Far Eastern Fantasies?

By | August 6, 2008

Oscar WildeThe documentary “Fairytale Of Kathmandu” has been causing some controversy since it was first shown in the Irish Republic in February 2008. It tells the story of how Irish poet Cathal O’Searcaigh spent time in Nepal and “befriended” young boys with gifts (apparently to help with their education) apparently with the aim of obtaining sex. According to Pink News O’Searcaigh has worked for 13 years on educational projects in Nepal. I can’t decide whether the assertion that penetrative anal sex wasn’t involved is relevant, but it’s worth mentioning.

What I can say is that the age of the boys is relevant. They were all apparently over 16, the age of consent in Nepal is 16, but in the Irish Republic it’s 17 and as the Irish government can prosecute for crimes committed abroad by their citizens this may be Cathal O’Searcaigh’s downfall.

He’s already been the subject of much debate in the Irish education system, moves are afoot to remove his poetry from the syllabus. But it has to be said that as Max McGuinness pointed out in the Dubliner article on this subject, Oscar Wilde was involved with young partners in his relationships, including his long-term love Bosie – or as McGuinness put it when referring to education minister Mary Hanafin’s attitude towards O’Searcaigh – “Dead pederasts = okay; Live pederasts = bad”.

Does referring to close, sometimes sexual relationships, with teenage boys, as “Greek love”, set Wilde apart. Or is it the fact that he’s dead and part of the literary fabric of our societies that protects his works and allows them to be included in our children’s education?

Cathal O'SearcaighIn Mary Hanafin’s case I think it does, but in the case of O’Searcaigh the real issue is not his homosexuality, or the age of his eromenoi, but their social, economic and cultural situation. All sexual acts must involve informed consent and in an isolationist society like Nepal it is difficult to see how O’Searcaigh’s actions can be viewed as anything other than exploitative.

I’m not saying that O’Searcaigh’s actions are specifically predatory, but if he likes young men then are their not potential partner’s closer to home in ROI, or wider Europe? The (monetary) gifts that were apparently given to the boys rankles with me particularly. It turns what might have been a fantasy love story of a modern day erastes and his eromenos into a business transaction.

As one commentator pointed out, in the same way the most straight men don’t cruise the bars of Thailand, Vietnam and Burma looking for sex with teenagers, most gay guys don’t feel the need to travel half way round the world to have sex with (considerably) younger men. Yes it happens but whatever the sexuality of an individual – what is the motivation for doing this? Is it a fantasy fulfilled or is it the availability of something that simply isn’t available at home?

It all comes down I suppose to two things, did the “gifts” require sexual favours in return, and if you’re doing charitable work in Nepal, a deprived borough in London or Darfur, should you be getting sexual involved with the teenager’s you’re there to help?

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions, but would encourage you to read some of the views expressed about it on the Internet as it has generated some heated and intelligent debate.

Tags: Cathal O’Searcaigh, Nepal, Mary Hanafin, informed consent, Max McGuinness