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Pressure Prompts Publisher to Punt
A publisher of nearly 200 scholarly journals has canceled publication of a book on same-sex desire in ancient times, citing complaints from a conservative Web site that one chapter in the book “could be interpreted as advocating adult and adolescent sexuality.”
Haworth Press, Inc. announced that its Harrington Park Press imprint would not publish Same-Sex Desire and Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity and in the Classical Tradition of the West. The book was scheduled to appear as a freestanding title and as a special issue of the Journal of Homosexuality, which Haworth also publishes, in November.
The book, which is edited by two researchers at Nova Scotia’s Acadia University and includes the work of scholars at the University of California at Los Angeles, City University of New York’s Hunter College, and the University of Texas at Austin, among others, is generally a history of the role and perception of homosexuality in ancient Greece and Rome. But it also features a chapter, called “Pederasty: An Integration of Cross-Cultural, Cross-Species, and Empirical Data,” by Bruce Rind, an assistant professor of psychology at Temple University.
Last week, WorldNetDaily, a Web site that describes itself as independent but that often takes up conservative causes, published an article drawing attention to an abstract of Rind’s article that appeared on Haworth’s Web site, which began this way: “Pederasty, or sexual relations between men and adolescent boys, is condemned in our society as an unqualified evil that maims and destroys. In ancient Greece, samurai Japan, and numerous other cultures, pederasty was seen as the noblest of human relations, conducive if not essential to nurturing the adolescent's successful intellectual and physical maturation.”
The summary went on to say that pederasty “came to serve a mentoring function,” and that “empirical data” today show that “pederasty is not only not predestined to injure, but can benefit the adolescent when practiced according to the ancient Greek form.” (The abstract of Rind's article and the others in the book is no longer available on Haworth's Web site, but it can be found here on the Web site of an organization, IPCE, that describes itself as a "forum for people who are engaged in scholarly discussion about the understanding and emancipation of mutual relationships between children or adolescents and adults.")
The WorldNetDaily article quoted its managing editor, David Kupelian, as saying that the mainstreaming of "adult child" or "intergenerational" sex is the next big "sexual liberation" movement on its way. It also noted that Rind had been the subject of controversy before: In 1999, the American Psychological Association felt compelled to make clear its opposition to sexual abuse of children after its Psychological Bulletin published an article by Rind that suggested children were less harmed by such abuse than is generally thought, provoking intense criticism from members of Congress.
Kathryn Rutz, vice president for editorial development at Haworth, said in an e-mail message that the press had received about 20 e-mail messages in the 24-36 hours after the WorldNetDaily article appeared, and that the flurry of messages prompted a “vigorous” discussion among the press’s top officials.
“Issues on the table,” she said, “included freedom of speech, consequences of negative publicity, personal objections to the subject matter, and resistance to what might appear to be caving in to a particular group with its own right-wing agenda.”
Ultimately, Rutz said, the decision to cancel the book was based on the fact that “the final article by Bruce Rind is construed by some as being sympathetic to pederasty,” which she emphasized that the press does not “in any way support or endorse.”
Rutz said the decision “can on one level be considered a business decision. Our customer base is large and the number of disciplines we cover is large. Because 95 percent of our customers would likely be opposed to anything even remotely construed as sexual abuse apologetics, publishing this paper would be a bad business decision.”
Neither Rind nor John P. De Cecco, an emeritus professor at San Francisco State University who edits the Journal of Homosexuality, responded to requests for comment. One of the editors of the proposed volume, Vernon Provencal, an associate professor of history and classics at Acadia, said in an e-mail message that he could not comment until he had spoken to editors and publishers at Haworth.
While some commentators have condemned Haworth for dropping the book, others who see themselves as defenders of academic freedom find themselves twisted in knots about this case. "I don't particularly like publishers being intimidated into dropping books, even objectionable books," wrote Cathy Young on her blog "The Y Files." But "you really don't need to be a right-wing moralist to have misgivings about attempts to normalize sexual relations between adult men and underage boys. And I do think that Haworth Press (the publisher) used poor judgment in approving this particular essay, as outlined, for inclusion in the book."