three pairs of lovers with space

WHEN THINGS GO WRONG: DENMARK IN 1986

 

The following story is from Forbrydelse uden offer, a Danish psychologists’ study of people involved in adult/child liaisons, mostly Greek love ones, edited by the “Trobriands” collective of authors, published in 1986 and translated from the Danish by Dr. E. Brongersma in 1992 as Crime without Victims.[1]

As the authors explain, it is a compilation of the stories of four boys they had known, presumably in their professional practices, and is intended to show what was typically going wrong for boys drawn to Greek love in the Denmark of that time.

 

When Things Go Wrong

Real social awareness begins for most children at eight to ten years of age. This is when they begin to read newspapers and can follow television subtitles, when they start to discuss nuclear policy with their friends and to take an interest in the adult world around them.

This is also the age at which they begin to discover their erotic needs - that is, if the adult world has not succeeded in instilling in them restrictive sexual inhibitions. And it is at this age that boys become attracted to men they admire and can identify with.

If erotic feelings arise between a boy of this age and an adult male whom the boy likes and trusts, the adult will, in general, not show that he is erotically attracted to the boy, even in those cases in which the boy is impatient and tries to make his desires known. Also, boys of this age experience the strongest homophobic influences. (Homophobia is the fear of homosexuality, present in most men.)

Let us look at a story which shows what may happen when a boy's sexual curiosity and his desire for emancipation are frustrated.

This is not about one particular child, but rather a compilation of the experiences of various boys we have known: Rene, Brian, Kenneth, Dennis. We will call our boy Peter. The object of Peter's first erotic interest is his father. Peter tries to approach his father sexually when he is four; however his attempts are so consistently rejected that sexual play with his father remains physically impossible.

At the age of nine Peter becomes attracted to his uncle, however the uncle also rejects his advances. Peter reconsiders his rejection and is on the look-out for, or perhaps quite accidentally meets, a man who dares to accept his advances.

It is relatively easy for a young boy to make contact with an adult male outside the home when such contact within the home environment is refused him. In Copenhagen, for example, one of the city squares is known by the younger generation as the "Square of Friends." As one boy says, "If you sit down on the Square of Friends you'll have a gay friend within 15 minutes."

Perhaps Peter makes his first contact at the Square of Friends. He is invited to the man's home. They have a good time consuming soft drinks, watching videos and having sex (the days of bonbons have gone forever). Peter leaves with the urgent instruction - perhaps even threat - not to speak about this to anybody. And he is told not to come again.

The next time he goes to the Square of Friends the same thing happens. But now Peter discovers that money can be earned this way. When he asks for a loan for bus fare home the cash is given immediately, or perhaps he gets it without even having to ask. The whole thing seems easier to understand if money is involved, as though money, in some way, absolves those concerned from emotional engagement and responsibility.

Peter becomes acquainted with a man he is allowed to visit more than once, "but not too frequently – and be careful of the neighbours."

At one point in this process, Peter attempts to make the important adults in his life aware of his erotic needs, but his hints are so vague that nobody takes any real notice. Peter soon concludes that his needs are not understood. Young boys in such situations have sharp intuitions and Peter feels that his needs are being intentionally ignored.

Peter isolates himself. He withdraws from his parents, his teachers, his friends. Things begin to go badly for him at school and at home. The conflict cannot be resolved, as open communication is impossible.

Copenhagen in 1980

Peter's adult lovers are powerless. They cannot come into the open without the risk of judicial punishment and public condemnation. They are all afraid of a more than superficially erotic involvement with Peter. Young boys like Peter can only experience one-time sexual contacts or be party to secret, illegal relationships, at least until they are fifteen.

Peter begins his conscious erotic life when he is nine or ten; it is restricted to casual sex, usually in the form of prostitution, for more than five years - five tender years that have a decisive effect upon one's future social behaviour.

When Peter is twelve or thirteen the inconceivable happens and he meets a warm-hearted man, a man who dares to give free expression to his own and Peter's love. Peter hopes that the relationship will continue, however the decision lies ultimately with the adult. Peter settles down in this relationship and recovers from the unfulfilling life of casual contacts. But now, although he is more at ease in his old surroundings, he dislikes staying at home.

The man tells Peter, "You may come and go as you like. My home is your home. You can be yourself here."

Peter prefers to pass his time with his friend rather than stay at home with his parents who find him difficult and closed. There he can neither talk about nor express his feelings, and so they are not understood. All authority figures around Peter unconsciously react negatively to Peter's homosexuality rather than let him live with it.

Peter's friend would like to talk with Peter's parents. He would like to say: "Hello! I'm your son's closest friend. He's on the verge of rejecting you as parents and turning me into a kind of substitute father. In a marriage you cannot be father and mother to each other, and in a relationship of this sort we shouldn't play the roles of father and son. It's best to stay close to one's biological parents rather than look for substitutes."

He does not, however, dare talk to them. At the worst he would be immediately reported to the police. Perhaps Peter's parents would "only" throw him out of the house and send Peter to a boarding school in the country, depriving the boy of his lover/surrogate father, his mother and his father.

The more a boy's adult authority figures ignore his erotic needs, the more likely it is that he will be tortured by homophobia for the rest of his life, in which case prostitution will, perhaps, be the only way for him to satisfy his sexual desire for men.

Neither Peter nor his friend dare discuss their relationship with others - they are alone with their love and feel they are being persecuted. "Someone's at the door - don't open it."

At home Peter becomes more and more withdrawn, until one night it becomes too much for him and he shows up at his friend's house. "I've run away," he says and goes inside. "I'm going to live with you."

Although Peter is by now only thirteen, he thinks of himself as an adult. Nobody will decide over his life any longer. Never again!

"You can't do this, Peter," the man says, frightened. Peter has no idea how troubling his fear is. Peter is allowed to spend the first night. His friend suffers a sleepless night and stays home from work the next day. They talk and talk. Towards the end of the afternoon the man tells Peter he must go back home. Peter leaves, but does not go home. He goes to the Square of Friends. "I'll find a new man, damn it!" he thinks.

He manages to carry it off for three days by staying overnight with casual acquaintances. On the fourth day he is caught on the street by one of the many people searching for him.

So Peter does go home again. His father is a little proud that his son has managed to take care of himself for three days. His mother is relieved and cries hysterically - her little boy is back.

Peter will not tell anyone why he ran away. Mad at his big friend, Peter abandons him. He feels betrayed and badly treated.

A month passes, then Peter runs away a second time. He is tracked down and caught, and perhaps put under supervision or enrolled in some service for after-school care. He runs away yet again and now he gets to know about hustling and the drug scene.

When questioned as to what is the matter, he will only say that he wants to be himself, to be his own master, and to make his own decisions about his life.

Peter does not dare to open up and talk about what he wants and how he feels. Nobody has the insight to see what it is that Peter wants to be free from, and if a few people do start to suspect, they will simply shake their heads and think: "He is still too young."

 

[1] Published by Global Academic Publishers, Amsterdam in 1993.

 

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