A Turbulent History
Paedophilia and Dangerousness
Clarence Osborne was an exponent of what is generally referred to as Greek love. Such love is the physical and emotional expression of affection between an older man and a youth. To Osborne, Greek love was the highest form of love, surpassing even adult heterosexual or homosexual relationships.
Osborne idealised both boys and adolescents. To him they represented the epitome of what was beautiful and natural. Relation-ships with young males were not seen by him as being exploitative, but rather as socially and psychologically beneficial to the younger person. In a reversal of conventional morality, Osborne argued that the love of a man for a woman was the archetypal exploitative relationship and, in a statement designed to alienate every woman stated that this was so ‘because women are manipulators and devious people’.
Nowhere are Osborne’s views about Greek love better expressed than in his own manuscript. Encapsulating the usual arguments put by Greek love practitioners, Osborne wrote:
To Clarence Osborne, Greek love was not only just a service but it was a social service. Frequently, in conversations with me, and throughout his own writing he referred to the way in which he was able to take a ‘troublesome’ youth, guide him like a father and show him the path to social stability and success.
The effect that Osborne had on the boys has already been discussed in past chapters. It is important, however, to emphasise again at this stage that Osborne was seen by many of these boys/adolescents as being a close friend. Senior Constable David Jeffries from the Queensland Juvenile Aid Bureau, one of the investigating officers in the Osborne case recalls:
Greek lovers like Clarence Osborne have consistently argued that they do not wish to harm the youths they relate to, but instead desire to impart their experience and worldly knowledge to the boys. While they emphasise love rather than sex, Clarence Osborne’s manuscript and conversations were almost invariably centred on the physical adventures that he engaged in.
Osborne emphasised that the Greek love relationships he participated in were the epitome of non-possessiveness and openness. He was not jealous of the youth’s past or present sexual adventures and indeed, revelled in the detailed accounts of his young partners’ sexual adventures. In this sense Osborne characterised what Greek love practitioners see as the essence of the craft. The most widely read book on adult-boy/adolescent relationships is undoubtedly J. Z. Eglinton’s Greek Love. Eglinton defines such love in the following terms:
But both in this definition and in the life and deeds of Clarence Osborne we meet semantic difficulties. In the case of Osborne, and in the case of others who espouse the Greek love philosophy, there are numerous examples of the youthful partners being, in many cases, children rather than adolescents. Indeed, Clarence Osborne occasionally had partners who were aged anywhere between seven and ten years, which of course precedes what is generally recognised as the start of adolescence. And it is precisely because of the fact that the Clarence Osbornes of this world relate to children as well as to adolescents that they incur a public wrath from laymen and experts alike.[*3]
Eglinton considers the term paedophilia to be an erroneous one because under its rubric are lumped both what he defines as Greek love and sexual interest in pre-pubertal children of either gender. Eglinton prefers to use the term paidophilia to refer to sexual interest in adolescents, and pederasty to refer to sexual concern for boys. To confuse matters further we have another term commonly used in the literature—’ephebophilia’, denoting sexual preferences for adolescents . [*4]
As Osborne related to both pre-pubertal boys and to adolescents it is not unreasonable to describe his prime interests as ‘Greek Love’ and ‘pederasty’. The latter concept correctly encompasses most of Osborne’s activities and describes in general terms the phenomenon that has been explored in this book which is, simply put, the sexual interest in young boys and adolescents. The use of this term in relation to Clarence Osborne’s activities and to other men with similar interests does not deny the emotional component in adult-child/adolescent relationships. Often, as we have seen, the amount of affection in these liaisons is great. It is, however, the physical component of such relationships that causes the basic controversy regarding adult and younger male contacts.
A Turbulent History
The Clarence Osbornes of this world have always suffered harshly for their sexual preferences. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the famous trial involving allegations about Oscar Wilde’s sexual relationships with Lord Alfred Douglas. Although Wilde was not accused of paederasty, the judge was so incensed at older-younger male relationships that in sentencing Wilde he said:
The judge, however, was not prepared to leave it at that. He went on to say:
To the homosexual community boy love may well be to the 1 980s what ‘gay is good’ consciousness raising was to the 1970s. If this is to be the case, however, and if heterosexuals as well as homosexuals are to view paedophiles in a different perspective, then more about them has to be known. In particular, the question of just how ‘dangerous they are can only be answered when we understand the motivations of their partners and their mutual physical and emotional activities. Clarence Osborne’s life has allowed us to examine these questions in some detail and readers can make up their own minds whether Osborne threatened the youths or society generally.
Clearly the medical and legal responses to paedophilia suggest that the community as a whole defines the paedophile as dangerous. This is abundantly obvious, as we will see in the next chapter, from the punishments they impose and the ‘rehabilitative’ methods they, employ. But the medical and legal procedures which are adopted towards the paedophile rest on the assumption that he fundamentally affects the boys’ social and sexual development. Whether this assumption has any basis in reality is examined in the following pages of this book.
Reactions to older-younger male relations have not changed significantly since the days of Oscar Wilde and nowhere is this better shown than in the Revere, Massachusetts case.[*7] Revere, a medium-sized suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, is a quiet suburb populated mostly by Italians with a fair complement of Irish and Eastern Europeans. Although the town was suffering from industrial depression and economic stagnation at the end of the 1970s, it had on the surface an air of quiet affluence about it.
On December 1977, citizens woke up to newspaper headlines loudly proclaiming ‘Twenty-four men indicted in a child pornography ring based in Revere’. ‘That sort of thing just doesn’t happen in Revere’, citizens thought. But on reading further they found that district attorney Garrett Byrne had broken up an interstate ring centred in Revere involving the sexual abuse and prostitution of eight to thirteen-year-old boys. Coverage in the newspapers created the impression that the boys were detained against their will, supplied with drugs and drink and forced to have sex with adult men as well as having to pose for pornographic photos and films. The men responsible were held on various counts ranging from lewd and lascivious acts to statutory rape.
The public outcry was immediate and fed continuously by the eighty-one-year-old Byrne who promised a hungry electorate that more indictments were in the offing. Byrne established an ‘emergency hotline’ so that outraged citizens could call up and report any other dirty old man whom they happened to know of in the neighbourhood. One day after the hotline was installed Byrne gleefully announced to the press that his office had been flooded with calls expressing ‘outrage’ at the child abuse and offering information that would lead to numerous other additional indictments, including, he hinted, that of a ‘married Boston minister’.
Tom Willenbecher has pointed out that while Byrne’s hotline was being established, the actual and not the alleged toll in human suffering began to mount. [*8] The twenty-four arrested men all had their names, addresses, and occupations in the papers and read on the television news — slowly, so that they could be copied down. The result of this media extravaganza was that each of the men was immediately swamped with obscene phone calls and death threats. Worse, most of the men were either fired from their jobs or suspended without pay. One therapist was suspended by his employer and barred from seeing his elderly patients, some of whom later got in touch with him on their own. The few self-employed men reported a drastic decline in business. One martial arts instructor saw all his pupils yanked out of class by irate parents, so he had to sell his karate school. A psychologist in private practice immediately lost most of his patients. Many of the men reported divorce, desertion or rejection by spouses, parents or children. The mother of one of the men had a heart attack soon after her son was arrested. Several had their homes vandalised by neighbourhood thugs. And the prospect of going to prison and being treated by prisoners as being worse than animals led one defendant to say:
The Revere case is not an isolated one. In a recent raid Toronto police went into the offices of the gay youth paper The Body Politic and charged the editors with pornography after the paper ran an article called ‘Men Loving Boys Loving Men’, a serious attempt to look at the whole area of man-youth relationships. [*10]
On the other side of the ocean in Sydney, Australia, a thirty-four-year-old man was sentenced in the district court in 1979 to twenty-two years jail for offences against boys. Judge Thorley, who presided over the case said that the depravity of the man’s conduct was overwhelming and did not set a non-parole period. The man convicted had pleaded guilty to five charges of indecent assault, one of assault with intent to commit anal intercourse, and one of having committed anal intercourse. All the charges arose out of relationships between the man and the boys concerned, although there was no suggestion that force had been used in any of the relationships.
All the boys in this case were aged between thirteen and fourteen. The judge was forceful in his condemnation of the accused. He said:
Judge Thorley went on to say that he did not wish to enter into a debate on the morality of homosexuality, but the offences were all committed ‘on the altar of homosexuality’. [*12] In one fell swoop the judge was able to reinforce all the stereotypes that people have about homosexuals and homosexuality, effectively putting back the gay liberation movement fifty years.
The judge of course was just reflecting current social attitudes and his views should not be considered special or unique — whether this makes them less objectionable is, of course, debatable. He was at great pains to point out that it was his duty to protect society, and in particular, young male children in the community. After sentencing the accused to twenty-two years jail, Judge Thorley said he declined to specify a non-parole period. The reasons for this were, in his own words:
And Judge Thorley effectively sums up most current societal views towards pederasty:
One police officer who investigated a major case of pederasty encapsulated the antagonism of most people towards boy-lovers when, after arresting one, he was reported to have told another officer:
There have been times when homo-sexual relationships and Greek love have been widely practised throughout society and staunchly defended by the sages of the day. In his Symposium, Plato recounts, with obvious relish, many moral and philosophical arguments for the superiority of male-to-male love compared with the ordinary love between men and women. [*16]
Proponents of Greek love are fond of pointing out that great philosophers such as Plato approved of their practices and that the Grecian concept of boy to man was one of pupil to teacher.
Indeed, in the Doric dialect the common word for ‘lover’ was actually ‘inspirer’, which indicates that the adult was also responsible for the boy’s well-being in general ways. When the word ‘lover’ was used in regard to a boy, the Dorians used it in the sense of ‘. . . to love’. [*17] However, as Robin Lloyd points out in his book Playland, what is generally not known is that the Greeks drew a distinct line between sexual activity with children and sexual activity with older youth. [*18]
Nevertheless, it is true that young males were honoured in Greece perhaps more than in any other culture. Men were seen as the focus of cultural and intellectual life and the onus was on older men to teach younger men the ways of the Greeks. Every man attracted to him some boy or youth and acted towards him as his tutor, guardian and friend. This custom, prevailing as it did particularly in the Doric states, was so much a matter of course that it was considered that a man was irresponsible if he failed to acquire a young ward. Greek philosophers and writers such as Plutarch and Plato offered strong opinions to the effect that one of the most masculine and desirable relationships that could be fostered was between adults and youths, and Plato even went so far as to argue that an army made up of lovers and adult-adolescent relationships, fighting at each other’s side, could overcome the whole world. [*19]
The Greek concept of masculinity is epitomised in their search for athletic prowess. In preparation for athletic performances the new performers, boys or men, were thoroughly anointed and rubbed down with oil by other athletes. This was partly for increased suppleness, partly to avoid the effects of the weather and for obvious aesthetic reasons. This athletic cult did manage to produce some valuable cultural results. Sculptors used the young athletes as models, vase painters did likewise, and many Greek paintings document various aspects of the boy athlete. Poets such as Pindar lauded the virtues of the male adolescent body and Greek writers represented homosexuality as noble, normal and part of an honourable Greek tradition. And despite differences between scholars on whether Greek love was widespread throughout Grecian society, it is clear that relations between adult males and adolescent boys thrived and were fully accepted by large sections of the community in Greece at the time. [*20]
The situation in ancient Rome, however, was very different from that in Greece. In Greece, relationships between men and boys were not generally defined in terms of prostitution. [*21] In Rome we have the first evidence of boy prostitution becoming a major part of the sexual patterns of a country. Most Roman cities had houses of boy prostitutes to provide for the needs of poorer Romans. Those who owned brothels would send their agents to ‘recruit’ good-looking, attractive, young boys from the slave markets established as a result of Roman military adventures. These slaves were then placed in special schools and brought up with the belief that their sole function in life was to provide sexual enjoyment to adult males who had the money to pay for their services.
Moreover, Romans commonly kept one or more slave boys as concubines or persons to go to bed with for sex and sex alone. Occasionally a Roman would love a free-born youth, but as in today’s society, public opinion was harsh towards such a relationship. Furthermore, it is clear that even when Romans visited boy prostitutes in brothels or elsewhere, the man would be considered effeminate and ‘non-Roman’ if he took a passive or feminine role, or if the boy remained in the usual passive role after his beard began to show, or alternatively, if either of them used the mouth to bring the other to orgasm.
There are examples in Roman history where boy love was given the same exalted position that the Greeks gave it. Emperor Hadrian Antinous so completely dominated his master that statues of the boy were set all over the Roman empire and indeed several of these statues can still be seen in museums around the world. [*22]
But this was the exception and generally relations between boys and males were commercialised relationships without any pretence of culturally romanticising man-boy love. The situation is best epitomised by Roman soldiers who often joined with others in keeping a boy for their own use when marching towards new lands and new adventures. The boys were bought from slave holders and were fed and clothed; but besides using them for sex, no other interest in them was taken.
Alfred Kinsey found that to some extent the same commercialisation of boy-man relationships still existed in Italy when he visited there in 1955. Kinsey described to his associate and eventual biographer, Wardell Pomeroy, the situation he found around the colosseum area. Pomeroy wrote:
Kinsey apparently found Naples even more uninhibited than Rome because Pomeroy recounts that he found it possible to observe any number of people hunting for sex at any hour of the day or night. The prime area, Kinsey told Pomeroy, was the famous Galleria regions where roving bands of small children would approach visitors and offer to take them to girls or to boys — even their younger or older brothers — and finally if that didn’t work would offer themselves. Pomeroy reports that Kinsey saw males, ranging in age from early adolescence to middle-age, exhibiting themselves in public toilets, parks and at railway stations, showing that they were ready for sexual contact. And Kinsey also noted that unlike Rome, where a bellboy who came to the room would be satisfied with a tip, Naples had bellboys who would make it clear that they would be glad to stay for other purposes. [*24]
Kinsey was cognisant of the fact that the boys’ motivations were mercenary. Pomeroy notes that:
Unlike other observers of male-youth relations Kinsey drew a big distinction between boy prostitution and Greek love.
No such distinction was drawn by the enormously well-publicized but badly researched book Playland written by Robin Lloyd. Purporting to investigate the history of pederasty, Lloyd only succeeded in obscuring the whole topic. In a critical but fair review of Lloyd’s book, Lex Watson observed that:
Such confusion is not evident in the work of Pennsylvanian anthropologist and noted authority on cross-cultural aspects of male-youth relationships, Professor William Davenport. [*27] Describing present-day institutionalised masculine bisexuality in East Bay society in Melanesia, Davenport noted that in that area nearly every male engages in homosexual relations during certain periods of his life.
Premarital intercourse is strongly disapproved of and boys are encouraged to masturbate until they reach marriageable age, but after this time the same behaviour is ridiculed as a sign of immaturity, sexual inadequacy or both. To avoid the stigma of childish behaviour, males in late adolescence shift from mutual masturbation to anal intercourse. Passive and active roles are played alternately by both participants. It is important to note that this behaviour occurs between friends and is taken as an accommodative gesture of comradeship with no special emotional bonds of love implied.
And such relationships are not just confined to those between adolescents. Until recently East Bay society prohibited marital coitus for many months after the birth of a child. The culture is monogamous but concubinage was formally approved and provided a legitimate sexual outlet for husbands whose wives were temporarily taboo. Concubines, however, were expensive and many married men whose wives were nursing took young boys as sexual partners: a practice which was socially condoned as long as the boy’s father gave his formal approval and the boy himself received small presents. Arrangements of this type were seen as secondary, and anal inter-course with boys was classed as an acceptable and necessary susbtitute form of sexual behaviour while the wife was unavailable.
Pertinently, Davenport found that in East Bay there was simply no recognition of, nor any cultural category for, exclusive male homo-sexuality or paedophilia. [*28] Unmarried males whose sexual relations are confined to masculine partners are classified, not as individuals who prefer homosexual to heterosexual activity, but as men who, for one reason or the other, cannot find a woman who will accept them.
There is an important difference between paedophilia as practised in East Bay and that practised by the Clarence Osbornes of industrialised countries. In East Bay it is not uncommon for male adults to sodomise young boys on the verge of adolescence as a way of symbolically leading them into masculine society, no love or strong emotional bonds are developed from the physical relations.
Practices in East Bay are also different from the culturally approved pederasty of ancient Greece. Man-boy relations in Melanesia are tolerated, rather than glorified, and allowed in only very specific circumstances which generally have to do with entry into adult society. No such rationale exists in western societies for Greek love and far from being approved or even tolerated, pederasts are vilified and classified as ‘dangerous.
Paedophilia and Dangerousness
Like most paedophiles, Clarence Osborne was considered by both the media and the public at large to be dangerous. Osborne represented, at least to those who were acquainted with his life only through newspaper accounts, the stereotypical dirty old man luring little boys off the streets and from the public toilets to his house in order to fulfil his immoral cravings. The boys, by implication, were innocent victims of this dangerous man and clearly suffered seriously from his cunning and perverted crimes.
In short, paedophiles are generally defined as being dangerous, although the specific reasons for this are rarely given. Who you describe as dangerous, though, varies from one historical point in time to another. In the context of understanding the dynamics of male-youth relationships it is essential to consider this point in more detail.
Over the past two hundred years there have been two major changes in regard to how people are classified as being socially dangerous. [*29] The most clearly recognisable change is the decreased reliance upon religion — although it is salutary to note that witnesses to the Salem witch trials were still alive at the time of the American revolution. Corresponding to the decreased influence of religion has been another change which is an increased reliance upon medical practitioners to discern those who allegedly pose a threat to the established order. Consequently, psychiatrists and psychologists often keep in prisons or in mental hospitals people whom they define as being ‘dangerous’ and do not deserve to be allowed in outside society. [*30]
The whole concept of dangerousness, however, has strong political or ideological overtones to it. The historical records in industrialised societies on the individuals or groups defined as dangerous demonstrates clearly that such groups are often those who represent real or imaginary threats to prevailing notions of ethics or morality rather than actual threats to other people in the community. [*31] Witches are a case in point: no one has ever demonstrated to me that a person designated a witch actually deserved to be burnt at the stake because she was dangerous to somebody else. Witches were simply defined as dangerous because they violated certain religious views.
The issue of dangerousness, however, is never raised in these terms. For example, when questions of homosexuality and drug taking are raised, the arguments are rarely posed in terms of competing values. Instead the behaviours are transformed into threats to the integrity of the social system, physical changes to the practitioners and perils to the innocent. Thomas Szasz sums up this view well when he writes:
And so it is with paedophiles. They are defined by the community generally and by community leaders specifically as being dangerous people. This definition does not arise because such men murder, assault or rape them. The criminological evidence on these matters is very clear-cut — it is the heterosexuals and not the homosexuals who commit proportionately most of the violent acts against both children and adults.
The dangerousness tag imputed to paedophiles arises because of the way they express their sexuality, the alleged effects this expression has on the youthful recipients, and because what society considers to be fundamental cultural and religious principles are violated by men who love youths.
In recent years an attempt has been made by paedophiles themselves to educate the public, and themselves, on Greek love. One of the major reasons for this campaign is to remove the dangerousness stigma so easily attached to them by an unsympathetic public. The publication of J. Z. Eglinton’s book on the topic was undoubtedly a landmark in this campaign, stating as it did the unequivocal right of an older male to have a relationship with a young boy. Carefully researched and documented, Eglinton’s work still stands as the major reference on the issue.
Undoubtedly its acceptance by a wide non-paedophile audience was hastened by the stamp of approval given to it by one of the world’s leading sexologists and clinical psychologists, Dr Albert Ellis. While Ellis is highly critical of most Greek lovers and of the relation-ships themselves — he considers for example that most males who engage in these relationships are disturbed, narcissistic individuals — he helps to dispel the dangerous label affixed to paedophiles.
Writing in an appendix to Eglinton’s book, Ellis comments:
Although most paedophile activists would strongly attack the second part of this statement, Ellis’s continuous support for Eglinton’s book and his attempt to paint paedophiles as non-dangerous people assisted the process of public education. A host of other writers have added to this process by publishing works which, if not satisfactory to paedophiles themselves, make human a topic generally considered to be the work of the devil.
In this mould we have
Seminal books of recent years also include
Success in de-escalating the dangerousness myth by paedophile magazines and conferences, has been more limited. The English PIE. (Paedophile Information Exchange) suffered a long history of police harassment, prosecutions, the vehemence of politicians and political in-fighting.* A supporter of P.I.E., psychologist Dr F. Bernard, found himself the subject of verbal and physical attacks when he organised the world’s first paedophile conference in England.
*The politics of P.I.E. can be gauged from a statement made to the police by a fifty-seven-year-old man arrested for having pictures of little girls. PIE. (13 April 1979) reports that the man told the police that one of the reasons he joined PIE. was ‘to get some material, such as magazines and pictures of little girls, from other members’. He went on to say, ‘But I cancelled my membership because all the members appeared to like little boys. I know I like little girls and that is wrong but I hate anyone who messes about with little boys.’
In America the serious academic magazine International Journal of Greek Love had a short-lived history as did similar journals such as Boyhood and The Boy. More recently, however, a new magazine emanating out of the Netherlands entitled Pan is attempting to discuss Greek love in an objective, intellectual manner. The Pan publishers, in announcing their publication say that:
It remains to be seen whether Pan will be any more successful than its predecessors in fulfilling its objectives, particularly the objective of making paedophiles appear less dangerous to the public.