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“Interfemoral Intercourse and Similar Techniques” is a section of Chapter Six, “Sexuality and Eroticism” of Loving Boys, the encyclopaedic study of Greek love by the eminent Dutch lawyer, Edward Brongersma. Published in 1990, this chapter is by far the most substantial essay in English about sex practices to be written from a Greek love perspective.

Instead of footnotes, Brongersma gave a surname and year of publication where he wanted to cite an authority or the source of a quote, and these then had to be sought in his massive bibliography. This was a tiresome system in book form and hopeless for online text, so it has here been replaced by conventional footnoting.

The illustration of this article has drawn heavily on Pan, a magazine about boy-love (Amsterdam, 1979-85) simply because Brongersma was a regular contributor to it while writing Loving Boys, so it is close to him in spirit.


Interfemoral (Between the Thighs) Intercourse and Similar Techniques

A servant waits while a man has interfemoral intercourse with a boy (replica of Attic pelike of ca. 485 BC)

In Greek Antiquity, most men sought sexual satisfaction with both sexes, and often by preference with boys. They likened the latter to heterosexual intercourse, and thus preferred interfemoral and anal techniques. The boy’s sensations were of lesser importance. The partners were thus unequal it was the man’s role to enjoy himself, and the boy’s to serve the man’s lust with his body.[1] “Acceptance of the teacher’s thrusting penis between the thighs or in his anus is the fee which the pupil pays for good teaching, or, alternatively, a gift from a younger person to an older person whom he has come to love and admire.”[2] In Greek vase painting, intercourse between the boy’s thighs is depicted over and over again,[3] and it is mostly shown standing up.

Perhaps it is this resemblance to heterosexual coitus, the extensive areas of the body where strong skin contact can be maintained, as well as the possibility of looking at and kissing the partner’s face, which accounts for the popularity of this practice among men and boys. In Carpentier’s investigation, 55% of his subjects (N = 69) mentioned interfemoral intercourse as a practice they liked, 6% exclusively in the inserter position, 1.5% as insertee. When Abu Nowas, the Arab poet, was told – wrongly! – that the Christian religion allowed boys to be used in this manner, and that Christians considered “the thighs a refuge for the member when it becomes aroused night or day”, he declared himself ready to be converted to their beliefs.[4] In English public schools the practice is so common that it has come to be known as “the English boarding school method”. Other common terms are leggings (’reaching ejaculation by rubbing the cock between willing oiled or sweaty thighs”), rubbings, slick leggings, thighs, and thigh sandwich.[5]

Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby School, invented the prefect system, where the older boys (“seniors”) supervised the behavior of the younger (“juniors”). “Fagging”, which already existed, became part of the system. A “fag” was a small boy whose duty it was to serve regularly one particular senior: shine his shoes, run errands for him, etc. – and very frequently be at the older boy’s sexual disposition. It is hardly coincidental that “fag” became a slang term for homophile. C. S. Lewis, a conservative Anglo-Catholic priest, wrote, remembering his years at school, that there were boys known as “house tarts”. A tart was “a pretty and effeminate-looking small boy who acts as a catamite to one or more of his seniors.” In this respect the otherwise severe seniors tended to be indulgent. “They did not impose chastity on the middle-class boy in addition to all his other disabilities. Pederasty among the lower classes (i.e. lower grades in school) was not ‘side’, or at least not serious side; not like putting one’s hands in one’s pockets or wearing one’s coat unbuttoned.”[6]

Sexual contact with these younger boys was nearly never obtained by force; for the most part it was freely performed and inspired with tenderness, affection, and admiration. The fag was treated like a favorite mistress. The senior laid himself down upon the junior, his penis between the thighs of the boy or pressed between their lower abdomens.

English public school boys: The Gem, 13 July 1918

504: Havelock Ellis[7] tells the story of a 35-year-old British officer who had been sent to a small private school when he was eleven. “I was initiated at school, and used to handle the penis of the boy who told me. (…) I became conscious of pleasurable sensations when lying on my stomach with an erection, and used occasionally to gratify myself that way, caring little for the school tradition that it was ‘wicked’ and bad for one. On one occasion, when talking at night with another boy, we compared our organs, both in erection, and I then for the first time thought of trying what I had heard vaguely mentioned, viz. two boys playing at man and woman. I lay on him with my penis on his stomach and almost at once had an orgasm with emission, and experienced acute pleasure. I was thirteen when this happened. I did this once more with him before I left, this time the other way up, so as to spare him the unpleasantness.” In his new school, many things happened more or less publicly. “I have myself openly got into bed with or masturbated other boys, and on more than one occasion have helped forcibly to masturbate small boys or to hold them while others had connection with them, the idea of the last two acts being that the boy would thereby be seduced and become available for, and willing to perform, homosexuality. Before I became big enough to have boys myself I masturbated frequently (on one occasion three times in the day), and invariably by lying on my stomach without the use of hands. In having connection with other boys I used to do it between the thighs or on the stomach, and I never heard of any other way at that school. Paedicatio would disgust me, and, moreover, would deprive me of the principal pleasure of intercourse, viz. the feeling of lying face to face and stomach to stomach. Of course, the satisfaction used to be mutual, but, though good-looking, I was never the passive party only, like some small boys who might be called professionals and whom I used to pay for their services.”

The emission of semen upon the other’s body, which this boy tried to spare his partner, seems to be quite disgusting to some boys.

505: (Continued from 481) Onno, on the contrary, accepted it as a beautiful gift, as a veneration of his body, when the man sharing his bed sprinkled him with “his noblest body-fluid”.

506: Quite another sentiment was voiced by Tony. Tony came from a neighborhood in Baltimore where 50% to 70% of the teenage boys used to sleep with men, 50% to 70% of the men used to sleep with boys, and all of this had been going on already for a good hundred years. “The boys have sex with girls, too, and eventually they get married, raise families, and start having sex with boys themselves.”[8] “The first time for Tony was with a 40-year-old man who invited him in for some lemonade, then suggested they go to the bedroom. There he pulled down Tony’s pants, pushed him back on the bed, crawled in on top of him, and squirmed a few times. Then he pulled his pants up quick and said, ‘You better get out.’ ‘I hate that guy,’ Tony says now. ‘I really hate him. I mean, why didn’t he get a towel and wipe me up? You know?’ ”[9]

Boys in Queensland, Australia by Rennie Ellis, 1978

507: (Continued from 495) Clarence Osborne, the Australian with 2,500 young partners, showed much more concern for them. “Osborne went to extraordinary lengths to make sure that his boys attained the maximum amount of sexual enjoyment and would stimulate his partners for hours in order to make them satisfied. (…) One of the most common ways he used to relate physically to his partners was by engaging them in whole body contact techniques. This would take a variety of different forms. At its simplest, it would involve wrestling or romping with a boy and embracing him in the process. In these situations he would rub his genitals against the boy’s body or alternatively make sure that the boy’s genitals were rubbed against his own body. A quieter version of this full body technique was simply to lie with the boy and caress him and to have, in many cases, these caresses reciprocated. During these embraces mutual masturbation and ‘tonguing’ would often occur, increasing the sexual excitement that both persons felt. Although Osborne rarely engaged in anal intercourse, he often initiated a variation of this technique. Commonly referred to as the ‘English method’, this variation obtained its name from its occurrence among boys in British public boarding schools. (…) Typically he would suggest to the boy that the boy lie on his back and hold his thighs tightly together. Then Osborne would lie on top of the youth and with a lubricated penis wold insert it between the boy’s legs just below his crotch. He would thrust his penis in and out of the boy’s legs emulating sexual intercourse. Often too, Osborne would suggest that the boy lie on his stomach and would thrust between the boy’s buttocks without entering his anus. He records that boys would often ask to be stimulated by this form of interfemoral intercourse and would obtain great delight from it.”[10]

508: “At fourteen I was a bellboy on a transatlantic liner and (…) an oiler crept in bed with me and wanted to brown me. I allowed him to put it between my legs. It gave me a terrific thrill and I had my first orgasm. The collapse following the orgasm was complete. I was so terrified that I leapt out of bed and fled. The man was surprised and tried to call me back. After that affair I started masturbating and ever since there has been no more delightful experience than to fantasy the oiler while masturbating.”[11]

André Gide said he never used any other technique[12] and Rolfe (Baron Corvo) philosophized about it in his Venice Letters:

Italian boys by Wilhelm von Plüschow

509: (Continued from 242) He writes to his friends: “You both preferred the small, the 14 – while my preference was for the 16, 17, 18 and large. I have been trying to understand your preference, to find a reason for it, and I totally fail. This is why. There is not enough of a little person for me to enjoy all of it. It lies naked on its back. I stretch myself on its belly, my yard in the softness of its thighs. I clip it with my legs and arms: it hugs my body: and we begin to wrestle. But where is its face? Where are the sparkling eyes, in whose depths I may see the ripple of pleasure? Where are the hot sweet lips which I may devour with mine? Buried under my breast and half suffocated. And I cannot thus enjoy the long long joys of contact, the delicious rests in struggling, the kisses and the vigorous renewals. But a big and lusty long body, like Gildo’s or Amadeo’s or Piero’s, gives me all I want. The long muscular legs strain my thighs widely to clutch them. My yard thrusts through the cleft of their big thighs, my belly feels the heat and throbbing of their raging yard; and my body stretches to its uttermost, clutching their writhing muscles in my arms, to reach their rosy mouths, to breath their burning soft sweet breath, to kiss wildly in the fight, to laugh and kiss their brilliant sparkling eyes and every inch of them within my reach, and to sink panting on their great white shoulders or to bite their gorgeous throats, breast to breast and heart to heart. Do you see? A soft little body is all very well to lie in one’s arms all night: but it cannot give me furious joys. I want one long enough to be face to face with me while I thrust through its thighs, and strong enough to struggle and to give as much joy as I take.”[13]

Of all practices advancing beyond mutual masturbation, this is probably the easiest for beginners.

510: “As I undress him, he undresses me. As I touch him, he touches me. Naked at last, I tightly hugging, we move together in that slow & ancient dance all other dances merely echo, fucking standing up. I tickle his buttocks – he didn’t know they were ticklish – and he thrusts against me with sudden vigor, unbalancing us. We fall upon my handy bed and fuck forever, face to face, cock to cock between our bellies rubbing, dry at first but ever more & more lubricated by glad sweat. This is what I’d planned, it being, of all homosexual devices, the one least extraneously upsetting for beginners. We breathe heavily, panting parts of words & grunting, ohing & ahing gloriously, our hands all over each other finding centers of sensation, while the sensations in our cocks (mine, anyway, and from the evidence, his) mount ever in electrical intensity until explosively we come, spurting hot goo across our sweat-slimed stomachs – the spunky, almost Clorox smell of semen set at liberty – and fuck beyond that to exhaustion & lie still.”[14]

In this position the accent may be put on rubbing the genitals together.

511: Hephaistion, Alexander the Great’s lifelong friend, remembers in Peyrefitte’s novel how as a 13-year-old he fell in love with him: “Love… what did it mean? I knew nothing about it, and neither did he. When we were troubled by our first emissions of semen during the night, the grave Leonidas explained that this was a trick of a very secretive and crafty god called Gamus, born of a dream Eros caused Zeus to have and during which the Olympian ruler had wet the soil with his seed. Later each of us for himself discovered how we could produce with our hands the same effect, but we never thought of doing it together.” One night Hephaistion dares enter the room where Alexander is asleep. “I crept into his bed. I felt his breathing below me. I looked only at his face, although he had pushed aside his sheet: he was as naked as I. Suddenly my eyes dilated: at the center of his body, Priapus was erect – and it was immediately the same with me. My hand went to Alexander, ready to greet him, respectfully, imploring his aid, when he opened his eyes. He stared, frightened, then recognized me and smiled. I don’t know whether he was smiling at me or at the god who was playing with our nerves. I fell into his arms, weeping, covering him with my kisses, and, despite his surprise, he didn’t object. Instinctively we pressed our bodies together. Priapus struggled with Priapus; his double victory came quickly. We didn’t speak a word.”[15]


[1] This is surely an entirely one-sided and therefore prejudiced representation of the give-and-take involved in Greek pederasty and certainly not how it is described by Dover, quoted in the next sentence. It would be no more misleading to say only that “it was the boy’s role to receive adoration, attention, protection and dedication to his good, and the man’s to give them.”

[2] Dover. K. J., Greek Homosexuality. London: Duckworth, 1978. 91. [Author’s reference]

[3] Koch-Harnack, G., Knabenliebe und Tiergeschenke. Berlin: Mann, 1983. 79. [Author’s reference]

[4] Wagner, E., Abu Nuwas. Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1965. 202. [Author’s reference]

[5] Bianchi, H., “The Prison Structure.” In: Duyves et al (Eds.), Among Men, Among Women. Amsterdam: Gay-Studies and Women’s Studies University of Amsterdam Conference, 1983. 119. [Author’s reference]

[6] Bullough, V. L., Homosexuality–A History. New York: Garland, 1979, 106-7. [Author’s reference]

[7] Ellis, H., Studies in the Psychology of Sex. Philadelphia: David, 1913. III 307-308. [Author’s reference]

[8] Rose, F., Men and Boys Together. The Village Voice 23, 9: 1, 17-21, 1978. 20. [Author’s reference]

[9] Rose, F., Men and Boys Together. The Village Voice 23, 9: 1, 17-21, 1978. 20. [Author’s reference]

[10] Wilson, P., The Man They Called a Monster. North Ryde: Cassell Australia, 1981. 42. [Author’s reference]

[11] Henry, G. W., Sex Variants. New York: Hoeber, 1948. 194. [Author’s reference]

[12]  Buffière, F., Eros adolescent–La pédérastie dans la Grèce antique. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1980. 21. [Author’s reference]

[13] Rolfe, F. (Baron Corvo), The Venice Letters. London: Woolf, 1974. 46 [Author’s reference]. This passage and all others in the same book pertaining to Greek love are on this website.

[14] Valentine, J., Puppies. Glen Ellen: Entwhistle Books, 1979. 64. [Author’s reference]

[15] Peyrefitte, R., La jeunesse d’Alexandre. Paris: Albin Michel, 1977. 99-101. [Author’s reference] This novel has never been translated into English, though its value as an indicator of real sexual practices at any time is hardly much, considering it is only 20th-century French fiction about ancient Greece.




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