What’s in a name?

The word “adultophilia” has its champion here on Heretic TOC (see willistina556’s response to The real silenced voices) to describe children’s sexual attraction to adults. Another commentator, Gil Hardwick, favours “teleiophilia”, this being “in uniformity with the original Greek”.

The latter term is a bit of a bugger for those whose spelling isn’t great but is favoured (also part of the downside, some would say) by the psychological research wallahs. Actually, it was Ray Blanchard who coined the term, as recently as 2000, although Gil is right that the word is wholly Greek in origin. One of the good things coming out of work by Blanchard et al. in recent years has been to strengthen the evidence that paedophilia is a sexual orientation, thus giving the lie to feminist claims that its primary motivation is power abuse, and the more traditional sin-sniffing view that it is a wicked lifestyle choice serving to revive the jaded appetites of those who have grown bored of every other kind of depravity.

More about the research another time. Meanwhile jedson303 amusingly affects mock horror at the idea that anyone could find adults attractive. Seen through the prism of our own tastes, the horror of some of us (me included) is real enough. The majority, though, however bizarre we may feel such a desire to be, are indeed turned on by adults.

But children? Surely not? They’re all little asexual innocents these days, as every ignorant bigot knows. Not so a century ago, when Sigmund Freud gave the world his theory of infantile and child sexuality, including boys’ Oedipus Complex and its female equivalent. These described sexual desires very much directed at adults: in the first instance, the children’s own parents.

Not so half a century ago, either, when Alfred Kinsey was documenting childhood orgasm from infancy onwards. Even Alfred the Great, though, would have been hard pressed to drum up funds for researching children’s sexual desire specifically for adults. Fortunately,  memoirists have occasionally given some revealing glimpses into their own childhoods.

Tom Driberg (1905-1976) is a case in point. Driberg, a high-profile journalist and long-serving Member of Parliament was openly gay at a time when few dared to be. And in his book Ruling Passions he came out as an adult-oriented gay youth, gay child, and even gay toddler!

As it happens, I started reading Ruling Passions just this week. I haven’t got far into it yet, but already there is this, on pages 8-9:

There was…much half-informed speculation on the processes of sex and parturition at the prep school to which I went at the age of eight. But some sexual impulses had made themselves felt at a much earlier age. I was crawling about on the carpet in my father’s study (called the smoking-room), and cannot therefore have been more than two or three, when I found myself between the flannel-trousered legs of my eldest brother [aged 19 or 20], who was standing in the middle of the room talking. Looking up towards the crotch, I perceived a small hole – some stitches loose in the seam. Gently, I inserted a finger – so gently that I don’t think my brother noticed – and, though I did not quite touch flesh, I experienced what I clearly recall as the first authentic sexual thrill of my life.

The next incident that comes to mind brought no satisfaction: it was merely a remark, made by me, and I have never understood why I made it in the circumstances in which it was made. At the age of five I was sent to a kindergarten, conducted by two elderly sisters, the Misses Hooker, in a house named Hookstead. Each day I was walked there by our gardener, a middle-aged man with a drooping greyish-ginger moustache, named Hemsley. One morning, on our way to Hookstead in the main Beacon Road, I stopped, looked up at him and said: “Hemsley, will you please take down your trousers?” I cannot remember his reply: I suppose that it was dismissive.

A few pages further on Driberg reveals that by the ripe old age of 12 he was regularly picking up middle aged men in public lavatories: he couldn’t get enough of them!