Should we out and reject famous historical "paedophiles"

Apparently, Field Marshall Montgomery, while not know to be sexually active with young boys was very “passionate in his love for them”, even bathing some and writing them love letters.

Lewis Carrol made pictures of very young girls that would get you a few months in jail, were they made in the 21st century.

So two questions occur to me:

Should we make it our practise to orchestrate public outing and total rejection of these people, rather than allow paedophiles to use them as examples, muddying the waters of morality on the subject?

Who else would fall foul of such scrutiny?

After all, when churchmen are found to be paedophiles, people rarely say, “sure he was downloading kiddie porn and abusing kids but what a great preacher”. Why should it be any different for the great figures of history?

Has anyone actually *done *this?

If not, I think you have your answer right there.

How far back in history do you want to go to find paedophiles? In days gone by it wasn’t uncommon for very young females to get married and de-flowered by their husbands who were much older. They were paedophiles, per se, because the females would usually be beyond puberty. But they would be very young. We do call priests who have sex with 12 and 13 year olds paedophiles when they are really not paedophiles. Anyone know they name for this type of sexual desire?

Ephebeophile, although I’m sure I’ve butchered the spelling.

I am able to have two viewpoints about such a person simultaneously:

  1. They were extremely intelligent or had other characteristics that caused them to do great work that was hugely beneficial to mankind. This work is admirable, and the contribution should be part of the education system.
  2. They were a complete bastard, and I wouldn’t let them within a million miles of my kids.

I cannot see how you are muddying the waters of morality. Is anyone seriously putting forward the argument “Person X cured cancer and abused children. Since curing cancer is good, abusing children must be good too.”

I’m not saying that their trangressions should be covered up. But education about a person is not necessarily a moralistic stamp of approval

Well, there are people who advocate eroding laws on ages of sexual consent, one of whom is very prominent in the UK and, yes, when I searched for details of the Montgomery case, I found one rant, which referred to Montgomery and Carroll in a challenge to “hysteria” on the subject.

Can’t speak to Montgomery, but the good Rev. Dodgson continues to be a source of considerable debate. His photography isn’t necessarily good evidence in of itself, as such photos were quite popular with the parents of the day ( and they would almost certainly have been in attendance at any photography session ). If he was a pedophile he was almost certainly closeted.

Also I seriously doubt any of his photos were racy enough to ever have got him convicted of anything.

  • Tamerlane

The parents’ presence or consent is of next to no relevance. If you were found with many pictures of nearly naked young children, you would expect to have a day in court, at least, with a heck of a lot of explaining to do.

Well, there’s education about Ed Gein. However, he isn’t lauded as a hero of his century.

True, however aside from inspiring “Psycho” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” I’m not aware of any positive contributions that he made to society. If Mr. Gein had invented, say, the transistor, then we could have a spirited debate about how to portray him in the history books. As it is he was just a creepy nutjob killer who kept body parts around his house.

Yes, and if it happened today I can’t imagine the parents would have consented. It’s a different time, and at least in this guy’s case the comparison doesn’t work.

No. We should realize that it was a different time, and look at how these people were viewed by their contemporaries (if their actions were, in fact, known at the time - I’m assuming they were) as an example of how society’s views can shift from one generation to the next.

Sounds reasonable to me. If something was accepted in the past, and is no longer accepted now, then it’s fine to bring up the past if one is arguing that we should return to how things used to be. The fact is that society’s morals change over time, and it’s naive to view them as marching ever closer to some perfect ultimate morality - sometimes we get things right that our grandfathers got wrong, and sometimes it’s the opposite.

Of course, the fact that famous historical figures did something doesn’t make it right. Lewis Carroll was an author, not an expert on morality. The most his example can be used for, I think, is to get us to think long and hard about why our views on his actions have changed since the time when they were accepted.

But it was relevant in the context of Dodgson’s time and place. At that time, in that place, it made it OK. It would not today. The culture has changed, the law has changed and we presume we have found out the “true” morality behind the issue – just as in the case of slave ownership and Jefferson and Washington.

As Driver8 said, we should not have trouble calling BS on those, as cited by Studs Murphy, who claim that because a person did Admirable Thing A, then it’s not so bad they did Reprehensible Thing B, or maybe Thing B should not be reprehended at all when WE do it. Because that’s the fallacy. But then again it’s just as fallacious to say that because there was Reprehensible Conduct B then Admirable Thing A is worthless and so is the person.

If at the time and in the place, Conduct B was considered normal or at least unremarkable (which includes that the person’s class or subgroup was privileged to act in ways the rest of society wasn’t), that should be taken into account. Not to justify, to explain why they could get away with it, but we can’t. If it was NOT acceptable even by the norms of the time, then it’s important to know that in order to study the whole of the person and his contribution and how come he was aberrant in that manner.

Cecil on Was Lewis Carroll a perv.

As for whether the pictures he took “would get you a few months in jail, were they made in the 21st century,” I dunno. Nudity + under 18 doesn’t necessarily equal child porn. But they’d at least raise a few eyebrows. As I understand it, Carroll always had the parents’ permission to take the pictures he did, and he never, y’know, did anything with any girls. If he had, the ooginess factor would be way higher, to my mind at least. But, aside from this hobby of his, Carroll (or rather, Dodgson) was a prim, upright, respectable, moral, Christian* Victorian gentleman.

*Yes, I know being at least a nominal Christian doesn’t preclude one from pedophilia or all manner of other creepy things, but from what I’ve read of him, Carroll really tried to live up to Christian principles.

Yeah, but, aside from other pedophiles, who’s actually buying that argument? I don’t think it’s necessary to completely revile historical figures like Lewis Carrol to drive home the point that “pedophilia is bad.” I think just about everyone has pretty much figured that one out by now.

I don’t think so. This topic has been dicussed many times, and as I understand it the laws are fairly simiar in the US and France. That is, having many pictures of nearly or even fully naked children isn’t an offense, as long as the pictures aren’t obscene (I’m sure some poster will give the exact wording of the law in the USA).

So, even now, you wouldn’t be prosecuted for taking picture of naked/nearly naked childen with their parent’s consent and in their presence.

If it weren’t so, besides art pictures, things like sex ed books for children, nudist resorts advertisments, medical books or even most family albums would be banned.

But, as a contemporary example, how many people would have played any Michael Jackson tracks, had he not been cleared?

Sure, the news reports would mention his great talent but I bet he would rarely feature in future lists of Motown greats.

I’m not sure about that. Sure, there can be an argument about “standards of the time”. However, I’m not sure it was ever very common to be obsessed (as Carroll surely was) with painting and photographing near-naked children.

But that’s exactly my point. I think most people would be very reluctant to find a time when obsessing about young kids would be acceptable. I haven’t suggested anything of the sort of finding “some perfect ultimate morality”, as you put it.

However, there can certainly be a case for viewing certain actions as wrong and questioning the morality of the people that carried them out.

British boarding schools were, for example, infamous for physical and sexual abuse of boys by other boys. Much of it was tolerated and “understood” to take place. Are we to say that people molesting boys in Victorian boarding schools should not be judged retrospectively as doing great wrong because it was “accepted at the time”?

many sex abusers are outwardly “prim, upright, respectable, moral and Christian”.

Incidentally, he did propose marriage to Alice when she turned 17.