FRANCE IN BOYS FOR SALE
The following is from Boys for Sale. A Sociological Study of Boy Prostitution by Dennis Drew & Jonathan Drake, New York, 1969, pp. 33-40.
Boy brothels, despite the renowned beauty of the boys of Gaul, were never common in Roman France, except in the south. There was, however, even before the Roman invasion and continuing into the Middle Ages, a regular traffic in French boys for export elsewhere. It is said that French peasants thought no more of taking their pretty sons to market along with other produce, than they did of keeping their stronger ones to work on the farm. Long before the rise of the Turks, French traders in the south of France specialized in exporting beautiful French youngsters for the sex trade in North Africa and the Middle East. French knights and soldiers were known to have a taste for young boys when they invaded other countries, almost as early as France existed, but there evidently was little need for boy brothels. And we find little record of the methods common in commerce with boys of the Middle Ages except repeated reports of the tastes of the French Crusaders. A goodly amount of this taste was perhaps developed in the Middle East Crusades and in other countries where boy-love was the custom.
Once French cities became large and important, boy prostitution started a surge upwards. The sort of 15th century profiteers who had pandered boys for the infamous Gilles de Rais, were pandering boys for all classes of men in the 1700’s. Restif de le Bretonne, when describing the underground life of Paris in the late 1790’s, told of madams who walked in the parks to peddle quite young and provocatively dressed boys as “tender victims of the modern Tiberius.” At that time, all kinds of perverse intercourse, even with the youngest boys, was common among the nobility and even members of the royal house. Young boy prostitutes were presented from time to time to young royal princes for their occasional pleasure.
Laurent, in Les Habitues des Prisons de Paris, reports on young amateur prostitutes in the 1800’s who peddled themselves under bridges along the Seine. He tells, for example, of a runaway boy of 13 who was raped by an employer and then turned to prostitution on his own. At one point, late in the last century, it was estimated that in the city of Paris there were more than ten thousand boy prostitutes between the ages of 8 and 17. There was an organized trade in white slavery which shipped young French boys to Africa, Asia and Latin America. There were French boys for sale privately in Moroccan slave markets and in the harem of the Sultan of Turkey. In the 19th century, no boy brothels anywhere were considered complete without at least a few beautiful French boys in them — often boys as young...as...6!!
At the beginning of this century, young boys were available in many of the cheaper hotels of Paris, as well as those of Marseilles and other port cities. Many youngsters were employed as “valets de chambre” and as pages in such hotels. If they had not already been corrupted before they were employed, it was not long before they were seduced and launched into prostituting themselves.
In French city streets, there were many poor boys loitering with bad company late at night. The young ones of 8 or 10 were seduced by older boys of 14 or 15 who then turned them over to souteneurs, managers of the trade in boy prostitution as it was then organized. By the time a street-boy reached the age of the boy in Carco’s Jesus-la-Caille, he was, for the most part, a pimp rather than a prostitute. Occasionally, he would drift into adult male prostitution. When a souteneur took over an 11-year-old to manage his career as a whore-boy, he took the boy under his complete control. He dictated his life 24 hours a day — what he would wear, what he could eat, and where and with whom he could go. These young boy prostitutes were helpless in the hands of their managers and were easily shipped around the country or overseas until they were around 16. At that age, they usually rebelled and ran away or, having asserted their strength and growing independence, they went into the management side of the business and became pimps.
The souteneurs were almost always paederasts who greatly enjoyed the favors of the boys they managed as well as the profits from their work. (There were even fringe benefits from occasional blackmail operations on rich clients.) The little boys who entered the trade were called petits jesus. Rohleder, writing in 1907, said that these boys began their training at about age 10 and their careers ripened about 2 years later. They seemed to be very willing, almost eager to abandon their families to go with their souteneurs even though if they changed their minds later, it would be too late to return home. According to Coffignon, they reached the peak of their careers as boy prostitutes at about the age of 14 and then went into pimping. By the time they were 25, they were usually souteneurs.
Between 12 and 15, if not actually feminized, they were kept beautifully groomed and prepared. Indeed, one could pick out a petit jesus by the way he stood out in the midst of a gang of street urchins. His expensive clothes, his well brushed and often curled hair, his stance — all were dead giveaways to his kind of life.
Tourists to Paris, especially from Eastern Europe and the Middle East, were so excited by these boys that they often came to climaxes simply seeing them on the street or watching them undress privately. These young boys, poetically called “young martyrs”, were skilled specialists in fellatio and analingus as well as both active and passive anal intercourse. Their price was from one to five francs, although for certain “special boys”, the price might run to ten times that much.
Circus boys and runaways were also commonly available. Commentators on Hector Malot’s Sans Famille, (a popular French children’s book known in English as Nobody’s Boy), have pointed out that such a purchased street entertainer boy would certainly have been trained and rented sexually by his master. Even more recently it is reported from interviews with runaway French boys that three-fourths of them had found prostitution a lucrative source of income. They have been continually propositioned by adults while on the road. (See Jean Paul by Michel Guersant, p. 46.)
Between two World Wars, many Americans have been propositioned in Montmartre, Montparnasse and Left Bank hotels. Young boys from 11 to 14 would take down their pants almost publicly to demonstrate what they had to offer. As recently as 1948, a friend of one of the authors saw a 14-year-old boy undressing in such a manoeuvre — on the mezzanine of a leading French hotel!
Until the 1930’s, certain boys in street trades were also available for prostitution, especially the youngsters who sold flowers at street booths. They could excuse themselves at any time to go off with a man to perform a few minutes of fellatio.
A strong puritan reaction to the behavior of the Germans in Paris brought a great deal of this activity to an end after World War II. Observers tell us that Jean Genet has not exaggerated in describing the way German troops made use of French boys — the seduction of Riton in Pompes Funebres. Sartre, in Troubled Sleep tells more about the paederast proclivities of German troops. The film, The Victors, in which a 13-year-old boy prostitute brags about the German soldiers being able to take what they want. Germans staffed the baths, swimming pools and recreation areas with very beautiful young boys and especially enjoyed forcing French Jewish boys into prostitution for indefinite periods of time.
The post war reaction was “to clean up the cities, to reduce the frankness of literature and to protect young children.” Teen-age boy prostitutes, like Genet, almost disappeared entirely from the streets of Marseilles, except for certain well-managed Italian and Algerian boys. (See Genet’s Thief ’s Journal.)
Also, a greater permissiveness in cultural attitudes towards sex tended to turn the interest of the younger generation into heterosexual channels. Thus, French paederasts, finding their own boys under close supervision, tended to turn their eyes towards the boys of Spain and Greece, both popular places for post-war vacations. With the French withdrawal from Indochina and North Africa, there was less regular initiation of each younger generation into the pleasures of boys.
Since World War II — more specifically since De Gaulle came to ultimate power in France — the position of boy prostitution has radically changed. Of course, young boys are available to men who have money and proper connections in any large city in the world, but in France, boy prostitution at the present time is mostly confined to Algerians. The Assistance Sociale (government social workers) provides such careful supervision of French orphans and neglected children that Paris is no longer the capital of boy prostitution as it was at the turn of the century.
Today’s young Parisian hustler is usually looking for tourists to blackmail — continuing the tradition of the 1920’s when it was not uncommon for ten-year-olds to be involved in homosexual blackmail. Others still will expose themselves strictly for kicks, going with men who will fellate them. If there are any of the brothels that offer exhibitions between men and boys, the kind all over Paris in the thirties and forties, we were not able to find them even with our special connections. The French take pride in the fact that there is almost no prostituting of French boys in France — only young Algerians and Italians.