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three pairs of lovers with space



“The Number of Boy-Lovers” is the tenth 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.


One last question keeps cropping up with the same tenacity: how numerous are boy-lovers in the population as a whole? Again, an exact answer can never be given. In the first place, research which will produce reliable answers is simply not possible in a large, representative sample population as long as this sexual orientation is stigmatised and made socially taboo. In the second place, the concept itself which we are trying to measure is not clearly delimited, for we aren’t dealing here with a quality that is simply present or absent but one which occurs to a greater or lesser degree in everyone. Only when it occurs so strongly in an individual that it colours and dominates his whole existence will we call him a boy-lover. The husband who can only bring off intercourse with his wife if he simultaneously fantasises handsome naked boys is a boy-lover. His neighbour, for whom inserting his penis into a woman’s vagina brings him to the zenith of bliss but who from time to time buys sex shop magazines with pictures of naked boys because he thinks them aesthetically beautiful, is certainly not.

In former times it was generally supposed that all homophiles were attracted to minors. This idea seems to be losing ground, however. In a recent representative sample of the Dutch population, only 19% still thought so.[1] It doesn’t require deep reflection to realise how improbable this assumption is. For those aspects of a boy’s body which are specifically exciting to a boy-lover are his smooth, hairless skin, rounded curves, etc – precisely those qualities which distinguish boys from men. We have already seen that, in this respect, boy-lovers are closer to heterophile than homophile men, who are drawn to mature male bodies and find the boy’s body very much less attractive. Westwood says that among nine homophile adults who experimented with boys, five maintained that they would never try it again.[2] 

Hirschfeld, in his pioneering studies, concluded that in every 100 men attracted to members of their own sex, 45 preferred adolescents, 45 adults, 5 elderly men and 5 immature boys. This was mere hypothesis. Curran and Parr in 1957 found, in analysing 100 male homosexuals “that 17 were predominantly attracted to boys.”[3] Because 26-35% of all boys experience sexual advances by adult men, Fraser thinks that boy-lovers cannot be rare. Taylor shares the opinion that their number “is larger than commonly supposed” and that the criminal statistics “represent only the tip of an unexpectedly sizeable iceberg[4]. Fraser[5] and Righton[6] agree that the “real figure would seem to be about 1% of the total population”, but this remains speculative.

To the erotic attractiveness radiating from a boy’s body, many more men, of course, are responsive. Rossman[7] suggests “that one out of every eight men has at least occasional pederastic inclinations, and that the number of normal heterosexual men and boys who engage in such sex play at least once in a while is large.” Of the 32% of Barrington’s subjects who fantasized during masturbation about men, nearly two-thirds also fantasized about young adolescents seen in publications, in sports, on TV, etc. Of those who wanted male contacts, 19.8% preferred age 12-15, 29.7% age 16-18, 46.2% age 19-24, 49.5% age 25-35, 29.7% 35 and over. The preferences overlap and are often mingled.[8] Scheller[9] points to the subscription figures of paedosexual magazines. A Danish firm had 12,000 subscribers to such publications in West Germany alone, and a Dutch firm 4,000 domestic subscribers. Most of these were certainly men and can be divided into girl-lovers and boy-lovers. Sex shops mostly offer magazines with pictures of naked boys, some showing them sexually active. Thomas, a 30-year-old photographer, told J. L. Hennig, “You see, quite contrary to what people believe, the circle of paedophiles is enormously large, and I think it is getting larger all the time. For example, go to the underground. Almost every day you will see one or two men fumbling with boys. They are much more numerous than people think. Many don’t even know themselves they’re boy-lovers; they’ve repressed it. Talk with people in the education field, with teachers or scout masters. The things they tell you are so sad: men who are 100% boy-lover but refuse completely to admit it.[10]

16 usher in cinema 1980

34:  “I am sixteen now. I’m no longer a virgin and I’m not queer. I am working in a movie theater as an usher. No day passes by without me feeling the hand of somebody passing on my body. If I sit down during the show, it never fails: there is the hand of a man groping for my sex. It is unsupportable. I don’t know what to do.[11]

Research among students and inmates of reformatories yielded figures for actual sexual experience which are surprisingly large: 15% of the male students at a Roman Catholic university, nearly 33% of the pupils in an English borstal, had had, as boys, sexual experiences with men.[12]  

Clarence Osborne, the Australian who interviewed about 2500 youths on their sexual lives, noted, “I hardly know any adolescent who hadn’t received a number of homosexual proposals. I myself was not a specially handsome boy, but I was sturdy and well-built. I cannot expect even my best friends to believe me when telling them how many prominent men made homosexual proposals to me. Among them were a judge, lawyers, doctors, clergymen and prominent government officials. I remember them all well and I could disturb many happy marriages in this city by telling the truth about these people.[13] On the other hand, as we have seen already, there are men who are always followed about by boys, who attract them with a specific kind of magnetism. The same Thomas, quoted by Hennig above, says, “Even when I don’t try in the least to make their acquaintance, I am sure that, wherever I may be, as soon as there are boys, they will be flocking around me within a half  hour and striking up conversations.[14]

One thing we may be sure of: it isn’t always the man who runs after the boy. There is also something in the boy that draws him towards the man. But this is a theme for our next chapter.


Continue to Chapter Three: Boys and their Sexuality


[1] Sanders, G. J. E. M., Het gewone en het bijzondere van de homoseksuele leefsituatie. In: 258 Frenken (Ed.), Seksuologie. Deventer: Van Loghum Slaterus, 1980, p. 162. [Author’s reference]

[2] Westwood, G., A Minority. London: Longmans, 1960, p. 64. [Author’s reference]

[3] Fraser, M., The Child. In: Taylor (Ed.) Perspectives on Paedophilia. London: Batsford, 1981, p. 50. [Author’s reference]

[4] Fraser, M., The Child. In: Taylor (Ed.) Perspectives on Paedophilia. London: Batsford, 1981, x. [Author’s reference]

[5] Fraser, M., The Child. In: Taylor (Ed.) Perspectives on Paedophilia. London: Batsford, 1981, p. 50. [Author’s reference]

[6] Righton, P., The Adult. In: Taylor (Ed.), Perspectives on Paedophilia. London: Batsford, 1981, p. 24. [Author’s reference]

[7] Rossman, P., Sexual Experience Between Men and Boys. New York: Association Press, 1976, p. 3. [Author’s reference]

[8] Barrington, J. S., Sexual Alternatives for Men. London: Alternative Publishing, 1981, pp. 163-164. [Author’s reference]

[9] Scheller, H. S., Die manipulierte Psyche–Heterophile Pädophilie. Tegelen: Sandra Verlag, 1979, pp. 58-59. [Author’s reference]

[10] Hennig, J.-L., Thomas, 30 ans: Bruno, 15 ans: le nouveau couple zig-zag. Recherches 37: 137-166, 1979, 157-158. [Author’s reference]

[11] Rush, F., Le secret le mieux gardé - L’exploitation sexuelle des enfants. Paris: Denoël/ Gonthier, 1980, p. 252. [Author’s reference]

[12] Corstjens, J. M. H., Opvoeding en pedofilie; sexualiteitsbeleving en attitudes ten aanzien van pedofilie. Doctoraalscriptie Nijmegen, 1975, p. 127. [Author’s reference]

[13] Osborne 1977, 1-5 [Author’s reference, but it is not clear to which of four possible articles in the bibliography this refers]

[14] Hennig, J.-L., Thomas, 30 ans: Bruno, 15 ans: le nouveau couple zig-zag. Recherches 37: 1979, 142. [Author’s reference]