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Beside its use in the classical sense, the term has also been used as a synonym for anal sex, irrespective of the nature of the partner.

A 19th-century sexological treatise discusses men practicing the "insertion of the penis into the anus of women," as "pederasty with their wives." Additionally, the term has been used to refer to any homosexual activity, regardless of the participants' ages.

One loved Hylas, another Hyacinthus, another Pelops, another Chrysippus, another Ganymedes. " Early legal codes prescribed harsh penalties for violators.

The law code of the Visigothic king Chindasuinth called for both partners to be "emasculated without delay, and be delivered up to the bishop of the diocese where the deed was committed to be placed in solitary confinement in a prison." These punishments were often linked to the penance given after the Sacrament of Confession.

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.

The 2nd-century preacher Clement of Alexandria used divine pederasty as an indictment of Greek religion and the mythological figures of Herakles, Apollo, Poseidon, Laius, and Zeus: "For your gods did not abstain even from boys.

In French, however, "pédérastie" has been used as a synonym for homosexuality between adult males (see Histoire du mot pédérastie).

Historically, pederasty has existed as a variety of customs and practices within different cultures.

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.

The Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer Culture defines the term as: "The erotic relationship between an adult male and a youth, generally one between the ages of twelve and seventeen, in which the older partner is attracted to the younger one who returns his affection." The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality suggests "Pederasty is the erotic relationship between an adult male and a boy, generally one between the ages of twelve and seventeen, in which the older partner is attracted to the younger one who returns his affection, whether or not the liaison leads to overt sexual contact." In Athens, the slaves were expressly forbidden from entering into pederastic relations with the free-born boys. Attic red-figure crater, 500–490 BC; Painter of Berlin; Louvre, Paris.

Opposition to the carnal aspects of pederasty existed concurrently with the practice, both inside and outside of the cultures in which it was found.

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