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 by emu Nugent [1]  

  Was it only last century that the very reverend gay icon, Boyd McDonald, published a series of magazines and books about the true life experiences of gay men? With such wonderfully inflammatory titles as The Manhattan Review of Unnatural Acts, Straight To Hell, Meat, Flesh, Cum… they raged against the Festival of Light and other right wing, anti-sex bogies horrifying the timid, even amongst his gay readership, with their bold honest stories of sex between males.  

          "The biggest score of the month never got near the sports pages.  Male cheerleaders who write sports stories can't be sniffing a guy's jock one day and exposing him as a 'fag' the next. The score: 52 counts of 'sexual abuse, sodomy, and various sexual acts' between seven boys aged 11 to 18, and coach B.F., aged 28.  B.F.., a football coach of the junior varsity at a N.Y. state high school, was arrested.

       Evidently some of the little motherfuckers are 'fuck and tell' types, and after enjoying their unorthodox post-practice pleasures with the coach, ratted on him, playing 'victim' roles.  Having sex with boys on the team is definitely breaking training rules, and though the kids had strictly Little League pricks, B.F. was unable to resist their hot little ass­es - nor they him.

       The reason boys go through the masochistic tortures of athleticism is to avoid being 'queer.' But often their desire to have fun outweighs their desire to have respect.

       Some coaches, like some scoutmasters, are similarly torn by conflict. They get caught in a vicious circle.  To show they're 'straight' they enter a career that is the straightest, but also, at the same time, the most in­sanely erotic, with boys constantly pulling off their jock straps and shorts.

              Many jocks are America's true homosexuals. They show contempt for 'broads' and 'fags' and save their affection for each other. It's a negative love based on fear of bullying but a deep love nonetheless.  Homosexuals have comparatively casual sex; these jocks crave each other."[2]

This is not one of his sex stories, but a piece of McDonald journalism. 

Now his books are likely to be banned in Australia because of their unapologetic mention of (amongst other things) under-age males. 

Australian Customs have seized copies of two of Boyd McDonald's books, along with other titles, and are holding them pending prosecution. Two men in Western Australia are currently before the courts for importing this kind of so called 'child pornography'. A third has already been sentenced. I suspect there are more men who have quietly pleaded guilty. The charge of being a 'child pornographer' is hardly something that anyone stands up to shout about. 

But if the prosecutions continue to go unchallenged, it is possible that all gay books that dare to talk about sex between adults and under-age males will be liable to a restrictive classification and banning. There is no 'R' certificate for books (or films) that mention under-age sex. 

The law says that any depiction of a child under the age of 16 that 'offends a reasonable adult' is child pornography and must be banned. 

No reasonable person would defend the abuse of children in the making of pornography, although there might be a more affective way to prevent this abuse rather than by the dubious method of book burning. The issue here, however, is whether these books are pornography and whether any child is being abused. Is Australian Customs, in fact, interpreting the laws to bash the readers of mainstream gay literature? Perhaps. Although it seems as likely that they are flexing their muscles, and the muscles of a fairly new and authoritarian law, by targeting particular publications; those most likely to offend a straight audience, and which better than those about gay youths. No jury is likely to acquit a 'child pornographer'. What is certain is that Customs have been encouraged by a not always educated, sometimes hysterical, and almost always homophobic approach within Australia to the public discussion of children's sexuality. 

Notwithstanding gay law reform, let us remember that it is still illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to have sex anywhere in Australia.[3] 

The recent banning of BAISE MOI from Australian cinemas is only one example of the way the right wing has taken over the debate and control of censorship in this country. Senator Brian Harradine and co.'s past manipulative stranglehold on the Upper House of the Federal Parliament[4], along with the frightened Christian leadership of both major parties, has allowed some strange laws to slip into being. The 1995 censorship laws amongst them. 

Twenty years after gay community leaders (whoever they might be, and with whatever mandate?)[5] decided to scotch any discussion of intergenerational sexual encounters, in favour of appeasing homophobic governments for a limited accession to 'gay rights' and HIV/AIDS funding, it is high time we looked again at an issue that has perpetually dogged any Western view of homosexuality. 

And no wonder. The theme of man-boy love has occupied a major place in gay male writings from antiquity to the present. If we see that as a crime, then we are condemning a large genre of Western literature and art to the censor's bonfire, for hardly any writer on male homosexuality since Plato has not dealt with the subject of man-boy love.   

A quick look through THE PENGUIN BOOK OF INTERNATIONAL GAY WRITING shows Plato, Petronius, Boccaccio, Cellini, Ameng of Wu, Ihara Saikaku, Marquis de Sade, Balzac, Flaubert, Fyodor Sologub, Robert Musil, Sigmund Freud, André Gide, Thomas Mann, Sandro Penna, Umberto Saba, Costas Taktsis, Yukio Mishima, José Lezama Lima, Gerard Reve, Augustín Gómez-Arcos, Evgeny Kharitonov, Tony Duvert, Michel Tournier, Giuseppe Patroni Griffi and Roberto Calasso have all had a go.   

And this list does not include such Queens of literature as Jean Cocteau, Roger Peyrefitte, Mary Renault, Edmund White or Margerite Yourcenar. Nor our own Australian writers Matthew Goldenberg, Sumner Locke Elliott, Kieren McGregor, Seaforth McKenzie, Bron Nicholls, Ian Roberts, Sasha Soldatov and so on. Are we to condemn them all?   

Photographs, paintings and sculpture present an even more illuminating display of undressed adolescents; they have often been created by avowed lovers of boys. All those rude Greek vases and monuments, Caravaggio's[6] wicked oils (the ones which are not coming to Australia in the ITALIAN MASTERS exhibition); the innumerable Ganymedes and Davids, especially Donatello's sculpture[7]; von Gloeden's posings of Greek youths; "Zack's" raunchy comics[8]; Donald Friend's sketches; Will McBride's sculpture and photography, to mention just a few. 

This overwhelming preoccupation with the subject of man-boy love might well beg the question why? Are gay men really more perverted than everyone else? Or, do gay men have a tradition of having to scrutinise our sexual desires, and celebrating them in a way not required or possible by heterosexuals? A tradition that needs to be urgently defended, not just from prudes on the political right but also from those timid souls who have misunderstood the last 20 years of revelations about sex between adult and under-age males. 

The publications that Australian Customs have currently targeted include Kevin Esser's novel STREETBOY DREAMS[9], the now defunct journal PAIDIKA, the Dutch magazine KOINOS, Fidelity Publishing's SCUM, Gay Sunshine Press' FLESH, and Alyson publication's MY FIRST TIME. All of which (apart from Koinos) have been readily available in bookshops in Australia and grace many of our own bookshelves. 

These publications do look at sexual relationships between men and under-age males. But describing, depicting, writing about or discussing a relationship is not necessarily the same as "promoting"[10] or condoning that relationship. Although even that should not be illegal. In Australia we have a constitutional right (of sorts) to freedom of political expression.[11] This should include the right to discuss our sexualities in a positive way, and to call for the abolition of pointless anti-sex laws. And by this, I include "age of consent" laws, which are arbitrary, impractical and obviously do not protect children from rape. 

We are burying our heads in the sand if we try to pretend that loving, gay, intergenerational relationships do not occur. Unfortunately, it has been a tactic of the child-abuse industry to suppress any discussion that opposes their own rigid analysis of young people's sexuality. But, as is clear to anyone who has been abused, burying a problem will not make it go away. Ask any child. 

It is not just young people who are banned from reading or seeing many books, films, video's and magazines. All Australians are living in a nanny state, where our rights to self-determination are increasingly abrogated in the name of creating 'safer' communities. Successive Australian governments in a fervour of right-wing triumphalism are getting away, unchallenged, with using the Australian Customs Service and the Office of Film and Literature Classification to encroach upon people’s ability to even find, let alone "to read, hear and see what we want"[12] in the way of good books, films, or whatever. And we must resist them. 

© emu Nugent June 2002

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Click on the note [*] to go back to the text

[1] emu Nugent is a long-time gay activist and storyteller. He is one of the men charged by Customs with importing 'child pornography' into Australia.

[2] Boyd McDonald PLAYING WITH PLAYERS in Meat: True Homosexual Experiences From S.T.H. volume 1, Gay Sunshine Press 1981. Boyd McDonald died in 1993. Later printings are bowdlerised.

[3] And only legal since September 2002 for men between 16 - 21 to have gay sex in Western Australia, this is red-neck country.

[4] See David Marr's Dispatches From The Republic Of Salo in THE HIGH PRICE OF HEAVEN, Allen and Unwin, Australia 2000.

[5] See Adam Carr's rationale of the demise of the 'pedophilia' debate in QUESTIONS OF CONSENT, OutRage March 1997, and his queer use of quotation marks. Also at www.adam-carr.net/004.html.

[6]  See Peter Robb's impressive M, Duffy and Snellgrove 1998.

[7]  See James Saslow's Pictures and Passions, Penguin 1999. A book that is stuffed with combustible material.

[8]  In MEATMEN vols 22 and 23, "Zack" is always careful of course to give his boys an 18th birthday party.

[9]  Voted 53rd most popular gay book on the Association of Lesbian and Gay Men's Publishers web site, see www.publishingtriangle.com

[10]  It is an offence under the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations to promote paedophilia.

[11] From www.Butterworths.com.au: "The Commonwealth Constitution ss 7, 24, read in context, require the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to be directly chosen at elections by the people. This requirement embraces all that is necessary to effectuate the free election of representatives... Integral to the system is a freedom of public discussion of public affairs and political and economic matters among all members of the community."

[12] from the rather cynical first principle of the National Classification Code, in the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1975.

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