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Erotica and Pornography  
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The classical works of many non-Western cultures also include numerous ephebophiliac and sometimes pederastic episodes of frank eroticism. In China, for example, in an episode of Jou Pu Tuan ("The Carnal Prayer Mat," 1657) of Li Yü (1610-1680), the hero augments his own organ with a dog's penis and uses it to sodomize one of his servant boys. And in Japan, The Great Mirror of Male Love (1687) by Ihara Saikaku (1642-1693) sensualizes boys in a context of misogyny.

Such material is especially common in Islamic societies. Poems celebrating the sexual attractions of boys, for example, form one of the major categories of the work of Abu Nuwas (ca 756-ca 810), one of the greatest of Arabic poets. The Persian poets Sa'di (ca 1215-ca 1292) and Hafiz (ca 1307-ca 1388) similarly eroticize boys.

Indeed ephebophilia is so much an accepted part of classical Islamic civilization that it came to represent the norm of romantic involvement to the extent that many poets writing in Arabic and Persian used the mode of a love poem addressed to a boy even when they were not themselves inclined this way.

In addition and in a different vein, by interpreting passionate male friendship as a vehicle of spiritual transcendence, the Persian mystic Rumi ("The Man from Rum," properly Jalal'l-Dîn [1207-1273]) wrote perhaps the most erotic poetry of all Islamic literature.

European Renaissance Literatures

As John Boswell has detailed, explicit celebration of pederasty was common throughout the European Middle Ages and Renaissance. The indiscriminate sexuality of classical civilizations that saw occasional sex between men and boys as a amusing change from sex between men and women continued to be chronicled in Renaissance pornography like I piacevole ragionamenti (Diverting Dialogues [1534-1536]) by Pietro Aretino (1492-1556).

The first modern work with the celebration of pederasty as the primary focus is L'Alcibiade fanciullo a scola (The Schoolboyish Alcibiades [1651]) by Antonio Rocco (1576-1653). In the form of a Platonic dialogue describing the sexual education of a boy, this book satirizes Machiavelli's doctrine of expediency.

The Stigmatizing of Pornographic Literature

With the spread of printed books in the vernacular and the rise of the middle class, the situation in Europe began to change. These changes created a larger but less sophisticated reading public than had existed in the manuscript cultures of earlier periods.

Sexual relations between men and boys were shunned as unnatural by these new readers to an extent that they had never been by previous aristocratic readers, and measures were taken to proscribe publications that offended the new sense of public decency.

In addition, pornography in general became an identified and stigmatized genre, joining heresy, libel, and sedition for the first time as a censorable form of writing. Pornography went underground.

As a result, a self-consciousness intruded in the prose style of pornography for the first time, giving it a distinctive literary character. Pornographic prose began to take on a hothouse lushness, as if the authors felt the need to sell their respectability by overwriting.

In the cultures discussed so far, some authors wrote about sex explicitly, and some of these celebrated the love of boys, but all authors in each culture had existed in a single literary world. This unified intellectual climate rapidly ceased to exist with the rise of the middle class.

Neoclassical Literatures

In England, with its early move away from agrarianism toward this middle-class respectability, the career of John Wilmot Earl of Rochester (1641-1680) illustrates the growing tension. Although he retains his place as an author in the high culture, his pornographic play Sodom, in which a king makes "" the preferred sexual activity at his court, is an underground work, excluded from collected editions and unrecognized in critical discussions until quite recently.

Fanny Hill (1748-1749) by John Cleland (1709-1789) represents a further stage of development. Although the first modern novels show a ribaldry and raciness the genre lost as the self-conscious respectability of the middle class grew, Cleland's sexual explicitness, despite or perhaps because of the fact that it is couched in the new florid pornographic style, kept Fanny Hill outside the pale of canonical literature from the beginning. It is in a sense the first underground novel.

In addition, Donald Mengay shows how the rhetoric of Fanny Hill reveals it to be a homoerotic fantasy disguised as a heterosexual one. This deflection and also the suppression of the one explicit man-with-man sexual episode indicate the extent to which attitudes had already changed by the mid-eighteenth century.

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