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March 11, 2005

Homosexuality n Ancient Greece and Modern Prisons

Victor Hanson has a good article in the Dec 27, 2004 National Review, in which he discusses ancient Greek homosexuality, which seems very close in style to modern prison homosexuality.
... in the Hellenic world, demarcations such as "homosexual" or "bisexual" did not quite exist, although we hear plenty about excessive "boy-loving" by the likes of Sophocles or, later, the philhellene emperor Hadrian. Indeed there are not even words for such iron-clad "orientations" in the classical or Hellenistic Greek vocabulary. Yet there are plenty of terms of scorn for "pathics" and "catamites" (e.g., kinaidoi or malakoi/malthakoi) who preferred passive relations, did not marry or sire children, and manifested open signs of femininity, including lisping, limp wrists, and girlish makeup and attire. Something like that would describe the precious Agathon, the Athenian playwright, or Giton, the pansy male gigolo of the Satyricon. In the corpus of Aristotle, at least, observations are made of the girlish stares, sashaying, and campy posturing of certain male types --- and the anonymous author may inadvertently be describing what we now associate with a genetic bent toward exclusive homosexual desire among 3 to 5 percent of the population. In any case, a Macedonian horse lord would never assume such a public role that even faintly resembled that of the "sodomite." ...

Our closest modern American notion relative to the sex practices of either ancient sophisticates or ancient randy soldiers might be characterized not as omnivorous pedophilia per se, but as a subset of pederasty: the sexual attraction toward young boys of older men, often otherwise "heterosexual," who seem both indifferent to men their own age and yet not interested in being a passive actor in sexual congress with youths. ...

Whether such homoerotic desire is an expression of innate homosexual tendencies in either participant or more a reflection of the many heterosexual obstacles within tribal societies--- involving the sanctity of female virginity, the relative scarcity of educated and empowered women, or life in a mostly male society — is not quite clear either in the present or the past. But what is unmistakable is that in the ancient Mediterranean occasional sex with feminine-looking men or adolescents did not earn the reproach of "acting queer" as it still does in the modern world. ...

Alexander's Macedonians were both more and less tolerant of homosexuality as we would describe it than the modern world, focusing not on the desire per se for male sexual companionship, but rather on the method of its manifestation. In some sense, the Macedonian evening communal tent was not unlike the savage world of the modern prison. In both, constant male intimacy created a strange classification of masculinity, in which active roles involving penetration were seen as quasi-normal sexual expression, a sort of surrogate intercourse when women are not to be found. Those weaker, prettier, or younger who are "used" are seen as little more than "women," and alone suffer the abuse of surrendering their male identity, whether by inclination or under coercion.

Compare with this horrifying Vdare article on Prison rape

Posted by erasmuse at March 11, 2005 04:14 PM

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