DEREK THE SOCIAL WORKER, 1940S-70S
“S.81: Derek”, a social worker of 47 living in or near London, was one of the ten people interviewed in 1978 or 1979 by London psychologist D. N. Cox for his book, jointly written by G. D. Wilson, The Child-Lovers: A Study of Paedophiles in Society, published by Peter Owen, London in 1983.
Though the authors describe Derek’s sexual interests as “paedophilic”, in conformity with the secondary title of their book, they implicitly used this term inaccurately as one of convenience to encompass anyone attracted to those below the prevailing age of consent (for girls) of 16. As a man exclusively attracted to boys of mostly about 14, Derek was correctly a hebephile and his love affairs were “Greek” in character.
Besides their interviews of child-lovers, Wilson and Cox provided “a summary of each person in terms of the unique features of that individual’s lifestyle as perceived by the interviewer, recognising that this represents a subjective impression rather than objective data.” Here is that of Derek:
Derek gave the impression of being completely at ease with his lifestyle, to the extent that he lives with a boy he was involved with in a paedophilic relationship and who is now married. The wife is aware of the relationship that existed between her husband and Derek and apparently does not object to the latter’s presence in their home. Derek is also employed in a job which brings him into close contact with children; however, he avoids paedophilic encounters in this situation. He has been involved in long-term relationships of five years while at the same time visiting the Philippines for short-term experiences with boys there. In many ways, Derek seemed childlike in his behaviour and attitudes and did, in fact, describe himself as a ‘Peter Pan’ who had never grown up.
Derek was very relaxed throughout the interview and very willing to discuss his paedophile interests. Physically he is tall and, although forty-seven years old, gives the impression of an individual who does not want to be closely associated with those of his own generation. He appeared completely at ease with his lifestyle and did not seem to be withholding any information that he felt would be of interest, which made talking to him very easy. In his capacity as a social worker he comes into close contact with boys of the age range that he finds sexually attractive, but because of the obvious risks involved he makes an effort to refrain from any paedophilic activity. He is currently living in a house with a young couple. When the young man was a boy, Derek had a paedophilic relationship with him, of which the wife is aware.
Derek says that what attracts him in children is very much in line with what he hears heterosexuals describing as attractive. He acknowledges two components to evaluating a boy - the psychological and the physical. Derek is exclusively homosexual in his interests. Although the physical qualities of the boy that are attractive will disappear as that boy grows up, Derek makes a distinction that is important to him in this regard. ‘The most attractive age of an English boy is about fourteen, but if the boy sort of sticks with me he’s still attractive to me. Brian and I related till he was near enough eighteen. I couldn’t possibly start going with a boy of seventeen to eighteen; I just wouldn’t want to know. But because I knew Brian since he was a kid, it was a different thing. It was a special relationship.’ The point is made that it is not just looks that are important, although the physical attraction is most important initially. The boy must be ‘mentally attractive’. ‘I like kids gentle really, a sort of gentle nature. I don’t like aggressive people. Normally it’s as much the nature as the looks. The looks are the initial thing, the same as it is when a bloke looks at a girl. The appearance is the initial interest. But then you’ve got to get to know the person.
The discussion then centred on Derek’s relationship with Brian. This continued on a sexual basis until Brian was eighteen and developed heterosexual interests. Derek thinks most boys go through a period of development in which they experience homosexual interests which will last for varying lengths of time depending on the individual. He thinks it likely that if Brian had not developed heterosexual interests the relationship might have continued for longer. This would have occurred despite the fact that Derek does not normally find himself attracted to adult males.
Derek has been involved in two long-term relationships, both of which lasted for five years. In both cases the boys concerned developed heterosexual interests and have since married. The wife of one of these boys does not know of this previous relationship, whereas Brian’s wife does know and supposedly feels quite positive about it as a past experience. ‘There are people I’ve known for many years and I didn’t tell, but over the last few years quite a lot of them have got to know. I’ve not bothered to hide it any more, and it doesn’t make any difference. Instinct tells me who I can tell and who I can’t.’ It seems that all of Brian’s family are aware of his previous involvement with Derek and do not seem to be particularly bothered by it. Derek describes himself as being on good terms with the family in general.
As a social worker Derek frequently comes into contact with young boys who present behaviour problems. In this context he is careful to watch his behaviour, although he is aware that there is a certain amount of suspicion from some of his co-workers concerning his possible homosexuality. He takes care to avoid behaviours that he feels give him away, especially running and throwing.
Derek admits certain immature aspects to his personality. ‘In a lot of ways I’ve never grown up. I can enjoy the things, although I’m forty-seven years old, that kids enjoy. . . . I’ve been called the original Peter Pan by one or two people as a joke. In some respects I’m not emotionally grown-up.’ Derek finds that when he takes part in games with children, as occurs sometimes in his work, he often enjoys them to the same extent as the children. Despite this mutual fun with children, he says he has never been sexually involved with children in his care.
At this point it emerged that, when he was twenty-one, Derek served a three-year prison sentence for ‘gross indecency’ with a small boy. Over the period that he has worked in his present job there have been a few children that he has found attractive and he has avoided contact with them. ‘In any case I never twist anybody’s arm. I will create the opportunity and wait and see what the results are, but I’ve never persuaded them to do anything they didn’t want to do. Once I’ve made it obvious I’ve got an interest, having decided there isn’t a great deal of risk to it, then if there’s been no response then fair enough, that’s it. It must be a two-way thing, otherwise it is of no interest to me.
Following his prison term Derek changed his name and did not go back to the area where he had been living. ‘I literally built a new life.’ He describes himself as having been foolish at the time and that if he knew then what he knows now he could have got off. He also claims that he was very much in love with the boy at the time.
Derek says that sex was seldom discussed by his parents, especially not his father. He left home at fifteen years old, and his parents never discussed his conviction with him. He describes himself as having been a terror at school, which he left early. His first sexual experiences were with other boys in boarding school. He has tried to get involved with women but found them unsatisfying. ‘It doesn’t do a thing for me.’
Prior to his two long-term relationships Derek had many relationships that went on for a few months but ‘never a really lasting one’. For the last four years he has not had any real relationships at all. ‘Things are tougher now than they used to be, mainly because people are so conscious.... Any kid that would like to have a relationship is scared stiff to do so in case his friends find out, whereas at one time, before “gay lib” and that kind of thing, it was something that was hardly ever thought or talked about.’
Derek has travelled to the Philippines and planned to spend a month there during his next holidays. ‘That is absolutely fantastic. I’ve never felt so free in my life.’ He went on to describe the way of life in the Philippines which makes it a ‘paradise’, particularly the openness towards paedophilia. He had formed relationships which were openly condoned by the parents. Although paedophilia was very common in this society, he claims there was no excess of adult homosexuality. This he took to be evidence that homosexual contact in childhood was not irrevocably corrupting with respect to sex orientation. Derek has considered moving to the Philippines, but admits that this would be a difficult cultural adjustment.
As Derek is not currently involved in a relationship, fantasy was acknowledged as important to him. He has some films and ‘not so much fantasies as memories’ about past relationships. In talking about a possible future relationship in the Philippines he indicates that what would appeal to him in particular is a boy whom he thinks is basically homosexual. Derek thinks he can tell whether a boy will eventually develop a heterosexual orientation or remain homosexual. Such things as attitudes, interests and sexual behaviour contain clues which he feels predict the sexual orientation that will eventually prevail.
Asked about the legal restrictions placed on paedophilic behaviour, Derek said: ‘They’re bloody stupid really.’ He claims that the child who seeks a sexual relationship and is forced into an experience with a boy his own age is likely to be emotionally hurt because there will be no sense of commitment. The paedophilic relationship he believes is a ‘safer’ relationship. ‘There’s no way I would ever hurt a kid’s feelings.’ The paedophile would want to continue the relationship whereas another child would probably just be after a one-off encounter.
Derek questions the assumptions that children do not know what is good for them and need to be protected and that they will be damaged by being involved in paedophilic relationships. In his experience there is no indication that boys involved with a paedophile are more likely to be homosexual in adulthood. He agrees that no child should be forced into a relationship, but if they wish to have such a relationship they should be allowed to do so. Britain is seen as being particularly repressive in its attitudes towards paedophilia, not only as compared with countries like the Philippines but also other European countries like Sweden and France where attitudes are described as being more liberal even though it is still illegal.
Derek has never sought any professional help for his paedophilia because he ‘can’t see the point’. While in prison he did see a psychiatrist but this was a futile exercise done to satisfy the authorities. ‘There’s no way you can change, and the sooner you bloody well realise that the better adjusted to life you become. You have to accept it, you’re different and that’s it.’ Derek feels that attempts to change sexual orientation very often result in tremendous emotional upheaval for the person involved and ultimately cause a great deal of unhappiness. It is much better, he thinks, to leave people as they are in their sexual orientation rather than make a moral decision that they should change. In some countries such as Sweden children are seen as being much more mature in their behaviour and attitudes towards sexuality than are British children. The issue of protection of the child is also somewhat peculiar according to Derek, in that it implies that the child needs to be protected against himself since these are behaviours that he might want to engage in. He does not feel that lowering the age of consent will put children at any greater risk.
Derek then described how important he feels he has been in the life of the boy Brian with whom he was involved for five years. At the time that Brian met Derek he was having great difficulty at home and school and was generally very unsettled. Derek feels that his behaviour improved as a result of their relationship, such that he did better at school and subsequently found a good skilled job. In his opinion, the boy benefited greatly from his paedophilic encounter and yet he still developed a normal heterosexual relationship when he grew up.