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three pairs of lovers with space



Greek love had long been flourishing in Java when Islam became the dominant religion in the 16th century, and Islam seems to have had little influence in making it less popular. In 1894, Dr. Snouck Hurgronje, a fluent speaker of Javanese who was Adviser for Native Affairs to the Dutch colonial government of the Netherlands East Indies, which had ruled Java since the 17th century, reported that pederasty "is endemic in Java, especially in the Native States."[1]

First Love: The Opening of Soetjipto’s Djalan Sampoerna”, a 22-year-old’s highly original manuscript translated and introduced by Benedict Anderson, is almost entirely about the writer’s deeply moving love affair as a boy of 13 with a student of 20. Lasting over seven months of 1923-4, the boy saw their love as a gift from the Almighty and evidence of His compassion.

A long and publicly celebrated tradition of institutionalised pederasty endured into the early 21st century in the regency of Ponorogo, despite having attracted the hostile attention of the local authorities by 1939. Involving hyper-masculine men known as waroks, and gemblakan, boys of 8 to 15 whom they took as substitute wives, it has been studied by J.M.B. de Lyon in "On the waroks and gemblaks of Ponorogo" (originally published in Koloniaal Tijdschrift in 1941), and Jerome Weiss, in "The Gemblakan: kept boys among the Javanese of Ponorogo" (American Anthropological Association Meetings, Mexico City, 1974). Local research in 1987-8 established that this tradition was still thriving with full social approval in the countryside, but that in the city of Ponorogo it was falling into disfavour under largely American influence and the gemblakan were being replaced by girls in the hitherto all-male local folk dance, the Reog Ponorogo.[2] A hostile Russian documentary, Enslaved by the Cult, showed the custom near its death throes in 2018, but still fondly remembered by everyone interviewed about it.

Java in 1855 by Kiepert

[1] Dr. C. Snouck Hurgronje, The Achehnese (Leyden, 1906) III p. 318.

[2] Walter L. Williams, Intergenerational relationships in Java and Thailand (unpublished manuscript, 2008).




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