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Tony Grist

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Pederasty [Nov. 17th, 2013|11:53 am]
Tony Grist
The media are calling Gore Vidal a paedophile. I wish they wouldn't. He wasn't a paedophile; he was a pederast. Pederast was his word of choice. He didn't fancy children; he fancied youths. Now maybe pederasty is as bad as paedophilia (I don't really want to get into that) but until we separate the two things we can't have the debate.

Paedophilia is something no society has ever smiled on (though some have married their girls off at an alarmingly young age) but pederasty has its supporters. It was the preferred sexuality of the ancient Greeks- and those who have argued for it as a noble (or at least harmless) thing include Oscar Wilde and Alan Bennett. The ideal of pederasty involves the idea of mentoring. In practice (of course) it often means rent boys.

For some reason the word pederasty has dropped out of common use and without the word we find it hard to grasp the idea. This suits all sorts of people. Traditional moralists and gay activists alike want things to be straightforwardly black and white and are embarrassed by the existence of this grey area. Alfred Douglas was talking about pederasty in particular- and not homosexuality in general- when he coined the phrase "the love that dare not speak its name." It still applies.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2013-11-17 04:32 pm (UTC)
We seem to have lost the grey area in heterosexual relationships too -- at least according to the media. A man (even an older man) who has a sexual relationship with a girl of 15 or even 14 is not a paedophile. It's not legal and probably not advisable, but calling it paedophilia is inaccurate.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-11-17 07:45 pm (UTC)
I agree. I think we should be precise in our terminology. A paedophile is someone who is attracted to children. We need a different word for someone who is attracted to adolescents.

Benjamin Britten- who loved little boys but lost all interest in them as soon as their voices broke- is a classic paedophile. Lewis Carroll- who dropped his little girl friends as soon as they became young women- is another.
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[User Picture]From: nineweaving
2013-11-18 01:08 am (UTC)
We need a different word for someone who is attracted to adolescents.

There are at least two. A hebephile is attracted to pubescent boys or girls, those on the cusp of adolescence. An ephebophile desires adolescents.

Nine
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-11-18 09:04 am (UTC)
They're excellent words. It's a pity they're not in common use.
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[User Picture]From: davesmusictank
2013-11-17 04:52 pm (UTC)
I agree , it seems wrong to think of pederasty in the same context with paedophilia - some of these commentators need to read their copies of Isherwood's "A Single Man" to understand the idea of pederasty.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-11-17 07:47 pm (UTC)
Of course there are some people who are both paedophile and pederastic. Human sexuality is endlessly various.
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From: algabal
2013-11-18 01:52 pm (UTC)
"Traditional moralists and gay activists alike want things to be straightforwardly black and white and are embarrassed by the existence of this grey area."

It has always seemed to me that conventional gay rights activists are all too ready to claim people like Wilde, Ginsberg, Gide, etc. as their forebears without acknowledging just how different their sexuality was from typical androphilia.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-11-18 08:45 pm (UTC)
Lets be blunt about it. Wilde and Gide (I don't know enough about Ginsberg) were sex tourists who almost certainly screwed young boys.

If Saint Oscar were around today he'd stand a good chance of being tried and sent to prison for paedophile offences.
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