Date of this Version
This is the first publication of Jeremy Bentham's essay on "Paederasty," written about 1785, The essay, which runs to over 60 manuscript pages, is the first known argument for homosexual law reform in England. Bentham advocates the decriminalization of sodomy, which in his day was punished by hanging. He argues that homosexual acts do not "weaken" men, or threaten population or marriage, and documents their prevalence in ancient Greece and Rome. Bentham opposes punishment on utilitarian grounds and attacks ascetic sexual morality. In the preceding article the editor's introduction discussed the essay in the light of 18th-century legal opinion and quoted Bentham's manuscript notes that reveal his anxieties about expressing his views.
Edited from the author's manuscript by Louis Crompton.