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1. This Too Is Love - A Proposal

By Jay Baskins

There is power in telling one's own story, in one's own way. Also, one finds healing and sustenance, as well as intellectual clarity, in reading truthful accounts written by other people. This is one of the reasons why the sort of research done by Sandfort was so powerful. He allowed the boys, and some of the people close to them, to tell their own stories.

This idea is more fully explained in an essay "Quiet, Solitude, and the Telling of One's Own Story", which is placed on the Ipce web site.

It has, unfortunately, become almost totally impossible for men who have loved boys, or the boys who were loved by men, to tell their stories as they experienced them. Only the politically correct story can be told, and as we all know, this is a story of pain, harm, abuse, violence and exploitation. 

In treatment groups the language of 'victim' and 'abuser' is insisted upon. Participants are required to fit their stories into narrative templates provided by the sex abuse industry. Courts use the same kind of language, and the same set of stories. They are careful that an honest account of the "sex crimes" they process will never see the light of day. 

In popular books and magazines, and in stories presented on TV, one sees the same stock characters - the same folk demons and helpless children who are ruined for life -- and the same stereotyped plots of seduction and exploitation. 

With reporting laws in place, not even in therapy can a man or a boy safely tell the story of a forbidden love as he experienced it. This suppression of narrative freedom and honesty leaves men who love boys in a dangerous isolation. It makes it difficult, and at times impossible, for a boy to integrate experiences that he may have desired into his life and identity in a positive manner. And it leaves the general public in a state of almost complete ignorance as to the actual nature of a phenomenon that it is surrounded with violent talk, inhuman punishments, and draconian laws.

Those who are in control of a society control how its stories get told. We see this in history books, which are always told from the perspective of the winner. We also see it in the newspapers and on television where only one kind of narrative can be told with regard to key political and social issues. It seems to me that this is more true in the United States than in any of the other industrialized countries. Nowhere else is there a greater discrepancy between the self image of a country which sees itself as free, and the reality of a strict de-facto suppression of competing narratives. But the same issue exists to a greater or lesser extent in all countries. 

People act on the basis of their understanding of reality. This understanding is provided primarily by the narratives they hear and with which they identify. This means that political power has to do mainly with the ability to control the availability of narratives that ring true, are potentially transformative, and that might challenge the dominant version of reality. This ongoing struggle to suppress or to make available alternative stories about the life of a people could perhaps be called the politics of narration. To tell one's own story in a manner that is true to one's experience is a political act. Often it is the most important one, or even the only one, open to a member of an oppressed minority.

In a society inflamed by uninformed and violent rhetoric on the subject of intergenerational intimacy between males it often seems that there is nothing to be done to improve the situation. It is easy to become hopeless. I think the politics of narration can suggest to us a productive course of action even in these difficult times. It seems to me that one of the central goals of political action at this time must be to make alternative narratives available to men and women who have a genuine interest in the issue of intergenerational intimacy - people who want to know just what it really is all about. Perhaps this agenda can be approached in a variety of ways. I would like to suggest just one. 

I would like to see a web site opened that would be called "This Too Is Love." In it, biographical, auto-biographical, and fictional accounts men and boys who have loved each other would be made available to the general public. Some of the accounts might contain fairly graphic material, and some not. But it would not be a site for erotica. 

I would make here a distinction between erotica and serious literature. The aim of erotica is to sexually arouse. The aim of serious literature, whether fiction or non-fiction, is to show how something is. I am not interested in arguing whether erotica can serve a social purpose. But the "This Too Is Love," site would not be a place for posting it. "Serious literature" as I have defined it might be funny or whimsical, or it might be quite somber. It is the intent to portray something as it is that defines it, at least for the purposes of what I am talking about. 

I would like to this site be a place where current writings sent in for publication would be considered along with some older pieces of writing. It would contain both fiction and auto-biography, and perhaps even some research that was done from a narrative perspective (such as Sanfort's). 

Naturally we all like to read narratives that are skillfully crafted, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, on the TTIS site, the literary excellence of the piece, at least as it is usually judged, would be secondary to the question of whether it showed something important about how things really are. Writings by boys and by relatively unskilled writers might be posted if they "rang true" and managed to highlight some important aspect of the situation. A good example of this approach is The Sun, a small but high quality literary magazine. It has a section that is composed of narratives of one sort or another that readers, send in. Most of these readers are quite ordinary in their writing skills. Yet this section is one of the most vivid and interesting parts of the magazine. 

The site would need to be introduced by a paragraph containing some of the key phrases that people in search of more information on the issue of intergenerational intimacy might put in a search engine. Also it could be advertised on sites where people interested in this issue would be likely to see it. 

While the site would be open to a wide range of material as long as it was narrative in nature, it would be an edited site. Material would not be posted here that was simply erotica, or that did not have the ring of truth to it. 

Perhaps the most serious problem in establishing the site concerns the matter of safety. I recall reading an article in the National Geographic that portrayed the mating problems of a species of frogs that lived in a rain forest. The problem was that there were a lot of frog-eating bats in the vicinity. So when a frog sang, as they are prone to do, in order to attract a mate, the impassioned suitor was always in danger of attracting a bat instead. To sing is to tell one's own story. 

This is the dilemma of men and boys who have loved each other. They want to sing, but are afraid of being eaten by the bats. To provide people the opportunity to tell their stories in a forum that is safe might take some planning and finesse. But I would argue that it would be worth the effort because to provide men and boys who have loved each other the opportunity to tell their stories, and to hear the stories of other who are like them, may be the most important kind of political action that possible today. Only in this way can we provide these men and boys the support they need, and at the same time show the rest of society what it is that we are actually talking about.

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