The Pederasts

Society (magazine)

Rossman, Parker
Type of WorkEssay
Untitled - Notepad

Society Volume 10, issue 3 (March/April), 1973, pp.29-35

Parker Rossman

In the early 1960s I stumbled onto a problem which seems to be largely ignored by society and where scien­tific research is very deficient — especially considering its deep impact on the lives of those involved. In the course of counseling some deeply troubled men, I was led to explore the world of the pederast, eventually getting ac­quainted with over 1,000 men who were erotically at­tracted to young boys. I also interviewed more than 300 boys involved with such men.

On Studying The Sexual Underground

I began the study in an effort to help some men, fa­thers of families, responsible citizens in their communi­ties, who were being blackmailed, having fallen into the hands of a pimp who suggested they might like to try a new sort of sexual experience. The first of these I met was a professional man from the Midwest who had come to New York City to attend a study conference and to visit the World’s Fair. He had observed and participated in two “orgies,” where he had gotten acquainted with several other men who were victims of the pimp.

Through these men I became acquainted with several more, scattered across the country, and I was distressed to find that large numbers of children, particularly 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds, were being prostituted.

Although my first reaction was to draft proposals for better guidance and supervision of children, it occurred to me that the more important question was: who are the customers?

I found myself heavily engaged in counseling in an area where I knew little, attempting to deal with the problems of pederasts — not merely those being blackmailed, but those struggling with temptation and guilt. One glimpse of this anguish is well portrayed in the recent film, Death in Venice, where the film-maker stresses the dismay of a man who discovers that he is erotically attracted to a young boy (somewhat of a misreading of the Thomas Mann novel from which the film was made).

The pederasts I met desperately needed to talk to someone they could trust. They required help and sup­port to stay out of trouble. So in an effort to help, I sur­veyed the vast literature on pederasty: legal cases, medi­cal, analytic, psychiatric and psychological case studies: historical, anthropological, sociological and biograph­ical material. As will be suggested in a forthcoming bib­liographical article on pederasty in the Journal of Sex Research, some of the thinly disguised autobiographical novels may provide accurate data needed to counter-balance the existing inadequate, incomplete and subjec­tive research on pederasty.

Without intending it and without legitimated qualifi­cations, I was propelled into an extended research proj­ect, more comprehensive than anyone has yet attempted, the only exception being Dr. Ettore Mariotti of Naples, whose medical research was banned and burned earlier in this century. He died a broken man, and I, too, have found that research into pederasty may endanger one’s career and may even endanger one’s life when it leads to an exploration of child prostitution.

Because of the caution, fear and secrecy of pederasts, I do not believe anyone else has had such an opportunity. Certainly no one else has written a report on such exten­sive interview data.

This article is not intended as a pre­liminary report of findings, but rather as a statement of some hypotheses for further research and as a proposal for the creation of an interdisciplinary research team which would undertake a study of pederasty and pedo­philia. New insights into homosexuality also might be produced by more adequate research into the sexual ex­perience of children and of children with adults. It is clear to me that no one discipline, no one scholar is ade­quately equipped to deal with the complexities which my research has uncovered.

How and where does one find pederasts?

Unlike ho­mosexuals, there are no pederast associations in the United States. Yet each pederast knows another, andacross a decade one can therefore be led from person to person. If one is trusted he can in time become acquaint­ed with the secret pederasts who never reveal themselves unless they get into trouble or go to a psychiatrist. One can begin to speak now of a “homosexual community,” but pederasts are isolated from one another by fear and suspicion of each other. As G. W. Henry suggests in his book, All the Sexes, the number of pederasts is much larger than is commonly known or supposed.

There are mailing lists of persons who order pederast books, photographs and other materials. Before it be­came illegal to send unsolicited advertisements of por­nography, a number of European firms sent mailings to discover potential customers. There are now (in Europe) coded mailing lists of as many as 50,000 Americans who have purchased such materials.

I have sorted through a number of such lists and I found one dealer who had in his files 1,800 returned questionnaires from American pederasts who reported their activities and interests to suggest the sorts of printed materials they would be in­terested in buying. The majority of these were profes­sional men: teachers, doctors, social workers — with uni­versity professors heading the list.

The questionnaires suggested that most of them ordered books and pictures as fantasy substitutes for criminal sexual activity. Those 1,800 questionnaires further in­dicated that such persons often went overseas, or at least far from home, if they engaged in pederast sexual acts.

These questionnaires seemed to confirm what I had learned from my counseling interviews — that these pe­derasts tended to have sex without love with young pros­titutes when away from home; and at the same time these men had affectionate, non-sexual relationships with boys at home.

This provisional answer to the question of who led to yet another question: why?

The pederasts I was counseling also wanted to know how unique their experi­ence was. One of them offered to pay for sending out a questionnaire asking for autobiographical information:

  • When did these pederasts first become aware of their temptations and desires?
  • What was the nature of their fantasies and experience?

Selecting initially 1,000 names from a commercial list, I wrote 500 persons, on five con­tinents, to ask if they could supply me with data or bibli­ography on child prostitution — since it was assumed no one would admit he was a pederast. I received an as­tonishing volume of replies, with newspaper clippings, articles and personal experiences. Most of the persons who wrote said that they loved children and would do anything they could to stamp out abuses and exploita­tion of children.

I wrote again, personally typed letters on an MTST tape typewriter, to the second 500 names as well as to those who had replied to the first letter, asking for the names of persons who might be able and willing to sup­ply data about pederasty, especially asking who would be willing to fill out an anonymous questionnaire or be interviewed. The replies were disappointing. Not many were willing to fill out even the most confidential or anonymous questionnaire. Those who finally did fill out a questionnaire were not truthful. Later, in personal in­terviews, many admitted that the truth was exactly the opposite of what they had written.

It should be noted that whereas an increasing number of homosexuals believe they have a battle to fight for law reform and some public acceptance, pederasts have no such illusion.

  • Most of them are deeply fearful and re­sentful of any publicity, research or public notice.
  • Some persons even threatened my life if I should pursue such a study or publish results.
  • Many others, however, replied that they would be interested in talking to me confiden­tially, often adding an appeal for help.
  • Some were very dismayed at having once engaged in a criminal act and intended never to do so again.
  • Others were so fearful of their pederast fantasies and temptations that they would hardly shake hands with a boy.
  • Some had felt they could not afford therapy, and
  • others had found therapy un­helpful.

At this point I had what turned out to be a foolish no­tion — that one might experiment with a sort of Alcohol­ics Anonymous group for pederasts who needed and wanted the help and support of others to keep from yielding to temptation. So partly as a device for gather­ing more data into the “why,” I tried convening some discussion meetings, which were useful only in revealing the overwhelming difficulties of group conversation. So, on the suggestion of several persons, I initiated a series of round-robin letters, in which pederasts wrote anony­mously of their sexual fantasies, dreams and experi­ences. This project continued across five years, involving several hundred persons.

I began by asking the questions I had developed for a questionnaire, and essay replies were mailed to other participants for comment. In addition to personal expe­rience and autobiographical statements, the round-robin newsletters included information on pederast books, films, articles — the equivalent finally of nearly 5,000 double-spaced typewritten pages, which drew together nearly all of the available data on pederasty from all sources, for extensive comments from pederasts them­selves.

Those who received and commented on this mate­rial included pediatricians (one who read and discussed it all with his wife), psychiatrists, social scientists, politi­cians, policemen, parole officers, clergy — including a bishop — social workers, scholars of various disciplines. Many of these persons, of course, were not pederasts, but were sex researchers and scholars of other dis­ciplines. The plan had been to deposit all this material at the Institute of Sex Research at Indiana University.

The most substantial aspect of the research consisted of in-depth interviews, which were possible only after a basis of trust was established — even then some would talk to me only anonymously, and one man only in the dark. I would like to express public appreciation here to the many men, some distinguished in their fields of work, who not only were willing to reveal to me things they had never dared to tell anyone before, but who in many cases traveled great distances at their own expense to meet me when I was in Paris, Beirut, Tangiers, Syd­ney, Toronto as well as many American cities.

What Is A Pederast?

The one contribution I should perhaps be expected to make on the basis of such extensive research would be a definition of pederasty, but the more one knows about such a subject the more difficult it becomes to establish adequate definitions, for one has learned a thousand ex­ceptions for a thousand qualifications and complica­tions. One cannot define pederasty without stating con­troversial hypotheses.

André Gide in his Journal wrote: “A pederast is a lover of young boys and I am one.” Note that this does not necessarily define pederasty in terms of an erotic at­traction to boys, nor is the pederast thus defined as one who engages in sexual acts with boys, although Gide does report such sexual activity in his autobiography, If It Die. Rather the pederast sees himself as one who loves boys in all the meanings of the word love.

Our difficulty with the word pederast is that it covers many types, some as widely different as virgin and ra­pist. Can one word be used to include them all? I am especially not willing to limit the word pederast to those who are engaging in illegal sex acts, but insist on includ­ing a large majority who have never had a first homosex­ual experience. Who then is a pederast? As with homo­sexuals, I am content to let them define themselves. A pederast is someone who accepts the label and identifies himself as such, chaste or promiscuous.

It is generally assumed that pederasty is a subdivision of homosexuality, pederasts being those homosexuals who prefer “chicken” (young boys). In my judgment such homosexuals are only one type of pederast.

If one defines a homosexual as a person who engages in homo­sexual acts, then many pederasts are homosexuals. The only kind of sex act a man can have with a boy is a homosexual act. However, most homosexuals are eager to disassociate themselves from pederasty, being honest­ly horrified at the thought of homosexual relations with a child.

Some further feel that, to accomplish legal re­form to their advantage, restrictions on homosexual ac­tivity among consenting adults must be removed at the price of stricter laws against sex acts with children. Never mind the psychological damage done to children by dragging them to court on matters that should be handled medically and psychiatrically. Many homosex­uals find it convenient to forget their own childhood emotions and experiences.

And questioning the rela­tionship between homosexuality and pederasty, one faces the question: who is a consenting adult? If the age of consent is 18 or 21, then many homosexuals are in fact pederasts. On the other hand, if the age of consent is puberty or age 14 as in some countries, then much pe­derasty becomes homosexuality, for many of the chil­dren we are discussing would then be considered adults.

More important, however, is the fact that a large per­centage of pederasts are not exclusively attracted to males and are not homosexual if one uses the common sense definition: a homosexual is a man who is erotically attracted to an adult male. Some pederasts are admit­tedly homosexual; some consider themselves bisexual and should be more accurately called pedophiliacs — be­ing equally attracted to young girls.

Many pederasts relate sexually to women very well. And as researchers on homosexuality have amply shown, are married, and have children. Many of the accepted psychoanalytic theories of pederasty simply do not seem to apply to them at all.

Also many pederasts have a deadly fear of “homosexual boys,” for homosexual youngsters tend to panic at emotions they are unable to manage, or they become insanely jealous and demanding. Our under­standing of pederasty must therefore be enlarged to in­clude a much greater variety of experience, as indicated by our interviews.

Five Types of Pederasty

Adequate definitions of pederasty must take account of at least five types of pederasty.

First,the smallest category is the “temporary or sub­stitute” pederast who sleeps with a boy when women are not available. Usually he does so only infrequently, is quite cautious, and does not really consider himself to be a pederast.

This type was in the past commonly found at sea; for example see Jean Bosq’s Le Vice Marin, which helped remove young boys from French ships because of its evidence that the ship captain was accurate when he remarked that “after six weeks at sea the sodomy laws no longer apply.” But ship crews no longer include young boys and most voyages are relatively short in du­ration. Steps have also been taken to eliminate pederasty in other traditional breeding ground s— young boys are generally not jailed in adult prisons, and women are much more available to the army.

I would also include in this category those individuals who are essentially heterosexuals who in search of new sexual kicks become the customers for young male pros­titutes at home and abroad. For example, there is the tourist who patronizes the boys brothel in Bangkok and tells his friends that for a different kick they should try young boys that are available in many tourist cities. And there is a great deal of pederasty among Americans in Vietnam, as there was among the French before them for the same reasons — not because of a lack of women.

Second is the category of “criminal or exploitative pederasts,” including pimps of young boys, gangsters who run pederast hangouts, blackmailers and others on the fringes of society where many are engaged extensive­ly with women.

Some of these pederasts limit their sex­ual activity almost exclusively to young boys and do consider themselves to be pederasts. There is often a great deal of legal and personal risk involved in this type of activity. It is important to note that many of these people have passionate affection for boys, and they may be the most authentic survivals of the substitute type. Many of them had their definitive sexual experiences in reformatories.

Across their formative teenage years and sometimes into their twenties, they had regular sexual intercourse and even passionate affairs with younger in­mates. They not only developed a taste for sex with young boys, they became very skilled at seduction and learned to give and receive pleasure of a radically differ­ent kind than they have with women.

Third, some of these men who became addicted to boys in reformatories become the “promiscuous pede­rast” type. This category includes these men who cruise cheap motion pictures and regularly pick up the hustlers available in most cities. Many of these are lower-class men. Those I interviewed included bakers, clerks in hotels and stores, bus drivers, milk routemen, police­men.

Most men in this category are exclusively pederasts and consider themselves as such. Some have already been arrested and can no longer get good jobs. Others are careless and cynical because of fatalism. Taking risks is a part of the game. Some make sexual proposi­tions to every boy they meet, to see which will respond.

They are not likely to use drugs, alcohol or force, as some in the previous category, but many are frankly exploitative. Some are callous, others are mentally ill. There is, indeed, such variety in this category that it ought to be a dozen categories. It should be noted that the criminal and cautious types are the only ones consid­ered in most of the theories of cause and cure.

Fourth are the “careful pederasts.” These men gener­ally do not limit themselves solely to young boys but are quite aware of their inclination toward pederasty. They generally have a good deal of money and they avoid sex­ual contact with boys except in carefully protected situa­tions, thereby minimizing legal and personal risks. Some, for example, would never touch a boy in the Unit­ed States, but make special trips to other countries. One man has sexual relations only with the children of call girls he befriends and baby-sits for. Another pays a size­able monthly income to a widow whose son he is edu­cating. I learned of two “father-son sports clubs” where fathers traded their own sons on camping trips.

There have been a number of arrests in relation to one of these groups in the Los Angeles area. I found a town of 8,000 people in the Midwest where a group of men have paid for the college education of a series of boys across 20 years, in exchange for sexual favors when the boys were younger. Because of the care with which they protect themselves, these men do not usually fall into the hands of the law — unless they make careless mistakes or vio­late their own rules for some reason. One basic rule of the careful pederast, for example, is never to mix busi­ness with pleasure.

Responsible Pederasts

Fifth, “responsible pederasts” are those men, often wealthy and of good education and position, who avoid any kind of sexual contact or involvement with children. Aware of their problem and temptations, they bend over backwards to protect themselves, some refusing to have anything to do with organizations where young boys will be present.

Many of these men in their first interviews with me swore that they have never had any kind of sex­ual contact with a boy — at least not since they were young teenagers themselves. Later, however, many of them admitted that “some years ago” they had slipped once or twice, and they live in mortal fear that it will be discovered even yet.

There are certain common factors in causing them to slip.

  • Frequently they are not prepared to handle a seductive and seducing child, particularly one with previous sexual experience.
  • Further the irresist­ible child was one who not only was aroused and de­manding, but also revealed a very touching sexual hunger: “I was so fond of that child I simply could not refuse him.”
  • The third typical factor, however, is the de­velopment of strong resistance, having succumbed in this way. Being repentant, angry that he was naive and un­prepared, the responsible pederast is determined to make sure that he never succumbs again.

I detected that many of them have moods that go up and down and that from time to time they do have weak moments when their resistance is low — such as some evening when in a distant and anonymous city they meet a young hustler.

This is the most neglected group in ped­erast research and therapy. Mostly they report that ana­lysts and psychiatrists do not take them seriously, if they report some temptations which they seem to have pretty well under control.

Finally, within each of the above categories, what we actually find is a continuum of attitudes and experiences, and many of the thousand persons who have provided data do not fit exactly into any of the above categories.

While it is useful to know how many pederasts there are, how they make contacts with boys, and the extent and type of sexual activity, there are, however, more crucial questions, revolving around the nature of the sex­ual experience upon life, personality, morals, values, at­titudes and emotions of those who have the experience.

Further, to speak of “sexual experience” points to the fact that we are concerned with more than sex acts, that is, with

  • the meanings and interpretations given to such acts
  • and to the emotions surrounding unfulfilled desires.

For while the literature for the most part emphasizes the types and frequency of unusual sexual acts, the sexual activity of pederasts is for the most part extremely limit­ed. Many, in fact, except for the promiscuous category, have experienced a sexual act with a boy only once or twice in a lifetime, often years ago. A high percentage of the promiscuous category are sexually active only when they are away on vacations or overseas.

Pederast Morality

At one of my early meetings with pederasts, those present pointed out that every one of them would draw a line at some point, in terms of his own moral standards:

  • Some would never touch a boy, certainly not sexual­ly.
  • Others thought it was all right to hug and caress a boy, but not kiss.
  • Others thought it was acceptable to kiss and to mas­turbate the boy.
  • Others would fellate a boy, but considered anal inter­course a crime.
  • The large majority would make the above decisions in accordance with the wishes of the boy. They would do what he desired and no more.
  • None would touch a child not yet pubescent, because that boy would not be interested or aroused.
  • Some would never touch a child unless there was mu­tual affection.
  • Others, however, considered it a game or sport to seduce a young adolescent, especially one who want­ed to play the game.
  • Others would never seduce a boy, but would indulge in sexual acts with an experienced boy prosti­tute — especially away from home.

As I extended my interviews, this list grew longer and longer, suggesting an almost infinite variety of attitudes and experiences. In his ideal world, where he lives most of the time and for most of the years of his life, the pederast — except for certain criminal and promiscuous types — loves and protects boys.

What does he enjoy in sexual relations with a boy?

The pederast enjoys giving the boy pleasure, perhaps in the sense of “enjoying the pleasure of the other,” which Sartre in Saint Genet uses to interpret the writings of that French author. They do not kiss boys, usually, be­cause boys do not want to be kissed, so the pederast con­tents himself with the teasing and wrestling which a boy enjoys.

Because a pederast truly wants a boy’s affection, he follows the boy’s sexual lead rather passively, becom­ing sexually active only as affection grows and as the boy wishes. Most said: “You never really have to seduce a boy. Give him time and he will seduce you.” They gener­ally agreed that those who fall into the hands of the police are the ones who have forgotten that rule.

The Consenting Boys

What do boys enjoy sexually? While I did get the chance to talk, in limited ways, to the young lovers of some pederasts — and more meaningfully and construc­tively with older boys and young men who had been such lovers in the past — I could not interview a truly repre­sentative sample of children. Most of my data on the at­titudes and experience of boys is from interviews with boy prostitutes. In any event, some clear impressions emerge from hearing men and boys describe their experi­ences.

It was generally agreed that boys respond to men’s overtures, or even seek men out, for four main reasons or combinations of them:

1) some boys are hungry for affection,

2) some mainly want money and gifts (and not always because of poverty),

3) some want adventure, new experiences, kicks other than sexual ones. Some at a rather young age see “playing the queers” as an exciting game to play until they are old enough for girls,

4) most­ly, however much they may hide behind other reasons, boys indulge in sexual activity with men because they greatly enjoy being fellated. They are highly aroused by a sexually stimulating culture, and they want sex educa­tion and sexual kicks.

Lower-class delinquent boys are more likely to have been seduced than other youngsters. In nearly all cases the boys were first seduced by youngsters of their own age or slightly older. While this is more characteristic of the boy prostitutes (and therefore of those I interview­ed), the adult pederasts I interviewed verified that this was indeed typical of most of their lovers. The sexually experienced boy is not only more available and more tempting to the pederast, but he often takes initiative in proposing sexual relations, especially in a situation of mutual trust and affection.

In most cases, the actual sexual intercourse of man with boy is much more like a game than like love-mak­ing with a woman. Indeed, a large number of boys in America, and also in England, use the term “fun and games” to talk about such activity.

The boy who would react angrily to any suggestion that he had ever indulged in homosexual activity, or in sexual perversions, or love-making with males, would often admit to “fun and games.” I do not know how extensive it is for adoles­cents to view sexual activity as a sport, but it seems to be very typical of those boys who are involved with pede­rasts, and seems to characterize the adolescent memo­ries and fantasies of a high percentage of pederasts of all categories.

Therefore, instead of discussing the extent to which pederasts and boys are indulging in oral intercourse, anal intercourse or masturbation — for the first two are perhaps much more rare than commonly supposed — it might make much more sense to study the types of sex­ual games that are played, in which oral or anal inter­course are sometimes the penalty for the loser or the reward for the victor.

There are gambling games, sporty games related to boxing and wrestling, sexual competi­tions and contests. There is the “hunt and chase,” and there are other courtship games. One might well speak of “healthy” games and “sick” games, for some — espe­cially as developed in juvenile penal institutions — come to involve teasing, sadistic spanking, psychological tor­ture, prostitution, mock marriages and even rape. There are sporty games which involve very little emotion and fantasy, and there are highly charged emotional experi­ences in which fantasy is a major dimension of the game.

It is often pointed out that how adults react and what adults say to interpret sexual acts may be much more in­fluential, much more crucial in the emotional develop­ment of the child than the actual sexual act in which he may have been involved.

Perhaps it is even more crucial how the child interprets and fantasizes over his own sex­ual experience. There is an emotional point at which a homosexual affirms his identity: “All right I am a homo­sexual. Now I understand myself,” and where the pede­rast says to himself: “I am a pederast. I didn’t ask to be a pederast. How did it happen?”

Most pederasts, if they have an opinion at all, think that it happened to them at puberty, in relation to fantasies and solitary pleasures long before they had any sexual contact with another person of either sex.

Erotic Attraction

Many pederasts reported that they were conscious of a strong erotic attraction to boys before they had any idea of the type of sexual contact they would desire. This is not true of those who actively participated in sexual games during their own adolescence. Those, who did, tend to desire the types of sexual contact which they came to enjoy during adolescent sex games.

The actual nature of the games was less important than the fan­tasies which accompanied and interpreted the sex play, adding a pleasurable emotional dimension to the games. Interestingly enough, when one questions pederasts about the nature of those fantasies, especially the ones they remember or still repeat because of their emotional or pleasurable significance, they most often mention four types:

  • inventing new games or elaborating upon habitual games as they might be played in the future
  • reliving an adolescent sexual experience or elaborat­ing an imaginary adolescent experience which was meaningful at that time
  • fantasizing an encounter with the “ideal boy,” a “love story”
  • refantasizing an adolescent masochistic game or dream

The aim of the fantasy is genital pleasure and the accen­tuation of genital pleasure, and the successful fantasy is one which provides either the stimulus to masturbation or the “warm emotional glow” or sexual pleasure with­out masturbation. The most successful fantasies are gen­erally a reliving of experiences of early adolescence, which grow deeper and more routine each time they are relived.

It is my hypothesis that pederasty’s origin lies in the experience and interpretation of intense and exciting personal pleasure in sexual experiences at puberty and following.

Wendell Pomeroy warns, in Boys and Sex, that adolescent homosexual play “may become so plea­surable” that a boy “will not give himself an opportunity to develop a heterosexual life.”

For many pederasts it may well be that the adolescent sex games were so plea­surable that he continues them alongside other types of sexual experience in later life.

It seems to me that a neglected aspect of research into homosexuality and pe­derasty is the study of pleasure. This becomes more cru­cial in a time when “sex as fun” and “fun culture” take deeper root in the attitudes of the younger generation. The emphasis on the study of clinical and neurotic aspects of homosexuality, for example, as sickness, has simply understressed the role of pleasure in determining what people will do sexually.

  • What role do daydreams and masturbation fantasies play in the pederast’s sexual pleasure, in his temptations and desires, in his self-concept of pederast and justifica­tion of his behavior?
  • What is the difference between “man-boy love affairs” and sex games which take place in a non-love situation?
  • How do these different experi­ences affect the sexual socialization and sexual behavior of various individuals?

There are no clear-cut answers to these questions. Indeed, some adolescents appear to en­gage in a great deal of sex play with little emotional im­pact, while the lives of others are deeply colored by one isolated sexual experience.

Research is needed into the nature of sexual pleasure, especially when not in the con­text of a loving relationship, and into the sexual fantasies of children and young adolescents as related to the devel­opment of pederast and homosexual tendencies. We have only scratched the surface — our answers have sug­gested new questions. Research into pederasty has been inadequate because we haven’t even known what ques­tions to ask.