Preface : Home : Chapter 2
Chapter 1: The Seeds of Rebellion
Probably few people who have heard of T.H. White, author of The Once and Future King, a quartet of novels based on Arthurian legend, realise that he was a paedophile. Yet he made no great secret of the fact, and readers of Sylvia Townsend Warner's biography of him learn of his love for a young boy in a letter of awesome dignity and courage:
'… I have fallen in love with Zed. On Braye Beach with Killie I waved and waved to the aircraft till it was out of sight – my wild geese all gone and me a lonely old Charlie on the sands who had waddled down to the water's edge but couldn't fly. It would be unthinkable to make Zed unhappy with the weight of this impractical, unsuitable love. It would be against his human dignity. Besides, I love him for being happy and innocent, so it would be destroying what I loved. He could not stand the weight of the world against such feelings – not that they are bad in themselves. It is the public opinion which makes them so. In any case, on every score of his happiness, not my safety, the whole situation is an impossible one. All I can do is behave like a gentleman. It has been my hideous fate to be born with an infinite capacity for love and joy with no hope of using them.
'I do not believe that some sort of sexual relations with Zed would do him harm – he would probably think and call them t'rific. I do not believe I could hurt him spiritually or mentally. I do not believe that perverts are made so by seduction. I do not think that sex is evil, except when it is cruel or degrading, as in rape, sodomy, etc., or that I am evil or that he could be. But the practical facts of life are an impenetrable barrier – the laws of God, the laws of Man. His age, his parents, his self-esteem, his self-reliance, the process of his development in a social system hostile to the heart, the brightness of his being which has made this what a home should be for three whole weeks of utter holiday, the fact that the old exist for the benefit of the young, not vice versa, the factual impossibilities set up by law and custom, the unthinkableness of turning him into a lonely or sad or eclipsed or furtive person – every possible detail of what is expedient, not what is moral, offers the fox to my bosom, and I must let it gnaw.' 1
At the time when, in my mid–twenties, I chanced on this terrible self-denying ordinance, its unspeakable despair decently cloaked in the brave stoicism expected of an English gentleman, I already had behind me nearly a decade of feeling exactly what White felt: time and again there had been boys, and a swelling of tenderness within me towards them – and that dread, inescapable feeling that I too had been born 'with an infinite capacity for love and joy with no hope of using them', for all the seeming-good reasons White spells out with such devastating clarity.
Yet unlike White, I could not accept. I could not believe that it was right that the love inside me should be repressed, crushed, aborted. It had to be there for a purpose. It had to be there to do good with. I'm not a Christian. I don't believe in God, but at times I wish I did, because then at least I could appeal to the idea that I have been made as I am as part of His Great Purpose, and my love made accordingly. This is a sentiment Iris Murdoch caught perfectly in her novel The Bell:
'Somehow it might be possible to go on knowing him, it might be possible to watch over him and help him. Michael felt a deep need to build, to retain, his friendship with Toby; there was no reason why such a friendship should not be fruitful for both of them; and he felt a serene confidence in his own most scrupulous discretion. So it would be that this moment of joy would not be something strange and isolated, but rather something which pointed forward to a long and profound responsibility, a task. There would be no moment like this again. But something of its sweetness would linger, in a way that Toby would never know, in humble services obscurely performed at future times. He was conscious of such a fund of love and goodwill for the young creature beside him. It could not be that God intended such a spring of love to be quenched utterly. There must, there must be a way in which it could be made a power for good. Michael did not in that instant feel that it would be difficult to make it so.' 2
It is not at all difficult for a non-believer to feel much as Michael did. Like him, I am profoundly sure that my innermost feelings towards children are benevolent. Like White, I see no inherent contradiction between the sexual nature of my love and the affectional aspect of it: the two are complementary. The problem lies in the obstacles society puts between me and the expression of my best intentions towards children.
What are these intentions, it may be asked, and what special road to hell am I paving with them?
I have been sexually attracted towards children, especially boys, since I was a child myself. From six onwards I recall consistently rejecting the overtures of little girls who said, 'I'll show you mine if you show me yours' – I would have been ashamed to do anything so rude – but beyond the age of ten or so the thought of other boys' bodies began to excite me beyond my power to resist.
My school days have in fact been the most sexually active ones of my life to date, particularly between the ages of eleven and fourteen; it was so easy then to slip into intimacy with one's peers, partly because they were as randy as I was, and partly because there was the opportunity to know them so well, without first having to climb over those artificial barriers of fear and prohibition that divide generations from each other. We didn't do anything beyond mutual masturbation, and indeed I had no wish to – not that there is anything 'cruel or degrading' about 'sodomy', in my estimation, providing the act is one involving mutual consent.
Only when I reached the fifth and sixth forms did things become difficult for me. Whereas other boys talked more and more about girls, and interested themselves less and less with each other, I gradually realised that I was not developing as they were. Girls, especially grown-up ones, held little interest; nor did boys of my own age any more, for I remained attracted only to the prepubescent ones, especially each year's new 'fuzzers' – the eleven–year–olds in their little grey shorts, who seemed ever more appealing. Not just in a sexual way, either, as it had been with my pals in earlier years. It was a sort of cross between a tender wish to protect and look after them – a 'maternal' feeling, if you will – and a romantic, chivalric even, extension of this feeling into something which I could identify as masculine. Nowadays I couldn't give a damn whether my feelings are 'masculine' or 'feminine', so long as they have a broad human validity, but in my youth I would have died with shame at the thought of being in any way effeminate. I even supposed I would eventually turn on to girls, and gradually become puzzled and anxious that it was not happening.
Little Osgood was my first love, though he never knew it. I never even found out his first name, as everyone called him 'Osgood' or 'Ossie'. We were in the same House, and although I had countless opportunities to talk to him I never dared. I thought I'd mess things up. I'd make a fool of myself. I'd offend him. And even if I didn't, what on earth could I find to say to him? I was in the sixth form now, discovering Keynesian economics and the philosophy of Enlightenment Europe. How could I ever begin to feign an interest in Osgood's model aeroplanes or his stamp collection? And if I could, how could I sustain the patent insincerity of it, when all the time my thoughts would be on gently stroking the nape of his slender, delicate neck . .
The nearest I ever came to intimacy with him was at one remove, a voyeuristic experience. It was the day of the House play, and Osgood was a 'native', whose face and arms and legs needed lots of brown make-up. I was in the play too, but even with the help of that connection I was too timid to talk to him in a friendly way.
'Can someone help Osgood black-up?' said a teacher. 'We don't have much time.'
What a perfect chance! But no. I just stood there, tongue-tied and foot-rooted, as the moment passed and a less inhibited sixth-former jumped at the opportunity. How they chatted and laughed, those two! How sensuously, or so it seemed to my longing eyes, the older boy daubed and rubbed Osgood's young limbs, letting his fingers stray unnecessarily far up the leg of the boy's shorts. I was sick with envy, of course, but also excited by the revelation that Osgood appeared to like being touched, seemed not at all offended by the older boy's wandering hands.
It has always been hard for me to believe that there are children, boys or girls, who actually like erotic involvement with people much older than themselves. Harder for me, probably, than for a lot of those who so violently denounce paedophilia. So throughout my early adult years all boys were on account of this like Osgood to me, an impossible dream; although I learned to talk to them, shyly, tentatively, I never came even remotely close to sexual involvement. Like Iris Murdoch's Michael, I kept thinking there had to be good in my love, but I had no idea how to release it: Young couples become parents and witness child sexuality at first hand (unless of course they are the kind of parents who instil shame and furtiveness about sex right from the first signs). I had only the model of my own childhood to tell me what children are like – and I could not remember having had sexual feelings at all before the age of ten, when almost overnight, it seemed, these feelings became quite intense, some three years before puberty. Not even then would I have welcomed the attentions of an adult. As an individual, I didn't personally feel any need for non–parental adult affection, still less adult sexuality, any expression of which would have distressed me.
My background, as you may have surmised, was rooted in the view that anything to do with the genital areas of the body was unspeakably rude; even the mildest physical affection between adults, such as an embrace, was considered 'sloppy'. Like many another child, when I was first told the facts of life (at school), my reaction was 'My Mum and Dad couldn't possibly do anything as dirty as that!'; but perhaps unlike so many other children, I cannot recall ever seeing my parents kiss each other, or embrace, in all the years of my childhood. As may be imagined, I never saw my parents naked, and the sight of any adult's genitals would have given me quite a shock.
And yet my parents were happily married, so far as I could tell. I loved them, they loved me. Such physical affection as was evident in the family tended to be transgenerational. My father, for instance, was not a distant or aloof figure, as some fathers are, and he was affectionate, in a rough, manly sort of way. My mother was the tender one, and in my infancy and early childhood, since I was a particularly sickly, feeble specimen, I needed all the tenderness I could get. In later childhood, when I no longer needed all the kisses and cuddles quite so much, they continued unabated, much to my embarrassment. Small wonder, then, that I wouldn't have welcomed even more of such treatment from a grown man outside the family.
There are those who will detect in all this the aetiology of my 'perversion'. Let them. I am not interested in why I am a paedophile, any more than others are interested in why they are 'normal'. The point I am trying to make is simply that the models of behaviour presented to me in childhood left me as an adult with a limited and far from universal view of what it feels like to be a child.
My own childhood led me to generalise falsely that all other children would think sexuality disgustingly rude; that they would be as frightened by an adult, especially an adult stranger, talking to them about it as I would have been. Even now, when talking to any child for the first time, I am still very conscious of exactly this assumption, and intend to remain so: for until I know otherwise – from her or his own behaviour – the child I am talking to might well be one of the many whose attitudes towards sex have already been poisoned by the guilty silence with which their parents hedge it around. But there are also plenty of children whose parents, fortunately, have a relatively healthy, animalistic view of sex. Their children grow up curious about it, wanting to know more about what Mum and Dad get up to, wanting to join in themselves, not being terrified of it, eager to involve themselves sexually with peers and adults alike.
It appals me now to think of the embarrassed, slightly old-fashioned, schoolmasterly way in which I have rejected children's sexual curiosity (and sometimes more than curiosity) in the past, simply because I couldn't believe the evidence of my ears and eyes that the children really wanted to involve me in any way in their sex lives.
I remember a hostelling holiday, when one night some of my third-year boys and myself (for I actually was a teacher then) had a dormitory to ourselves. On that occasion I was inveigled – not without considerable protest on my part – into a game of strip poker. As we were approaching the exciting stage, underpants only all round, I had no shortage of encouragement:
'Bet you've got a whopper, ain't you, sir?'
'D'you wanna see Woody's? He's bigger than you think!'
Just games, of course. Mere curiosity. Nothing important. To cries of 'Spoilsport!' I told everyone things had gone quite far enough. We had to be up early in the morning and it was high time we all got some sleep.
At other times, boys of no more than nine or ten have flaunted erect little penises at me in the changing rooms, introduced the subject of masturbation into the conversation, asked questions about homo-sexuality, requested me to take photographs of them urinating, and invited me to inspect 'operation' scars in private places – in all cases with a positive disinclination on my part to introduce what I thought for them might be a distasteful or frightening subject. Such incidents might happen to any adult who likes children enough to spend a lot of time in their company, and who is able to gain their confidence.
Thus did I gradually discover that children are not always appalled by sex, as I had been as a child. Similarly, because I had all the affection I needed from my parents, I supposed the same would apply to others too. At a conscious level I soon came to realise that this was nonsense – one could hardly help being aware that all too many children are deprived of parental affection – but at a deeper level I have found it hard to believe that the cuddles and caresses I might have to offer would not be repulsed, particularly by older boys. The dictates of social convention, the idea that it is sissy and unmanly for boys to want affection, have also served to militate in the direction of giving credence to my intuitive feeling: there are boys who really do need affection, and who have been socialised out of all ability to respond to it naturally – but there are others who can accept it and benefit from it.
Not always 'deprived' children either. Take Jonathan. He was nine when our paths crossed all too briefly on a camping holiday, although I would have guessed he was at least a couple of years older. To all appearances his family home was an idyllically happy one. His parents struck me as sensible, caring people. Yet Jonathan could not have too much affection from me. Whatever we did on that holiday, wherever we went, he wanted to be in my company. At the very least he would hold my hand, and much of the time we would walk about arm-in-arm, to the puzzlement and possible consternation of other adults at the camp. He even asked if he could sleep with me, and I have reason to suppose that he meant more than just sharing my tent.
The belief that such things could happen has come only very slowly to me, as time and experience – and learning about the freer sexual expression of children at other times and in other cultures of the world – have eroded the notion that all children are 'innocent', and that there is no place for paedophile love.
Effectively, like T.H. White, I offered the fox to my bosom for years, sustained by just one slender hope; the hope that I might somehow make a go of marriage, and raise a family of my own. For then I could be a good daddy. I'd be able to express my love physically enough by hugging the children, and bathing them, and changing their clothes. They would never need to know that doing these things was a sexual turn-on for me. I would hide that for their sake. I would keep it in check. They would be very aware that I loved them, and rightly so, but they would never need to know that I was 'abnormal'.
The family doctor thought all this was a good idea too. He supposed that exposure to women would give me a taste for them, and that I would soon 'outgrow' all this nonsense about boys.
No one ever more assiduously tried to follow a doctor's advice, and my efforts were not without success of a kind: I never had the slightest trouble in attracting the interest of women. Very often pretty, and personable ones too, so that the social side of relationships was plain sailing. I never did find a skinny, boyish, flat-breasted one, though. In a way it would have been cheating. Instead, I tried desperately hard to find something exciting about women's breasts (put yourself in my position: try, for a moment, to get excited about little boys' penises), to learn to love nylon stockings and powder puffs and all the other alien incidentals that go with womankind, and which I had so far regarded with profound distaste. This was all absolutely necessary, because I could not cynically feign love for a woman in order to marry her, just to have her as a dam for the children.
I was engaged to be married, for a while. She liked me well enough, and would have gone through with the marriage, given an ounce of encouragement. I told myself I loved her, in a Gideon, cerebral way at least, and I tried to fool myself that I would come to love her body with more familiarity. Or rather I would lose my revulsion for it, just as a loathing for spiders can be mastered if one grits one's teeth and makes a determined effort to get close to the little beasts.
I intend no disrespect to women in general, or my fiancé in particular, when I say that the task was too much for me; after only a few months the engagement was broken. My few belaboured, pitiful performances between the sheets, all role-playing and false passion, should have told me the inevitable fate of any future such liaisons, but that did not prevent me trying again, many times.
I advertised in the personal columns of magazines like Private Eye and the London Weekly Advertiser, to find someone interested in a rapid marriage, entered into on both sides with eyes open, but stripped of the hideous, drawn-out, romantic posturing of courtship. My hope was to find someone who wanted a man about the place to be a father and a breadwinner (or else house-husband to a career woman), rather than a giver of sexual love. At first I coyly described myself in the ads as 'fond of children', and met a number of divorcees and separated women, some of whom already had delightful children of their own.
In fact all sorts of women answered my ads, including, for no reason I could fathom, lots of nurses. One of these was a Chelsea swinger, who insisted on fellating me within an hour of meeting. It was a sort of sexual first aid, because I had told her I wasn't very good at making love. Others included a Moroccan belly dancer, a sixth-former, a nymphomaniac housewife whose husband couldn't stand the pace, a Salvation Army girl who I really thought might be my salvation, a fifteen-stone shop assistant, a 'fantastically thick chick' (her words) and several lesbians.
There were so many I couldn't keep up with their names. I just vaguely knew them as 'Miss Pinner, or Miss Finchley Central', or 'Miss Welwyn Garden City'. But I don't think I ever treated any of them cynically or dishonourably. As soon as possible I would try to tactfully introduce them to the real reason for my interest, and usually – not always – that would be the abrupt end of it.
Eventually, rather than wasting their time and mine, rather than building up false expectations all round, I tried to make my ads themselves more candid. Time Out balked at the word 'paedophile', but astonishingly they accepted an ad in which I described myself as 'crazy about choirboys, cub scouts and Alice-In-Wonderland little girls'. Even more astonishingly seven women replied to it, though not one of them had taken what I said literally. Yet again I found myself faced with a dreary round of explanation and failure.
Other aspects of my life were less bizarre. After graduating in history from Lancaster University in 1967, I went into teaching, at a big comprehensive, and for the most part reconciled myself to simply doing a conscientious job. An old undergraduate friend wrote asking how the job was going. In return he received an enthusiastic, but doubtless unspeakably boring, 2,700-word essay on the objectives, methods, priorities and problems involved in teaching English to eleven–year–olds! I was keen, you see. It just bubbled out of me. I wanted so much to be good at teaching. Partly it was the professional pride any other young entrant to the profession should feel, but I was also conscious of embarking on a labour of love.
At the end of my first year I went to Cambridge University to do my 'Cert. Ed.', and towards the end of the course, by chance, a history post fell vacant at the school I had just left. The Head was keen to have me back, so in the end I never needed to use the testimonials that my Head of English and Housemaster had given me. Like most open testimonials, they were perhaps more glowing than confidential references would have been; but I am still proud of them, and for the benefit of those people who think I am anything like the vile monster portrayed by the press, I believe they are worth quoting, even at the risk of appearing immodest. My Head of English had this to say:
'Mr T. O'Carroll joined the English staff of this school in September, 1967 and served with us for one year.
'His degree in History, and his lack of teaching experience, presented him with a not inconsiderable problem when it came to the teaching of English.
'However, right from the first week, he made every effort to discover for himself the best methods of approach, the various techniques of presentation, and the true purpose of what he was teaching. He was never afraid or reluctant to ask me or other staff for advice and assistance; at all times he tried to understand the attitudes and nature of the class that he was teaching; throughout he maintained the standard of discipline expected of him.
'His preparation was painstaking and very often his ideas and approach were original and rewarding. Although willing to seek advice, he was also forthright in expressing opinion, and his contribution to the overall progress of the English Dept. was quite significant.
'As a colleague I found him stimulating, loyal and unselfish. He would make a positive and provocative contribution to any staffroom, and he has a personality one soon learns to like and respect.
'I am pleased therefore, to support his application without reservation.
And the Housemaster:
'I am very pleased indeed to support Mr O'Carroll in his present application. He came to ––– School after taking a good degree in history, seeking a challenging year's teaching before going on to take an education diploma course. This course of action gives some indication of his professional approach to his work and also of his determination to do well.
'In the year that followed he proved his professional integrity and determined character to the full. As a groupmaster in charge of a complete cross-section of our intake, which ranged from backward to potential university students, he had to get to know each boy well, introduce them to the hectic life of a large comprehensive, and weld them into a coherent whole. This is no easy task for it requires an understanding of widely different boys, an approach both firm and sympathetic, great enthusiasm and energy and a willingness to spend a great deal of time outside normal school hours. Mr O'Carroll rose to the task with characteristic thoroughness and determination, gaining the affection and respect of his group so that the boys were ready to work hard for their group and also the House.
'Though his teaching was not directly under my charge I saw enough to learn that he was thorough in preparation, clear and incisive in his teaching and able to hold the attention of pupils by the interest and variety he put into his work.
'He entered fully into the life of house and school, taking assemblies as required, playing a full part in all group and house activities, from all sporting activities to every kind of competition, and being ready to propose and organise new activities. His greatest success was perhaps his chess club. Under his guidance this was the most active society, and so proficient was his instruction that our first year house team was able to take on every senior school team and beat them all. In addition the team was successful against other school teams up to sixth form level. The amount of time and energy he gave willingly in this activity was nothing short of enormous.
'As a colleague he proved most loyal. In the staffroom he gained the friendship and respect of his fellows. He is a man of high character and I can unhesitatingly recommend him for a post in any school. In addition, I will willingly answer any questions about him should further information be required.'
One of the members of that junior house chess team had been Chris, a raven-haired little charmer of a boy, and a teacher's pet if ever there was one, so far as I was concerned. Not that I didn't have a lot of favourites. In all, at the end of my brief career, I counted thirty-three boys from my ten classes, all of whom I was in love with to some degree.
But Chris was rather special: beautiful, but not by any means the most compellingly sexy boy I knew, in a directly physical sense. The attraction lay in his seductiveness, which grew as he learnt how much I cared for him, although this did not happen straight away. As an eleven-year-old in his first year, which was my first year too, he had been just another attractive boy. Although it was a wrench to leave him and all the others for Cambridge, I wasn't heartbroken about it, and neither was he. It was just one of those things.
Besides, he did write to me in Cambridge, and I was able to see him at his home a couple of times during the holidays. He'd invite me up to his bedroom, covered with pictures of football players and other heroes, and we would play chess, there to be 'discovered' doing so, like Ferdinand and Miranda, by Mum bringing up a tray of tea and biscuits. These out-of-school links established what he clearly came to recognise as a 'special friendship' by the time I resumed work at his school again. He came to know that I loved him. Many a nuance of conversation and gesture told me beyond doubt that he was well aware that he held my heart in his hands, and was happy for it to be that way.
But to actually say it, to actually tell him that I loved him, was another thing, as well I knew. Rightly or wrongly, I did exactly that. I enjoined no secrecy on him, and, as I fully expected, he talked about it with his parents. In my naivety I had supposed they would understand. I believed they would continue to think of me as they had before. As a friend to Chris. As a positive influence. They did not, and soon my whole world was brought crashing down around me.
If I had only lied my way out of it, all would have been well. The Head all but invited me to.
'What's all this about you telling a boy you love him?' he said. Surely it's just a misunderstanding, isn't it? You didn't actually say that did you? Or maybe it was a joke of some sort?'
It was not a joke, I said solemnly. I had said I loved him. I had meant it, and that remained the case.
Alarmed as he was, the Head avoided over-reacting; he felt it was enough to put me on my best behaviour and tell me to keep my mouth shut. Unfortunately for him and myself alike, he had not reckoned with the amazing scope of my stupidity. For I made an attempt to persuade Chris's parents that they had nothing to fear from me. It only made matters worse, and at their further prompting the Head asked for my resignation, and when I refused to give it he suspended me from duty.
To my great surprise, the Director of Education for the city, and the school governors who considered my case, appeared anxious not to sack me, and an extremely generous offer was made. My suspension was to be lifted, and I was to receive sick pay for an indefinite period, under psychiatric attention, until such time as I was deemed medically fit to work again. At that point I was to be transferred to a teaching post elsewhere in the city.Alas, I could not accept. Once more I found myself walking down paths trodden long ago by T.H. White, who was dismissed as a prep school master 'to all intents and purposes. . . owing to my Socratic intransigence. 3 You may judge for yourself what manner of intransigence mine was. In formally declining the offer put to me by the Director of Education, I replied as follows:
'Since the Governors' meeting at –––– School on Tuesday, I have thought about the position very carefully, as you advised me to. Although I regret that my suspension was considered to have been just, I am aware that I received a very fair hearing at the meeting, and that the proposed settlement was indeed generous. For this I must extend to both yourself and the Governors my most sincere thanks.
'Generous as it is, however, I am still unable to accept the settlement. I feel it would be wrong to accept medical treatment aimed deliberately at destroying, or "redirecting" as doctors would call it, those very deeply held affections for another person which in normal people are held to be amongst the finer manifestations of the human spirit. I cannot accept that anyone with any self-respect would consent to being "treated", that they would buy this particular euphemism any more than they would consent to being "doctored" like a tom cat, or "put down" like an unwanted mongrel.
'I apologise if this sounds aggressive, but it is in no measure meant to be disrespectful; I do appreciate that you have been more bountiful in good will and courtesy than I might have expected as a very junior and perhaps truculent employee.
'Naturally, I am very sad that this means the end of my service with the Authority and with the teaching profession but perhaps, in the circumstances, this is as well.'
I had been suspended for the whole of a summer term before matters came to a head in this way – lonely months spent moping about the house through the long hours of sunshine, in sorry contemplation of my lost Eden.
In some ways I was lucky. Despite everything, I had the unfailing, and doubtless ill-deserved, support of my parents. I had friends: old, loyal friends from my own schooldays. My staffroom colleagues were good to me too: they still made me feel welcome of an evening, over a beer at the local teacher's club. Even the lonely daytime hours were less barren than they might have been, for I was at least able to apply myself to writing a novel with a paedophilic theme.
Yet for all this, it was a disturbed and even dangerous time of my life. I've never been one to harbour resentment or bitterness for long, but these were exceptional circumstances, in which I experienced such a sense of hurt and rejection that I had a wounded animal's inclination to hit back ferociously. At a conscious level my anger was directed at 'society'. I wanted to change the world. I screamed inside at what I felt was the injustice, the folly, the waste in society's inability to acknowledge at least the possibility that love – not violence or hate, but love – could be a power for good. Why couldn't they see that by rejecting love, by making those who offered it feel alienated and despised, they were doing everything in their power to turn kind, useful people into embittered, dangerous ones? They had not just taken away my livelihood. That was a trifling matter. Their real crime was to stop me being of use, to myself or anyone else. To children. To individuals who needed me. To boys like Chris.
I thought a great deal about Chris. Obsessively. Frantically. I longed to know what he was thinking, and to my horror I found myself hating the parents who had come between us. I knew they thought they were doing the best thing for their boy in keeping him away from me. They weren't to know that their fears were groundless. But I couldn't help hating the stupid, blind, socially programmed inevitability of their rejection of me. I felt they were poisoning Chris's mind, filling him with their own anti-sexual, and specifically anti-homosexual, prejudice. I had to get through to Chris and his parents some conception of what was happening. I rained letters on the household: emotional, polemical, but not abusive, letters.
They were all ignored, and although my persistence can be seen as an intrusion, an assault on parental 'rights', the compliment was returned with assault of a more tangible kind. When, admittedly emboldened by drink, and aggressive with it, I visited the family home in a bloody-minded refusal to let them get away with their agonising silence, I was so effectively beaten up – not by either of Chris's parents but by a neighbour and a policeman – that for a long time afterwards I looked as though I'd gone through a car windscreen. (There can be no doubt that I pestered Chris's parents. But when the tale came out in the News of the World, eight years later, it took on a very different hue, for it was alleged, by an unnamed teacher informant, that Chris's mother had complained about me 'pestering her son' in a variety of ways. The story was totally untrue. The one thing I had never done was to make a nuisance of myself towards Chris.)
That I embarked on such a desperate escapade at all gives some idea of the dangerous state of mind I was in. A state wholly induced by the rejection I had experienced right along the line, from my suspension onwards. A state not peculiar to myself, but one which could be induced with almost the predictability of a chemical reaction in any human being treated as I had been.
I am ashamed to say – the concept of personal responsibility dies hard – that this dangerous state of mind also translated itself into something as close as I have ever been to sexually predatory behaviour. Released from the rules that bound me in the teaching profession – released from having anything to lose by breaking them – I was determined to find a boy, or boys, for what I assured myself would be mutually pleasurable and affectionate sex. I would spare myself the hopeless, romantic yearning I felt for Chris, and instead just concentrate on giving the child a sexual turn-on, by masturbating him. All I had to do was pop out to the nearest canal bank, or swimming baths, or park and start chatting up boys. I'd soon find those who were into it, if only I had the guts to actually talk sex, to respond with an open and unequivocal interest in the body to such boys as let anything 'naughty' slip into their conversation. These would be the sexually relaxed ones. they wouldn't be appalled, and for some at least it would be a turn-on. It is possible to chat up boys casually. I know plenty of people who have done so successfully.
But I wasn't one of them. At that stage in my development, in 1970, it was virtually inevitable that I would fail in the most disastrous way. Nothing would go right then. That was my nadir. My time of total despair. Against the backcloth of all that had happened to me I couldn't be relaxed, and cheerful and spontaneous with lads, as one needs to be. Instead I made a nervous, dry-mouthed, guilty, almost totally out-of-the-blue pass at the paper boy – whose own conversation had never been at all earthy or overtly sexual. The tension in my manner transmitted itself to him. I was behaving like a classic Strange Man, the kind of guy the poor child might have expected to leave him strangled in a ditch. Not surprisingly, he was terrified, and the more I tried to sound kind and reassuring, the more inescapably I knew I was sounding – and indeed behaving – like the loony I appeared to be.
As the realisation came to me of what I was doing, the impression I was creating, I was overcome by the most searing sensation that everything I had ever believed of myself was totally false. I had built my life on the belief that I loved boys. Yet for the sake of my lust there I was, large as life, terrifying a poor child out of his wits. There was no way in which I could fail to accept total culpability. It was different with Chris. I could blame all the trouble on the parents who were poisoning his mind, or the school who had sacked me for no more than being in love with a boy and saying so. But as I stood there face to face with Kevin, looking into those frightened eyes, I felt that every last shred of my integrity lay in tatters. I was nothing. Just a shit. Just a child molester.
I felt sick.
I said simply'I'm sorry, Kevin, believe me, I'm sorry. I shan't trouble you again, honestly. Off you go now. I'm sorry. Really ... '
In the empty, lonely hours that followed, all I could see ahead of me in life was a relentless ache. There would be no positive use for my feelings after all. That hope had been devastatingly exposed as a vain illusion. There was nothing to look forward to but the eternal pain of staving off a repetition of the despicable behaviour to which I had sunk. There was only one way out – and it would not be without a smack of honour.
A.E. Housman had the words for it:
'Oh you had forethought, you could reason,
And saw your road and where it led,
And early wise and brave in season
Put the pistol to your head.'
In fact I had neither the gun nor the courage, and although I went so far as to hack away at myself somewhat ineffectually with a blunt kitchen knife, I accepted my father's timely intrusion without demur. I felt pathetic, gutless and lost. There seemed no move to make that could possibly make things better, and existence just drifted on, from one numb day to another.
Some weeks later I saw Kevin again in the village, walking along on the other side of the road. To my infinite surprise he waved cheerfully and called out, 'Hello Tom!'
So he was OK. I almost wept with relief, and at last had the feeling that the world was perhaps not quite at an end.
Why am I saying all this? What can be the point of rattling the skeletons in my own cupboard so publicly? There are several reasons, but perhaps the most important is that in doing so I will have given quite a powerful indication that it is not my intention to dodge any issues, or overlook any unpalatable truths. I know from my own life that there are problems, immense problems, in paedophilia, just as T. H. White said. I know that it is not an easy option. In fact it is not an option at all. People do not turn to paedophilia to avoid the responsibilities of an adult relationship, as some would have it believed – it seems to me that the responsibilities of a relationship with a child are in any case more onerous than one with an adult, not less.
In spite of all this, I still feel as strongly as ever that my attachment to children, and that felt by my fellow paedophiles, can be, and ought to be, a power for good. I make that now as an assertion, and confess that it is near to being an ineradicable article of faith with me. How could I live with myself if I ceased to believe it? None too easily, as my attempted suicide showed. Let's say then that I am emotionally committed to a point of view, which may or may not be right. The working out of that commitment, the ideas and evidence educed in pursuit of that article of faith, occupy the pages that follow, and I trust that the reader will accept that they are presented with a serious concern for the truth.
Ch 1 - Notes and References1. Sylvia Townsend Warner, T. H. White: A Biography, Jonathan Cape Chatto & Windus, London, 1967, pp. 277–82. ^
2. Iris Murdoch, The Bell, Chatto & Windus, London, 1958, pp. 157–8. ^
3. Warner, op. cit., p. 55. ^
Preface : Home : Chapter 2