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Dead Girls and Live Boys Reconsidered

In 1983 Edwin Edwards, the flamboyant and controversial candidate for governor of Louisiana, famously said, “The only way I can lose this election is if I am caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.” As a general political proposition, only part of this may be true anymore.

A few weeks ago, the newly elected mayor of Portland, Oregon, admitted to having a sexual affair in 2005 with a much younger male legislative intern. Mayor Sam Adams insists his affair with Beau Breedlove did not turn sexual until after Breedlove’s eighteenth birthday. But he has also admitted getting Breedlove to lie about the affair.

There were calls for Adams’s resignation, even from the homosexual press, though the outrage among the gays was not about the affair per se, but over Adams’s lying and his role in getting his partner to lie. Adams says he is staying put in the mayor’s job, and the controversy seems to have died down. This quick disappearance from the news cycle shows how far we are from the 1983 world of Ed Edwards. Dead girls are still taboo. But live boys? That’s a whole other story.

In ”Pedophilia Chic” and “Pedophilia Chic Reconsidered”, published in The Weekly Standard in 1999 and 2001, our Catholic Thing colleague Mary Eberstadt explored the presence of pedophila in some then-current homosexual literature, and how this was gaining acceptance in mainstream publications. She also asked why more representatives of the homosexual establishment failed to condemn these themes.

In 1992 Vanity Fair carried a sympathetic story about a pedophile who happened to be a teacher at the tony Phillips Exeter Academy. Larry Bateman was caught with thirty-three tapes of child pornography. Police also found $200,000 worth of videotaping equipment in his apartment, along with suggestive films created by his students. Vanity Fair reporter Jesse Kornbluth made Bateman out to be the victim of a single accuser whom Kornbluth painted as an alcoholic, drug-abusing hustler. Kornbluth blithely dismissed the shocking aspects of this case as if it were merely a matter of the existence of people who are homosexual: “The idea that single male teachers might be homosexual and appreciate young men would not be a soul-shattering revelation to Exeter students.”

The New Republic published an article in 1995 that Eberstadt called “the most overt attempt by a hip journal to give pedophiles a place at the table…” The story by Hannah Rosin explored a sympathetic documentary called “Chickenhawk,” which is about the North American Man-Boy Love Association. Rosin called the documentary riveting and said the film was worth seeing because “it succeeds, at least partially, in making monsters human.” Here is a quotation from the star of the movie, Leyland Stevenson: “He’s just like a flower in bloom. He’s at that perfect stage, in which he is hermaphroditic. . . .He’s in that wonderful limbo between being a child and an adolescent — he’s certainly an adolescent, but he has that weird feminine grace about him.”

The 1992 National Book Award was won by Paul Monette for his “Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story.” Monette advanced the thesis that it is the youngsters who are the aggressors: “If I am particular about the fact of being seduced — putting it all on him, the will and the dare and then the control — it doesn’t mean I don’t feel the guilt. . . .I had become the thing the heteros secretly believe about everyone gay — a predator, a recruiter, an indoctrinator of boys into acts of darkness.” Later he writes, “I don’t think that now. Twenty years of listening to gay men recount their own adolescent seductions of older guys has put it all in a different light.”

A recent and very mainstream Broadway play and movie, “History Boys,” is in part about an older teacher sexually groping his high school students. The only judgment is slight amusement at the old guy. In a similar vein, the first version of the play The Vagina Monologues approvingly tells the story of a twenty-four-year-old female teacher getting a thirteen-year-old girl drunk and raping her – though that, of course, is not how the author, Eve Ensler, and her many fans (including militant feminists on Catholic campuses) present it.

Besides revulsion, what strikes you about all this is what a remarkable double standard exists. Take any of these stories and turn them into older heterosexual men having sex with young girls, and then have them crow about it in magazines, books, and movies. They certainly would not get a mainstream audience, or win National Book Awards. They would likely land in jail. It’s a new spin on the old Soviet line. The truth of things doesn’t matter anymore. What does matter is who does what to whom.

Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-Fam.