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‘Things will be all right again. One day’

Theme: the future of boy love

Dr. Frits Bernard, in KOINOS # 51 (2006 #3)

Shortly before this issue went to press, the Dutch sexuologist and author Dr. Frits Bernard passed away at the age of 86. This contribution to the theme ‘the future of boy love’ is the last article he has written for Koinos Magazine. In this issue Hans Visser en Frans Gieles commemorate the author.

Before discussing the future of boy love, a logical question to ask is how relationships between young and older persons fit in to vita sexualis, sexual life in its entirety. It is a known fact that intergenerational relationships have existed in all human societies at all times – and that they still do. Moreover, extensive research has shown that sexual relations also occur naturally between older and younger animals; they have a function within the social organisation or structure of a species. This is true of many animals, including birds.

Bruce Bagermihl studied a tremendously large sample of birds and found such behaviour everywhere. Both heterosexual and homosexual relationships occur, and they can be long-standing. Group sex is no exception either. This richly varied behaviour in birds has been documented in Bagermihl’s masterly work Biological Exuberance (1998). Intergenerational relationships appear to be founded in biology and to have a function within social structures, namely to offer and to find protection. They play a part in the learning process. This seems to be of evolutionary significance.

It thus emerges that intergenerational relationships existed long before humankind and are also far more common than is usually assumed. Studies such as the abovementioned and many observations confirm this. However, there is an important difference between animals and humans. In the animal kingdom, all this occurs in a far more instinctive way; in the case of humans, reason plays a role – the intellect, the capacity for logical thinking. And it is precisely this capacity which puts a spoke in the wheel here. With his intellectual powers, man is able to establish all sorts of new structures, to develop new thoughts and new conceptions. In doing so, we should take one further step than is usually taken, and shake off prejudice.

Negative factors

There are a number of negative factors which complicate boy love as it occurs in society. I want to discuss one of them: the sham judgement that has become instrumental. Human beings are inclined by their nature to develop prejudices. Bias has an easy time of it, also or especially in sexualibus. After all, people tend to generalise and to create so-called stereotypes, or put differently, undifferentiated categories, such as: ‘boy lovers are dangerous’. Reality is simplified and captured in a sort of photograph. A prejudice – taken to mean a judgement which is arrived at in default of objective criteria – does not get verified or corrected. It is a sham judgement and, moreover, it is typically a negative one.

A hostile attitude towards other groups can thus result from an incorrect opinion or from simplifying abstractions of reality (generalisations). New facts, including scientific facts, are not accepted or processed; on the contrary: they are resisted. This is the case now with some forms of sexual behaviour. Sometimes, a single unpleasant experience with a person of a certain race, faith or sexual orientation is sufficient to nurture a general aversion. Prejudices are unconsciously passed on to other people; they spread like wildfire. Discrimination is facilitated in this way, and so is aggression. The road to persecution is open.

In its essence, each society is multisexual. Boy love, however, has been in a dire predicament for years. Collective stigmatisation plays a prominent role here. It is hard to counter people’s tendency to have negative views. In the year 2006, it is very clear that we are living in a repressive society: that of the majority. The newspapers and television daily show us the direct results of repression. Critical reading and viewing allows us to discover the structures behind repression.

Since prejudice is a general human trait, an obvious question arises: how can one counter one’s own prejudices? To do this, it is necessary to break out of one’s own isolation, to be prepared to listen to more than one side and to accept facts and data from all other sources as well. One should also seek to enlarge one’s experience by getting in touch with those of whom one carries a false ‘photograph’.

Different scenarios

It remains a tricky matter to predict how boy love will fare in fifty years’ time. After all, we do not (yet) dispose of useful instruments to predict developments in society. It remains guesswork.

Will there be another renaissance for boy love after its brief flowering of about two decades in the last century?
Are we now at the valley’s deepest point?
Will the trend then be upward again, as a wave?
Will the opportunities that have passed repeat themselves in the future?
Will someone stand up to take the lead and make successful use of those opportunities?

Freedom never comes about of its own accord: it needs to be won and defended. I once saw something in the wave theory. Goethe spoke of a spiral: everything returns, but at a different level. Rapidly spreading globalisation, however, has led me to call the wave theory into question. Fundamental changes are now taking place which make it even more difficult to make predictions. It is clear, however, that changes will be occurring more on a global scale and that we in the Netherlands will have to concern ourselves more with what is happening and what is being decided across the world. Changes in legislation will also be judged by the European Parliament in Brussels. Things are becoming more complex, and so more difficult.

In this changing constellation, the following are some of the future possibilities I discern:

a. If the wave theory were to be correct, then we are probably heading towards another ‘flowering’ within the space of fifty years, provided that the struggle for freedom is continued.
b. If globalisation keeps gaining ground, the chances for a new ‘flowering’ will only shrink. In a united Europe, vice laws will be harmonised; differentiation will become harder and harder.
c. If a third world war should befall us, quite new structures could arise, with different norms and values and conceptions. Total repression (Endlösung?), or on the contrary, a great renaissance?
d. If completely new research methods should be developed in the coming years, then the results of scientific research could shine a rather different light on boy love. A breakthrough could then be possible. Research as it has been conducted thus far will be viewed as primitive. This holds not only for our field!
e. If the number of AIDS cases is not drastically reduced, AIDS will continue to have a negative effect on the acceptance of boy love. However, it is likely that a vaccine against HIV will be available within fifty years’ time.
f. Islam will leave a clear mark on developments. The influx of immigrants from Islamic countries outside Europe will put a brake on the acceptance of boy love.

A well-grounded prognosis is not possible. Sketching the future remains guesswork, but then, the present article sought to do no more. Still, a vision none too attractive forces itself upon me: the fast developing technical and electronic possibilities for monitoring people will increasingly put a check on the harmonious emancipation of boy love. This view suggests a rigidly monitored society which will end up destroying itself. Structures are built up and are then broken down again. After all, nothing is forever. To quote the late Dutch storyteller Carmiggelt: Things will be all right again. One day.

A solution?

Man’s inclination to develop prejudices will continue to be a threat in fifty years, because this inclination has always existed. The reversal of fallacious conclusions is a complex and lengthy process. Still, I believe there will probably always be shorter or longer periods of flowering. After all, boy love as well is inherent in humanity. History proves this.

It is now up to the young generation. They will have to find new ways to influence the future of boy love. But… where is the young, active leader? Who will carry on the struggle? Are we waiting for Godot? I fear so, because I see little enthusiasm among today’s youth to fight for this cause. Has the brainwashing gone too far already?

We will have to keep fighting in defence of the proposition that all human beings are entitled to their own sexual identity. Essentially, the fact that voluntary and desired sexual acts – including intergenerational contacts – are punishable by law is contrary to fundamental human rights. Governments have a duty here, consisting among other things of providing objective information. It seems that a conditional form of legalisation would be the best solution. Putting an entire sexual minority group under pressure in no way contributes to a healthy sexual life for people now and in the future. Quo vadis vita sexualis


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