I was reading Conservapedia's article on John Maynard Keynes and pederasty:

Keynes and his friends made numerous trips to the resorts surrounding the Mediterranean. At the resorts, little boys were sold by their families to bordellos which catered to homosexuals.

The article references an external source, KEYNES AT HARVARD - Economic Deception as a Political Credo:

He and his fellow leftist reformers however, had no compunction in exploiting human degradation and misery in Tunis, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt and Constantinople (Istanbul). These served as convenient spawning grounds for the establishment of enclosed brothels filled with children, who were compelled to satisfy the unnatural lusts of high-born English socialists

Zygmund Dobbs is his article SUGAR KEYNES for The Review of the News wrote:

His particular depravity was the sexual abuse of little boys. .

The idea that Keynes was a child molester sounded a little strange to me, so I looked on Wikipedia's article on John Maynard Keynes. I couldn't find any hint of child molestation allegations.

Is there any truth to the claims that Keynes was a child molester?

  • 4
    Please note that "pederasty" and "child molester" is not the same thing. Pederasty is having sex with young but sexually mature males. "Pedophilia" is having sex with children who are not sexually mature. "Child molester" usually refers to the latter. We have no idea what age the "boys" in question were, and you should therefore change your question to not refer to child molestation, but call it "pederasty" consistently. May 4, 2011 at 10:12
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    The question whether the person behind some theory was/is a good person is next to unimportant (unless private behavior is in direct conflict with what you stand for and plan or recommend to impose upon others). The example quoted above sounds more like an instance of a "poisoning the well"-fallacy.
    – flitzwald
    May 4, 2011 at 10:57
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    @Mark Rogers: Conservapedia wants you to think that it's a euphemism for child molester, when they in fact know very well it's not. They write "Pederast" and they hope you think "pedophile". It's a part of their efforts to throw mud. May 5, 2011 at 7:24
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    @DVK: This may be a whole subject in itself, but why is hypocritical behaviour relevant?
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 4, 2011 at 7:12
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    The book is an extremist hatchet job designed to discredit Keynes for political reasons. The fact that Conservapedia quotes it is just more evidence of its bias. Nov 28, 2011 at 14:49

2 Answers 2


Your definition of "molesting" and "pederasty" are likely based on your personal beliefs, so I do not know if this is helpful or not.

There is a reference in the original Conservapedia article to this article in the Economist

That article examines Keynes' own sex diaries:

The first diary is easy: Keynes lists his sexual partners, either by their initials (GLS for Lytton Strachey, DG for Duncan Grant) or their nicknames ("Tressider," for J. T. Sheppard, the King's College Provost). When he apparently had a quick, anonymous hook-up, he listed that sex partner generically: "16-year-old under Etna" and "Lift boy of Vauxhall" in 1911, for instance, and "Jew boy," in 1912.

Born in mid 1883, he would have been about 28 in 1911.

So, according to his diaries, he had sex with a 16-year-old, while aged 28, and others that he described as "boys" (which can be a broad term for ages).

I don't know if the age of consent has changed recently in Italy (which I assumed is the Etna referred to), but it is currently 14 years old, so if he did that today, he would not be committing a crime.

Judging historical figures' behaviour by today's/local social mores is often tricky. (Somehow, I don't think he would have written it in his diary if he knew, a century later, the semantics would be debated in public.)

And, of course, his ideas should be argued on their merits, not on his taste in sexual partners.

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    The claim (inferred though not actually said) is that he used the child brothels where children were forced to serve as prostitutes. Further there is no claim that because he may have had these tastes that western society now deems shameful, despite the prevalence into the 1970's, that this invalidates his ideas. They are invalidated solely because they do not work.
    – Chad
    Aug 21, 2012 at 14:50
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    I see your point. This addresses the claim in the question title, but not those implied claims in Conservapedia. I have no comment on the actual validity of his economic ideas; I just reject the implication (again, of the original article) that they should be rejected based on his sexual activity.
    – Oddthinking
    Aug 21, 2012 at 17:32
  • "Boy" can cover a very broad range of ages: it has historically been used to refer to any lower-class or servant male.
    – Mark
    Nov 18, 2014 at 1:07
  • @Mark: Agreed. It is impossible to categorically determined the age of those men, which is why I focussed on the 16-year-old where the age is known.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 18, 2014 at 1:14

The linked Zygmund Dobbs write-up is kind of thinner on hard references than on flowery rhetoric when it comes specifically to pederasty, but it did provide one verifiable reference - a quote from Keynes's letter to Lytton Starchey:

... "Tunis, “where ‘bed and boy’ were also not expensive.” - Vol. I, p. 80.

  • Michael Holroyd, Lytton Strachey: A Critical Biography, Heinemann, London, 1967. Printed in two volumes. Vol. II printed in 1968. An American edition distributed by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York.

Please note that the quote is accurate - I was able to find it via Google books.

Does it constitute full incontrovertible proof by itself? No.

Does it sound like a solid enough circumstantial evidence, in light of what is generally know about both Keynes and the type of people he was hanging around? In my personal opinion, at least it sounds plausible - I can't find any possible second meaning to the quote given the extent of sexual tourism in the area.

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    It might have been a comment on sexual tourism in general. Without context it’s impossible to say whether Keynes benefited from it. So it’s not even circumstantial evidence. It’s a comment without context. May 4, 2011 at 8:37
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    Note that this only implies that he is homosexual (which we already know from other sources) and that he was a client of male prostitutes. It doesn't imply that he was a child molester, as we don't know what age these "boys" were. May 4, 2011 at 10:15
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    @DVK: No, you can't assume either way. "Boy" can both mean child, teenager and young adult. You can not assume that they mean "child". You'll also need a source to claim that male child prostitution was more likely in Tunisia than teenage or adult male prostitution and even then "more likely" doesn't actually mean that this is what Keynes meant. May 4, 2011 at 13:05
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    @Lennart - no able-bodied adult is forced into prostitution, outright of actual slavery which rarely happens to men. OTOH, child prostitutes don't have 2 benefits of said adult - ability to get another job and ability to resist someone forcing them to do so. The former's more important. P.S. Haven't read all the EnglishSE responses but it sounds that i might have been mistaken in my knowledge of slang.
    – user5341
    May 5, 2011 at 7:48
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    @DVK By your understanding of the word "Boy" meaning only underage males, should we assume the equivalent and send Child Protection Services to raid every establishment saying "Live Nude Girls" or such?
    – Shadur
    Nov 18, 2014 at 8:18

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