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three pairs of lovers with space



A Dangerous Love, a memoir by English music teacher Stephen Nicholson (1957-2020) was written in 2019-20 and posthumously published by Arcadian Dreams in London in 2023.


by Diogenes, 16 November 2023

This riveting volume is the memoir of a sexual heretic who lived in the last decades of the twentieth century and the first decades of the twenty-first. In its pages we learn much about the many sides of the author's personality, his passion for music, his interest in literature and in the spiritual and philosophical writers who addressed the question of the meaning (or absurdity) of human life. Most of all, though, what is presented here is a remarkably candid account of a man whose feelings and emotions set him at odds with his society and necessarily made him feel a stranger to the epoch he inhabited. “Progressing through adolescence”, he writes, “I came more and more to realise that I inhabited a foul world in which I had to hide my feelings in order to survive.” (p. 33)

Although this volume contains no “sex scenes” or erotic descriptions of any kind, we do get the occasional glimpse of how powerful the author’s emotional responses could be. For example, he describes an occasion when he witnessed a boy unselfconsciously remove his trunks on the beach in order to change – a perfectly ordinary occurrence. But for the author the effect was “immediate, electric, shattering. Maybe it was the unexpectedness of this brazen behaviour in a public place, or perhaps it had something to do with the particular quality of this boy’s outstanding glowing beauty, but my spontaneous reaction to his total nudity was dissimilar in nature and intensity to any feeling previously aroused in me by the sight of a naked boy, and I’d already seen many in my short life.” (p. 50, I am reminded of Socrates’ reaction to the beauty of Charmides, as recounted by Plato.)

 Nicholson Stephen. A Dangerous Love

As the prison bars began to fold around any expression of boylove in the UK, so Nicholson found that there were still places around the world that had yet to be corrupted by the anglosphere’s unhealthy preoccupation with what men and boys do together of their own free will. And so the author recounts happy times in Thailand, Portugal, Denmark, and in Eastern Europe in the years immediately after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

In many such places he found that, as in the Porto District of Portugal, “flocks of boys were happy to be picked up by friendly foreigners, taken to the beach, fed and bathed.” (p. 180) If, as happened once in Portugal (pp. 182-185), there were repercussions, it was never the boys themselves who complained about these adventures. If, however, some busybody found out about what had happened, and chose to make an issue of it, all hell could break loose over what the bewildered boy himself thought of as no more than innocent fun. As the editor of this volume notes, “Stephen’s story, together with the few others that anyone has dared to publish in recent times should make it clear that everywhere there was an abundance of pubescent boys eager to try out sex with men until society indoctrinated them into believing it was disgusting and severely threatening.” (p. 251)

In more enlightened societies, such as Thailand, parents were not so silly as to think their sons sexless beings; so here the author could sometimes have some fun with boys with the blessing of their parents, as he describes when recounting one such incident at the end of Chapter IX when he and a friend picked up three brothers: “Had there been any hint of unwillingness [on the part of the boys] they [the parents] would not have let the boys come with us.” As it was, the boys “seemed curious about us and seemed to find the idea of spending the night with these two funny foreigners rather a jolly adventure.” (p. 212)

One of the most important aspects of this memoir is that it shows how, as sex panic overtook anglosphere societies, so the behaviour of boys themselves radically changed, something that those unfortunate enough to live in our present epoch might not be wholly aware of without precious testimonies such as that contained in this volume. Thus, the author recalls how, in the early eighties, “boys’ behaviour in swimming pools was often pleasantly exhibitionistic and friendly. Not only did they quite happily take all their clothes off, but sometimes they would disappear together behind a locker and indulge in some surreptitious masturbation with a friend or two – something I also observed on the local beach on many a happy occasion. In the pool itself one would sometimes be accosted by a lone boy wanting to race you or simply play for a while. In the changing room, if a pair of trunks were too tight to put on because the drawstring had become knotted, a boy might ask you to undo it for him, happily standing there fully nude in front of you whilst you dealt with the offending garment”. (p. 118) A half century or more ago, boys were also much more likely to casually initiate conversation with a grown man, and Nicholson includes many such instances of this happening. The contrast with present day attitudes couldn’t be more stark. The editor recounts how, after Nicholson returned to Portugal in 2008, he found that modern anglo attitudes had penetrated so deeply, that, on one occasion, when Nicholson merely smiled at a thirteen year old boy on a train, the latter reacted “with a look of such immediate and obvious hostility that Stephen was shaken to the core and beat a hasty retreat.” (p. 268)

05 JSDN ca. 1965
Stephen Nicholson

Of course, in other cultures, which anglo attitudes had yet to fully penetrate, a healthier attitude could still survive, and the author describes how, when he was a teacher in Turkey, it was usual for Turkish boys to walk around together arm in arm, and to kiss their teacher as well as each other.

Like many other perceptive social critics, Nicholson saw the gradual emergence of homosexuality as a definite and highly visible “identity” as having a deeply negative impact on the sexual and emotional freedom of boys. At one of his boarding schools, “Boys were terrified of being thought ‘gay’ … the legalisation of homosexuality three years earlier might paradoxically have contributed to this: same-sex acts were no longer a bit of illicit fun to be enjoyed on the side, but a serious lifestyle choice defining the sort of person you were.” (p. 47)

Nicholson’s brief quote from Herman Hesse’s “Demian” on p. 142 might stand as the epitaph of his whole account: “Each man had only one genuine vocation – to find the way to himself … His task was to discover his own destiny – not an arbitrary one – and to live it out wholly and resolutely within himself. Everything else was only a would-be existence, an attempt at evasion, a flight back to the ideals of the masses, conformity and fear of one's own inwardness.” Certainly, with Nicholson there was no evasion and no conformity and no fear of his inner self. Nicholson never accepted society’s condemnation of who he was, but always knew that his feelings for boys, his tenderness towards them and his appreciation of their beauty, were themselves fine and noble and beautiful, and brought out the very best in him, as this marvellous volume amply attests.




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