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NOTE: Not to be confused with pedophilia, the exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children.

Pederasty (Greek: παιδεραστία, paiderastia; "love of boys") is a term used to designate:

  1. The ancient Greek aristocratic custom of homoerotic mentoring relationships between adult men and teenage boys, whether sexualized or chaste (ephebophilia).
  2. Similar customs of age-structured homosexuality in other places and times by way of generalization.
  3. Male homosexuality in general (and occasionally anal intercourse with either sex). This usage has dominated in the 15th–20th centuries. It replaced the older term "sodomy" to avoid its religious connotations.

"Pederasty" is often used interchangeably with the term "boylove".


Two Couples of Erastai and Eromenoi. Attic red-figure alabastron by the Group of the Paidikos Alabastra, c. 525–475 B.C. Barcelona, Museo Arqueológico.

The origin of the ancient Greek tradition of pederasty has been variously explained. One school of thought, articulated by Bernard Sergent, holds that the Greek pederastic model evolved from far older Indo-European rites of passage, which were grounded in a shamanic tradition with roots in the neolithic.

Another explanation, articulated by Anglophone scholars such as William Percy, holds that pederasty was formalized in ancient Crete around 630 BC as a means of population control, together with a delayed age of marriage for men of thirty years.

Institutionalized Greek pederasty took the form of an adult mentor and his adolescent pupil, who would be bonded together in a relationship of mutual love. The custom was commonplace in most Greek cities of the time, when intergenerational man-boy relationships were engaged in to bring important benefits to the community. The relationships were valued for giving rise to strong friendships, friendships which were thought valuable to democracies in particular. These relationships were also highly prized for the educational benefits they provided to the youth, and also for their positive effect in minimizing the then-current problem of overpopulation, which was keenly felt in many cities at that time. The custom was reflected in several popular myths and legends, most notably that of Zeus and Ganymede.

The theory and practice of pederasty was evident even into Roman times, until Christianity finally prevailed, and even then pederasty was commonplace for centuries more in varying forms, even (to some degree) until the present day.

An important note is that one did not need to have been primarily hebephilic or ephebephilic in orientation to practice pederasty. Since man-boy relationships were a cultural mainstay, they were practiced by the majority of upper-class adult males.

Other culturally sanctioned forms of pederasty independently developed in many cultures throughout the world and has been seen in many tribal groups[1] (see Category:Japan and Category:Ethnic groups).


The terms "heterosexual" and "homosexual" did not apply to sexual practices in pre-modern times. Some cultures today still differ in their opinions regarding male-male sexual relations. As an example, one article cites the sexual relationships of adolescent boys in Swaziland. The practice is seen as a way of "becoming a man". But in recent years, Western labels and ideals have been seeping into African cultures, causing conflict and resulting in a decline of male-male sexual activity.

Some boys passed into manhood and got married but now and then they still need some man's wood to remain pure men," say's Mr Bhokondvo Nkosi, a Maths teacher of Emagogeni high school. "The difference before the Western influence is that it was ok to practice this type's of sexuality and now most African parents are considering it as "homosexuality" as it is labelled and therefore it is regarded as a silly influence from the civilised countries and as a Western disease." [2]

It's only fair to suppose that man-boy relationships could be regarded as one expression of this cultural ideal. Notions of "homosexuality" and "heterosexuality" were not applied until the Victorian era, due to the medicalization of human sexual activity.


  1. Ford, C. S., & Beach, F. A. (1951). Patterns of sexual behavior. New York: Harper & Row
  2. amantanyula by Ishi ((2002)) [1],[2]

See also

External links