Uncovering the BoyLover Community
In order for Trust & Safety teams to effectively detect and act against on-platform harmful behavior, they must understand those communities they are guarding against. This article provides insights into the cultural rules, internal logic, and patterns of behavior that govern one of the largest pedophile communities, self-titled as BoyLovers.
Socio-economic, national, or ethnic indicators are not determinants of pedophiles, and their motivations and rationalizations vary significantly between and within their various groupings. To track them, and disrupt harmful activity, it is essential to understand these communities and grapple with how they see themselves. This article discusses a large subset of pedophile communities who self-identify as ‘BoyLovers.’
Who are BoyLovers?
Members of the BoyLover community claim to have feelings of romantic attraction toward children. They cite a definition provided by Alexis, a prominent BoyLover online activist, who claimed they are “a person who when he or she falls in love, tends to fall in love with a boy.” The community is oriented less around the sharing of child sexual abuse material, but rather on creating social solidarity between those attracted to young boys.
The question of which types of boys are the subject of interest to BoyLovers is more complex. Some are attracted to infants or very young children; others prefer those who have begun showing signs of reaching puberty. Another subgroup of BoyLovers are drawn to all indiscriminately.
Those identifying as BoyLovers present a strong identity constructed using the dual facets of pederasty (sexual relationship between an adult man and a boy) and homosexuality. As the internet has allowed these individuals to meet online and form transnational relationships to affirm this identity, so has the BoyLove community flourished. In the last two decades, hundreds of websites, blogs, forums, and instant messaging communities have been created to provide the necessary infrastructure to support such a large and active society.
This communal activity has led to the creation of symbols, the BLogo—two intertwined blue triangles symbolizing a BoyLover relationship, with the outer representing an adult man, and the inner symbolizing the boy—and agreed-upon internal terminologies.
What do BoyLovers believe?
The BoyLove community believes that they have a natural sexual identity and orientation that is unfairly stigmatized by society. They are vocal that their sexual identity is analogous to the LGBTQ+ community and assert that while current morality places them outside the bounds of acceptable behavior, this can and will change. They argue for society to decriminalize their ‘relationships’ with minors. This argument is frequently made in comments, posts, and uploaded audio and video content on mainstream platforms as well as closed BoyLove domains.
While the community has a unifying identifier, that of an attraction to young boys, there are varying opinions on the nature of appropriate relationships with children. On the far ends of the spectrum, there are BoyLovers who advocate for no contact with children, while others claim that children are sexual and that their sexuality is being suppressed by modern society. The latter is convinced that society’s current moral outrage is not an accurate indicator of children’s ability to experience healthy romantic and sexual relationships with adults.
The BoyLover internal logic relies on the Archaic and Classical Greek pederastic teaching (about mind and body) relationships that were normative between older and younger male citizens, and found expression in Greek myths. One often-cited myth is about the infatuation of the god Zeus with a very beautiful Trojan boy called Ganymedes. Zeus grants the boy eternal youth due to his immense beauty and brings him to Mount Olympus to serve as cupbearer to the gods, a position which held sexual connotations. In Classical Greek poetry, Ganymedes became a motif of a young male who is the subject of homosexual love and attraction.
This story is an important tract for the BoyLovers community, with many community members, uploading content and creating accounts, groups, and even websites that utilize keywords from the myth as markers for sexualized content about or depicting young boys.
What are BoyLove patterns of behavior?
Understanding how the BoyLover community is oriented is essential, but it is also vital to track their patterns of behavior to be able to predict where related harmful activity may arise.
While the online community’s behaviors are wide-ranging and expansive, they can be summarized as providing support to other pedophiles and sharing self-affirming content related to their sexual preferences. Members of BoyLove groups share quasi-philosophical or historical arguments to support the legitimacy of their lifestyle and sexual orientation: they produce podcasts, video lectures, websites, and online magazines discussing their attraction to underage boys. This content is shared on the majority of large social media platforms.
One example of a BoyLove magazine published and shared widely by members of this community is Ethos, an English-language magazine. This magazine cultivates the idea of romantic relationships between adult men and boys, it contains erotic stories about minors and provides links and advice to searching for child sexual abuse material (CSAM) without detection. Such pedophilic, erotic stories violate many platform policies, as they promote pedophilia and sexualize children. They are also classified as illegal in Canada, where child pornography includes, “any written material whose dominant characteristic is the description, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years.” Members of these communities also upload renderings, images, or video clips of clothed, semi-nude, or nude boys collected from film, television, or photography. These packages of content are then sexualized by context or added commentary.
International BoyLove Day
The BoyLover community also has two communal days each year, which are both referred to as International BoyLove Day (IBLD). Originating in 1998, the event has grown over time and is now supported by bespoke websites and other online content.
The event takes place twice a year on the Winter and Summer Solstice (or the closest Saturday) so that BoyLovers in both hemispheres can celebrate their ‘sexuality’ on the longest day of the year. These days are an attempt to strengthen the sense of communal belonging and to encourage BoyLovers to engage with their attraction, write articles promoting pedophilia, and post BoyLover symbols, such as blue candles for others to see and draw comfort.
The BoyLover community is complex, vast, and dangerous. Although this article has focused on the English-language expression of the BoyLover community, it is not an English-language phenomenon but extends worldwide. German-language communities use the terms Knabenliebhaber, and Jungenliebhaber, while in Japanese communities they refer to themselves as 少年愛 (hounen’ai) or, more colloquially, ボーイズラブ (bōizu-rabu), all of which translates to ‘boy love’.
The pedophile community is vast and consists of several sub-groups that each have their own unique culture and language. To successfully mitigate child abuse, it is imperative to investigate and understand who these online communities are and how they operate.
Understanding their beliefs and mythology, their patterns of behavior and celebratory holidays, multi-language in-group terminologies, keywords, images, and shared resources allows this hidden community to come to light. In doing so, Trust and Safety teams tasked with maintaining their platforms’ safety can proactively detect the presence of BoyLover activity and take steps to protect their vulnerable users.
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