In my previous post, I spoke about Roman Polanski and his infatuation with young girls. A bit more on what I like to call the Dodson Syndrome. (The Rev. Charles Dodson is better known under his nom de plume, Lewis Carroll, for the adventures of Alice and her trip through the looking glass. While this was his main claim to fame, he was also a photographer of some note, and a survey of his surviving photographs reveal that half of them were of young girls. Could have been more or fewer such -- many of the images or plates have been lost.)
Behold, above, Dodson's photograph of Alice Liddell, the model and namesake for the girl who fell down the rabbit hole.
There is no evidence that Dodgon was an active pedophile, though it was thought for a long time that he probably tended that way, since he never seemed to have any adult liasons, women or men. It is also likely that he probably never acted upon any such urges. Current thinking seems to have shifted somewhat, and allows is that the Victorian child-cult, which saw children as aspects of innocence, might have been the impetus that drove his photography and friendships with children. (I dunno. The gaze of the photographer who shot this image of Alice seems tinged with sensuality, and he apparently took a lot of nudes of children, some boys, mostly girls, but maybe that's just the cynic in me.)
These days, older men who befriend young children not their own, or at least related to them, are often considered in that more cynical light. Especially given the numbers of soccer and basketball and gymnastics coaches being arrested for inappropriate activity with their charges.
To continue: The title of this entry is the same as that of Oscar Wilde's only full-length novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. For those of you who missed it, this tale concerns a handsome young man with whom an artist is so enamored that the portrait he paints of dear Dorian takes on magical aspects -- no matter how dissolute young Gray becomes -- and he stoops pretty low into debauchery -- he never seems to show the effects. But the portrait ages, shows all the marks of a wicked life, and it's probably not a spoiler to tell you that deals with the devil, no matter how one gets into them, often end as greasy puddles on the floor ...
The story represents a number of things, mainly Faustian bargains, one of which is the desire to stay, like Peter Pan, young forever.
I think that among certain kinds of men, this might be part of the reason for connecting to younger women. If you are middle-aged and feeling creaky, a sweet young thing hanging on your every word and arm offers a soothing balm to your aged ego. Look, see here, I can still attract the young and beautiful! I'm not so old!
An adult man who enters into a sexual relationship with a child, would have to be dealing with issues of insecurity and power.
I knew a guy once, kept getting married and divorced. His first wife was fifteen when they met, he was eighteen. Not so bad, though a college freshman and a high school sophomore maybe aren't the best matches.
They split, and his second wife was seventeen when they wed, he was twenty-one. Still only four years difference.
This third wife was eighteen, and he was twenty-six.
His fourth wife was nineteen, and he was thirty-four.
After that divorce, he didn't get married again while I knew him, but his girlfriends were none of them out of their teens.
Such relationships allowed him to be an authority figure. The girls and young women were inexperienced and he was the wise, mayhaps even father figure, who had all the answers. At least at first. Once they were around him for a while and learned how much he really knew, they tended to be less impressed, and at least the three I knew left him. He was always able to find a new replacement for whom he could be, at least for a time, wise.
Far as I know, he never had any relationship with a woman near his own age that lasted more than two dates. How sad is that?
All of which it so say that why Polanski hankered after young and beautiful and innocent girls might be understandable. Aside from the purely aesthetic aspects, the balance of power was so much in his favor, and had to make him feel more in control.
Understanding it is not the same as condoning it.