Welcome to this, the first guest blog to be hosted by Heretic TOC. Others have been submitted and will appear in due course: many thanks to those who have taken the trouble to write. The standard has been excellent, giving me confidence that guest blogs will have a continuing role here as an occasional feature. This first blog is by Gil Hardwick. As a frequent contributor of comments on the regular blog, Gil needs little introduction, except to say that he is an anthropologist and writer whose work is better described on his website than I can manage. See also Sniffer Dog for “Hardwick and Trinder Investigations”.
I decided for this guest blog to address recent hysteria over so-called ‘paedophilia’ rather from a broadly philological perspective than my customary ethnographic. No apologies for appearing pedantic, that’s entirely my purpose.First, we have the word sex. The word is from L. sexus, referring to the two parts of society, to the state of being male or female; etymologically related to section. Associating sex with genitalia and copulation did not arise until the late eighteenth century, and did not emerge into common use until D. H. Lawrence in 1929.
Next we have the contemporary suffix –philia, which in neither classical nor modern Greek refers to sex or sexual attraction but to special friendship; philology (as above), or love of learning, is a case in point. Eros for comparison refers to sexual and romantic love, and agapē to detached, spiritual love. The closest I can find to classical philia in modern times is the Chinese guanxi, which in Pin-yin means special closeness allowing the parties to prevail upon one another for favours, no matter how asymmetrical the relationship may be.
Another ostensibly suggestive word that I like is catamite, a somewhat more joyfully sensual rendering of acolyte; a cup-bearer or attendant, here torch-bearer, corrupted and sexualised in modern times in order to purify liturgy and expunge suggestion of corruption in the Christian church. Until the mid-seventeenth century all such words merely pertained to serving boys in differentiated Pagan, Christian, Protestant, Nonconformist and Dissenting denominations.
Catamite itself is an early corruption of the classical Ganymede, torch-bearer of Zeus, which means joyful counsel, named after Medea the sorceress, wife of Jason, of Argonaut fame.
The second word love is not classical but Germanic via Old English lufu, where in Greek special love for a male child is rendered as agoriphilia. In modern German by contrast the word is knabenliebe. Knaben, in English knaves, were originally young male attendants. There is no equivalent word here for boy as a male child but as a slave, from L. boia, which is a leg iron or yoke. Traditional and early modern catamites were invariably lower class boys attending scholars and professors, as distinct from priests, and by doing so became well educated, and elevated in society.
Child is also Germanic via Old English cild, an infant, entirely unrelated to the idea of a boy; still present in certain North Country dialects, generally referring to those emergent from the womb with an implied, Christianised ‘innocence’ to them. It is only very recently, following the Victorian invention of the child, and especially since the 1990s and under feminist insistence, that boys are included legally among children, whereas girl is likewise traditionally part of a broad range of very old Germanic diminutives, meaning any young and immature animal as distinct from human children as such. Even today an immature, effeminate boy is called a girl, whereas a forthright and capable female child is rightly considered boyish, and as such called a tomboy.
Adoption of the enslaved L. boy for a male child and the merely diminutive OE. girl for a female, underpins pervasive gender asymmetries and distortions in the contemporary Anglophone West. Plainly boys generally have not for a very long time been uniformly considered children, but as often persons of quite distinct status. A child in the process of becoming an adult within the safe confines of the modern nuclear family is recognised and anticipated by adult society, but not those considered to be ‘at risk’; those deviant, dissociated, detached boys on the road to delinquency or elsewhere. I wrote an Honours thesis in Literature on this theme in 2010, specifically entitled Reimagining the Rascal.
The clear meaning emerging from all this still has nothing to do with perverts attracted to minors in order to exploit them sexually, but patterns of reciprocal personal relationships especially between boys and men, and the effects of absence or failure of such relationships. Ethnographically these can be in the form of catamite, or more commonly fosterage and adoption; with nationalised bureaucracy now superseded somewhat by the idea of the state ward. Apart from only a very few of the more notorious cases there is no material evidence of sexual activity among any of them (being nobody else’s business anyway) beyond that implied by images of mutual erotic fondling found occasionally on ancient Greek vases.
Once we release words from this bureaucratic late modern obsession with abusive sex and its deployment in discrediting those who sceptically review and critique public policy, and place them back into their autochthonous social and cultural context, we find such closely interrelated expressions as agoriphilia, love of male children; androphilia, love of men; aretephilia, love of excellence, of virtue, of being the best you can be; ephebophilia, love of youth; gymnophilia, love of nudity, nakedness; gynephilia, love of women; hebephilia, love of pubescents; kalophilia, love of beauty; koritsiphilia (or korephilia – kore being the genitive form), love of girls; paedophilia, love of children; somaphilia, love of the body; taliphilia, love of marriageable girls; teleiophilia, love of adults. You can add into this mix kalos kagathos, beautiful and good; and sophos kagathos, wise and good.
What emerges here is not at all some depraved, orgiastic wad of sodomites but a civilisation paying high regard to beauty, scholarship and erudition, goodness and wisdom. By contrast, contemporary debate throughout the Anglophone common law countries is dominated by bastardised, hybrid neologisms like sociology, criminology, and worse sexology. These words have been cobbled indiscriminately together from Latin and Greek by academics seeking to compile whole new dictionaries of aberrant sex and sexuality in an effort to focus public policy not on beauty and wisdom, but on deviance and abnormality.
As the sci-fi writer James Nicoll wrote in 1990, however; the problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.