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three pairs of lovers with space



Vietnam in 1885

In footnote 4 to his 1889 survey of pederasty in China, the French physician J.-J. Matignon briefly described the sexual involvement with Vietnamese boys of French colonial officials whom he blamed for introducing pederasty to the country.

A far more detailed and lurid, but equally hostile account of ubiquitous pederasty in Annam was given soon afterwards in his Untrodden Fields of Anthropology (1893) by French army surgeon Jacobus X..., who was stationed there.

In a more neutral vein, the ethnographer Georges Hérelle (1848-1935) collected such testimonies about the practice of Greek love in Tonkin from French soldiers there around 1900. One of them recounted that in Indochina all the officers took on boys and often made these boys their bedfellows. "One pays the boys five or six piastres a month", he testified. "If one offers them fifteen or twenty piastres, they know what it means, and, according to their intentions, accept or refuse”[1]. Another soldier, Henri Jeoffrai, despite having been an afficionado of Chinese boys, was shocked and sickened by the too great abundance of the propositions he received in Tonkin.[2]

The eminent bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin, who lived in Nha Trang from 1894 until his death in 1943, was a boy-lover who knew "how to organize his career and his personal trajectory in such a way as to live fully and honestly all his passions, without exception."[3]

In a section on Vietnam in their Boys for Sale (1969), Drew and Drake briefly described boy prostitution during the French occupation:

Jacobus X and other commentators, tell of the frequency of boy prostitution in Viet-Nam during the French occupation. The young Vietnamese hated anal intercourse because they were small and tight, and found it painful. But, they would willingly yield for money if they found that their patron insisted. The nays (boys) who carried baskets in the markets were nearly all “available”. Many of them were astonishingly beautiful. Frenchmen would, therefore, shop first for the boy, and then, having made their selection, would take him to carry their purchases home. The boys would advertise their skill in fellatio by calling out “me much like chew-chew banana.”

Unless instructed to the contrary, when a boy left in the daytime with his pay, he would return again that night, after dark, to sleep with the man a second time. These youngsters were sometimes as young as 12, but the 14 and 15 year olds looked 12 by Western standards. They were often beautiful and erotic.

A leading French textbook on homosexuality includes as one of its cases, the story of a French officer who was determined not to get mixed up with youngsters. Alas, Vietnamese boys were so pretty and so aggressive that he could not resist trying one out just once. Then, he found that he was so charmed by the pleasure of the experience that he couldn’t resist repeating the experience again and again. Soon, he was “hooked” on boys just as firmly as if he had taken to drugs and gotten “hooked” on them. Years later, back in France, he continued to be troubled by hauntingly beautiful dreams calling him back to Indochina.

We do not yet have much information filed on the conduct of American military men and Vietnamese boys. We are sifting through reports now and preparing them for another volume.

The English journalist Michael Davidson reported for several weeks from Vietnam. In his autobiography, The World, The Flesh and Myself, he wrote of Saigon:

Saigon shoeshine boys going home at the end of a hard day's work

At Christmas 1949 I was among the lovely Annamites, in French Indo-China: exquisite people with Chinese faces that were yet not quite Chinese; as one advances from Malaya through the lush beauty of those coloured countries one moves too along a subtly modulated scale of facial fashioning: Siamese, Burmans, Cambodians, Annamites, the Thais of Tonkin—all are moulded in a conforming 'style' but each is the work of an individual artist; they are like a school of painting, of which every member marks with his originality the canon of the whole. I suppose the stripling ricksha puller who in Saigon became my friend was, stripped of his rags, as perfect a confection of human beauty as can be devised; poor child: doomed to wear his heart out between the shafts.

and of Hanoi late in 1950:

I remember, in Hanoi, being charmingly enticed into the little island temple on the edge of the lake (Buddhist, would it have been? Or Confucian? I think I saw, in the twinkling dimness of the interior, a gilded image among the black and crimson lacquer) by an acolyte and shown delights which can't, I'm sure, have been liturgical.

He described his trysts with both boys at length in his memoir Some Boys.

The afore-mentioned Drake, writing under his real name of Parker Rossman, recorded interviews with a European and an American soldier about their sexual liaisons with Vietnamese boys around the time of the Vietnam War.


[1] Louis Geschenk, "Un savant estimable peut-il être pédophile? Le cas Alexandre Yersin" in L’Élu (online journal), No. 2, 2009, p. 113, citing Testimonies preserved in the media library of the agglomeration of Troyes: manuscript no. 3 392, pp. 194-201. 

[2] Laurent Long and Jean-Claude Féray, "Observations inédites d'Henri Jeoffrai sur la pédérastie en Chine" in Inverses (Châtillon), No. 9, 2009.

[3] Louis Geschenk, "Un savant estimable peut-il être pédophile? Le cas Alexandre Yersin" in L’Élu (online journal), No. 2, 2009, p. 114.




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