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While most Greek men engaged in relations with both girls and boys, exceptions to the rule were known, some avoiding relations with women, and others rejecting relations with boys.In Ancient Rome, relations with boys took a more informal and less civic path, men taking advantage of dominant social status to extract sexual favors from their social inferiors or carrying on illicit relationships with freeborn boys. According to Plutarch, the ancient Persians had long practiced it as well, an opinion seconded by Sextus Empiricus who asserted that the laws of the Persians "recommended" the practice.
In the history of Europe, its most structured cultural manifestation was Athenian pederasty, and became most prominent in the 6th century BC.
Greek pederasty's various forms were the subject of philosophic debates in which the purely carnal type was unfavorably compared with erotic friendships and moderate forms, known as Sophrosyne.
In most countries today, the local age of consent determines whether or not a person is considered legally competent to consent to sexual acts, and whether such contact is abusive to the young person.
Jeremy Bentham used the term in this broader sense in an essay dating from the 18th century.
The commonly accepted reference definitions of pederasty refer to a sexual relationship, or to copulation, between older and younger males.
Geoffrey Gorer and others distinguish pederasty from pedophilia, which he defined as a separate, fourth type that he described as "grossly pathological in all societies of which we have record." According to Gorer, the main characteristic of homosexual pederasty is the age difference (either of generation or age-group) between the partners.
In his study of native cultures pederasty appears typically as a passing stage in which the adolescent is the beloved of an older male, remains as such until he reaches a certain developmental threshold, after which he in turn takes on an adolescent beloved of his own.The OED offers: "Homosexual relations between a man and a boy; homosexual anal intercourse, usually with a boy or younger man as the passive partner." Academic and social studies sources propose more expansive definitions of the term.The Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer Culture defines the term as: "The erotic relationship between an adult male and a youth, generally one between the ages of twelve and seventeen, in which the older partner is attracted to the younger one who returns his affection." The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality suggests "Pederasty is the erotic relationship between an adult male and a boy, generally one between the ages of twelve and seventeen, in which the older partner is attracted to the younger one who returns his affection, whether or not the liaison leads to overt sexual contact." In Athens, the slaves were expressly forbidden from entering into pederastic relations with the free-born boys. Attic red-figure crater, 500–490 BC; Painter of Berlin; Louvre, Paris.In medieval Islamic civilization, pederastic relations "were so readily accepted in upper-class circles that there was often little or no effort to conceal their existence." Ganymede rolling a hoop and bearing aloft a cockerel – a love gift from Zeus (in pursuit, on obverse of vase). Plato was an early critic of sexual intercourse in pederastic relationships, proposing that men's love of boys avoid all carnal expression and instead progress from admiration of the lover's specific virtues to love of virtue itself in abstract form.In Greek art, a cockerel was a conventional gift from an erastes to an eromenos; see J. While copulation with boys was often criticized and seen as shameful and brutish, Pederastic art shows seduction scenes as well as sexual relations.At Rome, the punishment was burning at the stake since the time of Theodosius I (390).