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three pairs of lovers with space




The following letter from “a Dutch mother […] to the NVSH, the Dutch Union for Sexual Reform, published in members newsletter No. 411980”, is taken from the chapter titled “Letters” of Secret Love: Eros between Boy and Man (2022), an anonymous translation of Wolf Vogel’s  Heimliche Liebe: Eros zwischen Knabe und Mann (Hamburg: John & Ernst, 1997).


“For several years now, my ten-year-old son has been inviting his somewhat older friend to stay overnight with us on weekends from time to time. They got to know one another way back in nursery school, and have stuck together through thick and

thin ever since, the way it is with boys, in an unshakable bond, occasionally interrupted by the quarrels that go along with that. I am very fond of children, which is also why I was active in youth work for many years. That’s why I also take great pleasure in observing everything my own children are up to.

I am always jealous when I see how my young son and his friend get along with one another. They also have quite a few secrets between each other. You notice this when they hide behind a comic book, turn to one another, and furtively grin, or when you hear them in their backyard tent whispering weightily.

Sometimes it makes me really curious. Then I like to creep up closer, in order to eavesdrop. I don’t allow myself to contemplate my son opening up the tent and catching his mother in the act, as you prick up your ears in order to spy on him and his friend. I would die of mortification.

So, one time, I also heard them goofing around in the bedroom. But it’s only two or three weeks ago that I had a really bad scare. As always, before I go to bed myself, I just look in on the children—out of maternal concern, I mean—to see that they’re warmly tucked in and so forth. My husband was already in bed when I went to my son’s (and his friend’s) room. And what do I see: two stark-naked little boys, their underwear down somewhere by their feet, intimately entwined with each other, arms and legs around one another—thus they lay there sleeping with contended looks on their faces.

10  13 asleep 1980 d4

I was ambivalent. On the one hand, I had to inwardly laugh, thinking: ‘those rascals!’ On the other hand, as I already said, I was terribly frightened by this unexpected confrontation. I didn’t know what I should do. First I thought: ‘You mustn’t do that!,’ and wanted to wake them up and demonstrably separate them. I thought about laying the boy down somewhere else, and forbidding him from coming to visit us in the future. I considered giving my boy a couple of strong smacks on his naked buttocks. Then, I even thought about subjecting them to a harsh interrogation: ‘Which one of you initiated this sexual orgy?’ Because, of course, as a mother, you cannot imagine that your own son would’ve done this. But fortunately I admonished myself, and in any event, decided to postpone the taking of any measures until the following day. I very carefully covered the ‘obscene boys’ with sheets and blankets, and my son breathed a deep sigh and snuggled even closer against his friend—whose anyway already mischievous expression seemed to take on an even more lascivious aura.

Although my husband called for me to come to bed, I made my excuses and went down to the living room. I poured myself a big glass of sherry and sat down there for a good half-hour in deep thought. I was conflicted, in a way that was not particularly easy to resolve: Should I discuss this with my husband? Of course, I knew what he thought about gays and such. I remember his rage when he found out that an older son of course had gotten a haircut from a barber who was well-known for being gay. My son’s defense—that he was ‘the best barber in the area’—was rejected by my husband: ‘Better to get a bad haircut than to have the paws of such a disgusting person on your head!’ I also considered the parents of my youngest’s friend. They would certainly not be able to swallow this, and it could lead to sharp words.

As I slipped into bed with my husband with another sherry, this elicited a deep sigh from him as well. He wrapped his strong arms around me and lovingly drew me to him. In a boisterous gesture in response, I slung my arms and legs around him in exactly the same way my son had been ‘shown’ how to do. My husband murmured in my ear: ‘Delightful, my darling,’ and I thought: ‘Delightful, yes.’ Suddenly I wondered why only we were permitted to have this wonderful feeling, and the two boys in the room next door were not. And there arose within me a feeling of rebellion against a church and a culture which made it impossible for me as a mother and a child—rearer to be tolerant of two splendid friends who, in their natural behavior, did precisely what God and nature have provided them as proof of their love for one another, as the most fundamental and most magnificent form of expression. Consequently, I resolved to keep to myself what I had been confronted with as a secret. In the next few days, when the opportunity arose, I would speak with my son about love and sex, without tipping him off as to the reason for it. However, as of today, I still haven’t gotten around to it.

His friend slept here again this past week. In the evening, they again sat together and grinned over their comic books. I did not go to check on them in the evening, even though I was concerned that it could get cold at night.”