Because of his matter-of-fact treatment of homosexual relations in such books as The City and The Pillar, Vidal is often seen as an early and unrelenting champion of sexual liberation. Sexually Speaking: Collected Sex Writings, a representative sampling of his views, contains literary and cultural essays that document his long campaign to mock and subvert conventional American attitudes toward sex. Vidal was an early supporter of the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA).
The main character of City rapes and murders a man who resists his sexual advances. The hero of Myra Breckinridge also rapes a man. Vidal is also known for his series of novels concerning American history—
- Washington, D.C. (1967)
- Burr (1973)
- 1876 (1976)
- Lincoln (1984)
- Empire (1987)
- Hollywood (1990)
- The Golden Age (2000)
— and for his political essays, many of which were collected in two volumes:
- United States: Essays 1952-1992 (1993)
- The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000 (2001).
In 2009, Vidal received the National Book Foundation's award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
Connections with Pedophilia
Boorish, thick-skinned, arrogant and a lifelong sexual boaster, Vidal explained his world-view to an interviewer, “The difference between Italian boys and American boys, is the Italian boys have dirty feet and clean assholes, while American boys have clean feet and dirty assholes.” Vidal was a founder and financial donor to the Boston/Boise group that later became NAMBLA. He appeared at NAMBLA fundraising events and he appeared as a defence witness for various NAMBLA members who were prosecuted for pederasty in the 1970s.
In later life, Vidal moved to a villa in Ravello in Italy, where the ages of consent for homosexuality and prostitution are among the lowest in Europe, and took annual holidays in Thailand, a notorious pederasts' haven. His half-sister Nina Straight, told his biographer Tim Teeman that Vidal was a pedophile who preyed on underage boys and that this was the reason he took holidays in Bangkok. This is confirmed by his nephew, the actor and director Burr Steers, who was very close to Vidal and says the writer was afraid that secrets about his pedophile activities would come out. Steers said Vidal was "terrified that conservative columnist William F. Buckley had evidence that Mr. Vidal had sex with underage boys" — or as Nina Straight put it, "Jerry Sandusky acts." Vidal spent a lot of time and money on litigation against Buckley for libel and this was a long-running feud. Buckley's son confirmed that Buckley had kept a filing cabinet full of evidence about Vidal's illegal activities, but he had destroyed it after Buckley's death.
When discussing the case of Roman Polanski, the film director who faced criminal charges for sex with various underage girls, Vidal in a 2009 Atlantic interview expressed indifference to age of consent issues and referred to Polanski's 13-year-old victim Samantha Geimer, who was drugged and raped, as a "young hooker".
JOHN MERONEY OCT 28 2009, 4:37 PM ET Interviewer In September, director Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland for leaving the U.S. in 1978 before being sentenced to prison for raping a 13-year-old girl at Jack Nicholson's house in Hollywood. During the time of the original incident, you were working in the industry, and you and Polanski had a common friend in theater critic and producer Kenneth Tynan. So what's your take on Polanski, this many years later?
Vidal. I really don't give a fuck. Look, am I going to sit and weep every time a young hooker feels as though she's been taken advantage of?
According to his relatives, Vidal spent a lot of his immense fortune on legal fees to conceal his guilty secret. This came as a shock to those who thought Vidal had spent most of his money on his chronic alcohol addiction and his generous patronage of young male prostitutes brought to his house daily by his secretary. Speaking to Tim Teeman, who wrote a book about Vidal's sex-life, his sister compared Vidal to Jerry Sandusky, the notorious sports coach pedophile. Vidal spent $1 million on legal costs to keep Buckley from revealing details of his dealings with underage boys. Mr Steers, an actor and film director, said: ‘I know Buckley had a file on him that Gore feared. Buckley had something over him. It would make sense if that material was about him having underage sex.’ And he added, pointedly: ‘Gore spent a lot of time in Bangkok, after all.’ The Thai capital is infamous for child prostitution and Gore would visit every year. Friends say he had sex there with young male prostitutes. In 2012, several years after William Buckley's death, his son, Christopher, said he had thrown away the file his father kept on Vidal.
Mr Steers said Gore appeared to condone child abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests: ‘He would say that the young guys involved were hustlers who were sending signals.’ He added that when Vidal's half-brother, Jamie Auchinloss, was caught with child pornography, ‘Gore would not condemn him’. In the Seventies, Vidal even spoke out in support of paedophiles who formed a notorious group set up to campaign for legalised sex between adults and children called NAMBLA, the North-American Man/Boy Love Association. One of his friends admitted he was astonished when Vidal once told him: ‘You know I’m a pederast.’ Vidal had other dark secrets, his half-sister told Teeman. In 1957, he and a group of men, including the British poet Stephen Spender, beat up a male prostitute under a bridge. Burr Steers says the incident - which has never been reported - happened in England. Vidal lived with a male partner, Howard Austen, but this relationship was like most homosexual partnerships, a matter of convenient house-sharing by two promiscuous people.
Tim Teeman, In Bed With Gore Vidal: Hustlers, Hollywood and the Private World of an American Master, (2013). http://www.debbieschlussel.com/52489/gore-vidal-child-molester-helped-found-was-active-in-nambla/ Jay Atkinson, Legends of Winter Hill: Cops, Con Men, and Joe McCain, the Last Real Detective. http://gawker.com/gore-vidals-nephew-says-he-was-a-pedophile-1461540604 http://www.iol.co.za/tonight/books/vidal-paedophile-and-self-hating-gay-1.1628901#.VBBlY8JdXfI
- Interview, The Paris Review, 1978