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three pairs of lovers with space



The following was a letter to Pan, a magazine about boy-love, published by Spartacus in Amsterdam in its issue 14, published December 1982, pp. 19-20 together with comment which was presumably by the executive editor, Frank Torey.

The author was J. Darling, a Scottish traveller, teacher and author of It’s Okay to Say Yes. Close Encounters in the Third World: The Adventures and Misadventures of a Well-Traveled Boy-Lover, published by Acolyte in Amsterdam in 1992, which gives a much longer account of his sexual liaisons with Third World boys in the 1980s, and is reviewed here.


Charges of “sex tourism” and child-prostitution have been used to attack relationships between Western men and Third World boys. As has been repeatedly noted by PAN, these charges are readily believed by the Western press. No serious refutation has been offered: contributors to PAN and SPARTACUS adopt a “holier than thou” attitude, indiscriminately blaming supposed battalions of North-European package tourists trampling the coastal villages of Sri Lanka or the shanty-towns of Manila. But let’s face it - it does help to be an affluent Westerner with hard currency in one’s pocket, or at least have the appearance of carrying it, when forming one’s first acquaintance with a curious-eyed unit of the swollen boy-populations of the Third World. This does not add up to encouraging child-prostitution. Instead it should be seen that poverty grants to children a much greater degree of freedom than they would otherwise enjoy if they were incarcerated in “bourgeois” households. If the poor boy chooses to make himself the friend of a relatively rich man, he is not only aiding himself and his family, but also he is integrating the unattached Western paedophile[1] into the host culture. The boy-lover is not making his friend a prostitute if he feels socially committed to give aid and sustainance. [sic]

Boy refugee, El Salvador, September 1984

I would like to illustrate the opportunity granted to children by poverty with examples drawn from my own experiences in El Salvador and Morocco.

In El Salvador the majority of births are illegitimate. Concubinage rather than marriage is the normal social rule. The institution of the family is weak. Most children remain with their mothers, while the fathers make little effort to claim financial or any other responsibility for their offspring. While the mothers toil relentlessly, the boys are released, free and uninhibited, into the world around them.

I had just moved to San Salvador, the country's capital, and was looking for an apartment. On the first day of my search I was stepping out of my car when Toni appeared. He asked if he could guard my vehicle. I was at once astonished and aroused by the contrast between his impish, fragile face and the rags he wore. When I returned, I tipped him extravagantly - I was not trying to buy either his soul or body, but just to make his day. The boy waved to me, smiling, as I drove off. I looked at other apartments in other parts of the city, but I kept thinking of the little urchin who had made so humble a request of me. I took the apartment which I had inspected that first day, hoping it lay within Toni's territory.

For the ensuing year, through some tribulations and adjustments, Toni and I were companions. He was my "concubine", my kept boy. Certainly, at first, he considered me a rich idiot to be mercilessly exploited, but he learned for himself the complexity of human relationships, their tidal motions of giving and receiving. I marvelled at the maturation of this boy into a friend. He imposed upon himself a new sense of order, propriety, self-discipline and cleanliness. I persuaded him to eat, I got the lice out of his hair, I made him beautiful in new clothes. I ensured that every few days he went back to his mother with money to buy food for his family. When the roof of their shanty collapsed I bought logs (at a cost of ten dollars) for the structure to be re-created. For a year I helped the boy grow up and gain a sense of self-respect. I came to feel myself committed to him and his mother. I persuaded Toni to go to school to learn to read and write, giving him a sense of purpose and routine, of evolution and progress in what was once the life of a street-waif. I was only a school-master in San Salvador, but my relative wealth was used in the manner of a prince caring for his subjects, not that of a pervert luring an innocent child into prostitution. Anyway, I was doing a lot more for Toni than such crocodile organizations as Terre des Hommes.

Berber boy, Morocco

In Morocco I found prostitution more prevalent - because of the social and governmental restrictions placed on relationships between men and boys. Islamic disciplines, a strong patriarchal element in the family, a day-absorbing system of continuous compulsory education, made sex a furtive, thirty-minute affair for which immediate payment was expected. Far from encouraging this type of prostitution, I did my best to avoid it, and would have left Morocco if I had not been lucky enough to meet Majid, an eleven-year-old with a pearl-like Berber face and great, brilliant eyes. I was seated at a street-side cafe in a dusty, olive-fringed town south of the High Atlas. I had been bothered by repulsive, scabrous and aggressive beggar-youths. At a little distance a group of ragged children were playing. One of them was beautiful. I wondered why, in Morocco, it is only the ugly who accost ,one. The boy became conscious of my gaze and smiled back. He would have gone on playing, however, if I had not motioned him to my table and given him a dirham. The boy, full of glee, skipped off. A few minutes later he was back, eating a sandwich to show how he had made use of my largesse. I paid my bill and walked to a tea-house where one could rent a room for five dirhams. The boy, unsummoned, followed. The squalor of the chamber to which we ascended did not deter that charming child from showing me the utter naturalness and the loveliness of what a young boy can offer a man. Later he escorted me to the souk to purchase a glittering shawl for his mother.

Tarroudant, the "dusty, olive-fringed town south of the High Atlas" where Darling met Majid

For a period of nine months I kept returning to that little town between two ranges, bedecked with its carpet woven of groves and irrigated fields. My relationship with Majid was greatly aided by the poverty of his family. His father had left, and had raised a new household in Agadir. Majid lived in a mud-walled house with his mother, grandmother and elder brother, an unemployed mason. Again, my help to this family was not a question of a pay-off for the use of their son’s body, but the method by which I could best contribute to the betterment of that child's life. I would buy lamb, vegetables and spices for the most succulent tajins and kous-kous, specialties of Moroccan cuisine. At such feasts the boy, the family and I myself fed much better together than we would have done apart. The family lived in two rooms. I gladly paid the small sum needed to give those mud walls a new coat of whitewash. I bought colourful cushions for the main room (as Moroccans entertain their guests composed upon rugs). I was treated with the highest honour, in the manner of a prince, and I dispensed appropriate benefits, balancing requests with real needs, as is the obligation of a good prince. At those times when I left the town, to visit Marrakesh or Essaouria or Spain, the boy would weep himself to sleep in my arms. I felt unworthy of his emotion. There was nothing that I could have given him, even if I had been awash with deutschmarks or dollars, that would have matched in value what he had laid before me. By his acceptance of the material compensations with which I expressed inadequately my gratitude he did not thus become a prostitute. For me to have taken his gift, that being first his body and later his love, and afterwards not to have cherished and nourished him, would have been a cruel abdication of an adult’s responsibility for a child, for his is a trust which both father and lover share.

From my own experience, as illustrated in these reminiscences, Third World boys  are not being exploited, but rather helped, by Western paedophiles. The love between them is a more direct, personal and humane form of aid than that provided by those soul-saving and self-serving monsters - the official and semi-official charities created to allay the guilt of the Western World as it gazes upon mass starvation through the medium of television and Sunday supplements. Poverty, far from leaving a boy helpless, vulnerable to sexual abuse, gives him the freedom, denied his richer age-mates, to work out his own life and seek for himself the free expression of his own boyish nature.

Comment by Pan

The cover of a NAMBLA Bulletin deriding a magazine's incitement of sex tourists to exploit Thai boys

Certainly Mr. Darling has laid bare a truth we could all agree to. Critics, however, will tear his thesis apart on the following points: 1) Western paedophiles seek only the beautiful boys and leave those “repulsive, scabrous and aggressive beggar-youths” to stew in their wretchedness. 2) A Western paedophile, no matter how close his relationship with a Third World boy becomes, always ultimately leaves: from then on the boy must “weep himself to sleep” alone. 3) There is genuine boy prostitution for foreigners in the Third World devoid of the benefits and caring described in this letter, and its conspicuousness is what alerted employees of opportunistic charities like Terre des Hommes and set off the current witch hunt by UNICEF and the media. 4) The role of dispensing “appropriate benefits, balancing requests with real needs, as is the obligation of a good prince” implies an enormous power imbalance.

Alas, one man, with all his peculiarities and the limitations upon his career, can only do so much for so many people for only so long. Because he helps himself while helping a boy he perceives as beautiful should not be used as a reason to prevent him from helping. Because the man will ultimately leave, and may leave a gap in the boy’s heart, does not mean that the boy will be emotionally (and physically) poorer for the relationship. Because there is hard, sometimes exploitative prostitution in the world does not mean that less casual relationships between richer men and poorer boys should be broken up. Finally, we should never lose sight of the fact that there is a “power imbalance” in all adult-child relationships and what counts is the way the adult handles his power not the fact that he or she has it: using this argument to attack sexual relationships is just clothing old psycho-religious sex mores in lefty-trendy-feminist rhetoric.

[1] Darling, in common with Pan and other publications in the 1970s, was fond of using the term “paedophile” inaccurately to describe hebephile relationships, i.e. liaisons between men and pubescent boys, what Greek love was typically about. In reality, what is under discussion here, by both Darling and Pan, was hebephilic, as becomes clear if one refers to Darling’s lengthier account of these two liaisons in his It’s Okay to Say Yes, where Toni is described as twelve and Majid as eleven when they met.



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