Was Pederasty Problematized?

A diachronic view

Authored by: Andrew Lear

Sex in Antiquity

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415519410
eBook ISBN: 9781315747910
Adobe ISBN: 9781317602774


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In his influential 1985 study The Use of Pleasure, Foucault declared that pederasty was “problematized” in Greek culture: it was (1985: 192) “the object of a special—and especially intense—moral preoccupation” and consequently (1985: 191) “subjected to an interplay of positive and negative appraisals so complex as to make the ethics that governed it difficult to decipher.” This concept has been generally accepted as part of the scholarly consensus. In fact, rather than being criticized for portraying pederasty as problematized, Foucault, along with Kenneth Dover, has been attacked for the opposite—for claiming, wrongly in their critics’ view (Cohen 1991: 171–3; Hubbard 1998: 48–9), that the Greeks took a generally positive or neutral view of pederasty. In this article, I will open Foucault’s—and the scholarly consensus’—view on this point to question. I will argue that problematization—at least as I have defined it above—was not an inherent characteristic of the practice of pederasty; instead, it is something that happened to pederasty at some point in the fifth century BC, initially (at least on the extant evidence) in Athens.

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