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The Moralist: Apology or empathy for pederasty?

Billy Hower, in: Celebrate!

"Man-boy-love" are three words most people do not like to see strung together. The Moralist is a novel about a manís crusade to change public hostility toward boy-lovers. The author, Rod Downey, has the same goal.

Downeyís main character Red Rover (like the childís game) is a fifty-year-old publicist. In my mind journalism has been brought to its knees by the public relations industry ó so the protagonist is already suspect. Through a mentoring program, Red Rover meets his love interest, Jonathan Frame, whoís on the verge of turning twelve. When the characters first meet, the author writes about Jonathan, "His cherry lips glistened against ivory skinÖ" It wasnít difficult to see where this story was headed.

The narrative moves along at a nice clip, except for the intermittent lectures. While the points are easy to understand, they hinder the storyís momentum. Itís as if Downey doesnít trust the story so he has to hit the reader over the head with harangues. Yet outside these intrusions, he tells his story well. This novel might have benefited from an editor more willing to make cuts.

Downey emphasizes the love between the two main characters but the promise of consummation is always up in the air. Red Rover finds himself alone with Jonathan many times, but never makes his move. Instead he lets the boy come to him on a camping trip shortly after Jonathanís thirteenth birthday. The implication is that the age of consent should be at the point that the boy initiates sexual contact.

The book argues that consensual sex between adults and minors is usually a positive experience for the youth. In the story a scientific study is published that proves this point and Red uses his publicistís well-honed communication skills to defend the study on a hostile television talk show. He argues that societyís hysterical reactions cause the most harm.

Itís true that within this culture most people have difficulty distinguishing between molestation and consent as reflected in our laws. Itís simply an open and shut case based on age, not emotional maturity. It is also true that public reaction has poisoned relationships between adults and children. Any close relationship between an adult and a student is now suspect in our society. Adolescents typically have rampaging emotions and need adults to help them navigate this difficult period in life. And itís often adults outside the immediate family that can have the most positive impact.

In spite of my agreements with some of the authorís thesis, I have reservations about the power relationship between the lovers. Red contends that the boy has the power, because he can turn his lover over to the police at any time. In part, this is true. But adults have a clear advantage in knowledge and experience, giving them greater power to define the terms of the relationship.

In my experience itís only natural for adults to be sexually attracted to teens and vice versa. When I was very young I used to develop big crushes on the lifeguards at the pool on a regular basis. And as a teacher in my late twenties, I was often hit on by teen (mostly female) students.

None of the adults I fell for as a child took advantage me. And when a teacher, one beautiful, ninth-grade boy tried his best to seduce me. Although tempted, I needed no better reason to extract myself than the fact that teens can feel strongly one way today and quite differently the next.

The Moralist is worth reading because it brings much needed light to a subject generally considered taboo. But I have to wonder about the emotional state of an adult who wants to spend all his time with a thirteen-year-old. In the final analysis, Downey, as practitioner and polemicist, fails to make a distinction between fixation and love.

The Moralist is published by Great Mirror Press, Ormond Beach, FL 32174.

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