00Dec18c A professor speaks...
Associated Press November 26, 2000, Sunday, BC cycle
State and Regional
UMASS professor advocates pederasty
By Lisa Lipman, Associated Press Writer
William Armstrong Percy III says that when he was 14, he seduced a male soldier while traveling on a train.
"I never got enough sex with an older man. I don't see that I was harmed at all, except being deprived of not having more," said Percy. "I was already the aggressor."
Percy, now 66 and a history professor at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, is known for his disarming bluntness on gay issues. His own sexual experiences - which he estimates number more than 10,000 - contributed to his belief that the age of consent between men and boys should be lowered to 14.
Currently, in states where homosexual sex is legal, the age of consent is generally between 15 and 18.
Percy dresses Southern style, in bow ties and three-piece suits. He claims to own $4 million in real estate in Boston's trendy South End, and says he votes Republican - because he wants to see the estate tax abolished.
But while he may dress and vote conservatively, Percy is best known on the UMass-Boston campus as someone who stirs up controversy.
He is currently working on a book called "Age of Consent," which may feature a section written by an experienced pederast who is affiliated with the North American Man/Boy Love Association. Percy doesn't support NAMBLA because it advocates sex with preadolescent boys, but said that some of NAMBLA's members are "quite intelligent."
Percy has also authored a book called "Pederasty and Pedagogy in Archaic Greece" and an article titled "Pederasty in the Western Mind." He says his work isn't done just to get attention.
"Basically I think if it's not done with force, not done brutally or anything, it's not necessarily bad for teen-age boys to have an older boyfriend," Percy said, citing the ancient Greeks and Romans as flourishing societies in which those relationships were accepted and, in some cases, encouraged.
UMass doesn't necessarily approve of his work, but nor does the school condemn it.
The chairman of the school's history department, Paul Faler, said Percy is not popular among the department's faculty, but the department can't restrict Percy's choice of scholarship.
"He loves to provoke people. He says outrageous things in order to provoke a reaction - and the more of that the better - to spark controversy," Faler said.
Through his spokesman, UMass President William Bulger said he was not familiar with Percy's work and declined to comment on it.
Percy has also written a book called "Outing: Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence." A work he co-edited, "The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality," was withdrawn from publication after it was revealed that 24 articles allegedly written by a lesbian had actually been written by another male co-editor.
In 1993, Percy offered $10,000 to anyone who could prove that any Supreme Court justice, any living cardinal, or any four-star officer on active duty in any branch of the military was gay. He never was able to give away the money.
A native of Memphis, Tenn., Percy holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Tennessee, a master's degree in history from Cornell and a doctorate in history from Princeton.
He spent a few years teaching at universities in Louisiana and at the University of Missouri-St. Louis before arriving at UMass-Boston in 1968.
Percy's teaching isn't focussed exclusively on gay issues. He does, however, integrate some of his viewpoints into his teaching of ancient and medieval history, especially when discussing ancient cultures.
"The ones who are shocked are ones with children in between 11 and 15," Percy said. "They just explode. Because they're thinking, you see, of their own children. So I think that parents with children that age should not be around to discuss this. They're unable to be rational about it."
Percy said he has never faced any repercussions for his viewpoints at UMass, either from students or faculty, but he believes his salary increases have been less than they would have been had he kept his views to himself. After teaching at the school for over three decades, he's not worried about anyone asking him to leave.
"They can't get me out of here! I have tenure!" Percy said. "And all my relatives are Southern lawyers, practically. I'm very astute in the law."
Percy's classes stick mostly to traditional history lessons. But his occasional asides include his beliefs that prostitution should be legal, and that Merovingian kings, rather than dying from having too much sex, died of alcohol abuse.
"He's sort of a nut, but he's interesting," said one of Percy's male students, who didn't want to give his name so that his final grade wouldn't suffer. "It's a little strange that he tells us some of that stuff, but I never felt threatened by it."
Percy says he's slowed down in recent years. He has been living with the same man for eight years in the South End, and says the relationship is not exclusive.
He plans to write his memoirs, but says he hesitates to publish them while he is still teaching because he is "quite frank about all these manifold encounters." For now, he says only that the number is greater than 10,000.
His memoirs, though, will claim that he has had more sexual encounters than anyone else has ever claimed in print - more even than Wilt Chamberlain, who claimed in his autobiography to have made love to more than 20,000 women.
With AP Photo