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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.

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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 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.

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.

This model is judged by Gorer as socially viable, i.e.

not likely to give rise to psychological discomfort or neuroses for all or most males.

as opposed to the more restrained and cultured one valued by the Greeks.

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