy, Wilde went on to encode pederastic and homoerotic culture -- though not in the "elevated" pederastic sense that it held for Pater and Hopkins -- in a number of works such as The Portrait of Mr. W. H., a story about Shakespeare's putative love for a boy-actor, remarkable for being the first openly published work in the English language to touch on the topic of romantic pederasty. In the case of Hopkins, "Hopkins often was, it must be admitted, strikingly Ruskinian in his love of Aristotelian particulars and their arrangements; however, it was at the foot of Pater -- the foremost Victorian unifier of 'eros, pedagogy, and aesthetics' -- that Hopkins would ever remain." As a result, Hopkins's poetry displays bountiful pederastic themes and nuances.

Reaction and retrenchment

The end of the 19th century, marked by Oscar Wilde's trial, saw increasing conflict over the issue of social acceptance of pederasty. A number of other pederastic scandals erupted around this time, such as the one involving the German industrialist Friedrich Alfred Krupp, which drove him to suicide. In the same vein, in a work that was to influence the evolution of communism's attitude towards same-sex love, the German political philosopher Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx's collaborator, denounced the ancient Greeks for "the abominable practice of sodomy" and for degrading "their gods and themselves with the myth of Ganymede". ''

This strife also involved the Wandervogel movement, a youth organization emphasizing a romantic view of nature. Wandervogel took flight in 1896, the same year that the journal Der Eigene went to press. It was published by a twenty-two-year-old German (Adolf Brand), and it advocated classical pederasty as a cure for the moral flabbiness of German youth. Influenced by the ideas of Gustav Wyneken, the Wandervogel movement was quite open about its homoerotic tendencies, although this kind of affection was supposed to be expressed in a nonsexual way. The founding of Young Wandervogel happened largely as a reaction to the public scandal about these erotic tendencies, which were said to alienate young men from women.

The English schools, however, continued to be "hotbeds of pederasty" into the twentieth century. C. S. Lewis when talking about his life at Malvern College, an English public school, acknowledged that pederasty "was the only counterpoise to the social struggle; the one oasis (though green only with weeds and moist only with foetid water) in the burning desert of competitive ambition."

Modern constructs

The literary pederastic tradition was continued by writers such as André Gide, Thomas Mann, Henry de Montherlant, Roger Peyrefitte, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Fernando Vallejo, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. Legislative and philosophical arguments were pursued by activists such as Edward Brongersma and Paul Goodman.

However, after the middle of the century, the underage pederastic element of the gay liberation movement was increasingly repudiated by the movement as a whole. This has been criticized by Camille Paglia and others as counterproductive and conducive to a ghettoization of homosexuality. In the decades since embracing an egalitarian model of relationships, the western gay-rights movement has made rapid progress toward marriage equality, legal protection, and other goals. Instead of using Greek pederasty as a model, it is those rarer Hellenic instances of homosexuality which are more egalitarian (such as between Alexander the Great and his friend Hephaestion) that gay love looked to for a model of present-day relationships.

In the news media the term tends to be incorrectly used as a synonym for pedophilia, even though the latter designates the sexual attraction of adults to prepubescent boys or girls. This confusion may arise from the fact that a single organization, the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), was the most prominent public advocate for both groups, blurring the practical distinction between pederast and pro-pedophile activism in the public mind, whatever their theoretical differences.

Liminal same-sex love — relations with young people on the threshold of becoming adults — whether for pleasure or to further social goals is no longer widely practiced, despite the lawful status of such relations in countries granting erotic emancipation to adolescents in their mid-teens. Even when legal, some in the west perceive such relationships in the light of feminist and postmodern theory as an abuse of power when the older partner is in a position of educational, religious, economic, or other form of institutional authority over the younger partner. Other observers criticize this as repressive, and point out that appropriate and acceptable forms of sexuality for adolescents have yet to be evolved.

Illegal, and even legal, forms of pederasty continue to be strongly condemned. In the United States, a major political scandal known as the Mark Foley scandal, or "Pagegate" broke out in autumn of 2006, threatening the Republican leadership of the house and contributing to the Democratic capture of the House and Senate in the fall elections. The scandal was triggered by revelations that congressman Foley was exchanging pederastic communications with a number of teenage pages, over the course of several years, despite longstanding warnings to the Republican leadership about his excessive familiarity with teenage boys. Twenty-three years earlier, in 1983, Democratic Congressman Gerry Studds admitted having had an affair with a 17-year-old page a decade earlier and was censured by the United States House of Representatives but continued his career in Congress.

Historical pederastic relationships

Over the course of history there have been a number of recorded erotic relationships between older men and adolescent boys. All of these followed at least some aspects of classical pederasty. In some of these cases both members eventually became well known historical figures, in others only one of the two achieved that distinction.


Beginning with the 1960s, the barriers against exploring this practice began to come down, and a series of films, often of a more or less autobiographical nature, began to document the stories of relationships between men and boys. For a list of such movies, please see the main article.

See also



Ancient Greece



The New World

Muslim Lands

External links

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