Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
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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