AskDefine | Define paederast

Dictionary Definition

paederast n : a man who has sex (usually sodomy) with a boy as the passive partner [syn: pederast, child molester]

User Contributed Dictionary



paederast or pæderast
  1. alternative spelling of pederast

Extensive Definition

Pederasty or paederasty (literally 'boy-love', see etymology below) refers to a sexual relationship, expressed or not, between an adolescent boy and an adult male. Pederasty has existed from earliest times through a variety of customs and practices within different cultures.
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. 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, sexual assault laws, and prohibitions on homosexuality. The term can also be employed of the attraction of the man to the boy, whether or not reciprocated.
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 for 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
In the West it was first represented by the institutions of Ancient Greece, where it reached its height in 5th century BC, when legal and moral sanctions were made against it. Athens (see Athenian pederasty). There it was the subject of philosophic debates and legal oratory in which penetrative sex was unfavorably compared with erotic relationships which did not debase either of the participants. (see The Greeks below). Later repression of male love culminating in the persecution of homosexuals during Mediaeval times and the Spanish Inquisition and Renaissance Italy also stemmed from the growing Christian movements in Europe.
Starting with Geoffrey Gorer in 1966, anthropologists have postulated three subdivisions of homosexuality as age-structured, egalitarian and gender-structured. Pederasty as a cross-cultural phenomenon is considered the predominant expression of male-male sexuality as viewed through historical record, though the practice has varied significantly within different cultures. It has been associated with coming-of-age ritual, the acquisition of virility and manly virtue, educational aspiration and the pederastic military use of teenagers.
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.’ In such societies, the practise of pederasty tends to be condemned at a legal and moral level:
"In some countries, such as England, pederasty is considered to be pedophilia, and in the United States most agree that pederasty is the abuse of boys, especially those between 12 and 16 years old (Crosson-Tower 2007)
In this sense, such cultures do not see the practise of pederasty as something in line with any ideological or traditional model, but rather - that the behaviour has become partially integrated into the Child Sexual Abuse model.

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") In 1980 under the aegis of National Organization for Women, feminists adopted a resolution on lesbian and gay rights, 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." The text of the resolution read:"Whereas, pederasty is an issue of exploitation and violence, not affectional/sexual preference/orientation."
In current use, the term or its cognate may be used 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.
According to Vern L. Bullough, a member of the editorial board of Paidika, pederasty is "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" and also as "the relationship between a man and a pubescent or postpubertal boy, generally under the age of eighteen" further indicating that that "modern industrial societies have by and large rejected traditional pederastic relationships." glbtq glossary While relationships in ancient Greece involved boys from 12 to about 17 or 18 (Cantarella, 1992; Percy, 1996), in Japan the younger member ranged in age from 11 to about 19 (Saikaku, 1990; Schalow, 1989).

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.,2.html

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. 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.


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.

Academic controversy

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.

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 (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.
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, only the chaste form of pederasty was permitted, according to some ancient commentators. Likewise, Plato's writings devalue and finally condemn sexual intercourse with the boys one loved, while valuing 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 this blanket condemnation of sodomy, pederasty in particular was 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 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, and North Africa.
Sexual expression between adults and adolescents is not well studied and since the 1990s has been often conflated with pedophilia. Such relationships have raised issues of morality and functionality, agency for the youth, and parental authority. Today, psychology and medicine 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.

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. 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 nineteenth century sexological treatise discusses men practicing the "insertion of the penis into the anus of women," as "pederasty with their wives."
In modern academic parlance, however, “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.)

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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 (15651635). 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 Temeşvar 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, 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.


In tenth-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 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 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", 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 Marsilio Ficino, Benvenuto Cellini, and, it is speculated, Leonardo da Vinci .
According to one art historian, "The most conventional object of homoerotic desire was the adolescent youth, usually imagined as beardless." Consequently, pederastic aesthetics influenced art and literature throughout Europe. Concurrent with the resurgence 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.

Uranian poets

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).
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.
The work of the Uranian poets was characterized by an idealised appeal to the history of Ancient Greece and a sentimental infatuation for adolescent boys, as well as by a use of conservative verse forms.
The chief poets of this clique were William Johnson Cory, Lord Alfred Douglas, John Francis Bloxam, Charles Kains Jackson, John Gambril Nicholson, Rev. E. E. Bradford, John Addington Symonds, Edmund John, John Moray Stuart-Young, Charles Edward Sayle, Fabian S. Woodley, and several other pseudonymous authors such as "Philebus" (John Leslie Barford) and "A. Newman" (Francis Edwin Murray). The flamboyantly eccentric novelist Frederick Rolfe (also known as "Baron Corvo") was a unifying presence in their social network, both within and without Venice.
The fame of their work was limited by late Victorian and Edwardian taboos, by the extremely small editions (often privately printed) in which their verse was promulgated, and by the generally saccharine and occasionally misogynistic nature of their poetry. However, historian Neil McKenna has argued that Uranian poetry had a central role in the upper-class homosexual subcultures of the Victorian period, insisting that poetry was the main medium through which writers like Oscar Wilde, George Ives and Rennell Rodd, 1st Baron Rennell sought to challenge the prejudices of the age.
Marginally associated with their world were more famous writers such as Edward Carpenter, as well as the obscure but prophetic poet-printer Ralph Chubb, with his majestic lithographic volumes celebrating the boy as an Ideal. The Uranian quest to revive the Greek notion of paiderastia was not successful; later gay poets would look instead to the androphilic inspiration of Walt Whitman and A. E. Housman.

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. André Gide wrote: "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."
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 general usage and the news media, the term tends to be used as a synonym for pedophilia. The North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), was the most prominent public advocate for pedophilia and pederasty, which is why both terms are associated with pro-pedophile activism in the public mind, whatever their theoretical differences.

Rejection by 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 wrote that he believes that some children desire to "have sex with their homosexual elders, be they teachers or anyone else," that "This is far from 'recruitment.'"; and that he believes most homosexuals who had such early experiences recall them positively.
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 was 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.
David Thorstad, of NAMBLA, who asserts that pederasty is "love between a man and a youth of 12 to 18 years of age, claims that "middle-class homosexuals, lesbians, and feminists" say pederasty "has nothing to do with gay liberation." While he admits that others define it as sexual abuse, he does not share this view.
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.
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.
Currently both illegal and legal forms of pederasty are 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.
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.
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.

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, films documented the stories of relationships between men and boys.



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