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three pairs of lovers with space



“Origins of Boy-love” is the ninth 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.

However, though listed in the table of contents, “Origins of Boy-love”does not appear as a heading in the text.  Rather what is presented here continues seamlessly from the previous discussion of the special importance to boy-lovers of their partners’ pleasure, and that is what “such feelings” in the first sentence refers to.


Rhyxand tries to explain such feelings in a man by suggesting that the boy here is a substitute: in him the man sees himself as he once was, and he wants to show him the male tenderness he himself so sadly lacked, and dearly missed, in his youth.[1] Geiser[2] agreed. Dr. Nahman Greenberg of Chicago puts it in a less benevolent way. In plain conflict with the facts he maintains that the paedophile “is usually looking for a very fine, elegant boy, who represents for him the symbol and height of what he would like to have been himself’, and then continues, “The paedophile believes he is adoring, indulging, gratifying the boy. He also hates the boy. He envies him, has contempt for him. It’s purely jealousy; the boy represents what he would like to have been.”[3] Wilson & Cox[4] believe that paedophiles have for the most part been subject to a more restrictive up-bringing than the average child. A more differentiated approach is found in Walters[5]: “The young boy may serve as a focus of a man’s tenderness for his own younger self, or serve as a symbol of the man’s dream of himself which incorporates his femininity, rediscovering in himself thereby those qualities prohibited him as a grown man.” Schérer[6] is of the same opinion.

West, too, claims[7] that a homophile man is often very attached to his mother, even identifies himself positively with her. He wants to resemble his mother as much as possible. In this he will be most successful if he chooses as love object a boy resembling himself and whom he can love in a manner similar to the way his mother once loved him (or should have loved him). A similar opinion is voiced by Levie[8] and Kraemer.[9]

The psychiatrist Morris Fraser, for whom this love is “a sexual disorder”, “a deviance”, likewise looks for its origin in “a struggle for maternal affection”, in “unfulfilled needs in childhood” coming into the conscious mind. If the man marries and fathers children, the tendency in them is often even more evident, either because it is hereditary or – more probably – it results from a lack of good up-bringing.[10]

The question of whether the tendency is inborn or acquired is discussed by Kruijt[11] without a clear conclusion being reached. But one thing is certain: no man will suddenly turn or be turned into a boy-lover.[12]

Quite ridiculous is the explanation of paedophilia that it is the result of fear of an adult partner[13], a fear compelling the frightened male, conscious of his insufficiency, to turn to a child.[14] As we have mentioned already in this chapter, an inferiority complex may well drive a man to satisfy his sexual needs with a child, making him a pseudo-paedophile, but no fear ever gives birth to positive love, and it is the predominance of positive attraction that makes a man a boy-lover.

To explain boy-love as the result of “paedophile attitudes displayed towards him by adults“[15] or by earlier sex experiences with an adult when the subject was a boy himself[16] seems equally ungrounded. Pieterse[17] found, in fact, that only 29.1% of her subjects reported such experiences (and most of these had been agreeable) and this percentage was not much higher than in boys in general. As she pointed out, the theory of seduction in boyhood being the origin of homophile tendencies in the adult is nowadays everywhere rejected. (We will come back to this in Chapter Four.)

Fraser Morris. The Death of Narcissus

Morris Fraser[18] quite rightly observes on another page “that shamefully little is known about paedophilia”. That does not prevent him, however, from giving a precise psychoanalytical description of its origins. “In the first place, the paedophile has been doubly deprived; his emotional attachment to his mother has been intense, but not fully returned, or not returned at all. The father has been absent, disliked, or despised. As a result, the dilemma which he reaches at the oedipal stage is particularly cruel. To an extent, this crisis is common to all male children; a boy becomes aware of his father’s role, and thus of the threatened loss to him of exclusive possession of his mother. The classical defence is ‘identification with the aggressor’, in which the boy takes his father as his behavioural model; by doing so he hopes to absorb from his father the characteristics that will again capture his mother’s affection. But what happens to the boy when his father is absent, or where there is some intense, or even subtle father-son aversion? The practical effect is that his father then cannot, of course, be the male model, and there is no ‘aggressor’ with whom to identify. Doubly frustrated, the boy turns back on the only love object left: himself. Thus narcissistic inversion takes place and, as he grows older, he remains deeply in love with the child he was then. This is impossible, so he must project (i.e. transfer his affection outwards) onto other children of a similar age to this lost child, who thus become love-objects for him.”[19]

Another solution is proposed by Liesbeth van Zijl, a Dutch children’s psychologist: “The child has, especially in his first years, insufficient support in finding and assuming his own identity. In addition there may be neglect, in that, on the one hand, the needs and activities of the child are constrained by severe sexual taboos, and, on the other hand, highly erotic, sexually-tinted play goes on between him and his parents, with ensuing growth of guilt and anxiety feelings inhibiting his development. This combination of strong guilt feelings and equally strong erotic/sexual desires leads to the consolation of self-love. The woman becomes, just as does the father, taboo, and what remains is an attraction for the non-threatening boy or girl.[20] Rosemary Gordon similarly believes that the paedophile, as a child, was “the object of unconscious sexual seduction on the part of one or both parents.[21]

Such sublime self-assurance about the lives and personalities of the men I know who are most indisputably boy-lovers! I can only say that I cannot see the slightest connection between theory and the human beings supposedly “explained”.

So, at least in its origins, boy-love remains a mystery. And it may well stay a mystery forever – like the mystery of how one becomes a woman-lover or a man-lover. In the early days of research on homosexuality it seemed most important to answer whether attraction to one’s own sex was inborn or acquired. Only after a lengthy battle, with proponents on both sides getting quite worked up in their arguments, was hope of getting a clear, unequivocal, decisive answer gradually abandoned. The evolution of a human being from fertilised egg cell to adult is an extremely complicated process, subject to an infinite number of influences. How all this works out to fix the factors which will ultimately excite one individual adult’s sexual appetite is at the present time almost completely unknown. It is essential that we avoid tumbling into the pitfall of lazy thinking and assume that the attraction between man and woman is something self-evidently natural which doesn’t need explanation. We have suggested already that human attraction is not, essentially, heterosexual but rather bisexual. Any specialisation of an individual’s appetite, therefore, needs to be explained, and the process or processes through which this specialisation comes about have never been established: only suggestions and suppositions have been made.[22] A very intriguing problem for science, but not very important to the individual, for everyone feels that his own personal appetite is, for him, natural. And no wonder: even if it’s not inborn but acquired, the appetite is well established before the child is four or five years old, and this process is not conscious. When the appetite does become conscious it has already been in existence for some time, and by then it has become unshakable, “incurable”, and not amenable to treatment.[23]


Continue to The Number of Boy-Lovers


[1] Rhyxand, A., Pithécanthrope. Blamont: Amitie - Par Le Livre, 1978, pp. 203-204, 209. [Author’s reference]

[2] Geiser, R. L., Hidden Victims–The Sexual Abuse of Children. Boston: Beacon Press, 1979, p. 85. [Author’s reference]

[3] Hearings before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, Sexual Exploitation of Children. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1977, p. 431. [Author’s reference]

[4] Wilson, G. D. & Cox, D. N. The Child Lovers. London: Peter Owen, 1983, p. 31. [Author’s reference]

[5] Walters, M., The Male Nude. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978, p. 15. [Author’s reference]

[6] Schérer, R., Une érotique puérile.  Paris: Galilée, 1978, p. 61. [Author’s reference]

[7] West, D., Homosexuality Re-Examined. London: Duckworth, 1977, p. 103. [Author’s reference]

[8] Levie, L. H., Sexiatrie. Leiden: Stafleu, 1971, pp. 251-252, 254. [Author’s reference]

[9] Kraemer. W. et al, The Forbidden Love. London: Sheldon, 1976, p. 2. [Author’s reference]

[10] Kraemer. W. et al, The Forbidden Love. London: Sheldon, 1976, IX 7116, 221, 231. [Author’s reference]

[11] Kruijt, J. P., Ethnologische gezichts punten. 5. In: Hart de Ruyter (Ed.), De sexuele ontwikkeling van het kind tot volwassene. Leiden: Stafleu, 1976, p. 25. [Author’s reference]

[12] Abraham, F., Les perversions sexuelles. Paris: Productions de Paris, 1969, p. 158. [Author’s reference]

[13] For example, Janus, S. The Death of Innocence. 16. New York: Morrow & Co., 1981, p. 228, quoting Gould. [Author’s reference]

[14] Taylor, B., Introduction. In: Taylor (Ed.), Perspectives on Paedophilia. London: Batsford, 1981, XIII; Möller 1981, 37. [Author’s references, of which the 2nd is unidentifiable in his bibliography]

[15] Lambert, K. The Scope and Dimensions of Paedophilia. In: Kraemer, Gordon, Lambert & Williams, The Normal and Abnormal Love of Children. Kansas City (MO): Sheed Andrews & McMeel, 1976, pp. 108, 127. [Author’s reference]

[16] For example, Pendergast, quoted by Janus, S. The Death of Innocence. 16. New York: Morrow & Co., 1981, p. 208. [Author’s reference]

[17] Pieterse, M., Pedofielen over pedofilie. Zeist: NISSO, 1982, III-26/27. [Author’s reference]

[18] Fraser, M., The Death of Narcissus. London: Secker & Warburg, 1976, 115. [Author’s reference]

[19] Fraser, M., The Death of Narcissus. London: Secker & Warburg, 1976, p. 20. [Author’s reference]

[20] Zijl, L. B. M. van der, Een ontwikkelingspsychologische rubicering van enkele deviaties en variaties. In: Hart de Ruyter (Ed.), De seksuele ontwikkeling van kind tot volwassene. Leiden: Stafleu, 1976, p. 352. [Author’s reference]

[21] Gordon, R., Paedophilia: Normal and Abnormal. 15. In: Kraemer et al (Eds.) The Normal and Abnormal Love of Children. Kansas City (MO): Sheed Andrews & McMeel, 1976, p. 46. [Author’s reference]

[22] Masters, W. H. & Johnson, V. E., Homoseksualiteit. Deventer: Van Loghum Slaterus, 1980, p. 429. [Author’s reference]

[23] Hanry, P., Les enfants, le sexe et nous. Toulouse: Privat, 1977, pp. 120-121. [Author’s reference]