The lowest point in the furore surrounding artist Bill Henson has to have been Paul Sheehan’s claim of a subculture of pedophilia amongst gays in last week’s Sydney Morning Herald.

What on earth did he mean? Three emails from this writer went unreturned -” even when the offer was made to speak off record. A week later, after being roundly rebuked by readers and an unnamed judge, Sheehan has finally filled in the blanks.

Claiming any offence was accidental and acknowledging an error in not reminding readers that there is no higher rate of pedophilia amongst gays than straights, Sheehan reiterated his belief in the existence of a pedophile subculture among gay men in this country -” though all his supposed evidence comes with a past tense.

Amongst his supposed proofs, Sheehan cites unnamed activities detailed by the Woods Royal Commission -” now a decade old and dealing with material still older.

He drags up a long-standing grudge against lawyer John Marsden, though his own words belie a link -” Young men -¦ sometimes very young men are still men and while Sheehan may have reservations about the morality and balance of power in Marsden’s relationships they are neither examples of pedophilia nor its toleration in the gay community.

Finally Sheehan mentions a handful of depraved pedophiles who’ve sought societal approval by aping appeals for gay rights -” to the general annoyance of all in the gay community. None but their own kind has found such appeals persuasive, and I challenge Sheehan to name a single group within today’s gay community that is pushing for the age of consent to be lowered any further.

Perhaps it would’ve been better if he’d begun by explaining what he meant by subculture in the first place.

To me a subculture -¦ among gays would seem to imply a group of men that can be recognised as a distinct faction within the gay community and who socialise and network inside that community.

It implies not only that these pedophiles identify as gay (which they very rarely do), but that this group is known to exist by the rest of us and their presence somehow tolerated. Clearly others thought this was what was being implied as well.

If that is what Sheehan meant, then all I can say is that I’ve never heard of such a thing existing -” not even in the form of rumour. Blame for horrific sexual offences against children should not be heaped on any group.

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