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three pairs of lovers with space



“Boy-Love and People with Different Orientations” is the second part of “Man/Boy Relationships”, the third section of “Adult Lovers”, the second chapter of Loving Boys, the encyclopaedic study of Greek love by the eminent Dutch lawyer, Edward Brongersma, of which the first volume (including this) was published by Global Academic Publishers in New York in 1986.


How much understanding is there of boy-love in people who don’t share the erotic feelings of the paedophile?

Pan 20 18
Pan Magazine, issue 20, p. 18

The typical homophile male himself has little appreciation of the charms of boys in his preference for the fully developed male body, complete with facial hair (beard) and hair on the body – both of which boy-lovers particularly abhor.

On the other hand, the boy-lover seems to possess more characteristically male qualities than the average adult-loving homophile. Gebhard[1] and Schofield[2] observed that feminine behaviour and appearance as well as homophile mannerisms were much rarer in the paedophile. Kurt Freund claimed that the least effeminate of his homophile subjects were those who preferred boys of 13 to 16 years of age. The most masculine were most strongly attracted to slim younger partners with little body hair.[3] The typical boy-lover is not, then, a homophile.[4]

For many years, now, the homophile emancipation movement has disparaged and even expelled boy-lovers.[5] Many a homophile has thought, and still thinks, that he and his fellow-sufferers would have a far better public image if these damned “boy-rapers” weren’t around giving homophiles and homophilia a bad reputation.[6] This is more than slightly naïve for the great public majority has never really liked sexual minorities. The sight of one persecuted minority begging for tolerance and understanding while at the same time condemning and despising a still smaller minority is hardly inducive of sympathy. Fortunately in the last few years there has been a big shift of opinion; for example, the major Dutch homophile organization, COC[7], after a long debate, finally came to the conclusion that the emancipation of homophilia cannot be completed without a parallel emancipation of paedophilia. In France a leader in the gay rights movement told me, “We will never get anywhere as long as minors cannot receive an education in which homosexuality is declared to be a completely natural and fully satisfactory element of sexual desire.”

Holland. The Man Without a Face 2

Recognising that boys, especially mature boys, are sexually attractive is much easier for the heterophile female, since, finding an adult man an acceptable sex partner, she is often capable of identifying with the experience of both participants in a man/boy relationship. Thus any rejection she makes of boy-love is likely to be the result of cultural conditioning and so may assume a less emotional accent than in men. Many a boy-lover has found he can better discuss the intimate side of his relationship with the mother of his young friend than with the boy’s father. Women capable of independent thinking, who don’t permit themselves to be guided by culturally indoctrinated prejudices, may even come to a deep understanding of boy-love only exceptionally equaled by the heterosexual male. Perhaps this is why some of the finest novels ever written about love between an adolescent boy and an adult man have been penned by women. To mention some from the last few decades: Marie-Claire Blais’ The Wolf[8]; Isabel Holland’s The Man Without a Face[9]; Iris Murdoch’s Henry and Cato[10]; Mary Renault’s The Persian Boy[11];  Christiane Rochefort’s Printemps au Parking[12]; Marguerite Yourcenar’s Mémoires d’Hadrien[13]; Ursula Zilinsky’s Middle Ground.[14] The sympathy might be mutual. Baudelaire must somewhere have written that the appreciation of intelligent women is a prerogative of the boy-lover.

The “normal” male heterophile, whose sexual longings are mainly directed toward females, may also perceive the seductive qualities of a boy and enjoy pleasurable sex with him. For the boy – with his fresh complexion, his shining, silk-like hair, his radiant long-lashed eyes, his soft, ruddy cheeks, his full sweet lips, his smooth-skinned hairless body with its rounded curves, his slim waist – has so many properties in common with a woman.[15] Havelock Ellis[16] wrote, in phrases typical of that period, “A sexual attraction for boys is, no doubt, as Moll points out, that form of inversion which comes nearest to normal sexuality, for the subject of it usually approaches nearer to the average man in physical and mental disposition. The reason for this is obvious: boys resemble women, and therefore it requires a less profound organic twist to become sexually attracted to them.” This, however, doesn’t usually ameliorate the situation; it only complicates matters, for, as we have seen, our culture condemns man/boy relationships with much greater ferocity than it does man/man relationships and teaches every man that he shouldn’t foster such feelings, that they are ignominious and scandalous. Now there is a mechanism in the human mind which tells us that anything that shouldn’t be simply doesn’t exist. So the male, not allowed to be physically excited by boys, tries to convince himself that, even when he is, he isn’t. Every positive response toward a boy’s sexuality is energetically disavowed – and the stronger the response the more forceful is the disavowal. The emotional intensity with which a man rejects the idea of boy-love can well be an indicator of the degree to which this tendency is present in him. Dr. Benjamin Karpman observes in his book The Sexual Offender, “Since normal people have the same mechanisms as sex offenders, coping with them only through strong repression, they react emotionally to such offences, projecting repressive mechanisms on the offender.[17] And Leist[18] quotes Adorno saying that a taboo functions most strongly wherever the man subordinated to it unconsciously wishes to commit the forbidden act himself.

Pan 06 07
Pan Magazine, issue 6, p. 7

Therefore the heterosexual male gets terribly upset when the borderline between unconscious and conscious desires threatens to break down, and this happens every time he finds himself confronting the phenomena of homosexuality and boy-love. He cannot identify with such creatures because he cannot permit himself to realise how much he has in common with them. Günther Schmidt and Volkmar Sigusch[19] studying “the problem of prejudice towards sexually deviant groups”, concluded that an overwhelming majority of the people they questioned thought that a prostitute, a homophile, a lesbian, an exhibitionist, a man who has sex with animals or a sadist was more “sympathetic” as a person than a paedophile.

All those who cry loudly that the paedophile ought to be castrated, who would like to strangle him with their own hands, who think he should be shot or put in jail for the rest of his life are themselves highly suspect of paedophilia.[20] Blüher[21] put if quite accurately: “In prosecuting paedophiles, a man struggles against the suspicion that he could be one himself and, seeking reassurance, he exteriorises his own inner battlefield”. He attacks boy-love, suppressing his own real feelings. As contact with an attractive boy threatens to bring these feelings to the surface again, the presence of such a boy becomes irritating. This condition stimulates aggression against the boy. Blüher observed repeatedly “that leaders, having just delivered thundering speeches with foaming mouths about morality – particularly in the guise of Christian belief – are in the very next moment caught red-handed committing clumsy and senseless assaults on boys.” Boys are undoubtedly subjected to many cruelties, to many hard punishments, as a consequence of the love feelings of their torturers, suppressed and thereby turned to hatred. In education, the severe disciplinarian is always suspect.[22]

If the normal heterophile male were only a bit less contorted, a bit more free, more accepting of his own inclinations, he would be struck by the fact that the woman he loves always tries to heighten her beauty by attempting to keep her appearance young, or in rejuvenating it. The “normal” man simply loves what is youthful.[23] Having been brought to recognise this, the next step would be to bring him to understand that he could also love boys.

Mann Klaus aged 12
Klaus Mann, aged 12

In our world only very superior individuals have the courage to admit this. We have already quoted Goethe’s confession that he made love to boys. Thomas Mann, having created such a wonderful picture of boy-love in his novella Death in Venice, wrote in his diary how delighted he was about “Eissi”, his 13-year-old son Klaus: “He is so very handsome in the bath. I think it’s perfectly natural to fall in love with my son.” On October 17, 1920 he wrote, “There was a big commotion in the boys’ bedroom, and I surprised Eissi standing stark naked, clowning, in front of Golo’s bed. His pre-adolescent, brilliant body made an enormous impression on me. I felt shattered. (Quoted in Du und Ich, Nov 1972, 52)

Continue to History and Ethnology of Boy-Love


[1] Gebhard, P. H., Gagnon, J. H., Pomeroy, W. B. & Christenson, C.Y., Sex Offenders. New York: Harper & Row, 1965, pp. 289, 316, 642-643, 652. [Author’s reference]

[2] 1965, 42, 66 [Author’s reference, but is not clear to which of two books published by Schofield and listed in his bibliography he is referring].

[3] 1969, 62, 69, 71 [Author’s reference, but no book published by Freund in 1969 is listed in his bibliography].

[4] Geiser, R. L., Hidden Victims–The Sexual Abuse of Children. Boston: Beacon Press, 1979, p. 78; Italiaander, R., Beobachtungen bei den Negern. In: Italiaander (Ed.), Weder Krankheit noch Verbrechen. Hamburg: Gala, 1969, p. 101; Möller, M., Pedoflele relaties. Deventer: Van Loghum Slaterus, 1983, p. 32; Pieterse, M., Pedofielen over pedofilie. Zeist: NISSO, 1982, II-10; Wolfenden Committee. The Wolfenden Report. New York: Stein & Day, 1963, 45. [Author’s reference]

[5] Madru, J., NAMBLA and Gay Liberation. Fag Rag 40: 3-4, 1983; Sandfort 1980 [Author’s reference, but it is not clear from his bibliography to which work by Sandfort he is referring].

[6] Baudry, A., La condition des homosexuels. Toulouse: Privat, 1982, p. 113; Kraemer. W. et al, The Forbidden Love. London: Sheldon, 1976, p. 7. [Author’s references]

[7] COC, Landelijk Bestuur van de N.V.I.H., Pedofilie – Discussienota. Amsterdam: COC, 1980. [Author’s reference]

[8] Blais, M.-C., The Wolf. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1974. [Author’s reference]

[9] Holland, I., The Man Without a Face. New York: Bantam Books, 1972. [Author’s reference]

[10] Murdoch, I., Henry and Cato. London: Chatto & Windus, 1976. [Author’s reference]

[11] Renault, M., The Persian Boy. New York: Bantam Books, 1972. [Author’s reference]

[12] Rochefort, Chr., Printemps au Parking. Paris: Grasset, 1969. [Author’s reference]

[13] Yourcenar, M., Mémoires d’Hadrien. Paris: Plon, 1951. [Author’s reference]

[14] Zilinsky, U., Middle Ground. London: Longman, 1968. [Author’s reference]

[15] Aristotle quoted by Peyrefitte, R., Alexandre le Grand. Paris: Albin Michel, 1981, p. 148 ; Back, G., Sexuelle Verirrungen des Menschen und der Natur. Berlin: Standard, 1910, p. 610; Borneman, E., Lexikon der Liebe. Frankfurt: Ullstein, 1978, pp. 590, 973-975, 1001; Bullough 1976, 495 [it is not clear to which of two possible books in the bibliography this refers]; Fisher, G., & Howell, L. M., Psychological Needs of Homosexual pedophiliacs. Diseases of the Nervous System 31, 9: 1970, p. 625; Freud, S., Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie. Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer, 1920, p. 21; Freund, K., Assessment of Pedophilia. In: Cook & Howells (Eds.), Adult Sexual Interest in Children. London: Academic Press, 1981, p. 162; Montherlant, H. de & Peyrefitte, R., Correspondance. Paris: Laffont, 1983, p. 19; Righton, P., The Adult. In: Taylor (Ed.), Perspectives on Paedophilia. London: Batsford, 1981, 36; Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique. Paris: Garnier, I 25-26; West, D. J., Adult Sexual Interest in Children - Implications for Social Control. In: Cook & Howells (Eds.), Adult Sexual Interest in Children. London: Academic Press, 1981, p. 256; Wilson, G. D. & Cox, D. N. The Child Lovers. London: Peter Owen, 1983, 19, 126; Yaffé, M., The Assessment and Treatment of Paedophilia. In: Taylor (Ed.), Perspectives on Paedophilia. London: Batsford, 1981, pp. 79-80. [Author’s references]

[16] Ellis, H., Studies in the Psychology of Sex. Philadelphia: David, 1913, II 286. [Author’s reference]

[17] Karpman, B., The Sexual Offender and his Offenses. New York: Julian Press, 1954, p. 607. [Author’s reference]

[18] Leist, W., Kinderfreunde. Heidelberger Rundschau 24 Feb. 1981. [Author’s reference]

[19] Schmidt, G. & Sigusch, V., Zur Frage des Vorurteils gegenüber sexuell devianten Gruppen. Stuttgart: Enke, 1967. [Author’s reference]

[20] Karpman, B., The Sexual Offender and his Offenses. New York: Julian Press, 1954, p. 299; Rhyxand, A., Pithécanthrope. Blamont: Amitie - Par Le Livre, 1978, p. 266. [Author’s reference]

[21] Blüher, H., Werke und Tage. München : List, 1953, pp. 255-256. [Author’s reference]

[22] Sadger, J., Die Lehre von den Geschlechtsverirrungen. Lepizig: Deuticke, 1921, p. 190. [Author’s reference]

[23] Duvert, T., L’enfant au masculin. Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1980, p. 102. [Author’s reference]




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