Pederasty or paederasty (US: /ˈpɛdəræsti/, UK: /ˈpiːdəræsti/) is a (usually erotic) relationship between an older man and an adolescent boy outside his immediate family. The word pederasty derives from Greek (paiderastia) "love of children" or "love of boys", a compound derived from παῖς (pais) "child, boy" and ἐραστής (erastēs) "lover".
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 carnal type was unfavorably compared with erotic yet spiritual and moderate forms.
The legal status of pederasty in most countries is currently determined by whether or not the boy has reached the local age of consent. When illegal, law enforcement generally treats it as a form of child sexual abuse.
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, who may act as a mentor. He 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, such as ancient Greece, pederasty has been the main subject of the arts and the main source of tender and elevated emotions.
Pederasty has been used 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 so 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.
The Western model of age-similar homosexual relations, contemporary in modern industrialized societies, is seen by researchers as a departure from this norm. It was rarely the 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.’
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 (Cantarella, 1992), in Renaissance Italy, the boys were typically between 14 and 19, and in Japan the younger member ranged in age from 11 to about 19 (Saikaku, 1990; Schalow, 1989).
In antiquity, pederasty was seen as an educational institution for the inculcation of moral and cultural values by the older man to the younger, as well as a form of sexual expression. It entered representation in history from the Archaic period onwards in Ancient Greece, though Cretan ritual objects reflected an already formalized practice date to the late Minoan civilization, around 1650 BC. According to Plato, in ancient Greece, pederasty was a relationship and bond – whether sexual or chaste – between an adult man and an adolescent boy outside his immediate family. While most Greek men engaged in sexual 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, with older men either taking advantage of dominant social status to extract sexual favors from their social inferiors, or carrying on illicit relationships with freeborn boys.
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 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.
Sexual expression between adults and adolescents is not well studied. Since the 1990s, it has been often been conflated with pedophilia. Nonetheless, such relationships have raised issues of morality and functionality, agency for the youth, and parental authority. They also raise issues of legality in those cases where the minor is below the age of consent. Homosexual pederasty was deemed beneficial by ancient philosophers, Japanese samurai, and modern writers such as Oscar Wilde. In many societies, it was justified on the grounds that love was the best foundation for teaching courage as well as civic and cultural values, and that man-boy relations were superior to relations with a woman.
“Pederasty” derives from the combination of “παίδ-” (the Greek stem for child or boy) with “ἐραστής” (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 “αί” 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 sex treatise discusses men practicing the "insertion of the penis into the anus of women," as "pederasty with their wives."
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 offers “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."
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."
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.
The pederastic relationship 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.
The physical dimension ranged from fully chaste to sexual intercourse. 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 reciprocity of desire, and other historians assert that it is "a modern fairy tale that the younger eromenos was never aroused."
Pederastic couples were 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 a 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 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).
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."
The Old Testament book of Leviticus decrees death as the punishment for a number of sexual improprieties including carnal relations between men. However, few factions of Christianity interpret Levitical law as applying to contemporary society.
In the King James version of the New Testament, Romans 1; 27-31 reads "And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet." This and subsequent verses are considered by Bible scholars not to refer to same-gender sexual relations per se, but to the practice of Temple prostitution, which involved both male and female prostitutes. That being said, many other scholars take this verse to be decisive against the morality of same-sex relations, as if St Paul were confirming the Levitical precept as still applying for the early Church. (http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_bibc4.htm)
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."
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. In the Ottoman Empire culture, young male dancers, usually cross-dressed in feminine attire, were called Köçek.
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 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 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」)".
"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."
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. In the 16th century,Bernal Diaz reported seeing 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 was a period that saw a rediscovery or renewed interest in the philosophy and art of the Classical period. The Roman Catholic Church suppressed homosexual and pederastic expressions of attraction, especially through the machinery of the Inquisition, most infamously the Spanish Inquisition. The Church could not repress all expressions of pederastic desire. According to an encyclopedia of GLBTQ culture, "The most conventional object of homoerotic desire [in art] was the adolescent youth, usually imagined as beardless."
Medieval Russia was known for its tolerance towards homosexuality.. As well as other forms of homosexuality, pederasty was very common. The beardless youth was seen as alternative to women. When a young man shaved, he might be invited to sodomy by men.
The banyas, traditional Russian-style bath houses, in particular were places where men would go to have sex with teenage boys who worked there. The boys used birch branches on the men, and rubbed their backs.[the statement not supported by the reference] Later on, from the 18th-century onwards, the bath houses still thrived. In addition, cadet schools, the Page Corps, and the Imperial School of Jurisprudence were hotbeds of homosexual activity between boys.
Russia's laws were lenient compared to those of Western Europe. Homosexuality was only made illegal for soldiers at the beginning of the 18th century; it was prohibited for the rest of society in the 1830s. The new laws were not strictly enforced. At the end of the 19th century, St. Petersburg had a thriving homosexual culture.
In England into the 20th century, public boarding schools were limited to boys and all the teachers were male. Some upper class boys were sent to boarding school by age 7 or 8, and they studied there through the adolescent years. Some teachers justified homosexual relationships based on the Classics, both between the older and younger boys, and between teachers and boys. However, there were some scandals 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.
Also in 19th-century England, pederasty was a theme in the work of several writers known as the "Uranian poets". Although most of the writers of Uranian poetry and prose are today considered minor literary figures, the prominent Uranian representatives --- Walter Pater, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Oscar Wilde -- are figures of worldwide renown. Hopkins and Wilde were both 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. 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." Another notable late 19th-century writer on pederasty was John Addington Symonds, whose essays, "A Problem in Greek Ethics" and "A Problem in Modern Ethics", were among the first defenses of homosexuality in the English language.
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, by some reports. 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".
The Wandervogel movement, a youth organization emphasizing a romantic view of nature, began 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 open about its homoerotic tendencies. Affection between males 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 boarding schools whose male teachers educated young and adolescent boys only. They emphasized study of Greek and Latin classics. The all-male environment encouraged “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."
Eventually, pederasty was decreased in British public schools, due to the introduction of female teachers and co-education, which gave boys a heterosexual output. Child abuse was no longer hushed up due to society's concerns with protecting children. Parents had more control over who had responsibility for the children, and men with pedophile or pederastic tendencies were barred from teaching jobs.
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 in the West, despite its lawful status in many countries. Feminist and postmodern theories describe such relations 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 is widely censured, whether legally or illegally expressed. Instances of it, or of homosexual behavior among public men, have had severe political repercussions (for example, the Mark Foley scandal, or "Pagegate". The scandal about apparent abuse of pages in the United States in 2006, may have contributed to the Democratic capture of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate in the following fall elections). The United States appears to be moving towards a more restrictive approach to such relationships. In 1983, for instance, Democratic Congressman Gerry Studds admitted having had an affair with a 17-year-old page and was censured by the House of Representatives, but he continued his career in Congress.
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. 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 women 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).||”|
The Catholic Church has been rocked in the 21st century by long-delayed accounts of child-sex abuse. After resistance to revelations, it is working to control activities of its priests. 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", but that was not sufficient for the times.
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 vases, however, show the boys responding warmly to the man's advances, placing their hands around the man's neck or on his arm, a gesture thought to indicate affection and reciprocity. Many other vases show the boy running away.
See bibliography of pederasty in the Middle East and Central Asia