[Trigger Warning: This post contains extremely disturbing and graphic material dealing with rape and child abuse]
There were few more arrogant, smug, privileged American men of letters than Gore Vidal (1925-2012). A darling of the liberal left in both the US and UK, Vidal could expect fawning treatment in much of the media. Vidal was happy to celebrate the neo-fascist Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh, with whom he corresponded for three years following McVeigh’s conviction, before his execution, and called ‘very intelligent’ (see Gore Vidal, ‘The Meaning of Timothy McVeigh’, Vanity Fair, September 2001); he also dismissed Roman Polanski’s 13-year old rape victim simply as a ‘hooker’, saying:
I really don’t give a fuck. Look, am I going to sit and weep every time a young hooker feels as though she’s been taken advantage of?
The media can’t get anything straight. Plus, there’s usually an anti-Semitic and anti-fag thing going on with the press – lots of crazy things. The idea that this girl was in her communion dress, a little angel all in white, being raped by this awful Jew, Polacko – that’s what people were calling him – well, the story is totally different now from what it was then.
Since his death, as chronicled in Tim Teeman’s book In Bed with Gore Vidal (Riverdale, NY: Riverdale Avenue Books, 2013), family members, including Vidal’s half-sister Nina Straight, have spoken of Vidal’s fear that well-founded rumours of his having been a paedophile would come out during his lifetime. Straight believed that Vidal’s long-term adversary William F. Buckley would release evidence of his having had sex with underage boys. He wrote in his 1995 memoir Palimpsest of being ‘attracted to adolescent males’. Buckley’s son found in his father’s belongings, after the latter’s death in 2012, a file called ‘Vidal legal’, and a longterm friend recalled Vidal proudly announcing ‘You know I’m a pederast’, and also travelling to exploit boy prostitutes in Thailand (see Jon Swaine, ‘Gore Vidal terrified paedophilia claims would be make public, family says’, Daily Telegraph, November 11th, 2013).
The journalist Mark Lawson has raised the age-old question of whether knowledge of an artist’s life should make us view their work differently, as in the case of Carlo Gesualdo, Richard Wagner, and others (see Lawson, ‘If the rumours about Gore Vidal are true, what does this mean for his work?’, The Guardian, November 15th, 2013). I would ask people, with this in mind, to read again the following chapter from Vidal’s most notorious novel, Myra Breckinridge (1968), specifically the passage with relates with relish the brutal rape of a teenage boy, Rusty, presented in terms of female/gay empowerment so as to titillate liberal left readers.
I put it that this indicates what type of a predator, rapist and child abuser Vidal was, and that much of his life would have been better spent in prison than writing novels. And all of those who supported and eulogised Vidal through his life are accomplices in facilitating the rape of young boys, and none of them are ever fit to bring up children themselves.
BUCK LONER REPORTS
Recording Disc No. 777
Flagler and Flagler have come up with dynamite or they think its dynamite but you never know with that woman apparently the Monterrey Mexican marriage certificate is a phony and there is no record from what they can find out of her being married down there but we’ve been burned before I said to Flagler Junior who is working on the case shell just go out and prove they lost the records or something and then that doctor friend of hers will swear he was a witness which is what it sounded like on the long distance telephone call that was bugged and what do we do then I ask you question mark well Flagler Junior seems to think they are on solid ground with the Mexicans though he admits that our little brown friends are not only kind of confused in the paper works department but if Myra thinks of it and shell think of it the bitch they can be bribed to say that there was a marriage when there wasn’t so meanwhile I am biding my time until tomorrow when there should be a full final report from Mexico that there really isn’t a record of this marriage in question period paragraph Flagler Juniors New York man has already met once with Doctor Montag and his report is on my desk now as I dictate while being massaged by Milly who is the best masseuse in the whole business I mean that Milly you little angel that’s right rub good and hard it takes time but when it comes the Buck Loner Special strike that period paragraph interesting conversation with Letitia who thinks that Mary Ann Pringle properly handled could make it as a recording star and she will make some appointments all this is Myra’s doing she is meddling into everything trying to force the kids out into the cold world when their place is here protected and looked after I know how well I know showbiz and all its heartbreaks and Mary Ann will end up like all the others which is nowhere a waitress some place assuming she doesn’t get lucky and marry some guy who will take care of her and cherish her the way Buck Loners Academy does that guy certainly wont be Rusty who’s a wild number the Sheriffs office just asked me to keep an eye on him and I told him so yesterday told him that he would have to watch his step or it was the hoosegow for him he was real shook up and asked me not to tell anybody about his scrape in Mexico and I said nobody knows but me and Myra who happened to be checking into his file and read the Sheriffs last letter to me that woman is into everything Rusty seemed upset by this I guess be cause he thinks Myra will tell Mary Ann well its no business of mine and that’s for sure Milly you are the best ever and if you keep that up there’s a big surprise coming your way strike that period paragraph Myra asked permission to use the infirmary tonight God knows why I suppose she is mixing up some poison which it is my prayer she takes Jesus Mffly don’t stop Mffly Jesus Mffly 28 I am sitting in the infirmary, a small antiseptic white room with glass cabinets containing all sorts of drugs and wicked-looking instruments. Against one wall is an examination table which can be raised or lowered. It is now some four feet above the floor and tilted at a slight angle. Next to it are scales and measuring instruments for both height and body width. I am seated at a small surgical table, making notes while I wait for Rusty. It is ten o’clock at night. The Academy building is dark. The students are gone. No one will disturb us. I am astonished at my own calm. All of my life’s hunger is about to be fed. I am as serene as a great surgeon preparing to make the necessary incision that will root out the problem. This morning, after Posture class, I took Rusty to one side. He has been friendly and smiling ever since our dinner at the Cock and Bull and now treats me in the confident condescending way that the ordinary young man treats an ordinary girl. I put a stop to that. His grinning face went pale when I said coldly, “There’s been no improvement, Rusty. None at all. You’re not trying to walk straight.” “Honest to God I am, Miss Myra, why I even practiced last night with Mary-Ann, she’ll tell you I did. I really am trying.” He seemed genuinely hurt that I had not recognized his effort. I was somewhat kinder in my manner, sharp but in the Eve Arden way. “I’m sure you have tried. But you need special attention and I think I can give it. I’ll expect you at the infirmary at ten o’clock tonight.” “The infirmary?” He looked almost as puzzled as James Craig in the sixth reel of Kismet. “I’ve arranged everything with Uncle Buck. He agrees with me that you need extra help.” “But what kind of help?” He was still puzzled but, as yet, unsuspicious. “You’ll see.” I started to go. He stopped me. “Look, I’ve got a date with Mary-Ann for dinner.” “Postpone it. You see her every night after dinner anyway.” “Well, yes. But we were invited some place at ten.” “Then go at eleven. I’m sorry. But this is more important than your social life. Alter all, you want to be a star, don’t you?” That was always the clincher in dealing with any of the students. They have been conditioned from childhood in the knowledge that to achieve stardom they might be called upon to do anything, and of course they would do anything because stardom is everything and worth any humiliation or anguish. So the saints must have felt in the days of Christendom, as they burned to death with their eyes on heaven where the true stars shine. I spent all afternoon making my preparations. I have the entire procedure worked out to the last detail. When I have finished, I shall have achieved in life every dream and 29 I must write it all down now. Exactly as it happened. While it is fresh in my memory. But my hand trembles. Why? Twice I’ve dropped the yellow ballpoint pen. Now I sit at the surgical table, making the greatest effort to calm myself, to put it all down not only for its own sake but also for you, Randolph, who never dreamed that anyone could ever act out totally his fantasies and survive. Certainly your own guilty longing to kill the nerve in each of Lyndon Johnson’s twenty-odd teeth without the use of anesthetic can never in this life be achieved, and so your dreams must feed upon pale surrogates while mine have been made reality. Shortly after ten, Rusty arrived. He wore the usual checked shirt with two buttons missing and no T-shirt, as well as chino trousers and highly polished cowboy boots. He looked about the infirmary curiously. “I never been in here before.” “That explains why there’s no physical record of you. “Never been sick a day in my life.” Oh, he was proud! No doubt of that. “But even so, the Academy requires a record. It’s one of Uncle Buck’s rules.” “Yeah. I know. And I’ve been meaning to drop in sometime and see the Doe.” “Perhaps that won’t be necessary.” I placed the physical examination chart squarely in the middle of the surgical table. “Sit down.” I was pleasant. He sat in a chair so close to mine that our knees touched. Quickly he swung his legs wide so that my knees were now between his and there was no possibility of further contact. It was plain that in no way do I attract him. We chatted a moment about Mary-Ann, and about Letitia’s interest in her career. I could see that Rusty was both pleased and envious, a normal reaction. Then, delicately, I got around to the subject of Mexico; he became visibly nervous. Finally, I told him that I knew what had happened. “You won’t tell Mary.-Ann, will you?” That was his first response. “It would just kill her.” “Of course I won’t. And of course I’ll give a good report to Mr. Martinson, your parole officer.” He was startled. “You know him?” “Oh, yes,” I lied–actually I happened to come across a letter from him to Buck. “In fact, he’s asked me to keep an eye on you, and I said I would.” “I hope you tell him that I sure as hell am reformed.” He was vehement. “I will–if you really are, and behave yourself, and let me try to help you with your problem.” “Of course I will, Miss Myra. You know that.” He looked entirely sincere, blue eyes round as a boy’s. Perhaps he is an actor after all. “Now then, about your back. I’ve talked to the chiropractor who will arrange for a special brace. He couldn’t be here tonight but he asked me to take an exact tracing of your spine and then he’ll know what to do. So now if you’ll just slip off that shirt, we’ll get to work.” Resignedly, he got to his feet. Automatically his hands went to his belt buckle in order to loosen it but then, obviously recalling our last encounter, he left the belt as it was, pulling off the shirt with a certain arrogant ease. The belt just covered his navel; otherwise he was in exactly the same state as he had been at the beginning of our first session. I was pleased that my visual recollection of him was so precise. I remembered in exact detail the tracery design of bronze hair across the pale chest, as well as the small roselike inverted nipples. “Stand on the scales, please.” I imitated the chilliest of trained nurses.”Face to the wall and we’ll measure you.” He put one foot on the scales, when I stopped him. “Take off those atrocious cowboy boots! They’ll break the machine.” “Oh, no they won’t, why…” He started to argue. “Rusty!” I was sharp. “Do exactly as I tell you. You don’t want me to tell Mr. Martinson that you’ve been uncooperative, do you?” “No… no.” Standing rest on one foot and then the other, he awkwardly pulled off the boots. He wore white cotton socks; one had a large hole in it through which the big toe protruded. He grinned sheepishly. “Guess I’m full of holes.” “That’s all right.” The small room was now full of the not unpleasant odor of warm leather. Obediently he got onto the scales exactly as I directed, face to the wall. In a most professional way, I measured the width of the chest, and then allowed myself the pleasure of running my hand down the smooth warm back, tracing the spine’s curve right to the point where it vanished, frustratingly, into the white chinos as they swelled just below my hand, masking those famous inviolate buttocks. “All right,” I said, marking down figures on the physical examination chart. “Now we need your weight which is one seventy-four and your height which is six one and a quarter. The chart’s filling up nicely. All right, you can get down.” He stepped off the scales. He was surprisingly at ease: obviously our dinner at the Cock and Bull had given him confidence. “This doctor can really fix me with something that will work?” He was genuinely curious. “He thinks he can, yes. Of course, he’ll have to fit you himself. This is just the preliminary examination which, while we’re at it, Uncle Buck said I should turn into an ordinary physical and so kill two birds with one stone, as he put it in his colorful way.” “You mean like height and weight and that stuff?” As yet he showed no particular alarm. “Exactly,” I said, ready now to begin to shake his selfconfidence. I took a small bottle. “That means a urine specimen.” The look of surprise was exquisite as he took the bottle. “Go behind that screen.” I indicated a white screen in one corner of the room. “But…”he began. “But?” I repeated pleasantly. Without a word, he went behind the screen which was waist-high. He turned and faced the wall; he fumbled with his trousers. Then there was a long moment of complete silence. “What’s the matter?” I asked. “I… don’t know. I guess I’m what they call peeshy.” “Don’t be. Just relax. We’ve got plenty of time.” The thought of “plenty of time” had a most releasing effect. Water passed into the bottle with a surging sound. He then rearranged his clothes and brought me the specimen which I took (marveling at the warmth of the glass: we are furnaces inside!) and carefully placed on it a white sticker inscribed with his name. The entire affair was conducted without a false note. “Now then we’ll just do a drawing of the spine. Loosen your belt and lie face down on the table.” For the first time he seemed aware that history might repeat itself. He stalled. “Maybe we better wait till I see the doctor.” “Rusty,” I was patient but firm. “I’m just following doctor’s orders and you are going to follow my orders, or else. Is that understood?” “Well, yes, but… “There are no ‘buts’ for someone on probation.” “Yes, ma’am!” He got the point. Quickly he undid the belt buckle; then he unfastened the catch to his trousers and, holding them firmly in place, lay face-down on the table. It was a delicious sight, that slender muscular body stretched full length as sacrifice to some cruel goddess. His arms were at his sides, and I noticed with some amusement that he was pressing the palms hard against the table, instinctively repeating his earlier performance. I covered his back with a large sheet of paper. Then with an eyebrow pencil, I slowly traced the spine’s course from the nape of the neck to the line of his trousers. “This is going very, very well.” I sounded to my own ears exactly like Laraine Day, an all-time favorite. “It sort of tickles,” came a muffled voice. Triceps muscles writhed beneath silk-smooth skin. “Are you ticklish?” This suddenly opened an unexpected vista. Fortunately my program was so designed as to include an occasional inspired improvisation. “Well, no, not really…” But I had already taken one large sweaty foot in hand (again marveling at the body heat through the thin sock) and delicately tickled the base of the toes. The effect was electric. The whole body gave a sudden twitch. With a powerful reflex, he kicked the foot from my hand, exclaiming “Cut that out!” in a masterful voice, so entirely had he forgotten his place. I was mild. “Do that again, Rusty, and I will punish you.” “I’m sorry, Miss Myra.” He was conciliatory. He looked at me over his shoulder (the tracing paper had fallen to the floor). “I guess I’m more ticklish than I thought.” “Apparently. Or perhaps I hurt you. You don’t have athlete’s foot, do you?” “Oh, no. No. Not for a long time… in the summer, sometimes…” “We’ll just take a look.” With some difficulty, I slipped off the damp socks. If I were a foot-fetishist like poor Myron, I would have been in seventh heaven. As it was, what excited me was his profound embarrassment, for he has the American male’s horror of smelling bad. Actually, he was relatively odorless. “You must have just had a shower,” I said. He buried his face in the table. “Yeah… just now.” Carefully I examined each toe, holding it tight as though I feared that, at any moment, one of the little piggies might decide to run all the way home. But except for a certain rigidity of the body, he did not show, in any way, distress; not even when I examined each pink toe. “Good,” I said, putting the foot down. “You’re learning control. Ticklishness is a sign of sexual fear, did you know that?” A faint “no” from the head of the table. “That’s why I was so surprised at the way you reacted when I touched your foot. From what you said at the Cock and Bull I couldn’t imagine you ever being tense with a woman.” “I guess you sort of took me by surprise,” was the best that he could think to say. In his present position, he obviously did not want to be reminded of his usual cockiness. “I’m sorry,” I said, deftly sliding his trousers down to his knees. As I had anticipated, he gave a slight gasp but made no move other than to grip with both hands the sides of the trousers in an effort to keep at least his front decently covered. On the table before me, like some cannibal banquet, the famous buttocks curved beneath frayed Jockey shorts. Below the elastic, two round holes, like eyes, revealed fair skin. Teasingly, I put my finger in one of the holes. He winced at the touch. “Doesn’t Mary-Ann ever mend your clothes?” “She… can’t… sew…” He sounded as if he had been running hard, and could not get his breath. But at least he had steeled himself for my next move. The total unveiling of the buttocks was accomplished in an absolute, almost religious, silence. They were glorious. Under the direct overhead light, I was able to appreciate physical details that I had missed in the office. A tiny dark mole on one cheek. An angry red pimple just inside the crack where a hair had grown in upon itself. The iridescent quality of the skin which was covered with the most delicate pale peach fuzz, visible only in a strong light and glittering now with new sweat. I could smell his fear. It was intoxicating. I also noted that although I had pulled the Jockey shorts down to the thighs in the back, he had craftily contrived to hold them up in front, and so his honor, he believed, was only half lost. Intimately I passed my hand over the hard buttocks, firmly locked to all intruders, and remarked, according to plan, “You aren’t feverish, are you?” “No… I’m O.K….” The voice was barely audible. With my free hand I felt his brow; it was bathed in perspiration. “You are hot. We’d better take your temperature. Besides, they want it for the chart.” As I went over to the surgical table and prepared the thermometer, he watched me dully, like a trapped animal. Then I returned to my quarry and, putting one hand on each cheek at the exact point where buttock joins thigh, I said, “Relax now.” He raised up on his arms and looked around at me, eyes suddenly bright with alarm. “What?” “I’ve got to take your temperature, Rusty.” “But… there?” His voice broke like a teenage boy’s. “Of course. Now then… “But why can’t you use the other kind, you know, in the mouth…” With the back of my left hand, I struck him hard across the bottom. He gasped, pulled back. “There is more where that came from,” I said coldly, noting with pleasure a certain darkening of skin where the blood had been brought to the surface by the force of my blow. “Yes, ma’am.” Defeated, the head returned to its position on the table and once again I put my hands on those firm cheeks. “Now,” I said, “relax the muscle.” I could feel beneath my fingers the muscles slowly, reluctantly go slack. I confess I was now trembling with excitement. Gently, carefully I pushed the cheeks apart until everything–secret sphincter and all–was revealed. Normally at moments of great victory, there is a sense of letdown. But not in this case. For one thing I had half feared to find him not clean–unlike so many anal erotics I am not at all attracted by fecal matter, quite the reverse in fact. Yet had he not been tidy, his humiliation would have been total. So I was torn between conflicting desires. As it turned out, his shower had been thorough. The sphincter resembled a tiny pale pink tea rose, or perhaps a kitten’s nose and mouth. From its circumference, like the rays of a sunburst, bronze hairs reflected the overhead light. The only disappointment was that he had craftily managed to arrange his scrotum so that it was entirely out of view, only a thick tuft of hair at the juncture of the groin indicating the direction in which it could be found. But sufficient to the moment are the revelations thereof. I squeezed some lubricant from a tube onto my index finger and then, delicately, touched the never-used entrance. A tremor went through his whole body-the term “fleshquake” occurred to me: so Atlantis must have shuddered before the fall! Carefully, daintily, I applied the lubricant to the silky puckered surface. He held himself quite rigid, again not breathing. Then I grew bolder. I inserted my finger into the tight hot place as far as it would go. I must have touched the prostate for he suddenly groaned, but said nothing. Then, either deliberately or through uncontrollable reflex, he brought the full force of his youthful muscularity to bear on the sphincter muscle and for a moment it felt as though my finger might be nipped off. With my free hand, I slapped his right buttock smartly. “Relax!” I commanded. He mumbled something I could not hear and the sphincter again loosened. I then removed my finger and inserted the thermometer, after first teasing the virginal orifice with delicate probes that made him squirm. Once the thermometer was in, it was completely lost to sight for his buttocks are deep and since the legs were only slightly spread, his cheeks promptly came together when I let them go. I then took up the chart and read off a list of childhood diseases. Chicken pox, measles, whooping cough and he whispered “yes” or “no” or “I don’t remember” in response to the catechism. When I was finished, I said, “All in all, a healthy young boy.” My cold cheery manner was calculated to increase his alarm; obviously it did for not once would he look at me, preferring to stare at the wall just opposite, chin pushed hard against the table. “Now let’s see what’s cooking.” I pushed open the cheeks and slowly removed the thermometer. He was normal of course but I saw fit to lie: “Just as I thought, you do have a touch of fever.–Well, we’ll soon take care of that. Now roll over on your back.” He did as he was told, swiftly pulling up trousers and shorts in front; nevertheless, the line of his belt was two inches below the navel and could not, in his present position, be pulled higher. As a result, the timberline of pubic hair was briefly revealed, briefly because he promptly placed both hands over himself in an attempt to hide the quarry from the hunter’s approach. On his back, bare feet pointed and chest streaked with sweat, he seemed smaller than in fact he was, already more boy than man, despite the mature muscularity of the torso. The process of diminishing was well begun. He looked up at me, apprehensively. “Is there much morel got to do?” “We must both follow the chart.” I was enigmatic as I picked up a wooden tongue depressor. “Open your mouth.” He obeyed. I pressed down the pink tongue until he gagged, noting, as I did, the whiteness of the teeth and the abnormal salivation that fear sometimes creates. “You take good care of your teeth.” I gave him the sort of grudging compliment the stern nurse gives a child. “Your body, too. I was happily surprised to find that you were clean in places most boys your age neglect.” Carefully I was reducing his status from man to boy to child to–ah, the triumph! He responded numbly to the progression, blinking with embarrassment. “Now put your hands behind your head.” Slowly he obeyed, aware that I could now see at least a quarter of an inch of dark pubic hair, surprisingly thick and in texture coarser than the fine hairs on the rest of his body. A pulse just above the navel beat rapidly, causing the entire stomach to quiver like some frightened small beast. I let my hand rest lightly on his navel. Crisp hairs tickled my palm as Tin turn tickled them. I could feel the pounding of the blood in his arteries. The sense of power was overwhelming. I felt as if, in some way, it was I who controlled the coursing of the blood in his veins and that it was at my command that the heart beat at all. I felt that I could do anything. “You seem nervous, Rusty.” I challenged him. He swallowed hard. “No… no, Miss Myra. No, I’m not really. It’s just that it’s kind of hot in here…” “And you’re not enjoying your examination.” “Well, it’s kind of strange, you know……” His voice trailed off nervously. “What’s kind of strange?” “Well, you know… I mean having a girl… you know, a lady, like you, do all this to a guy.” “Haven’t you ever been examined by a nurse?” “Never!” This reversion to the old masculine Rusty was promptly quelled by the sudden tug I gave to his Jockey shorts; the full bush was now visible, though nothing else for the shorts were stopped at the crucial juncture by the weight of his body. With great thoroughness, I felt the different sections of his belly, taking pleasure in the firmness of muscles, hard rubber beneath silk. I lingered for quite some time over the pubic area, taking the powerful pulse of each of the two arteries that meet at the groin. I could not, however, make out even the base of his penis. I then took an instrument which resembled sugar tongs, used to test the thickness of the skin’s subcutaneous layer. With frightened eyes, he watched as I picked away at the skin of his belly, pulling the skin as high as I could and then releasing it with a snap. “Nicely resilient,” I said, pinching hard as I could a fold of his belly and causing him to cry out plaintively, “Hey, that hurts!” The return to childhood was well underway. “Stop being such a baby!” Delicately I took one of his nipples in the tongs. He shrank from me, but the tongs pursued. I was careful, however, not to hurt him. With feather touch, I teased the tiny inverted nipple, making him writhe at the tickling pleasure it gave him. Then, suddenly, the nipple was erect. I then teased the other nipple, manipulating the golden aureole of hairs until it, too, ceased to be concave. A glassy look came into his eyes; for the first time an erogenous zone had been explored and exploited (I do not count the probing of his sphincter which, in the context of my investigation, did not arouse him, rather the reverse). I looked at the front of his trousers to see if there was any sudden swelling but I could detect nothing. “You had better slip off those trousers,” I said. “They’re getting badly creased, the way you’re sweating.” “Oh, that’s O.K.” His voice cracked again. “Hurry up! We haven’t got all night.” Grimly he sat up and pulled his trousers down over his knees. I pulled them over his feet and carefully hung them on a chair. When I turned back to my victim, I was surprised to find him sitting up on the table, poised for flight. He had trickily used the turning of my back to restore his shorts to their normal position. Sitting as he was, bare legs dangling over the table, I could see nothing of the crotch, concealed by muscular thighs pressed close together while both hands rested protectively in his lap. He was not going to surrender the last bastion without a struggle. “I didn’t tell you to sit up, did I?” I was cold. “But I thought you were through with me here.” The timbre of the voice had become light; he sounded like a pubescent boy trying to escape punishment. “You’re not finished until I say you are. All right. Stand up. Over here. In front of me.” He got to his feet and approached to within a foot of me. There he stood, awkwardly, hands crossed in front of him, torso glittering with sweat, legs as well proportioned as the rest of him, though somewhat overdeveloped in the thighs, no doubt the result of playing football. He was so close to me that I could feel the heat of his flesh and smell the healthy earthlike aroma the young male body exudes. “Rest your arms at your sides and at least try to stand straight.” He obeyed. The target was now directly in front of me, at my eye’s level. As I stared straight at the hidden area, he clenched his fists nervously, and shifted from foot to foot. The frayed jockey shorts were unfortunately too loose to reveal more than a large rounded area, without clear definition; they were, however, splotched with fresh urine. “Look! You wet yourself!” I pinched the damp cloth, careful to touch nothing beneath. He gave a start. “I guess I did. I was in a hurry.” “Boys are so careless about those things.” We had gone from bowel-training to bed-wetting: such was progress! I looked at the examination card. “Oh yes! Have you ever had a venereal disease?” “Oh, no, ma’am. Never!” “I hope you’re telling me the truth.” I was ominous as I wrote “no” on the chart. “We have ways of finding out, you know.” “Honest I never have. I always been careful… always.” “Always? Just exactly when did you begin with girls?” “When?” He looked at me dumbly. “How old were you?” “Thirteen, I guess. I don’t remember.” “Was she older than you?” He nodded. “In high school. She was a Protestant,” he added wildly. “Did she make the advances?” “Yes. Kind of. She’d show me hers if I showed her mine. You know, kid stuff.” “And you liked what you saw?” “Oh, yes.” A smile flickered for an instant across the frightened face. “Did she like what she saw?” The smile went, as he was reminded of his situation. “Well, there was no complaints.” “Would you say that you were well developed for your age?” “I guess so. I don’t know.” “Did you masturbate often?” The face went red. “Well… maybe some. I guess all guys do.” “What about now?” “Now? Oh, no. Why should I?” “You mean Mary-Ann is quite enough to satisfy you?” “Yes. And I don’t cheat on her.” “How often do you come with her in a night?” He gulped. “That’s awful personal…” I took the measuring stick and with a great cracking sound struck his right thigh. He yelled. Fear and reproach in his face, as he rubbed the hurt skin. “There’s more where that came from if you don’t answer my questions.” He accepted defeat. “I guess I can go four or live times but mostly we just go a couple times because, you see, we have to get up so early…” “Then you are quite a stud, as they say out here.” “Oh, I don’t know…” He gestured helplessly. “Would you say that your penis was larger than most boys’ your age or smaller?” He began to tremble, aware of the prey I was stalking. “Christ, I don’t know. I mean how could I know?” “You see the other boys in the shower, and you were an athlete, after all.” “I guess I didn’t look…” “But surely you must occasionally have taken a peep.” I looked straight at the worn cotton which hid the subject of my inquiry. Both of his hands twitched, as though he wanted to protect himself. “I guess I’m average. I never thought about it. honest.” This of course was a lie since in every known society the adolescent male spends a great deal of time worriedly comparing himself with other males. “You’re unusually modest.” I was dry. “Now I am supposed to check you for hernia. So if you’ll just pull down those shorts… “But I don’t have hernia,” he gabbled. “I was all checked out by this prison doctor in Mexico, and he said I was just fine in that department.” “But it does no harm to double-check. So if you’ll slip them down… “Honest, I’m O.K.” He was sweating heavily. “Rusty, I get the impression that for some mysterious reason you don’t want me to examine your genitals. Exactly what mischief are you trying to hide from me?” “Nothing, honest! I got nothing to hide…” “Then why are you so afraid to let me examine you?” “Because–well, you’re a woman and I’m a man…” “A boy, technically…” “A boy, O.K., and, well, it’s just wrong.” “Then you’re shy.” “Sure, I’m shy about that, in front of a lady.” “But surely you aren’t shy with all those girls you’ve–what’s that word of yours?—‘boffed’?” “But that’s different, when you’re both making love, that’s O.K.” “Baffling,” I said. I frowned as though trying to find some way out of our dilemma. “Naturally, I want to respect your modesty. At the same time I must complete the examination.” I paused; then I gave the appearance of having reached a decision. “All right. You won’t have to remove your shorts…” He gave a sigh of relief… too soon. “However, I shall have to insert my hand inside the shorts and press each testicle as required by the chart.” Oh. Dismay and defeat. “I think you’ll agree that’s a statesmanlike compromise.” On that bright note, I slid my left hand up the inside of his left thigh. He wriggled involuntarily as I forced my fingers past the leg opening of the shorts. The scrotum’s heat was far greater than that of the thigh, I noticed, and the hairs were soaked with sweat. Carefully I took his left testicle in my hand. It was unusually large and firm to the touch, though somewhat loose in the sac, no doubt due to his overheated condition. Delicately I fingered the beloved enemy, at last in my power. Then I looked up and saw that Rusty’s eyes were screwed shut, as though anticipating pain. I gave it to him. I maneuvered the testicle back and forth until I had found the hole from which, in boyhood, it had so hopefully descended. I shoved it back up into the hole. He groaned. Then he gagged as I held it in place. With the gagging, I could feel the entire scrotum contract like a terrified beast, seeking escape. When he gagged again and seemed on the verge of actually being sick, I let the testicle fall back into its normal place and took my hand away. “Jesus,” he whispered. “I almost threw up.” “I’m sorry. But I have to be thorough. I’ll be gentler this time.” Again my hand pushed past the damp cloth and seized the right testicle, which was somewhat smaller than the left. As I maneuvered it gently about, my forefinger strayed and struck the side of something thick and smooth, rooted in wiry hair. He shuddered, but continued to suffer at my hands. I slipped the right testicle into its ancient place and held it there until I sensed he was about to gag. Then I let it drop and removed my hand. He gave a deep sigh. “I guess that’s it.” “Yes, I think so.” I pretended to examine the chart. With a sigh, he sat down on the chair opposite me and clumsily pulled on one sock, tearing the flimsy material; the toes went through the tip. “You’re very clumsy.” I observed. “Yes, ma’am.” He agreed, quickly pulling on the other sock, not wanting in any way to cross me, so eager was he to escape. “Oh, here’s a question we forgot.” I was incredibly sunny. “Have you been circumcised?” The foot he was holding on his knee slid to the floor. Quickly he pressed his thighs together, wadded up his shirt, and covered the beleaguered lap. “Why, no, ma’am. I never was.” “So few Polish boys are, I’m told.” I made a check on the chart. “Does the skin pull back easily?” “Oh, sure!” He was beet-red. “Sure. I’m O.K. MaryAnn’s waiting.” “Not so fast.” I was cold. “I didn’t give you permission to dress, you know.” “But I thought you were finished……” The deep voice was now a whine. “I was. But your jumping the gun like that makes me very suspicious.” “Suspicious?” He was bewildered. “Yes. First, I let you talk me out of giving you the venereal disease examination, and now you’re suddenly getting dressed, without permission, just when the subject once more has to do with your penis. Rusty, I am very, very suspicious.” The blue eyes filled with tears as he sensed what was approaching. “Don’t be, Miss Myra. Believe me, I’m absolutely O.K….” “We have to think of Mary-Ann, too, you know. You could make her very sick just through your carelessness.” “Honest to God, I’m O.K. They even gave me the Wassermann test in the jail……” He jabbered nervously. “I’m sure they did. But what was the result?” “Mr. Martinson will tell you. I was a hundred per cent O.K.” “But Mr. Martinson isn’t here while you are, and frankly I don’t see how I can omit this part of the examination. Stand up please and put down that shirt.” “Oh, come on, please don’t…” His voice broke again, close to a sob. “Do as I say.” On that note of icy command, he stood up slowly and like a man going to his execution–or a schoolboy to his spanking–he put down the shirt and stood dumbly facing me. “Come over here.” He came to within a few inches of where I was sitting; he was so close that my knees touched the warm fur of his shins. “Now let’s see what kind of stud you really are.” “Please…” He whispered. “I don’t want to. It isn’t right.” Deliberately I took the Jockey shorts by the elastic waistband and pulled them slowly, slowly down, enjoying each station of his shame. The first glimpse was encouraging. The base of the penis sprouted from the bronze bush at an angle of almost forty-five degrees, an earnest of vitality. It was well over an inch wide, always a good sign, with one large blue vein down the center, again promising. But another three inches of slow unveiling revealed Rusty’s manhood in its entirety, I slid the shorts to the floor. When I looked up at his face, I saw that once again the eyes were shut, the lips trembling. Then I carefully examined the object of my long and arduous hunt, at last captive. A phrase of Myron’s occurred to me: “all potatoes and no meat.” Rusty’s balls were unusually large and impressive; one lower than the other, as they hung bulllike in the rather loose scrotal sac. They were all that I could desire. The penis, on the other hand, was not a success, and I could see now why he was so reluctant to let me see just how short it is. On the other hand both base and head are uncommonly thick and, as Myron always said, thickness not length is how you gauge the size of the ultimate erection. The skin was dead white with several not undecorative veins, while the foreskin covered the entire head, meeting at the tip in an irregular rosy pucker, plainly cousin to the sphincter I had so recently probed. “I’m afraid, Rusty, that you’ve been somewhat oversold on the campus. Poor Mary-Ann. That’s a boy’s equipment.” This had the desired effect of stinging him into a manly response. “Ain’t been no complaints,” he growled. But as he did, both testicles rose in their sac as though seeking an escape hatch in case of battle, while the penis betrayed him by visibly shrinking into the safety of the brush. “Next you’ll tell me that it’s not the size that counts but what you do.” I followed verbal insult with physical: I took the penis firmly in my hand. He dared not move, or speak, or even cry out. The shock had reduced him exactly as planned. I had also confirmed an old theory that although the “normal” male delights in exposing himself to females who attract him he is, conversely, terrified to do so in front of those he dislikes or fears, as though any knowledge they might obtain of the center of his being will create bad magic and hence unman him. In any case, the grail was in my hand at last, smooth, warm, soft. My joy was complete as I slid back the skin, exposing the shiny deep rose of the head which was impressively large and beautifully shaped, giving some credence to the legend that, in action, its owner (already Rusty had become a mere appendage to this reality) was a formidable lover. He was sweaty but clean (I was so close to him that I could smell the strong but not disagreeable fernlike odor of genitals). Delicately but firmly, I pressed the glans, making the phallic eye open. Not one tear was shed. “Apparently, you are all right,” I observed as he looked down with horror at my hand which held him firmly in its grasp, the glans penis exposed like a summer rose. “You’re also clean but beyond that I’m afraid you’re something of a disappointment.” The penis again shrank in my hand. “But of course you’re probably still growing.” The humiliation was complete. There was nothing that he could say. In actual fact, the largeness of the head had already convinced me that what I said was untrue, but policy dictated that I be scornful. “Now then, let’s see how free the foreskin is.” I slid the skin forward, then back. He shuddered. “Now, you do it a few times.” To his relief, I let him go. Clumsily he took himself in one hand as though never before had he touched this strange object, so beloved of Mary-Ann. He gave a few halfhearted tugs to the skin, looking for all the world like a child frightened in the act of masturbating. “Come on,” I said, “you can do better than that.” He changed his grip to the one he obviously used when alone. His hand worked rapidly as he pumped himself like one of those machines that extract oil from the earth, milk from the cow, water from shale. After several minutes of intense and rhythmic massage I noted, with some surprise, that though the head had become a bit larger and darker, the stem had not changed in size. Apparently he knew how to restrain himself. He continued for another minute or two, the only sound in the room his heavy breathing and the soft waterlike sound of skin slapping against skin; then he stopped. “You see,” he said. “It works O.K.” “But I didn’t tell you to stop.” “But if I keep on… I mean… well, Christ, a man’s going to…” boy, I corrected. “A boy’s going to… to…” “To what?” “Get… excited.” “Go right ahead. I’d be amused to see what Mary-Ann sees in you.” Without another word, grimly, he set to work and continued for some time, sweating hard. But still we were denied the full glory. Some lengthening and thickening took place but not to the fullest degree. “Is anything wrong?” I asked sweetly. “I don’t know.” He gulped, trying to catch his breath. “It can’t… won’t…” He was incoherent at the double humiliation. “Do you often have this problem with Mary-Ann?” I sounded as compassionate as Kay Francis, as warm as June Allyson. “Never! I swear…” “Five times in one night and now this! Really, you young boys are such liars.” “I wasn’t lying. I just don’t know what’s wrong……” He beat at himself as though through sheer force he could tap the well of generation. But it was no use. Finally I told him to stop. Then I took over, practicing a number of subtle pressures and frictions learned from Myron… all to no avail. In a curious way the absence of an erection, though not part of the plan, gave me an unexpected thrill: to have so cowed my victim as to short-circuit his legendary powers as a stud was, psychologically, far more fulfilling than my original intention. While I was vigorously shaking him, he made the longexpected move that would complete the drama, the holy passion of Myra Breckinridge. “Do you…” He began tentatively, looking down at me and the loose-stemmed rose that I held in my hand. “Do I what?” “Do you want me to… well, to ball you?” The delivery was superb, as shy as a nubile boy requesting a first kiss. I let go of him as though in horror. “Rusty! Do you know who you’re talking to?” “Yes, Miss Myra. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. “What sort of woman do you think I am?” I took the heavy balls in my hand, as an offering. “These belong to Mary-Ann, and no one else, and if I ever catch you playing around with anybody else, I’ll see that Mr. Martinson puts you away for twenty years.” He turned white. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I thought maybe… the way you were… doing what you were doing…… I’m sorry, really.” The voice stopped. “You have every reason to be sorry.” Again I let him go; the large balls swung back between his legs, and continued gently to sway, like a double pendulum. “In any case, if I had wanted you to–as you put it–‘ball me,’ it’s very plain that you couldn’t. As a stud, you’re a disaster.” He flushed at the insult but said nothing. I was now ready for my master stroke. “However, as a lesson, I shall ball you.” He was entirely at sea. “Ball me? How?” “Put out your hands.” He did so and I bound them together with surgical gauze. Not for nothing had I once been a nurses’ aide. “What’re you doing that for?” Alarm growing. With a forefinger, I flicked the scrotal sac, making him cry out from shock. “No questions, my boy.” When the hands were firmly secured, I lowered the examination table until it was just two feet from the floor. “Lie down,” I ordered. “On your stomach.” Mystified, he did as he was told. I then tied his bound hands to the top of the metal table. He was, as they say, entirely in my power. If I had wanted, I could have killed him. But my fantasies have never involved murder or even physical suffering for I have a horror of blood, preferring to inflict pain in more subtle ways, destroying totally, for instance, a man’s idea of himself in relation to the triumphant sex. “Now then, up on your knees.” “But…” A hard slap across the buttocks put an end to all objections. He pulled himself up on his knees, legs tight together and buttocks clenched shut. He resembled a pyramid whose base was his head and white-socked feet, and whose apex was his rectum. I was now ready for the final rite. “Legs wide apart,” I commanded. Reluctantly, he moved his knees apart so that they lined up with the exact edges of the table. I was now afforded my favorite view of the male, the heavy rosy scrotum dangling from the groin above which the tiny sphincter shyly twinkled in the light. Carefully I applied lubricant to the mystery that even Mary-Ann has never seen, much less violated. “What’re you doing?” The voice was light as a child’s True terror had begun. “Now remember the secret is to relax entirely. Otherwise you could be seriously hurt.” I then pulled up my skirt to reveal, strapped to my groin, Clem’s dildo which I borrowed yesterday on the pretext that I wanted it copied for a lamp base. Clem had been most amused. Rusty cried out with alarm. “Oh, no! For God’s sake, don’t.” “Now you will find out what it is the girl feels when you play the man with her.” “Jesus, you’ll split me!” The voice was treble with fear. As I approached him, dildo in front of me like the god Priapus personified, he tried to wrench free of his bonds, but failed. Then he did the next best thing, and brought his knees together in an attempt to deny me entrance. But it was no use. I spread him wide and put my battering ram to the gate. For a moment I wondered if he might not be right about the splitting: the opening was the size of a dime while the dildo was over two inches wide at the head and nearly a foot long. But then I recalled how Myron used to have no trouble in accommodating objects this size or larger, and what the fragile Myron could do so could the inexperienced but sturdy Rusty. I pushed. The pink lips opened. The tip of the head entered and stopped. “I can’t,” Rusty moaned. “Honestly I can’t. It’s too big.” “Just relax, and you’ll stretch. Don’t worry.” He made whatever effort was necessary and the pursed lips became a grin allowing the head to enter, but not without a gasp of pain and shock. Once inside, I savored my triumph. I had avenged Myron. A lifetime of being penetrated had brought him only misery. Now, in the person of Rusty, I was able, as Woman Triumphant, to destroy the adored destroyer. Holding tight to Rusty’s slippery hips, I plunged deeper. He cried out with pain. But I was inexorable. I pushed even farther into him, triggering the prostate gland, for when I felt between his legs, I discovered that the erection he had not been able to present me with had now, inadvertently, occurred. The size was most respectable, and hard as metal. But when I plunged deeper, the penis went soft with pain, and he cried out again, begged me to stop, but now I was like a woman possessed, riding, riding, riding my sweating stallion into forbidden country, shouting with joy as I experienced my own sort of orgasm, oblivious to his staccato shrieks as I delved and spanned that innocent flesh. Oh, it was a holy moment! I was one with the Bacchae, with all the priestesses of the dark bloody cults, with the great goddess herself for whom Attis unmanned himself. I was the eternal feminine made flesh, the source of life and its destroyer, dealing with man as incidental toy, whose blood as well as semen is needed to make me whole! There was blood at the end. And once my passion had spent itself, I was saddened and repelled. I had not meant actually to tear the tender flesh but apparently I had, and the withdrawing of my weapon brought with it bright blood. He did not stir as I washed him clean (like a loving mother), applying medicine to the small cut, inserting gauze (how often had I done this for Myron!). Then l unbound him. Shakily, he stood up, rubbing tears from his swollen face. In silence he dressed while I removed the harness of the dildo and put it away in the attachase. Not until he was finally dressed did he speak. “Can I go now?” “Yes. You can go now.” I sat down at the surgical table and took out this notebook. He was at the door when I said, “Aren’t you going to thank me for the trouble I’ve taken?” He looked at me, face perfectly blank. Then, tonelessly, he murmured, “Thank you, ma’am,” and went. And so it was that Myra Breckinridge achieved one of the great victories for her sex. But one which is not yet entirely complete even though, alone of all women, I know what it is like to be a goddess enthroned, and allpowerful.
Two quotes from this are especially relevant:
‘Later, by extraordinary coincidence, they [André Gide and Oscar Wilde] met in Algeria, where Gide had finally, but secretly, surrendered to his desire for very young men. Wilde and Bosie, like Halliwell and Orton 70 years later, were up to their necks in sexual tourism, and Wilde, again in Mephistophelean mode, sensing the string in the younger man, casually asked Gide whether he wanted the young musician to whom they were listening.’
‘Robert Ross, Alfred Douglas and Wilde passing round schoolboys between them on dirty weekends, Bosie and Gide having sex with 12- and 13-year old Arab boys, and all of them having compulsive and constant recourse to rent boys, match the worst excesses of the Paedophile Information Exchange.’
Nonetheless, Callow says that ‘it is in the treatment of their wives that both Wilde and Gide are simply indefensible’, as they lied to them and gave away presents. Clearly this to Callow must therefore be a worse crime than the rape of 12-year old boys.
Here is another review of the same book. I note in particular the following passage:
Indeed, much of the material in Andre and Oscar challenges Wilde’s reputation among liberals as a gay icon. If Wilde and Douglas are seen as gay liberators, do their supporters also approve of the activities of child-sex tourists? Or an age of consent for homosexuality so low that it might as well not exist at all? Or the sort of flirtation with the sons of one’s married lovers Douglas was keen to indulge in? If the answers are no, such liberals need radically to examine their casual support for everything Wilde stood for. If it is yes, then why are they not challenging current laws against paedophiles?
The links between Wilde and Douglas (and many others) and the ‘Uranian’ movement (who have been described as a predecessor of the Paedophile Information Exchange), are something about which I intend to write in more detail at a later date. Johann Hari wrote a very good piece in 2009 following apologia for paedophilia by Alan Bennett, Gore Vidal, Stephen Fry and others (Hari, ‘Alan Bennett and the question of innocence’, The Independent, November 27th, 2009).
I hate the hysterical way in which any sorts of sexual offences against children (or adult sexual assaults of whatever degree) are used in order to completely dehumanise the perpetrators, leading to shrieks calling for permanent incarceration and sometimes torture and beyond, from some sections of the press and more than a few politicians (Labour as well as Conservative). I do not hate Savile, or Rolf Harris, or Max Clifford, or others – or Michael Brewer – I do actually pity them; what I hate is a system of values and range of institutions which legitimised what they did because of their power, charisma, artistry, or whatever. For now, I believe that only when people are prepared to view Wilde, Douglas, Gide, Joe Orton (whose diaries are a catalogue of anal rape of young Arab boys, which Alan Bennett conveniently omitted in his screenplay for Prick Up Your Ears), and various others, in a similar light to Savile or Harris, will some progress have been made. Those who idolise these former figures and make light of their activities might as well be consigning their own sons to be raped by them.
IN Algiers in 1895, Oscar Wilde procured for Andre Gide a flute- playing Arab boy, primarily in order to amuse himself and his favourite, Lord Alfred Douglas. As Gide climbed into a carriage with the boy, fidgeting and procrastinating, Wilde looked on, triumphant. Gide, in fact, had already experienced his initiation with another Arab lad in the sand dunes of Sousse, Tunisia; but that was a fleeting, fumbling, private affair. The boy had initially marched off in despair at Gide’s seeming inability actually to do anything when push, as it were, came to shove. When Gide met Wilde, he was still pondering the implications.
Before then, the two writers had met only in the Parisian literary circles in which they were both establishing themselves during the 1880s. After Algiers, however, the Irishman became a permanent, looming intellectual presence in the French writer’s mind. Wilde appeared, faintly disguised, as a number of secondary characters in Gide’s early novels; the protagonists are drawn out through their reactions to the Wildean figures. Gide, meanwhile, began to chart his own real- life maturation against his various moral responses to Wilde’s decadent- aesthetic pronouncements.
Jonathan Fryer’s Andre and Oscar reveals previously unexplored similarities between the two. They both had powerful, slightly dotty mothers whose influence on them was decisive. They both came from established families, which hindered, at least in the beginning, the extent to which they could practise their unconventional philosophies. They both chose to marry, despite being homosexual, and both genuinely loved their respective wives, albeit with gay abandon. They both preferred young boys to grown men, when they had the choice – Wilde went in for the tough blond things who strutted their stuff around Piccadilly Circus, Gide for the lithe, charming Arab kids who, then as now, formed little groups around foreigners.
Fryer’s book is fashionably focused on this last area. Perhaps it is fashionable distaste for such matters that compelled him to write that Gide’s “paedophilia” seems “not to have taken on any physical dimension”. This is like saying that Casanova never really acted on his heterosexuality. And it is a little embarrassing to see Gide defended from what he himself considered to be the aspect of his character he should, above all else, be honest about. Fryer also states, somewhat paradoxically, that “nowadays” it would be cautious Gide, and not outrageous Wilde, who would find himself standing in the dock. That is incorrect, too, since Wilde lost his virginity to Robbie Ross when the latter was a year below the current age of consent, and the boys Wilde wined and dined were frequently younger than that – as when he became involved with a 16-year-old who had been smuggled into London from Bruges to be installed in the Albermarle Hotel. According to Oscar Browning, the pederastic Victorian public-school master, “on Saturday, the boy slept with Douglas; on Sunday he slept with Oscar. On Monday he slept with a woman at Douglas’s expense.”
Fryer also writes, as though it was not particularly controversial, of Douglas taking a boy-lover named Ali in Algeria, whom he cruelly whipped after the boy was said to have been sleeping with women. Gide informed his own mother, of all people, that even when that relationship ended, the child was not still in his teens. Ali has been written about before. But Fryer further claims, this time controversially, that Douglas told Gide he was looking forward to seducing Wilde’s nine-year-old son, Cyril, as soon as he got the opportunity. It is not suggested that Wilde raised any objection to this sort of talk; nor does Fryer himself raise any objections. Unlike most of Wilde’s friends, Douglas didn’t have to pretend to be decadent, and most readers will sigh with relief that the relationship between Wilde and Douglas ended, however terrible the circumstances, before little Cyril could face the potential consequences of the latter’s advances.
Indeed, much of the material in Andre and Oscar challenges Wilde’s reputation among liberals as a gay icon. If Wilde and Douglas are seen as gay liberators, do their supporters also approve of the activities of child-sex tourists? Or an age of consent for homosexuality so low that it might as well not exist at all? Or the sort of flirtation with the sons of one’s married lovers Douglas was keen to indulge in? If the answers are no, such liberals need radically to examine their casual support for everything Wilde stood for. If it is yes, then why are they not challenging current laws against paedophiles? Fryer does not grapple with these points.
The more conventional aspects of Gide and Wilde have, of course, already been documented in numerous biographies. Fryer tries to overcome this difficulty by focusing on the mutual fascination that existed between them, and on their mutual friends, in an attempt to offer new perspectives. When Wilde was in prison, Gide bombarded Douglas with letters demanding information, and eventually they met up in Italy. When Wilde later settled in Berneval, Gide made a point of travelling there unannounced to see his old friend.
The book also contains an absorbing and original subtext, considering the experiences of both writers’ wives . And it successfully and intriguingly recreates the vast network of homosexuals in countries like Italy and Algeria, where pederasty was known to flourish – what others have called the seduction of the Orient and the Mediterranean; what these days is referred to, rather less eloquently, as international sex tourism.