three pairs of lovers with space

SOME DIFFICULT GREEK LOVE AFFAIRS BY J.Z. EGLINTON, 1964

 

Here are presented the American case studies that form Chapter VIII, “Some Difficult Greek Love Affairs”, of Greek Love by J. Z. Eglinton (1928-93), the first of the only three book-length studies of the subject in English. The book is reviewed here. It was first published in the USA in 1964, but the text here is that of the second edition (London, 1971), pp. 179-218, interspersed with the addition of updates taken from the preface on some of the six cases.

 

The insult of seeing the better reason brushed aside . . . The insult of seeking the common joy and being regarded as an enemy. The hurt of being uselessly proved to have been right. The hurt that is done to children when they cannot yet fight back . . . The hurt of having to take the world as it is just in order to have some world or other, and there is no other.

- PAUL GOODMAN, Empire City, 619.

I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections.

- KEATS.

The fault was that we could not love without anxiety, but this was not our fault . . . These boys loved me, as I loved them, with a guilt and complicity reverberating from the earliest black hell. The tears came into my eyes because we could not love without anxiety.

- PAUL GOODMAN, Parents Day, 10—11.

ALL INDIVIDUALS IN THE CASE HISTORIES TO BE PRESENTED IN THIS CHAPTER ARE KNOWN TO ME (except for one former partner in affair No. 3), though again I cannot claim to be equally intimately acquainted with them all. “Difficult” here means that the affairs - they did not always get to the point of overt sex - proceeded only in spite of continuing trouble from parents or other authorities, or from internal disruption, during their courses. As before, all names and locations and some occupations and other details have been changed; to protect the anonymity of the parties to these relationships is here still more necessary.

 

1. Another graduate student and a delinquent. Barry D., while conducting a long-term love affair with a woman whose husband continued to refuse her a divorce, gradually got to know various members of the woman’s family; in one instance this resulted in his spending many summer weekends at a small estate in eastern Massachusetts, with a widow who proved to be one of those natural mother types - a girl of 13 or so, a boy of eight, and their two dogs and twenty-seven cats together with an unknown number of ducks and assorted other forms of life. Unsurprisingly, she also had occasional boarders - local drunks who came around for a free flop, and for a couple of years a deceptively innocent-looking blond boy of 11 or 12 with a dismal record. Barry was warned to keep away from the estate because of the likelihood that the blond boy – we’ll call him Toby - would make life miserable for him by such tactics as throwing his clothes and suitcase into the pond, breaking his electric razor or eyeglasses by using them for target practice, etc. With curiosity much piqued, and without any particular fears, Barry went to the estate anyway on his next free weekend, and promptly made friends with Toby, making a special point of reassuring the youngster that he was on his side. (He regarded this as perhaps practical field-work, useful both before and after he would be getting his Master’s degree in social work.) In less than twenty minutes Toby was pouring out all his troubles, and before the afternoon was half gone the two were inseparable. Toby had found a sort of substitute father or big brother or something - he didn’t bother to give the relationship a name - and in exchange for this acceptance he was quite willing to “lay off the rough stuff.” During the rest of that weekend and into the next week there was no trouble, no destructiveness of any kind, from Toby - an absolutely unprecedented state of affairs. Instead, on that weekend and later ones the boy continued to hang around Barry, asking questions revealing a surprisingly acute intellect, gradually warming up and, becoming overwhelmingly affectionate - something he had never previously been known to do.

As pieced together from available records and the boy’s own story, Toby had been in a rough situation all his life, and his resentment of the world was understandable. His parents were alcoholics who beat him when he cried, and who frequently left him locked up in the house alone when they went off on their weekend binges. Neighbors heard the altercations between the parents, and the disconsolate wailing of the abandoned, hungry and filthy child. Predictably enough, the boy was taken away from the parents by court order before he was five, and placed with a senile grandmother - the only other living relative - who had forgotten most of what she ever knew about raising children. Lacking affection, lacking even a toy he could call his own, he began to try to hurt back the society that had so badly hurt him. By age eight he had already been thrown out of three different public schools for being a chronic truant, extremely destructive to school property and disruptive to classes. He had been making the rounds of juvenile courts and social workers for stealing that was only later recognized as kleptomania. Understandably, he looked on adults as all too reads to enforce their wishes on him with threats of anything from bed without supper to jail or beatings, and often more than just threats. Until Barry’s arrival, he knew nothing of love from anyone, though the “natural mother” who ran the estate where Toby was boarded was doing her best to care for him with as few upsets as possible.

Toby’s being boarded at the estate was a matter of chance. An old busybody of a woman, whom I’ll call Gertrude - though her real name was a household word only a few years back – “rescued” the lad from his grandmother and kept him at her own house for a few days until she found she could not handle him there, and took him out to the estate. Gertrude received more than her share of hatred from Toby, and for understandable reasons. She was a crackpot, a religious fanatic who made her own fancied contribution to the brotherhood of man by taking in drunks, drug addicts and other derelicts off the street, giving them free lodging, but enforcing her own weird rituals and faddish diets on them and on little Toby alike. The boy found himself always at odds with her wretched guests; he also found the food inedible and disposed of his portions on the floor or into the garbage can, surviving by taking money from her purse (or occasionally begging it from outsiders) and buying food outside. Knowing Gertrude, I am quite certain that she was beyond the stage where she could express any affection for the boy.

Barry returned to the estate on a number of successive weekends that summer, making a project out of rehabilitating this boy. At this he was notably successful. There were a few episodes of relapsing into the old patterns, but these became more and more infrequent and - significantly - the hostility and destructiveness were not generalized, but rather directed to appropriate targets: Gertrude, or more often the drunks who continued to infest the estate and who all too often would make the boy the unwelcome target of their aggressive (or in one or two cases possibly sexual) attentions. And so the drunks would find their clothes, shoes, dentures and (most often) liquor bottles in the pond, or they would find themselves drenched from a conveniently placed bucket as soon as they approached Toby. And instead of breaking windows, Toby would break the bottles of cheap wine the drunks had brought in. Barry had made the boy see exactly what his behavior had been reflecting, and how his having a hard time at the hands of grownups had made him resentful and prone to generalize wrongly that all adults were cruel and hateful, whereas the truth was that only certain ones were that way and it was natural to become angry with those particular tormentors.

This clearly represented an improvement, whereas a total suppression of anger would have been a very grave sign indeed - a sign that Toby had been entirely broken in spirit. Maslow has wise words to say apropos of this situation:

“At the very least, we know that the healthy child is also able to be justifiably angry, self-protecting and self-affirming . . . Presumably, then, a child should learn not only how to control his anger, but also how and when to express it.”[1]

On the other hand, side by side with this redirection of Toby’s aggressions toward appropriate objects, came a capacity for love. From the beginning Toby clung to Barry as he never had to any other human being; Barry interpreted it as the natural reaction of an affection starved child. But on one sunny day beside the swimming pool, apropos of nothing in particular, Toby told him, “This fall I really do want to go back to school.” On Barry’s asking why, the boy said that he had two reasons, one being that he wanted to learn how to find answers on his own to the kinds of questions he had been asking Barry - knowing that Barry wouldn’t always be around to answer them. Barry said, “And the other reason?” Toby beckoned to him and whispered, “So I can learn to write love letters.”

From that moment on Barry believed that his project was a success, and it seemed so. Toby began showing courtesy and solicitude hitherto unseen in him. Often he would wake early and tiptoe down to Barry’s room and wake Barry by climbing into bed with him, where they would cuddle and share confidences. In Barry’s weekday absences the boy’s talk was again and again of how wonderful Barry was to him; every little success, every new discovery or insight, became automatically something he wanted to share with Barry, or something of which he would ask “What will Barry think of this?” or “How would Barry like this?” And when Barry arrived on weekends, Toby was beside himself with joy; everything else in the week seemed only a preparation for Barry ‘s coming, and at the moment of arrival Toby’s unforgettable eyes - long-lashed, robin’s-egg blue and seeming to dwarf the rest of his features - changed abruptly from their usual expression of anguish to delight, a change more than once compared to sudden opening of a door long shut, or to the emergence of the sun from behind clouds.

This idyllic scene was ruined when Gertrude began showing up at the estate and removing the boy on weekends specifically to avoid his seeing Barry. She believed dogmatically that Barry’s interest - or any adult’s interest, except hers - in Toby was automatically unnatural and evil, despite the total lack of evidence of sexual play in this particular relationship. She was also heard to say that “children do not need affection after infancy” -  to the open contempt of all who witnessed this remark. More important still, though she would never admit it in these terms, she was extremely jealous. Though she took pride in having “rehabilitated” other disturbed youngsters, she had been able to do less than nothing for Toby, while this interloper of unknown credentials got results within a single weekend.

The boy responded by redoubling his hostility and destructiveness against Gertrude, smashing her furniture, sabotaging her automobile, etc. After a few days of continuous warfare Gertrude gave in and brought him back to the estate, but insisted on forcibly taking him away on weekends, for the sake of his morals. It was thereafter a race against time for Barry, often touch and go whether he could arrive at the estate before Gertrude did. . . . And when he actually saw the old harridan, a furious argument with accusations and counter-accusations invariably ensued, and Toby’s rages on being torn away alternated with floods of tears which still failed to move Gertrude from her self-righteous practice.

For six months Toby did not get to see Barry at all - apparently part of the time the boy was back at his grandmother’s, or boarded elsewhere, or else left at the estate only until school let out on Fridays and then promptly snatched away lest Barry show up even for a few minutes. The boy’s behavior, for long exemplary, deteriorated under Gertrude’s care. His grades dropped from A’s to C’s and worse; the destructive rages returned, but always aimed at the drunken tormentors or at Gertrude - more often the latter. And there were more kleptomaniac episodes.

The final meeting between Barry and Toby was an especially dreadful occasion. Gertrude had brought him back to the estate for a New Year’s celebration, promised to allow him to stay, then after leaving him there changed her mind and phoned in that she would be coming to get him - apparently she had in the meantime thought of the possibility that Barry might show up despite six months’ absence. This phone call produced rage and panic on the boy’s part, culminating in his running away from the estate, breaking into a local gas station and robbing the cashbox of some $15 - apparently with the idea of running away from Gertrude. He was caught and held in jail for a couple of hours until the woman who owned the estate came to reclaim him. On his return, Barry had just arrived bearing belated Christmas presents. Toby, extremely upset, clung to him and wept inconsolably. At this point Gertrude came in, screeching accusations that Barry was to blame for all this, that he was several dozen kinds of filthy pervert, etc., etc. Toby lashed out at her, shouting that he loved Barry and that Barry loved him and was the only person in the world who loved him, and that he hated her for taking him away! When Gertrude forcibly dragged the boy away to the car, screaming and kicking and dragging his heels, all the other people present - including local youngsters and some relatives - denounced the old prude for her filthy mind. Barry left, much upset, and could never again bear to return; he later told me that he felt as though something had been killed in him that day, or as though part of his own flesh had been gouged away. (He never saw Toby again; my follow-up information comes from various clerical and social work sources in the Boston area.)

Boston. Postcard, 1960s

During the three years following, Toby was alternately in boarding schools, Gertrude’s house (remaining her implacable enemy), and in hiding with various bohemian acquaintances in Boston. He repeatedly came to the attention of the SPCC, the police (for theft and vandalism), and Boston child welfare agencies, but despite many recommendations and some offers by families to adopt him, he was not placed into another home - apparently Gertrude had enough political influence to prevent it. Barry sent in a full report on the case to the SPCC, eliciting shocked reactions and promises of action. On one occasion, when a social worker went out to the estate, all the other people concerned with Toby’s case placed the blame on Gertrude. Thereafter, on five or six occasions Gertrude sneaked the boy out of the house to avoid confronting welfare investigators, and at other times they came to her house only to find that the boy had left for parts unknown.

Eventually Toby ran afoul of a particularly harsh old judge who didn’t believe in the soft-hearted guff purveyed by social workers, and who shouted at him in court, “Why do you keep on acting this way when so many people care about you?” That the boy had been heard to say, “I don’t care about anyone, ‘cause nobody loves me - except only Barry!” did not seem relevant to the judge at all. That fifteen families showed up in court offering to adopt Toby didn’t move the judge either. He sentenced him to the oldest and strictest reform school in Massachusetts, where the boy will presumably remain until he is 21 – and probably permanently committed to the underworld.

The evidence is clear enough: Barry’s influence, and apparently nothing else, brought this youngster out of a pattern of overt destructive delinquency; their mutually acknowledged love, bearing all the earmarks of Greek love even though not involving sexual contact, induced Toby to re-examine his way of life and redirect it into more constructive channels. And forcible withdrawal from this affair, withdrawal with moralizing and threats from the only meaningful human relationship Toby had ever known, occasioned his return to a previously abandoned pattern of destructive hostility. Toby is now fifteen, and has nearly completed his first year at the reform school. Letters from him indicate considerable mental regression. Under happier circumstances he might have found his way into a first-rate college; the types of questions he asked Barry at age eleven showed high IQ and a markedly scientific turn of mind. It is difficult to restrain one’s indignation at the waste, ruin and sheer misery resulting from the flagrant mishandling of Toby’s case by Gertrude and by the authorities. I understand that some people (including Barry and his wife) are still interested in adopting Toby, though it is still moot whether adoption will prove possible, or whether the boy can now be salvaged.

[Update from the Preface to the 1971 edition:] “Toby” stole money from a gas station for food during a panic runaway attempt, and spent a total of over seven years in a reform school (for an offence worth perhaps 30 days to an adult!) during which he did learn to play three different musical instruments; present whereabouts unknown.

 

2. “Adding Incest to Injury.” Several months before the scheduled marriage of Alice F., computer programmer, to Harvey W., technical writer, she informed him in dismay that her alcoholic Polish father and weak mother had just moved into her New York City apartment for a visit supposed to be only a week long, but likely to stretch out for a couple of months to judge by the amount of clothing they brought along. And that this time they had also brought her sister - 18, vaguely pretty but entirely vapid and with nothing to recommend her below her huge mop of curly red hair - and her brother Alec, going on fourteen. The brother was nearly as much a problem to Alice as were her parents; despite a high IQ, his sole interests at the time were his hoodlum friends, hot-rods, pool, and rock ‘n’ roll. Not only was Alice deprived of peace and quiet, but she was almost crowded out of her apartment. Worse, her father had begun to drink again, and this would almost certainly mean a fight with shouting and furniture-smashing at some point in his binge; and her brother - the usual opponent in these battles - was expressing open scorn of Alice’s scientific and mathematical interests as improper for girls.

Harvey comforted her in her upset state. In the ensuing discussion various possible solutions were brought up and discarded. It would be out of the question for Alice to abandon the apartment to them, moving in with him; not only was there the danger of damage to Alice’s books and furniture during her father’s drunken rages, but there was the additional likelihood that she would be disinherited and on top of that unable to collect the money her father already owed her; moreover, she did not want to antagonize her other relatives. Bringing in the police would be a last resort but might be necessary if father became intolerable destructive in his drunken rages. Harvey figured that his own presence might help somewhat, that the tempest might stay down to a dull clamor in presence of their daughter’s betrothed; and that he would probably have to get to know his in-laws sooner or later anyway. As for the brother, Harvey said he thought he could conceivably get through to him, as he had worked with settlement-house kids some of whom were more difficult cases than Alec sounded to be.

The parents disliked Harvey for being a non-Catholic, even though their daughter had long since left the church; the mother resented his wanting to take her one and only Alice away, and the father thought him effeminate for not getting drunk with him like a man. The red headed sister had no particular opinion, being preoccupied - as always - with her hairdo and her little portable radio screeching its Elvis Presley numbers. Alec seemed quiet enough and at least not antagonistic; Harvey did his best to make friends with him. The boy was curious and expressed a mild interest in future meetings.

Alice, thinking that possibly good reports from Alec might make her mother more reconciled to the marriage, began to bring the boy around. He and Harvey found common interest in rock hounding; Alec had a particular sense of wonder about fossils hundreds of millions of years old that could be discovered in commonplace-looking rock strata, and that could be identified as ancestors of modern life forms. Harvey, without moralizing or in any other way trying to stress the status difference between him and Alec, begin picking him up at Alice’s place and taking him on rockhound trips, to museums and other kinds of exhibits, and to various shows, sometimes with Alice, sometimes without. On one such trip, Alec suddenly turned to Harvey and asked him, “Why are you doing all this for me?” Harvey, who had been expecting that question, answered that he’d begun as a favor to Alice and because he wanted to be friends with at least one of his in-laws, but that he had continued because he had grown to like Alec very much. After this Alec relaxed and was able to confide much more in Harvey.

On the following Thursday evening, after affectionate three way confidences between Alec and the couple, Alice kissed Harvey goodnight, preparing to take her brother back home - and then on a sudden impulse she urged Alec also to kiss Harvey goodnight. After a little-hesitation, he did so, at first timidly and then suddenly boldly throwing his arms around a surprised Harvey. The next day the boy pestered Alice to take him over to Harvey’s place or else show him how to get there himself. Having work to do on Saturday morning and afternoon, and not being able to take him along before then, she gave him directions on how to get there. Very early on that Saturday morning, a sleepy and tousled Alec rang Harvey’s doorbell, waking him up, and hugged him long and warmly as soon as he entered the house. Harvey returned the embrace, and walked back into the bed room to dress, intending thereafter to prepare breakfast for them both; but Alec followed him and wouldn’t let him dress, playfully tussling with him on the bed instead, then kicked off his shoes, pulled Harvey down onto the pillows and pulled the covers over them both, snuggling up and cuddling uninhibitedly. After dozing off awhile in Harvey’s arms, he roused himself a little, fumbled at his own trousers and at Harvey’s pajamas, disclosing his own sexual excitement and stimulating Harvey to the same condition. He whispered into Harvey’s ear, “Let’s.” Harvey, after some quick soul-searching and recall of his own adolescent experiments, whispered back, “Promise to keep this just our secret - not to tell anyone, even your mother, even Alice?” Alec nodded vigorously, and pulled off his own clothes, reaching out from under the blankets and throwing the garments onto the floor. Harvey did likewise. The sex play lasted a couple of hours and left both of them exhausted but very happy, in conflict between wanting to spend more time just cuddling and getting up for breakfast and some excursion or other. They ended up chasing each other naked around the room, whichever one caught the other tickling him until he escaped. . . .

After returning from the zoo late that afternoon, they called Alice, and on that evening and for the next couple of days she came over for more confidences, but Alec - though he wanted to stay the night with Harvey - had to return with her, to avoid possible trouble with the parents. Then and later, Alec seemed much more receptive to new ideas, advice, and suggestions, after sex play and other physical affection with Harvey. In particular, Harvey prudently rebutted the usual churchly arguments against sex outside of marriage. They also compared notes on other churchly doctrines, which now - looked at objectively - seemed too silly to take literally any more. Alice joined in here, going on at length about how she had once been devout but had dropped the church after studying science and history and finding the contradictions in churchly versions of both.

In addition, then and afterwards Harvey did his best to broaden Alec’s interests: hot-rods could be generalized to mechanical matters of other kinds; mechanics implied physics and engineering; and other kinds of music, both in classics and jazz, possessed as much intrinsic excitement as rock ‘n’ roll, and there was a lot more to them. Alec found this latter remark true enough on listening to some of Harvey’s records, and said he’d he looking into the rest when he got back to school.

New York City, 1963

As Alec’s 14th birthday came during the visit, the parents decided - on Alice’s urgent recommendation - to leave him with his sister for an extra week’s vacation in New York City after they returned home. Alice promptly celebrated by throwing a party the first evening after the parents’ departure. Before the guests arrived, she and Harvey indulged in some long-awaited petting, as he had come early for that purpose. Alec came in while they were still on the couch in each other’s arms, and heard his sister speculating about the need that every child has for cuddling and that few of them ever satisfy. Seeing Alec, she invited him to come and join the fun, which he did. Both Alice and Harvey cuddled Alec - to his and Harvey’s surprise. She quietly let the boy know that she was aware not only of his love for Harvey, but that she was all for his fooling around or doing anything that would make him happy. Alec clung to her and practically sobbed out his relief and delight and gratitude. After all, this made it practically official. . . .

Around 4 A.M., after many of the party guests had left, but Alice and Harvey and three or four others were still up, the shiny eyed Alec, noticing that Harvey was as exhausted as he was, sleepily asked Alice if he and Harvey could sleep in the big double bed for awhile. Alice smiled and told them to go ahead. Alec literally led a somewhat embarrassed Harvey by one hand into the bedroom; they disrobed each other and promptly fell asleep in each other’s arms, too tired for more than half-hearted attempts at lovemaking. Alec woke up in Harvey’s arms, kissed him awake and still sleepily whispered to him, “Harvey - I love you. . . .” An hour or so later they came out of the bedroom, all rumpled, to find Alice and her best girl friend still up and talking animatedly. After breakfast, Alice privately told Alec, “Don’t worry about her - your secret’s safe with me.” From that time on Alec became emotionally closer to his sister than he had ever been before. Some nights he spent with Harvey; at other times there were more three-way petting sessions.

Over the first couple of holiday weekends during the ensuing school year the boy returned to visit Alice and Harvey, despite increasing parental opposition. Alec’s interests remained broader than they had been, and the good results were discernible in his grades, school projects, and after-school activities. And the relationship with Alec seemed, if anything, to draw Alice and Harvey closer together.

But the bitter end began when the father went on another of his drunken binges, beat up the mother, kicked the pregnant sister (who had lately married a local barber) and caused her to die of hemorrhages, and failed to beat up Alec only because he escaped to a friend’s house. The mother took Alec to another town, where she had relatives. The father escaped prosecution for manslaughter only by some adroit political manoeuvering involving a plea of guilty to drunk and disorderly and a few more bribes in addition to a fine. At the other town, living in cramped quarters with his mother and her sister’s brood, Alec had to go to another and inferior school, where he did not do too well, especially as he had no privacy for doing homework. A few weeks later a sobered-up father came to Canossa, literally begging the mother on his knees to come back. She finally yielded to his entreaties - big male tears often have an effect where other signs of repentance do not - and Alec returned to his former school. But during the same school year there were four more such binges, and each time Alec had to move back to the other town with his mother, aunt and cousins. His being shunted back and forth from school to school brought his marks down and down, killed his new-found incentive, disrupted all his friendships. Not surprisingly, he became sullen and hostile, particularly as he had not been allowed to go back to New York any more. His father began daily inveighing against the coming marriage and damning both parties to it. After the fifth binge the father bought a white Cadillac convertible on credit, and the next time he started drinking, only a couple of weeks later, he insisted on driving the mother around in it, putting it through its paces at speeds up to 90 mph. (Alec had in the meantime slipped away somewhere, fearing to be in the same car with a drinking driver.) Unsurprisingly, he made a total wreck of the unpaid-for car, landing them both in the hospital. He got off with a few cuts and bruises; she received a spinal injury and was paralyzed from the waist down. Alice had to return and take care of Alec and her mother. It began to look as though the move would be irrevocable, as the mother left the hospital a few weeks later as a permanent invalid. At Alice’s urgent insistence, Harvey went up there to visit her. The father made a most unpleasant scene, denouncing Harvey and trying to poison both Alice’s and Alec’s minds against the forthcoming marriage. Alice and Harvey had a long talk about the situation and decided that they would have to postpone the wedding until such time as Alice could leave the parental home: the atmosphere there was intolerable. Were they to marry as originally planned, Harvey would have to leave his job, as Alice had done, and most likely live in or near her parents’ house, literally within shouting distance of her unspeakable father. And who could tell what the next drunken binge would bring?

By this time Alec was failing in almost all school subjects, though he had started out that year with A’s and B’s. Having somewhere gotten himself an old rattletrap of a motor scooter, he spent what little time he had to spend at home tinkering with it, the rest of his free hours somewhere across town with friends whom he never brought home. He would not talk with his sister or with Harvey.

Harvey, disconsolate, returned to New York and eventually started going with another girl. I have no further information on Alec’s fate.

Once again, it is clear that the Greek love relationship had beneficial effects, and that a peculiarly destructive parental situation - the kind of truth stranger than fiction - nullified these effects. All three parties to the affair were certain that there was no possibility of the parents’ having any inkling of Alec’s involvement with Harvey. It is beyond doubt, for one thing, that the father - a most vindictive, hate-filled individual - would have used any such information to send Harvey to prison and Alec to reform school.

Alec’s refusal to talk to his sister or Harvey might have many causes, and one can only speculate. I doubt that guilt feelings were involved; most plausibly, he was simply afraid that his father would overhear anything he might say, and use it against him. It is clear that he was in a severe emotional disturbance, and so preoccupied with mere survival as an individual that he could not immediately open himself to possibly dangerous situations. (Dangerous obviously because of his father’s continual shouted threats.) In New York, he was surrounded by love; in the little Rhode Island town where his parents lived, he had to stay with a father who had already proved capable of physical violence and even homicide. (The kick aimed at the sister’s pregnant belly was no accident - the father had earlier tried to force her to take abortifacient drugs.)

I have the testimony of all three parties to this love that neither Alec nor Harvey regarded himself - let alone each other - as in any way queer; their physical affection was simply a way of having fun and expressing their love for each other, but it was something that other people would not understand. By confirmation, in school Alec was quite popular with girls and thoroughly enjoyed dating them, at least until the time when he was shunted back and forth between schools too quickly to establish himself as part of a group at either one. Harvey had taught Alec lovemaking techniques, and Alec already knew that the orgasm from masturbation was much the same sort of climax as he got from his games with Harvey and as he would eventually get with some girl. Interestingly enough, Alec expressed the common contempt for swishy queens without at any time identifying their sexual behavior with his own.

[Update from the Preface to the 1971 edition:] “Harvey” […] grew up to be a perfectly conventional heterosexual automobile mechanic.

 

Washington D.C., 1947

3. A father’s betrayal and a lover’s sellout. Norm T. at age 12 was already a problem for school psychiatrists and authorities. During the seventh grade in his Washington, D.C. school, he made life miserable for teachers, organizing harassment campaigns with friends (such as hissing and making other noises whenever teachers’ backs were turned in class: one teacher had to leave school for several weeks “for nerves” because of such harassment); always getting into fights, on one occasion he fractured another boy’s skull by bashing it against a brick wall; sent to a military school for “discipline,” he made considerable money by smuggling contraband comic books. And during the next summer he was arrested for peeping-tom activities, but because of his parents’ influential position, he was held at the police station pending their arrival, rather than being formally booked and sentenced.

But by age 14, and his freshman year in high school, Norm developed an interest in ham radio, and one of his schoolmates introduced him to a 19-year-old disc jockey in one of the local radio stations, as a person sharing this and other interests with young Norm; and this changed everything. At their first meeting Norm and Fred experienced an enormous natural empathy, and discovered a vast area of contact and common interest; it was apparently the first satisfying intellectual friendship either of them had made. Norm began seeing Fred daily after school; Fred often took the boy driving in the country, sometimes with a couple of bottles of beer to make their intimate talk even more easy and pleasant. Their conversation ranged over the gamut from philosophy to sports. Later on, Fred gave Norm a set of keys to the radio station, and Norm often sat in at Fred’s DJ sessions, afterwards staying up all night with Fred sharing confidences. Fred loaned him books, introducing him to Thoreau, Whitman, Thomas Wolfe, Henry Miller, Patchen and avant-garde literature generally together with jazz - quite a change from Norm’s earlier preoccupation with comic books, Lovecraft and Weird Tales. Norm credits Fred with having awakened him to philosophical issues he would never have encountered in school, and specifically with inducing him to exercise a healthy skepticism and independence of mind, to emancipate himself from unquestioning acceptance of the Social Lie.

Advertisement, 1959

Over the next few months the relationship grew increasingly close. As Fred and Norm sat up all night in the radio station, after everyone else had gone home for the night, they would often be arm-in-arm, sometimes indulging in cuddling; later on this got to the point of heavy petting, but never to orgasm. (Norm thinks it stopped short of orgasm because of religious inhibitions, both of them belonging to conservative Protestant denominations, though Fred was outwardly cynical. And now, seventeen years after, Norm is convinced that the relationship would have been better off had they been less inhibited about the sex and more open about their feelings for each other.) From being the wild delinquent of a couple of years earlier, Norm quieted down, though he was still chronically in trouble from his late hours with Fred.

The relationship continued under increasingly difficult conditions, for five years. Fred married a woman ten years older than himself during Norm’s senior year in high school, invited everyone else to the wedding except Norm (which hurt Norm badly), but continued the relationship with Norm despite the wife’s jealousy. Norm in the meantime had made himself a nuisance among local girls as a perennial lecher. Nevertheless he did not regard himself as in any way abnormal or queer.

Norm graduated from high school. Fed up with the local educationists, he wanted to go to work right away, but his father adamantly insisted on Norm’s going to college. The next thing he knew, Fred was also urging him to obey his father and go to college, and promising to Norm that he would remain in college with him, stick by him until graduation. But when Norm did enroll in college, he found that Fred had disappeared, not finishing his own courses; and he learned afterwards that Fred had taken a highly paid electronics job in California, not even bothering to say goodbye. Norm felt cheated, abandoned, and he was acutely disturbed at this development. A few letters were exchanged later on, but the old rapport was gone: Fred had gone back on a solemn promise, and this withdrawal hurt Norm badly, affecting his emotional life for years to come, and making him less ready to open his heart to anyone.

Norm finally graduated from college, and married for the first time. On a later occasion, visiting his parents (who were by then in California), he and his wife looked up Fred, and stayed with him and his wife for a few days. One morning while the wives were out shopping, Norm saw an old letter from his father to Fred lying around openly. He read it and learned what had happened; his father had known of the affair and had coolly taken advantage of it by offering Fred this lucrative electronics job on condition that he would drop college immediately and persuade Norm to go to college. The location of the work was far enough away that Norm would no longer be able to spend time with Fred, and would stay at home nights and study, the way a normal boy should.

It is impossible to set down in a few words the stunning effect on Norm of this revelation of his father’s betrayal of him, and of Fred’s silent treacherous acceptance of it. Was love something to be thrown away so lightly after five years? Was Norm’s father always such a devious conniver? Was nobody dependable in this wretched world?

That night Norm could not sleep for crying, nor could he tell his own wife what it was about, then or later. The next day, while the two wives were out again, he and Fred had one final discussion over the breakfast table. It was abstract and philosophical: Norm dared not bring up their earlier relationship, nor reveal that he had seen the fatal letter from his father. But he continued to think of their five years of love, and his life passed in review before him with an “about-to-die” feeling. He tried to make that final session into a kind of reliving of their earlier intimacy, intellectual and emotional, to deceive himself (however briefly) into thinking “It’s once again the way it always was” between him and Fred. But without success. . . . That afternoon Fred looked at him in puzzlement when Norm made some vague excuse about having to go and stay with his parents, and moved out. They never re-established the rapport, and from then until the present day Norm has been ambivalent towards Fred, always grateful for his waking him up to philosophy and literature and jazz, but withal resentful at Fred’s having literally sold Norm out for a quick buck. Norm has also remained even more ambivalent towards his father, at once admiring the man’s competence and neat handling of people and situations, and hating him for having broken up the first genuine love experience of his life, as well as - later on - for the father’s sneers at each of Norm’s wives, and at Norm for becoming an artist and writer rather than a businessman.

Of Fred’s later history I know only that he failed at the electronics work, and went back to small town disc jockeying. Norm is now happy with his third marriage, and he is an excellent and empathetic husband and father. Between marriages he had other affairs, both heterosexual and homosexual, but these were always with people his own age or older. He says unequivocally that the homosexual relationships benefitted him in subsequent heterosexual affairs, partly by awakening him in ways he had not earlier been awakened in his first crude seductions of girls, but mainly by inducing him to go through essentially female emotional experiences - which gave him, he says, a great deal more understanding of female psychology and more empathy with female attitudes. “It resulted in a permanent improvement in my relations with the opposite sex. In spite of the fact that I was much better looking then than I am now, girls used to regard me (with some justice) as a ‘creep.’ That they no longer do is at least partly the result of the fact that I am not such a stranger to their point of view as I was before the first homosexual experience where I went ‘all the way.’ One thing it gave me was a clear picture of what a woman experiences during intercourse, and the felt knowledge of what my partner is experiencing is more sexually stimulating to me than any other single element of the experience.”

Norm theorizes that it may have been the same sense of shame that prevented Fred and him from ‘going all the way’ that eventually prompted Fred to sell him out. “By thus betraying me, he proved to himself, perhaps, that he wasn’t a ‘queer’ and didn’t really care about me at all. I like to think that it proves just the opposite . . . that it took a pretty strong act of psychological violence to wrench out the deep roots we had buried in each other.” I rather think that both alternatives might be true at once. Norm is favorable to the idea of Greek love, emphasizing that his own experience of it did him a great deal of good - the emotional damage came not from the love affair but from the betrayal. However, he has not himself as yet gotten into such a relationship with a boy, partly from fear that it would make his already jealous wife still more insecure, but mainly, I think, because the opportunity has not arisen. Norm thinks that if he does get into such an affair, at least he will do much better for his boyfriend than Fred had done for him.

 

4. The misplaced pacifist. Charles C., a newspaper columnist, got to know 15-year-old Tim at various meetings of one of the local photography clubs in Philadelphia. Finding that they had more interests in common than merely photography, Charles became a frequent visitor at Tim’s home, and Tim often dropped over to Charles’s place, ostensibly just to borrow books for help in school projects, but more and more for friendly conversation. In the meantime, Tim’s parents, like other dutiful Status Seekers, not only moved into an overpriced little house on the Main Line, and proudly displayed their membership in the Episcopal Church and the Republican Party, but they also sent their son to an expensive and highly rated Quaker private school; and this introduction of their boy to the peaceable ethic of the Society of Friends was the undoing alike of the peace within their household and of the growing friendship between them and Charles.

Over the next couple of years, Tim idealistically accepted Quaker ethical views, and in so doing became increasingly disgusted with his parents’ pious hypocrisies. He took his doubts and worries to Charles, who (though himself a nonbeliever) consistently urged that the boy follow his own conscience.

Arguments between Tim and his parents became increasingly frequent, as he found himself unable to accept their brand of cant, or to dutifully agree with father’s dinner-table pronunciamentos, or to take the yesinan’s part in conversations with their executive-class associates. Avoiding his parents’ social life, he incurred their irritation; expressing his own doubts and half-formed opinions, long in flux, he brought down their wrath, as his opinions were - to them - nothing short of subversive. Still worse, instead of expressing an interest in majoring in science, which might get him a high-paying technical position, or in business administration, which might lead to a future as an executive, Tim early and consistently wanted to paint. Not even advertising or commercial art, but fine art; and since almost nobody could earn a living in serious painting, the boy said that he expected to earn his living partly by teaching, partly by writing. “At least this way I’m not helping make bombs.” To prove that he was serious, he actually sold some articles to magazines over the following summer, the first few with Charles’s help, the later ones on his own.

Noting the coincidence in time between Charles’s arrival into the boy’s life and the unwelcome changes in Tim’s thinking, the parents made of Charles a scapegoat, blaming him for all these strange ideas he had supposedly been feeding Tim through the books he had been lending him. Charles suddenly found himself unwelcome at Tim’s house, and the parents tried to prevent their son from ever seeing him again. Charles pulled a few wires and got Tim a summer job, seeing the boy occasionally after work or on weekends when Tim was ostensibly going to stay with school friends. The relationship became closer as it grew more conspiratorial.

By the time Tim was 17, he began to worry more and more about the likelihood that he would have to contribute to human misery by killing people in the next war. Charles suggested that Tim’s Quaker school experience provided the automatic answer to that problem side by side with the awareness of it. If Tim were genuinely averse to violence, he might as well work with the American Friends Service Committee and follow its advice on the draft when he got called up. Tim did so, and found there not only kindred spirits but an approach and a viewpoint with which he thoroughly agreed; he became an active worker for peace. His parents, predictably, were still more antagonistic to Tim for joining the “peaceniks” - a term which they equated with “beatniks.” Still seeking a scapegoat, they began restricting Tim’s social life, forbidding him to stay overnight at friends’ houses, reading his mail, monitoring his phone calls. They finally found out by accident that he was still in touch with Charles, and naturally assumed that this was at the bottom of the continuing trouble. Their restrictions on his activity became more severe. As these restrictions cut down on Tim’s opportunities to date local girls, he resented them the more fiercely; the only evenings without shouted quarrels between father or mother and Tim were evenings when they were out of the house.

Nevertheless, Tim was not devoid of emotional resources. He and Charles developed an increasingly close emotional link, the more so because their opportunities to see each other were few and brief, and neither one felt like wasting a moment on trivialities. Tim found in Charles a source of strength, a confidant he could trust, someone always tender and sympathetic, someone who saw his side in the continuing warfare with parents, someone who appreciated him as a person. Charles - a long-time bachelor for whom some women came and went, and the few who were always warm towards him were tied up elsewhere in unwelcome marriages - found in Tim an understanding companion who shared his enthusiasm, his joys and his sorrows, and someone with whom he never ran out of things to talk about.

The sexual angle to their friendship began over two years after the friendship itself had started, and it came as a total surprise to both of them. They had long been close enough for arm-in-arm talk, but neither had so much as alluded to sex other than in casual mentions of their outside experiences. One day after work, Tim, while in relaxed conversation, somehow brought up the subject of what either of them would do if he had positive information that he would have only one more year to live before atomic warfare destroyed everything. Charles’s own speculation amounted to giving up all his long-range plans and concentrating on pleasure and creation for its own sake, and enjoying his remaining friendships, followed by suicide at the last moment before the bombs began to fall, on the grounds that a quick death by sleeping pills was preferable to long drawn out agony from radiation burns. This had a startling effect on Tim. The boy turned sheet white and clung to Charles, trembling and sweating. In a shaky voice he told Charles that he couldn’t stand it any more, that he loved him, that he was sexually excited to an unbearable degree. And he groped Charles and urged that they “do something about it.” They did, and the sex became a continuing source of additional emotional closeness between them.

The nearest they ever came thereafter to a communication failure, let alone a quarrel, was when Tim expressed fear that he and Charles were perhaps growing apart because he, Tim, was so deeply involved in peace work, and Charles was not actively part of that scene. Charles got the boy to talk about it in detail; there were some tears, but he reassured Tim over and over again that a breakup on such trivial grounds was about the last thing he would have to fear; for after all, ever since he had known the boy he had explicitly tried to get him to develop his own individual pattern of likes and dislikes, of preoccupations and commitments, of interest and talents, rather than copying either his parents or Charles or anyone else. This was exactly the comfort Tim needed.

Tim continued to date girls whenever parental restrictions on his time made it possible, which was not often; but only rarely did he date any given girl more than once, as he found none of the locally available ones particularly to his liking. They tended to be too superficial for his taste, and he had insufficient opportunity to explore the field. Though opportunities for homosexual affairs also repeatedly occurred, Tim refused them, averring that he was entirely heterosexual. He did not at any time regard his secret affair with Charles as contradictory to this position.

Though Tim’s parents never had any suspicion that his friendship with Charles had developed a sexual element, they continued increasingly to blame Charles for the boy’s pacifist orientation and for the ongoing warfare within the family. This atmosphere of continuous emotional upset (from which the boy found escape only on dates and during his rare stealthy visits to Charles) began to affect Tim’s school grades. The parents sent him to a psychiatrist - only to receive the unwelcome news that he was on

Tim’s side and that, speaking as a professional, he advised the parents to give the boy more freedom and to cut down on trying to dictate his life patterns. The improvement was brief indeed, as they quickly relapsed into their old patterns. Nor did Tim’s good record during his first year at college improve matters; his parents continued what can only be called a continuous harassment campaign, and even the emotional support that an occasional phone talk with Charles might provide became impossible because of continuous surveillance. Tim now lives only for the day when he can leave home permanently without threat of being brought back forcibly by police - presumably when he turns 21.

A superficial evaluation might have it that Charles’s net influence was bad, in that it precipitated warfare between Tim and his parents, to the detriment of Tim’s school record and emotional life, even irrespective of the sexual angle and subsequent deceit. A closer examination with even a partly open mind, however, forbids any such judgment. Notice that instead of deliberately trying to convert the boy to agnosticism or atheism, or for that matter advising him to stick with the parental church, Charles advised him to follow his own conscience, molded as it was through Tim’s years at Quaker schools, and emphasized this by encouraging the boy to read a wide range of authors rather than showing him only one side of any such questions. Under the circumstances, Tim’s later involvement with the AFSC and the peace movement comes as no surprise. For him to give up pacifist work, as his parents demanded, represented going against his own conscience. As long as his parents were opposed to this, being devout Republicans and Episcopalians, conflict was inevitable, and it is useless to assign blame. Of such conflicts of loyalties tragedy is made, and Charles’s role was but that of a catalyst. In this light the sex appears as a very minor and incidental feature of the relationship.

One may speculate as to what would have become of the relationship and of Tim’s subsequent emotional state, had Charles angrily refused the importunate sexual solicitation as dirty or perverted. In all likelihood Tim would have been more upset than ever; he would have felt rejected, even betrayed, his deeper feelings trampled on. The unexpected sexual arousal, coming in the circumstances in which it did, can most probably be interpreted as a sort of sudden focusing of a lot of tensions, anxieties and apprehensions, a sudden physical realization of how much he actually loved Charles, a sudden realization of need to be loved in a very specific way, a fear of losing someone who had come to mean a very great deal to him, and much more. Charles’s permitting Tim to perform the “big embrace”[2] and intercrural copulation, together with some mutual masturbation and a lot of caressing, probably constituted a genuine act of mercy. There is no evidence of ensuing sexual guilt, nor of interference with Tim’s heterosexual interests; Tim’s main concern during the sexual episodes was that Charles should get something like the same satisfaction he had gotten, and the only anxiety he ever manifested over the sexual aspect was lest his parents find out by any means, however indirect.

In addition, I cannot forbear to point out that in awakening Tim to philosophical and other issues, Charles did the boy no disservice but an actual benefit. Confronting these issues and developing one’s personal ethical code are part of growing up, as is facing the conflicts engendered by this informal self-education. As highly rated as is the school to which Tim was going, it is unlikely that the books alluded to would have been on his required reading list.

[Update from the Preface to the 1971 edition:] “Tim” […] has grown up to become a publisher of art books; he is a devoted husband and father, and may be considered the most successful (psychologically if not financially) of the boys included in these case histories.

 

5. With Cloak and Dagger Through Darkest Tennessee. Twelve-year old Howard, blond, overgrown and concealing a Dennis-the-Menace attitude behind the traditional horn-rimmed glasses, came to national attention about six years ago through some newspaper story about his being a “child prodigy.” The story did him little good, as he had to remain in public school in the little Bible Belt town in eastern Tennessee where his parents lived. Neighbors resented him, school bored him to the proverbial (and often literal) tears, while his stagnation increased after he had read everything in the tiny public library, and his grades began to slip farther and farther down. His parents were sympathetic but bewildered. In his spare time he read his bushels of mail, discarding most of it as junk, and indulged in weird hoaxes and practical jokes with his few companions - themselves the town outcasts. There was also the kind of casual sex play common among early adolescents; but over the next couple of years this came to mean far more to him than to his friends, though he never dared admit the fact even to them.

Before the newspaper-stimulated mail dwindled to zero, it yielded him three or four worthwhile pen-pals. During the ensuing four years he met all of these, principally on vacation trips with parents or relatives. One of them, Floyd E., a magazine editor, whom he met only briefly, nevertheless was from the beginning an unfailing source of ideas for dealing with boredom, of unfamiliar books, of challenging projects, of advice and comfort. Neither then knew that the other had any homosexual interests. Each knew of the other’s heterosexual concerns. But it was in effect Greek love by mail, as each had come over the years to mean a great deal to the other.

On the eve of a vacation trip to Washington, young Howard wrote Floyd a curious letter asking many questions about sexual techniques and particularly about homosexuality, saying that he had just finished reading Jess Steam’s The Sixth Man and seeing the movie “Advise and Consent,” both of which raised more problems than they settled. Floyd replied with a rather unfavorable criticism of the Steam book, on the grounds of its limited and biased knowledge of the subject, and recommended a number of more reliable sources, but suggested that some of these questions had better be answered in person in case his parents might accidentally see the letter (prophetic words, these!).

Washington D.C., 1960s

Howard, now 16 and of adult appearance, showed up in Washington, temporarily staying with a family long associated with his relatives, and visiting the Smithsonian Institution and other familiar attractions. When Floyd showed up in Washington on a business trip, they got together, and Howard finally admitted that his concern with homosexuality was much more personal than the letter had indicated. He had in fact been long aware of how much the erotic play of several years before had meant to him; he had been having erotic dreams of this kind, and feeling immediate overwhelming attraction to handsome young men (mainly in the 18–25 age range) whom he saw here and there, but he never got together with them largely because he didn’t know how to tell if someone would be likely to accept a proposition rather than administer a beating or call for a policeman. Nor could Howard convince himself that this was any thing over which he had any control, let alone any power to suppress. “I don’t deliberately choose to dream about these beautiful young men. I don’t deliberately choose to get an erection when I sit across from one of them in a street-car,” he said, adding that he felt it as much a natural part of his makeup as was his simultaneous similar feeling for girls. And yet all the psychiatric literature he had seen - a considerable number of books - said that this attraction was sick, but most of the authors assigned this “sickness” different and incompatible or mutually contradictory origins! He had no desires to become female, nor to act nor to dress like a female; he simply found himself becoming sexually excited at the nearness of certain individuals of either gender, and having these erotic dreams.

At this juncture came a knock on the door of Floyd’s hotel room, and in walked Steve, a graduate student majoring in psychology. The subject was changed; Steve and Howard became friends within minutes after the introduction, and the three planned a trip to one of the local resorts for the next day. During that excursion Steve made a remark which unintentionally revealed his own homosexual interest (he was unaware that young Howard was of similar mind, or that he knew the argot). Howard immediately picked up the conversational tag-end, and before the day was over he and Steve agreed that they wanted each other. And instead of moving into the YMCA as earlier planned, Howard moved into Steve’s apartment. Thereafter he was in a kind of double Greek love scene: sexual with Steve, non-sexual (but emotionally almost equally close) with Floyd. After his few weeks in Washington were over with, Howard occasionally traveled there again on weekends to visit Steve, and his letters and phone calls to Floyd indicated that finding this immensely satisfying relationship had probably saved his sanity. Another and more surprising development ensued: Howard began an affair with a young widow in his own home town. The widow knew about, and was entirely sympathetic with, Howard’s homosexual side; for after all, she too found young men attractive. And Howard discovered that each time without exception he was much more emotionally open, affectionate, and sexually passionate with the widow after coming back from a sexual meeting with Steve. Both of them became necessary to his sense of well-being.

That fall Howard’s school grades began to improve for a while. He and Steve continued to remain in contact by letter and long-distance phone, after Steve had returned to graduate school in New England. Floyd kept getting joyful letters from Howard on the progress of his relationship with the widow.

But one evening Howard became sick and had to be quickly driven to the local hospital. In his fevered and upset state he left in his typewriter an unfinished love letter to Steve. His parents, until then entirely ignorant of this side of Howard’s life, read the letter in his absence and on Howard’s return began an emotional storm like nothing the boy had ever before experienced. They blamed themselves for God only knows what deficiency in his moral training; they blamed him for keeping up a relationship he knew to be sinful by their rigid Protestant code, likely to hurt them, illegal, hazardous, likely to impair his chances at a decent career, and at the very best sick. They felt it their Christian duty to put the boy under constant surveillance, to intercept any further mail from Steve, to monitor all phone calls for or by the boy, and to send him to a psychiatrist. Anything to break up the “unnatural” relationship - no matter how much suffering it would put young Howard through.

Howard got around the mail interception by having personal letters come thereafter to him c/o the sympathetic widow (who was now even more a comfort in his acute distress), and by making and receiving phone calls from her house. The plan to send him to a psychiatrist would have been quite acceptable, save that the psychiatrist his parents chose turned out to be a narrow-minded moralist who talked only in vague generalities, and who refused to let Howard discuss anything except the homosexuality itself - no “digressions” being permitted into earlier life, other interpersonal relationships, or anything else! He apparently expected to convince Howard intellectually that homosexuality in any degree is evil and must be given up the way one might give up a food to which one is allergic.

From that day to the present writing, Howard’s life has been an alternation between furtive conspiratorial meetings with the widow, the school grind, and the hated sessions with the psychiatrist. Steve is meanwhile trying to interest some members of the admissions board at his university in Howard’s case, with early admission as the object; it seems fairly likely that this will be granted, but Howard’s mental health is in some danger in the meantime. Howard reports that he is trying to induce his parents to send him to a different psychiatrist, and they are not completely unfavorable to the idea.

Once again, an unsympathetic critic could point to this case history and claim that it proves how undesirable and dangerous such relationships are. A closer look reveals, however, that Howard’s homosexual component was manifest well before his first overt experience with anyone older; that parental discovery was sheer accident and might never have happened save for the illness; that his Greek love relationships did provide him with satisfaction for undeniable needs: intellectual stimulation hardly available otherwise, and emotional support when it was most necessary; that his homosexual experiences directly enhanced a heterosexual relationship; and that these all afforded him a welcome escape from an essentially unsuitable, sterile and boring Bible Belt environment into something much more broadening. In particular, if Steve succeeds in getting Howard accepted into the university, this benefit will make up for a lot of earlier misery.

And once again we encounter the feature that homosexual activities in some way stimulate and enhance subsequent heterosexual relationships, in direct contradiction to Bergler. I have noticed this time and again, not only in the case histories told here, but in numerous other interviews with individuals involved either in Greek love or in androphile homosexual affairs. I have no ready explanation for it other than the theory given by Norm T. in an earlier case history in this chapter. This theory seems plausible enough and no ready objection to it arises. Certainly a patrist, with his extreme emphasis on sex differences, his rejection of any acceptance of a feminine component in every man’s makeup, his fear of homosexuality, his attitude towards women as inferior or sinful creatures, would not be readily capable of the understanding of female psychology that seems to characterize more profoundly loving individuals. Norm T. mentioned that this very empathy with his wife or girlfriend, this cooperative awareness of the pleasure she is getting, is an extremely important source of excitement, of pleasure, of satisfaction for him. Howard has made much the same observation, and I have heard it repeatedly and independently from others. For that matter, many homosexuals with whom I have discussed such matters have told me that often enough they are accommodating rather than eager, gaining their own satisfaction from (woman-like) knowing how much pleasure they are affording their partners, even more than from the actual physical stimulation. It is certainly true also of many women. Kinsey speaks of vicarious sharing of experience[3] and sympathetic responses,[4] and compares anal penetration to deep vaginal penetration,[5] using terms indicating that Norm’s theory above mentioned is consistent with the findings of the Sex Research Institute. We have already seen that homosexual activity, in many individuals, has been found not to interfere with their subsequent heterosexual adaptations; but the discovery that it can enhance the latter by enabling them to understand their girls’ responses is very important.

[Update from the Preface to the 1971 edition:] “Howard” of case 5, at last report, had dropped out of college, married and was acting as a paid informer for the FBI; he is the only political ultraconservative in this series.

 

6. The Fatal Weekend. The events I am about to describe may stretch the credulity of some readers, and the tolerance of others. I can only say to the first that I was an eyewitness to many of them, and interviewed the participants to get other details, their stories confirming each other circumstantially; and to the second that I am too aware of the implications of Jesus’s admonition about ‘casting the first stone’ to make moral judgments. I can also suggest that skeptics read the well-known Terman and Hollingworth studies on gifted children. I offer this case history not as anything typical, but as a sort of sociological microscope, in which one can see, in immense magnification, the psychological processes commonly found in Greek love - and some of the dangers awaiting a youngster whose need for manifest love and guidance remains unsatisfied.

Boston, 1950s

A graduate student whom I shall call Kenneth became friends with various members of an old Boston socialite family in 1954, through one of his fellow-students whom they had befriended. During many dinners and evenings at their Back Bay town house, over the chessboard and the Go stones, he became the special friend of their older boy, then nine and already well known in the area as a chess prodigy. At the family’s Christmas party he finally met the boy’s much talked-about best buddy, whom I shall call Pat, and to whom this chess prodigy looked up in awe. Pat was not quite eleven, and the sort of youngster one could not avoid noticing in a crowd: tall, pure blond (but lightly tanned) and with eyes that can be described only as bluish violet; and with a commanding presence seen in few adults, a self-assurance admitting of no doubt. By standing tall he might have passed for a fourteen-year-old; his stride and coordination suggested that age or older, as did his low and well-modulated voice. When he talked with other youngsters, they listened to him and he led them; when he talked with adults, he used the vocabulary of a college graduate, and used it naturally and without any noticeable errors.

I learned afterwards that this boy was reputed - on apparently excellent grounds - to have an IQ far in excess of 200. I know from talking with him that he had been reading college textbooks and technical works for a couple of years, and that the range of subject matter included among other things astronomy, geology, various biological specialties, psychology, cultural anthropology, history and philosophy. I overheard him, at a later date, discussing with Kenneth the Thomistic proofs of the existence of God and pointing out the untenable assumptions underlying them (such as the so-called ‘principle of plenitude,’ described in Lovejoy’s The Great Chain of Being, though he did not use this name for it; and the very dubious grounds on which Aquinas rejected infinite regress and a universe lacking a definite beginning in time). I heard both from his little friend the chess prodigy and from Pat’s stepmother that Pat is an excellent acrobat, skier and marksman, and I have seen him exhibiting phenomenal form in swimming, using various kinds of strokes. In short, this boy was extremely advanced in just about all directions, and to think of him as just another ten-year-old would be to misjudge him, and what follows, so completely as to render understanding impossible.

Newport, Rhode Island, 1950s

Pat and Kenneth became friendly, though not yet too closely, at that Christmas party. They saw little of each other during the following winter and spring, though there were occasional meetings and messages passed back and forth via the chess prodigy. During the summer of 1955, the family shared with Pat’s family one of the huge beach cottages just outside Newport, R.I., and on one weekend they invited Kenneth to stay there.

Here I should add a few details about Pat’s family. His parents had divorced and remarried, and part of the time he was in the custody of his father and stepmother (professional people connected with the film industry, the father a rough-tongued tennis addict, stepmother a very gentle and soft-spoken woman of infinite sympathy - a natural mother type with several children by an earlier husband); the rest of the time he was in custody of his real mother and stepfather. I did not meet these two, but others who know them well have described them to me; the stepfather is wealthy and preoccupied with becoming more so, and is out of town much of the time, while the mother is a weak, ineffectual person whose main way of dealing with crises is to scream, and whose perceptiveness about her own children must be described - in all charity - as dull. Pat’s education seems to have been almost entirely self-made, without his mother’s knowledge; while she thought him to be out in the playgrounds or at other youngsters’ houses, Pat was usually in the main reading room of the Boston Public Library or one of the other libraries - Harvard, Tufts, the Athenaeum, the Massachusetts Historical Society, etc., occasionally sneaking into the stacks, or he would be at the Museum of Fine Arts pestering various staff members with questions, alleging that he was working on some school project.

Photo by Don Wight

During the weekend, Kenneth rapidly became a great favorite among the children - the chess prodigy and his little brother, Pat (now 11 and rapidly growing) and his stepbrothers and stepsisters. Pat’s stepmother occasionally entrusted the whole brood to him at the beach. Almost inevitably, though, the friendship deepened between Kenneth and Pat; they had more in common than Kenneth did with anyone else in the household, in either family. This was recognized and nobody thought it in the least degree odd; Pat had “always” - which probably means for the preceding couple of years, anyway - chosen adults for companions wherever possible. All was not harmony, however; Pat’s father took a mild dislike to Kenneth because he was not an athlete, and it wasn’t manly to avoid the tennis court. (Swimming didn’t count.) Pat’s lumbering 16-year-old stepbrother gave way to his old (jealousy inspired?) practice of tormenting Pat - once too often: I saw the latter part of the ensuing fight, in which Pat literally climbed up on the brother, using feet, fists and elbows, toppled him over and finally stomped on him. We separated them, and the brother shook hands and promised “never again” - but carefully avoided Pat for the remainder of that weekend. Where the boy had picked up gutter-fighting methods I still do not know; possibly he had learned them from comic books or TV.

Toward the end of the long weekend (Thursday afternoon to the following Tuesday) Kenneth and Pat became so inseparable that to find one you had to look for the other. Sometimes they were alone together, especially when the other kids found their discussions too full of big words for comfort. I have the distinct impression that in a very deep sense they regarded each other as equals; that this was in some respects a symmetrical relationship. I know that they did not regard each other as competitors, nor as teacher and pupil in the usual sense. I know that Kenneth did teach Pat some things, and recommend books, and give advice; but in many other respects they talked as man to man, without pretense or formality, and Kenneth never let himself “talk down” to Pat despite some thirteen years’ age difference. I emphasize this point because the relationship between them was in no sense that of adult to child, and it had more elements of symmetrical friendship than are usual in Greek love.

The author in 1952, three years before he witnessed what he here describes

Saturday night, after a day at the beach, the adults were already in the midst of their nightly poker game, and the kids were in bed (save for the 16-year-old, who was somewhere in town, possibly with a girlfriend.). At some time during the evening I heard a faint voice calling “Kenneth,” and he left his kibitzer’s chair and did not come back. Later on I found out what had happened. Pat had been badly string by sandflies or something of the kind while at the beach, and was unable to sleep for the itching. Why he called for Kenneth rather than for his stepmother is uncertain; possibly he knew somehow that Kenneth would be available whereas his stepmother would be busy with the poker game. Kenneth went upstairs to the kids’ bedroom (containing eight bunks), found Pat in misery, took him into one of the disused adult bedrooms, dosed him with antihistamine pills, and liberally applied analgesic salve. Since Pat had been wearing only a bathing suit when stung, the stings were naturally on areas that would normally have been covered by pajamas, and as a result the youngster remained naked until the salve dried, and apparently long afterwards as well. I gather that they talked and afterwards they cuddled; Pat, though only eleven, was already pubescent, and became aroused by the application of the salve on thighs and lower abdomen. Pat seems to have given Kenneth, in mock wrestling, the “big embrace,” but I do not think that anything more happened, other than much additional cuddling and mutual sexual caressing. Hours later that night Pat put on pajamas and went to bed, suspecting (correctly) that his father would shortly show up. Kenneth also went to bed. The father a few minutes later knocked on Kenneth’s door, wanting to know if he had been using the analgesic salve, and if so, where was it; but apparently neither he nor anyone else voiced any suspicions as to what the two had been doing, if anything. The next morning Pat woke Kenneth up, but though there was plenty of cuddling I do not believe there was any additional overt sex play, then or later. There was little enough opportunity for privacy.

Photo by Don Wight

The final day arrived, and Kenneth had to go home - partly because he had a job to return to, partly to make room for several of Pat’s relatives who were moving in. I saw Pat on Kenneth’s lap, crying bitterly and inconsolably. I later learned that Pat was broken up because Kenneth would have to leave, and that on top of this he had been telling Kenneth about his school problem, which was something Pat could not handle. It seems that at age five he had been thrown out of kindergarten as uncooperative and given to asking the teacher impossibly embarrassing questions; and that when he started in first grade, he found himself entirely without companions and without access to anything he found interesting to do: the “Dick & Jane” books were an unbearable bore to a boy used to reading things like Gray’s Anatomy and Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy; the teachers shushed him rather than listening to his complaints, and he alternated between corner sulking and “Dennis the Menace” hellionism. And the pattern continued into the fifth grade, which he had just completed that spring. And from first grade on, he had daily begged his mother to take him out of school, as he found the place of no value - he knew everything in the books, but was forbidden by teachers to bring anything more advanced to classes; he was still without any friends he could share his own interests and knowledge with, and his classmates’ games were a bore. But (and here Pat broke down and bawled in the retelling) his mother continually insisted that he had to give up any crazy idea that he was any different, or any better, or any brighter than anyone else, and that he would have to stay in public school to learn to act like all the rest. This prospect was, to him, one of unmitigated horror. Apparently his mother was either callous or totally unaware of Pat’s accomplishments and his obvious difference from his schoolmates.

Later on Pat shoved a petition under my nose, asking for my signature (he had gotten over twenty others). The petition - in elaborate calligraphy - was to the socialite family, praying them to bring back Kenneth as soon as possible and as often as possible. He ceremoniously delivered it to his father, who was somewhat taken aback, but who made vague promises that he would, though he could not predict exactly when. Kenneth finally got into the car with his baggage, said goodbye to everyone - and noticed that Pat had disappeared. They drove over the winding roads to the gate, preparing to turn onto the main road which would eventually take Kenneth and the socialites back to Boston. And all of a sudden, Pat darted out from behind some bushes, and flagged the car down. Thinking that possibly someone had forgotten some piece of luggage, the driver stopped; but all that happened was that Pat put his arms into the car, hugged Kenneth, withdrew, waved a desolate goodbye, and returned to the bushes, once again bawling. The driver turned to Kenneth, shook his head and said, “You sure charmed him, didn’t you?” Nobody else said anything during the journey. I was in the car, and the sight of Pat in such agitation and unfeigned sorrow was disturbing indeed. So far as I know Kenneth never saw him again; there were a few phone calls, and afterwards Pat was “not in” to any calls from Kenneth. (I told this story once omitting the sex element, years afterward, to a social worker. The woman wept, and told me that this was one of the most poignant love stories she had ever heard.)

Photo by Don Wight

I later talked with an aunt and uncle (sister and brother-in-law of Pat’s father). The subsequent developments were not pleasant. Pat evidently talked a great deal about Kenneth, and his father resented it (particularly as Pat was not especially fond of him since the divorce, whereas he made no secret about how much he loved Kenneth); later on, when Pat was returned to his mother’s custody during the school year, she became very jealous of Kenneth for similar reasons, and afraid to invite Kenneth around, hoping that if she ignored the situation, it would disappear. Pat’s performance in school was no better than usual, and his emotional state was worse. Later on, all the youngsters in his school were given an IQ test. Pat, though obviously bored with it, came out with a top score. So far as anyone knew, he had never had any such test before. The mother’s reaction on hearing about the test was something like “My God, what have I done? I didn’t think he was unusually bright.” She then took him to the headmaster of a local private school said to specialize in the gifted. He was insistent: registrations for the following year had closed four months before. She was equally insistent that he should talk to Pat. The headmaster said that he would talk to him, but would not make any promises. They were closeted for an hour and a half, and (as Pat’s mother told the aunt) the headmaster came out, blanched and drenched with sweat, and in a shaky voice told her that he would accept Pat on a special-student basis.

I heard, still later, that Pat’s career at the new school was almost as traumatic as it had been at public school. A teacher called him stupid on the second day of class because he was unfamiliar with something or other - it had not been in his public school curriculum, and he’d missed it in his outside reading. Pat promptly walked out and did not come back. The headmaster found him at home, and talked to him for a couple of hours, insisting that it had been a horrible mistake and promising that he would see to it that such a thing would never happen again. But happen it did, with the same teacher, in the same week and for much the same reason; and Pat once again walked out, never again to set foot within the school walls. His mother made arrangements with some teachers at that school to tutor him privately. He became increasingly moody and withdrawn and shortly after Thanksgiving complained of agonizing stomach pain. It proved to be an ulcer. The details I have from here on are fragmentary, but one can imagine the sort of home life which would give a twelve-year-old boy an ulcer. The last I heard - in 1959 - Pat was still dividing his time between home tutoring in Chestnut Hill and his father’s ski camp in Vermont. And he was still extremely dissatisfied with both sides of the family.

And Kenneth? The last I heard, he has still not forgotten Pat, and more than one of his girlfriends has been shaken up by hearing from him the true story I have told here. More than once he has been startled by seeing pure blond hair and blue violet eyes in a crowd - but never a sign of recognition.

Photo by Don Wight

There are doubtless some readers who will accept at least intellectually the idea that a man can love another homosexually, and that in rare instances a man can find genuine love in a relationship with a teenager. Probably many of these readers will balk at the idea of such a relationship with an eleven-year-old, even so extraordinary an eleven-year-old as Pat. To them I can only say: one must judge each case on its own merits.

It is abundantly clear from this story that the relationship between Kenneth and Pat had all the earmarks of authentic Greek love. Sullivan[6] insisted that adolescence was not a matter of chronological age, but of psychic development. In mental ability Pat was a superior adult. Terman used to say that a person generally seeks other people of about his own mental age as associates; feeble-minded adolescents and adults, out of their depth with their age-mates, play with younger children; normal or average children run around with their age-mates; gifted ones prefer adolescents or adults. This was obviously true of Pat. It is also obvious, from my own contact with him and my own observation of him with Kenneth, that he insisted on being regarded, as far as possible, as an equal, and with him it was not a mere game - he felt himself the equal of any adult even though his body had not yet matured. (And he compensated for that by developing athletic skills.) Kenneth tells me that Pat was interested in girls, though he took it for granted that the ones he was attracted to - girls in their late teens - would have eyes only for older boys, and that his chance would come later on. In short, chronological age aside, Pat was adolescent, and should have been recognized as such.

It is difficult to say exactly why he put such a huge emotional investment in Kenneth. I would guess that Kenneth was the first person he got to know at all well, the first person who treated him unhesitatingly as an equal, and the first who shared so many interests in common with him. Other adults for the most part did not spend much time with him, or - unpardonable - looked down on him as just another child. I gather that Pat needed guidance, much as do many adolescents, and that in particular he needed advice on how to handle the school problem, how to get along with his schoolmates, his brothers, and his two sets of parents (apparently only his stepmother having any insight into his nature and needs), and much else. Kenneth certainly made a beginning in trying to cover these areas of acute concern, but the relationship was forcibly ended before he could be of maximum help.

I will not hazard a guess as to whether there would have been any further sex play, nor whether it would have affected Pat’s heterosexual interests. And I refuse to moralize on this point. I can only say that the love relationship was deep enough that Kenneth would not have done anything knowingly to hurt Pat or his chances at a healthy development - nor, on the other hand, would he have willingly rejected Pat’s spontaneous displays of affection. They were too genuine - and too intense - to be spurned without danger of hurting the boy’s feelings. Wherever Pat is now, I only hope he is happier than he was in 1955-56.

 

The above fifteen case histories,[7] though certainly not a statistically significant sample, nevertheless provide findings of considerable theoretical interest. To answer possible charges of bias in selection of case histories, let me say right away that the uncomplicated instances of Greek love actually do in my experience outnumber the difficult ones; that long term ones do outnumber short term ones; and that the trends deduced below from the 15 cases presented here can be confirmed in the other forty-odd cases of which I have any knowledge. Rebuttals will have to cite depth studies of larger numbers of Greek love pairs, and as yet these do not exist in the literature; for the present, the above fifteen will have to serve as a start. Inclusion of the other forty-odd would have added bulk to an already lengthy volume without adding a great deal of illumination.

There follow some tentative generalizations not earlier covered, but illustrated by the above case histories. First, concerning the boys in the Greek love relationships: 

1. In every instance known to me in which a boy takes a markedly active sexual role in a Greek love situation, or in which he initiates the sexual aspect, he is unusually mature and sophisticated for his years, and as a rule quite masculine.

2. In every instance of the above, the boy undergoes puberty early: age 10 to 12. This means the majority of boys involved in Greek love in my observations. I believe that this may account for some of Sir Richard Burton’s speculations about the “Sotadic zone.”[8] Ethnically, many of these lads were of mesomorphic Mediterranean stock (though to be sure Toby and Pat, in cases 1 and 6 of Chapter VIII, were of Old American origin, ultimately Old North European).

3. In every instance of Greek love where the boy is of a late maturing or gynandroid constitutional type, the relationship is of a different kind from the above; sexual aspects appear late if at all – often some months or years after the relationship begins - and the affair resembles a surrogate parent-child relationship at its outset, changing later on.

4. Greek love appears to be independent of ethnic origin of the boy, though in its overtly sexual form it is not independent of his religious origins. I know no instances of orthodox Jewish boys getting into such relationships in which overt sex played a part; the rabbi’s pupils (case 2, Chapter VII) were Conservative. Devout Catholics are rare, and in general Kinsey’s conclusions tend to hold good here - the less the orthodox religious involvement, and the further the departure from the lower middle class, the higher the amount of sexual activity.

5. In every instance in which the boy ever displayed any heterosexual interests, they were at least not interfered with by the Greek love experience and in many they were positively enhanced - whether the Greek love affair proceeded smoothly or traumatically. Norm T.’s homosexual experiences to orgasm came only in later life, and they likewise enhanced his subsequent heterosexual relations (see cases 3 and 5, Chapter VIII).

6. I know of no instance whatever of Greek love in which the boy has later developed into a transvestite or even into a queen. The female impersonators and other queens whom I have known - altogether about twenty - are a diverse lot, but they agree in rejecting their own masculinity and in lacking any experience in Greek love as older or younger partner; usually they find the idea of a man loving a boy rather than another man or woman quite grotesque, indecent or unintelligible. One may tentatively guess that this development of effeminacy as a way of life is somehow connected with the lack of rejection of masculine guidance in early adolescence.

7. Instances where the boy involved in Greek love becomes exclusively or nearly exclusively homosexual in later life are very rare. This refutes Dr. Neustatter,[9] and explicitly confirms Friedenberg[10] in his contention that male love-objects in adolescence are notably absent from the histories of boys who later become exclusively or nearly exclusively homosexual.

8. Instances where the boy involved in Greek love becomes an invert[11] are very rare, and judging from the studies of inversion available (as distinct from homosexuality), the development of inversion seems to be quite independent of the presence or absence of Greek love in the individual’s history.

9. Neurotic traits displayed by boys involved in Greek love situations are diverse enough – when they are present at all in noticeable degree - so that one cannot ascertain a pattern of neurosis characteristic of, or in any way obviously related to, the Greek love relationship.

10. I know no instance where the boy involved in Greek love has become subsequently involved in prostitution.

11. The only instances known to me of overt destructive or predators delinquency following a Greek love relationship are boys who were traumatically torn away from their lovers. (Case 1, Chapter VIII.)

12. In every case in Chapter VIII, the damage done to the boy has come not from the love itself, not even from the sexual involvement, but from the consequences of being torn away from the relationship. This remark holds also for every other instance known to me where such a relationship was forcibly disrupted. In every case without exception, the disruption did the boy unequivocal harm. This complete uniformity of this connection should be very instructive. Note the parallel with the Bender and Blau conclusions.[12]

13. In every case known to me, the boy benefitted by the relationship.

Second, concerning the men in the Greek love relationships:

14. Exclusive homosexuals are a small minority, effeminate queens and inverts not found at all. The Kinsey ratings are generally 2 to 4. (Recall that a Kinsey rating of 0 means exclusive heterosexuality, 3 approximately equal heterosexual and homosexual involvement, 6 exclusive homosexuality.)

15. Usually, the men in question do not regard their Greek love affairs as constituting marital infidelity or as excluding them from simultaneous involvements with women.

16. In a large number of instances, though possibly not in all, the man shows up as a friend in need, even a rescuer, at the outset; a solution to a boy’s emergent problems which might otherwise prove too much for the youngster. Possibly in some cases this serves to validate a relationship cutting across the age-lines, such relationships (sex aside) requiring validation simply because of the extreme age-mate segregation in this culture.

17. There does not seem to be a characteristic pattern of neurotic symptoms found more often in the boy-loving adults known to me than in others.

18. Men so involved come from many different social strata and ethnic origins; as in conclusion #4, devout involvement in an orthodox religious denomination is rare, and the less such involvement and the further the departure from the lower middle class, the higher the amount of sexual activity.

19. Men who enter Greek love relationships and go as far as sexual involvement with their boyfriends are invariably capable of overt tenderness to a degree uncommon in this culture. No Mike Hammer types here.

20. I know of no instance of Greek love in which the man was actively connected with the underworld, though conceivably such might exist.

21. In every case where the man and boy were forcibly separated (as in Chapter VIII), the effect of such disruption on the man was always a marked emotional disturbance, enough so as to exclude any possibility that for him the boy had been merely a convenient casual sex object.

The above fifteen case histories may not therefore “prove” anything, but they certainly illustrate, in considerable variety, the ways in which Greek love situations develop, with both the hazards and the benefits of such relationships. I believe that they also illustrate, better than can mere didactic description as in some earlier chapters, the principles I have been trying to enumerate: the ripening of friendship into love, the boy’s specific needs, the guidance aspect, the compatibility of Greek love with heterosexuality, the frequency with which the boy is the actual seducer, the variety of ways in which the sexual aspect develops (sometimes only years after the love relationship has begun), the genuinely reciprocal nature of Greek love, and its entitlement to the name of love even where sometimes the threshold between friendship and love is obscure. I think that as an illustration of the range and diversity of patterns, these fifteen cases are as nearly representative as could be adduced. (Though one may well ask if there is any such thing as a “typical” Greek love affair any more than there is a “typical” heterosexual love affair!) Contrary to the usual editorial requirement for writers of homosexual fiction, I have not shown any cases ending in death or prison. Though such may occur, I have no personal knowledge of any; the nearest I can recall is a young man who committed suicide over acute depression (in which his current girlfriend figured regrettably prominently) some years after having “graduated” from a Greek love situation. Those who go to prison - and again I have no personal knowledge of such individuals - are simply those who get caught, and I have no compelling reason to believe that the psychology of their relationships is much different from that of the luckier individuals. Even the distressing instances in Chapter VIII were not individuals caught in bed with their boyfriends. By far the largest numbers of arrests of homosexuals in major American cities, according to various attorneys and others speaking before Mattachine Society meetings, are for open solicitation in public places such as lavatories, theatres or parks.

Bergler would say, of course, that such individuals wanted to get caught, according to his theory that all homosexuals are psychic masochists. That many relationships, both of the androphile and the Greek love kind, begin, continue for months or years, and end peacefully without coming to police attention, tends to throw some doubt on any such blanket generalization, no matter what degree of psychic masochism or punishment-seeking guilt may be found in those who court disaster by prowling in public places.

But then, Bergler also claims that there are no genuinely ambierotic individuals, only “homosexuals who may be capable of lustless mechanical sex with a woman.” I find no need to make any such gratuitous unprovable assumption - it neither explains anything nor enables new valid conclusions to be drawn. I find no need to assume that the heterosexual relationships of the men or adolescents involved in Greek love are, then or later, “lustless” or “mechanical,” any more than are those of individuals not so involved. Such thinking betrays a kind of all-or-none assumption to the effect that a person is A or B and that if he claims to be both he is merely B pretending to be A; just as if it were impossible to savor both meat and fish, or to enjoy both Mozart and Charlie Parker. The wives and girlfriends of Ralph, Richard, Claude, Ronnie, Barry, Harvey, Norm, Charles, Floyd, Howard and Kenneth, of the above case histories, among many others, have already given Bergler the horselaugh on this very point; and I would imagine that a woman would be in an excellent position to know if her husband or lover merely perfunctorily gave her “lustless, mechanical sex,” or if he really enjoyed her in bed even as outside of it.

 

From the case histories in Chapter VIII, and from others known to me, and from theory earlier presented, one may tentatively generalize that the most formidable antagonist of all to the Greek lover is the type of woman known as the Philip Wylie mom, whether or not she is a biological parent of the boy involved; jealous, possessive, holding firmly to the umbilical apron strings which she has done her best to tie around the boy’s neck, moralistic, obsessed with propriety and status regardless of the cost to anyone else in individual happiness or independence, she incarnates Mother Seredá[13] and Mrs. Grundy, and cloaks hostility and destructiveness under do-goodery.

By the time a boy is adolescent and therefore perhaps ripe for Greek love, his mother – fortunately not always a Wylie mom - has already moulded him to nearly the full extent possible for her. But her influence is being inevitably strongly modified by those of teachers and contemporaries in and out of the school. Of necessity, in this culture, her influence has to be for the first few years that of a trainer and a domesticator, giving and withholding, at first without explanation - in short, a tamer, a “civilizing” force. The big pitfall for any mother, other than the culture bound one of imparting a basic insecurity to her child by what Margaret Mead calls “conditional love” (“Mommy won’t love you if you do that”), is one indissolubly bound up in her socializing role. The time-binder par excellence, she transmits value judgments and life-patterns and conformities from her own generation to the next, insuring as emphatically as possible that her offspring’s life will be in many important ways very much like the life to which she herself was accustomed. In this is the pitfall: in transmitting common life patterns, she can unintentionally transmit the distortions and anxieties accompanying them; in transmitting conformities, she can transmit a fear of change or of questioning the status quo, a fear of modifying one’s responses according to changing circumstances; in transmitting value-judgments, she can transmit false or distorted evaluations, and all too often she - together with teachers and authors of books aimed at her offspring - will transmit the Social Lie, insuring the child’s eventual disillusionment, discovery that mommy isn’t always right or even reliable, and the consequent rebellion.

And it is exactly this feature which is exaggerated to ludicrous (but withal tragic) distortion in the Wylie mom; and it is exactly this rebellion which the Wylie mom tries to quell in her attempts to restore the status quo. And it is the same rebellion that is tacitly or even overtly encouraged by the Greek lover. Insofar as he helps his boyfriend to grow up, to be an individual in his own right, he is setting himself - and the boy - into polar opposition to the Wylie mom (whether mother, aunt, grandmother, teacher or social worker). This conflict is very deeply rooted in this culture; I do not know how it can be resolved save by wholesale cultural changes. Possibly we may have to go back and learn more of the surprising truth about how the Greeks regarded women.

 

Supplementary Notes. Unfortunately, quite a number of rather important questions remain unanswered, and I can only hope that subsequent research enables someone to find reliable answers. I cite a few of these questions here:

1. What kind of people are the adults who get involved in Greek love? Are there any common patterns, even if no uniformities? Any characteristic neuroses?

2. Are they often individuals who themselves were recipients of Greek love in their own boyhood days? (The case histories available to me indicate that in most cases they are not, but I hesitate to generalize.)

3. Do they ever become the super-healthy “self-actualizers” that Maslow describes? Is there any particular limitation on mental health imposed by Greek love?

4. Is Greek love something that frequently gets outgrown in later years? (The adults known to me ranged from 20 to 63 years of age.)

5. What relation is there between Greek love and possessiveness or jealousy? Do recipients of Greek love learn to love their own wives in a non-jealous fashion, or do they slip into the common double standard, or something in between? (My information on the boys involved does not permit generalization; they appear non-jealous but sometimes jealousy may be concealed, not coming to the surface save in stress situations luckily as yet spared these boys.)

6. Similarly, are adult Greek lovers jealous about their boys, wives or girlfriends? (Information available to me tends to indicate that they are less often overtly jealous than, say, the average Southern White He-Man, but then I do not know how they would behave in stress situations. Generalizations here would be unwarranted.)

7. Or are adult Greek lovers chronically promiscuous, not really becoming involved with any one woman? (This is difficult to answer, as there is often confusion between “playing the field” in search of a stable commitment and actual promiscuity, which I define - after Goodman - as basic indifference to the identity or individuality of one’s partner so long as he or she fills one’s need for immediate warmth, etc., without demanding the effort of actually working into a relationship.)

8. In sexually permissive societies which sanction patterns analogous to Greek love, is there any built-in sexual distortion, or set of other restrictive taboos, e.g. on certain sexual techniques? Are these societies characterized by more love and tenderness than modern America?

9. Is there such a phenomenon as an adolescent who is so self-sufficient that he does not need any of the benefits which Greek love might provide? If so, will he enter willingly into the National Game, or seek heterosexual satisfaction in some other way, and with what motivations?

10. Is the heterosexual behavior of Greek love people actually a cover-up for a deep fear of women? If so, is this more true of them than of other people? The protagonist in Tesch’s Never The Same Again is clearly insecure with women; is such insecurity commoner in Greek love people than others, and is it one reason for adults turning toward boys?

11. Data available to me suggest that unsophisticated, culture-bound and clergy-ridden strata of common man are especially rare among Greek lovers. Can this be confirmed by Sex Research Institute data?

12. How about the frequency of Greek love, with or without sex play, by clergymen of the various faiths? How are these affairs handled? Is the benefit to the youngsters different in kind or degree?

13. How much of a parallel to Greek love is discernible in Celtic fosterage, or in the relations between knights and squires, masters and apprentices (especially, e.g., in Elizabethan companies of actors), noblemen and pages, cowboys and their sidekicks, captains or older seamen and cabin boys, etc.? Fictional representations (cf. the rare unexpurgated version of James Hanley’s Boy, and various stories by Saikaku Ihara, etc.) may represent wishful thinking or guesswork rather than familiarity with common patterns.

14. Do such social parallels or counterparts to Greek love, or actual social sanctions for Greek love, invariably imply a social stratum in which women are scarce or kept at home, and why? (In at least some instances the mise-en-scène is that of young male trainees taking part with others in strenuous, adventurous or even dangerous occupations, to a certain extent as a trial of their own capabilities.)

15. If so, is this state of affairs a cause or an excuse for the development of Greek love? Were plenty of women available, would these men be so ready to discover the attractions of these adolescents?

16. To what extent, if any, has the presence of “handsome hunks of teen-age trade” as sidekicks of comic book heroes, especially Robin in the Batman series, made youngsters more accessible to Greek love relationships? (I think I could make a good case for claiming that the Batman & Robin comic books are aimed partly at adults who find teen-agers attractive, but mostly at youngsters in the full flush of their early-adolescent hero-worship stage, youngsters for whom a Greek love relationship would not be alien but in fact welcome. But I question to what extent this would be true for other comic book heroes’ sidekicks: not often is any affection indicated between hero and youngster save for occasional life-saving episodes, whereas Robin seems as necessary to Batman’s exploits as vice versa. This was still more blatant in the Batman series published before the regime of the prudish Comics Code Authority.)

17. What about the ethnic and rural vs. urban sociology of Greek love? How much bias is introduced by the fact that most of the instances in my observation have been educated urban individuals of other than negro or oriental ancestry? I have heard of a classical instance of Greek love between a farmer and his apprentice in a mid-western state, tolerated by the community as a quasi father-and-son relationship; is this a common pattern?

18. What about the reports that the transient or migrant workers called hoboes often enter into quasi Greek love relationships with teen-aged runaways? Is this actual Greek love or merely casual association for sex in exchange for food and shelter? What happens to the youngsters? Do they stay with the hobo life and perpetuate the pattern with other boys, or indulge in homosexual relations with other adult hoboes when they themselves grow up, or return to urban society and become heterosexual?

19. What about the street-corner boys who engage in casual sex with lonely men for money?[14] How often does the casual sex (with or without blackmail, etc.[15] [16]) metamorphose into actual Greek love? My observation would seem to indicate that such boys have less chance of meeting sympathetic adults than do boys of other social strata where such meetings are facilitated by common membership in settlement houses, hobby clubs, etc., validating the development of friendships for other than merely sexual reasons.

20. What relationship, if any, does the presence or absence of early preadolescent or adolescent sex play with one’s contemporaries have in making a boy willing to indulge in similar sex play with a man in a Greek love situation? Can Friedenberg’s claim that this is rare among boys who grow up to adult-type homosexuality[17] be proved? D. W. Cory has told me of instances of young men completely repressing all memory of such early sex play and indignantly denying any such experience in process of rejecting later homosexual propositions even from their former sexual playmates (cf. the dénouement of Vidal’s The City and the Pillar). Does this type of repression ever occur following a Greek love relationship?

The problems outlined above and remaining unsolved can provide material for any number of sociological, anthropological and psychological Ph.D. dissertations. One can only hope that the research will be conducted in a non-moralizing manner.[18]

 

[1] Abraham Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being (New York, 1962), 183. [Author’s footnote 142b]

[2] “In the “big embrace” the “active” partner clasps the other’s leg or trunk between his own legs, and rubs his genitals against the other’s body, while holding him or her with his arms” (Eglinton, Greek Love p. 153).

[3] Kinsey, Pomerov, Martin and Gebhard. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (Philadelphia, 1953) 646. [Author’s footnote 142c]

[4] Kinsey, Pomerov, Martin and Gebhard. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (Philadelphia, 1953) 648ff. [Author’s footnote 142d]

[5] Kinsey, Pomerov, Martin and Gebhard. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (Philadelphia, 1953) 581 [Author’s footnote]

[6] Kinsey, Pomerov, Martin and Gebhard. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (Philadelphia, 1953) 120–121, which puts the blame for whatever emotional disturbances do occur squarely onto the parents and teachers who inculcate fear of strangers without explaining the particular kind of forbidden actions they wish avoided. The whole passage (“Significance of Adult Contacts”) is of extreme importance in this context and should be read in full. [Author’s footnote 48]

[7] The fifteen is made up of six in this chapter and nine in the preceding one, “Some Uncomplicated Greek Love Affairs”, qv.

[8] Sir Richard F. Burton, “Terminal Essay” appended to his translation of the Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. Several reprint eds., the one I use here being by the Falstaff Press, n.d. (ca. 1930?), entitled Anthropological Notes on the Sotadic Zone, and including illustrations said to come from the Magnus Hirschfeld Institute, together with opinions by Havelock Ellis (actually reprinted from SIM) and John Addington Symonds (from APIME). D. W. Cory: Homosexuality — a Cross-Cultural Approach also reprinted it. The Burton work to which this is an appendix has also had several photo-offset reprints. Burton’s theory of a “Sotadic Zone” - geographical and climatic — in which (a) youngsters mature early and (b) young adolescents regularly (though elsewhere sporadically) pass through a period of somewhat androgynous good looks, though not a sufficient explanation for the commonness of boy-love in Mediterranean regions and Arabic-speaking lands, deserves more than the neglect it has had. My tentative hypothesis is that ethnic peculiarities ascribable to genetic drift may indeed account for some of the facts he has described, but that others must be attributable to cultural factors and specifically to the relative absence of contact with the Judaeo-Christian mores in their more puritanical forms. Burton’s testimony to what he had seen is authentic enough - he lived in Arabic speaking lands for many years, and was fluent in many local vernaculars. The claims of fakery made against him on the grounds that his Arabic was not good enough to enable him to translate the tales of Shahrázád (Schéhérazade) without using Payne’s translation as a pony are unjustified and not relevant; a knowledge of colloquial modern Arabic and dialects does not automatically unlock classical literary Arabic, any more than a knowledge of modern Brooklynese automatically unlocks Anglo-Saxon. Nevertheless, it is on record that Burton studied literary Arabic during his years at Oxford, so he did have some knowledge of the language of the Thousand Nights and a Night. [Author’s footnote 17]

[9] In They Stand Apart, a compilation by Rees and Usill, of value solely as a representation of the ultraconservative view. [Author’s footnote 40}

[10] Edgar Z. Friedenberg, The Vanishing Adolescent (Boston, Beacon, 1959) 24. [Author’s footnote 93]

[11] I continue use of this obsolescent term “invert” for convenience in referring to the type of biologically male individuals who (whether or not overtly homosexual) identify strongly with females, wish to be females, take pleasure in wearing female garments or in culturally female occupations, and sometimes try to emulate Christine Jorgensen in effecting a surgical shift to the other sex. There are similarly masculine women. Without committing myself to any such theory as that of Ulrichs, I must admit that genetic and constitutional factors certainly have some effect in producing such borderline intersexes; the male inverts I have known often show typically feminine skin and hair texture and distribution, female pubic triangle, lack of linea alba, scanty beard (occasionally it is altogether missing), feminoid breasts, dorsal profile distinctly feminine with flaring hips, female conformation at elbows, etc. Daniel G. Brown, “Inversion and I Iomosexuality,” Amer. Jour. of Orthopsychiatry, 28:424–429 (1958), goes farther than this in rehabilitating many of Ulrichs’s own insights (though he cites Freud instead!), ending by hypothesizing that the invert identifies with the parent of opposite sex. Typically, says Brown, the male invert has had a bad, weak, distant or absent father and a dominant or idolized mother. (But I have found this same situation in many homosexuals who showed no sign of “inversion” in Brown’s sense, and in some individuals who were not noticeably either inverted or overtly homosexual. It follows that other factors are also necessary to account for the syndrome.) He adds that transvestism and other signs of inversion are found not only in effeminate male homosexuals (and in the “bull-dyke” type of hypermasculine lesbian) but also in heterosexuals with this single compulsion. NB: The term “invert” is sometimes misused as a synonym for “homosexual,” e.g. Ellis’s introduction to “Donald Webster Cory,” The Homosexual in America. New York, Greenberg, 1951. [Author’s footnote 143]

[12] Lauretta Bender and Abram Blau, “The Reaction of Children to Sexual Relations with Adults,” Amer. Jour, of Orthopsychiatry, 7:500–518 (1937); L. Bender, “Mental hygiene and the child,” same Journal, 9:574–582 (1939); L. Bender and S. Paster, “Homosexual trends in children,” same Journal, 11:730–744 (1941). Cf. also Simon Raven, “Boys will be boys,” Encounter 86, November 1960. [Author’s footnote 41]

[13] Mother Seredá appears in Cabell’s Jurgen. The name is Russian for Wednesday or midweek, and carries the connotation of middle-of-the-road, mediocrity, avoidance of extremes. [Author’s footnote 143a]

[14] A. J. Reiss, Jr., “The Social Integration of Queers and Peers,” Social Problems, 9, 2:102–120 (1962). The boys studied in this project were lower-class “Times Square kids,” a type found in many large cities; they are very nearly like the “petits-jesus” class of teen-age boy prostitutes known today even as in previous centuries (and described in F. Carlier: Les Deux Prostitions, Paris 1889, part being reprinted in Crapouillot 30, Paris 1955). From my own acquaintance with both boys of this sort and their customers, I can add that occasionally one of these boys will allow himself to use other sexual techniques if the financial inducement is high enough, and that still more infrequently he will allow himself to take a more than casual personal interest in his partner; Greek love relationships have resulted, and during these the prostitutionl aspect has in some instances diminished or disappeared. [Author’s footnote 84]

[15] Kinsey, Pomeroy and Martin, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (Philadelphia, 1948) 384. [Author’s footnote 85]

[16] Kinsey, Pomerov, Martin and Gebhard. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (Philadelphia, 1953) 21. [Author’s footnote 144]

[17] Edgar Z. Friedenberg, The Vanishing Adolescent (Boston, Beacon, 1959) 67.  [Author’s footnote 95]

[18] Kinsey, Pomerov, Martin and Gebhard. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (Philadelphia, 1953) 37. [Author’s footnote 145]