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Pederasty or paederasty (US // or UK //) is a (usually erotic) homosexual relationship between an adult male and a pubescent or adolescent male. The word pederasty derives from Greek παιδεραστία (paiderastia) "love of boys", a compound derived from παῖς (pais) "child, boy" and ἐραστής (erastēs) "lover". In French, however, "pédérastie" has been used as a synonym for homosexuality between adult males (see Histoire du mot pédérastie).
Historically, pederasty has existed as a variety of customs and practices within different cultures. The status of pederasty has changed over the course of history, at times considered an ideal and at other times a crime. In the history of Europe, its most structured cultural manifestation was Athenian pederasty, and became most prominent in the 6th century BC. Greek pederasty's various forms were the subject of philosophic debates in which the purely carnal type was unfavorably compared with erotic friendships and moderate forms, known as Sophrosyne.
Anthropologists propose three subdivisions of homosexuality as age-structured, egalitarian and gender-structured. Pederasty is the archetypal example of male age-structured homosexuality. Geoffrey Gorer and others distinguish pederasty from pedophilia, which he defined as a separate, fourth type that he described as "grossly pathological in all societies of which we have record." According to Gorer, the main characteristic of homosexual pederasty is the age difference (either of generation or age-group) between the partners. In his study of native cultures pederasty appears typically as a passing stage in which the adolescent is the beloved of an older male, remains as such until he reaches a certain developmental threshold, after which he in turn takes on an adolescent beloved of his own. This model is judged by Gorer as socially viable, i.e. not likely to give rise to psychological discomfort or neuroses for all or most males. He adds that in many societies, pederasty has been the main subject of the arts and the main source of tender and elevated emotions.
Pederastic practices have been utilized for the purpose of coming-of-age rituals, the acquisition of virility and manly virtue, education, and development of military skill and ethics. These were often paralleled by the commercial use of boys for sexual gratification, going as far as enslavement and castration. The evanescent beauty of adolescent boys has been a topos in poetry and art, from Classical times to the Middle East, the Near East and Central Asia, imperial China, pre-modern Japan, the European Renaissance and into modern times.
Some modern observers restrict the age of the younger partner to "generally between twelve and seventeen", though historically the spread was somewhat greater. The younger partner must, in some sense, not be fully mature; this could include young men in their late teens or early twenties.
While relationships in ancient Greece involved boys from 12 to about 17 or 18, in Renaissance Italy they typically involved boys between 14 and 19, and in Japan the younger member ranged in age from 11 to about 19.
In antiquity, pederasty was seen as an educational institution for the inculcation of moral and cultural values in some cultures, as well as a form of sexual expression. Its practice dates from the Archaic period onwards in Ancient Greece, but Cretan ritual objects that reflect an already-formalised practice date to the late Minoan civilization, in around 1650 BC. According to Plato, in Ancient Greece, 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 Ancient Rome, relations with boys took a more informal and less civic path, men 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 and the Celts (Posidonius). According to Plutarch, the ancient Persians had long practiced it as well, 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 (παισὶ μίσγονται) 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. Plutarch, however, counters Herodotus by pointing out that the Persians had been castrating boys long before being exposed to the mores of the Greeks.
Opposition to the carnal aspects of pederasty existed concurrently with the practice, both inside and outside of the cultures in which it was found. Among the Greeks, a few cities prohibited it, and in others, such as Sparta, only the chaste form of pederasty was permitted, according to Xenophon and others. Likewise, Plato's writings devalue and then condemn sexual intercourse with the boys one loved, and he valued the self-disciplined lover who abstained from consummating the relationship.
Judaism and Christianity also condemned sodomy (while defining that term variously), a theme that would be 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.... 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 sodomy, pederasty was a particular target. The 2nd-century preacher Clement of Alexandria used divine pederasty as an indictment of Greek religion and the mythological figures of Herakles, Apollo, Poseidon, Laius, and Zeus: "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!" 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.
Homosexual pederasty has been deemed beneficial by some ancient philosophers, Japanese samurai, and modern writers such as Oscar Wilde, who claimed that relationships between an older man and younger boy was "the noblest form of affection". In many societies, such as Ancient Greece, it was justified on the grounds that love was the best foundation for teaching courage as well as civic and cultural values and that homoerotic love between males was superior to other forms of love.
Etymology and usageEdit
Pederasty derives from the combination of παίδ- (the Greek stem for boy or child) with ἐραστής (Greek for lover; cf. eros). Late Latin pæderasta was borrowed in the 16th century directly from Plato's classical Greek in The Symposium. (Latin transliterates αί as æ.) The word first appeared in the English language during the Renaissance, as pæderastie (e.g. in Samuel Purchas' Pilgrimes), in the sense of sexual relations between men and boys. Beside its use in the classical sense, the term has also been used as a synonym for anal sex, irrespective of the nature of the partner. A 19th-century sexological treatise discusses men practicing the "insertion of the penis into the anus of women," as "pederasty with their wives." Additionally, the term has been used to refer to any homosexual activity, regardless of the participants' ages. Jeremy Bentham used the term in this broader sense in an essay dating from the 18th century.
The commonly accepted reference definitions of pederasty refer to a sexual relationship, or to copulation, between older and younger males. The OED offers: "Homosexual relations between a man and a boy; homosexual anal intercourse, usually with a boy or younger man as the passive partner." The concise OED has: "Sexual intercourse between a man and a boy." When describing pederasts, some focus solely on the mechanics of copulation, such as the Merriam-Webster (on-line edition): "one who practices anal intercourse especially with a boy". Other dictionaries offer a more general definition, such as "homosexual relations between men and boys" or "homosexual relations, especially between a male adult and a boy or young man." The limitation of pederasty to anal sex with a boy is contested by sexologists. Francoeur regards it as "common but incorrect," while Haeberle describes it as "a modern usage resulting from a misunderstanding of the original term and ignorance of its historical implications."
Academic and social studies sources propose more expansive definitions of the term. The Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer Culture defines the term 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." The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality suggests "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."
Social class factorsEdit
In Athens, the slaves were expressly forbidden from entering into pederastic relations with the free-born boys. In medieval 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 worldEdit
- Main articles: Pederasty in ancient Greece
Plato was an early critic of sexual intercourse in pederastic relationships, proposing that men's love of boys avoid all carnal 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 art shows seduction scenes as well as sexual relations. In the seduction scenes the man is standing, grasping the boy's chin with one hand and reaching to fondle his genitals with the other. In the sexual scenes, the partners stand embracing face to face, the older of the two engaged in intercrural sex with the younger, who (usually but not always) does not show arousal. Anal sex is almost never shown, and then only as something eliciting surprise in the observers. The practice was ostensibly disparaged, the Athenians often naming it jocularly after their Dorian neighbors ("cretanize," "laconize," "chalcidize"). 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 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 the Cretan lawgivers encouraged pederasty as a means of population control, by directing love and sexual desire into relations with males.
From the early Republican times of Ancient Rome, it was perfectly normal for an older man to desire and pursue boys. However, penetration was illegal for free born youths; the only boys who were legally allowed to perform as a passive sexual partner were slaves or former slaves known as "freedmen", and then only with regard to their former masters. For slaves there was no protection under the law even against rape.
The result was that in Ancient Roman times, pederasty largely lost its function as a ritual part of education 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. 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.
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."
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) The Sibylline oracles claim that only the Jews were free from this impurity:
[The Jews] are mindful of holy wedlock,
and they do not engage in impious intercourse with male children,the holy law of immortal God, which they transgressed.
as do Phoenicians, Egyptians and Romans,
spacious Greece and many nations of other,
Persians and Galatians and all Asia, transgressing
Persian pederasty and its origins was debated even in ancient times. Herodotus claimed they had learned it from the Greeks: "From the Greeks they have learned to lie with boys." 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 formsEdit
The Middle East and Central AsiaEdit
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". This was despite the widespread belief of pederastic relations being immoral.
In the 1770s, Âşık Sadık the poet wrote, in an address to the Sultan: Lût kavmi döğüşür, put kavmi bozar. Askerin lûtîdir, bil Padişahım ("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.
Men's sexual interest in youths was reflected in prostitution, with young male sex workers fetching higher prices than their female counterparts as recently as the beginning of the 20th century. In Tianjin there were thirty-five male brothels, housing 800 boys. Although 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 10th-century China courting male couples consisted of the older qi xiong (契兄) and the younger qi di. (契弟) (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 Chang'an's gay quarters gave rise to one of the euphemistic expressions for same-sex love in China, "the southern custom". Along with the concentration of Chang'an's gay community here, the North Hamlet was also heavily concentrated with many of the city's entertaining courtesans, as well as its notorious brothel houses for prostitution.
In Japan, the practice of shudō (衆道), "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 Kūkai, also known as Kōbō 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 (稚児), which were recorded in literary works known as chigo monogatari (稚児物語).
'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 male concubines 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.
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 Christian 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."
In England, public boarding schools, with their homosocial environment, often encouraged an homoerotic atmosphere, due to the emphasis on the Classics, and homosexual relations were formed and quietly accepted, both between older and younger boys and even between teachers and pupils; however, some scandals arose around such relationships. In the mid-19th century, William Johnson Cory, a renowned master at Eton from 1845 until his forced resignation in 1872, evolved a style of pedagogic pederasty which influenced a number of his pupils. 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 former student of Cory, followed in his tutor'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.
Pederasty also was a theme in the work of several nineteenth-century English writers known as the "Uranian poets". Most now are considered no more than minor literary figures, but the most prominent Uranian representatives – Walter Pater, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Oscar Wilde – are renowned worldwide. Both Wilde and Hopkins were deeply influenced by Pater's work. Wilde wrote of pederastic and homoerotic culture – though not in the "elevated" pederastic sense that it held for Pater and Hopkins – in a number of works. And though "Hopkins often was, it must be admitted, strikingly Ruskinian in his love of Aristotelian particulars and their arrangements . . . , it was at the foot of Pater – the foremost Victorian unifier of 'eros, pedagogy, and aesthetics' – that Hopkins would ever remain." Another notable late-nineteenth-century writer on pederasty was John Addington Symonds, whose essays, "A Problem in Greek Ethics" and "A Problem in Modern Ethics", were amongst the first defenses of homosexuality made in the English language.
Reaction and retrenchmentEdit
The end of the 19th century 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.
Until the 1970s, English "public schools" were walled boarding schools, educating adolescent boys only, with a strong concentration on Greek and Latin classics. They continued to be "hotbeds of pederasty" into the 20th 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."
In the Aeneid of Vergil, Nisus, a Trojan soldier, is in a relationship with Euryalus, a younger Trojan soldier. Although Vergil avoids directly describing the nature of their relationship due to the decorum of the epic poem, the nature of their relationship has been the source of academic discourse. While some believe the relationship to be platonic, others describe it as pederastic.
In modern thought, same-sex relations with adolescents is regarded 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. Pederasty therefore remains widely censured and instances of it have had severe political repercussions (for example, the Mark Foley scandal, or "Pagegate", which broke out in the United States in 2006).
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 of Canada 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).
On February 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."
Child abuse issuesEdit
Though pederasty was once accepted in many cultures, some modern observers have retrospectively labeled it abusive. Enid Bloch argues that many Greek boys who were involved in paederastic relationships may have been harmed by the experience, if the relationship included anal sex. Bloch writes that the boy may have been traumatized by knowing that he was violating social customs. According to her, the "most shameful thing that could happen to any Greek male was penetration by another male." In this respect Bloch is in accord with Greek sexual morality, which also recognized a difference between ethical pederasty which excluded anal sex and "hubristic" pederasty which was believed to debase the boy as well as the man who penetrated him.
Bloch further argues that vases showing "a boy standing perfectly still as a man reaches out for his genitals" indicate the boy may have been "psychologically immobilized, unable to move or run away." Many other vases show the boy running away.
An unofficial ban of talking about pederasty in academia was broken only in 1905 by the German historian Erich Bethe with his study Dorian Boy-Love: Its Ethic, Its Idea. In the USA,  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 "certain sectors" that objected a line in the abstract of the academic Bruce Rind's controversial paper, which they said advocated 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.
- Age of consent
- Age disparity in sexual relationships
- Bacha bazi
- Bibliography of child sexual abuse
- Bibliography of Greek pederasty
- Bibliography of Japanese pederasty
- Homosexuality and Islam
- Mythology of same-sex love
- Platonic love
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The Love that dare not speak its name" in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep, spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo, and those two letters of mine, such as they are. It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as the "Love that dare not speak its name," and on account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an elder and a younger man, when the elder man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so the world does not understand. The world mocks at it and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.
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