BOYS SPEAK OUT

ON MAN/BOY LOVE

Introduction

by David Thorstad

Boy-lovers are sometimes accused of speaking for boys, rather than allowing boys to speak for themselves. This accusation has always struck me as unfair. If boys ~ and children in general ~ are denied a voice about matters of concern to them, this is not the fault of boy-lovers, but of the heterosexual authorities, and even of the adult lesbian and gay movement, which often formulates its goals as though gay children did not exist. Nobody ever bothers to ask children what they think about government efforts to cut back on child advocacy and child welfare programs, to set an arbitrary age at which they are allowed to have sex, to draft them to die in far-off wars, and so forth. Children are never consulted about sex education, efforts to censor books in school libraries, the right of young people to employment and a fair return on their labor, or whom they wish to live with. Younger people are powerless. A diminishing segment of American society, they are denied the vote and say-so over their own lives.

Adults are always presuming to speak for children. Nobody bats an eyelash, for instance, when adult feminists speak for young girls, asserting that this is their right since they are addressing their own past experiences as girls. Perhaps in some measure they have a right to do so. But by the same token, why should not men be able to address the experiences of boys, since after all they were once boys themselves? Often, critics of boy-lovers appear to follow a double standard designed to deny the validity of the boy-lover's experience just because he is a man. In reality, being male gives one a special insight into the experiences of other males, whatever their age. The arrogance here lies with the critics of man/boy love, not with boy-lovers. A more tolerant and understanding population would be difficult to find.

The North American Man/Boy Love Association has always provided a platform for boys to voice their views on the issue of man/boy love. With the exception of gay youth organizations, probably no other group has made a greater effort to do this. Boys have participated in our conferences, on panels, in public forums, on the radio, in NAMBLA contingents in demonstrations, and in interviews with the press.

Nevertheless, while NAMBLA listens to boys, and struggles against ageism within its own ranks, it is true that most adults and state institutions turn a deaf ear to their voices. This pamphlet is a modest effort to correct that. NAMBLA will consider expanding the pamphlet in future editions if more boys are stimulated by it to send us statements about their own experiences.

The statements presented here are in the boys' own words. They have not been edited, except for minor punctuation and spelling alterations. Some of the boys requested that their name and address be given. However, NAMBLA has decided not to give addresses, and names have been changed, so as to protect the boys and their friends from possible harassment by police or other heterosexual emissaries of the state.

Man/boy relationships are very widespread, and go on in virtually every American neighborhood. We make no claim that this compilation is "representative" of all boy experiences of the man/boy love relationship ~ though in many ways the experiences they describe are typical. Barely a dozen statements are published here. Some of the authors are gay- identified, others are not. The authors are multi-racial, and span the teenage years, but none are younger than 13. They tend to be concentrated on the East Coast of the United States. All the authors have been sexually active with men, so they do not address the thoughts and problems of the boy who would like to, but has not had the opportunity to, enjoy sex with a man. Perhaps these letters will communicate a sense of hope and self-worth to such boys, who may read them and realize that their fantasies and desires are indeed shared by others.

Not every boy who wanted to contribute was able to do so. Not everyone, for instance, no matter how old, feels comfortable putting innermost thoughts down in writing. For many, perhaps all, of the contributors to this collection, it was the first time they had ever done this. They did so because they felt strongly about the importance of speaking out. Theirs are authentic voices, and NAMBLA is proud to help make them heard.

NAMBLA is working to change public perceptions and laws about consensual sexual relationships between adults and minors. Today, the law and public prejudice make little or no distinction between a man who forcibly rapes a child and one who genuinely cares for and loves a boy. Some judges have condemned boy-lovers as being "worse than murderers," even though their only "crime" has been to share their body and affection with a boy in a friendship that includes mutually enjoyable sexual experiences. It is a shame that in American society, it is a greater crime to love a child than it is to beat ~ or even kill ~ a child.

NAMBLA believes that any child, regardless of age, should have the right to say "yes" or "no" to any person. The child should have the right to initiate the relationship, as he often does. He should have the right to enjoy and develop the relationship without fear of shame or ridicule, or of harassment by parents or police. Children should have free access to factual information about sexual relationships of all kinds, and the right to control their own bodies without interference from adults. No child is harmed by any consensual sexual experience, but children are harmed by society's condemnation and persecution of their bodily pleasures.

NAMBLA believes that children need more than just sexual freedom, but it also recognizes that the denial of sexual pleasure can inflict severe and lasting pain. It is not the proper role of the state to attempt to enforce private personal morality, nor to "protect" children from themselves by denying them exposure to homoerotic or other sexual pleasure, if they so desire. The state should stay out of private bedrooms. Unfortunately, as the current FBI and police repression against NAMBLA shows, the authorities do not hesitate to break up friendships between men and boys in their vendetta against man/boy love. The state flaunts its power over the ruined lives of innocent lovers. Only by standing up for our right to love can we ever hope to end this injustice.

David Thorstad
New York, September 1, 1981

Copyright © NAMBLA, 2003. All rights reserved.