Tag Archives: Police

Allen Ginsberg’s “Thoughts on NAMBLA”.

Reading a collection of essays by the American poet Allen Ginsberg I was surprised to find a previously unpublished text in which he explains why he became a member of the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA).

Now, NAMBLA has had very bad press and is generally perceived as a child abuse club but the truth is a little more complex. NAMBLA was formed in the aftermath of the Boston sex scandal of 1977 in which police investigations into allegations of abuse of minors turned into a full scale witch hunt that destroyed the lives and reputations of many innocent people including alleged victims who were subjected to ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques to force them to cough up names of men who allegedly had abused them. NAMBLA was formed as a mainstream gay rights movement but one that sought to include debates surrounding the relationships that can and do occur between men and teenagers. Having previously worked as a teacher in juvenile detention centres and having managed youth programs for homeless and at risk youth I can say that these intergenerational relationships occur by far more often than the public realise and are not always abusive.

Here’s what Ginsberg had to say,

Thoughts on NAMBLA.

I became a member of NAMBLA a decade ago as a matter of civil liberties. In the early 1980s, the FBI had conducted a campaign of entrapment and “dirty tricks” against NAMBLA members just as they had against black and anti-war leaders in previous decades. In the January 17, 1983, issue Time magazine, following the FBI disinformation campaign, attacked NAMBLA as a group involved in the “systematic exploitation of the weak and immature by the powerful and disturbed.” That struck me as a fitting description of Time magazine itself. NAMBLA’s a forum for reform of those laws on youthful sexuality which members deem oppressive, a discussion society not a sex club. I joined NAMBLA in defence of free speech.

Historically, societies have taken different views of this issue and the political heat that surrounds the subject is unnatural. Demagogic reaction to NAMBLA demeans the subject as a political football. At present European nations do not share current US public sexual hysteria. Various cultures and states offer widely varying definitions of age of consent – age 15 in Czechoslovakia and some US states, 14 in Hawaii. There’s no universal consensus on “consent”. It’s a fit subject for discussion, NAMBLA provides a forum.

Most people like myself do not make carnal love to hairless boys and girls. Yet such erotic inclinations or fantasies are average and are commonly sublimated into courtly sociability. An afternoon’s walk through the Vatican Museum will attest centuries of honorific appreciation of nude youths, an acceptable pleasure in the quasi erotic contemplation of the “naked human form divine”. From Rome’s Vatican to Florence’s Uffizi galleries to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, we see statues of prepubescent Eros, pubescent Bacchus, male ephebes (naked bodies 12 to 18), the adolescent goddess Kore, nymphs, naiads, young fauns and satyrs in abundance, Laocoon and his boys with pubes exposed, wrinkled old Neptune’s loins, old hags with undraped withers and dugs, Olympian Zeus and kid Ganymede. Western civilisation prides itself on its foundation on classical Greek culture, wherein intergenerational love was a social practice praised by philosophers.

A dash of humour, common sense humanity and historical perspective would help discussion of NAMBLA’s role. Further, libertarians or anarchists may remember Blake’s warning, “One law for the Lion and the Ox is oppression.”

These considerations shouldn’t be distorted to apologise for rape and mental or physical violation of children. I respect those who want to fix a general law to prevent abuse of minors. This is a real problem though less politically demagogic than advertised by some aggressive therapists, politically correct thought police, and the obsessive senator Jesse Helms. It is NAMBLA’s mission to raise the subject, explore it, and provide a platform for debate.

Child abuse laws have been abused, especially since the Reagan-Meese commission’s predictably incompetent linkage of pornography and violence. Subsequent formation of a Justice Department child porn bureaucracy sent federal squads roaming the states teaching local police to practice prurient snooping, invasion of privacy and lawless entrapment. Often police intrusion into consensual intergenerational affections and affairs results in abuse of both parties. Police authority also has made use of mind rape of the younger person, forcing unwilling youths to fink on close friends with threats of jail or beatings. One important function of NAMBLA is to keep track of bureaucratic manipulations of adolescents by police, FBI, media, and other agencies who handle such delicate issues with a meat ax. A Witch Hunt Foiled: The FBI vs. NAMBLA provides an impressive volume of information on these outrageous police practices.

Ginsberg, Allen (1994) Published in ‘Deliberate Prose’ Selected Essays 1952 -1995 pp 170.

What I feel is missing in Ginsberg argument is the role the ‘beautiful boy’ principal played in the development of western art and culture and not just that it was the most ubiquitous representation of the human form in western art. It was the aesthetic yard stick of most of the west’s greatest achievements and in all areas. What its removal could imply for future development we can only surmise but there are already indications of what lies ahead in the dumbing down and low quality of much of today’s cultural output. That ‘human form divine’ is now all but absent.

Junky and still no trailer.

There’s a backpacker hostel down the road and that on top of a cliff face is held up by concrete walls which, to the local kids is canvas for their street art. So far the game has been that the artists spray their tags, paste up or scribble some derogatory statement about the local police force on the walls and then someone paints over it the next morning. I’m sure this game goes on anywhere in the world where there is youth, walls and spray cans and just like other places, the strategy here has been to designate a space where local youth ‘can express themselves’ in an appropriate and safe environment, maybe a few social workers on hand to talk about gender fluidity and breaking glass ceilings, but of course the very nature of true street art is that it is art of the street and not just art in the street. Street art is anarchistic and the mere fact of a surface and the art that will be painted or pasted on it receiving prior approval from any authority whatsoever disqualifies it from being described as street art.

Anyways, the latest attempt by either local authorities or the owners of the backpacker hostel to put an end to the nightly decorating of the concrete walls has been to paste up a sticker warning of dire consequences should anyone feel an irrestible urge to ‘express themselves’ in the wrong place. But it’s a fail as well in that it clearly indicates that the authority who issued the warning was also too busy expressing themselves on public walls to attend English class. The graffiti will be given to police?! It’s a bit like the sign at the bottom of the stairway to the upper level of London buses that states, “Dogs must be carried”. Damn it – don’t have a dog.

OK, for the smart ass at the back of the class who asked, the sticker should read “Photographs of graffiti in this area are given to police’.

Sticker on wall.

In other aspects of life, believe it or not I’m still trying to get my hands on a trailer for my mountain bike. Had I four weeks annual leave in which to do this planned bike excursion I would now be putting the trip in the ‘nice idea but…’ basket. The latest attempt was yesterday when I ordered a trailer from a mob in Sydney and which offers a similar item on eBay and boasting ‘free delivery’ I noticed at the bottom of their ‘thank you for your order’ email explanations on how to calculate the cost of shipping. The trailer hasn’t shipped and I will deal with that later today most likely by requesting a refund. I think it would be better to order straight from China where these trailers are probably made anyway. Come to think about it, Australia Post still hasn’t got back to me about how the first one just vanished. That’s the third parcel they have ‘lost’ in the past six months or so, the other two were together and from an unknown source. Auspost had left a ‘pick up from the post office’ card in our letter box but when I presented it at the counter they were unable to find the parcels nor even determine whether they had tracking numbers. I made a complaint and in that instance they fell over themselves in efforts to reassure me all things possible were been done to locate them with even a guy presenting himself as an employee of Auspost ringing weeks later to make sure I was happy with their unsuccessful efforts. Possibly making sure I would not pursue the matter any further. Whatever was in those two parcels must have been important to someone and I would encourage the person who sent them if they are reading this to hit the contact button and I’ll reply with suggestions.Anyway, so here I am not knowing when or even if, I’ll ever be able to ride my bike down the road.

I finished reading Burrough’s “Junky” which I found is for the most part just a better account of life as a drug addict than those I’ve heard a thousand times over from clients when I was a youth worker. Drugs are the sum total of their existence and try to talk about anything else and in two sentences they will bring the conversation back to their habit and most pathetic is how they expect you to be impressed with what they believe are tales of epic heroism. Aside from that the book does get better as you progress and about half way through it even begins to attain a high level of readability with about a dozen pages of outstanding writing. I liked for example his description of the patrons of a ‘fag bar’ in New Orleans,

In the French Quarter there are several queer bars so full every night the fags spill out on the side walk. A room full of fags gives me the horrors. They jerk around like puppets on invisible strings, galvanized into hideous activity that is the negation of everything living and spontaneous. The live human being has moved out of these bodies long ago. But something moved in when the original tenant moved out. Fags are ventriloquists’ dummies who have moved in and taken over the ventriloquist. The dummy sits in a queer bar nursing his beer, and uncontrollably yapping out of a rigid doll face.

I’ve seen this myself and sadly the above description is fairly accurate. Burroughs was not a homophobe and makes no secret of his own same-gender sexual adventures which in 1953, when “Junky” was published, must have raised a few eyebrows. As an example – a boy in a bar in Mexico,

I turned to get a closer look at the boy who had moved over. Now bad. “Por que triste” I asked. (“Why sad?”) Not much of a gambit, but I wasn’t there to converse.

The boy smiled, revealing very red gums and sharp teeth far apart. He shrugged and said something to the effect that he wasn’t sad or not espeially so. I looked around the room.

Vamonos a otro lugar,” I said. (Let’s go some place else.”)

The boy nodded. We walked down the street into an all-night restaurant, and sat down in a booth. The boy dropped his hand onto my leg under the table. I felt my stomach knot with excitement. I gulped my coffee and waited impatiently while the boy finished a beer and smoked a cigarette.

The boy knew a hotel. I pushed five pesos through a grill. An old man unlocked the door of a room and dropped a ragged towel on the chair. “Llevas pistola?” – (You carry a gun?”) – asked the boy. He had caught sight of my gun. I said yes.

I folded my pants and dropped them over a chair, placing the pistol on my pants. I dropped my shirt and my shorts on the pistol. I sat down naked on the edge of the bed and watched the boy undress. He folded his worn blue suit carefully. He took off his shirt and placed it around his coat on the back of a chair. His skin was smooth and copper-colored. The boy stepped out of his shorts and turned around and smiled at me. Then he came and sat beside me on the bed. I ran a hand slowly over the boy’s back, following with the other hand the curve of the chest down over the flat brown stomach. The boy smiled and lay down on the bed.

Later we smoked a cigarette, our shoulders touching under the cover. The boy said he had to go. We both dressed. I wondered if he expected money. I decided not. Outside, we separated at a corner, shaking hands.

Beautifully crafted and I wonder if it did not inspire that page in Frederique Mitterrand’s book “La Mauvaise Vie” (“The Bad Life”) in which he describes his encouter with a teenage male prostitute in Thailand and that was the cause of a scandale widely reported in international news media after Marine Le Pen said in a 2009 television interview that it proved Mitterrand had engaged in “sexual tourism”. How things have changed since 1953.

Blessings to all.