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A Turbulent History

The Clarence Osbornes of this world have always suffered harshly for their sexual preferences. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the famous trial involving allegations about Oscar Wilde’s sexual relationships with Lord Alfred Douglas. Although Wilde was not accused of paederasty, the judge was so incensed at older-younger male relationships that in sentencing Wilde he said:

The crime of which you have been convicted is so bad that one has to put stern restraint upon oneself to protect oneself from describing, in language which I would rather not use, the sentiments which rise to the breast of every man of honour who has heard the details of these terrible trials.

The judge, however, was not prepared to leave it at that. He went on to say:

It is no use for me to address you. People who can do these things must be dead to all sense of shame, and one cannot hope to produce any effect upon them. I shall, under the circumstances be expected to pass the severest sentence that the law allows. In my judgement it is totally inadequate for such cases as this.

To the homosexual community boy love may well be to the 1 980s what ‘gay is good’ consciousness raising was to the 1970s. If this is to be the case, however, and if heterosexuals as well as homosexuals are to view paedophiles in a different perspective, then more about them has to be known.

In particular, the question of just how ‘dangerous they are can only be answered when we understand the motivations of their partners and their mutual physical and emotional activities. Clarence Osborne’s life has allowed us to examine these questions in some detail and readers can make up their own minds whether Osborne threatened the youths or society generally.

Clearly the medical and legal responses to paedophilia suggest that the community as a whole defines the paedophile as dangerous. This is abundantly obvious, as we will see in the next chapter, from the punishments they impose and the ‘rehabilitative’ methods they, employ. But the medical and legal procedures which are adopted towards the paedophile rest on the assumption that he fundamentally affects the boys’ social and sexual development.

Reactions to older-younger male relations have not changed significantly since the days of Oscar Wilde and nowhere is this better shown than in the Revere, Massachusetts case.Revere, a medium-sized suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, is a quiet suburb populated mostly by Italians with a fair complement of Irish and Eastern Europeans. Although the town was suffering from industrial depression and economic stagnation at the end of the 1970s, it had on the surface an air of quiet affluence about it.

On December 1977, citizens woke up to newspaper headlines loudly proclaiming ‘Twenty-four men indicted in a child pornography ring based in Revere’. ‘That sort of thing just doesn’t happen in Revere’, citizens thought. But on reading further they found that district attorney Garrett Byrne had broken up an interstate ring centred in Revere involving the sexual abuse and prostitution of eight to thirteen-year-old boys. Coverage in the newspapers created the impression that the boys were detained against their will, supplied with drugs and drink and forced to have sex with adult men as well as having to pose for pornographic photos and films. The men responsible were held on various counts ranging from lewd and lascivious acts to statutory rape.

The public outcry was immediate and fed continuously by the eighty-one-year-old Byrne who promised a hungry electorate that more indictments were in the offing. Byrne established an ‘emergency hotline’ so that outraged citizens could call up and report any other dirty old man whom they happened to know of in the neighbourhood. One day after the hotline was installed Byrne gleefully announced to the press that his office had been flooded with calls expressing ‘outrage’ at the child abuse and offering information that would lead to numerous other additional indictments, including, he hinted, that of a ‘married Boston minister’.

The Revere case is not an isolated one. In a recent raid Toronto police went into the offices of the gay youth paper The Body Politic and charged the editors with pornography after the paper ran an article called ‘Men Loving Boys Loving Men’, a serious attempt to look at the whole area of man-youth relationships.

On the other side of the ocean in Sydney, Australia, a thirty-four-year-old man was sentenced in the district court in 1979 to twenty-two years jail for offences against boys. Judge Thorley, who presided over the case said that the depravity of the man’s conduct was overwhelming and did not set a non-parole period. The man convicted had pleaded guilty to five charges of indecent assault, one of assault with intent to commit anal intercourse, and one of having committed anal intercourse. All the charges arose out of relationships between the man and the boys concerned, although there was no suggestion that force had been used in any of the relationships.

All the boys in this case were aged between thirteen and fourteen. The judge was forceful in his condemnation of the accused. He said:

The sheer depravity of all that is described in the evidence is simply overwhelming. Not merely had the boys been abused for the defendant’s own gratification, but also for the gratification of others by the use of photographs.

Judge Thorley went on to say that he did not wish to enter into a debate on the morality of homosexuality, but the offences were all committed ‘on the altar of homosexuality’. In one fell swoop the judge was able to reinforce all the stereotypes that people have about homosexuals and homosexuality, effectively putting back the gay liberation movement fifty years.

The judge of course was just reflecting current social attitudes and his views should not be considered special or unique — whether this makes them less objectionable is, of course, debatable. He was at great pains to point out that it was his duty to protect society, and in particular, young male children in the community. After sentencing the accused to twenty-two years jail, Judge Thorley said he declined to specify a non-parole period. The reasons for this were, in his own words:

I do not regard you as one for whom paroles offer any purpose. Nor does it seem to me that any purpose would be offered to society.

And Judge Thorley effectively sums up most current societal views towards pederasty:

These are men who are beyond redemption, who do not need consideration or assistance and who should be banished from society.

One police officer who investigated a major case of pederasty encapsulated the antagonism of most people towards boy-lovers when, after arresting one, he was reported to have told another officer:

I won’t ride in the car with the bastard. He is scum and scum is catching.

Editor’s Note: We agree with him

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