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Pedophilia or boy love

by Gert Hekma in Columns & Opinions , 01 januari 1970

These days one of the most controversial perversions is pedophilia, the love of boys or children. It`s called pedosexuality when actual sex is involved. Many people don`t even know the difference. Some scientists make a further distinction between pedophilia as the love of children not yet in their puberty and efebophilia, the love of pubescents. We`ve had a short period when the emancipation of pedophile love had some support even from within the police force, but this came to an abrupt end shortly after 1980.

In December 1988 a newspaper reporter, whom I considered reasonably enlightened, wrote that this theme could best be entirely wiped off the agenda. This was in connection with a debate about the consequences of pedophile contacts, which appear not to be as negative as most people think. Why not talk about acts which are considered monstrous but which aren`t experienced as such by the parties involved? In Queen Beatrix` opinion the lie reigns supreme in the press, but when I read such a journalist, I get the impression it`s simply cowardice ruling.

Social condemnation

With Oude Pekela, Bolderkar, Betuwe, Emmerveen, Assen and Dutroux pedosexual contacts became front page news. The social condemnation of such contacts considerably increased in recent years. In many cases the accusations turned out to be imaginary and not a speck of evidence could be found. In the case of Dutroux, who got depicted as a pedophile devil, it turned out to be a heterosexual father who, for love of ease, laid his violent hands upon young girls. There are pedosexual monsters among us, but nobody will condemn heterosexuals in the mass because parents murder their offspring or men kill their wives (and vice versa). Most pedophiles are good souls. A part of their violent behaviour might even be explained by the fact they`re portrayed as devils. Any sociologist will tell you, that belief creates fact. If you see pedophiles as monsters and murderers they`ll become just that.
In the news covering pedophiles it`s striking how often they`re seen as just another kinky subdivision of the gay community. After the Dutroux murders news columns appeared with accusations aimed at gay bookstores in Amsterdam, gay brothels in Rotterdam, the Spartacus Gay Guide and the gay studies in Utrecht, as if this devil had emerged straight out of the gay community. I think this idea comes from the fact that straight people have access via the family to pedosexual contacts with girls. It isn`t easy to demonize the family, while boy lovers can easily be depicted as dangerous outsiders who don`t hesitate to walk in Dutroux` footsteps. On the other hand many gay men once grown up have the feeling these dirty men" were the one stroke of good luck in their entire childhood. For many a budding gay man a pedophile does not signify danger, but is the welcome possibility of an outside world that isn`t as exclusive heterosexual as the family. Due to the social stigma they still suffer, gay men in general show more understanding of other sexual preferences straight people often sniff at. Gays and sometimes lesbians are the ones who`ll stand up not only for pedophilia but also for sadomasochism and other perversions", or are the ones to be involved in such pleasures.


In many societies sexual contact with children was held in high esteem. Greek men liked nothing better than to sexually enjoy the physical beauty they ascribed to boys. Papuas had themselves sucked or fucked these young ones so their semen would turn them into men. Often these boys weren`t more than about six years old. No harping on traumas, innocence or supposedly impropriate age for such experiences. It happened and was considered allright. Also here a certain belief created certain facts. Yet we don`t have to go so far away from home to find boys who delight in sex and aren`t traumatized by it in the least. Reading the life stories of people like Hans van Manen, Edmund White, David Wojnarowitsj and so many other queers we see boys who are under pubescence and are actively out for sex. Sometimes they do it with peers. Often they look for older boys or men who in many respects have more to offer. Jan Hanlo and André Gide fell for the seductive practices of eleven year olds. I have interviewed men who started hunting men at the age of six and weren`t traumatized by it in any way or thought they had been too young for such experiences.
On the other hand I know lots of men who regret having been kept in the dark for so long and didn`t get the chance to pursue their desire. Who would have given anything to meet an older guy who would have lovingly introduced them to gay life. As the twig is bent, the tree`s inclined" rules certainly true in sex. The French lawyer René Guyon said "Sex before eight or it`s too late". When reading statistics drawn up by Kinsey you get the impression people never make up for the sexual ground they lost in their youth. It`s the same with language, sports, music: if young talent isn`t encouraged, it`ll never make it to the top.

Scientific research

The filosofic works by René Scherer and the empiric ones by Theo Sandfort show comparable conclusions: sex between young and old doesn`t have to be harmful at all, on the contrary, at times it will help the young sexually and socially on their way. In the flood of researches done into rape, sexual violence and unwanted intimacies the idea got totaly lost that sexuality isn`t only destructive, but also has a constructive, healing effect and often imvolves pleasure.
The US researchers Robert Bauserman, Bruce Rind and Philip Tromovitch recently confirmed what we knew all along: as a rule sexual contacts of minors with grown-ups are harmless. Harm is done only when incest or forced sex is involved. (This coercion we will discuss when we come to humiliation.) The research was published in the prestigious Psychological Bulletin and evoked an outcry amongst local lunies and moralists. They got the US congress to pass a bill condemning all sex with children as abuse and stating that only from this idiotic supposition objective research was possible. I considered this a reason to call back the Dutch ambassador from Washington, but even the Dutch newspapers didn`t breathe a word about this blatant violation of children`s rights and scientific standards. Seen the history and anthropology of sexual contacts between grown-ups and children, we can deduce that the harmful effects of such contacts depend entirely on the context. Unfortunately for the current situation with all the crazy moms and angry fathers it means children suffer considerably, not because of pedophile contacts, but due to all the commotion and hysteria surrounding these contacts. In a world where loving or intimate attention for children is seen as dangerous, emotinally they`ll be losers by it. The growing culture of closed families thriving mainly in suburbs shields young people from all sexual imagery except the standard heterosexual marriage. Where erotic images and acts are seen as a danger to the innocence and well-being of children, they never get to really know the many different variations of sexual activity, let alone learn to deal with it. The fear of pedophilia in the end equals fear of sex. In a society and with media sexualized through and through, such fear leads to hysteria, hypocrisy and violence. For kids sex turns from a slightly problematic or exciting act into a traumatic one.
The sexual revolution hasn`t resolved the negative attitude towards sex. Pedophiles as well as youngsters suffer the consequences. Politics, education and families, in short all citizens together should put over the helm. Instead of demonizing sexuality for children we`d better open up to their erotic dreams and experiences. Instead of trying to keep them away from sexual expression we`d better confront them with it at an early age. The silence, surrounding the sexual dreams and acts of children, government and citizens want to enforce so desperately, only confirms heterosexual norms and will also produce terror about all others kinds of sexuality. The healthy development of budding gays (or straights) isn`t served by these phantoms in any way.

Next time: police



In the New Issue of Gay News, 326, October 2018

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