INTRODUCTION TO DIMENSIONS OF A COMPLEX PROBLEM BY PARKER ROSSMAN
The following is the introduction to “Dimensions of a Complex Problem”, the first chapter of Dr. Parker Rossman’s Sexual Experience Between Men and Boys (originally published in 1976), one of the only three book-length general studies of Greek love in English.
Following this introduction, Rossman went on to discuss the numbers and types of men sexually attracted to boys in ten sub-chapters:
How Many Pederasts Are There?
Expanding the Definition Process
A Continuum of Behavior Types
Paiderastia: The Tutor in Sex
The Sports Comrade
Sensuous Pederasty: The Sport of Kings
Viciously Exploitive Pederasty
Fantasy and Fetish Pederasty
These sub-chapters were followed by “Concluding Observations”.
However, the prevalence of particular types of pederast is something that has obviously varied considerably according to the cultural beliefs and social circumstances under which they have been brought up and acted. Rossman says in the introduction to his book that 69% of the pederasts he studied were from the U.S.A. or Canada, 25% European, 5% Latin American and 1% from Asia, Africa or Australia, and the content of this chapter, based mostly on these interviews but supplemented with references to recent North American and European literature, further indicates that it should be regarded as international, but not general, reflecting mostly the then recent situation in countries with a Christian tradition.
Dimensions of a Complex Problem
The erotic underground explored in this book is inhabited by persons whose total experience is far different from what you might expect. Only a minority of persons are involved in the kind of deviant sexual acts commonly associated with pederasty, but nearly everyone is at one time or another involved in deviant sexual experience. For experience involves fantasies, emotions, imaginary acts, avid curiosity and voyeurism, lewd gestures, dirty jokes, sex games, reading novels about deviant experience, viewing films, and even some types of physical violence and athletics when they are unconscious substitutes for sex acts. Laws can be passed against certain sex acts, and children can be protected from deviant sexual activity by close supervision, but there is no way to prevent children, adolescents, or adults from having a wide range of imaginative sexual experiences. This is especially true of persons who are creative and intelligent enough to enrich their lives with fantasy and games. Since there is no way to know for sure what is in a child’s or adult’s imagination and emotional experience, there is no way to predict with certainty which persons will move from imagining deviant acts into actual experimentation. Nearly everyone, therefore, is potentially a sex deviant before the law. The experiences of some offenders are explored here. These are men who have carefully reflected upon the progression which has led them into pederast desires, temptations, inclinations, and at least occasional deviant acts.
We have the compassionate objective of asking how such tragedies can be prevented as that which led to the suicide of a respected physician in July of 1974. He was charged with having made an “indecent approach to a teen-age boy.” One of the doctor’s colleagues said that the offense was so minor that at worst he would have received only a three months’ suspended sentence had the case gone to trial. This physician probably would have been allowed to keep his license to practice medicine also, for he was not charged with having done such a thing before and it was considered highly unlikely that he would do so again. He was a gentle, loving, and popular physician. No one will ever know for sure what was in his mind when he killed himself. Had his crime been a thousand times worse - but not involving the double taboos of homosexuality and sexual involvement with a young person - his patients would undoubtedly have risen to his defense and demanded a fair hearing for him before his career was destroyed. Even if he had been proven guilty of a more serious sex offense, many of his colleagues would have asked that he be given a second chance. The spirit of the medieval Inquisition, however, seems to still apply to a pederast offense. Reporters who had never seen or talked to the physician or any of his colleagues or patients, or even to the boy involved, described him as a “sex monster,” in newspapers on five continents. So he killed himself. It would not occur to a newspaper reporter to feel guilty for his death. The boy, however, who told about a playful moment which he felt had not harmed him in the least, will for all his life carry on his conscience the thought that the blood of the doctor is on his hands. That boy and the friends he confided in have taken a step down the ladder into the erotic underground as a result of this experience with the press; for society has thus taught them that everything about sex must be treated as a dirty secret.
The public is in error, however, in thinking that the men who “interfere with boys” are senile - although some of them are - or mentally ill - although some of them are - or idiots - although no doubt some of them are. In our interviews with these persons we have found they are from every walk of life and of nearly every human type. The words molest or interfere, when used in this context, suggest something done to a boy against his will. This is rarely the case, however, with adolescents who are involved in sex play with men.
Compassionate and intelligent handling of such cases requires that we listen carefully to men like that physician so that we can ask them to explain their pederasty, how it began, and what the experience means. Such men will serve as our guides in our effort to explore the pederast underground. We will proceed with them step by step through the experiences which have led them to affirm a pederast identity - and in many cases to affirm the value of acts and experiences which society condemns. First, however, we must define pederasty, not by combinations of words alone (for words can be a way of avoiding experience), but by portraying and examining the experience of some human beings as to both the psychological and social factors which have affected the development of their erotic desires, character, and habits. To define pederasty - as we do here - as “any sexual experience, involvement or act between a male over eighteen and one of between twelve and sixteen,” and a pederast as a man over the age of eighteen who is erotically attracted to younger adolescent boys, so complicates the process of definition and the tasks of clarification and understanding that many scholars insist the subject be limited to a study of overt sex acts between men and boys, so that it will be manageable. To do so, however, is to close the door on crucial experience and on any possible means of preventing tragedies before they occur. The process of definition is more adequate if it begins by ranging the thousand pederasts interviewed on a continuum or scale, so that their complex experiences will define both the nature of the phenomenon and a procedure for exploring it.
 For example, the Sydney (Australia) Sunday Telegram of Jan. 19, 1975. [Author’s note]