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three pairs of lovers with space


The following is the one of the sections of the seventh chapter of Dr. Parker Rossman’s
Sexual Experience Between Men and Boys
(New York, 1976), entitled "The Uses of History", and introduced here.

The Western Underground

"Zeus dandying a boy on his lap" (Hamburger Kunsthalle)

For every European visitor to North Africa and the Middle East who was scandalized by the erotic dancing boys, there was another who brought new tastes and interests back to Europe with him. On the other hand, the Crusaders may well have taken as much pederasty with them as they brought back to Europe,[1] as in more modern times Flaubert, in his diary of a state visit to Egypt,[2] admits that he undertook the trip partly to sample the pederast diversions of the country, where “it is quite accepted … is spoken of at the table in the hotel … everyone teases you, and you end up confessing that you skewered your lad.” Certainly there is evidence of a pederast underground in the Middle Ages in Europe which almost flowered above ground in the Renaissance, fed as it was by the circulation of Greek classics, and by such imitations as Alcibiades, a manual on how to seduce a schoolboy. The Earl of Rochester described taking page boys to bed, Christopher Marlowe began one of his plays with a scene of Zeus dandying a boy on his lap,[3] and the motivation of men who paid admission to enter the dressing rooms of boy actors, and those who employed boys to dance dressed as Cupids, was probably not much different from those who paid dancing boys in the East. Boy prostitution was common in nearly every European country, with open brothels in many of them - as in Asia - until World War II. Police in the United States also winked an eye at boy prostitution and consenting mutual sex play between men and boys over puberty, unless parents filed a complaint.

In the last fifty years, with the growing concern for child welfare, laws and their enforcement have been tightened against drugs, prostitution and sexual deviance. If strict laws and their enforcement would prevent pederasty, its history would end at this point.[4]


[1] See Norah Lofts, The Lute Player (Garden City: Doubleday, 1951); Zoe Oldenberg, The Crusades  (New York: Ballantine Books, 1966), pp. 691-92; Walter O’Meara, The Devil’s Cross (New York: Knopf, 1957), etc. [Author’s footnote] It is hard to believe any of these three authors could have found evidence to support the grotesquely improbably implication of this, that pederasty in high mediaeval Europe was as widespread as it was then in the Near East, but if anyone knows of any such evidence, the editor of this article would be most grateful to be informed.

[2] G. Flaubert, Flaubert in Egypt, London: Bodley Head, 1972 [Author’s footnote]. The visit Gustave Flaubert made to Egypt, in 1849-50, was purely a private adventure and had nothing whatsoever to do with any state.

[3] The Tragedie of Dido Queene of Carthage, first performed between 1587 and 1593.

[4] The point of view that pederasty was still flourishing despite unprecedented repression and therefore always would, was entirely understandable in the 1970s and common then among writers on the subject, but looks less obviously true in the 21st century after intervening decades of repression of a severity they failed to imagine.




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