three pairs of lovers with space

MICHAEL DAVIDSON INTERVIEWED IN THE EXAMINER, 1973

 

The writings of the English journalist and boy-lover Michael Childers Davidson (1897-1975) are the subject of a special webpage. Here is an interview of him published eight months before his death by Dave Taylor in the March 1975 issue of the Examiner, “Britain’s progressive international newspaper” as it titled itself. Though not stated, evidence shows the interview was actually conducted in early 1973.[1]

It is an important principle of this website to reproduce what people have written in their own words, and not to presume to "correct" them, but it must be admitted that this may be considered unfortunate in what follows, which is exceptionally full of obvious errors of spelling and grammar.

 

Michael Davidson by Dave Taylor

Michael Davidson celebrated his 78th birthday last month, after a long career as a war correspondent. He recently surprised the journalistic world by publishing his autobiography, “The World, The Flesh and Myself”, in which he made no bones about his paederastic inclination.

This outspoken book was published by David, Bruce & Watson.[2] Meeting Michael Davidson is something of a surprise; his warmth and friendly welcome are so far from one’s naïve concept of a furtive or guilty paederast!

He led me into his bedsitter near Primrose Hill in London and explained that his heart was really in Italy… he spends a large part of his time there and almost feels himself to be “in exile” in England!

We chatted over a glass of wine; not without some embarrassment on my part after all, how do you ask a gentleman in his seventies to tell you about his love for young boys? However, he soon put me at ease and made me see that, for him, the whole subject caused not the slightest embarrassment and he was only too willing to share this understanding with me

Photo of Michael Davidson published with the interview

I remarked that one passage towards the end of his book made me think he’d reached a very concise understanding of himself: “And so I come to the end of a dissolute life. I’ve hardly any regrets; my unhappinesses were inherent in my nature. I wouldn’t have been different, not for ten City directorships; because with at my unnumbered faults I suppose I wouldn’t have had my few qualities. Looking back, I’ve enjoyed it all; sometimes it’s been disagreeable, but never uninteresting. I don’t think I’ve done much harm; I don’t believe anybody’s been unhappier for knowing me, and perhaps some have even been a little happier.”

Michael Davidson smiled at me and retorted, “It’s about time; after all I’m 78 and I’ve been active in many ways, including the sexual way, for some 60 years… that’s from the age of about 16, and if I don’t know myself well, I never shall. I’m not a homosexual, I’m a paederast… I make that distinction very strongly... a homosexual means that you love your own sex, well I don’t. I love a very restricted section… boys from the age of fourteen to seventeen. If they are still immature, tender and perhaps yearning, then I might even go up to 18, but they have to be physically immature, I cannot explain the attraction of immaturity… it’s something like prefering a rosebud to the full-blown flower.

Mr Davidson feels that the paederast performs an important social function; and he was only too pleased to explain this to me: “he supplies affection, love - if you like - supplies an emotional lack which hundreds of boys suffer from - they don’t get the affection at home or from any other direction, but, then can find it in a paederistic friend. I have in my own life proved that this is so over and over again, and not only in my own life, but from the experiences of so many of my friends, I know this is absolutely true. I’ve known boys who needed affection, all boys need affection, and so many boys lack it, they haven’t got it at home, not the kind of affection they want, but they do find it in “some old queer”. I maintain that I’m not corrupting or harming them in any way, certainly not changing the pattern of their sexual development! I maintain, and I do speak from experience, not theory… and not just in order to support my own desires or wishes… that you cannot change a person’s emotional trend through some experience in adolescence. All adolescents are bisexual until, say, sixteen, seventeen or eighteen, when they “branch”… they go either one way or the other. Or both ways… in very many cases; nothing that happens to them physically or emotionally in their adolescence or even in puberty, will change that trend or tendency. I think all psychiatrists agree that it’s something that occurs in the first few years of their lives; their sexual tendencies are determined… sometime because of an over-loving mother… anyway, its determined, I would say, before they’re five years old and nothing is going to change it.”

Cover photo in the same issue of the Examiner

At this point I thought I saw a flaw in the argument and asked Mr Davidson what would happen if he had a relationship with a boy of perhaps thirteen or fourteen, after a few years he grew up, got hair on his body, and the older man ceased to desire him. Then perhaps he could find another young boy and start all over again; but what would become of the original boy… what did he then go to… how did he feel about being a rejected lover at fifteen??? The author felt I was over simplifying…

“By that time he’s grown up, he’s eighteen or nineteen, he goes on as a homosexual, a paederast or a heterosexual, he just follows his predetermined trend. But here you have hit upon a terribly important snag in this sort of thing; and that is abandoning something that has learned to depend on you, although, thank God, I have, in my life, some very dear friends whom I first knew when they were thirteen or fourteen; and that friendship, without, of course, the sexual addendum continues into maturity. But, I have had, in my life, to abandon boys who had come to depend upon me emotionally, but especially perhaps, in so many cases, materially, I had to abandon them and just leave them. In my life as a foreign correspondent I would be suddenly switched from one country to another, well, you can’t cart several teenagers about in planes all over the world! After sixty years of sex sounds like a film title!, there have been great many boys in my life; However, I can loof back with a clear conscience and say that I have never done any harm to a single one of them, the only harm I may have done is because I’ve sometime had to break my promises to them. I think the only harm that sex can do to an adolescent either male or female, is to encourage them to equate money with sex… that is to say, for a boy to think, “cock stand means cash” is evil, that is a sin, I think it’s one of the greatest sins that one can commit, and it’s a sin which I, like everyone else, have committed. I think that trying to buy love is evil because there comes a point where a boy or a girl, “on the game” does, in fact, come to equate money with sex, it’s said that there are people who get an erection at the rustle of a five pound note!

I have a boy in Europe… he’s 22 now, but I knew him first when he was fourteen; well, I think I can say, I know I can say, that with one exception, since I knew him 8 years ago I haven’t so much as looked at another boy. Although we’re separated by distance I’m in love with him and shall continue in love with him until I’m dead. Physically, he’s too old for me, but he absolutely absorbs me emotionally now.[3]

In his book, “The World, the Flesh and Myself”, Michael Davidson says frankly, “as one gets older one’s body loses it’s physical appeal”; so if you take the case of a young boy with a lot of physical appeal, what does he get from a physical relationship with a much older man … someone in his 60’s or 70’s. The author wasn’t in the least reticent about this.

Davidson with perhaps the "one exception"

“That’s an interesting question. When I look at the idea of it objectively, it shocks me—it repels me; but then, all sex, when you stand back and look at the things you perform when you’re having sex of any kind, astounds you by its very absurdity! It’s squalid, it’s silly and a great deal of it is pointless! There’s a thing the newspapers delight in calling “Oral sex” which is a thing I have enjoyed in my life a great deal, and very often, but, when you think about it, what could be sillier. Anyway, to go back to the question! I think the idea of a lovely, delicate, tender, sweet teenage boy getting naked into bed with a horrible old man aged 60 or 70 is revolting but, the extraordinary thing, and the nice thing, from my point of view, is that the boys themselves don’t think it’s revolting! In fact, for some curious reason, boys don’t notice age I’ve discovered; I do speak from experience, not, as I said earlier, in order to provide evidence for what I want.

In the conventional sense my life has been dissolute. I don’t call it dissolute myself—except that I’ve always drunk too much, sexually I don’t call it dissolute!

I don’t have any religious faith, but I certainly don’t fear any sort of judgment on my “past”. If, as St. John of the Cross says, “When life is over we’ll be judged on love,” then I’ve loved an awful lot and I’ve given an awful lot of love. I feel I’ve done some good, I know I’ve done a lot of good in my paederasty. I know that I’ve made a lot of boys’ lives happier, perhaps even better, if one can talk about better and worse lives! If I had to think of an inscription for my tomb-stone I’d choose something like “He loved boys greatly”. When he’s in a reflective mood, Mr Davidson doesn’t lose his sense of humour, he told me that he’d once done a spot of acting.

Michael Davidson (centre) as a nun

“Not only am I a writer, but once in my life I became cinema actor, on television I played a nun! Two or three years ago a friend of mine who’s a television director was having a drink with me, and he suddenly said, “I think you would make a very good nun”. And so he hired me and I went to the studios in Cardiff and performed as a nun. I told my Rosary, while for some curious reason, a stark naked girl walked past me!!!”

Now that Michael Davidson has been met, I can say that his book is a remarkably frank portrayal of his “adventures” which accurately reflects the man himself… he feels no hesitation or coyness about his life, and, if one is sensitive to his tastes, he is only too willing to expound his philosophy of life at some length. His first chapter admits, “This is the life-history of a lover of boys” and he goes on, “From boyhood I’ve been a paederast, in the literary or Greek sense of the word, and have been to prison for being one.” He describes his incarceration in Wormwood Scrubs in the 1930’s without bitterness, “the impressions that have principally remained with me are the unvarying physical cold of the place.” 

I think the best comment on the book and, indeed, on Michael Davidson himself, is provided by James Cameron in his Foreward: “There is little gaiety in Michael Davidson’s account of that tormenting pursuit of love, though much wry irony and some regret. It does not deflect his quizzically objective humour and self-mockery. He always was a rum chap, and happily still is.”           

 

[1] Two documents in the Michael Davidson Archive (in the custody of the present editor) demonstrate this date. First, a letter to his friend B. de Chroustchoff of 7 December 1967 says that day was the 17th birthday of his last love, described in the interview as “22 now". Secondly, a letter to Davidson of 19 April 1975 from one Sam McCrum recounts how, following the publication of the interview, he had contacted the editor with a view to tracking Davidson down:
     “I subsequently discovered that the Editor had been cheating his public somewhat. The story had been the result of an interview two or more years ago. He had simply rehashed it.”
 

[2] Even in 1973 (rather than 1975), it was only a new edition of Davidson’s book by David Bruce & Watson that could dubiously be held to have surprised anyone “recently”, since it was originally published by Arthur Barker in 1962.

[3] There is much about this boy, who lived in the little island of Favignana off Sicily, where Davidson also lived 1966-73, in his last and unpublished memoir, tentatively titled My Sicilian Vespers. The boy, by then married, was bequeathed the royalties from his books.