Never too far behind the stereotypes that shrill against us is the persistent, terrifying spectre of the homosexual pedophile. One can hardly open a newspaper without encountering this bogeyman. We can counter this homophobic stereotype with the blameless facts. Science proves there is no link between homosexuality and pedophilia, and suggests that children are actually much safer around gays and lesbians.[1] And we can simultaneously use this symbol as a source of power and a path to insight.

Ancestor figures from the sacred men’s house, Sepik region, New Guinea

Historically, pedophilia is connected with pedagogy. While acknowledging that sex with children is always exploitative in a society where children are silenced and deprived of choice, we can remain curious about this connection. We live in a culture that forcibly separates adults from children. Teaching is confined to schools that function as warehouses for disenfranchised youth. All the erotic qualities of intergenerational relationships are pathologized. And the assumption of adulthood is always problematic, provisional and disturbed. Loving each other, we can begin again, healing the wounds of childhood. We learn and teach the gifts of our own bodies in our lovers’ arms.

Shadow: We can advocate for youth empowerment and fight the sexual exploitation of children, even as we acknowledge the erotic qualities of intergenerational relationships as a source of information and joy. Queer invites us to a complexity that might illuminate a way out of the fear, denial, guilt and punishment that comprises the contemporary discourse on children and sex.

Related Figures and Attributes: Predator, Victim, Innocent

For more writing on this symbol, see these chapters of Orientation: Mapping Queer Meanings: Pedophilia, The Mother and the Maid, Innocence, Conclusion

[1] Sean Cahill, Ph.D. and Kenneth T. Jones; C. Jenney et. al., 1994.