Interview with Gert Hekma (Gay- & Lesbian Teacher)
By: Marthijn Uittenbogaard
Gert Hekma, teacher gay/lesbian studies at the University of Amsterdam, recently wrote a book about the gay-history in The Netherlands from 1730 to the present. In this book can be read that pedophilia has always been narrowly connected with the gay-course. Reason enough for MARTIJN Association to visit him for an interview.
You decided to write a book which includes the gay history from 1730 until the present. Did you think that such a book was lacking?
Yes, sure. Look, there is a lot of discussion about homosexuality in Holland. And it struck me that there is not a single book which sketches this history briefly. We've got Tielman, that's about the 20th century gay movement. And all these other books, they discuss bits of history all the time. It seemed rather good to me to have something general available for a wider audience.
You start the book with a short description of yourself as a child who grew up in Bedum in Groningen (one of the Northern provinces in Holland). How do you look back at those days?
I was a happy child, that is beyond dispute. But, of course, it was a life without sex though. I masturbated many, many times and extensively and played with friends in the attic. It was erotic, but not sexual. It was a repressive milieu, so in that sense I do not look back at it that positively. I think that when you look at boys and yearn for them and that you don't know that you are gay or what it is; that is terrible.
And do you think this would be different in Amsterdam or does it hardly matter?
I think this does not matter much. This village where I came from was very, very Reformed though, of course. It does matter which milieu you originate from. These Reformed milieus were very hostile towards sex anyway. Which may sometimes give room. I once spoke to a man who had a crush on boys and who said that he was most successful with Catholic and Reformed boys, because they had been raised repressively most of all, I am talking about the Sixties now, and these other liberal (= progressive in Dutch) boys knew what was what, therefore they were less easy to approach, because they already had too much knowledge and were warned for dirty old men by their parents.
Don't you ever miss Groningen?
Nowadays you live right above the place where bookshop Vrolijk used to be. Does it have a special meaning to you?
Bookshop Vrolijk came here through us, the occupants of this house. When they were looking for something, we said, 'Come on, why don't you join us!' Of course this to me was very ideal. I am a big book buyer. So, I could walk down the cellar at the time and these books were all waiting for you.
Bookshop Vrolijk started here or they were somewhere else first?
It started here, in 1984.
In this same street Joes Kloppenburg was killed a couple of years ago as a result of so-called senseless violence, as they call it today. Do you think there is a relation between violence and a liberal or, on the opposite, a non-liberal sexual upbringing?
When this murder was committed, it was our posing that the problem of all these straight boys who were being thrown out of these discotheques into the streets at four o'clock in the morning; look, these boys go out to have sex. They go out to have fun and at the back of their minds they are thinking about sexual contacts. And most of these boys come out into the street without having had any sex. They are stuck with all their hormones, I should say. There is never an unbecoming word in the gay scene. If you compare these two things, these gay men to these straight men, you will get the impression that these gay men who just have sex on the spot in the discotheque or in the leather bar; that this is a good way to prevent violence in the street. So, it would be very good to stimulate this sexual fun so that you will deal with less aggression like that.
In your book it can be read that you do not get round often to sex parties, because you read such a lot. (Gert's house is looking more and more like a library.) Are books to you more exciting than sex nowadays?
I would like to put it differently. In the meantime I have become an older gay man and this gay scene is just a scene for young people. And one given moment you know better what you want. My book says that I love satin and sadomasochistic (SM) things. These are exactly things that go together badly. In this gay scene, if you like SM there, you will have to go in leather and not in satin. This satin was not popular in the days that homos started to become more macho. These sort of things made me a bit into someone who did not exactly have a good time in this scene.
Your life partner, Mattias Duyves; also active in relation to gay emancipation, does not live with you, though he lives in the neighbourhood. Does a LAT relationship suit you? (L.A.T. = Living Apart Together.)
At the moment we are considering living together, but the LAT relationship always pleased us very much. You are not breathing down each other's neck that much; it is a very big advantage with a LAT relationship like that. But now that we are growing a little bit older, it is getting more and more tiring to saunter to and fro all the time with clothes and things like that.
We can read in your book that a certain Geigel transposed the term philopédie to pedophelia. However, I thought that the German psychologist Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing made up the term pedophilia. In 1886 this Von Krafft-Ebing wrote the book Paedophilia erotica. How does this exactly fit?
This Krafft-Ebing wrote the book Psychopatia sexualis. Undoubtedly, he used the words "paedophilia erotica" in this book. I do not know whether it is in the first edition, because a lot of words like that do not appear in the book until the course of its several prints. SM appears in it after 1891. And this Geigel is the first man who used the word pedophilia. And this Mr Michéa, a French psychiatrist, used the word philopédie for homosexuality for the first time in 1849.
Do you think that the young of today know a lot about gay history? Don't they think too easy about the achievements which exist already today?
In my opinion young homos do not know anything about gay history at all. And, recently, I had a conversation with the COC Chairman Henk Beerten, and it struck me that he himself does not know much about it at all either. I even think that it is not just a problem of young homos; I think that they have a thorough lack of knowledge, but older people too. This whole legislation of 248bis, which was a law from 1911 to 1971, with different age limits for gay and straight, Beerten did not know this. And it strikes me that, when telling my students that masturbation was almost damned until far into the Sixties, as something that was totally wrong, they do not know this. And castration of homos, that this could happen until 1969, it was unknown to them.
Should especially straight and young people read your book? It is extremely fit for a thesis or a talk at school.
I certainly wrote it for teachers and students at secundary schools as well. But you cannot direct who is going to read it. I would find it very good if young, coming homos would browse through it too.
But straight people too?
Yes, straight people too.
Your book regularly shows that homosexuality and pedosexuality are closely interwoven. You could also compare rather well the pedo prosecution of today to the homo prosecution of the early days. Now it is the "sick" pedos who are receiving treatment and prosecution. What do you think of the attitude of the gay movement in relation to pedophilia?
I think it is rather disastrous. The problem of the homos is: they always deal with a number of stigmas. They are buggers, they are promiscuous, they have public sex and they rape boys. And in my opinion ideas exist which are as hard as ever. These nineteenth century homos said it too: we are no buggers. You should not deny stigmas, but accept them with open arms. Whatever is wrong with anal sex?
But they have got rid now of the stigma that they rape boys. It now applies for the pedos.
In my opinion, if you should ask people; I have considered once to do this. If you talk about the Dutroux case now; it is really regarded as a pedo case. And now that other man too, I'd say the Ardennen monster, neither of these men are pedos, according to me, but most people think of these men as being pedos. In my opinion, most people think, though these men did it with girls and killed girls; eventually, they still think of a homo in connection to pedo. They still think that this is a man with a boy. If you should ask people what a pedo is, I think that many, many people would say that it is about a man with boys. Indirectly, one given moment this will be another stigma for these homos.
Do you hope that a cooperation between MARTIJN and for instance the COC will become possible again and what is it that, according to you, they should devote themselves to?
A very good element in this discussion is the young homo. The COC and many of these gay organizations say that the age limit in the law is sixteen now and therefore we should not admit people younger than sixteen into our bars and into our associations just like before when the age limit was twenty-one. The COC resisted against this law about higher age limits. One of its arguments was that young homos needed to go somewhere too. So, on that level you could start a very good relation with the COC.
But their resistance was not very publicly.
Of course they are awfully afraid of the pedo stigma. You ask what is the common ground of the COC and MARTIJN; that's where the common point for you both is. So, if the COC does not want; look, the COC is just an organization for cowards. They always have organization problems and it is going wrong with all these chairmen all the time.
The COC seems to struggle with an identity crisis. There is something brewing in several departments. The NVSH (Nederlandse Vereniging voor Seksuele Hervorming = Dutch Association For Sexual Reformation) went through this too during the past few years. Various NVSH departments broke away or have disappeared. How do you consider the nearby future of the COC?
In my opinion they have been plodding on for twenty or thirty years this way. Already from the Seventies on, it has been a mess in the COC. They could plod on for another twenty or thirty years. They always have true members anyway.
But there are departments now that may want to break away.
In the early days they had this too sometimes; they have always had trouble in their camp. It would be very good if a new organization for sexual emancipation came into being. Look, the problem of the NVSH is similar to that; I went through it with Nieuwe Sekstant (an NVSH edition); it is a bit like a club of old Sixties people, especially of these straight characters at the moment, who just have little contact with the young people of today. It would be very good if a new sexual movement got off the ground.
Or should the NVSH modernize?
I wonder whether that is possible. The interesting thing about the COC and the NVSH is of course that they have a lot of money, which you will throw away if these organizations won't join.
Couldn't they better go together, but with a totally new board?
Of course it would be wonderful if this were possible, but they all have these big egos, they all are conceited persons who put their own opinions first and who can hardly cooperate with other people. I used to work for Nieuwe Sekstant and I wrote pieces for this magazine and instead of saying how nice that you write a piece, they say I don't agree with your piece; I don't want it in my paper. You've got a paper to put forward different opinions and not to publish your own opinion in tenfold one given moment. The strong thing of a good movement is that a great number of opinions are allowed to exist.
A good movement can stand criticism.
Exactly. They can handle other points of view well, but the COC cannot. I think this is a sad condition. And they have these complicated democratic procedures which they are longer occupied with than the contents, according to me.
The somewhat more bourgeois homos, think of the COC and the Gay Krant (= Gay Paper), are very much greeted by society, while the ones who did not want to adjust themselves to the present hetero culture, were neglected more and more and have all disappeared by now. How do you see this? I see it differently. One given moment there was a radicalizing in the gay movement, of both dikes and these queers. And they have defended it all. Actually, they have laid the way open to all these conservative homos. When these radical homos said we are happy and proud and we are open about our being queer; then all these little men in these flats with through lounges could come out. And they are the readers of Gay Krant.
And how do you think about the next theory? Actually, you already answered this. After the beginning success of the first gay activists, soon homos joined who formerly felt guilty about their sexual preferences most of the time. That's why the gay movement became more and more bourgeois and turned into a group of intolerant persons who do not see further than the end of their noses.
I totally agree with you; well, not entirely, because within this gay movement there are these radical elements anyhow all the time. When I was in these Rooie Flikkers (= Red Queers) one given moment, and we stopped with this in 1980, then we had this feeling: when will the next generation come. And now you see this Queeruption and these Queer initiatives. They still happen very privately, but anyhow you see that there is new energy going round in this gay world. Look, the problem of the period after 1980 was; first, we had aids, that was an enormous drama which the gay movement was confronted with. What was very well solved by them, with all these bourgeois homos. You must not deny this either, of course. In the Nineties, there was a slight return of pleasure. Then there were all these drag queens, these leather parties and the kinky sex, etc. In another way a lot of things have happened anyhow at the time. I am still waiting a little curiously for a new impulse for this gay world and the book is supposed to whip this up a little.
Could you give us a sketch of Gert Hekma's sex paradise? How different would society look from the present one?
I tell this more or less at the end of the book. Look, all people in Holland are slightly obsessed by sex. Recently, I read something that most men think that sex is very important. And in my opinion most people get round very badly to their sex. So, I am very much in favour of more money to be invested in education. That education will integrate sexuality as a theme; not as a special theme, but that it is integrated in literature, history, geography, language acquisition, sports; that these lessons give information about sex and gay sex. Besides, it would be very good if sex would be given institutions just like the world of sports. With lessons, umpires, fields and halls. That is also a way to create social cohesion. Which people can join without obligations. You are compelled to learn about sex, but after these lessons, you just can see what you like.
I have the impression that women think more negatively about free sex than men. This as a result of years of (sexual) oppression which only came to an end with the rise of feminism. Girls about twenty years old seem to be more sexually free than the somewhat older generations. Do you agree with this?
I think that these girls are changing a lot indeed. It is the same with my female students. One of the problems is that sex needs room too. Look, where should these girls go? First, where should they find these boys? They could go to the discotheque, but where do you go afterwards with these boys? And these boys, they have bad reputations, these straight boys who often get off with these girls. We have not got a supple sexual culture by far and this bothers these girls too. There are also all kinds of problems between girls and boys. If a girl is just a bit more free, then the boys will only regard her as a slut. While boys who deal with sex much more freely, they are tough studs. They are concerned with their reputations too. And the number of girls that dare to get a bad reputation, a reputation as a slut, is still very small.
Is every human being polymorphically perverse? (This term originates from the Austrian Freud; this Freud never made up any more sensible things :-).) I say in the book you've got love and sex. They are two separate things. Love is one side; it is about relations and steady relations and that sort of things and it is about familiarity and the long term. And sex; people have certain obsessions sexually, certain interests, let me put it that way. Some people love boys, some love their boyishness and others love big genitals. There is a very wide range of all kinds of things. I have friends for instance, who were interested in army sex, that means military sex, or people who were interested in shoes, Nikes or something like that. In the gay scene they get a chance to experience it; but most straight and lesbian people do not have that chance; and they are very much set in their own preferences. I am set in my satanism, because I was not able to experience it much. But one given moment these people who have come to experience it, get bored with this theme, this army sex or this shoe sex, and they carry on to something else. But I think it will always be something that is very close to it anyway. For instance, someone who carries on from army sex to police sex or sports sex or bondage. I think that, eventually, people have a rather small sexual repertoire. So, not so polymorphic at all.
You are a fan of Donatien Alphonse François de Sade. You wrote that de Sade was just very masochistic. He loved being hit by a whip. What is it that attracts you in SM? (SM is a term joined (together) by Von Krafft-Ebing: "sado" from de Sade and "maso" from the Austrian writer Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch. He wrote the masochistic book Venus im Pfelz.)
First, personal interest and excitement. And Sade is just a fantastic writer. He is one of the first people who stood up very radically for all sexual variations, in the eighteenth century already. In a very complicated manner, as a man of letters, and I think that is very interesting. I once wrote an article about Sade, "Masculinity and humiliation". Sade gives you the impression that actually people need to be forced to enjoy sexual pleasure. De Sade's small book Philosophie dans le boudoir (1795) has a very interesting structure. It is a lesbian novel, which has hardly ever been acknowledged as such, which is about a woman who has fallen in love with a girl. This woman invites this girl to her and she is then given lessons in love by a number of gentlemen and by the woman herself. And within one day she knows then that this entire Catholic faith which she adhered to so much, and which especially her mother adhered to; that it is talking total nonsense. And that you should do everything exactly the other way around than what the Catholic faith has taught you. And this sexual initiation happens under a certain pressure, by both the Catholics and Sade. There is the idea that if it is about sex, no pressure may happen. That is the big problem with pedophelia, because this involves unequal balances of power, and these men, they force boys to sex they do not want. As for Sade it is like you need to be forced a bit to learn what you like. We accept this in many, many areas. You are forced to go to school. You are forced as a child to eat your food. You are forced to crap and pee neatly at certain times. The child is being forced endlessly, but as for sex it suddenly is not allowed anymore. Sade indicates: exactly with a little pressure you learn how nice sex is.
You could say that a tiny bit of pressure is permitted, but you could also say that the pressure in all these other areas might be far less compulsory.
You could argue about that. I think you should force children. Children are boring creatures as well, whom you need to put on a right track one given moment. And this goes for sex too. But today people are scared to death of it. So, that's why it would be very good to read Sade well once again.
Do you yourself still look with erotic interest at a boy or maybe a girl who is not sixteen yet?
Well, that is inevitable. If you do not do that, you are crazy.
You think this goes for almost everyone?
Most people know very well what a beautiful boy or a beautiful girl is, that they are sexy, that they have nice little blow mouths. If you do not see this, then you are blind. And people like to make themselves blind, so, then again, I can imagine this well. But it is not my favourite erotic object. I would not say that I am straight as a cow, or how did minister Visser put it?
As a rabbit.
Cows are very lesbian, but indeed sometimes I see very beautiful boys below that age.
The football shorts of football players of today are very wide and long, contrary to those of the Seventies. Do you think this is an immediate result of the so-called acceptance of homosexuality?
No, I don't think so. In the beginning of the Seventies they have been super short. You can already see its presence in these small shorts and in these big shorts you can sometimes see it move. It is both attractive. Honestly speaking, I rather like the small shorts.
Has the national sexual future been put in good hands, in view of the present politicians?
No, it is terrible at the moment. This (PM) Balkenende is a complete asexual creature. When you look at the whole spectrum, I find the PvdA (biggest left wing party) an unsexual party, the VVD (right wing party) is liberal, but I don't expect that much from them in sexual matters. And the SP (smallest left wing party) is a terrible party too when it comes to sex; they prefer to talk about corruption and in my opinion they talk about sex then. Fortunately, Korthals (ex-Minister of Justice, just like Korthals-Altes; Donner is the present MoJ) did not give in when all Members of Parliament were driving at castration of indecency delinquents. And Korthals Altes did not give in during the Oude Pekela (indecency) case at the time. And Donner during the case of the (kidnapped) girl from Eibergen. One given moment you see that all these parties are going to cry like: they all have to be put behind bars all their lives.
Some people are very dangerous, but because they lump everyone together, eventually nobody is allowed to be released. Also the people who are not dangerous at all.
And who sometimes have done nothing at all. Politics reacts very, very stupidly and badly and dangerously. And the right wing ministers can be shining examples sometimes to all these horrible MP's we've got.
Do you yourself have political ambitions?
No, not one. My friend is an MP (works for the Lazrak group (former SP)/MU) and he says the problem of the politicians is: in the morning they have to talk about the salaries of the firemen and then, in the afternoon, talk about the security demands of bars, and in the evening about the castration of indecency delinquents. And then they talk about more things on a day like that. You are bumping from one incident to another incident, or theme. Nobody knows much about it, that is exactly the problem.
Would you be in favour of an age of consent in relation to sexual contacts or do you think the relationship itself always has to be considered?
I would be much more in favour of the latter, of course. That is the Russian system of the Twenties. But it did not amount to anything, because it was a dictatorship. So, when it was convenient, you were persecuted anyway, but it worked well that way. Minister Visser said too, every age of consent is rather arbitrary. You can say at twelve, but there are also children who are ready to have sex at ten or at six.
Do you think that child porn has to be punishable and do you think that children will be harmed mentally if they would see (child)porn?
I don't think that children are harmed if they would see porn. Look, the question is: when can a child enter into a working relationship if you talk about making porn. I don't have a clear opinion about that. Pornography is different to everyone too. One person likes to look at a football player in shorts and another thinks it's terrible to see that shorts are sticking to it.
To some it is porn when they keep their shorts on?
Do you think that children are abused to combat gay meeting places, sex shops, erotics in commercial expressions etc., under the pretext of 'children can see this and they cannot take this', while it is exactly the parents who cannot take it?
On the Walletjes (Amsterdam red light district); look, children living there walk along these windows everyday and in my opinion they do not have any negative consequenses from seeing all these naked ladies. According to me, it is an instructive experience to these children to see Gay Parades and sex shops and that sort of things. Let these children see it all. What objection could there be that children see sexual acts? They see cows in the stable doing it too and they see ducks raping each other. And children are really not retarded at all. No, I would not mind at all if children should see this.
Have you been regarded a bit as a leper these last few years, because you are considerably pro pedo? No. The students I've got, they just regard me as a radical person, an activist and that sort of things. And this has negative consequenses for your career chances. But I am not regarded a leper.
And in the media?
I have not such a good idea about that. You just do not know what is all happening behind the scenes. I have had big discussions once or twice with people working for NRC (Dutch paper) and with colleagues of mine. They think it is extremely interesting to talk about pedophile themes with me, but they all have something like: you do need to set limits. These colleagues of mine once were discussing a piece of mine and then someone said without batting an eyelid that I incited to murder and child rape. I think this is important in the background, but I am not regarded a leper, no not yet. I am rather the odd man out. He is not someone they avoid.
From what age did you fantasize about sex with boys or with men?
In my book I say that at six I have my first erotic dreams and I have not many things to remember preceding that. When I was six, I wanted to go into Zwarte Piet's (Black Peter, St Nicolas' helper) sack to Spain, together with boys. Because it seemed so exciting to me to be the naughty boy I was not.
Was it only the naughty boy or was it something sexual as well?
You never know. And certainly not in the environment that I was in. It was erotic and, looking back on it, I would say it was very strongly erotic. I did not know yet what a hard-on was. Just like the question what is pedophelia, is also the question what is sexuality actually? Does there have to be a consciousness with it, before it becomes sexual. In that sense it was not sexual, but in another sense you could call it sexual.
Twenty years ago a lot of bookshops had a little shelf about sexuality. Now you may be glad if a book about sex is edited anyway, except for the novels. How do you explain this?
The remainder department (books that sold badly often end up there after a while) of de Slegte (famous secondhand bookshop all over the country) does have sex books. Mostly it is psychological self-help books or Kama Sutra, that sort of things. These gay books are really all out of the market.
They cannot put your book on a small sexuality shelf.
I was wondering already where it will be put down. It is on the history shelf, though.
Do you think there is a sexual revolution on the way which won't forget children this time? I don't know. I do notice that there is a little more movement about sex. I should hope so. There is one strong countermovement around sex. That is all these orthodox characters who get the chance more and more often to proclaim their opinions and they are also supported by all these Islamic people here in Holland. I really wonder how these Islamic people will develop in Holland. Are they going to devote themselves to the sexual liberties they did not know and may want to accept with open arms. I really wonder how this will go. As a result of 9-11 and this El Moumni (a radical imam opposed to homos) case, Moroccan and Turkish people have more and more the feeling: I have to defend my roots and my descent, and that they want to become more Catholic than the Pope. Nowadays, there is a tendency that native heteros are going to visit gay meeting places and screw there. We live in a society which has become more and more sexualized. Most of the time children already know what sex is at the age of six. Recently, Paul de Leeuw (Dutch TV host, singer and actor) had a TV programme with a kind of kitchen setup. There were two little boys of eight or nine years old, they were making music and there was a small choir of somewhat older ladies and this Paul de Leeuw, he only looked lustfully at these boys. And another time he was making love to a boy elaborately, but this boy was somewhat older, eighteen or something like that, but he was looking obscenely at these eight or nine year old boys, and this at primetime. So, I wonder which way this will go. We are dealing with kids who are being confronted with sex, they discover their own sex preferences earlier, etc., so, as a society you should do something with that and we are not doing this at the moment. The teachers are a bit afraid to talk about sex, because there are so many cultures in the classrooms.
But do you think this really is a convincing argument or is it more of an excuse?
An excuse it is. The Dutch do not talk about sex easily, only in technical terms. And to children this technical way is completely useless. These people just need to go a small step further, but they do not dare to take this little step further. We have a generation problem and sometimes a difference in culture as well.
I want to thank you for the interview.
Oh, well, that was nice and quick.
Gert Hekma; Homoseksualiteit in Nederland van 1730 tot de moderne tijd; J.M. Meulenhoff bv; Amsterdam 2004
source: 'Interview with Gert Hekma (Gay/Lesbian Teacher)' by Marthijn Uittenbogaard; OK Magazine, no. 90; November 2004