Sunday, July 10, 2011

A difficult issue

During the 1980s, as I prepared for my two major works, Homosexuality: A Research Guide (1987) and the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality (1990), I felt the need to extend my horizons as far as possible. After all, I was attempting to cover the entire range of same-sex love in all times and places. To be sure, mine was inevitably a tentative effort, but (in all modesty) I do not see that it has been surpassed. (See the side bar with my Profile, for electronic versions of these volumes.)

Enough of blowing my own trumpet. Two areas I addressed were ones in which I felt no personal affinity at all: BDSM and pederasty (aka boy love or BL). As long as it involves consenting adults, Bondage and Domination/Sadomasochism present no problem as such. These behaviors are essentially role playing, and seem to offer psychic rewards for participants. That they provide no such rewards for me does not prevent me from acknowledging that they work for others.

The same degree of acceptance is not generally accorded with regard to the other behavior I noted: boy love. Over the years “intergenerational sex,” as it is sometimes euphemistically known. has become more controversial--indeed very controversial.

Occasionally, some Internet piece claims, without any foundation whatever, that I am a pederast. Well, one can say just about anything on the Internet. (It has also been claimed that I have received a MacArthur “genius” award; that I wouldn’t mind--but it is not so either.) Since I have not engaged in any behavior even remotely close to boy love, I do not worry too much about these fantastic sexual allegations.

What I do take seriously, though, are the concerns of several moderate friends, who believe that boy lovers are being unfairly targeted, and even persecuted. The remarks that follow reflect an effort to respond to one of these friends.

With various sites and blogs, the Internet has given a new lease on life to the BL movement--at least up to a point. In this profusion, two themes are prominent: 1) refining BL advocacy arguments (Bruce Rind’s work being the most sophisticated); and 2) injustice collecting regarding punishments that appear to be draconian.

Currently there are many punishments that seem excessive. Moreover, the popular television program, “To Catch a Predator” hosted by the odious Chris Hansen combines entrapment with voyeurism. Such sensationalizing does not foster serious consideration of the issues.

All things considered, though, these injustices do not serve to validate BL, but only to document the excessive zeal of the opponents. Validation would require a massive, overall study of the behavior of BL persons and their partners, a task that is almost impossible for several reasons. These reasons include the understandable secrecy of most BL practitioners, the possibility of legal retribution, and parti pris on both sides.

As regards persecution, comparison may be useful  Compared to BLs, a far greater number of people are languishing in prison for drug offenses.  It seems though, that through the ruse of medical marijuana, we are making progress in that realm, at least with regard to pot.

Thirty years ago, the BL situation seemed similarly flexible.  But now, in 2011, the boy lovers have completely lost the PR war. Notwithstanding that fact, the BL advocates prefer to dwell in an intellectual ghetto, constantly spinning their theories without regard as to how they might be deployed to persuade the public to take a more rational approach.   Preaching to the converted, they only seek to persuade each other--not much of a challenge.  

One useful step would be to separate pederasty (relations with teenage boys) from pedophilia in the strict sense--but most advocates do not want to do that.  All or nothing they say, an intransigence that serves to foster the upshot that nothing it will be. Then there is hope with what may be termed the “Romeo and Julio cases,” where say a 15-year old youth has a relationship with a 17-year old.  But the BLs want nothing of that approach either, because they see no immediate benefit for themselves.

The conclusion is blunt. In terms of public perception, the BLers are simply living on another planet.  The chances of redemption are very remote. Their current views and behavior are making that outcome extremely unlikely.

Some say that as long as the younger partner is consenting, there should be no problem. Focusing on consent as the central issue seems simplistic.  At the time of the Wolfenden Report in 1957 the concept of consent seemed straightforward, at least for adults.  Nowadays the issue seems more complicated, even for adults, as when some employee agrees to sleep with his or her employer to keep the job.  Technically, I suppose, climbing onto the casting couch is consensual, but is it really?

Doubtless many of the priestly pedophiles and pederasts think that what they were doing is consensual, but the pressures they have been able to bring to bear on impressionable Catholic boys are simply not analyzable in terms of consent.

We often hear that teenagers want and need sex; that point may be granted.  But they can have it with each other.  Lots of them do, and there is hope for moving to decriminalizing this activity.

A difficult point for both sides--defenders and opponents alike--to acknowledge is that not all BLs are the same. I would posit three basic types.  The first group, about a third, are arguably ethical persons, helping their protege intellectually and financially, and seeking to curb bad habits.  Then there is an intermediate group of mixed character.  The final third, however, are simply rapists of boys according to the "cock has no conscience" principle.  The reluctance of BL advocates to concede the existence of the last category--plenty of horrendous examples are known--vitiates their case.  They have lots and lots of bad apples, but to hear them talk there are none at all.  They are all, we are assured, benignly enrolled in the first category, performing a useful social service.  That idealistic claim is simply untrue empirically.

The most salient problem confronting them, it would appear, is the desperate need to improve their image.  Yet locked in the cocoon of their own self-serving theories--always "irrefutable" according to their own lights--they cannot seem to grasp this imperative.  Until they can bring themselves to address the image issue, they will be beyond help.

Let me put the issue in a nutshell--with this thought experiment. Supposing some billionaire were to offer unlimited funds to a Madison Avenue firm in order to develop a campaign to improve the image of BLs. What tactics would inform that campaign?

That is truly hard to imagine.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent article. The points are salient and the analysis is accurate.

9:40 PM  

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