The Provocateur and the Pederasts…

Milo Yiannopoulos was a speeding car, destined to crash. The British controversialist has spun into his biggest scandal yet, as he has been charged with excusing paedophilia. Specifically, he claimed that older men sleeping with “sexually mature 13-year-olds” might be morally if not legally permissible.

Yiannopoulos claims he was abused as an adolescent and, if this is true, he deserves sympathy. Nonetheless, the idea of a “sexually mature 13-year-old” is obscene. Obscene, that is, but far more common than we like to think.

Yiannopoulos spoke of what has been called “man/boy love”, or, in formal terms, pederasty. “Relationships in which those older men help those young boys to discover who they are.” Ancient Greeks and Romans were of course enthusiasts for intergenerational relationships. They were also common across the Middle East and Asia.

Homosexual and heterosexual men have been attracted to adolescents. Lewis Carroll was in love with Alice Liddell. Charlie Chaplin married a child actress from one of his films. Jimmy Page kept a 14-year-old groupie in his rooms.

Nonetheless, pederasty has maintained a special status in the counterculture. Oscar Wilde and Andre Gide once roamed through Algiers in search of young boys to sleep with. William Burroughs bragged, in a letter to Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, about paying “60 cents to watch two Arab boys screw each other”. Ginsberg was a member of NAMBLA, the North American Man Boy Love Association.

Even as our attitudes towards sex between adolescents and adults have hardened, some continue to romanticise it. Peter Tatchell, in a letter to the Guardian, maintained that several of his friends “had sex with adults from the ages of nine to thirteen” and it “gave them great joy”. Stephen Fry wrote a cheerful little play about a teacher exploiting and then eloping with a 13-year-old. George Takei claimed that when a young counseler at a summer camp touched him it was not molestation because “well, I thought he was pretty attractive”.

This disgusts me, but one should be grown up about it. There is of course a big difference between a paedophile who is attracted to infants and an ephebophile who is attracted to teenagers. Age of consent laws differ between European countries as there is no one objective point at which children mature.

Nonetheless, I think it is an eminently good thing that we have become more sensitive to adults exploiting young people. In an age at which sex is increasingly detached from any notion of commitment, times have never been so good for sexual predators, and there should be no weakening of our opposition to them. Milo should be condemned on those grounds but also contextualised. He is not alone or ahistorical.

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About bsixsmith

I am a writer of stories and poems - published by Every Day Fiction, The London Journal of Fiction, 365 Tomorrows and Det Poetiske Bureau - and a columnist for Quillette, Areo and Bombs & Dollars.
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4 Responses to The Provocateur and the Pederasts…

  1. Simon says:

    Still, if Milo expects the Conservative Political Action Committee of all organizations to tolerate that he’s even more naïve than I thought he was.

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  2. Ashley Yakeley says:

    I do think people have the right to interpret their own experiences. If Takei says what happened to him was a positive experience for him, that he doesn’t regret it, that he’s glad it happened, then I don’t think anyone can gainsay him.

    This doesn’t make it the right thing for the adult camp counseler to do, however. I think of it as like shooting at someone from a distance: you might happen to miss with no harm done, but shooting at someone is always wrong.

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    • bsixsmith says:

      Granted but my issue is less with him saying that he enjoyed it – which is possible – than with him saying it was not molestation. It was molestation whether or not he enjoyed it, just I would murder someone if I killed them in cold blood whether or not, unbeknownst to me, they had a death wish.

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