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The following is one of the sections of the first chapter of Dr. Parker Rossman’s Sexual Experience Between Men and Boys (originally published in 1976), entitled "Dimensions of a Complex Problem", introduced here. His intention in this chapter was to give an unavoidably simplified but general idea of the different types of pederast and their prevalence. Actually, however, his evidence was mostly limited to what was then recent in countries with a Christian tradition.

Expanding the Definition Process

Labels, categories, even word definitions, tend to shrink people into depersonalized beings, but there is simply no other way to get handles to grasp so complicated a social phenomenon as sexual deviance. Honesty requires, however, the prior affirmation that a human being is rarely ever a “case” that precisely fits a category. The pederasts interviewed here, in feet, belonged in different categories at one stage of life or another. Each pederast at any one time was a unique combination of types. Adequate definition requires the avoidance of Either/Or categories, although it may be helpful to draw contrasts between loving sexual experiences on the one hand and exploitative sexual relationships on the other. Recreational sex may vary from one to the other. The term homosexual encompasses such a wide variety of types and behaviors as to cause difficulty for the law, for scholars, and for the public. If one begins with logical definition, uncomplicated by the evidence of our cases, it is convenient to describe pederasty as one type of homosexuality. For example, it is sometimes suggested that all boys go through a homosexual phase and that the pederast is a male who never grows out of it. The latter may be true of some pederasts, but it is probably more accurate to say that all males seem to have a homosexual component, and that this homosexuality may be repressed or expressed in differing ways, depending upon experience, infant imprinting, conditioning, scripting, adolescent self-interpretation, and many other factors.

The nature of pederasty may be clarified by an illustration. The custom of bedarche was common among North American Plains Indians.[1] Bedarche means “catamite” or “kept boy.” It was an institution which provided tribal status for males who were homosexual from an early age. At the same time the custom provided a socially approved outlet for the pederastic tendencies of Indian men who were married and basically heterosexual. The existence of this type of homosexuality - different from gay-homosexuality as usually understood - is also discussed by McIntosh,[2] who points out the error in many cross-cultural studies which fail to distinguish between gay homosexuality and pederasty, the latter being the homosexual play of men who are basically interested in women. For example, McIntosh points out the error of those who wrongly argue that pederast Pope Julian II could not have been involved in sex play with boys because he had a mistress (arguing that someone who had a mistress would never perform homosexual acts). The fact is that the promiscuous heterosexual is often likely also to experiment sexually with boys.


[1] See Donald G. Forgey, “The Institution of Berdache Among the North American Plains Indians,” Journal of Sex Research, Feb. 1975, p. 22 ff.

[2] McIntosh, in R. R. Bell et al. The Social Dilemma of Human Sexuality. Boston: Little, Brown, 1972.




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