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three pairs of lovers with space


This is the thirty-third chapter of Special Friendships, Steven Freeman's unpublished book about the depiction of close friendships between men and boys in film, which is introduced here.


Boys for hire (easy terms)

By the same token, let us not waste any time on juvenile prostitution in a piece discussing friendships, beyond noting that what was unmentionable prior to 1990 – that young boys also prostitute themselves to men, and traffic in that commodity is brisk – has since become a topic they scarcely shut up about. In cinema you can wait thirty years for a boy prostitute, then a dozen of them roll by in a convoy. If you wanted a smoking gun for the thesis that cinema pursues an active social agenda – across a handful of countries simultaneously – this would have to be a strong candidate. Whether it be “MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO” (US), or “BODY WITHOUT SOUL” (Czech Republic), or “J’EMBRASSE PAS” (France), or “OLIVIER OLIVIER” (France), or “VITO E GLI ALTRI” (Italy) – all of them by some mysterious coincidence released in 1991 – or “SMUKKE DRENG” (Denmark 93), “KOMMST DU MIT?” (Germany ??), “MANDRAGORA” (Czech Republic 97), “L.I.E” (2001), or “MYSTERIOUS SKIN” (2004), the mantra is always the same.  The obligatory reading of prostitution today is as a paradigm of male exploitation (whether of women or boys) rather than (which is equally often the case) the sexual exploitation of male appetites (whether by women or boys) for financial gain.  There is predatory behaviour enough on both sides of that squalid trade.  Still it seems that men must play the baddies again, and boys must be defined as non-men, more akin to women, for the purpose of the argument. The fact male directors are as guilty of this deceit as female ones only goes to show they know which side their career bread is buttered.  Far safer to join a mob throwing stones than to stand apart and criticise it.

Axel (Max Kellermann) and his lover Karl Heinz (Winfried Glatzeder) in Gossenkind

“GOSSENKIND” (Germany’s entry in the 1991 buggered boy bonanza) does seem to have been a shade less egregious, in that the central character Axel Glitter, a strumpet of 14 (Max Kellermann), finds himself growing more personally attached to one of his “Johns” than he would normally permit, and the two are obliged to run away together when Axel’s loose tongue provokes the man’s neighbours to question their own small son (Christoph Elbsloe) about him, and the police are called in. Need we add that Axel comes from a “broken home”? That he is maltreated by a brutish father? That he’s a closet heterosexual (like the hero of “SMUKKE DRENG”)? And so is his adult client, whose own son of approximately 12 may be drifting onto the game? Whatever else it may have to tell about the seedy world of the “rent boy” (illicit sex as a street drug trade) it does explode the myth of the “vulnerable” adolescent callously manipulated by older males. This is “CHRISTIANE F: WIR KINDER VON BAHNHOF ZOO”, but retooled for the prejudices of the 1990s.

Boy whore movies are almost by definition an exercise in blackwash, since they’re written and performed by outsiders.  To expect a true account from them is like expecting a teetotaller to make a sympathetic portrait of a barfly, or an Islamic fundamentalist to make an honest film about atheism. Pederasts, like gays, are infidels to the True Faith of heterosexuality, and they do not live in an era of religious tolerance. River Phoenix in “IDAHO” and all the rest are characterised as heterosexuals providing a service with greater or lesser reluctance.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “MYSTERIOUS SKIN” is the most prolific tart in his provincial town, yet we’re asked to credit he’s been years on the game without ever once bending over, so that when he’s raped in due course by one thug he picks up (screaming suitably misogynist epithets at him) this defloration can serve as his belated wake-up call.  It’s all getting a bit too homosexual now.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the boy whore in Mysterious Skin

I don’t recall the umpteen thousands of women prostitutes portrayed in cinema being mostly confirmed lesbians “merely doing a job”. No, the subtext here is to deny the very possibility that men’s sexual appetite for boys is sometimes reciprocated and mutual. That is patently false. Western “rent boys”, all their denials notwithstanding, are drawn to prostitution rather than, say, mugging, because their appetites incline them that way. Prostitution is often a covert form of mugging, with precisely the same financial motive.  But I guess we shouldn’t be expecting Hollywood to cough up a “PRETTY LADDIE” comedy, or a “RENT BOY IN RED” romance any time soon…

Continue to the next chapter: Minority reports


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