Clarence Henry Osborne (est. birth 1917, 1918 or 1927, in Brisbane - died September 1979) was an Australian court and parliamentary stenographer who gained national fame when it became public knowledge that he had sexual contacts with around 2500 male children, adolescents and young adults for 20 years, 90% of whom were between 13 and 20 years old. Osborne's work meant he was familiar with keeping records and paid meticulous attention to detail, which he practiced often by making records of much of his life, including his sexual relations. He collected an enormous amount of data: photos, films, tables, tape recordings and their transcriptions. He recorded the appearance and character of the young males, the content of the conversation, anatomical details of the genital organs - especially the length of the penis - stated sexual experience, masturbation habits, and much more. He called this his "research" and, fearful he would be soon be arrested and have his life's work destroyed by state authorities, in 1976 he walked into sociologist Paul Wilson’s University of Queensland office to present him with his "research". Osborne trusted Wilson as he sat on the Queensland Civil Liberties Council and had a reputation for protecting the rights of the individual from state power. This lead to Wilson conducting interviews with Osborne, reading Osborne's unpublished autobiographical manuscript, and, after Osborne's death, interviewing 12 former loved boys who sought out Wilson and gave statements which contradicted the "monster" narrative of the Australian media. Aged in his 60's, after being questioned by police and returning home, Osborne took his own life by taking sleeping pills and sitting in his car, channeling exhaust fumes from the running engine. In 1981, Osborne's life became the subject of an important historical book by Wilson, The Man they called a Monster: Sexual Experiences between Men and Boys.
Wilson reports that all of the men he interviewed painted Osborne positively, in contrast to the press, which wrongly accused Osborne of having sex with prepubescent males and of forcing some into prostitution. They described Osborne as friendly, helpful, kind, and seriously interested in their situation. Most notably, none of the 2,500 or so young people ever filed a complaint:
I enjoyed talking to him and I enjoyed the sex as well. He’s the only man I’ve ever had a relationship with before or since. As you know I am married now with two kids, but at times I still think back to when he did those things to me and get excited by the thought of it. All I know is that I wanted some sex then and I got it, even though before I could never have imagined myself having it off with another guy, let alone a man who was about thirty years older than myself. But there was nothing heavy about him and it seemed so easy to do it with him and there was no way I felt guilty about a thing. [...] When I read in the paper about this guy who killed himself and was called a monster I was amazed. He was not heavy at all and what they said about him in the paper was untrue.
- One of the adolescents interviewed. Quoted in Wilson (1981)
The Man They Called a Monster: Forty years on
In 2021, Australian scholar Ryan Thorneycroft published a historical retrospective on Wilson's book, titled The Man They Called a Monster: Forty Years On. In it, he situates Wilson's book, its language such as 'boy lover', and its references to research evidencing iatrogenic / secondary harm and the non-harm of age-disparate sexual contact per se, within the historical context of publicly assailable discourse at the time. Thorneycroft also claims that Wilson himself was later arrested for sexual offences involving female minors; claims which need verification.
Reviews of Wilson (1981):
- David Biles. (1982). Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology.
- Lynne Gifford. (1983). Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology. - Reasonable and thoughtful review of Wilson's book.
By Paul Wilson:
- Wilson. (1981). "Dangerousness", Paedophilia and the Case of Clarence Osborne. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 3:14, pp. 131-137.
- Wilson. (1987). "Stranger" Child-Murder: Issues Relating to Causes and Controls. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 1:31, pp. 49-59.
- Wilson. (1981). Crime and the Public. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 4:4, pp. 223-232.
- Wilson. (1973). The Politics of Research and Reform in Criminology. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 2: 6, pp. 107-113.
- Wilson. (1976). Victims of Rape: The Social Context of Degradation. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 4:9, pp. 249-254.
- The Man they called a Monster: Sexual Experiences between Men and Boys. Author information from 1981 book: Paul Wilson is one of Australia's best-known and most respected social scientists. With degrees in Psychology and Sociology, his books cover topics in sexuality, crime and Australian society. The Man They Called A Monster follows in the footsteps of Intimacy, which was published by Cassells in 1979. [...] Dr Wilson has lectured in New Zealand, Great Britain and all of the Australian states. In 1974-5 he was a Fulbright Visiting Professor at the University of California, Irvine. He is presently Reader in Sociology at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, which is the city where the events recorded in this book took place.
- Donald J. West: Sexual Crimes and Confrontations. Gower Publishing. 1987. p. 62.
- The Man They Called a Monster: Forty Years On
- Book Review: The Man They Called a Monster, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, #2, 15, pages 128-128, 1982 jun Biles, D.
- Gifford, L. (1983). The Man They Called a Monster: Sexual Experiences Between Men and Boys, reviewed in The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology, 19(2): 370–372. Backup here.
- "Stranger" Child-Murder: Issues Relating to Causes and Controls
- The Politics of Research and Reform in Criminology
- Victims of Rape Social Context