THE LADDER DOWN BY PARKER ROSSMAN
“The Ladder Down” is the third chapter of Dr. Parker Rossman’s Sexual Experience between Men and Boys (originally published by Association Press, New York, 1976), one of the only three book-length general studies of Greek love in English.
The character of what Rossman calls “the ladder down” into active pederasty, and indeed the perception that it is a descent rather than an ascent are obviously variable according to the social practices and beliefs of a particular society. Though he 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, it appears from what the interviewees in this chapter said that they were mostly or probably all American, as were the studies Rossman cites. Hence “The Ladder Down” is best regarded as recalling how things were in the USA in the third quarter of the twentieth century, rather than generally.
The Ladder Down
To understand the thousand or more pederasts interviewed, it is necessary to return with them to their adolescence, at which time nearly every boy engages in the exploration of many secret, exciting sexual mysteries. Some adolescents successfully avoid slipping into catastrophe, and find their way back into a normal place in adult society. Others, and the number seems to be increasing, spend their youth wandering around in one underworld or another, sometimes finding their way out with great difficulty and cost. Those boys who become adult pederasts in many cases did not intend to go so far down the ladder and those who ultimately join the pederast underground are often those for whom the ladder unexpectedly turned into a one-way slide. Pederasts whose lives and careers are ruined become aware too late of the danger of fantasies and small first steps taken before their long-range implications are known or understood. Some persons choose to be outcasts, of course; others go up and down the ladder so as to live in two worlds at once. Some boys and men undertake adventurous explorations precisely because they enjoy a whiff of danger. Yet those who get into trouble are often the ones who are less clever and competent, which, in turn, suggests that one may gain an incomplete or inaccurate picture of the pederast underground by limiting one’s study to those who have been arrested, who are in prison, or who are under psychiatric care. It is convenient at this point to ask the reader to imagine one great ladder which leads down into deviant experience, so that pederasts can be categorized by their locations on that ladder. Some tempted persons merely peek down out of curiosity or explore the first few rungs; whereas others move down into illegal sexual behavior, or even deep into the alienated underground.
The experience of any one pederast in the pederast underground is accessible only by the same ladder he used when he descended into something he did not understand, did not anticipate, and did not intend. It is a mistake to confine the study of sexual behavior to clinical details of sex acts. Examining the life history of a pederast makes it clear that crucial sexual experience began long before any deviant act. Many pederasts remember being erotically attracted to adolescent boys at the age of five or even earlier. Many report sexually charged emotional fantasies as early as they can remember. It is difficult to understand and to interpret this experience, for even the psychiatrist who has skills to probe into the unconscious for fragmentary and twisted evidence of a person’s earliest emotional experiences, must finally act on hunches and theories, seeking to relieve pressures rather than discovering what caused them. So we shall seek in this chapter to trace back the steps of a pederast we will call Art Adams. It is immediately apparent that more depth of insight and detail is needed to place his pederasty in a far larger context than sexual behavior alone. His sexual experience is part of his total experience as a child and an adolescent. In focusing on what is unique about his erotic behavior, we risk losing sight of the fact that it is really not unique at all, that the same behavior might well have led him to become a homosexual, or even a normal heterosexual, instead of a pederast. For clues as to why Art became a practicing pederast, the reader may want to watch for evidence of conditioning or preconditioning, for unique aspects of his sexual experience, and especially for the way that experience was interpreted, both by others and in the self-interpretation of child and adolescent.
Art Adams’ arrest sent shock waves throughout his community, for he was the last man in town anyone would have expected to be sexually involved with boys. He had a good marriage, four bright healthy children, and was well known throughout the state for sports work which was most effective in “turning sneaky, passive, sissy boys into men.” He was known as one of those men who love boys in every constructive sense, and because of the concern and affection they sensed in Adams, the most difficult boys could relate to him when everyone else had foiled. His image as a sportsman was so different from what the public expected a pederast to be that his trial ended with a hung jury even after the prosecution submitted photographic evidence of his mutual masturbation with a delinquent youngster. To protect his anonymity, his experiences are here intertwined with those of other pederasts whose stories are similar.
WHEN PEDERASTY BEGINS
If an arrested pederast is asked about the beginning of his deviant behavior, he may answer that it continues a process of pleasure-seeking which began in infancy and has never ceased. Some pederasts grow up with guilty, anti-sex feelings which frequently keep them from any sexual activity at all. They may feel that their adult involvement with boys is a delayed adolescence because they forbade themselves to have a sexual adolescence at the proper age. Adams, however, was quite the opposite. From his earliest memories he had a pro-sex attitude, erotic pleasures were a gift of God to be enjoyed, and in working with delinquent boys he sought to give them positive views of sex. Because he told them that masturbation was harmless, an innocent enjoyment, he felt free to live as he taught. Did he become a pederast at the age of twenty-one, or eighteen, or sixteen? A different ladder could be constructed for each pederast, but the steps here described from the experience of Adams are typical for many who have followed similar steps down into the underground.
Step 1. Discovery of Pleasure in Masturbation
Adams discovered the narcotic quality of erotic pleasure almost as early as he can remember: “As a youngster I greatly enjoyed my body in sports, in simply living, but I never felt more alive than when my body began to glow with those self-induced orgasms, which I supposedly couldn’t have at the age of four or five. But I did!” While a large percentage of pederasts seem to have masturbated early, there is no obvious correlation between masturbation and deviancy. What one does observe in these cases is a fantasy life which may have a special bearing on a boy’s self-understanding and interpretation of his pleasure. Another pederast says: “For a brief period I was puzzled and shamed with punishment and lectures about how wrong it was for me to play with myself, but … it was so delightful that I decided my parents were wrong, or else that I was different from other boys.” Adams, too, recalls: “Some boys enjoyed math or baseball because they were specially good at it, and I decided I had a special gift, too, which I was entitled to enjoy. I suspected that all boys could enjoy masturbating, but I knew how to accentuate the pleasure through fantasies and games.”
Step 2. Shared Pleasure With a Chum Interpreted
“I was about eleven before I had a friend I could trust with my marvellous secret,” says Adams. “We had played around with little girls until they got old enough to know the facts of life, but then sex play with each other was all we had, even when we were fourteen and fifteen and really hot for it. So I taught my chum types of sex play which were as much fun, as exciting, as doing it with girls.” Adams tells of his excitement with his young friend’s body, which was fresh, healthy, and physically attractive, but says: “He wasn’t as good as I was at psychic games. We enjoyed cruising the girls, playing strip poker, wrestling and teasing each other, but I could arouse him simply by staring at him, a look and a smile could affect him sexually as much as a genital touch. I still often play that game of drawing a strange boy to me simply by staring at him. We played seduction games, too, with ourselves and other boys.” If one defined pederasty as the deliberate seduction or molestation of young boys, then most pederasty would be an activity of young teenagers. Indeed, a high percentage of practicing pederasts limit their sexual activity to boys who have already been seduced by other boys. Even though a sexually experienced boy is more vulnerable to sexual involvement with a man, attitudes developed in conversations with other boys may still be crucial to the development of pederastic tastes. Said one pederast: “I was aware that I could have a lot of fun playing around with boys sexually, but I was shy and afraid, and perhaps I was too moral, until my friend and I began to tease each other with jokes and stories about sex play with boys and men. For example, we passed a note around school which said: ‘Never talk while you make love, because it’s not polite to talk with your mouth full.’ It seemed wrong to fantasize about girls, who were supposed to be kept pure, so we made up jokes and imagined sex play with boys. Soon we were ready to try things we had joked about. We were pointing out the boys we considered to be most attractive: one, for example, whose legs were as pretty as any girl’s in the school.” Said Adams: “My chum and I decided that there was nothing wrong with masturbation, that it was more fun with someone else, and that it was unhealthy and selfish for me to make love to myself. We decided which were the sexually most attractive boys we knew and made bets as to which of us could seduce them first into mutual masturbation and other sex play.”
Step 3: Pleasurable Sex With a Younger Boy
“I was fourteen,” Adams said, “when I began a long sexual relationship with my cousin who was a year or so younger. My chum had him first and pointed out how cute he was, but my cousin liked me better. He was very sexy and imaginative in thinking up things to do, so I had more fun with him than with anyone else.” The following comments from other pederasts reveal a similar stage in development: “We slept out in the yard in a pup tent all that summer. He came for the first time and couldn’t get enough of it. I still tremble sometimes to remember how great it was, each of us discovering how to give pleasure to the other, much more intense than we could accomplish alone.”. “I’m sure the summer I was thirteen I developed a taste for this type of pleasure which became deeply ingrained. I discovered that there is nothing so marvelous as the responsive body of a young adolescent.” “The fantasies I had about what we might have done, had I accepted the invitation to spend the week at his house, may have been more emotional and affecting that anything sexual we might actually have done in bed if I had gone.”
It is generally agreed that the impact of a particular sex experience depends to a great extent on the way it is interpreted. For example, a raped girl may rebound with great resilience, both physically and emotionally, unless someone tells her she is “ruined.” Much adolescent sex play is simply not interpreted by adults at all, partly because adults - except for some pederasts - know nothing about this secret play. As a result, the child or adolescent is involved in a continuous process of interpreting it for himself, which almost inevitably involves fantasy. He may have healthy fantasies in which he interprets sex play as exploration helping him to understand his sexual experience and as preparation for heterosexual adult life, or because of secrecy or shame he may seek to replace the actual sex play with exciting fantasies or other substitute acts, such as violence. In his case, Adams continued the play, but interpreted it as proof that he was unique or different. His interpretation may make the ladder more attractive for further exploration: “My cousin and I decided that since were were young and didn’t know much, there must be even more exciting things to be explored, so he proposed oral sex and enjoyed it so much that he decided we must be ‘gay,’ although that isn’t the word we used in those days. ‘We’re fags, I guess,’ he said. ‘I never realized that queers have more fun than other guys.’ We argued about it, and I remember insisting that there was nothing queer about it at all, but I was worried enough that I almost immediately started dating girls.”
Step 4: Suppression of the Memory and Sex With Girls
“I never found sex with girls disappointing,” Adams said, “Just different and hard to get. As soon as I had a steady girl who would let me do it, I forgot all about that ‘lad stuff,’ and certainly never thought I would be interested in it again.” Later he admitted, however, that while having sexual intercourse with his girl, he occasionally remembered how uninhibited his young cousin had been, in contrast to the worry and guilt of his girl friend. Another said: “My first sex with a girl was every bit as good as it was supposed to be, and all I had learned with Freddie was put to good use. I remember thinking to myself that fooling around with Freddie had been O.K. as a way of getting ready for women, but I thought about the fact that Freddie now had a beard and asked myself how I could ever have enjoyed sex with him. I actually found him ugly and repulsive, compared to the sweetness of my girl.”
In many of these cases, it would seem that the pederastic taste which had been nurtured by sex play with boys in young adolescence could have been openly acknowledged and discussed. Instead, however, it was repressed in less healthy ways and was thus driven underground where it festered until something in adult life triggered it to surface again in the experience of someone like Adams.
Step 5: Pederast Recall in Adult Situations
Adams was active in sports throughout his middle and late adolescence. While he now recalls admiring the bodies of attractive boys, he was not noticeably aware of it at the time. He was consciously aware, however, of discharging his erotic tensions through body-contact sports - especially with younger boys - and he was highly critical of spectator sports, which so often built up erotic tension without release. He says: “When I was nineteen, little Jim’s father asked if I would instruct his son in football, and try to interest him in the sport.
The youngster kept hold of my hand when we were introduced and an erotic spark passed between us, which he sensed as well as me. I refused to teach him, because it flashed through my mind that the kid was sexy, cute and sexually experienced. The erotic sensation of his hand holding mine was very worrisome.”
Other pederasts report similar flashes of recall: “I hadn’t been on the military transport for two weeks before I missed my wife so much I couldn’t stand it. I had forgotten how bad it was to be sexy at fourteen or fifteen and seeing other kids have sex fun, until I discovered another sailor in bed with a younger guy. I found it obnoxious but very disturbing, because the gay kid was too old. I bit my tongue when I said to myself: Now if that little sailor was just thirteen or fourteen ….” Another said: “In the middle of a thunderstorm the fool kid said he was scared and wanted to get into bed with me. Intuitively, I sensed that the other kids in my cabin had put him up to it to tease a green counselor, but as I turned my flashlight into his face he blushed in a way that reminded me how sexy, how much fun in bed, a kid can be at that age.” Another pederast reports emotions at being propositioned at a tourist resort by a boy prostitute who reminded him of a boy he had enjoyed in young adolescence: “Something came surging up in me, maybe habits long forgotten or desires long repressed or simply a beautiful memory of how Joey would do anything I suggested in bed when we were twelve, or a beautiful memory like favorite music I wanted to play again.”
Step 6: Erotic Arousal by a Specific Youngster
“I had assumed that once happily married I wouldn’t find young boys erotically attractive anymore. I was therefore doubly shocked to realize how aroused I was by a tan-legged kid who turned up in shorts for the first day of Little League baseball. I had to stare at him, shocked that my marriage had been no cure, for this was not the first time since I was married. Some weeks earlier I had been struck by the sight of a kid on the train. I recall the knowing look on the face of the boy in shorts when his eyes met my stare. I had so suppressed the incident on the train that I didn’t remember it at all until the boy in shorts started walking toward me. Then a flood of erotic memories flooded my consciousness.”
If human beings could be more open and honest with one another, the impact of this sexual experience at the Little League field might have been insignificant for the man involved. He could have joked about it with his wife and friends or could have sought out skilled counsel to assure him that almost anyone can be momentarily troubled and aroused in such a situation, even without troubling memories surging up from his unconscious. In his isolation, however, he had to justify and interpret the experience alone. Another interviewee said: “I said to myself, ‘man, I love my wife, but he is something I’ve been hungry for and I didn’t even realize it!” Another reported: “I was at one of those junior military outfits as a visitor, and I was hit with a jab in the crotch when I saw Jerry across the room, for he reminded me of someone I had known. My legs wilted and I almost fainted. I thought it was something I had eaten, but I could hardly keep my eyes off him. My friend noticed it and introduced me to Jerry’s father. I blurted out an invitation for him to come and see my boat on the river. He brought Jerry to go fishing the next Saturday, and we were hardly on the boat before the boy asked me to rub suntan oil on his back. His body was overpowering because of what it drew out of me from when I was his age. I was almost fainting again and his fool father was saying: ‘I hope a university professor like you can find time to take an interest in a really smart son of a truck driver, because Jerry’s smitten with you and I want him to go to college.’ “
Step 7: Renewed Awareness of Pleasure in Boys Company
“The psychiatrist had assured me that those temptations and desires would evaporate in the heat of a good marriage. However, I seemed somehow liberated. The good sex I was having with my wife seemed to turn me on again to all sex pleasure, and I began to dream about boys again. The psychiatrist had said that my dreams showed that my dangerous sex impulses were inhibited and well controlled. I think now that he was wrong. Often when I go to bed at night my sleep is troubled by agitation over boys – more moral than sexual - and during the night my subconscious - or whatever you call it - seems to have worked things out for me while I slept. I’m not attracted to just any boy - mostly I dream about blond kids of about thirteen who are strong and handsome in an athletic way. There is nothing I enjoy so much as watching a boy like that jump with a basketball. Such grace gives me almost as much sexual pleasure as an orgasm. The morning after I had spent a troubled night over a boy I saw at Little League baseball practice, I woke with a sense of peace, and the conviction that there would be nothing wrong with playing sexually with a boy like that as long as he wanted it and enjoyed it. I remember that in my dream I had anal intercourse with that boy - something I had not done since I was fourteen - and in the dream it was a good, happy experience, nothing wrong with it at all. I think maybe my daydreams about boys feed on desires that well up from my subconscious or somewhere, and the fantasies I spin raise problems somewhere in my soul that my subconscious works out while I sleep. My subconscious picks up and elaborates on my daydreams and experiences — like my bedazzlement with that boy - and works them over to give me a point of view, a way of rationalizing that it is O.K. for me to do what I want. I’m sort of mystical about it, too, because sometimes I am attracted to a boy I have seen before, and then I realize that I only saw him in a dream. But he probably looks like someone I had sex with as a kid. It isn’t the way he looks that makes me so sure I dreamed about him, but the way he moves. It is the rhythm of bare legs that is so erotic, so irresistible to me.” This pederast thus felt that in this way he had worked out a self-interpretation which made it possible for him to understand his erotic experiences with boys, and to justify his sexual behavior with them.
Another pederast reported a similar process in which he rationalized and interpreted his behavior by building on the daydreams and fantasies of his youth: “Good boys don’t interest me at all, but a dirty little delinquent who has been arrested many times for stealing can drive me wild, especially if his record indicates that he has been involved in sex offenses also. I was always such a good altar-boy type myself that bored as I was I enjoyed daydreams about bad boys and what they did, especially sexually. I was too moral to do such things myself, but I could enjoy being a voyeur in my dreams. My main experience with bad boys was the way they picked on smaller children, so my fantasies revolved around an older boy who would beat me up and make me do things, such as forcing me to undress a girl and kiss her. As a young teenager, and even now as an adult, I am not sexually inhibited with a ‘bad’ boy or girl, only with good ones. I feel perfectly free to relax and enjoy sex play with a boy who is already sexually delinquent.”
Both of these pederasts decided as adults that there was no reason why they should not seek out the company of boys of the type they enjoyed, and while both were aware that their fascination with favorite boys was sexually motivated, they were at this stage convinced that they would limit the erotic experience to talk, watching, and encouraging boys to find happy sexual intercourse with girls.
Step 8: Cultivating Voyeurism and Involvement
“I suppose I’ve always enjoyed watching boys, but it was an important moment in my adult sexual experience when I became aware of how really pleasurable it is and why. I can spend an erotic afternoon just sitting on a park bench watching young teenagers play ball and showing off for the girls.” Most pederasts stress the importance of this sort of voyeurism at one time or another, and insidiously it seems to lead to more overt sexual involvements. “There is nothing so smashing as watching thirteen-year-olds wrestle, which is why I enjoy coaching. I can tell when two boys are sexually attracted to each other, so I deliberately match them for my own amusement. I have movies of one such pair wrestling, and the film is as sexy as any pornography you can image, when their bodies are flushed from exertion and arousal, the younger one sighs and surrenders as if an orgasm was over.” Once such a pederast has decided that boy-watching is his favorite hobby, a next logical step is to organize his life to pursue his hobby, although he is still convinced that his self-control will preclude any illegal acts. “Like any healthy, happy, active boy with a fine-toned body, Charlie was very sexy. I did my best to avoid physical contact with him, because it was becoming clear that boys were going to be a major problem in my life, but I couldn’t resist the way he followed me around like a puppy.” Another said: “It wasn’t enough just to watch boys anymore, so I volunteered to use my station wagon for hauling them to games. There was always some sixteen-year-old crazy to drive, so I could sit in the back with eight or ten of my favorites sprawling all over me.” Said another: “I used to hang around the pool to watch, and a divorcee in our block asked if I would take her son along to swim, since I was going anyway. Her son was a cool kid, desperate for a man’s affection. He pretended for months that he couldn’t swim, so I would hold him in the water to teach him, then he admitted that he did it because he ‘loved me.’ His mother could not understand then why I was so hesitant to baby-sit when she wanted to leave him with me for a week end.”
Step 9: Horseplay With Boys
When is sex play not sex play? A naive, inexperienced middle-class boy or young man may find wrestling and horseplay more sexually stimulating than someone with a different background who has heard so many dirty jokes and has experienced so many sexual gestures that he no longer notices them. Many of the pederasts interviewed were somewhat seduced and misled by the sex talk and gestures of the sexually sophisticated teenagers they associated with. The man who sat in the back seat of his station wagon, for example, was not prepared to cope with lower-class boys from a radically different sexual culture: “At first the kids were restrained, but after a time, when they see you smile at their antics, they will start groping you like they do each other. Kids from that neighborhood use sex words in every sentence, a sex gesture to illustrate every point. They tell homosexual jokes on each other to provoke fights. They think love means sex, so they ask for your affection with sexual overtures. They make comments like: ‘I’m no queer, but I’d sure take my pants down for tickets to the fights,’ and the younger boys think the older ones really mean it, so sometimes the younger ones go a step further and one hints privately that if I didn’t tell anyone, he would be prepared to exchange sex favors if I would take him on a trip. They then masturbate each other openly and ‘moon’ passing cars [take down their pants to present their bare bottoms as an insult to passers-by]. It is harder than you might think to keep from slipping into involvement.”
Another said: “It is easy to move from semi-sex play into more overt games.” He then described the behavior of youngsters in the locker room when unsupervised, and reported on the study made by a non-pederast staff member at a boy’s club, who made notes for two months and then reported at a staff meeting on the frequency with which young teenagers make basically unconscious sexual gestures to men, and which the staff hardly noticed, except for some of the pederast volunteers who were continually dismayed and kept off-balance by behavior to which the staff was immune. One boy, for example, in the course of a month a) sat on a staff member’s lap and told a homosexual joke, b) goosed an older boy and told him he “had a cute ass,” c) told a fellatio joke to a visitor and asked the man to buy him ice cream and d) told the swimming instructor that his mother had said he could spend the night with him (not true). A pederast member of the staff was so aroused by this behavior that he insisted the boy be given a psychological test, which was done. The boy tested out as a typical, normal boy of his age, a bit more sexually inhibited than most! Observations of other boys over a period of time bore out the psychologist’s conclusions, suggesting that a man who is erotically attracted to boys may be more affected by a subliminal awareness of such events than he may consciously realize. If he is close to a boy whose behavior is a bit more sexually curious and experimental, small incidents may add up to a triggering effect upon his desires and emotions. A typical comment: “Watching boys and coaching them in sports seemed innocent enough, but somehow the cumulative effect was an erosion of my inhibitions and self-control.” Again, however, it may have been his fantasies about the boys that worked the erosion even more than any behavior, joking, or minor horseplay which the pederast observed. “Long before I ever touched a boy on the team, I was playing with them in the locker-room showers of my imagination, and in my dreams I had worked my temptations through, trying each of them out, so as to come to the point of consent. Since I was convinced we would both enjoy it and find it good, I had already told myself that there was no reason why I should not enjoy myself with a favorite boy when the opportunity presented itself.”
Step 11: Incidental Happenings
“Shortly after Charlie’s father became paralyzed, his mother asked me to drive him to a swim meet, so he would not miss the event he greatly enjoyed. She said that her sister could put us up overnight there, if I could put up with sharing a bed with Charlie. Our sexual relationship developed so gradually that I can’t remember how it happened for sure. At first we simply wrestled in bed, joking and teasing. Then there were more swim meets and trip … It would be a mistake to say that Charlie and I loved each other, but we had a real comradely affection. Charlie was one of those little devils for whom sex play is more like a boxing match than lovemaking. There wasn’t a feminine bone in his body. Sex between us was two men enjoying a rough sport together, and it would have shocked us both to hear anyone call it ‘queer.’ With him I recaptured the fun I had had with my cousin as a young adolescent, partly because Charlie wanted to ask endless questions about sex which he had never been able to talk about with anyone before. I found myself repeating to him, as a philosophy of life and love, the puerile things my cousin and I had decided together when I was fourteen. I realized that nowhere else in my education or reading had I come across any more adequate explanations of the sexual experience Charlie and I were having together. He was worried about being homosexual, and he was reassured because I was married and had children. He wanted to know why it was that anything you enjoy doing is wrong, and I told him that I was more inclined to trust my own body than what other people said who hadn’t had the experience.”
A pederast with the fictional name of Ben Burden committed suicide after an unusual sexual encounter with a boy. A social worker for the court, Ben was charged one night to care for a near-suicidal, violent, unreachable young criminal who had so disrupted a reform school that he was threatened with the state prison at the age of twelve. The boy was tearing up the room when Ben began hugging him, partly in self-protection. When on impulse he kissed the boy, the young “monster” burst into tears, saying that it was the first time in years that anyone had kissed him. The boy then refused to leave or to go to bed unless he could sleep with Ben. Ben’s wife, who was a therapist, encouraged him to indulge the boy, who soon became polite, went willingly to school, and even began to discipline an unruly younger brother and make him shape up. As a result of several subsequent experiences which gained similar success, Ben and his wife discussed the possibility of writing a book about how affectionate sex might be used to help violent and troubled youngsters. When Ben committed suicide he left a note saying: “I’m still convinced that what I did was right in God’s eyes."
Step 12: Recurring Sex Play
“I’ve now had three serious affairs with boys,” said one of the pederasts interviewed. “The second boy will soon be twenty and he still comes around once in a while to borrow my car to take his girl out, when his own car won’t go. I’ve helped him some with his college expenses, have found him summer jobs, and he says he’s going to name his first baby for me. My current boy is the most turned-on sexually of any kid I’ve ever known. He’s all boy, but he’s wild in bed, with his friends as well as with me. It is fascinating to watch him go at it with another boy. If you don’t believe me I can show you home movies where it is all written honestly in their expressions. Kids love sex and become joyous when they are sexually happy. I’m not just rationalizing when I say that 90 per cent of the trouble we have with teenagers is the result of sexual frustrations. When I see a really happy, well-adjusted boy, I say to myself: ‘He’s getting some good sex somewhere.’ As for my new boy, I prefer to judge our relationship by the happiness, contentment and pleasure I see in his eyes, and by the eagerness in his voice when he phones to ask when we can get together. Across a wide generation gap he loves his uptight father, but he also thinks it funny that his dad is so uptight about sex.” One can note a gradually shifting in position from first to the third of the boys he has been sexually involved with since he made a decision to be less inhibited. He says: “It seems to me that boys are getting less and less inhibited these days,” when, in fact, he is perhaps saying something about himself. “I find that I have fewer fantasies these days, perhaps because I do not need dreams as substitutes for the real thing.” Because he is less troubled by his desires and behavior, he is also more careless, although he might not have been arrested had it not been that his boy was increasingly promiscuous with other boys, and his behavior had become the subject of comment in the community.
Step 13: Reconsidering
The quotations above are from the only one of the interviewed pederasts to be arrested during that time. Despite the scandal he did not lose his job, in part because he began therapy with a psychiatrist at the suggestion of the court and his friends. “I’ve been to psychiatrists at two points in my life,” he says. “The first one, before I was married, said there was nothing wrong with me that a happy marriage wouldn’t cure. He was wrong. The second said that he was sure I didn’t want to be cured of anything, and that he couldn’t change a patient who is happy with himself as he is. He further said that he couldn’t in any case, probably, cure my pederasty (he didn’t use that word) without altering my personality dangerously. What he did offer to do was to help me re-establish self-control, and also help turn my interests toward gay boys of a legal age so I could avoid trouble with the law. I told him I was only interested in heterosexual boys of the he-man type I am: football players, mountain-climbers, sea-divers, and he said I could find gay boys like that. He has helped me do a lot of rethinking of my situation. I really didn’t mean to get sexually involved with boys, and with my wife’s help I think that won’t happen anymore. However, I haven’t the least intention of giving up boys and sports. I wouldn’t want to live at all on any other terms.” He was shaken by the impact on his family, friends, and community of the fact that his sexual experiences with boys had gone further than he had intended. At the same time he was personally convinced that there was nothing wrong with mutual masturbation - just as he feels there is nothing wrong with smoking marijuana - except that it is against the law. Some other pederasts reconsider their sexual involvement with boys when an affair turns out unhappily. “He had reached the age when I knew we had to break up, but I thought we could still be friends,” one said. “So it hurt me when he refused to write to me from Florida. I decided that if I had hurt his feelings I’d make sure not to get involved with another boy. I kept that resolution for a month, until a boy came to my door selling soap. He was such a great lad that I told him I’d buy all of his soap if he’d come in and play cards with me.”
SOME CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS
- Crucial questions suggested by this ladder revolve around the nature of the sexual experience men and boys have together, and the impact upon attitudes and emotions when much of that experience involves fantasy and games which are substitutes for coitus. A society which denies coitus with females to developing boys should not be surprised at their fantasies and substitute experiences. Of all the sex offender groups in prison, the pederasts show the highest percentage of masturbation before puberty (57%), and the largest percentage involved in pre-pubertal sex play (84%), which for 57 per cent continued three or more years. The majority were involved in sex play with both boys and girls, many with oral and anal experience. This evidence from Gebhard leads one to speculate that a very strong sex drive, as indicated by the frequency of masturbation, which develops before society makes provision for heterosexual activity is a major factor in pederasty.
- The same Gebhard study points out that pederasts as youngsters had been engaged in the highest percentage of sex fantasies when boys, and were more frequently involved as youngsters in imagining sex play with other boys than other types of sex offenders. Hatterer suggests that such play is damaging if it becomes prolonged, intense, and passionate - thus marking habits and personality. Gebhard points out that in comparing pederasts in prison to other types of offenders the most striking fact is the sudden decline in the percentage of heterosexual activity among pederasts at about age 15: “Something disastrous to their heterosexual ability must have taken place between their twelfth and fifteenth year of life” (my italics). It is a striking fact that these pederast offenders participated in a great deal of sex play to the point of orgasm in this period of early adolescence, half of them remembering more than 45 such orgasms a year from puberty on. During this same period many of them established a pattern of sexual adventurism with both boys and girls, and found sexual experience with young boys to be highly pleasurable. This runs counter to the theory that boys are seduced by men into homosexuality, and if pederasts are indeed seducers they do most of their seducing of boys when they are still young adolescents themselves.
- A Catholic theologian has suggested that every person must be helped to deal with his “potential for homosexual desires, fantasies and experience.” He implies that Americans are ill-equipped to deal with the feet that our “procreation-oriented, anti-sex-pleasure system leaves most people powerless to deal with their own sexual impulses” - which is why it is so difficult to handle pederast activity intelligently. It may be true that much of the emotional anti-gay, anti-sex-pleasure emotion in Western society is rooted in what Vanggaard calls “every man’s suppressed pederast desires.” It would seem that much more information about fantasies - especially in adolescence - is needed if we are to gain a satisfactory insight into pederasty.
 Gebhard (1972), p. 301. [Not in the author’s bibliography, unless “Gebhard, Paul et al. Sex Offenders: An Analysis of Types. New York: Bantam Books, 1967” is meant]
 L. J. Hatterer, Changing Homosexuality in the Male, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970. [Author’s footnote]
 M. F. Valente, “On Homosexuality,” New York Times, Jan. 14, 1975. [Author’s footnote]
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