A book on homosexuality in ancient Greece and Rome has run into opposition from the religious right in the US over charges that it promotes paedophilia.
The book, Same-Sex Desire And Love In Greco-Roman Antiquity, is edited by two professors at Acadia University and will be released early next year by Haworth Press, a publishing house in upstate New York. The book was originally to include a chapter by controversial American psychologist Bruce Rind, who argues that intergenerational relationships between adult males and adolescents can be beneficial. His chapter included arguments that historical, cross-cultural and cross-species data support his contention and draws connections between Greek and contemporary intergenerational relationships.
Under pressure from rightwing groups, the editors, publisher and Rind all agreed to pull the chapter from the book, which is to be published this month as a special edition of Haworth Press’ 25-year-old Journal Of Homosexuality. But the publishers did commit to to publish it in a later edition of the journal devoted solely to issues of pederasty, in context with other articles on the subject.
“We never anticipated the collection would generate so much controversy even before it was published,” says co-editor Beert Verstraete. “But in the States, it’s a really hot topic, a potent topic to discredit the gay and lesbian movement.”
The controversy originally erupted in September when the rightwing website Worldnet-daily.com attacked the book based on published extracts. The attacks were then picked up by a group called the National Association For Research And Therapy Of Homosexuality.
According to Bill Palmer, the editor-in-chief of Haworth’s book division, the press began to receive critical e-mails not only from the religious right, but from some of Haworth’s own authors in the fields of mental health, child issues and pastoral care. He says the criticisms all centered on the participation of Rind, a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia whose previous writings on the topic have made him a controversial figure.
“He’s a man who has a bull’s-eye painted on him,” says Palmer. “All of a sudden, we’re circling our wagons and deciding we’re not publishing the book. Probably not the right response.”
Palmer says that after that initial response, he spoke to the editors and who consulted Rind, all agreed to drop the Rind chapter and publish it later.
“His article was left out, that was his own suggestion,” says Verstraete. “Bruce was reluctant to be involved again in any public controversy.”
Rind did not return calls seeking comment on his article.
Palmer says he hopes the special edition of the Journal Of Homosexuality containing the Rind article will be out at the end of 2006. He admits that the fight may well resume at that point, but says Haworth will be better prepared.
“I think we’re in a much stronger position if we’re publishing the article in the context of having a complete issue devoted to the topic, with articles from all sides.”
Palmer says the attacks do concern him, but that Haworth is determined to continue publishing work on queer issues.
“I’m worried but I’m not scared. I think all free-thinking people should be worried. But I feel very strongly about the intellectual freedom issues and the sexual politics.”
Verstraete says the whole thing has opened his eyes to the obstacles potentially facing gay and lesbian books. “What it taught us is that there are very observant rightwing pressure groups who will jump on things like this.”