A TRIBAL SOCIETY OF ADOLESCENTS BY PARKER ROSSMAN
The following is one of the sections of the fifth chapter of Dr. Parker Rossman’s Sexual Experience Between Men and Boys (USA and London, 1976), entitled "Support From Adolescent Culture", and introduced here. It appears from both his quotations from interviews of pederasts and the studies he cites that it is based on American society in the decade or so before publication.
A Tribal Society of Adolescents
Western society today provides two basic supports for pederasty: (a) the increasingly tribal nature of adolescent society, and (b) the conspiratorial secrecy of so many young adolescents, especially on matters of sex. Pederasty thrives not because of “sexual freedom” and “moral laxity,” but by quite the contrary because so many adolescents are pushed into rebellion and secrecy by their lack of freedom. Adolescence, of course, is a relatively modern phenomenon in history, especially in its modern form which prolongs immaturity into the twenties for graduate students and others. Earlier and more primitive societies often provided for marriage at the early age of thirteen or fourteen. Since modern adolescents are not integrated into adult society through marriage and careers, they tend increasingly to withdraw from the mainstream into their own subcultures. Some of these are drug and sexual undergrounds. The inhabitants of undergrounds are generally rebels against some or all of the norms of the society, from which they have fled, and a majority of the adolescents of today are rebels against the sexual establishment as they understand it. They resent and reject the unwelcome repression of what they consider to be natural processes and feelings, and their rock music and dancing may well have the same use as did tomtoms in primitive tribes of arousing and expressing tribal emotion and personal frustrations.
Since the pederast underground does not fit into the models society provides for us as we begin our exploration, we must look for a new analogy. It may perhaps be instructive to compare the organization of this underground to the structures and customs of the Lapps - a migrant people in Finland. The Lapp subculture is almost entirely built around the migrating habits and patterns of reindeer herds, which provide nurture for the migrant tribe. Most societies domesticate such animals to serve human needs. The Lapps, however, domesticate their own lives to serve and to follow the reindeer, reminding us of the first rule in seeking the pederast underground: go where the boys are who need help. For insofar as there is a pederast underground it is not only supported and enabled by adolescent subcultures, but also by whatever societal structures there are for shepherding and protecting young adolescents. Pederasts may appear to be outcasts from society, but in fact they frequently live within and take their protective coloration from adolescent groups. The worst pederasts are predators who follow the migrations of adolescents; the best pederasts, motivated by principles of responsibility and service, are most frequently the only men willing to volunteer for the work of shepherding the young, especially the most difficult and obnoxious. It is often pointed out that one has to be the “sort of nut who loves boys” to be willing to put up with them at Boy Scout camps, in junior high school, and in other exhausting positions with young adolescents. What is also largely unstudied is the extent to which such “nuts” are welcomed by many rebellious adolescents into their secret councils and underworld subcultures.
Being no longer integrated into adult society, many adolescent boys are today left to roam in bands during a lengthening adolescent limbo. We should be astonished that they manage their sex lives as well as they do, considering how little positive, constructive help that sort of boy receives from society as a whole. The only advice most such boys get is negative: what not to do. In ancient Sparta the only way a boy could get food was by stealing, with the added proviso that the boy caught stealing food was severely punished. This custom turned boys into cunning and tough soldiers. Western society today feeds its boys well, but punishes them severely if they are caught indulging in sex, which makes many young adolescents sexually cunning and tough. This is true not only of delinquent gangs but also of adolescents in other modern-day tribes, such as sports groups. Pederasts are involved on all three levels of adolescent society: 1) the organizations on the surface which are approved and financed by adults, 2) in the gangs and subcultures which exist just below the surface, and 3) in the adolescent undergrounds which are well out of sight, such as those that organize themselves for prostitution, blackmail, mugging, or exploitation of “queers.”
One pederast said of adolescent tribal society: “On the surface such gangs may seem cruel, heartless, aggressive, and phallic as a pack of wolves. But underneath most of the boys in these tribes are sensitive and fragile, with the toughness as a cover for fears, worries, sexual insecurity, and even a good deal of tenderness. If boys share their secret lives with me, it is because they finally come to trust someone, feeling that I am no longer the enemy, because I am willing to play with them on their own terms. The young adolescent is playful, and seductively so if he is healthy and happy. His tribe exists for play. His personality takes shape through play - which is therapeutic, educational, a way the adolescent explores his body, his relationships, his experience and everything which is important to him. There is much play in the sexual experiences of adolescents: courtship games, testing, enticing, pretense, surprises, games to build up sexual tension, a wide variety of psychological games which characterize non-loving or pre-loving erotic relationships. Psychologists caution parents against taking the sex play of small children too seriously, but it is precisely the sex play of young adolescents which should be ignored, instead of shaming it and driving it underground at the very moment it becomes desperately important, and when its interpretation by sympathetic adults is so crucial. In secret or with trusted friends the boy flexes his muscles, explores the erotic zones of his body, acts out emotions and moods. In my judgment it is almost impossible to teach kids in school, or to reach them in their gangs without being open to, and accepting of, their sexual explorations.”
This same pederast proceeded to suggest that there is an essentially sexual foundation to adolescent tribal society, from which constructive adult influence is excluded because many boys sense adult disapproval of the private world which they entered when they began masturbating. He continued: “Once in a while a boy invites me into that private world to share his joy and I consider it a precious privilege. I would rather hit him than refuse such a gift. Is there anything more cruel than rejecting the gift a child brings in affection? I consider it unforgivable to shame him and wound him with rejection as most do.”
Another pederast spoke of a pederast teacher, who had been effective in penetrating perverse and violent gangs and turning them into more constructive groups: “One of the best men I ever knew, who really helped boys grow up to be fine persons, who scrubbed up their dirty sex lives until they came out O.K. in the end, said that boys caught in masturbation or any other sex play should never be scolded or reprimanded, for it was a holy moment which presented the perfect opportunity for sex education. He would say to a shame-faced gang: ‘Go ahead. It’s great, isn’t it! But first let me tell you something about love and how beautiful it can be with a girl.’ He never scorned those dirty jokes they told about merit badges for masturbation, because he seriously argued that kids today need some sex rituals to replace rites of passage which have largely disappeared from modern society.”
It would seem from the perspective of those pederasts who have made themselves at home in the adolescent sexual underground that such rites of passage have not really disappeared from modern society. Rather, they have moved underground, since society no longer assumes responsibility for sexual initiation into the adult world. Underground rites of passage often consist of a frank, brutal, and generally incorrect sex education, climaxed with sexual initiations as a precondition to a full adult membership in the adolescent tribe. Said another pederast: “I was embarrassed to discover that my son had to talk a girl out of her panties for such an initiation. In fact, I think it was supposed to be more than that, since when such secrets are revealed one never gets the full truth, not from fourteen-year-olds. He had been forbidden to be involved in that motorcycle club of upper-middle-class lads whose members were sons of professional people for the most part, and who were up to every devilment you could imagine, including initiation into sixty-nine kinds of deviant sex play. They commanded a type of obedience that no father in town could get from a son of that age. They imposed a uniformity of discipline and behavior that would have caused violent protests at school. They copied the Nazis, perhaps unconsciously, right down to the sexual deviance and cruelty which seems to characterize authoritarian adolescent tribes. Some of the eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds in the motorcycle club would have ended up being arrested for serious sexual abuse of younger kids had I not found my way into the group to love some sense into them. One of them said angrily: ‘There’s not a fag in our bunch. We just tease the younger kids in the shower to teach them to use their fists to defend themselves.’ That boy is going to become the macho-type pederast who will never be able to admit the truth to himself, always asserting that all red-blooded boys indulge in homosexual horseplay. He’ll still see himself as one of the tribe when he is sixty. His anti-pederasty is another log on the fire of sexual revolt, which at its base is a rebellion of the young against the very condition of their sexual lives at a time when the sexual customs of Western civilization are in a great disarray.”