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three pairs of lovers with space



“Sexual Variety in Men” is the first section of “Adult Lovers”, the second chapter[1] 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.


One of the most striking findings of sexology is the incredible variability of all human sexual aspects – the physical as well as the mental. This is sorely neglected in sexual education and instruction.

1. Anatomical: The Organs

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18 002 big cock b

In the Brongersma Foundation there are several thousands of pictures of naked boys and men; the outward appearance of their genitals is as varied as their faces. The male member may be very small or very big, very thin or very thick; the scrotum long or short, the testicles puny or remarkably large. The shape of the glans varies enormously. There are magnificent genitals which ornament the body, as well as ugly ones, just as in the case of faces.

2. Physiological: Function of the Organs

Some penises change very little in length from flaccidity to erection while others grow to nearly twice the relaxed length and girth. The erected member of one individual feels like rubber; in another it is as hard as a piece of wood. Under excitement, some penises erect rapidly, in a flash; others grow only very gradually. One male will need but a few seconds to attain climax, another requires several minutes or even half an hour. The places most sensitive to sexual stimulation are not the same in every male. In pre-pubertal orgasm no seed is expelled, but in some boys there is already a secretion of clear mucus (product of the Cowper glands). This mucus, provoked by sexual excitement, is never secreted by some males, while in others its flow is abundant. The volume of ejaculate in and after puberty may be small, but it may also be as much as 8 or 9 cubic centimetres. The number of spermatozoa may vary from 20 to 540 million per cc.[2] At climax the ejaculate in some individuals wells slowly out of the glans while in others it is forcefully squirted for a distance as great as a few metres. The physical manifestations of orgasm may be nearly invisible in some people but other males pant, cry out and go through convulsions. Some adolescents can ejaculate again 20 seconds after the first climax; some are capable of intercourse six times a night – but some need a few weeks rest before being able to perform again. The need for relief of sexual tension in some is so strong that it demands an orgasm several times a day for a sense of emotional well-being; in others this need is almost completely lacking.

All these examples fall comfortably within the conventional framework of natural behaviour. Moreover, such variations aren’t always just between individuals; often they occur in one individual at different periods of his life. One shouldn’t speak lightly about “normal” and “abnormal”. Nature has drawn its boundaries very far apart.

3. Psychological: Attraction

What has been said about the shape and function of the male genitalia, the physical side of sexuality, applies even more forcefully to its psychical aspects: sexual tendencies and preferences. We now enter very mysterious territory.

What in older literature was called “the sexual impulse” is defined in contemporary sexology as “the sexual appetite.[3] But de Boer adds that many people, especially males, experience their sexuality as an impulse and this representation becomes so accurate that we come across it again and again. In this book about boys and men the two concepts will therefore be used.

Now there is nobody whose sexual appetite or impulse is excited or provoked by every human being he meets. Physical properties, personality characteristics which to one individual are highly exciting may leave another completely indifferent – or may even seem repellent. How this fixation on particular properties originates remains obscure and unexplained. Perhaps it is inborn (or at least a disposition to be attracted to certain traits is inborn); perhaps it is partly acquired after birth. But if it is acquired it happens nearly always so early in life – perhaps at an age of 3 to 5 – that it is very difficult to ascertain. Consequently this fixation will appear to the individual himself as something natural, innate, an inseparable part of his being. One perceives it as having been there from the beginning; it is impossible to imagine oneself without it.

This, however, poses a major problem to human society. A man may be quite able to conceive that his neighbour gets sexually excited by things other than he does himself, but this doesn’t mean that he understands it, will be able to discover similar feelings in himself and by so doing be able to vividly empathize with his neighbour’s feelings. A sexual attraction to which someone is not himself sensible remains mysterious and strange. Fantasy fails to help us.[4]

This helps explain why an overwhelming majority of paedophiles and homophiles, though belonging to a small group which is rejected and often cruelly persecuted and tortured by the society in which they live, still don’t want to get rid of their “tendencies”,  even if there were an easy way to do it.[5] Masters and Johnson[6] learned to distrust the sincerity of even those who claimed they wanted to be changed. For one may be able to understand intellectually that the satisfaction of his sexual appetite in another direction (for instance with an adult partner or with a partner of the opposite sex) could give him the same pleasure and be as delightful as the satisfaction of his own variant appetite – and that this might be much more acceptable socially and less dangerous – but one cannot really feel this, much less imagine what it would be like. Fantasy lets him down; ultimate change is perceived as an irreparable loss: he will lose what he now loves and in exchange will get something he cannot conceive of as being equally worthy of love.

Thus we remain circumscribed by our knowledge that other people feel differently from the way we do. To forget this is to be narrow-minded and stupid. But if we raise such stupidity to dogma and proclaim that only our inclinations are “normal” and all others abnormal, perverse and disgusting, we become intolerant and immoral. Doing this we base our ethics upon our lack of imagination.


In man, as in sexually differentiated animals, the sexual appetite – with rare exceptions – is directed upon individuals of the same species. Humans desire humans and are sexually excited by humans. But, as we have already said, not by every human being.

Gentlemen prefer Blondes 2

“Gentlemen prefer blondes,” the song tells us. There are, however, also gentlemen who prefer brunettes. Why? An insoluble mystery. Some people’s sexual excitement is strongly dependent upon one single peculiarity; the person who lacks it lacks all attraction. In others the limits are more generously drawn: various peculiarities are able to excite them sexually – sometimes even contradictory ones, for example, platinum blond as well as pitch-black hair. These people’s liberty of choice is wider. But in no person is it unlimited.

Obviously the sex of a possible partner is an important element of attraction. Our society even likes to split mankind into those who love the other sex (heterophiles) and those who prefer their own sex (homophiles). Cultural history shows, however, that this was not always so, nor is it so everywhere today; recent sexological research has concluded that the fact of being either male or female is in reality less important in provoking sexual attraction than our traditional Western culture assumes.

The clear demarcation between the majority of heterophiles and the small minority of homophiles made by researchers into homosexuality in the second half of the last and the first half of the present century has become dubious since Kinsey’s sociological investigations. The situation in reality seems to be much more complicated. Kinsey studied the sexual activities of American men and boys, and when in 1948 he published his findings they caused a sensation. Of 4275 white men between the ages of 16 and 55, only 50% had never had sexual contacts with nor experienced a sexual interest in a partner of the same sex; 13% had experienced erotic feelings in response to other males, although this had never led to sexual contact. From the age of 16, and continuing for a period of at least three years:

Kinsey on the cover of Time 1953
Alfred Kinsey, depicted in 1953

5% had had occasional homosexual contacts carried to the point of orgasm;
7% had had more frequent homosexual contacts;
5% had had just as frequent homosexual as heterosexual contacts;
3% had had more frequent homosexual than heterosexual contacts;
2% had had almost exclusively homosexual contacts;
and 8% had had only homosexual contacts.
Of all males, 4% had had only homosexual contacts during the course of their lives.[7]

The Kinsey findings were later confirmed in The Netherlands by Kooy and Sterken, by Giese and Schmidt in Germany.[8] Similar figures were found in Barrington’s sample of 2500 males (age 16-75) in the United Kingdom.[9] Kinsey concluded that the assumed division between heterosexuality and homosexuality was not absolute; it was rather a matter of polarity. If one constructs a scale with one extreme 100% heterosexuality and the other 100% homosexuality, various gradations, complementary proportions of either end member will occur between. Every human being, then, would find his place on this line, on this sliding scale. The man leading an entirely bisexual life would stand in the middle.

In most people there is a lack of self-knowledge, incomplete insight into their internal landscape. Consciously they may vigorously deny certain elements which really are there. Two cases can show us how completely a man can deceive himself about what really lies in his sexual make-up.

Zanieri Arturo. Young Egyptian
by Arturo Zanieri

10:  An officer in the French army was sent to a lonely outpost in the Algerian desert. Up until then he had only had intercourse with women and in it had felt quite satisfied. But there the other servicemen cautioned him against going with the local females who, they said, were dirty and unattractive. Moreover, starting something with a girl was very dangerous, as it would be perceived as an insult to her honour and provoke violent revenge by her father or brothers. Much better to follow the general custom, he was told, and do it with boys; these were cleaner and parents didn’t have any objections. At first the idea of having sex with a boy made him feel sick to his stomach. Gradually, however, his sexual appetite grew more and more difficult to deal with; masturbation wasn’t enough. One day his work kept him in the barracks longer than usual; when he left all the other soldiers had gone. Waiting at the gate was a boy; the boy smiled at him – he had particularly beautiful black eyes. Suddenly the soldier decided to have a try. He followed the boy into the dunes outside the oasis. When the boy shook off his djellaba and pressed against him with his naked body, the man was amazed at how delightful it felt to take this firm, smooth body into his arms and to caress it. The sexual intercourse which ensued satisfied him completely. He soon discovered that he felt much better if he used a boy from time to time and that his health in consequence improved. Eventually he came to like it so much that he desired nothing else, and intercourse with boys became his preferred sexual activity.

11:  Henry went to sea at the age of 15, looking for adventure and sexual freedom. On board the ship he shared a cabin with Eric, three years his senior, and soon they were close friends. Eric slept stark naked and masturbated openly every night looking at pornographic magazines which he shared with Henry. In the first port they visited, Eric took Henry to a girl he knew well and had intercourse with her with Henry looking on. Then they changed rôles and Henry had intercourse for the first time in his life, helped in the act by the instruction of Eric lying beside him. They both enjoyed this three-way scene so much that they repeated it in every port where their ship called, always together going with the same woman. This went on for months, until one day their ship came to a port where dark-skinned native boys dived for coins which the seamen threw overboard. Henry watched this in amusement for a while, then went to his cabin and got a big shock. Entering, he found Eric engaged in intercourse with a naked black boy. The faces of both were distorted with passion. The sight seemed so disgusting and loathsome to Henry that he ran to the lavatory and vomited. For days he was unable to say a single word to Eric; whenever he was around Eric he was taken by nausea. Very gradually Eric succeeded in re-establishing a kind of communication. At first Henry only railed at him. A week passed before he was able to listen to Eric’s explanation, which was that a real seaman is open to any kind of pleasure and ought to try everything. With these boys it was a question of refined salacity, giving the most exquisite pleasure. Henry’s curiosity was excited at last. Eric’s opinion was confirmed by others too, and when, a month later, they came back to the same port, he decided to try his luck – and was rewarded by a superlative orgasm. In the years that followed he never passed up a chance to have sex with native boys.[10]

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                                                                                   Photo by Aratuan

These two stories show how little aware many males are of their own impulses and potentials. Some activity which is strongly rejected as loathsome and disgusting may beneath it all belong comfortably in one’s own natural field of action. There can be little doubt that people would be healthier and more honest if they didn’t repress their potentialities and acknowledged clearly their position on the sliding scale between the heterosexual and homosexual poles. A society which opposes and condemns homosexuality renders this, of course, much more difficult. Thus the cultural rejection of homosexuality is unhealthy and immoral; it gives rise to dishonesty, distortion and hypocrisy.

Kinsey discovered the relative scale between the poles of homosexuality and heterosexuality while examining the sexual outlets of his respondents. The psychological backgrounds of these activities were for the most part left out of consideration. His research didn’t go into tendencies or attitudes; it limited itself to acts concluding with orgasm. Considering the fact that the North American society in which Kinsey performed his investigation imposes an extremely heavy taboo on homosexuality, we must assume that the percentage of homophilia (or the sexual preference for individuals of the same sex) must be substantially higher than the percentage of homosexuality (or same sex activity).

This is all the more likely since this taboo is maintained with such emotional violence. The American psychiatrist Wainwright Churchill[11] attributes the emotional coldness of so many of his fellow-countrymen (“hard-boiled businessmen“) to the horrible custom which forbids a father to show any tenderness toward his adolescent son. He’s not even supposed to touch him, or he’ll be suspected of having homophile tendencies. No inclination is ever rejected with so much emotion if it isn’t one which requires much effort to suppress. Adorno rightly stressed the truth that taboos grow in strength in proportion to the subject’s own unconscious desire to do what is forbidden. The greater the homophilia in a man the stronger must he fight it, deny it to himself in order to conform to the social obligation to be “normal”, thus the more emotional he will be in rejecting homophilia.[12] The same could be true about societies as a whole. If so, it is significant that the anxiety over homosexual behaviour in Western civilisation “is a unique culture trait which cannot be found in the rest of the world.[13]

Professor Verveen (University of Leiden) carried out a research project among his students on the relative strength of their erotic responses toward members of their own and the opposite sex, and from the results it appeared that the preponderance of heterophilia over homophilia in his average subject was surprisingly small. Of course, this group was hardly representative of the Dutch population as a whole, but perhaps in this instance that was an advantage, for, as many investigations have shown, people with academic backgrounds generally view sexual phenomena which deviate from traditional norms in a more liberal and open-minded manner.[14] Moreover, the answers of these subjects could not have been given without deep introspection. Verveen concluded that human sexual appetite is directed upon humans, with a slight preference for humans of the opposite sex.[15] It is well to recall Goethe’s Venetian epigrams:

Goethe Johann Wolfgang von by Joseph Karl Stieler 1828
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1828

I love boys, but I prefer girls. If I have my fill of a girl I can turn her around and use her like a boy. (No. 31)

Regrettably, not everyone has such clear understanding of his own sexual nature as Goethe did, or is so willing to reveal it. Nevertheless in a French investigation no less than 53% of the subjects claimed they believed every person may be attracted by both sexes, while 21% had doubts about this point and only 26% asserted that an individual was attracted either to men or to women.[16]

As we have seen, most individuals fight the homosexual component and repress or suppress it.[17] Today many sexologists accept the premise that nearly everyone has a disposition toward bisexuality,[18] and Freud long ago pointed out that heterosexuality is no more self-evident as a phenomenon than homosexuality.[19] Bisexuality might well be the original condition of the human race.

There are, however, only a few men who lead a really bisexual existence, such as the Roman Emperor Commodus who is said to have had a harem of 300 girls and 300 boys.[20] An 18-year-old English youth told me, “I’m crazy about girls and mad about boys,” and, indeed, he was most actively involved with both sexes. Falk, a sexologist who worked for 12 years in Africa, found this condition prevailed among the young blacks he studied: 90% of them had intercourse with both sexes and enjoyed each equally.[21] “Normal” men often envy such bisexuals, for their hunting grounds are more extended. The “normal” man’s jealousy often expresses itself in deriding those who run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. They forget, however, that everyone has his sexual limitations: although to the bisexual the sex of the partner may make little difference, he will be conscious of other restrictions instead.[22]

The striking bisexuality which Verveen uncovered among his students may astonish people who grew up in the Judeo-Christian culture. Yet in every culture which has a positive view of sexuality, men are accustomed to have intercourse with women as well as with members of their own sex: exclusive heterosexuality is as rare as exclusive homosexuality, and if we were more tolerant we would probably find the same was true in our own society.[23] We only have to go back to the records left by the ancient Greeks and Romans to be transported to a world where sexual differentiation had only a minor importance in the erotic practices of men. In discussions of the pleasures they found in young bodies, and in poetry on the same subject, boys and girls tend to be mentioned in the same breath, though often, as in Horace, with an evident preference for boys.[24]

Berlin Antikensammlung. Dionysiac procession carrying of phallus. Attic krater ca. 470
The carrying of the phallus in a Dionysiac procession (Attic krater, ca. 470 BC)

Processions by the cult of Dionysos carried through the streets an enormous wooden phallus and sang the words, “Phallus, thou, companion of Bacchus, thou rake, hunting housewives and boys in the night…![25] When a besieged city fell into the hands of a victorious army, according to historians of the time, all the women and boys were raped. For example, when the citizens of Kroton in southern Italy conquered Sibaris, both the girls and the boys were all exhibited stark naked so that each soldier could make his choice.[26]

On the departure of his friend Flaccus to Cyprus, the Roman poet Martialis hoped that he would “find there a handsome boy just for him alone,” and that he would “excite the lust of an entirely chaste girl.” (XI 91) Horace exhorts an acquaintance: “When salacity makes your penis swell, why risk an explosion if you have a slave girl or boy at hand on whom to spend you raging desire?” (I-2, 116-118)[27]. Solon, Athens’ great legislator, declared that a poor man was luckier than many a rich one if only he is in good health and has “from time to time the chance to enjoy the youthful beauty of a boy or a woman.”[28] In Rome rich people could keep harems of young slaves of both sexes with whom to amuse themselves. Martialis (XII, 87) waspishly comments upon such a sexual Croesus: “How pitiful, to be the owner or thirty girls and thirty boys and have only one cock which, moreover, refuses to stand up!” The less well-to-do had to make use of brothels; there the visitor could peep into cubicles “where a boy or a girl smiles upon you.” (XI, 45)

Roman brothel scenes dpictd on a terracotta. W bkg
                                                                 Roman brothel scene depicted on a terracotta

Now, man is certainly a taboo-making animal, and so the Greeks also had their sexual taboos (i.e. irrational interdictions), but they were quite different from ours. With us the taboo weighs heavily upon homosexuality, while with them the sex of the partner with whom a man satisfied his sexual needs was of little concern. Instead they attached the greatest importance to the status of the participants: was he free-born citizen or slave? The free-born citizen was allowed to have sex with a male or female slave. The slave, on the contrary, was severely punished or even put to death if he had his pleasure with a free-born boy. Additionally, there was another taboo which was no less important: once a free-born boy had passed his eighteenth year and thus attained adulthood, he was totally dishonoured if he took the youthful, or passive, role in oral or anal intercourse.[29]

But this taboo did not apply to younger boys. From some indeterminate time before puberty until the onset of late adolescence, let us say from 12 to 17 years of age, a boy was allowed to let himself be penetrated by a man. This could even bring him honour and enhance his reputation. On the island of Crete boys who had had intercourse with a man wore specially coloured clothing and had honoured seats in a special section of the theatre.[30]

In the Anthologia Graeca collection of ancient Greek verse, many poems deal with the age at which boys were thought most fit to be the sexual partners of men. Straton (XII, 4) wrote:

When a boy is twelve he gives me pleasure
And when he’s thirteen he’ll attract me more.
At fourteen he’s the sweetest blossom of love,
And when he turns fifteen the lust with him is keener yet.
Boys of sixteen are for the gods, and I wouldn’t touch
A boy of seventeen because he’s only fit for Zeus.
If you’re looking for older boys the game is off
Because it’s obvious you want him to do the same to you

Another epigram (XII, 228) by the same poet fixes the limits precisely:

If a budding boy sins through inexperience
This casts shame upon the friend who seduced him.
If a boy past the proper age suffers a man to love him,
His willingness magnifies the shame two-fold.
But Moiris, my boy, there’s a stage when it’s no more and not yet shameful
And that’s where we are now, you and I.

In summary, to be the active partner, be it with men, be it with boys, was perfectly normal to the Greeks. Their bisexuality showed a pronounced preference for boys over girls. To be the passive partner was permissible in pubertal and adolescent boys but thought shameful in adult men. Free-born people could satisfy their desires with slaves at will; slaves were not allowed to be the active partner with a free citizen.

This Greek view is far from being exceptional in human society; it recurs later in Islamic culture. The Arab poet Abu Zayd says of his own penis.[31]

Dealing to fair young girl delicious joy,
And no less welcome to the blooming boy.

In Arab literature we find the same sentiments about sex with older boys being improper. Abu Nuwas relates how a boy, after discovering down on his cheeks, refuses to be kissed: “Master, I’ve become a man, and now I find it objectionable to do it with a man. What happened during youth is over. Don’t keep on pestering me.[32]

It can now be stated quite generally that homosexuality is universal in the human race. Earlier explorers and anthropologists wrote that this tribe or that primitive people was totally free of any trace of homosexuality. Later investigators have revealed, however, than in all such cases the earlier writers had been mistaken; their enquiries were too superficial.[33] Where there are men there is homosexuality.

We went into some detail about the Greek sexual taboo system in order to contrast it with that of our contemporary Western culture and in so doing show that all such systems are relative and of transient importance. They are invented in their entirety by man and change with the times. Their origins may be understandable to a greater or lesser extent or they may remain shrouded in mystery. But once a taboo establishes itself somewhere people become subject to its interdictions. It becomes an idol demanding human sacrificial victims. To venerate it human life and human happiness are destroyed.

One can see why the pastoral people of the Old Testament, with its ideology of blood and soil, placed such a high value upon numerous offspring: they were needed to occupy the Promised Land and exterminate its original inhabitants. Anti-conception practices like that used by Onan (withdrawing from intercourse just before ejaculation in order to shed his seed upon the floor) was thus strongly taboo. The necessity to exclude homosexuality was even more urgent, since it also served to differentiate the Chosen People from their neighbours, who accepted and practiced homosexuality and even included it in some of their religious cults. The struggle against homosexuality was in part a struggle for tribal purity.

Onan Sin of
The sin of Onan

In no way, however, can one justify the elevation of this taboo of a pastoral people, however understandable its origins may be, to a postulate of ethics in our present-day Western society. We don’t want to increase our population. We don’t want to isolate ourselves in the world. That century after century people breaking this taboo were cruelly tortured and sentenced to be burnt alive was unethical. And it is simple immorality that modern society, despite decades of more liberal laws, is still, every year, condemning hundreds and hundreds of innocent men to death by suicide as the direct effect of its discrimination and naked loathing.


We have already seen that for the ancient Greeks the sex of the partner was of minor significance, even if there was a preference for boys: they loved boys and girls, the youngness in and of both sexes. The age of the partners was more important than their gender.

Now if it is true that the sexual appetite of most people is directed rather more to one sex than the other, it is also true that there will be a preference for a certain age or age range. One of my correspondents wrote in a letter that he could love every human male between zero and sixty years, but he would certainly be an exception.

Charting attraction by age would be a much more complicated proposition than placing a person on the scale of human affectionate response we previously proposed between pure heterophilia and pure homophilia. This is because of the diversity of age groups. Moreover, where a real love relationship has been established, a sexual partner may keep his appeal for his lover long after he has grown out of the preferred age group. Limits, therefore, tend to be blurred.

There are people who prefer greybeards while to others a man in the prime of life is the most beautiful. Others find their ideal in adolescence, in puberty, in pre-puberty and finally there is a group of men who are particularly excited by very little children.

Science has looked for explanations of this, just as it has for homophilia and heterophilia. It has been proposed that the gerontophile in his love for greybeards is searching for a father figure, the lover of children for his lost youth, wanting to offer to the small child the tenderness he himself found lacking in his parents. Some scientists are convinced that one is a homophile or a child-lover from birth. Others assume the inclination is acquired later in life, even if this can only happen in a person who is innately so disposed. All in all we know no more about the origins of a man’s heterophilia than about his homophilia – or whatever other “-philia” society may tell him he has.

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This battle of the theorists, however, has little importance in the daily lives of the individuals involved, for even if such inclinations are acquired rather than innate, this acquisition has already occurred by the end of the first years of his life by some process which has yet to be convincingly explained. By the time a child is five or six years old his sexual inclinations are fixed so firmly as to be almost impossible to dislodge.[34] In puberty or even before puberty the individual becomes conscious of being sexual and by then his inclinations are simply fact, linked so closely to his whole sense of being that they appear completely natural, in the sense that he always had them. Neither social acceptance nor rejection can alter his sexual preferences, although environmental attitudes toward it may have the greatest importance in determining his peace of mind or his worry, his happiness or misery. A moral system which wishes to contribute to human happiness should take this into consideration; it must insist on sexual tolerance. This isn’t just a question of morals, moreover; it is a question of justice, for the direction of a person’s sexual inclination is not consciously and freely chosen; nobody can be held responsible for his own sexual nature.

Inclinations found only in a minority of people are often labelled “unnatural”, “abnormal”, “perverse” or “deviant”. There is little sense in this. Feeling attracted to boys, for instance, is no more unnatural than feeling attracted to persons with red hair.[35] People having these less common inclinations are often supposed to experience an overwhelmingly greater pleasure in satisfying them than “normal” people do. If this were the case we could point to the popular castigation as being rooted in envy, but it isn’t the case at all. The homophile having sex with a man or the boy-lover embracing his young friend experiences on average no more and no less pleasure than the heterophile having intercourse with a woman.[36]

12 570 nmk

There has been a lot of research on homophilia. Unfortunately the subject of sexual preference for certain age groups has received much less attention. Probably some kind of scale like the one we proposed between homophilia and heterophilia could be used to analyse the sexual age preferences of a given population. Most likely it would reveal a cluster in the childhood and adolescent years. For most men and women characteristically think children beautiful, attractive and loveable; children arouse tender feeling in them. Clearly these feelings are of the utmost importance for the preservation of the human race. No living creature is more helpless than the human baby, and so in need of love; no creature is, for its physical well-being, dependent to such a degree on nursing and care; no creature is for its psychological development so completely committed to living in a community with adults. If, in response to these needs, there exists in adults an inclination to love children, this is enormously valuable.

Let us do as we did with the scale between heterophilia and homophilia: make one end a 100% preference for children and the other complete indifference to children (this end could also be attraction to elderly people, or gerontophilia). Every woman and every man, then, could place himself somewhere on the scale between. Every human being is to a greater or lesser degree paedophile.[37] We will return to this theme in Chapter Four.

But this idea, despite the truth in it, meets with the most violent opposition. Many people will raise the objection that it mistakenly equates the sexual, the erotic with the bestowing of loving care upon a child in the process of bringing him up. For to admit to oneself the erotic element of this human activity is in our culture enormously more difficult than in the case of homophilia. And the reason is that Western society has been deceitfully indoctrinated during the last two centuries in the concept of children as “innocent” and “pure” – i.e. asexual creatures. Creatures, therefore, who should be carefully guarded against any contact with sexuality. Within the ethics of sex-only-for-procreation it is immoral enough for a man to approach a fellow male with sexual intentions; it is much, much worse if he does so with a child.

Conscience is to a large extent ruled by the idea that anything which shouldn’t be simply isn’t. In order for him to accept consciously that his attraction to children has also its erotic and sexual aspects, modern man has to overcome a taboo which weighs upon him like lead – and most men are unable to do this. In the real world, however, the erotic and sexual elements are legion, in the child as well as in the adult.

Bonding 2

We will have more to say about the child in the next chapter. Let us for the moment only stress the pronounced pleasure skin contact causes in the child from the moment of his birth on, and his delight in tenderness, in being fondled, his desire to crawl into the bed of his parents and other adults, to be naked against a naked body; later his joy in romping (”horsing around”), touching other bodies. That a boy involved in such activities often gets an erection proves how strong the sensual element in him is.

It is a well known fact that young mothers experience lust feelings while suckling their child. This can be so strong as to bring on a complete genital orgasm. And for the adult, the fondling, kissing, touching, “rough housing” with the child will have an undercurrent of lust. It is not unusual for a man taking a child on his knee to “ride the horsie” to find himself getting an erection.[38]

And this is a good thing. Once, as a defence lawyer, I was in court defending a youth leader who had been in charge of a group of 12- to 15-year-old neglected boys in a youth home. After he had been there for six months he finally gave in to the desires of three of the boys for some intimate tenderness; when he came into their bedroom to say goodnight he stroked their naked bodies and in so doing casually touched their penises. He made no secret of this, even discussed it with his colleagues, so that the powers that be were quite aware of what he was doing. At first they raised no objections. Later, however, a disagreement with the management arose over completely different matters and he was dismissed. This caused a revolution among his boys. “At last we got a good leader and now they sack him!” they complained. The management needed more ammunition to support their dismissal, so they lodged a complaint for “indecent conduct” with the police. I told the judge that these boys had been starved of affection, had not received much physical tenderness in their upbringing, that my client’s behaviour, thus, had been quite commendable.

“But,” the judge interrupted me at this point, “in doing so the accused experienced sensations of lust!”

Now, to men of the law, lust feelings can only be viewed with horror, for they taint with indecency any activity in which they occur. The physician who touches a naked body during examination is not supposed to experience arousal – and as long as he doesn’t he remains outside the purlieu of the law. But every man who enjoys touching a naked body other than that of his lawfully wedded wife is acting indecently. The judge thus supposed that I, as defence council, would vigorously deny the imputed lust feelings of my client and object that there was no proof whatever of this. Instead I replied, ”Yes…and thank heavens he did!”

Massachusetts. Worcester Boys Club physical exam 1922
            Touch without enjoyment: physical examination of Worcester Boys' Club, Massachusetts, 1922

Evidently amazed, the Judge asked, “What do you mean?”

I then explained that a child is gifted with a marvellous sense of intuition. If he gets the impression that a grown-up in charge of him feels dutifully obliged to stroke his hair, kiss him, cuddle him simply because the books say he should, he will hate this and interpret it as a kind of insult. What makes a caress a caress, tenderness tenderness, is precisely this intuitional certainty about the pleasure which he who caresses experiences in giving the caress, the joy he feels in this intimacy.

Sigmund Freud brought a storm down upon his head by speaking plainly about the sexual content of the relationship between the child and the adults who care for him. But the sexual feelings are real, on both sides. The communication between the child and all persons who care for him is an infinite source of sexual excitement for him, extending into all the erogenous zones of his body. And all the physical expressions of love which adults offer to the child are borrowed from their own sexual lives where they are used to excite the sexual appetite of their partners.[39] Man simply knows no other way.

Roels Lukas.  Angels of Time 31 Severines Child
Photo by Lukas Roels

The French philosopher Schérer[40] goes so far as to suggest that one reason there is such heat and fanaticism in the battle to preserve the “nuclear family” is that nowadays this is the only institution which offers socially acceptable opportunity for adults and children to have affectionate, directly sensual relationships with one other.

It is unfortunate when the sexual element in these relationships is not conscious and consciously accepted, for the fear of recognizing it leads to behaviour on the adult’s part which may seriously traumatise the child. If parents avoid touching the genitals of their offspring, are embarrassed by any mention of these organs, the child can only conclude that this part of his body is ugly and dirty – and certainly can have no connection with love and tenderness. And so a fundamental attitude is acquired which will dominate the child’s thinking forever more: love is essentially separate from sexuality. This can have fatal consequences. If the child seeks in the companionship of persons outside of his family the love and tenderness they have withheld, and if he finds it, he is fortunate indeed. But for many this escape route is hopelessly cut off.[41]

Continue to “Attraction to Children”, the next section of this chapter


[1] Confusingly, the whole chapter is called “Sexual Variety in Men” in the main text, as well as its first section, but the name given to Chapter Two in the list of contents, “Adult Lovers”, makes much better sense. [Website footnote]

[2] Hotchkiss, R. D., Fertility in Men. London: Lippincott, 1944, pp. 139-140. {Author’s reference]

[3] Boer, J. de, Gevoelige kwesties omtrent seksuele kontakten van jongeren. Zeist: NISSO, 1978, II 68 ; Borneman, E., Lexikon der Liebe. 17. Frankfurt: Ullstein, 1978, 104, 129, 337, 514, 516; Gagnon, J. H. & Simon, W., Sexual Conduct. London: Hutchinson, 1973, p. 15; Haeberle, E. J., The Sex Atlas. New York: Seabury, 1978, p. 131. {Author’s references]

[4] Haeberle, E. J., The Sex Atlas. New York: Seabury, 1978, p. 140. {Author’s reference]

[5] Bell, A. P. & Weinberg, M. S., Homosexualities - A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women. London: Mitchell Beazley, 1978, p. 124; Bernard, F., Pädophilie–Liebe mit Kindern. Lollar: Achenbach, 1979, p. 76; Carpenter, E., The Intermediate Sex. New York: Mitchell Kennerly, 1912, p. 128; Jouhandeau, M., Bréviaire–Portrait de Don Juan–Amours. Paris: Gallimard, 1981, pp. 11-12. {Author’s references]

[6] Masters, W. H. & Johnson, V. E., Homoseksualiteit. Deventer: Van Loghum Slaterus, 1980, p. 348. {Author’s reference]

[7] Kinsey, A. C. et al, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1948, pp. 650-651. {Author’s reference]

[8] Sanders, G., Het gewone en het bijzondere van de homoseksuele leefsituatie. Deventer: Van Loghum Slaterus, 1977, p. 14. {Author’s reference]

[9] Barrington, J. S., Sexual Alternatives for Men. London: Alternative Publishing, 1981, pp. 22-23. {Author’s reference]

[10] Similar to case 44 in Stekel, W., Onanie und Homosexualität. Berlin: Urban & Schwarzenberg, 1921, p. 277. {Author’s reference]

[11] Churchill, W., Homosexual Behavior Among Males. New York: Hawthorn, 1967, pp.163-164. {Author’s reference]

[12] Sengers 1969, 172 [Author’s reference]. It is not clear to which of two books by W. J. Sengers published in 1969 and listed in the bibliography this refers.

[13] Sprague, G. A., Male Homosexuality in Western Culture. Journal of Homosexuality, 10 3/4, 29-43, 1984, p. 35. {Author’s reference]

[14] Sprague, G. A., Male Homosexuality in Western Culture. Journal of Homosexuality, 10 3/4, 29-43, 1984, p. 35. {Author’s reference]

[15] Verveen, A. A., Seksualiteit en variabiliteit—Enkele aspecten. In: Frenken (Ed.) Seksuologie. Deventer: Van Loghum Slaterus, 1980, pp. 318, 321. {Author’s reference]

[16] Baudry, A., La condition des homosexuels. Toulouse: Privat, 1982, p. 233. {Author’s reference]

[17] 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. 340. {Author’s reference]

[18] MacDonald Jr., A. P., Bisexuality - Some Comments on Research and Theory. Journal of Homosexuality 6, 3: 1981, p. 23; Churchill, W., Homosexual Behavior Among Males. New York: Hawthorn, 1967, pp. 271-272; Naslednikov, M., Le chemin d’extase–Tantra: vers une nouvelle sexualité. Paris: Albin Michel, 1981, p. 141. {Author’s references]

[19] Freud, S., Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie. Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer, 1920, p. 22. [Author’s reference]

[20] Armand, E., Libertinage et prostitution. Paris: Prima, 1931, p. 116; Borneman, E., Lexikon der Liebe. Frankfurt: Ullstein, 1978, pp. 304-5. [Author’s references]. Given the unfortunate tendency of both Brongersma and Parker Rossman (whose Sexual Experience Between Men and Boys was probably the best previous study of the subject) to use moderns (usually not even historians to boot, and often unreliable) as their “sources” for ancient history, it is worth pointing out that this claim about Commodus really does come from an ancient source, namely chapter 5 of the biography of him in The Augustan History. [Website footnote]

[21] Italiaander, R., Beobachtungen bei den Negern. In: Italiaander (Ed.), Weder Krankheit noch Verbrechen. Hamburg: Gala, 1969, p. 111. [Author’s reference]

[22] Duvert, T., L’enfant au masculin. Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1980, p. 107. [Author’s reference]

[23] West, D., Homosexuality Re-Examined. London: Duckworth, 1977, pp. 136, 163. {Author’s reference]

[24] Brunsendorff, O. & Henningsen, P., A History of Eroticism–Antiquity. København: Veta, 1963, p. 68. [Author’s reference] It would be interesting to have a primary source for this claim. Horace’s writings are well known for his apparent indifference in the choice between girls or boys. [Website footnote]

[25] Stoll, O., Das Geschlechtsleben in der Völkerpsychologie. Leipzig: Veit, 1908, p. 657. [Author’s reference]

[26] Peyrefitte 1971, 345, p. 56 [Author’s footnote]. None of the works by Peyrefitte listed in the bibliography were published in 1971. In any case, is this claim true? It is not mentioned by Diodoros Sikeliotes or Herodotos, the principal historians of Sybaris. It is a typical example of how annoying and unsatisfactory Brongersma sometimes is a writer on historical events. Any authoritative writer would give the primary source for an event in antiquity rather than cite a modern scandal-mongerer like Peyrefitte. His giving tantalising morsels of “history” that cannot be verified or therefore taken seriously is a recurrent problem.
     This is not to say that boys as well as girls were not of sexual interest to soldiers rampaging in a conquered city. Brongerma’s could have cited the reliable historian Tacitus’s account of the rape of both following the capture of Cremona in AD 69 (Histories III 33). [Website footnote]

[27] The reference, otherwise given fully enough for identification, is from Horace’s Satires, and is often cited as evidence of Horace’s indifference between boys and girls, contradicting what Brongersma has claimed about him two paragraphs earlier [Website footnote].

[28] Buffière, F., Eros adolescent–La pédérastie dans la Grèce antique. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1980, p. 243. [Author’s reference]

[29] Buffière, F., Eros adolescent–La pédérastie dans la Grèce antique. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1980, pp. 204, 605-611, 621. Dover. K. J., Greek Homosexuality. London: Duckworth, 1978, pp. 48, 60. {Author’s references]

[30] This is true, so it is a shame Brongersma did not give the source, which is Strabo’s Geography X 4 xxi.

[31] Burton, R. F., The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night–A Plain and Literal Translation. London: Burton Club, 1885, VIII 348. {Author’s reference]

[32] Wagner, E., Abu Nuwas. Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1965, p. 186. {Author’s reference]

[33] Herdt, G. H., Guardians of the Flute - A Study of Ritualized Homosexual Behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981, XV 11. {Author’s reference]

[34] Churchill, W., Homosexual Behavior Among Males. New York: Hawthorn, 1967, p. 214; Klimmer 1968 [probably meaning Klimmer, R., Die Homosexualität. 17. Hamburg: Kriminalistik, 1958] 93 ; Kwast, S. van der, Seksuele criminaliteit. Leiden: Stafleu, 1968, p. 118; Sengers, W. J., De pastorale begeleiding van pedofielen en efebofielen. 2. Tijdschrift voor Theologie 7, 1967, p. 144 ; Wolfenden Committee. The Wolfenden Report. 12. New York: Stein & Day, 1963, Section 68 ; Wyss, R., Unzucht mit Kindern. Berlin: Springer, 1967, pp. 44-55. {Author’s references]

[35] Righton, P., The Adult. In: Taylor (Ed.), Perspectives on Paedophilia. London: Batsford, 1981, pp. 36- 37. {Author’s reference]

[36] Pieterse, M., Pedofilie. Doctoraalscriptie Rijksuniversiteit Leiden, 1978, p. 66. {Author’s reference]

[37] Rogier, J., Pompe of verzuipen. Amsterdam: Contact, 1973, p. 36. {Author’s reference]

[38] Stekel, W., Psychosexueller Infantilismus. Berlin: Urban & Schwarzenberg, 1922, p. 312. {Author’s reference]

[39] Freud, S., Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie. Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer, 1920, p. 92. {Author’s reference]

[40] Schérer, R., L’emprise. Des enfants entre nous. Paris: Hachette, 1979, p. 176. {Author’s reference]

[41] Möller, M., Pedoflele relaties. Deventer: Van Loghum Slaterus, 1983, p. 96. {Author’s reference]




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