In one of the interminable threads that devolved into endless discussions of pedophilia a couple of months ago, I raised an academic question about whether those who were commenting could come up with a reason why pedophilia was "wrong" without relying on a Judeo-Christian cultural context.   The history, I argued, was that in Greece and to a lesser extent in Rome, pedophilia in some forms was culturally acceptable; only those pesky Christians managed to radically change the culture.

For me it was just an academic speculation, but apparently I was much closer than I had ever considered possible.

In a recent interview with the Times magazine, Richard Dawkins attempted to defend what he called “mild pedophilia,” which, he says, he personally experienced as a young child and does not believe causes “lasting harm.”

Dawkins went on to say that one of his former school masters “pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts,” and that to condemn this “mild touching up” as sexual abuse today would somehow be unfair.


Child welfare experts responded to Dawkins’ remarks with outrage — and concern over their effect on survivors of abuse.


I'm just curious what people think?   Even in the midst of the groping, fondling, and raping of kids, and hiding/covering up of the crimes which occurred among clergy of my faith, it was exceptionally rare that anyone actually tried to condone it as being harmless. 

Tags: Dawkins, Richard, pedophilia

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It should be noted, in this thread about Dawkins, that his experience is anecdotal. Anecdotes can add insight, but should not be generalized to all experiences, and in a population with more than one gender. But his insight is, at least, from an ethologist's perspective.

I did a little googling and can't seem to turn up the age of the boys the Ancient Greeks supposedly buggered. They are described as "young boys," though I don't know what that means. I think it probably means boys in their mid-teens. 

Also, there is a question in my mind as to whether the Greek men of the era who engaged in buggery were truly homosexual, since today we believe one is born homosexual, and yet this was a common practice done apparently by far more than merely 10% of the males.


"..... whether the Greek men of the era who engaged in buggery were truly homosexual....."

I wouldnt call any man who sticks his dick in another man a homosexual. Just like I wouldnt call any man who sticks his dick in a chicken, a rooster.

Men just stick their dicks in anything.

Your prejudice against men is barely concealed.

I've heard enough anecdotal stories to believe that's largely true, Angela! Goes back to Genghis Khan, I think.

Heterosexuals and homosexuals are forever erasing bisexuality. Sexual orientation isn't black and white, folks. Why is that do difficult to accept?

Most Greek citizens (wealthy, male, land-owning) were expected to enter into a relationship with a boy. Men in these relationships were seen as mentors. They were responsible for the education and formation of the character of the boy they sponsored. Adult men most often were married to women, who birthed and raised their husband's children. Their wives were seen as less than human and on the whole as an undesirable necessity, as women were lacking both the superior intellectual development of male Greeks and also the celebrated male form. Often the patriarch of the relationship would develop feelings of love or fondness for the youth. Adult men could bugger their young boy apprentices if they so desired but it was considered bad form. It was more common to simulate intercourse between the thighs of the boy.

This doesn't look like homosexuality to me...but rather an extreme outcome of the intersection of misogyny and idolizing youth.

I see Richard Dawkins primarily as a victim who has yet to reconcile his past with modern moral expectations. Obviously, he is victim of a paedophile but also of a culture that hushed it up, tacitly condoning it. And so he carries the values of the time he grew up in, and has learned to downplay the seriousness of what happened to him. Now, tragically, as an adult, his words condone the very mindset that protected his abuser. This is cycle of sexual abuse. It is tragic and infuriating. That said, victims cannot be excused for promoting harmful ideas. Without the veil of moral relativism, it is clear that paedophilia is wrong whether it traumatizes the young Greek apprentice of ancient times, an English schoolboy, or today's Catholic alter boy.

I am very disappointed to hear Dawkins dismiss his abuse as "mild." That's really preposterous, like speaking of "rape rape," being sort of pregnant, or having been mostly murdered.  I wish Dawkins would seek to better himself with a deeper understanding of topics outside of atheism and his profession. Therapy would be an excellent place to start. It's such a shame. 

Without commenting on Dawkins,...

I am very disappointed to hear Dawkins dismiss his abuse as "mild." That's really preposterous, like speaking of "rape rape," being sort of pregnant, or having been mostly murdered.

You see no distinction between a hand wandering into a girl's panties and then a finger in her vagina that stops after she protests a few times (which would be a rape here in Ohio) and deep vaginal penetration at gunpoint with a filthy broomstick causing her to become barren?

That's a fascinating point of view.

It's not like either you're pregnant or you're not. Rape is a spectrum of behaviors, all wrong but some far more outrageous than others.

My point is you were either molested, raped, impregnated, murdered or you weren't.

Bravo @Kairan

@kris feenstra

I've re-read all your posts on this subject. (I recommend them to all.) You've managed to mollify my views to some extent.

However I remain sad at the treatment of pedophyles, a treatment I see as virtually identical to the treatment of homosexuals until a few short decades ago. Pedophyles are no more responsible for their own sexual orientation  than homosexuals are. Both are the victims of the same moral panic inflicted by those who desperately need someone to whom they can feel morally superior. 

As one with no frame of reference for female victims (I fathered only sons), I'm still not quite ready to accept that an underage girl could not possibly have rewarding sexual contact (without repercussions) with anyone they choose. And I'm not willing to draw a line under any particular age.

I've concluded that, unlike homosexuals, pedophyles must learn to accept the fact that their sexual orientation can never realize an outlet without unbelievaly serious consequences. Who would choose THAT sexual orientation?


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