Heretic TOC is delighted to present a guest blog today by Edmund, author of the BL novel Alexander’s Choice, set at Eton College and somewhat improbably hailed in the Daily Mail as “the Etonian version of Fifty Shades Of Grey”. The book was being “feverishly read by as many Etonians, past and present, as can get their hands on it”, enthused columnist Richard Kay. And who better to write about hot lust and love between man and boy at Britain’s fabled hothouse for future leaders than an Old Etonian such as Edmund himself? More relevant today, though, as will be seen below, is another observation I once made about the author: “I think he must … be some sort of time traveller, a former citizen of ancient Athens, judging by his amazing evocation of pederasty’s golden age and the ideals of pedogogic eros and mentorship.” Edmund now has his own fledgling website, hatched only a few days ago and in a very preliminary stage of development, called Greek Love Through the Ages.

 

On the lowering of the usual age at which boys have attracted men

A few years ago, when I wrote a novel about a love affair between a fourteen-year-old boy and a young schoolmaster, I was already aware from long study of ancient Greece, the best-known pederastic culture ever, that my protagonist was a little below the average age of boys to which Greek men were attracted.  However, it was only through extensive correspondence resulting from my novel that it was first impressed on me that most men today identifying themselves as boy-lovers are more attracted to younger boys.  Put together, this suggested a serious discrepancy between Greek and modern preferences. This both surprised me and struck me as having important implications, so I have done some investigation which I am now reporting.

I firmly believe that attraction to boys is a natural impulse which has survived millions of years of evolution because of its benefits to the species. The evidence for this was best summed up by Bruce Rind in his Hebephilia as a Mental Disorder? (2011), showing that pederasty has been so widely practised not only throughout recorded human history, but also by other primates, as to indicate that it is an “evolutionary heritage” for which “most mature males have a capacity” (pp. 20-1). Moreover, one indication of its evolutionary function is “that mature male erotic interest in boys, when expressed, is generally coordinated with the ages at which mentorship and enculturation are most useful and efficiently effected, from peripubescence through mid-adolescence” (p. 24).  But how can it be thus co-ordinated if boy-lovers today are drawn to significantly younger boys than were the Greeks?

Much the strongest evidence for the age of boys with whom men chose to become sexually involved in any era comes from Renaissance Florence, thanks to Michael Rocke’s exhaustive study of the copious records of the Office of the Night Watch set up to police pederasty there.  In Statistical Table B.2 of his book Forbidden Friendships (1996), he gives the “ages of partners in the passive role, 1478-1502” in 475 cases recorded by the Office of the Night.  They range from six to twenty-six, but 90% (428) were aged twelve to nineteen, while only 16 were under twelve, and only 31 were aged twenty or more.  At 82 cases, sixteen was the peak as well as the mean.  A smaller sample of 58 passive partners whose ages were found in a tax record of 1480 yielded a mean age of fifteen.

The best evidence for the youngest age at which Greek boys receive amorous attention is poem 205 of Straton of Sardis’s Musa Puerilis:

My neighbour’s quite tender young boy provokes me not a little, and laughs in no novice manner to show me that he is willing. But he is not more than twelve years old. Now the unripe grapes are unguarded; when he ripens there will be watchmen and stakes.

This implies that at twelve or a little less, a boy had not quite reached the expected age.   In his poem 4, Straton says he delights in the prime of a boy in his twelfth year (ie. aged eleven).  I believe this is the sole reference in Greek literature to boys under twelve being sexually attractive.  Plutarch, in his Life of Lycurgus, says that Spartan boys “were introduced to the society of lovers” at twelve.

Straton considered seventeen beyond bounds and there are copious references in Greek literature to boys losing their desirability with the appearance of body and facial hair.  However, an eighteen year-old could still be referred to as a pais (boy) in an amorous context and fully-grown but still unbearded youths are commonly depicted as men’s beloveds on vases.  Aristotle says beard growth occurs some time before twenty-one (History of Animals 582a).

According to P. G. Schalow, translator into English of Ihara Saikaku’s The Great Mirror of Male Love, the most important source of our knowledge of the pederasty ubiquitous in Japan for a thousand years, the age of the passive partners usually corresponded to the age of the wakashu (adolescent boy), defined by hair-shaving ceremonies performed at the ages of eleven or twelve and eighteen or nineteen.

Khaled El-Rouayheb in his Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World 1500-1800, also describing a society where men’s attraction to boys was taken for granted, quotes the opinions of numerous primary sources on the age of boys’ attractiveness. He concludes that the range was wide, at seven or eight to twenty, but “that the boy’s attractiveness was usually supposed to peak around halfway through, at fourteen or fifteen.”

To determine the ages to which today’s self-identified boy-lovers are attracted, I consulted two of their forums. In a poll held this year on one called boymoment, seventy-six voters replied to the question “What ages do you like?” 8% opted for under eight, 81% for eight to fifteen and 10% for 16+.  The ages brackets of 10-11 and 12-13 were most popular and virtually equal choices, confirming what an old hand there told me that the many polls of this sort conducted in the past had consistently shown 11-12 as the most preferred age, in other words towards the end of Tanner stage two of pubescence.  A poll of 88 voters on a forum called boylandonline ongoing since 2011 showed 10, 11 and 12 as the roughly equal most popular choices.

Based on the foregoing, I think it is fair to postulate twelve to nineteen as the typical age range of boys to whom men were attracted historically, with fifteen the likely average and peak, and eight to fifteen as the age most online boy-lovers are now attracted to, with eleven to twelve the average and most liked.  How can one explain the discrepancy of three or four years?  Here follow three hypotheses in order of importance.

ONE:

Watch a film with boys from the 1930s and look up the actors’ ages. Those who look like today’s 13-year-olds with voices that have not begun to break are more likely to have been 16. The handsome Jürgen Ohlsen in the Nazi propaganda film Hitlerjunge Quex (1933) is a good example of one presumably chosen partly for his pederastic appeal, since the Nazis were not averse to exploiting such imagery.  It has happened again and again that the 14-year-old I thought I was looking at in a Victorian photo turned out to be 18.  Necessarily subjective judgements of this sort are useful as expressions of visual response to a substantial drop in the age of puberty that has been going on for well over a century.  Abundant but complicated evidence and supporting anecdotes have already been discussed in Tom’s blog of 25 September 2014, so I shall only point out the one I think best for accurate comparison over a very long period.  The voices of Bach’s choirboys in the years 1727-48 began breaking on average at 17.25, whereas those of London schoolboys in 1959 did so at 13.25 (studies cited in Politics and Life Sciences 20 (1) p.48).

This has far-reaching implications.  For example, the debate on whether historical individuals like Oscar Wilde were pederasts or gay should end.  Seen in the light of the age at which Victorians started looking like men, Wilde, with his lovers’ age range of 14-21, was unambiguously a pederast in the Greek tradition he claimed.

TWO:

Sexuality is heavily influenced by culture.  I cannot see how else it is possible to explain the wild variations in degree of sexual interest in boys implied by cultures like Renaissance Florence where Rocke found (p. 115) “at least two of every three men were incriminated” over it despite religious denunciation, state persecution and the provision of women in brothels to lure them away.  The antagonism of the Florentine state failed mostly because the culture of pederasty was too strong.  By contrast, fierce opposition to sex between children and anyone significantly older pervades the entire culture of the Anglophone countries and, to some extent,  most countries. It follows then that in a culture such as today’s that is deeply antagonistic to pederasty only those innately least capable of attraction to adults will become boy-lovers, the others either shunning boys in favour of adults or never awakening to their latent capacity for attraction to boys. Tom has said in one of his blogs that hebephiles are far more likely than paedophiles to be capable of attraction to adults. This is bound to cause under-representation of potential hebephiles in boy-love forums.

Also, in several populous countries the age of consent is fourteen, and in most it is no more than sixteen, which must have the effect of disincentivising some men attracted most to boys of fourteen or more from participating in forums defined by longings for the forbidden.

THREE

Much of what is considered sex today was ignored as insignificant by pre-modern societies. Greek men sought intercrural or anal intercourse with boys, and not, as far we know, to be masturbated. Japanese men sought anal intercourse.  Masturbation only interested Florence’s Office of the Night if done with a view to seducing a boy into being sodomized.  If, as has been frequently asserted on this blog, paedophiles are much less inclined to penetrative acts than hebephiles, then more of them will have passed under the radar in pre-modern societies, while being represented in the boy-forum statistics.  However, this is only a minor point.  Excluding masturbation may have raised the mean age of the boys in the Florentine records, but cannot explain why Florentine men preferred to sodomise 15-16 year-olds rather than 14-year-olds.

 

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, I suggest it has been shown that if one were to allow that the age of attraction expressed by online boy-lovers has been skewed a little downwards by my second and third hypotheses, men today can be said to be responsive to roughly the same state of physical development in boys that they always have been, in harmony with their evolutionary heritage.  That the age at which this development is attained has gone down is at the heart of the modern boy-lover’s unhappy predicament.