A stage, not an age, underpins BL desire

140 Comments

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.

 

Title IX: discrimination against discussion

30 Comments

Professor Thomas K. Hubbard, a leading expert on sexuality in Ancient Greece and Rome, is a busy man. I caught up with him early last month at Edinburgh University, where I heard him presenting a paper at the annual conference of the Classical Association. More about that later, but first we must whisk him off back to his own seat of learning, the University of Texas, Austin, where, later in the month, he was giving a speech to welcome participants at another conference, this time one he had organised himself, on a theme very much about our own time and culture.

Titled “Theorizing Consent: Educational and Legal Perspectives on Campus Rape”, this two-day event brought together a range of professionals to discuss sexual consent and so-called “campus rape culture”, a term signifying the dubious but very high-profile belief that sexual harassment and rape are rife at colleges and universities. Along with sensationalist media pressure and an unhelpful legislative background, it is a doctrine that has thrust upon university administrators responsibility for policing student sexual conduct to an unprecedented degree and led to disciplinary action for alleged misbehaviour in a number of cases where the accusations turned out to be false.

It is a poisonous atmosphere, which is why Hubbard felt it a matter of urgency to focus serious debate upon it. As well as wreaking unjustified disgrace on those wrongly accused, potentially blighting their entire future, the very purpose of academic life is threatened. Tasked with a responsibility to promote a rape-free environment on campus, administrators are under pressure to police how rape is discussed: but without freedom of expression and thought how can classroom educators  teach and discuss the ethics of sexual consent as encountered in history, literature, the arts, and social research? How can free and objective discussion be promoted in an environment of mandatory “trigger warnings” about material that some students might deem sensitive or objectionable?

Claire Fox, director of the Institute of Ideas, in London, recently drew attention to an American series of short videos, featuring a collection of mainly young female school-leavers nervously about to open envelopes and emails: would they or wouldn’t they get a university offer? They go on to read aloud fictitious college admissions letters. The letters tell the school leavers they have been accepted, which ought to be great news. In line with this, the letters offer congratulations and talk about the “exciting” experiences that can be expected in their new life on campus.

But then comes the hit. Each of the Unacceptable Acceptance Letters films has a different monstrous scenario, read out matter-of-factly, as though it were the norm: “You’ll be raped in your first semester and as a result will attempt to take your own life in the next.”

The facts do not support this scary propaganda, but that does not mean it is ineffective. The paranoia, and overwhelmingly anti-male sexism, are now deeply entrenched on both sides of the Atlantic. Also, as Fox points out, even young children are now being eyed suspiciously in British schools as would-be perpetrators of abuse. She writes that “in 2016, some primary schools discourage kiss-and-chase games, prohibit hugging, view the innocent interactions between children playing doctors and nurses through the distorted lens of abuse.”

Now, concern over the protection of little children is one thing. Whatever one’s misgivings about the present state of the laws that supposedly protect them, it is overwhelmingly obvious that kids are vulnerable to abuse. The infantilisation of university students, whose tender ears must be guarded against even hearing rape discussed in class, is quite another.

How we have arrived as this sorry state of affairs inevitably fell within the purview of Hubbard’s conference. He told me all the sessions would be video recorded and released for public viewing, so in due course we will have access to the participants’ experiences and insights on this. In the meantime, I can report that an excellent article by Elizabeth Nolan Brown very clearly delineates some key features which have led to “rape culture” and “trigger warnings” figuring so strongly in the lexicon of campus life.

Brown describes the entrenched bureaucratization of sex in America, a phenomenon all the more remarkable for taking root in a country that prides itself as “the land of the free”. In a classic case of mission creep, it has come about through state intervention initially aimed at stopping sex discrimination. Basing her article on an academic paper by Harvard Law School professors Jacob Gersen and Jeannie Suk for a forthcoming issue of the California Law Review, Brown’s story begins way back in 1972, when the Educational Amendments of that year introduced the now notorious Title IX. In what was a perfectly reasonable measure at a time when women faced serious discrimination in study opportunities, and academic employment, it decreed that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance”.

The grievance procedures set in place to ensure compliance “have today become a lever by which the federal bureaucracy monitors schools’ policies and procedures regulating sexual behavior”, wrote Gersen and Suk.

This is where it gets really weird. What started with the benign intention of according women equal academic opportunities now begins to morph into a ball-crushing instrument of torture aimed in effect at reducing the sexual opportunities of men, putting in peril not just would-be rapists (who are quite rightly imperilled in any case by the criminal law) but even ordinary flirting, or respectful moves to invite someone out on a date.

This came about in the 1990s through pushing the argument that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination because it creates a “hostile environment” for women, making it less safe for them to get an education and thus potentially deterring their free participation in it. If Title IX had only ever been applied to genuine cases of harassment, the argument would be a good one. But by this time the tide of victim feminism was running so strong that at least in retrospect it seems bureaucrats would have been bound to push the machinery of Title IX much further.

In 2011, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), the arm of the US Department of Education tasked with Title IX upkeep, started including “sexual violence” as a form of sexual discrimination. This so-called “violence” is a term that has been used to include not just clearly violent assault but also the use of “violent” language, a concept which has been stretched to include “unwelcome comments about appearance”. OCR has offered guidance suggesting that academic institutions address “risk factors” for sexual violence including exposure to pornography, and having a “preference for impersonal sex”, thus taking newly restrictive government-generated norms about sexual behaviour into the lives not of children but of young adult students, as well as their teachers, and also mature students.

The serious implications of all this for free speech were brought out dramatically in the case of Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University. An article she wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education criticizing Title IX was itself reported as a possible violation of Title IX! A complaint filed with Northwestern’s Title IX office against Kipnis, argued that her essay had had a “chilling effect” on students’ ability to report sexual misconduct, thus indirectly contributing to a “hostile environment”.

It comes to something when the language of safety and protection are used to suppress discussion, in a university, of all places, of important issues. The complaint was eventually dismissed after a 72-day investigation, but not before the “chilling effect” on free speech had sent a shudder down the spine of the academic world and those concerned with the health and vigour of public discourse more widely.

Kipnis was the keynote speaker at Hubbard’s conference, which also focused on the contentious doctrine of “affirmative consent”. This holds that for sexual consent to be valid it must be explicit. Instead of spontaneous love-making, a prior contract of agreement, so to speak, has to be made and unambiguously declared. This is not the time to go into that debate. I will just nod respectfully towards a couple of commentators here who have voiced their support in the past for affirmative consent, particularly in the case of children’s relationships with adults. I blogged on this theme last July, in Negotiating a little girl’s knickers down; and consent in the context of children was ably explored here in a guest blog, The staircase has not one step but many, by “Lensman” in the following month.

Maybe one day Prof. Hubbard will find time in his busy schedule for a conference on the age dimension of consent, especially as regards the suppressed narratives of consenting juveniles. The theme is likely to become increasingly urgent in the academic world, not least because the current “protective” coddling of young people, corralling them into “safe spaces” rather than a “hostile” environment of uninhibited debate, could well lead to demands for an increase in the age of consent in the UK to 18 and in the US to perhaps 21, thus putting even greater pressure on campus administrators to police students’ sex lives.

With this dread possibility hovering at the back of my mind, it seemed like a good idea to get myself up to Edinburgh to meet Tom Hubbard, whose earlier conference a couple of years ago titled “Sexual Citizenship and Human Rights: What Can the US Learn from the EU and European Law?” was featured in my blog Deep in the weird heart of Texas. I wanted to meet him anyway, not least as we have a mutual friend in retired history professor William A. Percy, for whom I have undertaken quite a bit of work as a freelance research assistant in recent years – work that has involved me in getting to grips with Tom’s own field, especially as regards the distinct turn towards “family values” in the Athens of Socrates’ last years – a time when old customs came under critical scrutiny with such astonishing rapidity as to bear some comparison with the strictures of our own times.

Fortunately, we had plenty of time to talk about Ancient Greece over dinner and drinks on the day before  the conference got under way, although in conversation with an expert of his stature I was largely in a questioning and listening mode. Like the peripatetic philosophers of old, too, we talked while we walked, so far as catching our breath would allow, over the summit of the city’s rugged little local “mountain”, Arthur’s Seat. Attendance at Tom’s lecture on “Timarchus’ Body as Rhetorical Evidence” was also enlightening, showing how a legal orator in Ancient Athens could get away with character assassination of an accused person, using their bodily appearance as “proof” of their debauchery in ways that even today’s shameless false accusers might envy!

 

Slapping the thighs of sodomy with mirth

80 Comments

And now for something really different, as they used to say on Monty Python’s Flying Circus: a guest blog with satirical verse grounded in the classics. Just to get the ball rolling, here is a stanza of introductory doggerel from me:

Is buggery our birthright?
No, let’s keep a boy’s arse tight,
Says our guest blogger today,
Delight in his body but not in that way!

Andrew Calimach is a Romanian-American author and descendant of the Calimachis, an old Moldavian ruling family. His research into the homoerotic domain of Greek mythology was published in 2002 under the title Lovers’ Legends: The Gay Greek Myths. The work was widely reviewed, nominated for the 2003 Lambda Literary Award, and later published in Bucharest as Legendele iubirii. He was a friend, neighbor, and coreligionist of the poet and boy-lover Allen Ginsberg; both of them were students of the Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Andrew’s articles have appeared in THYMOS: Journal of Boyhood Studies, in E.R.O.S. journal, and other publications. Over to Andrew:

Blaming the Greeks for our folly

What does my long poem (part of which appears below) about the Greeks and buggery have to do with the struggle to liberate the way we think about the sexuality of adolescent boys in encounter with adult men? I mean it to show that this is a topic that has occupied men’s minds for over three thousand years. Oddly, the old lessons have been forgotten, and we are engaged in doing the very opposite of what the wise heads of old advised. We are following a path diametrically opposite to the one that led to a brilliantly successful tradition of ethical boy love that lasted a millennium or more.

Though their point of view was mostly pre-scientific, the Greeks reached a conclusion very similar to the position that most medical professionals hold today, namely that anal sex is a very risky proposition. What we today frame in epidemiological and traumatological terms, and what we constrain by means of legislation, they phrased in terms of honor, and constrained by means of ethical teachings. Cultured Greek gentlemen despised any form of penetration of one male by another, while admiring and pursuing loving erotic relations short of penetration between men and adolescent boys. Today we live in a world the Greeks would see as topsy-turvy, where buggery is casually accepted, but erotic relations between men and adolescent boys, even though partially legal, are frowned upon. Might there be a causal link here?

Why am I making my argument in verse? First, it is a way to leap over my instinctive wordiness, probably the result of a youth misspent reading all the novels of Jules Verne, that paragon of non-laconic speech. Secondly, it is an attempt to inject a bit of humor into an overly serious discussion. Finally, how else to make accessible an argument that starts with the classics and ends with the dystopian future (to say nothing about the dystopian present) without putting to sleep 99% of the audience?

What am I versifying about? To be precise, it is about the big lie that the Greeks buggered boys en masse. Who cares? We should all care about that, as it is one of the cornerstones of the edifice that has become the gay world of today, one that does not serve the best interests of those boys who feel that touch of desire in their hearts and have no choice but to fall into either the gay or the straight camp. Should they fall into the gay camp, they would be hard pressed not to end up buggered or buggering. Not that we should go back to hanging sodomites. It is just that presently there is a presumption that buggery IS gay sex, and the big lie about the Greeks is one of the foundations of that juggernaut of cultural conformism called “being gay.”

Who did the big lie start with? The professors, of course, who, like the rest of us, have their own emotional baggage and personal agendas to color their perspective on the Greeks, and what they teach the rest of us about them::

What is the cause the bookish philologue
Holds that the Greeks were by their bent abusive?
And wherefore the hoary pedagogue
Strains to persuade us that they were intrusive?

Does search for truth inspire these academics?
Does love of learning lead them the Greeks betray?
For some it’s pure bigotry systemic,
While others in plain sight argue pro se.

The straights of dominance accuse the Greeks
While the gays flail desperately for a foil.
Antiquity, they preen, of abuse reeks,
Unlike us modern wags, so don’t recoil. . . .

What were the Greeks really like?

Men who rough plough and sword first cast aside
And to the Alps of knowledge strove to stride,
Stripped off their robes and showed themselves undressed
And naked exercised and learned and taught,
Not by some primitive impulse possessed,
But so that by their eyes truth naked might be caught.

Thus out of vision grasped by men farsighted
The flames of art and science first ignited.
From their hands mute stone first stirred to life;
From their stages theater laughed and cried;
Their minds, searching to end brute toil and strife,
To tame men’s savage ways, a subtle path descried.

That path was love, yet not love reproductive,
But a new love, of supermen productive,
And friendships firm, that made strong tyrants quake.
Thence modern man was born, from this found truth:
Man callow lives and dies, lest through man’s love awake.
Thus Greeks their glory won, through man’s love for a youth.

In wise men’s hands this love was no rank scourge
For it was wrought in the same genius forge
Whence came all truth that Hellas yet does teach.
Heart’s primal path it blazed, two bloods to bind,
Yet well limned honor’s boundaries not to breach,
Guarding body pristine, while ennobling the mind. . . .

Who says so? The Greeks themselves, whose comments indicating that they viewed anal sex as abuse I proceed to quote below, with proper footnotes (on my website) for those who are curious and interested. Am I fool enough to claim that the Greeks never buggered boys? Not at all. My only claim is that they knew the difference between ethical love and abusive passion, both of which coexisted then, as they still do today.

Aesop man’s greed and foolishness did skewer,
Here fabled Zeus helped him to ford a sewer:
“Fair goddess Shame defied the Olympic king
And warned that she would fly from men, unchained,
Should Eros from behind try entering.”
Shameless such men by Aesop were ordained.

Hear now Plato, whom Ganymede inflamed
And verses penned his boyfriends, not some dame.
His peals of laughter roll from the tomb’s night
Mocking those men who restraint lack in bed
And his sharp words chide them in black and white:
“Why lurch you on all fours to mate like quadrupeds?”

“You men fancy yourselves of noble stock?
You’re nought but piglets scratching ’gainst a rock.”
Thus Socrates, whom boyish charms entranced.
Thus, since our world was new, the blame in fact
Was not sweet love that man for youth advanced
But the blind urge to barge up his digestive tract.

Plato, when forging man’s ideal laws
Hymned love of lads unmarked by vulgar flaws.
The Spartan foes and myth-weaving Cretans
He put in pillory to make example:
“They sow their seed on barren rocks, like cretins,”
Though well he knew those tribes debauch did not sample.

Speak, O captain of philosophy’s seas,
Futtering males you dubbed mental disease.
Yet, Aristotle, your loves’ names fill a book!
Yet, jibed you, only blind men crave not beauty!
How then, in youth, for lover Hermias you took,
And your acolytes embraced as sacred duty?

“Only such men are ill who their beloveds hurt.
A male to top? That’s tantamount to chewing dirt.
But moderate men have leave to taste love’s pleasure.
My son, Nicomachus, exampled my views:
After my death, his life my own did measure,
When my friend Theophrastus for lover he did choose.”

The amphitheater of the Athenians
Thrums still with their laughter and opinions.
Upon its stage of comical reflection,
That oafish lout who his loved boy belittled,
Aristophanes netted for his collection,
Pinning that insect under the tag, “dung beetle.”

Speak, old Aeschines, you fiery orator,
Athenian lads you courted and adored.
But you knew chaste from vicious love of boys.
Before all Athens, one you named a whore:
Timarchus, his honor squandered as men’s toy,
You brought to ground for flinging open his back door.

And say you more, in this Areopagus?
The ancient lore of love would you teach us?
Then pray, make known to all, what kind of man
A woman makes of his beloved male?
“Two stains mark out for us that noisome clan,
Brutal are they, uncultured too, beyond the pale.”

And Plato drains his cup of wine to add:
“Lovers divine can be, as well as bad.
When looking for a tender friend, chase not
Some stripling, seek one who‘s old enough to think.”
And Xenophon the crucial point has wrought:
“You must have leave from the boy’s sire, in ink.”

There is more to recount about the views of the Greeks regarding the undesirability of buggery, and the poem leaves no gravestone unturned, but here I shall skip ahead to address the present gay reality, that liberates the anuses of a few while imprisoning the hearts of the many:

There is no freedom nor shall there ever be
Till boy with boy hand in hand can be free.
The few flaunt license, the rest in shame hide.
To say “It gets better” is a sad lie,
See youth after hurt youth leap into suicide,
Their parents want to know, how many more must die?

Thus pressed, the ranks of these eclectic
Protest, “The feeling is electric,”
And pledge to Socrates allegiance.
In vain they claim to hang with that Greek cat,
They’re just Romans flying a flag of convenience,
Loath to hoist their own “Asinus asinum fricat.”

Like the feeble who lonely solace find
Beguiled by poppies that entrap the mind
These wights cling fast to thrills they deem a treasure.
The learned trade the pleasant for the good,
And just as reason deems opium a fool’s pleasure
The Greeks to shun this folly understood.

Wrath told leads me past anger into sadness
To muse upon the random ways of madness.
How blind belief in this dead end of lust
Has robbed all men of love that might have been.
Instead up rise hard walls of fear and disgust
And young and old esteem the tender touch unclean.

Homophobia is not in the past, it is more rampant than ever, and much of it is driven by instinctive disgust at practices that are inherently unclean. Of course, that disgust is partly a projection, since at least half of the men who bed women at some point turn that woman over and have with her as they would with a boy. Does that disprove the dynamics of hate against men who love men or who love boys (of legal age of course)? I think not. Nonetheless that homophobia, which is ultimately self-hate, may well destroy us all and the world with it. Hence the end of the poem, forgive the gloom and doom please:

Sage Aldous must be turning in his grave,
For he was right, this new world is not brave.
To mimic boys gay men now depilate.
You should be proud your hearts yearn for the young,
But lest you rightfully be thought a renegade
Turn wisdom’s river to flush out Augean dung.

A better man would keep anger within,
But I… I would not know where to begin.
Long I’ve laboured ’neath this burden not mine
And paid with loves lost for gay lib’s shrill chant.
It’s too late now to tell where lies the boundary line
Between that which I am, and a prisoner’s rant.

But no one wants to hear this dialectic
Why, my gay pals wax downright apoplectic.
Dear friends, you’ll have no more need of gay pride,
—Look, nor history nor sense offer refuge—
All that you need do is cast your gay shame aside:
Cease drowning mankind under buggery’s deluge.

The lid of time swings shut, the Greeks are gone,
Upon our orb we’re once again alone.
From modern heights we disdain Greeks as rakes
Against whose sins our mores pretend defense.
Yet, in our haste to rise above their mistakes,
We’ve killed what made them great, and saved what gave offense.

And therein the irony does lie
Keep the bathwater, let the baby die.
But for this murder we’ll all pay the price.
Male love repressed morphs into brutish need
From glut of couplings we then multiply like mice
Till pillaged Nature break beneath the human breed.

Nor ask why leering dawns this new dark age,
This maelstrom of materialistic rage,
When in our hearts this unvoiced void does gape,
When mangled Eros hobbles on one leg,
When man’s reduced to matrimonial ape,
And his sole destiny? Filthy lucre to beg.

So here you have a summary of a poem that is itself the summation of the article preceding it, that sets out the argument in its full panoply. Its title is Pinning Anal Sex on the Greeks: A Millennial Slur”. For those interested in reading it, you will find it at my Academia.edu page in its totality. Comments and replies are welcome (to acalimach@gmail.com ) but to keep my own workload to manageable dimensions, kindly submit them in verse.

 

TOC adds: Alternatively, or in addition, comments in prose may be submitted to this blog in the usual way!

Perhaps I should also take this opportunity to say that thanks to sterling work by David Kennerly I now have user-friendly compressed audio versions of my interview with Testimony Films, originally commissioned for Channel 4’s The Paedophile Next Door. I expect to be providing a link shortly, with further comments. The sound quality is good and the interview remains uncut.

The pre-WEIRD world, according to Rind

37 Comments

Dr Bruce Rind charts new territory in his latest published work. Or rather he newly charts some very old terrain, going deep into history and beyond, to the evolutionary origins of our sexuality. There are literally charts, six magnificent ones, each of which sets out a table of studies and a summary of their findings across a great swathe of fascinating erotica and exotica, with characteristic Rindian thoroughness.

Did you know, for instance, that “pederastic-like behaviour” is so pervasive among bighorn sheep that females will mimic young males in order to get sexual attention from the more mature males! Or that mature lyrebird males will follow an adolescent for hours, “serenading” him! Thought not! Such observations go way beyond “our” evolutionary origins, of course, if “we” refers specifically to humans rather than all animals.

So what is Rind up to? Is the good doctor such an eccentric, ivory tower academic that he has failed to notice humans are a somewhat different species to sheep and birds? Does he, with his obsessive systematising, falsely draw analogies between our sexuality and theirs? It would be an easy charge to level, of a kind often made in kneejerk fashion by those who are (albeit rightly) suspicious of genetic determinism. But would it stand up to scrutiny?

The work in question forms Chapter 1 of a new book called Censoring Sex Research: The Debate over Male Intergenerational Relations, which I mentioned late last year. In his introduction to the book, joint editor Thomas Hubbard tells us that in this new piece, which runs to 90 pages, “Dr Rind contextualizes his earlier analyses of psychological data through an aggressively interdisciplinary approach, showing that his earlier finding that male intergenerational relationships are usually not harmful is not as surprising or implausible as critics claim.” Actually, those earlier analyses covered man-girl contacts and other gender combinations as well. The fact that Rind sticks to “pederasty” (men with adolescent boys) in his new work is highly significant, in ways I’ll come to.

The chapter is called “Pederasty: An integration of empirical, historical, sociological, cross-cultural, cross-species, and evolutionary perspectives”. What he hopes to gain through this wide-ranging interdisciplinary approach is a way of judging scientifically whether a particular class of sexual behaviour is normal or abnormal, healthy or pathological. If the behaviour turns out to be extremely widespread and culturally accepted in other eras or cultures it becomes hard to argue that it is “abnormal” for humans, even if it is so regarded here and now. Also, a cross-species approach that demonstrates the prevalence of “pederastic-like behaviour” in other primates, or even across a wider range of animal life, would give strong grounds for believing that human pederasty had an evolved evolutionary function. To call it pathological in humans would then make little sense. Not that Rind feels we should accept the tyranny of normality, nor does he fall into the trap of the “naturalistic fallacy”: he is not suggesting that any behaviour to be found in nature is moral and good, only that behaviours should not be condemned as immoral and bad, or dysfunctional and harmful, on the basis of false information.

So, what does he find? Briefly, a lot. The six data sets summarised in his charts comprise studies of sexual relations between: (1) boys and women; (2) gay boys and men; (3) boys and men in history and across cultures; (4) immature male primates and mature ones; (5) immature male sub-primates and mature ones; (5) immature male birds and mature ones.

He starts with the easy stuff, so to speak, in order to make a relatively unassailable point straight away. Using formal academic studies, he demonstrates what would not so long ago have been considered so obvious as not to need demonstration: most adolescent boys are turned on by women. For most boys in their early teens having sex with a woman would not be seen as “abuse”. Far from seeing themselves as victims, they would be thrilled to the core by a dream come true. Same with gay boys and men: the evidence strongly suggests they like it, and why wouldn’t they? It’s when we get to “straight” boys and men that the picture becomes more counter-intuitive for those of us brought up in the developed, non-pederastic, world. Why would the boys be interested?

No, no, that’s a rhetorical question. Don’t all rush to answer! Many have done so already, notably Edward Brongersma in his enormous two-volume Loving Boys and Theo Sandfort with his structured interviews and psychometrics probing boys’ ongoing relationships with men. Quite recently Dave Riegel drew a lot of threads together in his paper “The role of androphilia in the psychosexual development of boys”, which notes that boys identify intensely with men as role models, often to the point of hero worship, and considers “the extent to which boys’ generalized inclinations to explore, experience, and enjoy their emerging masculinity in the company of older males” is also “manifested in their psychosexual developmental interests, desires, and activities”.

Rind draws on an immense range of anthropological and historical studies to demonstrate that it is the modern developed world that is unusual in not accepting pederasty: many other cultures have done so. Not for nothing is the acronym WEIRD (Western, Educated, and from Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic countries) increasingly being used by social scientists to capture the exceptional nature of modernity. Even in our own times, he shows, it is possible for pederasty to be very positively experienced by boys. One case he cites is that of leading psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut, who described a pederastic relationship with his tutor from the age of 11 in glowing terms. At a time when his parents’ marriage was deteriorating, his tutor helped him through it and “it was in some ways psychologically life-saving for me”. The relationship with the tutor was both emotional and sexual. He welcomed it at the time, even though he was destined to be heterosexual as an adult.

So far, I think, Rind is on strong ground. Likewise his trawl through studies first of primates (bonobos, gorillas, gibbons, monkeys, etc.) and then of sub-primates (from whales to rodents) and even the birds (but not the bees!), shows a huge range of species in which “pederastic-like” behaviour can be found in abundance.

What is also clear, though, is that Rind has a much tougher job on his hands when he invokes evolutionary psychology to explain all this sexual activity between adult and adolescent males. And what is a good deal less clear is the implications of his ideas for modern society, bearing in mind that we are so WEIRD, and most of us would not wish to be otherwise.

Now there are many heretics who jump at the idea that pederasty is deeply rooted in nature and has performed a useful or even vital function for many species, including our own. But we should be careful what we wish for. We may discover that pederasty was indeed an adaptive trait at one time, giving better survival chances to social groups in which it played a part. We may also find, though, that it has outlived its usefulness. Whether that is true or not could turn upon what life was like tens and hundreds of thousands of years ago, in the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (EEA) when we were gatherers and hunters. Rind bases his ideas on the view, which is not as uncontroversial as he seems to think, that not only was there a permanent struggle for survival – which is the firmly established bedrock of evolutionary theory – but also that this struggle was typically expressed not just in terms of being predators (hunters) and avoiding falling prey to other species, but also via battling for resources against our own kind: in other words, frequent warfare, possibly also including predation (cannibalism). Rind accordingly paints a picture of primitive bands, or tribes, in near-permanent conflict, such that it was utterly vital for boys to “man up” drastically as early as possible, leading to cultures characterised by fierce initiation rites – so ferocious in the case of some surviving hunter-gather cultures studied in the last century or two that they could and did prove fatal for weak or unlucky boys.

Rind proposes a “mentorship-bonding/enculturation-alliance hypothesis” arising from this scenario, in which there were four ways in which pederasty helped the male group replicate itself: (a) mentoring in skills and social demeanour (including “manning up”); (b) bonding, to which pederasty’s erotic character contributed; (c) enculturation into the practices and ideologies of the group; (d) cementing alliances with other group members that were essential for teamwork in hunting and warfare.

These days, as Rind observes, we do our “hunting” at the supermarket. Boys do not need to be all that tough. He also suggests that manhood in the rugged sense is an evolved capacity not an irresistible drive, noting that in isolated societies such old Tahiti, where warfare was not endemic, men were not tougher than women and there was a high degree of gender equality, as in our WEIRD world.

What Rind fails to acknowledge, though, is that the capacity for men being tough – which certainly exists and so must have evolved – may or may not have co-evolved with pederasty in the EEA. He provides absolutely zero evidence (such as might be obtained from gene sequencing and metrics of heritability) that pederasty is anything other than a cultural response to environmental conditions, just as the relatively gentle ways of Tahitian manhood developed culturally in response to living on a remote island where food was plentiful and they were not under constant danger of attack. No genetic change was required in order to induce this radically different pattern of behaviour. Biologist Eric Alcorn, in Chapter 5 of the book, provides a detailed and to my mind compelling critique of Rind’s evolutionary hypothesis, dismissing it as just the latest in a long and inglorious line of speculative “just so” stories thrown up by the not very disciplined discipline known as evolutionary psychology.

As Alcorn concedes, that does not mean Rind is wrong, only that there is no reason to believe he is right. I would add that he may be wrong for two scientific reasons. Frankly, I hope he is, for two ethical ones.

Firstly, so far as the science is concerned, his hypothesis relies on group selection, which has been enjoying a revival recently but is still controversial. The idea is resisted with near apoplectic fury by no less a figure than the distinguished biologist Richard Dawkins: it gets him even crosser than religion!

Secondly, Rind implicitly relies upon Napoleon, who has been all-conquering for decades but may be about to meet his Waterloo – Napoleon Chagnon, that is, the anthropologist whose work underpins the idea that our hunter-gatherer forebears were almost perpetually at war. His book Yanomamö: The Fierce People, published in 1968, became the all-time bestselling anthropological text. Critics of Chagnon and his successors, however, have shown that this celebrated ethnography of a spectacularly violent tribe of the Amazon-Orinoco watershed region was not based on a pristine society such as would have existed in the EEA at all: the tribe’s culture had already been significantly impacted by the outside world for well over a hundred years before Chagnon studied them. Also, there is a reason to believe the struggle between humans for resources would have been nothing like as intensive and violent in the EEA as it later became: during the greater part of mankind’s evolutionary history, our numbers were very small and the amount of territory available for gathering and hunting was literally boundless: instead of fighting neighbouring tribes over the right to hunt or gather in a particular area, there was always the possibility of moving to pastures new – well, not pastures but forests and savannahs in the first instance.

As for ethics, Rind’s investigations bring to mind two questions of social justice: gender equality is a very salient one; less obvious, but just as important, is the injustice that would inevitably arise as a result of privileging pederasty at the expense of other forms of adult-minor attraction, especially man-girl love and man-boy love when the child is prepubescent.

To be fair to Rind, he is not advocating pederasty in today’s world (except perhaps covertly, based on an unstated critique of modern values). Although he credibly insists it used to have a positive function, he concedes it is an evolutionary mismatch today. He likens the modern-day pederast to a naturally light-coloured moth:

“The modern-day pederast is like the moth with a light-coloring mechanism transported to an industrialized, sooted environment, in which the mechanism is functioning as designed but this functioning now imperils the moth” as it has lost its protective camouflage against predators. “Pederasty”, Rind continues later on the same page, “is currently gravely at odds with the social structure and cultural ideologies, especially since their modifications in the 1970s. Therefore, when it occurs now in particular cases, it is likely to be occurring far outside the context associated with its design, devoid of mentoring, bonding and group purpose. Its occurrence is prone to being tainted with opprobrium and a sense of exploitation and violence.”

As Alcorn astutely observed, the vivid metaphor of the moth subtly paints modern society as an agent not of progress but of sooty pollution. In some ways I think this is true, but not in the way Rind seems to imply. His elegiac remarks look to a romanticised past in which pederasty functioned well as a legitimate marriage of apprenticeship and male bonding. Fine, but it is a bit rich to join in with the usual badmouthing of modern pederastic experiences because of their supposed (often wrongly) association with violence when – as is implicit in Rind’s own account – pederasty arose almost entirely in a context of training for violence. The raison d’être of the man-boy bond was to turn soft mummy’s boys into utterly ruthless, hard-as-nails, warriors who wouldn’t hesitate to wipe out other tribes, including their children.

The societies for which Rind is apparently so nostalgic really have nothing to commend them. They thrived in a world of violent male dominance and hence extreme gender inequality, which was a recipe for every kind of horror. Ghastly as extremist modern feminism has become, with its cult of victimhood, we would not wish to return to the brutal kill-or-be-killed world in which Rind’s vision of pederasty thrived.

But was it really like that? Read “How to raise a child the hunter-gatherer way”, from Jared Diamond’s recent book The World Until Yesterday, and a totally different picture emerges, based on a more balanced appraisal of hunter-gatherer lifestyles than it is possible to take from Rind’s pages. Instead of the Hobbesian nightmare envisioned by Rind, in which pre-civilized life is seen as merely “nasty, brutish and short”, we learn of cultures that are genuinely worth imitating by the modern world in some important ways, including greater freedom for children (girls as well as boys) and their sexual expression from a very early age. These were societies with distinct gender roles, but not necessarily with great gender inequality or grossly unjust inequalities of any kind. It is only materially much richer societies – starting with agricultural ones – which allow individuals and classes to become hugely rich and powerful, unfair and oppressive.

By contrast, Rind’s dubious privileging of pederasty as a functionally evolved form of adult-adolescent sexuality is by his own admission redundant in terms of any applicability in modern society. Furthermore, his blinkered vision utterly ignores the situation not only of women but specifically of girls. Only men’s sexual relationships with adolescent boys appear to interest him. It is as though, for Rind, girls simply do not exist or are of no account. As a consequence, the pressing question of how children of both sexes can be brought up in a happier and more self-determining way amidst the endemic hysteria of modernity is not addressed. All that Rind leaves us with, in the end, are reasons to reject his special pleading on behalf of long-dead pederastic cultures. After giving us so much interesting information, that is a pity.

%d bloggers like this: