Global Academic Publishers
In 1979 the Netherlands Institute for Socio-Sexological Research published a 260 page report called Pedosexual Contacts and Pedophile Relationships by a young doctoral candidate at the Catholic University of Nijmegen named Theo Sandfort. Two-thirds of the book was devoted to a very thorough examination of such professional literature as then existed on man-child sex. The last 100 pages, however, recorded the responses of a number of contemporary Dutch pedophiles to such questions as what they did sexually with boys, the relational aspects of their friendships with boys, how their contacts with boys came about. It was the first of a series of book-length professional papers Sandfort wrote about his research into intergenerational sex and it established him at once in Holland as a man to watch.
Two years later the State University, Utrecht published his best-known report, The Sexual Aspects of Pedophile Relations. Sandfort had in the meantime studied the "experiential world" of 25 boys who were currently involved in sexual relationships with men, relationships which, unlike most man-boy contacts discussed in the literature, had not suffered any serious disruption from angry parents, police, etc. The research was carefully structured to determine as accurately as possible how the friendships and the sex fitted into the overall day-to-day life of the boys. The "research question" which Sandfort posed before designing the investigation was whether some boys in some pedosexual relationships could positively experience their sexual contacts. The answer in the case of all but one of these 25 boys was a very emphatic Yes. The report was full of tables and statistics, but also quotes from taped interviews. A few months later an English-language edition came out that had a limited circulation in England and America.
The response of the American psychological and psychiatric professions to Sandfort's work was interesting. At first it was largely ignored; later a few negative reviews appeared. David Mrazek, a Denver pediatric psychiatrist, elected not to discuss the research itself with any seriousness but in Contemporary Psychology (Vol.30, No.1, 1985), the book review journal of the American Psychological Association, restricted himself to moral condemnation: Sandfort should never have investigated this phenomenon because in doing so he was "rationalizing" a "criminal activity" (an extraordinary position for a scientist to take about sexological research); Sandfort did not discuss the possibility that these "illegal sexual contacts might result in the boys developing a sexual deviation"; the report was tainted because, among other things, it "militantly avoided" the "usual, labels of victims and perpetrators" and substituted the "offensive" terms younger and older partners; finally the whole investigation was suspect because it was "in part being sponsored by an organized group of pedophiles", a statement which must have greatly surprised the Dutch government which had provided all but a miniscule part of the funding! In short, one expected Sandfort's 25 boys to perish in a rain of fire along with their adult partners--and Sandfort himself be turned into a pillar of salt for watching.
Like Mrazek, David Finkelhor has built his public reputation around the burgeoning "child sex-abuse" issue; two years before the Sandfort study was translated into English, Finkelhor had published his book Sexually Victimized Children. Nucleus of it was a study, by questionnaire, of 630 female and 266 male college students who had had sexual experiences during childhood. In his questionnaire Finkelhor avoided the "usual labels" (whether militantly or not we are not told) but since they pepper virtually every page of the book itself (together, strangely enough, with the "offensive" labels younger and older partners) he obviously judged such emotionally loaded terminology compatible with objective reporting. Also, curiously, he deliberately skewed his sample so that, after the age of 12, only non-consensual (i.e. forced or coerced) sex contacts were included, thus from the outset ensuring that a negative picture of these activities would emerge.
In the October 1984 issue of Forum Magazine Finkelhor wrote that Sandfort's study deserved its obscurity because the sample of 25 boys was non-representative; the boys were not being honest with the researcher; his own research showed that "most kids react negatively" to sexual encounters with adults (actually Finkelhor's own research, despite its near-fatal skew, showed that less than 40% of his males who, as boys, had had encounters with older males thought of them as traumatic experiences!); finally no boy can really give consent to having sex with an adult because of the inherent asymmetry of power, an assertion which American commentators are fond of making and which lands them deep in semantic and politico-philosophical quicksand.
Masters, Johnson & Kolodny (the first two wrote the sexological best-seller Human Sexual Response) didn't seem to have been very well acquainted with Sandfort's work, yet felt free to criticize it in the second edition of their 1985 college textbook Human Sexuality after only reading a short popular article by Sandfort in Alternative Lifestyles. Starting with the premise that adult-child sexual relations are "inherently abusive, exploitative", the authors then went on to say that Dr. Sandfort interviewed his boys in the presence of the pedophile "without any apparent regard for the fact that the adult's presence would have almost assuredly prevented the boy from voicing complaints about the way he was treated because of fear of punishment." As Sandfort makes abundantly clear in all of his professional reports, none of the boys were interviewed in the presence of the pedophile. Masters, Johnson & Kolodny also suspected that the boys "were so intimidated by the pedophile that they were afraid to say anything against him." Nothing could be further from the truth, as the reader will soon see when he turns to the text of this book itself.
Sandfort's work, then, seemed to have touched a sensitive nerve in America. It challenged some rather basic premises upon which a number of well publicized careers had been built. If his work could not be totally ignored, it least it could be misrepresented and morally condemned in professional circles.
One psychologist of note who recognized the importance of Sandfort's research and was brave enough to support it was Dr. John Money of the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He called Sandfort's book "one of the most valuable works of research scholarship on the topic of pedophilia that has ever appeared in print." Another positive mention of Sandfort's work was in Deviant Behavior, where Charles H. McCaghy (1983) of Bowling Green State University found in it evidence that "today's boldest sex research is occurring outside the United States," and "we are fortunate that we can rely on Sandfort, and others I hope, to capably explore this new frontier...."
In his introduction to this volume, Dr. Money observes that Sandfort's study was conducted before AIDS had become recognized as a serious medical problem. It is a curious fact that even now seven or eight years later, despite the tragic number of adult AIDS victims, children and young adolescents seem to have been largely unaffected, except through transfusions of contaminated blood, sharing of hypodermic needles or by being born of an infected mother. A few adolescent male prostitutes in the West have developed the sickness, and there was one newspaper report in England last year of a boy who was allegedly repeatedly raped by an infected step-father supposedly coming down with the disease.
A number of explanations for this have been offered: it might be that not many boys in this age group are having sex with infected persons; or many boys really are infected but, due to the long incubation period of the disease and the natural resilience of youth, this is not yet apparent. Neither of these suggestions is very convincing: every North American and European study shows that a large percentage of boys between 11 and 16 are very sexually active. And, considering the widespread nature of the disease and the fact that symptoms can develop fairly soon after infection, one would expect to see a statistically significant number of boys in this age group who had clearly caught AIDS by having sex with another male. Yet we don't.
Perhaps Sandfort's study suggests a better reason. We do know that the virus is best transmitted through anal intercourse. Blood and sperm (and perhaps anal mucus) are the most effective carriers. Although the virus has also been found in saliva and tear, the concentrations are reported to be very low: the disease does not seem to be spread through a sneeze, for example, as is the common cold.
When we look at the sexual acts in which Sandfort's 25 boys participated, the most frequent was mutual masturbation (now making a kind of moral come-back in gay circles as "safe sex"); the second most common act was the man performing fellatio on the boy, followed by the boy performing fellatio on the man (but in no case taking the man's sperm in his mouth); anal intercourse was very rare and when it did occur it was often done on a kind of experimental basis.
Sandfort warns his readers against generalizing too much from his study, but if this kind of "limited" sexual behavior characterizes most pedosexual contacts (and other independent research suggests it does), then it might well be that the absence of sexually acquired AIDS cases in the very young really does mean that the chance of a boy catching the disease through the kind of sexual activities he is likely to engage in with men is small.
Even so, as Dr. Money points out, the virus does exist and as with every sexually active person it must be faced by men and boys in their sexual relations. It would be interesting to know whether man-boy couples today like the 25 which Dr. Sandfort studied have altered their sexual behavior in response to this threat. One notes that at the November 1986 North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) conference in Los Angeles one of the important speakers was the local AIDS task force coordinator who advised participants on safe sex practices.
Lately Sandfort has been busy researching and publishing on different but related matters: how teachers deal with erotic attraction between themselves and their pupils; how older adolescents who before their 16th birthday had had sexual contacts with adults now view these contacts. He is a frequent guest on the various radio talk shows and is co-editor of the monthly magazine of the Netherlands Society for Sexual Reform.
Holland is a small country; few foreigners ever learn to speak Nederlands, the language of both The Netherlands and half of Belgium, yet a short afternoon's drive from virtually anywhere in the country will take a Dutchman into either French or German speaking territory, and an 8-hour ferry crossing will bring him to England. His television set receives two commercial English, one French-Belgian and three German channels, and if he lives in any of the larger cities, his cable-TV brings him two BBC channels as well. All foreign programs on Dutch TV are transmitted in their original languages with subtitles in Nederlands (a practice followed in the movie houses, too). Thus every Dutch child grows up with the sounds of English, French and German in his ears, and schools are dedicated to making him proficient in the major European languages.
The reverse, however, is not true. The Nederlands linguistic boundary acts as a kind of one-way filter: people in Holland know a great deal about their neighbors from firsthand sources, but their neighbors know very much less about them and especially their public life. Thus Dr. Sandfort's book will give the English and American reader a rare opportunity to see how this highly intelligent and educated society has gone about dealing with a well-publicized and socially problematic phenomenon. Crucial here is the famed Dutch tolerance.
From earliest times, and until World War Two, Holland was racially fairly homogeneous. It was not, however, at all homogeneous socially or in religion. Catholic and the various protestant groups lived largely independent existences, as did the small but lively Jewish enclaves in the cities. Each had its own buildings of worship, customs, political parties, societies-even, later in Dutch history, its own labor unions.
Yet the exploitation of a land lying largely below sea level and whose only natural resources were its soil and the mouth of Europe's most important river required a great deal of cooperation: swamps and lakes had to be drained, canals built, rainwater lifted to the sea. For this work the kind of individualistic initiative which went into the settlement of North America would have been inappropriate. With the large-scale cooperative ventures of the pre-industrial era came the realization that for the common good it was better to work with people you differed from than to try to destroy them. While in Germany and France Catholics and Protestants butchered each other for decades with unbridled enthusiasm (and both, in times of hunger and plague, turned upon the Jews), their Dutch brothers managed to live peaceably side by side and work together effectively enough to turn what must originally have been one of the most unpromising pieces of European real estate into an agricultural cornucopia studded with populous and prosperous cities. Overseas, the Dutch became formidable traders. Tolerance, a tendency to be fair, to examine as many facets of an issue as possible, not to give in to hysteria, stereotype the Dutch character, along with a kind of stubborn streak and an intense dislike of being forced to do something which one is not convinced is right.
Dutch politics are markedly different from English or American politics. Campaigning is comparatively low-key and is carried out mainly in the press and by means of informal TV interviews. There is no such thing as a politician "running for office"--one votes in Holland for a political party (which may even in itself be a coalition of smaller political parties). Each party has a "slate" of legislators listed in an order of preference determined by the party itself, and as many of these candidates take parliamentary seats in The Hague as the party is successful in winning votes. The kind of cut-throat, personal mud-throwing campaigns which characterize the English and American political scene are unknown in The Netherlands. The result is that the political parties can put into the legislature more able (as opposed to charismatic) people who simply get on with their work without expending their energies on campaign rhetoric and looking over their shoulders to see who is trying to ignite a scandal around their personal lives. Party leaders and cabinet members do most of the campaigning and bear most of the burden of interacting with the media; legislators spend most of their time on legislative tasks.
Tolerance and fairness, too, have had their effect upon the media. In the English-speaking world the much abused principle of "freedom of the press" frustrates efforts to limit reportorial irresponsibility and the senseless destruction of personal reputations and private lives. In Holland the media, while it can, and does, report criminal procedures, feels that it is neither socially necessary nor desirable to publish the names, addresses or photos of the people involved--or, for that matter, of any private citizen in any connection without his specific written permission. Thus the Dutch press is mercifully free of the kind of police-blotter reporting and incitement of neighbors against accused persons which make the American and especially the English newspapers so unpleasant. This same lower level of sensational reporting means that potentially emotive issues like man-boy sexual contacts are treated with a fairness rare in most other Western lands.
That Holland largely lacks a "scandal press" is probably in large part due to the fact that the Dutch population tends to be rather matter-of-fact about all the natural functions. This has its unattractive sides: dog feces, for example, are allowed to accumulate on the sidewalks of Dutch cities without anyone thinking it much of a problem; intensive animal husbandry has resulted in large-scale use of natural fertilizers on the fields and everyone is accustomed to their persistent and penetrating smells. On the other hand, Holland has the lowest rate of (undesired) teenage pregnancies in the west; masturbation is pretty much a guilt-free activity among the young; boys and girls in late adolescence not uncommonly live together without opposition of parents and community. In late winter 1987 a Dutch television program designed for and produced by children had two little boys announcing they were going to talk about penises, whereupon they exposed their organs to the TV-cameras and played with them, describing the various genital parts and discussing what they obviously considered very important possessions. The show was aired without causing a ripple of reaction, or even comment.
There is, of course, crime, and since sex involving children under the age of 16 is illegal, statutory sex offenses come regularly into the Dutch courts. They are not, however, tried before an elected judge and jury drawn from the community as in the English-speaking "common law" countries, but before three appointed judges. The public prosecutor (attorney for the State or District Attorney) is also appointed and perceives his duty not as getting convictions at any cost but as serving the best interests of everybody--the state and the accused. Dutch criminal trials tend to be short and undramatic and relatively untraumatizing to the defendant.
A large number of Dutch people in public life have been in prison. Unlike America and England and the other English-speaking nations, The Netherlands suffered occupation during World War Two and many future Dutch leaders were locked up by the Germans for one reason of another. It is easier for a body of legislators and jurists who have never been incarcerated to prescribe long prison sentences and remain indifferent to inhumane conditions in institutions than for people who know about prisons from first-hand experience and can identify with the inmates. In Holland sentences are short (a rule of thumb is that a Dutch sentence will be in months what an English or American sentence will be in years) and prisons reasonably humane. Raping and sexual coercion of the young, the good-looking, the timid, the "child-abuser" and the homosexual by the more powerful inmates is an established (but seldom admitted) fact of US prison life; even murders and suicides in American penal institutions rarely come into public consciousness through the media. In The Netherlands physical and sexual