It almost doesn’t do to point these things out. I’m good with (or is that guilty of?) slang and euphemisms myself, especially in every day conversation.

So I’m not exactly a paid up member of the Language Police.

But it starts to grate a little when language is being specifically abused in epidemic proportions by people who really should know better.

I realize “really should know better” is itself a slippery concept in a society so fiercely anti-intellectual that we haven’t produced an actual intellectual in decades. I couldn’t even name the last one worthy of the name. These days we settle for Noam Chomsky and George Will.

Still, in regards to one particular word, the tidal wave of self-righteousness that has attended the almost daily revelations of some new figure from Hollywood, the publishing industry, Broadway or the world of politics being accused of inappropriate behavior towards adolescent boys and girls has swept the beach of all reason and left a state of pure delusion in its place.

News flash: Having sex (or attempted sex, or behaving in a sexual manner without actually having or even attempting sex) with a fourteen-year-old is not pedophilia.

There is a word for that behavior and that word is pederasty (see clarifciation below).

And there’s a  reason why I–and probably you, and probably no one–haven’t seen that word appear a single time in the feverish condemnations of Roman Polanski, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, et al. who are specifically accused (in Polanski’s case convicted, though “accused” is often attached even in news reports) of sexual misconduct toward young teenagers ranging from inappropriate touching to exposure to rape.

The reason is simple.

Pederasty is no longer a dirty word.

We’ve been sexualizing adolescents for so long–roughly, and not coincidentally, the amount of time we’ve been infantilizing adults–that we’ve obliterated the distinction. And now, at last, when we feel a need to condemn atrocious behavior, we have no word for what has actually happened.

So we reach for another word, one that still has a bit–though only a bit–of sting in it.

To all those who participated in the long fall–and who by their newly feigned ignorance of their own language are participating still–I ask the same question I asked of those who lined up on one side or other of a meaningless political divide in the three-and-a-half decades of unrelenting cultural and political pollution that finally produced Donald Trump as either culmination or antidote, take your pick.

What did you think would happen?

Take it Gene…

UPDATE: Commenter Neal correctly pointed out that Pederasty only applies to man/boy relations. For the cases where underage girls were molested (Polanski and Moore in my examples, though the Moore case is thus far only an allegation), substitute real or attempted Statutory Rape or simple misconduct, which also do not carry the weight of “Pedophile”…witness the standing ovation given Polanski when he won an Oscar in absentia.

My apologies for getting off course. My original idea was to post on Spacey specifically and Pederast got stuck in my mind. Like I said, I’m not a good member of the Language Police, but I should have been more careful, especially in a post where I was criticizing others for misusing the language, so thanks to Neal for riding herd.

I should have stuck with Spacey, but I believe my main points still stand.


  1. Bite your tongue (virtually, of course) for including Noam Chomsky in the same sentence with that other person.

    • These days, they probably agree on more than you think…sadly, as Chomsky was an important voice–perhaps even an intellectual-in the Viet Nam era. I emphasize the word “was” (and, yes, I’ve kept up). Things happen to a man once he has an audience to appease and maintain.

    • Well, like George Will he endorsed Hillary Clinton. Though at least Will did so openly and forthrightly. Chomsky said he WOULD vote for Clinton if he lived in a swing state–a classic weasel position. Which was in line with his being soft on Bill when he was president…in a way that he wasn’t soft on the Bushes…or, once upon a time, on Lyndon Johnson. See, YOU may think there’s a real difference between Bushes and Clintons (or Obama or LBJ, if it comes to that)–and it’s fine if you do, because everyone has a right to their opinion–but Chomsky knows better. And I know he knows better precisely because of what he wrote in the sixties and seventies. He’s moderated his tone from the nineties forward because he knows how much of his audience he would lose if he didn’t. (And, cleverly, he doesn’t ALWAYS moderate it….only when he’s speaking on the record for mainstream publication, where people who like the Clintons, for instance, are most likely to read him.)

      Whatever else he can still claim, he has thus forfeited his right to be called a public intellectual. His being soft on the Clintons is on a par with Rush Limbaugh (who also knows better, but is at least a more straightforward grifter), being soft on the Bushes. Limbaugh, too, has an audience to appease.

      Next to that, his being a staunch Anti-capitalist who keeps a thriving stock portfolio, the better to avoid taxes (see below), is chump change and hardly worth mentioning.

      I only know all this because I’ve read twenty or more of his books, watched hundreds of hours of his lectures on YouTube and heard him speak (twice) at Kent State in 2000. I still like him. His failings are only human.

      I just don’t think he’s an intellectual. That requires rigor of another kind.

  2. Enjoyed the post…………Loathe the Times we are living in….’Trumped’!!! …. by the ‘intellectuals’ of our time…. who voted for him.

  3. That’s not even the worst of it. The English language has succumbed to lazy, imitative expressions and initials, such as “a thing” and “LOL,” as people who write (anything) aren’t encouraged by the alleged norm to contemplate their thoughts in order to find the right rhetoric and get their ideas across accurately and expressively, never mind individualistically. And don’t get me started on starting sentences with “So” or using up-speak.

    Nouns have been turned into verbs: “text,” “transition” (phewwww) and on and on. Being a grammar-head, I could go on for paragraphs, so I’ll spare you. Why, you’re welcome! Oh, stop. You folks are too kind. The applause is embarrassing.

    Anyway, a few years back, I became fascinated (albeit for a scant week or two) with pedophilia. I couldn’t understand what it was about certain adults that actually made them find children sexually attractive. Which wires had gotten crossed upstairs? Did something particular have to happen during their own childhoods? Certainly not across the board. Was it genetic or acquired? I tend toward the latter in every case except obvious clinical exceptions: It’s always nurture, not nature. I’ve known too many examples of the former to think that things like skills (“talents”), tastes and personalities come from DNA.

    I “researched” pedophilia by reading several forums dealing with psychology. People would visit those sites to commiserate, reassure each other, look for help and whatnot.

    One significant fact came to stand out: The term “pedophile” is used interchangeably with “child molester,” thanks to the media, and it shouldn’t be.

    A pedophile is merely attracted to kids. A child molester follows through with his urges.

    The former very rarely becomes the latter, news-fueled public paranoia be damned — just as adult men very rarely become rapists of adult women.

    Mixing up the terms is a problem because a mere pedophile knows that he’s looked upon as a demon, even if his tastes aren’t his fault. He’s discouraged by the society-wide vilification of his thoughts and urges (and boy, does that smack of Orwellian creepiness) from getting help — the kind that might have kept many pedophiles from becoming molesters.

    I read hundreds of posts, and pedophiles emerged as a lonely, self-loathing bunch, the vast majority of whom wish with all their hearts — or so they claim, and they can’t all be lying, or why bother posting — that they would stop seeing kids that way. They hate actual molesters more than most anyone, because they themselves wouldn’t hurt children if their lives depended on it, and they know that it’s perfectly possible to fight off the urges and use their _upper_ heads in their day-to-day lives.

    Therefore, as far as many pedophiles are concerned, molesters have given in and now kids have been harmed, and the molesters should be castrated and / or buried underneath the prison.

    If we lived in a society as “tolerant” as it desperately claims to be, a pedophile would be able to tell his friends, “No; I’d better not come to your get-together. I don’t want to be around your kids. No adult should look at children the way I do. I can’t help it, but I don’t think it’s right, so I’ll stay home. Thanks for the invite!” Something like that.

    When it comes to teenagers — that is, post-pubescent boys and girls who possess sexual urges but are lawfully considered too young to intelligently consent to sex — I’m not sure if the word “pedophile” still applies, or if you’re right and “pederast” is more accurate. I’ve always thought that “pederast” was an old word for what became “pedophile,” but I’ve never looked it up or anything. Whether initially a pedophile or pederast, the adult who has slept with a teenager has made himself a statutory rapist. The line is between “molester” and “rapist” seems to be drawn at puberty, but we’re currently thinking about that harder than I ever have, so I should end this long paragraph.

    I can’t hate Kevin Spacey as a person any more than I can hate Elvis (ouch — was Priscilla that irresistible to you, King?), but I don’t think that I’ve liked any movies he’s been in — I hated Seven very much — so I don’t care what happens to him. He’s not an actor whose work I like. I care what happened to Elvis, good and bad, throughout his life, because he was one of the greatest (and most creative) singers in history, and he helped to invent rock ‘n’ roll. At least I’m honest!

    • Thanks for the (as always) thoughtful reply Chris. Yes, it’s all a tricky line to walk (One of these days I’ll have to post about director J. Lee Thompson’s life long regret that he couldn’t get a then fifteen-year-old Hayley Mills for Cape Fear…because the girl he had to settle for couldn’t call forth the forbidden lust she provoked just by being…like I say, VERY tricky line to walk).

      To be clear, a pederast can also be a pedophile, but not all pedophiles (or if you prefer child molesters) are pederasts. Spacey is clearly a pederast, but NOT, based on accusations made available thus far, a pedophile. (the difference is pedophiles lust after prepubescent children).

      And speaking of another post I really need to get to: There’s the “How much should we care about an artist’s sins and crimes?” question…which I first encountered back in the “Dennis Wilson hung out with the Manson Family” days of the 70s, when the association was less well understood than later. (He hung out with them, so in the public mind, he was often understood to be one of them…I think that’s all been cleared up now…Though it should be mentioned that Dennis and Terry Melcher were probably, like a lot of people in the rock and roll world, also statutory rapists….Again, a tricky line.)

      Generally speaking, I don’t think even the worst behavior invalidates a person’s art (I’m thinking specifically of Phil Spector here). But it does make me think. I’m not sure there’s a right or wrong answer, just a lot of food for thought.

      (Confession: I’ve occasionally started a sentence with “So”…but only when I’m in one of my VERY rare stream-of-consciousness moods! And usually, it’s So-o-o-o-o- , which might not be the same thing.)

  4. Oh, I’m certainly not being sanctimonious, although I probably wrote that way. I’m guilty of the occasional “so” and “a thing” and other half-conscious impressionabilities myself, and that’s how I’ve actually developed some of my haughtiness toward such lazy trends — hearing them come out of my own mouth. I just happen to be one of those people who think about words far too much.

    We agree: As cliché as it might sound, the art must be separated from the artist, especially when it comes to the storied history of rock ‘n’ roll / rock.

    I mean, at least Elvis ultimately married Priscilla and……well, who’s kidding who: If you turn in that kind of performance of “Always on My Mind,” you should be forgiven on principle, at least by a few notches. He wasn’t a predator or someone who used his power / celebrity for one-dimensional hormonal purposes — he genuinely loved her. The law these days wouldn’t care, but the ’60s were very different from today in more ways than musical.

    • Well, his relationship with her in Germany (when she was fourteen) would have been outed by social media these days, if nothing else. Priscilla insisted in her autobiography there was no sex until they married, though I think it’s more likely they began a sexual relationship when she moved to Graceland when she was 17 (a whole other kettle of fish in any case). Who knows? Clearly she wasn’t scarred by whatever her teen experience was. Of course, Elvis may have had intercourse with any number of anonymous underage girls, there’s simply no way to know, which I why I don’t let it bother me. I always ask myself, when anyone is accused of anything, “Does this really make me feel differently about their art?” and, so far, the answer has always been no. Spector was the closest I came to a reassessment–it was murder after all–but, like I say, I’ll have to write about that some day!

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