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three pairs of lovers with space




Greek love was commonly practised by many of Australia's aboriginal tribes. The similarity in way of life between them as hunter-gatherers (but as late as the early 20th century and so witnessed by many anthropologists), and prehistoric people everywhere in the very long mesolithic period of human existence, and the prevalence of pederasty amongst them, means they offer far more credible insight than industrialised societies into the likely role of Greek love when human nature was formed.

The anthropologist Carl Strehlow reported in 1915 that pederasty was a "recognised custom" among the Aranda of Central Australia:

Commonly a man, who is fully initiated but not yet married, takes a boy ten or twelve years old, who lives with him as a wife for several years, until the older man marries. The boy is neither circumcised nor subincised, though he may have ceased to be regarded as a boy and is considered a young man. The boy must belong to the proper marriage class from which the man might take a wife.[1]

In 1929, Géza Róheim, known as the father of psychoanalytic psychology, stayed for eight months among the tribes of the same region and described the exogamous pederasty of both the Aranda and the nearby Nambutji:

The future father-in-law goes about with his son-in-law after initiation and regularly has intercourse with him. They call the younger man the "boy-wife" of the elder one. As a sort of compensation for this intercourse, in which he is made to accept the passive role, he then receives the daughter of his "husband" as his wife.[2]

In his posthumous magnus opus, Children of the Desert, Róheim expanded on his psychosexual study of central Australians and vividly portrayed Wilikutuku, a nine-year-old Nambutji loved-boy.

Another anthropologist Phillis Kaberry, who did fieldwork in the Kimberley region in the north of Western Australia in 1934-6 for her study of aboriginal women, noted that:

... homosexuality amongst the men did exist. The youths of 17 to 18 who were still unmarried would take boys of 10 or 11 as lovers. The women had no hesitation in discussing the matter with me, did not regard it as shameful, gave the names of different boys, and seemed to regard the practice as a temporary substitute for marriage.

She also recorded the wife of an older man saying “no more want him old husband; him get ‘em young boy”.[3]

The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes gives several descriptions of pederasty as a common practise in the British convict settlements in late 18th and early 19th century Australia.

During the Second World War, large numbers of American servicemen spent time in Queensland for either military training or rest and recreation:

Willing local youths joined the more seasoned camp men in competing with their sisters for American largesse in short and long term sexual liaisons. The phrase ‘cock sucker’ seems to have entered Australian English during the war. One Brisbane man who was a teenager in the 1940s remembers that Americans on leave stayed at the YMCA or in the People’s Palace: "You had to sneak in quickly when the staff at the front desk were turned away. The best way to get Yanks was to go into the showers. You’d walk around fully dressed, while they were naked under the open showers and wait for developments. Two shillings and six pence was the going rate for a head job."

One Townsville man who was fourteen in 1942 has fond memories of the free services he provided for the troops. Often when his mother thought that he had cycled off on a message to the shops, he was down at the tents providing relief to willing Americans. The gay Americans made sure they shared tents with servicemen of like mind, which left him no problem dealing with three in one blow (so as to speak). A Brisbane man of similar age tells stories of his youthful experiences when he took the tram to town to pick-up American servicemen in the city parks.[4]

In the "scanty" section on Australia in their global survey of boy prostitution, Boys for Sale (1969), Drew and Drake briefly mention the foregoing pederasty described by Hughes, then conclude (p. 139):

 As Australian culture and civilization develop, boy prostitution declines. Now, it is largely confined (as far as we know) to amateurs and immigrant boys in a couple of the larger cities.

Parker Rossman's Sexual Experience between Men and Boys (1976) includes an interview with an American soldier who briefly described trysts with boys in Sydney at the time of the Vietnam War.

The Diaries of Donald Friend, IV covers the last years of this Australian artist 's life, 1966-89, but the Greek love references extracted almost entirely concern his time living in Bali.

The Man They Called a Monster is a sociologist’s study of a Brisbane man who kept meticulous records  over twenty years of the roughly 2500 mostly adolescent boys of varied social background he made love to, and not one of whom every complained to anyone. Based on these records and interviews conducted with both the man (before his suicide) and some of his former boys, the book offers priceless insight into how pederasty could be practised in the already fairly-repressive climate of Australia in the 1960s and 1970s.

I Came to Australia by Anthony Bacon recounts the vivid impressions of the boy-love scene in Sydney by an immigrant in the early 1980s.



The Melanesian tribes visited by 20th-century anthropologists practiced simple farming and were thus already neolithic, but still offer rich insight into the role of Greek love in prehistoric society.

The Kaluli of the Great Papuan Plateau and Papuans of the Trans-Fly were two of the many tribes of New Guinea where all pubescent boys were pedicated by the young men, such being considered essential to their growing-up. Interesting variations of this culturally-required custom were to be found amongst other tribes. The Kaluli's neighbours, the Onabasulu, favoured courtship and more lasting love between men and boys; the latter masturbated their lovers who then rubbed their semen on the boys' skins.

Greek love in the Solomon Islands is a 1963-5 study of the sexual culture of an area where extra-marital heterosex was strongly taboo, but mutual pedication by adolescent boys and pedication of boys of seven to eleven by men, whether married or not, were widely practised and openly discussed.

Stone Men of Malekula by John Layard is an anthropological study of the second largest island in the New Hebrides, mostly based on what the author found there in 1913-4, including the strongly pederastic Big Nambas whose boys had "husbands" with exclusive sexual rights over them until their initiation into manhood.



Together with indigenous North America and parts of India and mainland South East Asia, Polynesia was one of the areas of the the world where gender-differentiated homosexuality flourished. According to this model, the passive partner in a homosexual liaison dressed and behaved like a woman, rather than being differentiated from his lover through boyishness versus manliness, as in Greek love. Generally, one of these forms of traditional homosexuality predominated over the other. In most of the world, and especially where Greek love was admired, the effeminate was despised, but in Polynesia, being a transvestite mahu was accepted as a way of life for a self-chosen few and dominated homosexuality in the popular imagination. However, as usual where this was the case, the institution of the mahu by no means excluded pederasty, since the mahu began feminising himself and having sex with men at or before puberty; moreover, Greek love with non-mahu boys was tolerated as casual fun without becoming ubiquitous.

Greek love in Tahiti is an assembly of accounts by foreign travelers who stayed in Tahiti between 1789 and 1961.

The traditional sexual culture of the Marquesas Islands, including some Greek love was described by Robert Suggs in his Marquesan Sexual Behavior.

In strange contrast to the rest of Polynesia and indeed Oceania, there is no surviving evidence of the pre-colonial Maoris of New Zealand practising any forms of homosexuality, except that the testimony of four Maori youths in 1836 that the English missionary William Yate had engaged in sexual play and fellatio with them made it clear that Maoris were already familiar with at least mutual masturbation. New Zealand was colonised by Great Britain 1840, leading to an influx of British settlers who brought their anti-sodomy laws with them and, only a generation later, began to outnumber the native Maori (Polynesian) population. “ 'Waiting for Uncle Ben': Age-Structured Homosexuality in New Zealand, 1920–1950" by Chris Brickell,[5] a richly-informative survey from court records of the time, shows that Greek love was fairly common in the cities of New Zealand and mostly regarded no differently to androphile homosexuality.  Only in 1961 did it begin to be treated with special harshness by the law; the distinction made much firmer when homosexuality involving over-16s was legalised in 1986, by when it had become subject to special social stigma.


[1] Carl Strehlow, Die Aranda- und Loritja-Stämme in Zentral-Australien Vol. IV (ii), Das Soziale Leben der Aranda- und Loritja-Stämme (Frankfurt, 1915) p. 98.

[2] Géza Róheim, “Psycho-Analysis of Primitive Cultural Types” published in The International Journal of Psycho-analysis XIII (Jan.-Apr. 1932).

[3] Phyllis M. Kaberry, Aboriginal Woman: Sacred and Profane (new edition, London & New York, 2004) p. 168.

[4] Clive Moore, Sunshine and Rainbows: The Development of Gay and Lesbian Culture in Queensland, University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia, 2001, pp. 108-9. The quotation is from the author's interview with Jean Saint, Brisbane, 15 November 1997.

[5] Published in Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 21, No. 3 (2012) pp. 467-495. Available online.




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