Greece is a small country located at South East Europe with a population of approximately 10,700,000 people. Although there is a great deal of scholarly work devoted to pederasty in Ancient Greece there is little, if anything, written about boylove in the country’s modern history (from the 1820s onward). There has not been a single article or book about boylove in modern Greece and our fragmented knowledge comes from published memoirs and biographies of open homosexual men (Costas Tachtsis) or foreigners that have spent some time in Greece (George Byron in 1820s, Roger Peyrefitte in 1930s, Francis King in 1950s, Bob Henderson in 1970s, see also Rossman 1976: 126-128). The following sections will attempt to present the current situation in Greece.
Attitudes about masculinity and homosexuality
Modern Greece is a Mediterranean country with strong oriental influences in its attitudes towards masculinity and homosexuality (see Papadopoulos 2002). This means that while “homoeroticism has always been present, so has machismo” (Batsioulas 1998: 57). Historically it has been accepted that men would not lose their masculinity by having sex with men as long as they retain the “active” role. This of course, poses problems to boylovers since sex with boys is regarded as dangerous for boys’ masculinity because boys might become passive homosexuals.
Despite these attitudes about masculinity, empirical evidence shows that Greeks are indeed very homophobic. According to the European Values Survey conducted in 2000, on a 1 (homosexuality can never be justified) to 10 (can always be justified) scale, Greeks score 3.39 (st.dev. 2.91) which is the second lowest in Western Europe (Portugal 3.19, st.dev. 2.56). Greeks score better only compared to East European nations, but still very low compared to, say, France (5.27, st.dev. 3.16) or Sweden (7.65, st.dev. 3.07). Moreover, 41.8% of the Greeks said that they would not like to have a homosexual as a neighbour (the score for right-wing extremist as a neighbour was only 29.5%). To get an idea, the score for the Netherlands was only 6.4% (see Halman 2001).
These general attitudes are entrenched in the criminal law of Greece. The Greek Penal Code (established in 1951) which sets the age of consent for heterosexual (and lesbian) sex at 15, nevertheless stipulates that:
- “Acts of lewdness against nature between males […] which are committed by an adult seducing a person below the age of 17 […] are punishable by at least 3 months’ imprisonment” (Article 347, Paragraph 1).
According to Graupner (2000: 346) under such "seduction" laws “each sexual contact with an adolescent is rendered criminal if the older partner initiated to the contact”. If we take into account, however, that the particular law in Greece does not allow the screening of cases (Graupner: 345) in order to establish who initiated the contact, the law effectively raises the age of consent for man-boy relationships to 17. This constitutes a major form of discrimination (see Thoma 2004; Vretos 1997) which is nevertheless rarely pointed out as organizations and individuals alike misinterpret the law and claim that the age of consent in Greece is equally set at 15 (ILGA).
Even though that attitude toward homosexuals in the media “is warm and friendly” (Batsioulas 1998: 58) one could not say the same about the attitude toward boylovers. Even though the attitude of the media in Greece cannot be compared to the hysteria in the United States or United Kingdom, their attitude is far by positive. Most importantly, no newspaper, radio or TV channel has ever made an attempt to discuss the love of boys in a fair and balanced manner. The media report with sensionalism on man-boy relationships, usually labelling the situation as “pederasty” (pederastía)(1), boylovers as “monsters” (térata), and the act as “lewd” (aselgís) and “abusive” (kakopíisi).
Despite the generally repressive atmosphere regarding boylove and homosexuality in general, the Greek state and the Greek people (but not the Greek Church, see Kanellis 2005) are surprisingly tolerant regarding representations of sex between men and boys in literature and representation of naked children in the arts. Obviously, the Greeks’ familiarity with classical art and opposition to censorship (as a consequence of their experience with authoritarian rule) has influenced this attitude. Books about man/boy love (or sex) are not banned, and pictures with naked boys are considered legal as long as they are not deemed pornographic. The Acolyte Press or photographer Jock Sturges would not have problems selling their books in Greece and certainly customers would not have problems buying them. The Greek state television often broadcast the uncut versions of controversial films such as 1900, The Boys of St. Vincent, The Tin Drum and others while the Thessaloniki International Film Festival consistently screens films with boys and boylove as a topic (L.I.E., Acla, etc).
Literature and Arts
Despite the encouraging attitudes to artistic and literary depiction of boylove, Greek writers and artists rarely touch this issue. The nude boy has rarely been a subject of contemporary Greek visual and plastic arts, whereas one can find only scant references on man-boy relationships in literature (e.g. Costas Tachtsis, Ta resta (1972); Nikos Tsiforos, Ta paidia tis piatsas (1973); Andreas Embiricos, O Megas Anatolikos (1990-92)). To understand “scant reference”, consider the following poem by George Seferis (Nobel Prize 1963), published under the pseudonym Mathios Paskalis:
- “In Aegio there was a young lad
- And a Lord passing by used to tell him: Oh!
- If you let me get you off
- Before I head off
- To college I’ll send you forward”
- (quoted in Kanellis 2005: 49; my translation)
Also worth mentioning is poet C.P. Cavafy who’s erotic poems often involved adolescent males (see Charalambidou-Solomi 2003).
The gay movement in Greece (begun in the late 1970s, see Giannoulis 2004) largely ignores boylove. The major homosexual organizations in Greece AKOE and EOK tacitly avoid the issue of discrimination regarding the age of consent and systematically denounce man-boy relationships in order to hold on to their good image. Activism through established political parties is virtually impossible as most of them have negative attitudes toward homosexuality or in at least one case even argue for the reintroduction of death penalty for “pederasts and child rapists”.Boylovers in Greece have formed a miniscule organization of their own called “Palatinos” (after the Palatine anthology of Ancient Greek erotic poetry) which is now defunct. Members of Palatinos participated in several Ipce meetings and also hosted the 2000 meeting in Athens.
(1) Journalists and people working in the legal establishment in Greece use the term “pederasty” as a synonym of “pedophilia” even when referring to persons over the age of 13, and even when referring to incidents involving girls. To any Greek person a “pederast” is anyone who has sex with someone under the age of 18, male or female.
- Batsioulas, A. (1998) “Greece.” In ILGA-Europe, Equality for Lesbians and Gay men. Brussels: ILGA-Europe.
- Charalambidou-Solomi, D. (2003) “Gender dualism in Cavafy’s erotic poetry.” Journal of Modern Greek Studies 21: 113-125.
- Giannoulis, T. (2004) "Greece, modern." In glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture, ed. C. J. Summers. Chicago.
- Graupner, H. (2000) “Sexual consent: the criminal law in Europe and overseas.” Archives of Sexual Behavior 29(5): 415-461.
- Halman, L. (2001) The European Values Study: a third wave. Tilburg: Tilburg University.
- Kanellis, I. (2005) “Sex, proklisi kai logotechnia.” Tachydromos, 22 January.
- Papadopoulos, A. G. (2002) “Mapping ‘Romeic’ and ‘Hellenic’ Same–Sex Desire: Articulating Heteropatriarchy and Male Homosexuality in Contemporary Greece.” Antipode 34(5): 910-934.
- Rossman, P. (1976) Sexual experience between men and boys: exploring the pederast underground. New York: Association Press.
- Thoma, L. Ch. (2004) “Omofylofilia: e nomothiki anisotita.” Krama, issue 12.
- Vretos, S. (1997) “Apporipsi e apodochi?” Samizdat, 30 October.