The following article was published in N-SPHERE August 2012 issue.


Name: gea*

Location: New York

Occupation: Artist, pseudo UFOlogist, cinephile, cat friend person

Definition of personal sphere: The constant urge to create

Artwork in 4 words: Subconscious, undisciplined, pop, memoir

What is inspirational for you: Cinema, sweet sounds, never ceasing to learn, my friends, the ocean

Currently favourite artists: Ichiba Daisuke, Trevor Brown, Stu Mead, Marie-Pierre Brunel

Tools of trade: Acrylics, ink, video, computer etc.

Current obsessions: My dead cat, Criterion DVDs

Personal temptation: To stop everything


Artwork: gea*. Potpourri. Courtesy of the artist.

Full article here.



The following article was published in N-SPHERE August 2012 issue.


The following text attempts no analysis, merely a survey. Pederasty, like homosexuality in general is to be found in a variety of groups and cultures that, competent scholars noted, defy any attempt at finding either a genealogy or a common-ground, a reality that my limited knowledge of the phenomenon and its history has confirmed early on. What this article does attempt is a quick overview of a typically revolutionary fascination for youth, as the life-force of change, and the symbol of renewal. Like most oppressed minorities, sexual minorities found in revolutionary and utopian ideals some solace, and contributed with more or less success to both the ideology of those movements, and the rank and files of their militants and fighters – but often, as we will see, the enthusiasm and ecumenical ideals of the movements’ early days were abandoned in the process of normalization that followed the eventual revolution.

Many radical movements, unlike the more consensual (or downright conservative in the case of fascism) groups whose support they came to need after achieving state control, originally displayed liberal or even alternative views on human sexuality in their utopian promises. Yet those were rarely given such preponderant position as to participate to the mythology of each group, as did the cult of youth. One can, as often, be tempted to see their partial survival in the form of brotherly love that most martial and virile regimes came to advocate, but such a parallel is based, as far as I am aware, on little more historical evidence than the rapprochement one could make with the prevalent cult of youth; I will therefore abstain from linking the actual stories of individual pederasts in those movements, with the myths and propaganda objectifying youth and childhood for their own political (and aesthetic) purposes. I leave to the fertile and twisted imagination of the reader the enjoyable task to decide whether such images where merely naive and sometimes clumsy, or if they purposefully appealed to what those very movements came to denounce as a perversion.

Before we start it might be profitable to remind the reader of a few issues of terminology. They might provide the reader with an idea of what the current thought on those categories can be: Homosexuality describes the individual’s sexual attraction to persons of the same gender. Noted anthropologist Geoffrey Gorer defines within homosexuality (which, due to his primary interest in traditional societies, he studies chiefly from the point of view of androphilia, that is men attracted to men) four categories: age-structured homosexuality, egalitarian homosexuality, gender-structured homosexuality and paedophilia.

Egalitarian homosexuality describes the attraction between adults of the same sex, while gender-structured homosexuality refers mainly to transgender. Paedophilia, Gorer indicates, is a rare phenomenon that seems generally to be considered as pathological. Age-structured homosexuality, which will interest us in particular in this article, includes pederasty, that is the attraction of a grown, adult man, for a man belonging to a different age-group or a different generation, in that case an adolescent. Such practice can be found in a variety of cultures and throughout the ages, albeit the Greek glorification of this relationship is certainly the most well known.

This first model is predominantly in use in anthropology, while an other »scale« is being discussed by sexologists and psychiatrists (most notoriously by Ray Blanchard) and established pederasty as part of the same continuum (»chronophilia«) as paedophilia, merely as less pronounced: whereas paedophilia is defined as an attraction for prepubescent children, hebepohilia is concerned with adolescent in the early stages of puberty, and ephebophilia is the attraction to adolescents in their late puberty, or fully pubescent.

For most of modern history, and for revolutionary movements, Ancient Greece has represented the distant ideal of a golden age, a world distant enough for thinkers of all factions to project their ideal onto, and yet influential enough on their contemporary history to arouse fear and sometimes incomprehension: in the political arena, Greece was of course the first democracy and came to symbolize for many the alternative, both cultural and later political, to a modern era that was often seen as a set back from glorious time of the ancients. As discussed by a number of authors of the time (most famously Plato) pederasty seemed to have been the norm, as the type of relationship, sexual or not, where it was fitting for the grown man to express his love, and often his desire. We will not go into detail but there is a rich literature available describing how this particular relationship was thought to be pedagogical and in many traditional societies, up to as late as the XXth century, the educational character of such a relationship between a grown man and a youth was stressed – yet, due to its cultural, and political, prevalence, pederasts in the West, will consistently come back to ancient Greece, with its formalized and accepted model of pederastic relationship, in both their idealization and justification of pederasty.

And indeed it is in Greece we can find the two political archetypes, founding myths if you will, that will remain influential references for all future movements:

Harmodius and Aristogeiton were two lovers living under the tyranny of Hipparchus, who plotted the assassination of the tyrant, to avenge Harmodius’s sister’s honour, hence opening the way for the establishment of Athenian democracy. The two heroes were later divinized and sculpture, as well as poetry, immortalizes their sacrifice and their arete, for the Greek the highest virtue combining courage and honour.

On the scale of revolutions, stretching between the liberal and the authoritarian ideals, Athens became very much the symbol of democracy, of rational and egalitarian societies – forgetting in the process many of the less fitting idiosyncrasies of Greek history, but not the pronounced taste for pederasty. On other end, and quite contemporary to the two tyranicides of Athens, we shall find Sparta, no less apologetic as to the homosexual relationships between the growing boy and his teacher, even making it already a central element of their pedagogy, but in a radically different context, that of a regime where all citizen were full-time soldiers, and where children from the age of seven onward were separated from their family in order to receive a communal and extremely harsh martial education – modern historians see many of those specificities of Spartan education as tending towards the formation of an emotional community intended to provide the Spartan army with a cohesion that was much revered by other Greek cities, including the much less strict Athens – many will also agree that the place of homosexuality in Sparta was, in a similar spirit as the one exemplified by Harmodius and Aristogeiton in Athens, instrumentalized to achieve the same cohesion. Interestingly enough, the lecture of Artistotle’s Politics, or of Plato’s Apology of Socrates, reveal that the Spartan model of military state was not only much admired by the Athenians, but also that the regular »revolutions« replacing democracy with autocrats called »tyrants«, were often enough motivated with the implementation of a Spartan-style regime (in the Thirty Tyrants episode in particular).

Albeit homosexuality, and pederasty, were present throughout history, in Rome in particular, its association with lofty ideals and political renovation somewhat disappears for many century, probably under the increasing pressure of the Jewish and Christian morals that showed much less tolerance of same sex relationships than the Greek civilization did, and we now need to take a huge step forward in history to the XVIIIth century, to examine the modern reception of those practices, and the role they were to play in the coming revolutions. Like many of the uses radical ideologies will make of myths, those will in part relate to their contemporary perception of the Ancient civilizations, onto which they generally projected their political –and sexual- ideals.

The fascination for youth and childhood in modern revolutionary movements has quite a clear origin: the idea, developed chiefly by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, that the »Fall« (the original sin, perversion, ect.) is bestowed upon children by an imperfect society, whereas the child is born perfect, and in the biblical sense of the word, innocent.

In this regard the interest in children, much like the more or less simultaneous flourishing of the myths of the noble savage, denote an Arcadian drive -rather than utopian- that is a sense that health, purity and more generally perfection, are to be found in the past, rather than to be built in the future. This peculiar longing for a golden age and child-like innocence that was lost, part-take first in the ideals that will bring about the French and American revolutions and the reformist projects that will blossom here and there at the dusk of the XVIIIth century, but also, and more decisively, fuels the dominant nostalgia that presides to the ensuing Romantic Era.

But as we will see, this same passéist ideal that provided the founding myths and fuelled the revolutions, will also, once discarded by the increasingly positivist XIXth century, fuel the most violent backlash against the secular rationalist order, not only in the form of Romanticism, but also in the form of many other revolutions, some entirely at odds with the liberal and humanist ideals.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) is widely considered as one of the most important -and one of the most eccentric- figures of the XVIIIth century – in several ways prefiguring Romanticism as it will develop in the XIXth century, Rousseau hardly fits in the existing categories of the age: albeit his work was to largely define the political ideals that presided to the coming democratic revolutions, he was also, less famously, convinced of the priority of the state, of the common cause, in the face of individuality. Alongside his fascination for the mythical state of nature, his prefiguring of the ideas of national interest (albeit in much more communitarian terms) places him at the root of many revolutionary and even anti-democratic movements further on.

There is little evidence to link his utopian views of childhood to Rousseau’s sexuality – other than it was very repressed: after difficult experiences in the hospice as a child where he narrowly escaped rape, he developed further a pre-existing dislike for copulation, and for sodomy in particular, so much that his regular, frightened references to possible homosexuals have lead some scholars to suspect there might be more to it. One must in those circumstances, remember that one of Rousseau’s greatest achievements is certainly the candid honesty, and the incessant self-analysis that accompanied his writing, and the autobiographical Confessions in particular: psychoanalytical exegesis might not be best at home with him. At any rate, many of the more contemporary advocacies of child sexuality, and often of paedophilia, trace the idea of sexuality as corruptive for the child to Rousseau, be it to his romantic ideals or to his own sexual feelings of inadequacy.

What does come as a surprise, though, for an advocate of democracy and education, who was to become among its most important reformers, is his downright fascination, not with Athens but with Sparta: throughout his voluminous output in the field of political theory, we find frequent references to Sparta’s »blissful ignorance« and to the »wisdom of its laws«, which, as we have seen, is slightly surprising in the light of the extreme harshness and brutality of the Spartan society; Sparta’s harsh, militaristic communautarism, and their treatment of children hardly fit with Rousseau’s Arcadian ideals of innocence and life in nature, but this is just one of the many paradoxes of the character, one, maybe, that will take part in the future contradictions of many revolutionary movements.

In 1794, many years after his encounter with Rousseau in Rome, André Grétry composed a peculiar opera concerned with the life and death of Joseph Barra, who will be the first of our under-age revolutionary martyrs: it is difficult to assess which influence Rousseau’s philosophy had on Grétry’s post-revolution output and many historians assess those plays in the light of his earlier royal sympathies, as essentially opportunistic – but all the same his avowed fascination with Rousseau’s radical ideas could have finally found their expression in his suddenly militant extolling of the democratic sacrifice.

Joseph Barra, born in 1779, was apparently so swept away by revolutionary fervour in 1789, that albeit by far too young to enrol in the republican troops he managed to sneak in and join, as a drummer according to the later paintings, the ranks of a unit fighting Vendé’s royalist résistance. He died during the campaign and was seized by revolutionary mastermind Robespierre as a great candidate for deification, his story generously re-written to achieve maximum impact, and its illustration so widely encouraged that, as Gétry before them, many artists, and painters in general, were to select him as a subject for their patriotic works all the way into the late XIXth century.

It is quite widely accepted that the French revolution was also a sexual revolution, if largely aborted by the ensuing Napoleonian regime, much like the original fascist ideals were to be betrayed by Mussolini’s later compromises in the hands of the conservative forces; The Marquis de Sade, for example, member during the revolution of the Piques (far left) but, before the Terror, one of the representatives of the National Convention – was to be dismissed and imprisoned (probably essentially due to his aristocratic background); Many other examples of the revolutionaries frantic sexuality can be found, in its mildest expression, in the numerous reports of public and licentious behaviour inside of Notre Dame during the famous Festival of Reason, or in a more morbid fashion, in the alleged tradition of the so called Batteries Nationales.

Undressed by the Jacobins and revolutionary forces, victims of the large scale class-cleansing of the Terror were then tied, alive and in some cases dead, in couples or sometimes in groups, in sexual positions displaying the creative mind of their accusers, and displayed to the crowd and eventually thrown in the rivers. After this orgy of sex and violence, and maybe even because of such excesses, following the execution of Robespierre, France seems to come back to more acceptable mores although one significant progress is the separation the criminal sex laws from the influence of the Church.

Surviving this madness, De Sade was none the less to be kept behind bars by the subsequent government, notably Napoleon, which did not seem to slow down his frenetic sexual activity, be it with his fellow inmates, or with the 13 years old daughter of some of the employees…

It is in England, and in a very different form, in Germany, that the XIXth century will see the birth of the romantic archetype of homosexuality, that will be brought to much public attention, in the fin-de-siècle characters of Oscar Wilde and similar dandies – the particular terminology that will develop at the time, that of Uranian will later come to describe all of male homosexuality, and even on occasion the female expression, is given two different possible origins, both of interest to us:

Some attribute it an unlikely origin in the German term of Urnings, of which later, while the much more likely origin is to be found in Plato’s Symposium, in which the ever present Socrates (one Athenian later executed for his Spartan sympathies…) discusses at length the ideas of love and lust, proposing for androphilia a mythical origin in the birth of Venus from Uranus, the sky, a birth that would involve no women: »from a mother in whose birth the female has no part,-she is from the male only; this is that love which is of youths«.

Albeit largely pederastic but emphasizing the romantic and the lofty in the homosexual relationship, the term Uranian retrospectively came to describe a particular crowd of writers and artists, whose largely clandestine work dealt with their own homosexuality in a very sentimental manner and generally referencing ancient history, which comes as little surprise given that many of them were scholars of Latin or Ancient Greece – in large part the movement was centred around Public schools, the elitist system of boarding school that produced (and still does) most of the British academic, financial and political leadership.

William J. Cory is generally considered as the first of this lineage, a teacher at the public school he came to be widely regarded as one of the best tutors and a respected theorician of pedagogy, as attested among others by his student Coleridge. A poet and a very dedicated classicist, Cory is widely regarded as initiating the Uranian poetical movement with his masterpiece Ionica (see quote on left page).

Notwithstanding his outstanding achievements in the fields of education and poetry, a compromising letter evidencing his relationship with a student forced him to resign and move abroad.

Following in his trace and forming the bulk of the Uranian movements, one can find Montague Summers, an ambiguous clergyman writing about werewolves, homosexuals and vampires, J.F. Bloxam who popularised the Priest/Chorister romance, J. G. Nicholson or J. A. Symonds – most  notably were either clergymen or tutors, and a central interest in Ancient Greece or Renaissance was apparently common – it is worth noting that the public school system seemed to have been a hot bed of homosexuality and on occasion pederasty, in a fashion some say reinforcing »esprit de corps«, as acknowledged by C.S. Lewis for example.

J.A. Symonds was introduced to Uranian ideas by a tutor who lent him Cory’s Ionica – as often in the pederastic relationships, and in their educational incarnations, the former pupil grew to become a master and supposedly perpetuated his pursuits – and once again the revelation of his particular interests and his alleged attempts at corrupting choirboys, threatened his career – Symonds was, unlike many of the other Uranian, a defender of homosexuality as a martial value, rather than of effemination. He frequently referred to Spartan history, which he knew particularly well, as exemplified in his posthumous volume Soldier Love and Related Matters. He coined the expression »L’Amour Impossible« – Impossible Love – which largely exemplifies the very particular relationship that the Victorian Uranian had to their lofty ideals.

Related is the Order of Chaeronea, nothing short of a secret society destined to homosexuals, whose thematic and spirituality referred to an idealized Ancient Greece largely quoted from Uranian poetry – other than its Masonic organisation, with secret words and rituals, as for the Uranians the group seemed to have attracted a large number of socialists, albeit having no official political inclination of its own. The name of Chaeronea refers to the final and deadly battle of a the famous Sacred Band of Thebes, an elite military phalanx belonging to the City-State of Thebe, a third Greek power roughly contemporary of the Spartan and Athenian societies discussed above. The sacred band was famously composed of three hundred pederastic couples solely selected for their martial ability, and whose cohesion once again relied heavily on the particular type of relationships within its rank.

The Uranian movement, like many classicist movements of the period, did not adopt an outspoken political stance, possibly in reason of their heavy reliance on a semi-mythical past, stretching their imaginary between nostalgia for a lost golden-age and social and cultural progressist ideas, a fate shared by a number of left-wing traditionalists; Chiefly their verse seems to find in Utopia what justification naivety brought to their sexuality (in this reminiscent of Benjamin Britten’s similarly ambiguous public school experience) – but outside of their passéist poetry a number of the movement’s participants took part in the publication of various progressive magazines and letters concerned with subjects ranging from welfare to Fourrierism. The social utopianism seemed to have failed to overcome or integrate the aesthetic and narrative elements of the group, although it is virtually ever present in the lives of its member.

Meanwhile in Germany, at the time at the forefront of educational reform, a similar relationship between the tutor and the pupil was being described and even systematized, in similarly ambiguous terms: Gustav Wyneken (1875-1964) at that time a tutor in a boarding school as well as a writer, was practicing and theorizing a concept he coined pedagogic Eros, developing once again the Ancient Greek concept of pedagogy as involving a particular form of romantic relationship between the student and his teacher – although he would eventually be dismissed following unproven accusation of sexual abuses, he was a lot later fondly remembered by a number of famous students of his, notably Walter Benjamin, who credited him for his love of German Idealism.

Beyond his views on the pedagogic relationship, Wyneken, more famously at the time, was an advocate and a theorician of the rising Volkish movement: Volkish is notoriously difficult to define, gathering a number of sometimes contradictory ideas, some naive and benign, and some prefiguring the central importance given to the concept later on by the Nazis. At any rate as we will see, the Volkish movement of the XIXth and early XXth century cannot be limited to such dark omen.

Originally a youth movement following the teachings of Eduard Baltzer, it might have been a reaction against industrialization and rationalization of the life of the parents, perceived as bourgeois and decadent – the proposed alternative, rooted in a variety of political ideology ranging from communitarian anarchism to utopian nationalism, involved invariably a return to nature, albeit not in a conservative fashion but in a utopian, idealistic and overwhelmingly romantic fashion. Practices associated with the Volkish movement included vegetarianism, nudism, neo-paganism, and regular group retreats in the nature, often organised by independent youth organisations. At any rate the most relevant analogy to describe this trend is probably the American hippie movement, save the Marxism and replace it with nationalism.

One of the main proponents of the Volkish culture was a more less loose network of organisations known under the name of Wandervogel – inspired from youth organisations such as scoutism, those groups of youth that, often without adult supervision, organised retreats in the forest and skill-exchanges, and also circulated the ideas dear to the Volkish movement – Wyneken, who termed the expression »Jungkultur«, something akin to what we would now call youth culture, strongly promoted such independent initiatives insisting on avoiding as much as possible adult intrusion.

The Wandervogel were hugely popular and represented, much like scoutism nowadays, a wide variety of ideological orientations. At the time of Hitler’s accession to power and the subsequent institution of the compulsory Hitler Youth, some Wandervogel groups, indeed sympathetic to Nazi ideology, were incorporated, while other groups, most notoriously the Edelweiss Piraten and the Leipzig Meuten, as late as the 1930s would engage in independent (and largely illegal) activities as well as challenging and combating adverse Hitler Youth divisions.

A number of collaborators of the Volkish movement, and among them a number of icons, were rather sympathetic to Wyneken’s ideas, and some were also openly homosexual or pederast: the most famous among those have to be the artist Fidus who will not only define the particular image and style associated with Volkish, but also play a pivotal role in the development of the Jugendstil, the German graphic expression of Art Nouveau.

The official illustrator of the early Wandervogel movement, he displayed much interest in the body of teenagers and went on to participate in the first »gay« magazine.  This was published in Germany by Adolph Brand between 1896 and 1932 – Titled Der Eigene, in reference to the Young Hegelian and founder of individualist-anarchism Max Stirner’s most famous work Der Einzige und sein Eigentum – the magazine published a wealth of famous sympathetic writers, from Thomas Mann to John Henry Mackay, or Hans Einz Ewers. Their glorification of homosexuality relied heavily on Volkish themes and aesthetics, and at the time seemingly embraced the rising anti-Semitism.

Most famously, the strong reliance of Nazism onto Volkish culture proved to foster an ambiguous (as for many things before the NSDAP’s access to power) relationship to homosexuality – at any rate it seems fairly certain that the voluntarist philosophy permeating fascist thought encouraged regular reference to both the mythical and military, making it rather unsurprising to find occasional references to Spartan and Greek military spirit. Unlike the more romantic and melancholic pederasty of the Uranians, the homosexuals of the party are to be found predominantly in its militia: the S.A. -  A number of senior S.A. officers generally appointed by Ernst Röhm, such as Edmund Heines, were charged and executed, during the famous Night of the Long Knives, on the grounds of being homosexuals. Although the inclination of Röhm himself is now widely accepted, the position of this group on the left of the Nazi party, at a time where Hitler was concluding alliances with conservative and industrialist to settle his control over Germany, makes it still uncertain as to the real reasons of the action.

Even before the purge, Röhm and his cabal seemingly started to enforce their own vision onto the German homosexual »underground« (which had very much resurfaced during the Weimar Republic) for example raiding and seizing much material from the house of Adolf Brand, former publisher of Der Eigene as mentioned above. Whether such actions were mere thuggish violence, as it is often implied by historians, or the result of an attempt to restructure the homosexual underworld is hard to define given the lack of documentation concerning this era.

At any rate, following this purge, the Nazi party became increasingly estranged of the most progressive and anti-establishment elements of the Volkish ideology, like Paganism or Homosexuality – appealing at the ever present moral conservatism of the Christian population, it started a campaign of virulent persecution against homosexuals, reaching its apex with the internment and extermination of homosexuals, famously sporting the pink triangle as identification in concentration camps.

Herbert Norkus is the second instance of child-martyr we encounter, this time in Nazi Germany: the Hitler Jugend, nicknamed Quex, died in 1932 at the hand of a communist youth organization – he was, as for Barra during the revolution, quickly seized by the Party as a powerful symbol – merging, as one could imagine, the guilt and disgust of the common man in the face of the ever-revolting death of a child, with the pride and beauty of a man dying for his ideals while still in his prime. A novel and a film were subsequently produced to celebrate and exploit his death, albeit this last one largely lacks the homoerotic appeal one could find in Barra’s representation, showing maybe, the degree of involvement of the puritanical Goebbels.

»Be with me for a long time, do not leave me, / Fuhrer, My Fuhrer, my Faith, my Light« (Hitler Jugend prayer, reported in Jean-Denis Lepage, Hitler Youth 1922-1945: An Illustrated History, p.87)

Nazism’s Cult of Youth, and fascism’s in general, probably received more academic attention than any of its other manifestations: Stanley G. Payne and Klaus Theweleit have probably captured in their studies the essence of the question better than most, in the many terms it requires: a sociological reach for a social group transcending class divisions, a political need for military support, and an aesthetic, if not spiritual, apology of novelty and renewal, to which I would add, although the discussion of this would require a wholly different article, a cultural attraction towards perversity.

Italian Fascism proved much more lax in its control over the artistic output and literary in particular, during the many years that led to the Second World War – this might be in part due to the prominence of the futurist movement in its rank. Although ultimately falling out of favour, the cohort of avant-garde artists advocated the most exotic ideals before and after the Fascists’ rise to power, including, in the case of its founder Marinetti, such an obsessive and thorough misogyny, coupled with outlandish and allegorical poetry, that one finds it hard not to find in his images, a homoerotic subtext, if only apophatic:

In his African novel Mafarka the Futurist, the hero struggles against the temptation of the flesh to ultimately find his fulfilment, mystique and alchemy, in a form of male pregnancy that allows, according to Cinzia Sartini Blum, a rebirth – the palingenesis of the fascist consensus, here achieved by the final abstraction of the female. The idea of man’s ability to give birth is very prominent as we have seen, in Plato’s discussion of pederasty in his Symposium, and incidentally in the British Uranians own mythology. In that regard, it’s also interesting to note that Paul Fussel’s 1975 opus -  The Great War and Memory already trace back the latent homoeroticism of the British war poets to the Uranians – for the futurists much like for Wilfred Owen or others, the war constituted a central experience of comradely love, and their exertion of those values certainly played an important role in the establishment of Fascism.

Albeit Nazi’s painting, much like socialist realism, was prudish, Arno Brecker, the Reich’s most celebrated sculptor was like Speer, more influenced by some sort of neo-classicism on steroids than by the humble life of Christians in the German country-side: his bas-relief of body built Aryans struggling against the elements are highly characteristic of the sort of homoeroticism ascribed by post-war society to Nazism.

It is difficult to assess how much of the Marxist analysis of fascism – the dominant one until the seventies – ascribes homosexuality to fascism in order to discredit the later, and how much of it is funded on a genuine interpretation of the psychological process of fascism. Albeit some of the later analyses of this period treating fascism as essentially a movement of déclassés, could corroborate this later hypothesis, both trends are definitely present.

Marxism, for a movement so bent on defending (and assimilating) minorities, only recognized homosexuality as such relatively late – although Germany had hosted some militant homosexual socialists at the time of his activities, Marx never showed much support to the cause and was even openly hostile to it in his correspondence with Engels.

Following the 1917 revolution the utopian project of the cultural vanguard, which at first defended homosexuality, were soon brought to a halt by the rise of the more radically positivist elements (including Lenin) who considered homosexuality, and pederasty especially, if not as a crime as a disease. But it was not until 1933 that homosexuality was outlawed. Of course the puritanical and moralising soviet state envisioned by Stalin showed little love for homosexuality, pederastic or else, and tended to treat any such underground activity as suspect at best, if not plain and simply seditious.

What comes as more of a surprise is the relative reticence of later Marxists intellectuals to pronounce themselves on the matter of homosexuality, whereas much milder socialists and more radical anarchists had integrated their cause several decades earlier. Theodor Adorno, of all people, seemed to relate fascism and homosexuality (as did the soviet authorities) on the ground of their shared performativity. Without going into too much details, albeit contemporary Marxists have very largely adopted the cause of LGBTQ rights, those who attempt to defend Adorno’s analysis sometimes argue, as he might have, that as the Marxist attitude changed towards the issue, so did homosexuality itself.

Unlike gambling for example, pederasty was hardly a proletarian vice and communist government generally looked at it as a capitalist disease – yet this never stopped them to appeal to the modernist and neo-classical aesthetics of the male body, as exemplified in a number of manifestations, most notably, as for Nazism, in sculpture – although designed by a woman it is curious to note that the clear inspiration for Soviet Russia’s most famous work of propaganda, Worker and Kholkoz Woman, is directly inspired by the famous Greek statue of Harmodius and Aristogeiton, the pederastic lovers who freed Athens from the Tyrants, as discussed above.

Pavlik Mozorov, a spiritual cousin of Joseph Barra and Herbert Norkus, was the soviet’s very own child martyr: the thirteen years old boy from Yekaterinburg was a member of the Komsomol, whose father, he discovered, was involved in sabotage activities. After denouncing his father’s evil deeds to the local government, he was murdered in mysterious circumstances in the woods, probably as retaliation. Similar in tone to Herbert Norkus (whose father was also, in some accounts, unsympathetic to the regime), it has also proven to be heavily rewritten with the »brio« and attention to detail known to the soviet specialists.

It might be that the sudden urge of concern in the western 1960s for the rights of sexual minorities found its roots in the explosion of feminism and the sexual liberation, but certainly the McCarthy witch hunt part-took, if not in popularising homosexuality to the masses, at least in raising awareness among the more liberals and the younger generation, of the precarious situation that gays – and paedophiles – found themselves in time of political turmoil.

Although very few of its victims could be regarded as revolutionaries, the Second Red Scare used abundantly accusations of homosexuality (not unlike it was used by actual communists abroad) to discredit political opposition, and probably fostered a generation of increasingly militant homosexuals.

A few decades earlier, the increasing persecutions the Nazis imposed on dissident Volkish movements such as the Wandervogel seemingly prompted a second wave of German immigration to the United States in the XXth century: amid the burgeoning youth culture, those bearded, long haired Germans preaching Lebensreform seemingly gathered in California, where they were known as Nature Boys, and were to influence widely the Californian surf-scene, and of course, the hippies. The long haired, bearded and, maybe even dirty appearance of hippies and Volkish youth can be traced (if by showing a little fantasy) to Spartiates themselves: Aristophanes’s Birds of 414 BCE so describes Socrate’s disciples : »they aped the manners of Sparta, let their hair grow long, went hungry, refused to wash, »Socratized«, and carried walking sticks«.

But in France, at the time possibly breeding ground of a variegated amalgam of philosophical and cultural theory, one can find what was to become the real philosophical articulation of the paedophilia apology movement, in the person of René Scherer and of his book Emile Perverti.

The book, in many ways a formal attack on Rousseau’s conceptions of education, as exemplified in his book Emile is for us all the more notable that in its own anti-rousseauism, it inscribes itself in a lineage shared by Joseph de Maistre (see Against Rousseau), a Vendean whose absolutist and mystique conservatism was to serve as a major source of inspiration for many fascists and their forefathers (from pragmatists like Maurras to traditionalists like Evola). As we have seen Rousseau is a complex character, who fostered conflicting opinions for over two centuries and plays an axial role in many radical ideologies.

Around that time a number of movements destined to sensibilise the general population to paedophiles as a sexual minority, and push forward such changes in legislation as the abolition of the age of consent, started appearing in the western countries, often as fringes of gay-lib movements but by no means always: the sexual liberation, that played a unifying role in the galaxy of loosely connected causes, was often enthusiastic enough in defending paedophilia. An astonishing number of left-wing intellectuals, in France and The Netherlands in particular, signed various petitions reclaiming the right of children to have a sexuality.

Around thirty years later, it seemed that most battles of the sixties, aside from the Marxist one obviously, had been either won or at least considerably advanced, especially when it comes to minorities – but the question of paedophilia advocacy had been assiduously forgotten, with few of its original militant or sympathizers still open as to their opinion, if any, on the issue – one notable evolution among those groups that remain militant is the relatively recent development, or maybe its gain in visibility, of male paedophiles attracted to underage girls: whereas the pederastic model had, as we have seen, been dominant for centuries, recent statistic show radical changes in that regard.

Most contemporary paedophilia advocacy groups tend to have, following the gay rights movements’ reasonably successful strategy, shed most of their links with other radical causes, political revolution more than any other. Most of such groups now take the form of discussion forums on the internet, who take great care to separate themselves from any illegal activities and discuss at length the history of paedophilia and other academic work that could support their cause in the fields of anthropology, psychology, education, etc.

Not all have shed their political ideology though, as have proven the relatively recent discovery of perennialist anarchist Hakim Bey’s (of TAZ fame) interest in little boys, and his involvement in the seventies in the publication of a number of pamphlet and prints relating to paedophilia advocacy, as well as his rather shaky translations of Persian poetry dealing with the subject.

Whereas the cult of youth itself had reached in the nineties the apex of its popularity, today surviving totalitarian regimes (as evidenced by fashion, porn and music’s obsession with teenagers and child-like women) the popularity of the paedophile cause has never been so low in the west: stripped from its traditional credentials such as the child-bride phenomenon, but also pederasty (of which most gay movements have worked hard to separate themselves from) and from its political credibility, the idea that a child might for example initiate, of himself, a sexual relationship, such as was often described in the sixties, has become regarded with increasing suspicion and disbelief. Yet the development of the internet offers to paedophiles a chance of forming as a community they never had before, and given the scarcity of the statistics and information available on the subject outside of the penal field, it is virtually impossible to judge the evolution of this community.

One can be tempted to see the separation of the gay movement from the pederastic one as a turning point in the later history: the problematic of same sex-relationships is in the west, on its way to disappear but the question of inter-generational sexuality, that originally so deeply associated with it, has been left behind – the titillating aesthetics of child sexuality carried by Vogue or the Japanese Idol movement leave it a space between BDSM chic and body-modification, within the narrow, and politically impotent space of the self-consciously perverted. That is not what paedophiles had, and certainly not what most have, in mind.


by Bertrand

Full article here.



The following article was published in N-SPHERE August 2012 issue.


Some films take serious topics seriously, others take them more lightly – eventually use them as selling points – while others distort them to the point that they really seem comic episodes. But very few directors take them seriously, while laughing in their face.

In 1970, the French director Joël Séria helmed a little project called Don’t deliver us from evil. Carefully labeled by some critics as a »children’s film«, the movie however – at its time – frightened/shocked a couple of the more puritan hearts and very soon afterwards was banned in the US for »blasphemy«.

What is, somehow, rather funny, is that Don’t deliver us from evil is not a blasphemous film, nor is it a film that actually deals with two girls who have suddenly decided to worship Satan (or other thing like that). The film itself has no religious, nor philosophical touch of any kind. It is never solemn, nor is it personal, nor – ultimately – takes itself too seriously. Those seeking to find deeper arguments or truth for the film’s protagonists’ behavior will be greatly disappointed.

This is not a film preaching revolt as a form of change, this is not a film preaching revolt, actually. It is a film that toys with things that most people consider unconceivable, or cruel, immoral, nightmarish, take your pick. The two protagonists of the film play their part well, because they leave all the side implications aside, the entire sophomore details and focus on the game itself, as if now nothing they do is actually real.

It is tempting to draw some parallels between this film and Peter Jackson‘s Heavenly creatures. Both films are (loosely) based on real events. In both we have two girls as protagonists and both films invest a lot in »games« and the idea of »cheerful madness«. However, Peter Jackson‘s film is more restrained, meaning that it uses a more domestic setup and it is, ultimately, strangely self-contained. Joël Séria‘s movie is, I think, more cheerful, but it also invests a lot more in its perversion(s).

Six years later, one of the protagonists of Don’t deliver us from evil »returned« in Marie, the doll. While on the surface considerably more restrained than its predecessor, this film, however, has its share of »unorthodox« moments and just like in its predecessor – we are very likely not to perceive them as such.

The film starts in a cheerful tone and after its first 30 minutes, those unfamiliar with Séria‘s work may think that they are dealing with a very sweet romantic comedy. The irony is that the film may very well fall under that category as well because – again – Joël Séria manages to make the troubling scenes look perfectly natural (I don’t know any other director who can do this as well as he does it).

There are moments in which Marie, the doll reminds me of Valerie and her week of wonders. There is the same child-like purity piercing through both works, however, unlike Valerie…, Séria‘s film has a far more traditional approach as far as the narrative layer is concerned.

There is a particular line in Valerie that seems to embody here:

»Grandmother: Hedvika is marrying.

Valerie: Poor Hedvika

However, unlike in Jaromil Jireš’ film, Marie doesn’t change. She marries, but, in spite of her husband’s efforts, she remains unchanged. There is the same repulsion over the excess of flesh, over the primitive »sexual approach« one can also spot in Valerie and here week of wonders and the same attitude towards useless formalities.

The film also displays an interesting point: from the male protagonist’s standpoint – the game was from the beginning just a game, what came afterwards was real/human, dry, but real. From Marie’s standpoint, the game was real from the beginning, what came afterwards was abuse. She did not want a life that would limit her to some common mechanical activities. The game was an antidote of that, pretty much in the same way it was for the two protagonists in Don’t deliver us from evil. The difference between the two films comes from their nuances. The first deliberately rejects all rules regardless of how this may affect others, while in Marie, the doll the protagonist is harmless. Her needs are simple and they do not affect (not in a meaningful way) others. For her, their bond was something sacred, for him it was just a vehicle: he wanted an object. A pretty little object he can admire every now and again the way he wants. It kind of reminds me of an idiotic ad/commercial/video called Women, know your place.

There are other things to be noticed in this film such as, for example, how mannerisms can turn into something rotten, there is a little déjà vu one may have at the beginning of Marie…, that the male protagonist will end-up being some sort of a villain. His expression gives this away. And also his slight predictability, the fact that he could tell stories about each and every doll he has or, more precisely, that he would let his »targets« know that he is not really interested in those stories, but interested in using them as selling points – and I am well aware that each of you had to deal – at least once – with those kind of people.

At its core, this is a sad film, but the director is not too solemn about this. He distances himself from Marie, lets her be the judge of that. Sometimes her attitude reminds me of Gelsomina (the protagonist from Fellini‘s La Strada). Women falling for posters. Maybe this is one of the hidden messages, because he has one of those faces.

All in all, the film is pretty slow-paced, but it may appeal to a considerable number of people because of its erotic touch. Although, this is not to be taken literally, since the only sex scene in the film is seen though a repulsive eye. It is also interesting to spot connections between Marie… and other films.

That’s about it, Joël Séria was a pleasant director to encounter for me, because of his mastery in making the unthinkable funny, exciting, while staying away from being exploitative. No matter how perverse a scene was, there was always this idea that it is just a game that holds no interest in investing too much in flesh rituals.

Also, Marie the doll works as some kind of Lolita-like story, with a far less creative male protagonist and a far more dedicated female protagonist. Kind of reminds me of a song Dark Lolita, come to think of it, which works well with the film, I may play it from time to time.

by Shade

photo | Marie, the doll. 1976. Movie still

Full article here.