three pairs of lovers with space

SOME UNCOMPLICATED GREEK LOVE AFFAIRS BY J. Z. EGLINTON

 

Here are presented the American case studies that form Chapter VII, “Some Uncomplicated 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. 158-178, interspersed with the addition of updates taken from the preface on some of the nine cases.

 

Baseball and tennis have yet to successfully compete with the orgasm.

 — LEE R. STEINER.

“If you go to the park, you will find that those who seem to be most lovely and lively are, for the most part, the very ones who make love most directly, without fears and ideas.”

Rosalind, in PAUL GOODMAN’S Empire City, 358.

 

EXCEPT FOR THE FIRST ONE (WELL ATTESTED BY HIS FRIENDS), ALL INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED IN THE case histories to be presented here are personally known to me, though I cannot claim to be equally intimately acquainted with them all. “Uncomplicated” here means that the sexual friendships proceeded without trouble from parents, other authorities, or internal disruptions, during their courses, though to be sure some were prematurely terminated by geographic removal. To protect the anonymity of the individuals, all names and locations have been changed, in addition to a few occupations and other details where those might give some clue to their identities.

 

1954 poster

1. Prof. Angelo da C. and his adopted protégés. This internationally known Italian scientist and author,[1] married and childless, has on several occasions gone to his homeland from the U.S.A., and each time adopted a boy of twelve or so, with the full consent of the boy’s parents, usually paying them liberally into the bargain. In every instance intellectual promise shown by the youngster was a deciding factor. After bringing each boy back to the U.S.A., he put him through the finest schools, finally letting him go only after he had gone far enough in his education to continue under his own steam, and after he had at least a tentative engagement to be married. In the meantime, each relationship was conducted in the classic Greek love fashion, with the combination of intensive guidance and love characterizing the more judiciously and discreetly handled affairs. I cannot answer for the sexual angle, but my informants are reasonably certain that it was present. The scientist had only one protégé at a time, which is again in the ancient tradition; he has had, in all, five or six, for varying lengths of time according to the boy’s age at the beginning of each affair and at its termination. The scientist is well known to the sexual reform movement, and his life pattern has served as a shining example to many.

[Update from the Preface to the 1971 edition:] “Angelo da C.” has gone on into old age in much the same pattern, many of his boy friends finding careers in anything from engineering to the ballet.

 

Photo by Aristide Niccollet

2. Rabbi Chaim M. and his pupils. This Conservative Jewish clergyman and teacher,[2] married for over fourteen years and with three children of his own, found himself — much to his surprise — reacting sexually when one of his pupils after school not only confessed to a crush but cuddled and groped him. Rabbi M. had long ago been aware of early homosexual feelings in his teens, but considered them as a transient phase outgrown when he began to go out with girls; there had never been any recurrence in the meantime. The boy was insistent, and sex play followed, in which a great deal of physical affection was manifest. As they continued to see each other after school, the friendship deepened, with sharing of confidences. For obvious reasons of prudence, though the rabbi often brought his boyfriend home for dinner, he kept the sexual side unknown to his wife. His obvious difficulties of conscience did not last long, as he found a valuable precedent for this sort of love in the affair of David and Jonathan, honored in Torah and Talmud (see Chapter III, above), where the term for “love” invariably was the same one used elsewhere to denote the sensual affection between husband and wife. And so the rabbi allowed himself to love the boy uninhibitedly, getting together with him after school, on occasional Sundays, and at sympathetic friends’ homes, as well as on journeys during which they shared hotel or motel rooms. Despite living in a neighborhood where delinquent gangs were common, the boy grew up under the rabbi’s intensive guidance without getting into any serious trouble, and eventually began dating a neighbour girl. His affair with the rabbi continued for about six years in all, until the boy was drafted (at age 19) and shipped overseas. I understand that upon his return from army service the boy married his girlfriend and that the rabbi has since then taken another boy under his wing, but I do not know for certain if this affair has developed a sexual aspect.

There is of course no guarantee that the boy would have developed any differently without the rabbi’s guidance or without the sexual play. I am, however, reasonably sure that no harm accrued to either party to the relationship; from all appearances, it seems to have been discreetly handled, without interference in the heterosexual relationships of the boy or the rabbi, and apparently without lasting guilt feelings on the part of either one. One could only wish that other love affairs of any kind might proceed equally smoothly.

 

3. Graduate student and borderline delinquent. Ralph R., graduate student in anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, phoned one of his friends only to find him out of town and the friend’s younger brother Mike (age 14) on the other end of the line. In the ensuing conversation, it developed that Mike knew very well who Ralph was, having heard a great deal of enthusiastic table-talk about him, and having long wanted to meet him. During a lull in the phone talk, Mike asked Ralph to tell him exactly what he was doing and what he was wearing at that precise moment. Ralph, unwilling to lie to a youngster, admitted to being alone and nude, sitting in front of an overworked electric fan in the 90° heat. The mention of nudity led to a discussion of nudist camps, from which Mike led the conversation toward sex, describing some of his own experiences of “fooling around” and wanting to hear about Ralph’s. As one might expect, the talk aroused both of them, and Mike proposed to come over to Ralph’s apartment, at some time convenient to both when Ralph would be otherwise alone. Once there, talk led to games, and at this and later similar meetings the games included some frankly sexual ones: the “pants race,” whose object was to determine which one could completely undress the other the fastest, in one variation this having to be done one-handed; another kind of race with object to see which could get the other most quickly sexually aroused; and still another kind of competition having to do with which of them could produce the longest seminal spurt or the greatest quantity. Ralph’s reactions varied from amusement to wonder at the fertile sexual imagination of this youngster, who seemed to come up with a new sexual game at almost every meeting. But before long a genuine affection was added to these reactions. They began to share other confidences. Ralph gave Mike some badly needed advice (based on his own experiences) on how to make himself pleasing to girls and how to give them pleasure; mere groping and insertion obviously would not suffice. Mike began describing some of his own earlier activities. It developed that he had for some years been associating with members of a delinquent gang, and was more or less identified with the gang, though luckily enough he had not gotten into any rumbles. More usual sources of fun were things like vandalism — breaking into school on weekends and smashing almost anything breakable — and dancing of the frenetic rock ’n’ roll variety. Mike admitted that part of his enjoyment of the dancing was the sexual arousal it brought on, the rest being the sheer excitement of rhythmic motion. Ralph got him to see that the mere arousal leading to no climax was frustrating. After a few months of increasing intimacy of friendship, Mike gradually began to drop his association with the gang members and seek other friends, and to take an interest in other kinds of music — certain classical numbers and eventually modern jazz. Still more gradually and hesitantly, the boy began to show physical affection for Ralph at their meetings — a prolonged handshake, an arm-in-arm walk toward the door at parting, a spontaneous hug at goodbyes, eventually spontaneous caressing during sex play and outside of it, and an interest in soixante-neuf and other techniques indicating that he wanted to give Ralph the same kind of pleasure he himself was getting. In short, the “Lolita phenomenon” was disappearing.

Study of a boy for Education by Dean Cornwell

On the other hand, despite all of Ralph’s efforts, the boy retained a curious preoccupation with big-bosomed wenches amounting to a fetish, rendering him unwilling to date girls not enormously endowed in this respect. Mike’s masturbatory imagery invariably involved girls of this kind.

Eventually Ralph got an academic assignment which was to take him to the West Coast. On the Saturday before he was to leave, Mike brought over his two closest boyfriends — with whom he had also had some sex play, though Ralph had not known either of them — for a farewell party. At this party the sex play involved all four, together and by pairs. But what was far more important, Mike felt he was doing Ralph a great favor by making possible this orgy; he did so without displaying — and apparently without feeling — the slightest jealousy or possessiveness; and he was more openly affectionate on this occasion than he had ever been before. He and Ralph regarded it as a major breakthrough, even though in effect it was also a breakup; both wept at parting.

For practical purposes this ended the affair, though somewhat over a year later Ralph looked up Mike during a vacation trip east. He found that the boy was no longer especially interested in any kind of sexual experience except with women, and that the preoccupation with breast size was still there albeit perhaps a little less insistently. There was no recurrence of the earlier identification with delinquent gangs. Mike had a new consuming interest — playing jazz trumpet. The boy had saved up his allowance to buy a beaten-up but still usable instrument, and was making a real effort to develop professional skill at it, though he was not yet good enough to join any of the local groups. At age 16 he managed to obtain some sexual satisfaction through heavy petting with a girl at a summer camp, but (as he admitted to Ralph on a subsequent meeting) he would have been far more satisfied had the girl been better endowed under her bra. That he nevertheless welcomed this experience seemed to represent a partial outgrowth of the obsession with breast size. I have no information on his subsequent sexual development.

Clearly, the friendship between Mike and Ralph, which included and then outlived a sexual phase without resentment at the ending of the latter, had some positively good effects. At its beginning, young Mike had been on the borderline of delinquency through his identification with a gang and his destructive activities. As a result of the affair, the boy forsook the gang and the vandalism; and one may assume on good grounds that his growing from a fairly purposeless existence to a meaningful vocational plan in music was also related to his friendship with Ralph. Evidently, too, Mike’s heterosexual development was without any impediment referable to the affair. That he became able eventually to give affection to another individual certainly is an improvement, though conceivably it might have happened (later on?) without Ralph’s aid. That the breast fetishism did not disappear despite Ralph’s efforts is hardly to be blamed on him; it is a common enough pattern, and one may guess either that Mike will find a girl with satisfactory measurements or that he will find one with compensating qualities, as do so many other bourgeois youngsters with this same preoccupation.

And Ralph? During the affair with Mike, he continued to “go steady” with a girl, but this affair also ended with his trip west. Mike always wanted to meet Ralph’s girl, particularly after seeing a busty photograph of her, but the opportunity never came up. At last report Ralph has found another girl and they expect to be married soon.

[Update from the Preface to the 1971 edition:] “Ralph” of case 3 grew up to become a musician, so far as I know without any further interest in sex with males.

 

Bookcover by Norman Rockwell

4. The scoutmaster and the artist. Pierre V., of French-Swiss origin, emigrated to the U.S.A. in his childhood. Like most of the other boys in his neighborhood, he eventually found himself in the Boy Scouts. Sharing a tent with a chum on one occasion after another, he found himself increasingly often sexually excited at seeing his friend nude, and eventually he grew bold enough to speak of his desires. The sexual experiments that followed were high points of his boyhood. After this particular friend came others. After his middle teens he made some attempts to date girls, having been told that sexual experience with them would be even more pleasurable. He found himself all too often at a loss, being shy and unsophisticated and with neither the car nor the big bankroll nor the athletic prowess that the girls seemed to value most in boys. When he finally did get as far as heavy petting with them, he gained what seemed little pleasure from the experience, especially considering the time and effort that had gone into getting even this far; and always in the back of his mind was the comparison with his Scouting experiences. Worse, the complications of jealousy and possessiveness and unpredictability and irrational demands on the part of his girlfriends bewildered him: his boyfriends in even their early teens had never been so irritating at their worst. And there was so much less he could talk about with girls, and so many taboos that had to be observed with them. . . . Unsurprisingly, he found the National Game not worth the effort, gave up girls as not his “dish of tea,” and accepted his own limitations in this area. After Eagle Scout rank and the Explorers followed what Pierre referred to as “sublimation” in spare-time work as scoutmaster and counselor in several local boys’ clubs and camps in the Chicago area. By now a skilled and well paid draftsman and renderer, Pierre found himself with plenty of time to devote to the clubs and camps, and guiding boys seemed more and more like a lifework worth his devotion — and providing its own rewards.

South Side slum, Chicago, 1950s

Though I have not enough details to quote specific instances here, Pierre worked extensively with South Side delinquents, in conjunction with various settlement houses and professional guidance people, who recognized his ability to gain the confidence of these youngsters, but who remained unaware of his sexual orientation. I gather that Pierre occasionally frequented gay bars, and on a few occasions allowed himself to get into more or less casual relationships with Scouts.

After a few years of this, Pierre reached a turning point. Hearing screams coming from a tent at Scout camp one evening, Pierre found a delicate, fragile-looking boy being tormented by bullies who despised his “sissiness.” Pierre broke up the fracas, rescued the bruised and tearful youngster and took him to his own tent. There he confided in Pierre, and a close friendship developed, recalling Pierre’s own boyhood affairs. The boy — we’ll call him Alan — was 14, and interested more in art than in anything else; he had been pushed into Scouting by a father who wanted to “make a man out of him.” In the years to follow, Pierre helped out young Alan in many ways, most notably by getting him into the Chicago Art Institute, supplying him with financial support, encouragement, and art materials. I do not know when the sexual aspect developed, but when I met them five years after the affair had begun, the sex was taken for granted as a long-time thing. In the meantime, Pierre began to introduce Alan around as either nephew or protégé, and eventually both the boy’s relatives (the father having died in the meantime) and Pierre’s own accepted the pair as both belonging to the family. Pierre suspects that the sexual aspect is known to both families, but nobody says anything about it.

Near North Side, Chicago. A mid-1960s postcard

Alan, as I write this, is now 22 and continues living happily with Pierre, sharing a house on Chicago’s Near North Side; he has had some paintings exhibited locally and is beginning to achieve recognition in professional art circles. I have no information about the boy’s heterosexual side, if any, but clearly Pierre and Alan have found in each other a relationship both stable and satisfying.

Despite the claim that this is a classical instance of a man luring a boy away from heterosexuality, the relationship here described looks like an adaptation with fewer disadvantages than many others for both parties. Pierre says that his friend had never shown any particular interest in girls. I think that it might have been worthwhile for Pierre to encourage such an interest. Possibly he did, but I question how vigorously he could have done so, considering both Pierre’s limitations and his vested interest in continuing the relationship. Despite all this, the positive benefit to Alan is unquestionable: through Pierre he obtained both opportunity, economic aid and encouragement to develop his own potentials at a time when these might otherwise have been far more difficult to obtain, particularly in the presence of opposition from the boy’s father and his contemporaries alike.

This case is the only one of the fifteen to be cited herein in which both partners became for practical purposes exclusively homosexual. It is therefore of some theoretical interest in relation to the common objections to Greek love by those who say that in it a man can lead a boy away from heterosexuality. Though the number of case histories herein is of course too small to admit of generalization or statistical deduction, it is my definite impression that only rarely is an exclusive homosexual involved in Greek love. The modern pattern is for such to find their age-mates or, very often, older men as lovers. Kinsey did not publish the statistical materials which would allow a definite decision on this point, and as successors at the Sex Research Institute have not yet transferred the interview data to punched cards, I have no alternative to waiting until then for confirmation or refutation of my impressions. Indeed, some of the more superficial anti-Greek love polemicists have claimed that the man in a Greek love situation is in fact a heterosexual who responds unnaturally to the yielding, graceful, delicate — in short, the feminine — attributes of a boy.

Which brings up the question of whether Alan or any other slender “sissified” youngster routinely makes a normal heterosexual adaptation; the question, in short, of constitutional factors in homosexuality. This is a very large and much disputed subject, somewhat removed from the purpose of the present book. As Dr. W. H. Sheldon has not yet published his own observations on the subject, and as nobody else seems to have done the necessary research, all I can do is provide some impressionistic observations relating to the physical type (slender, willowy, soft and fragile) to which Alan belongs. This type — energized ectomorphy with noticeably more gynic factor than average, and a little less Andric factor than average — is disproportionately common among homosexuals of the “queen” variety, both the vociferous minority that have given the sexual reformers a bad name in the U.S.A. and the quiet housewifely kind. It is likewise disproportionately common in occupations of ambiguous sexuality: interior decorators, department-store window dressers, dress designers, dry-goods salesmen, spiritualist mediums, antique store and art gallery personnel, etc. It is disproportionately uncommon among bourgeois married couples, and in occupations of unequivocal masculinity. It would seem, to judge from instances known to me, that boys of this kind often find the bourgeois masculine sex role unwelcome; they find themselves at a disadvantage with their contemporaries’ rough games, or in competition for girls who value the He-Man, and adolescent rebellion often takes with them the form of rejecting the whole pattern, in trying to become what they feel themselves constitutionally meant to be. Sexual behavior not requiring them to pretend to be otherwise, therefore, often seems natural — and it may take the form of homosexuality or of finding a woman who has herself rejected the bourgeois sex roles.

In Alan’s case, one may therefore guess that he would inevitably have had his troubles trying to make a satisfying heterosexual adjustment in this culture — especially had he stayed on Chicago’s South Side! It does not follow that he would inevitably have become homosexual, with or without contact with Pierre; it does, however, seem probable that he would have gravitated to some atypical pattern.

Twins, by François Teufferd

Confirmation, for the skeptic, may be found in the work of Franz J. Kallmann,[3] whose famous studies of identical twins (several thousand pairs in all over the past few decades) yielded 45 pairs in which either twin had any homosexual experience. In each of these 45, the other twin of the pair also had homosexual experience, whether the pairs were raised together or separated at any point from infancy to adolescence; in 44 of the 45 pairs, the Kinsey ratings for any one pair were identical, i.e. if one twin was exclusively homosexual, so was his brother (or her sister); if one was only moderately involved, so was the other twin; and so on. In the 45th pair, both had homosexual experience, but differed in the degree of involvement. Whatever else this may mean, it certainly means that one must not shut one’s eyes to possible constitutional predisposing factors in the rejection of the conventional heterosexual roles, or the degree of such rejection.

Pierre’s earlier history is also of theoretical interest. The literary parallel is of course George Gordon, Lord Byron; in his later affairs with boys he seemed always to have been seeking to relive his own boyhood love experiences. So too with Pierre. The question that obviously arises is, why does this not happen more commonly? In Greece, one might have expected a larger number of men who, remembering their own boyhood experiences of love at the hands of an older man, thereafter sought older men as lovers. And doubtless this did occasionally happen, despite some social disapproval. Similarly in modern America: why do we not more often find men who, like Byron and Pierre, try to relive their passionate boyhood affairs with other boys? So far as I can tell, the only answer that makes sense is one framable in Gestaltist terms. The perpetual attempt to relive the past is an attempt to finish “unfinished business”; if some phase or stage of growth has genuinely been lived through, thoroughly experienced, savored and completed, it is outgrown, and fades into the background, no longer being “unfinished business.” A person who is successfully learning differential equations will presumably not feel any need to go back and relearn algebra. But if he finds himself over his head, he may well go back and review more elementary topics. A person who genuinely appreciates Proust, Joyce, Mann, etc., will hardly settle for a steady diet of The Hardy Boys or Tom Swift books, however fond of these he may have been in his own earlier years; but this does not preclude occasional nostalgia and reopening the old favorites, nor reading them to his boys, in full realization that he is now different.

But in Pierre’s case we need not assume that his affair with Alan was solely an attempt to relive something, though his earlier affairs seemed to be largely such. With Alan his role from the start was that of a protector, a patron. As a boy, Pierre’s affairs were presumably symmetrical or nearly so; as a social worker/counselor/scoutmaster, Pierre chose and lived a quite different role, one in which any relationship with a boy — sexual or otherwise — was of necessity asymmetrical.

Which brings up another theoretical issue recurring in these case histories, one already touched on earlier. The boy who gets into a Greek love situation often, though not always, is already in trouble, and the man enters the boy’s life as a solution to outstanding problems, as a protector or rescuer. Sometimes the problem is the simple one of poverty with its associated miseries; sometimes mainly a vocational one; sometimes, as in Chapter VIII, it is far more serious. Again and again, Greek love seems to be validated as an emergent solution or “rescue.” This was not ordinarily true in ancient Greece, and it is certainly not routinely the case in other kinds of love affairs, heterosexual or homosexual, though it is not altogether excluded. Conceivably this “rescue” situation overrides the taboo normally segregating individuals into the company of their age-mates; not inconceivably, it might take some such psychological emergency to do so when the boys are not themselves already in rebellion against that taboo, or to validate for them the occurrence of taboo forms of sexual behavior as part of the relationship. In case 1, the professor entered these youngster’s lives as a rescuer from poverty and lack of opportunity for development of unusual capacities. I do not know what was the problem with the rabbi’s boyfriend; perhaps simple love-starvation — a regrettably common thing. With young Mike it was obscure but seems to have been the coexistence of hairtrigger sexuality (the boy is reported to have had nineteen orgasms in one afternoon!) and the need of someone who could give his life a meaning; there was an aimlessness even about his earlier vandalism. In the later case histories the boys’ problems to which Greek love provides opportune solutions will be more obvious.

 

5. The photographer and his deaf assistant. Among the floods of refugees from Germany in 1933 was a widowed photographer, Erich von L., whose work appeared then and later in nudist magazines and others both on the Continent and in the U.S.A. Erich was also active in the sexual reform movement under Magnus Hirschfeld and in the FKK or German nudist movement. Once established in the U.S.A. as a naturalized citizen, Erich bought a small farm in Pennsylvania, setting up his photographic laboratory there. Over the ensuing years he became friendly with many of the local youngsters and their families; by the early 1950’s he was regarded as an institution. The boys often visited him, sometimes picking up pocket money by-doing errands or routine work of other kinds. Sometimes, with parental consent, they modelled for him.

One especially moody and taciturn boy of 15, named Eddie, became particularly dependent on Erich for emotional support, showing up at any hour of day or night in obvious anxiety. At the same time, he was frequently very irritating with his tantrums and destructive rages. Erich found out that the boy was almost entirely deaf and extremely sensitive and resentful about his condition. He promptly bought young Eddie a hearing aid and offered him a chance to “make it up” by learning the photography trade as his assistant. Eddie’s family, noting the abrupt disappearance of the destructive rages, were overwhelmingly grateful for this help; they would have done almost anything for Erich. Over the next two years, Eddie spent more and more time with Erich, often staying at the farm and eventually living there fulltime with occasional visits home. His family, being very poor, did not object, as this relieved them of a mouth to feed.

I do not know how the sexual aspect of the friendship developed, but I do know that it did; Eddie and Erich began sharing a bed, and continued to do so until Eddie was about 18, at which time he began to “go steady” with a girl whom he had gotten to know at high school. Erich afterwards married his secretary. I think that there were occasional sexual contacts between Erich and Eddie thereafter, but they became less frequent as each grew more preoccupied with the woman in his life. At last report, Eddie is engaged and will probably become a competent photolab technician, whether or not he finishes college.

The boy’s problem here was unusually obvious and its solution very easy. I rather suspect that Eddie might have begun to believe himself unloved and unlovable due to the communication failure imposed on him by his deafness and the paroxysms of rage induced by his futile efforts to understand and make himself understood. (The deafness seems to have been acquired in childhood rather than congenital.) In which case, almost anyone making a real effort to solve that problem would appear as Prince Charming indeed. As for how the sex play began, one can only guess. My own guess is that affectionate hugging and caressing by Eddie, after the hearing aid transformed his life, probably led to groping and realization of his own sexual excitement, and that Erich, long womanless and apparently experienced with boys in the past, was more than cooperative.

[Update from the Preface to the 1971 edition:] The photographer is in prison on charges which would not even have been brought had he managed to stay out of official attention for another two years; his photographic nude studies were tame and in good taste compared to many now sold and included in newspapers.

 

6. Pre-medical student and ex-vandal. Richard Y., while still in pre-medical studies at Temple University, became friendly with a local pharmacist. After several invitations to dinner, he was accepted as a family friend, and from then on there was always a place for him at the dinner table or in the spare bedroom at the pharmacist’s house. During the next two years the friendship deepened, and Richard proved of help with the studies of the pharmacist’s older son, while trying also — with little success — to communicate with the younger boy, Les, then 12. This boy had long been a problem: he was a perpetual troublemaker at school, with grades varying from mediocre to failing; he was incapable of sustaining interest in anything, despite a reported IQ of over 160; he ran around with a gang of toughs, and was known to have been involved in vandalism somewhat like that of Mike in case 3 — breaking windows, flinging firecrackers into houses, entering poorly guarded factories and warehouses by night and sabotaging machinery, etc. Despite four or five narrow escapes, he had not gotten into police hands, but the whole family feared that he might be arrested at almost any time. The pharmacist, noticing how his older son was blossoming out (especially scholastically) under Richard’s attentions, discussed Les’s problems with Richard and asked him to do anything he possibly could to help, as all were nearly at their wits’ ends, but at once neither poor enough for social workers nor rich enough to afford a psychiatrist for the boy. And the clinics had long waiting lists, as they always have . . .

Seated Boy in an Orange Shirt by Robert Bliss, ca. 1960

Richard immediately suggested that sibling rivalry was probably one of the more important factors. Les presumably felt jealous and inferior to his big brother and was trying to assert himself — and his masculinity — in ways providing more immediate excitement than the brother’s relatively tame (academic) pursuits. The pharmacist, noticing Les’s persistent “baby” fat together with long thin arms and legs, suspected a glandular abnormality, and privately asked Richard to examine the boy if he could get an opportunity to do so without being obvious about it; if Richard agreed with this judgment, the next step would be to take Les to an endocrinologist. A few nights later, Richard casually accompanied the boy to his bedroom, discussing something or other, and while Les was undressing for bed, noticed the obvious beginning of puberty together with equally obvious sexual arousal. Les, embarrassed, shoved Richard out of the room. Richard reported his evaluation to the pharmacist, who was much relieved: puberal onset, no trace of hypogenitalism or other immediately apparent abnormality; the trouble was presumably psychological and the first pressing need was to try to do something about the sibling rivalry.

In the year to follow, Richard made special efforts — with the pharmacist’s full consent — to develop a friendship with Les, to show the boy that he accepted him and was not neglecting him in favor of either his (Richard’s) girlfriend or of the older brother. Les gradually warmed up and became less rude, less suspicious, less uncommunicative. Richard began taking the boy various places — movies, theatre, fairs, galleries, museums, etc. — in efforts to find something that would excite Les’s interest. Natural history finally proved successful — the weird diversity of animal life, nature “red in fang and claw,” strange methods of reproduction, bird courtship dances, etc., — and Les began intensive reading in addition to haunting museums and asking personnel thousands of questions. Les and Richard found that they had more and more to talk about, and the boy began, first warily and then more willingly, to open up to Richard about his personal problems.

On one winter morning Les woke Richard up with a knock at the bedroom door and a low-pitched but urgent “Can I come in?” and promptly climbed into bed with Richard, saying that there was something he had to talk about with him right then. Discussion of whatever problem it was got interrupted by Les’s snuggling up against Richard for warmth, showing sexual arousal, and groping him. Richard found himself responding, and it took little urging on Les’s part to induce him to indulge in sex play. It developed that Les was no novice at this, having already indulged similarly with a couple of his schoolmates, and wanting to share this pleasure with his most recent confidant. Richard, though experienced with both sexes, had till then never allowed himself to respond to a boy as young as 13, but rationalized his acquiescence on the grounds that the boy had started it of his own free choice and in full knowledge of what was involved, that nobody was being hurt, that the boy was actually benefitting from other aspects of the relationship, and that this was probably just a stage Les would pass through, as his psychology texts said most boys passed through it.

Through the year following, the relationship continued, with family approval, and with sex adding secret excitement to it. Les’s interest in natural history continued to develop; he grew able to sustain scholastic interests long enough to make better grades than ever before; he drifted away from his hoodlum companions and began to notice girls. By this time they had also begun to notice him; he had shot up about nine inches in height and was now fairly handsome.

The last I heard, Les was helping his older brother in some business venture the latter had begun; he was expecting to enter college in another year, and was so far as I know quite happily heterosexual. He had not seen Richard for a couple of years owing to the latter’s going to medical school in another state, but had heard from him occasionally. Richard, for his part, expects to marry as soon as he gets his M.D. degree.

The evidence is not entirely conclusive, but this case does seem to differ from the others in that Richard did not appear as an immediate way out of the difficulties; in fact Richard practically had to court the boy for several months before he would even accept a nonsexual friendship without considerable reserve. Nevertheless, Richard did appear eventually as a de facto solution to a problem — once again, as with Mike, aimless vandalism, lack of orientation; but (quite other than as with Mike) sibling rivalry provided severe complications.

I have the strong impression from these cases, and others to follow, that what these boys needed was not someone to tell them “Do this” and “Don’t do that,” nor yet someone to remind them of society’s disapproval of this, that or the other, but someone who could ask the right questions and who could help them to get what they wanted in the deepest sense. In Les’s case, the benefits are so obvious as not to need emphasis; and one may question whether the boy would have discovered natural history (or any other worthwhile consuming interest) either so painlessly or so quickly without Richard’s continuous help. Whether or not natural history becomes a lifework for this boy is unimportant; what is important is that for the first time he found something to commit himself to, something providing a meaningful direction and focus for his energies.

 

Harvard. Postcard, 1950s

7. The teacher and the toughie. Claude M. a graduate student in candidacy for his doctorate in Harvard’s School of Education, on weekends hung around with the Harvard Sq. “folknik” crowd — bohemians with a consuming interest in folk music — as a welcome relief from the stuffiness of many of his academic associates. At one of the many parties thrown by this group, in addition to the usual spaghetti feed, cheap Italian red wine, guitars and banjos in the Green St. tenement, there was a curious addition. This particular party was to welcome the arrival of a well-known folksinger from New York, recently widowed, who was planning to make her home in Cambridge with her 12-year-old son. She had brought the boy to the party, and for some unexplained reason he took to Claude right away. Growing tired of the folksinging, Jimmy amused himself with some hand puppets, but after Claude showed up and took a friendly interest in Jimmy and the puppetry, the boy threw the puppets aside and began wrestling with Claude. Nobody else was paying attention to them; as usual, people kept wandering in and out of the party all evening, equally unnoticed unless they joined in the singing. After a while, Jimmy’s wrestling became a bit more in earnest, but its intention was not to hurt Claude: instead, despite all Claude could do, Jimmy in a few minutes nearly tore off Claude’s trousers. Claude said into the boy’s ear, “Cool it, kid — you know you’ve almost pulled my pants off?” Jimmy answered, “That’s what I was trying to do.” Claude said, “Look, you could get us both into trouble that way.” Jimmy whispered back, “Let’s go into the bedroom, then nobody’ll care if we pull our clothes off.” Claude demurred; Jimmy insisted, and underlined the demand by pulling down Claude’s zipper. Claude provided some distraction by tickling Jimmy until he let go, but they did eventually go into the bedroom, unnoticed behind the noise of the singers. The wrestling resumed and ended with each disrobing the other. Jimmy, already puberal, was acutely sexually excited. Claude had become so during the wrestling. Jimmy admired the size of Claude’s organ and pointed with pride to how his own had grown in the last few months, etc., using the comparison as an opportunity for fondling both. “Didn’t you ever fool around this way, Claude?” Claude had to admit it, though insisting that he was not queer and in fact was then engaged to be married. Jimmy confided in Claude that he had already “gone all the way” with a girl cousin.

But Claude was unable to find any good reason not to cooperate with Jimmy in the sex play the boy wanted so much. The layout of the apartment was such that even should anyone else wander into the bedroom he would be heard in plenty of time for Jimmy and Claude to dress, so that the element of danger was minimal. The boy obviously knew exactly what he was doing and what he wanted, with in fact a singular degree of openness and frankness about it; indeed this was about the most direct sexual approach Claude had ever heard of short of outright rape. Claude “co-operated with the inevitable,” to the great enjoyment of both, and to less uneasiness on his own part than he would have expected, since this was the first time he had had anything sexually to do with a male in some years, and the first time in his life he had been with so young a partner.

In the months to come, Claude struck up a friendship with Jimmy’s mother, whom he kept running into at the folknik parties and elsewhere. As they shared literary interests, and as the woman found in Claude a suitable accompanist for her own vocal exercises and for the Schubert, Brahms and Wolf lieder which she sang in addition to the folksongs, there was plenty of basis for friendship. As he saw more of her, inevitably he also saw more of Jimmy, who now and again wanted further sexual contact. As Claude lived within walking distance of the pair, sometimes they showed up at his apartment, sometimes he showed up at theirs, occasionally with presents for the boy, to whom he was becoming attached. Here at last was some solace for Claude’s loneliness while he was waiting for his fiancee to get her degree at Bryn Mawr.

Boy with Oar by Robert Bliss

Eventually Jimmy began to spend nights at Claude’s apartment, and their sex play developed many variations of technique. One disturbing element that began to become increasingly obvious was that Jimmy was prone to fits of rage which made him impossible to handle while they were on, but after he had blown off his steam, he became bafflingly sunny as though nothing had happened; yet almost any trivial irritation could set off one of these. (The pattern turned out to have been copied from his mother.) Another was that the boy became very demanding of attention and eventually also of money. Only later on Claude learned why; Jimmy was enrolled in Milton Academy, and the day pupils without plenty of pocket money were at a marked social disadvantage. Jimmy often found himself unable to join his schoolmates at movies or other pastimes because he could not pay his way in. This situation did not resolve itself until Jimmy transferred to a public school, where he got along somewhat better.

Both Claude and Jimmy long believed that the sexual element in their friendship remained unknown to their common acquaintances, though of course everybody knew that the boy had become very close to Claude. What, then, was Claude’s surprise some months later to learn from a confidant that Jimmy’s mother had been joking about it with some of her friends, wondering just how Claude and Jimmy were Doing It, but taking for granted that they were — and accepting the fact as “something the boy would have to go through sooner or later, and far better that it happens with someone who really cares about him.” Thereafter, though the boy’s mother often brought him over to Claude’s place even at night, and never objected to Jimmy’s wish to spend the night with him, Claude was often a little nonplussed as to just what he dared admit, if anything, or as to the deeper meaning behind the woman’s casual remarks. On one such occasion, she and Claude stayed up talking until after 2 A.M.; Jimmy had long since fallen asleep across the big double bed where his mother and Claude were seated talking. The woman offhandly remarked that she hoped Jimmy wouldn’t be depriving Claude of sleeping space. Claude was startled, but recovered quickly and equally offhandly replied that he would pick Jimmy up and put him on the bed in the other bedroom, as he had done before in similar circumstances; the boy did not easily wake up, as they both knew very well …

During the nearly two years that this relationship has persisted, Claude reports that the biggest difficulty has always been Jimmy’s materialistic orientation. From the beginning, Jimmy has been extraordinarily forthright and direct in saying what he wanted, reasonable or unreasonable. Under Claude’s influence, Jimmy — after a long period where he seemed to be testing Claude’s limits of patience and understanding — has begun, ever so slowly, to inch away from wanting merely material things: toys, money to buy toys, money to spend on movies or amusement parks. Sometimes the money demands turned out to be for buying birthday or Christmas presents for his mother. Parallel with this gradual improvement, Jimmy has begun to treat some of his own boyfriends to outings; in addition, the boy has begun, ever so hesitantly, to display physical affection to Claude, and to concern himself genuinely over Claude’s wellbeing, even to warning Claude of oncoming fits of rage so that nobody would get hurt. Partly in reaction against his mother’s pattern, partly in expression of his own physical nature (Jimmy is exceptionally tall and over-mature for his age, with athletic proportions of bone and muscle), Jimmy — though a good student — is becoming less and less interested in academic matters and increasingly concerned with athletics as a profession. Judging by his phenomenal Little League performances, quite possibly he will qualify for professional athletics in one form or another in a few years. One could wish for a better fate for a bright youngster, but at the moment this is his daily and nightly preoccupation, and it is something he both enjoys and finds himself naturally talented at.

Portrait of a Reclining Boy in Blue by Robert Bliss

Jimmy is also preoccupied, as one might expect, with the problem of getting a girl, but he does not yet seem capable of enough tenderness or subtlety to make girls happy in the way that he might possibly do in a few years; right now he is still concerned with the status of having a girl for his very own, and with how girls will react to him in bed with his newly learned repertory of techniques. His approaches so far have been too bold and forthright to fit in well with the demands of the National Game, but one may hope that with maturity will come sophistication; even so, a couple of local nymphets have found him attractive enough to indulge in heavy petting with him — no Lolita phenomenon here.

The major remaining difficulties, slowly being worked through, are the recurring intermittent fits of rage, and a truancy problem. The ancient public school to which Jimmy now goes is not satisfactory academically or in any other way; Jimmy is hoping against hope that he will be able to go to some private school next September, and is willing to risk losing a year’s credits should that be the price for the transfer after so much truancy from his present school. Claude, knowing the wretched school and the boy’s antagonism for the old frumps running it, has no better argument for inducing Jimmy to continue there even for the time being than that continued truancy might result in a stay at a reform school; any other argument would be unrealistic, as the boy is well ahead of his grade level. Jimmy’s mother has encouraged the boy to share a bed with Claude when Claude has stayed overnight at their apartment, and has quietly let Claude know that she believes Jimmy old enough to take responsibility for his own actions, and Claude responsible enough not to do anything that might hurt the boy. Beyond this, she has not objected or moralized, and she will not embarrass either Claude or her son by discussing the matter further.

In all, one can find no evidence that the boy has been harmed by this experience, and much evidence of benefit. Jimmy obviously was in need of a surrogate father or other loving and non-authoritarian adult from the time of his father’s death. Why he seized on Claude is not certain; possibly he would have gone for anyone who behaved in a reasonably friendly manner — but perhaps equally probably he recognized in some intuitive way that Claude was a kindred spirit. The sex play can be ascribed to the wrestling and to Jimmy’s fearless forthrightness. One can only regard it as fortunate that Jimmy did not make his approach to an adult who would turn moralistic and denounce him as a delinquent or a psychiatric case, disrupting the party and causing endless ill feeling. Not merely fortunate, but extraordinarily libertarian, is the mother’s attitude. She and Claude still do not discuss the boy’s sex life, but since nobody is making any objection, the status quo remains. Whether the sexual aspect of the friendship will continue after Claude marries is still too soon to guess. Possibly it will depend on whether Claude gets a teaching assignment locally or only in some other part of the country. Claude does not assume for a moment that it will interfere with his relationship with his wife. He has privately expressed concern, though, whether Jimmy would feel let down, neglected or abandoned during the honeymoon. One can only wait and see.

[Update from the Preface to the 1971 edition:] “Jimmy” of case 7, apparently brain-injured, became increasingly violent until some person unknown, probably at one of the hippie communes, gave him LSD and the resulting experience turned him into a dedicated pacifist; reports variously describe him as a gifted musician (with various local jazz and rock groups) and a drifter — probably both by turns; but the violence is gone. He is said to be aggressively heterosexual.

 

Boy with Ball by Robert Bliss

8. The ‘bad penny’ that worked a computer. Robert E., on the verge of graduating from Columbia, kept encountering thirteen-year-old Scotty S. in off hours — at one or other of the local chess clubs, at the West Side YMCA, at settlement house gatherings, at the public library, at concerts, at the Museum of Modern Art. The degree of overlap among their interests made friendship easy, and over the ensuing four years they spent increasing amounts of time together; each found a complement in the other, each filled a need in the other’s life. Because of various family troubles, Scotty never finished high school, but he continued his studies on his own, partly under Robert’s tutelage. In all respects save only sex this was a classical instance of Greek love. Both, as they later told me, were thinking of the possibility of sex in this increasingly close emotional involvement, but each was unwilling to mention the subject to the other for fear of rejection or a breakup.

But during the fourth year, on one of Scotty’s frequent visits to Robert’s apartment, he went to bed with a high fever. Robert nursed him back to health over the next few days. One night as he was sitting beside Scotty’s bed, the boy tremblingly seized Robert’s hand and guided it down to Scotty’s abdomen and below; he mumbled incoherently about having wanted Robert — all of him — for years. With this encouragement, Robert caressed him and comforted him, and once the boy had recovered, frank sex play began. During most of the next couple of years they lived together, Scotty eventually taking the College Boards and being accepted into a small liberal-arts college. At present Scotty is supporting himself by computer programming for one of the management-consultant firms in Long Island; Robert is on the staff of a firm of importers in New York City. Though they now live apart, and though both are still “playing the field” with women, each occasionally comes back to the other; though the sex play has recurred, neither one considers himself homosexual.

One can only speculate how often friendships of this kind begin and continue for years without either member daring to admit sexual interest in the other. Very likely, without the half-delirious(?) overture by the boy, the friendship might have continued indefinitely without either so much as seeing the other naked. It is clear that the warm emotional relationship was of value to both and that the sex play was so much extra icing on the cake. But what is not clear to me is how close two friends can be while still too inhibited to admit their deeper feelings for each other.

 

57th Street, New York. Postcard, 1958

9. The art collector and his living treasure. Avery G., descendant of two old New England families numbering among them three signers of the Declaration of Independence, five colonial governors and two presidents of the United States, after one unhappy marriage acknowledged that his Exeter Academy crushes represented his true inwardness, and adopted a double life. By day he pretended to make passes at the pretty secretaries in the offices of the national magazine of which he was an executive. By nights and on weekends he frequented the plushier gay bars and theatrical parties, Greenwich Village, 57th St. and Rockport art galleries and auction houses. At one of the 57th St. art galleries he got to know fifteen-year-old Ronnie, who held a summer job there, and to share the boy’s enthusiasm for early American art. And it was partly because of Ronnie’s enthusiasm that over the next few years Avery amassed one of the finest private collections extant of Copleys, Wests, Peales and other treasures. During the school year, Avery would frequently summon Ronnie on weekends for art-hunting trips into the Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts backwoods. Ronnie’s parents knew only that this art-buying work was not only keeping Ronnie out of trouble, well fed and well dressed, but that it was also helping to support them; this quieted their own misgivings about the boy’s seemingly unmasculine interest in art. Gradually Avery spent less time at the gay bars and more time taking Ronnie to museums, lectures, concerts, private art exhibitions, theatre and ballet performances, etc. Ronnie’s experience and range of knowledge broadened considerably, while Avery began to acquire a purpose in life in addition to his art collection — namely cherishing Ronnie’s unique qualities. They do not remember just when or how the friendship ripened into love, or when or how the sex play began in earnest. But Avery put the boy through Haverford College, and afterwards (for appearances’ sake) induced Ronnie to leave his family — with whom the boy no longer had much in common — and take a little studio apartment in the East Seventies, where he could paint in privacy, and where for practical purposes he and Avers lived together much of the time. Ronnie developed a reputation as a prodigy art expert even before he graduated from college, and this subsequently helped him earn his own living.

His affair with Avery continued for over eleven years, though the sexual aspect dwindled in the years after he graduated from Haverford. The last I saw of Ronnie, he was newly married to a nurse, happily continuing to support himself through his knowledge of the art business and to paint in his spare time. Avery still is always ready to help out if Ronnie needs him, but I do not know if he has yet found himself another protégé, though Avery has admitted to me that he is now lonely and has been since Ronnie grew up, even though he knew all along that it would have to end this way.

Standing nude by Robert Bliss

What this case proves, if anything, is that even a Greek love affair in which the man is predominantly homosexual is not automatically a threat to the boy’s heterosexuality. In addition, wealth and social position often enable an individual to “get away with” activities and associations which would bring suspicion, obloquy and even prosecution onto people of lower rank. One may perhaps raise an eyebrow at Avery’s insistence that the boy leave his family after graduating from college, but this would have had to come sooner or later anyway: Ronnie was already 21 and felt stifled in the presence of his uneducated relatives, with whom he had no interest in common (and had not for many years), and with whom there was increasing friction because the boy had become socially upward mobile, leaving behind himself them and their neighbors and their little world of TV wrestling matches, evenings in bars and Saturdays at the racetrack.

 

I have chosen these nine instances rather than others because I wished to give some idea of the diversity of types involved in Greek love. That all but one of the men involved were college graduates, many of them with higher degrees, may be taken partly as a result of limitations in my own experience — I have not too many proletarian or otherwise uneducated acquaintances — and partly as tending to confirm Kinsey’s conclusion that a greater variety of sexual experience is found at the upper and lower educational (and social) extremes than in the middle. The association of several of the partners with visual arts is mainly because I got to know them through such circles. Doubtless if I had been more closely associated with theatrical or musical circles, I would have been able to find instances of Greek love in them, as well. There does not seem to be any particular reason for associating Greek love with one occupation and not another. I make no claim that these case histories are typical — only that they have much in common with others, and that from these nine the reader can get some idea of how judiciously handled affairs grow and decline. If they read unexcitingly, this should be no great surprise. Heterosexual love stories in which there is no real conflict or opposition, no villain, nothing — well, almost nothing — but wish-fulfillment rarely read too excitingly either.

But in the chapter to follow a much wider range will be found, and with it all the excitement one could expect.

 

[1] Mario Palmieri. The identification comes in a letter of January 1978 from the author (in his real name of Walter Breen) to the scholar Stephen Wayne Foster. Another such letter of 15 May 1979 describes him as “late lamented.”

[2] Rabbi Kaster. The identification comes in a  letter of January 1978 from the author (in his real name of Walter Breen) to the scholar Stephen Wayne Foster.

[3] Franz J. Kallmann, Heredity in Health and Mental Disease; Twin and Sibship Study of Overt Male Homosexuality, passim. [Author’s note 142a]