Age-Structured Homosexuality: Pederastic Model

Monday 20 March 2017.
 

Age-Structured Homosexuality

Pederastic Model

Male homosexuality has a history, but this history consists principally of sodomites and buggers, pederasts and catamites, berdaches and contrary lovers rather than homosexuals or gays in the modern sense. (Gerard and Hekma, The Pursuit of Sodomy: Male homosexuality in Renaissance and Enlightenment Europe, p. 1)

Thus, whereas the age-structured form is more often universal but transitory, the trans-gender form applies to only a few men and women, but more often as a long-term career. (Adams, Age, Structure, and Sexuality: Reflections on the Anthropological Evidence on Homosexual Relations, p. 31 in The Many faces of Homosexuality: Anthropological Approaches to Homosexual Behavior, editor Evelyn Blackwood)

Behavior that present-day Western observers identify as homosexual occurs quite widely in small-scale bands and tribes. Where such relationships among males are institutionalized, they commonly take two one of two possible forms. In the pederastic, semen of an older male is placed in or on the body of a youth. In some New Guinea and Latin America Indian, the practice is universal and mandatory. Neither partner is considered a distinct type of person. (Greenberg,Transformations of Homosexuality-Based Classifications, p. 180 in The Gender/Sexuality Reader Culture, History, Politico Economy, editors Roger N. Lancaster and Micaela di Leonardo.)

Helmut Puff has distinguished two cultural attitudes to early modern sodomy: the age- or power-structured system (especially associated with Mediterranean contexts), where it mattered who was on top, and the Christian tradition (more generally noted north of the Alps), which did not distinguish between penetrator and penetrated in its condemnation of the practice. The former is most clearly associated with ancient Greek and Roman pederasty. (Phillips and Reay, Sex Before Sexuality A Premodern History, p. 70)

Another archetypal case (closer to the remit of this chapter) is the age-graded, male-male sex of medieval Florence, where, despite the penalties and the activities of informants, a majority of Florentine males were involved in sodomitical activities and homoerotic activity was part of masculine work and neighbourhood interaction. (Not surprisingly, ’florenced’ became the European term for sodomized.) (Phillips and Reay, Sex Before Sexuality A Premodern History, p. 71)

Randolph Trumbach has suggested that this world was part of a European-wide system favouring age-structured sexual relations between men and male adolescents, and that the shift away from the age-structured system to the homosexual-heterosexual division occurred in the eighteenth century in north-western Europe but later in central and southern and eastern Europe." It is a seductively neat hypothesis that explains much that we encounter in this chapter relating to master-servant interactions and sex with boys. (Phillips and Reay, Sex Before Sexuality A Premodern History, p. 71-72)

Age-structured homosexuality appears in one slice; through the ethnographic literature. Besides this clearly intra-gender form is the trans-gender form best known in the Polynesian mahu and North American berdache (Callender & Kochems, 1983; Jacobs, 1968; Katz, 1976, ch. 4) Juxtaposition of these macro structures shows that homosexuality is a relationship with extraordinarily protean content. For participants in age-graded forms, for example, homosexual relations masculinize youths, while for trans-gender forms, they are part of the feminization of male participants. (Adams, Age, Structure, and Sexuality: Reflections on the Anthropological Evidence on Homosexual Relations, p. 31 in The Many faces of Homosexuality: Anthropological Approaches to Homosexual Behavior, editor Evelyn Blackwood)

Outside of Western culture, homosexual behaviour seemed to fall into one of two patterns. Adult men, who also married women, had sexual relations with males, who were in some cultures were adolescent boys, and who, in others, were adult men who had permanently adopted a transvestite role situated somewhere between the other two genders. But the active adult male partner in these acts maintained his dominant gender status; adolescent boys left behind their passivity at manhood; and only the transvestite male undertook a new permanent gender role as a result of his sexual conduct. (Trumbach, Gender and the homosexual Role in Modern Western Culture: The 18th and 19th Centuries Compared, p. 151 in Homosexuality, Which Homosexuality by Dennis Altman)

In probably all human societies other than those under the influence of the Christian religion, it has been legitimate for two males to have sexual relations with each other. There have been only two restrictions: that the men who had sexual relations with males also marry women and produce families; that the adult male in the sexual act always take the active or penetrator’s role. The second point was guaranteed in one of two ways. In the first pattern (as in Japan, China, New Guinea, Australia, some tribal African societies, in Islam, and in the classical Mediterranean world), the adult male had sexual relations with an adolescent boy who might be his wife, his concubine, his lover, or his whore. In the second pattern (to be found in southern Asia from Polynesia to Madagascar among the North American Indians, and among some African tribes) the adult male had sexual relations with a small minority of adult males who had permanently adopted many (but not all) of the characteristics of women in speech, gesture, clothes, and work. Christian Europe, by contrast, had since the twelfth century made illicit all sexual relations between two persons of the same gender. Such sexual relations nonetheless occurred. And when they did so they were enacted within the framework of the two worldwide human patterns. (Trumbach, The Birth of the Queen: Sodomy and the Emergence of Gender Equality in Modern Culture, 1660-1750, p. 129-130 in Hidden From History Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past edited by Martin Duberman, Martha Vicinus & George Chauncey, Jr.)

But in the 1690s opinion changed after a new way of organizing homosexual desire appeared throughout the modernizing societies of northwestern Europe, in England, France, and the Netherlands. No longer did differences in age justify sexual relations with males in the libertine’s mind. Instead adult men with homosexual desires were presumed to be members of an effeminate minority. They were given a status similar to that of the hijra in Indian society or the berdache among the North American tribal peoples, who had passive sexual relations with the majority of males in their societies. European society had begun to move from one to the other of the two worldwide systems for organizing homosexual behavior: from a system in which subordination was achieved by differences in age to one whose focus was a third-gender role for a minority of men. In the old system all males had passed through a period of sexual passivity in adolescence. In the new system, the majority of males could not conceive of themselves as passive at any moment; passivity was instead for the minority, the homosexuals (as they have been called since the late nineteenth century), who from childhood were socialized into their deviant role. European societies in the early eighteenth century gave such sodomites a status equivalent to that of the most abandoned women. The majority of men were supposed to avoid any sexual contact with them. But such contact nonetheless occurred, and when it did, it caused profound anxiety to adolescents and adult men but also perhaps profound excitement. (Trumbach, Sex and the Gender Revolution Volume One Heterosexuality and the Third Gender in Enlightenment London, p. 6)

Recent work, such as Dover’s (1978) Greek Homosexuality and Herdt’s (1984) Ritualized Homosexuality in Melanesia, represents a new order of analysis that explains sexuality as a set of social relationships constructed from a complex repertoire of indigenous signifiers. Here same-sex eroticism and bonding is not deviant in any sense but a predictable outcome of a particular combination of fundamental categories of age, gender, and kinship. The ethnographic literature reveals that same-sex bonds typically conform to the same kinship codes that arrange other aspects of life. (Adams, Age, Structure, and Sexuality: Reflections on the Anthropological Evidence on Homosexual Relations, p. 19-20 in The Many faces of Homosexuality: Anthropological Approaches to Homosexual Behavior, editor Evelyn Blackwood)

What conclusions can we draw from our survey so far? It seems clear that among various peoples - Papuans, but also Greeks and Germans - boys had to pass through a pederastic stage in order to become fully accepted adults. The reason for this sexual inversion remains insufficiently analysed, and the ancient participants themselves have not handed down any explanation for the practice. (Bremm, Greek pederasty and modern homosexuality, p. 10 in From Sappho to De Sade, Jan Bremmer editor.)

Greek Pederasty

After discussing how the Greek’s viewed sex in general, and specifically homosexuality, along with the kinaidos, the man who is the passive receptive partner in anal intercourse we now will discuss the Greek practice of pederastry, the love of boys. Ideally pederasty did not have a sexual component, but was a rite of passage and an educational mode for an adult male (not a biological father) to take on the role of mentor for a young male entering puberty, growing and maturing into an adult male, who as a free male citizen was to be a political leader in the Greek city-state. Pederasty served the role for the moral and political formation of young men. More importantly it was not a private affair between two individuals but was a public affair for the benefit of all.

The pederastic form of same-sex relationships was a prominent feature of ancient Greece and Roman civilization. In these civilizations, male erotic interest in persons of the same sex was generally assumed to be universally present and psychologically normal, but not exclusive. (Greenberg, Transformations of Homosexuality-Based Classifications, p. 181 in The Gender/Sexuality Reader Culture, History, Politico Economy, editors Roger N. Lancaster and Micaela di Leonardo.)

Indeed, the classicist Halperin confines his discussion of what he terms pederasty or ’active’ sodomy to penetration of a subordinate male by a social and/or age superior, with its associated hierarchies of penetrator/penetrated, superior/inferior, masculine/feminine and active/passive. (Phillips and Reay, Sex Before Sexuality A Premodern History, p. 70-71)

The core of this interpersonal dynamic is a pedagogic relationship between the inspirer and the inspired, terminology shared by the Greeks and the Etor of New Guinea (Dover, 1978; Kelly¸1976). The younger man enters an erotic apprenticeship that immerses him in male culture and gender functions transmitted as a collective lore to new adherents Consistent with the one way socialization process is role differentiation: The younger male is a recipient and the older, the provider, a role contrast that generally structures anal and oral intercourse. Unlike the Nyakyuas, the ancient model is a fundamentally intergenerational sexual dynamic in which exclusively homosexual younger men become bisexua in adulthood by acquiring wives and youthful lovers.

The ancient model finds its highest development in the early imperial societies of Greece, China, Byzantium, and medieval Persia where social class complicates the inequality between adult and youth. (Adams, Age, Structure, and Sexuality: Reflections on the Anthropological Evidence on Homosexual Relations, p.21-22 in The Many faces of Homosexuality: Anthropological Approaches to Homosexual Behavior, editor Evelyn Blackwood)

For Greeks the essence of the personal morality lay in avoiding excess and passivity; it was they experience only special moral scruples.) We have already described some of those elaborate conventions which surrounded Greek pederasty. They reveal, in an acute form, Greek anxieties about passivity and excess. However, the boy, just because he had not yet achieved manly status could, if briefly, avoid the stigma of passivity and be an admissible object of pleasure. For the adult male, it was a challenge to his self-control: to direct the boy towards manhood and transform the relationship from one of love to friendship. In a sense it was a question of stylistics, of the manner of the relationship. One fashioned one’s morality in the course of living. (Copley, Sexual Moralities in France 1780-1980, p. 27-28)

The ancient Greeks, as is widely known, had a custom which they called paiderastia, or pederasty, consisting of erotic relations between adult men and adolescent boys. (Lear and Cantarella, Images of Ancient Greek Pederasty Boys were their gods, p. xv.)

The word pederasty is derived from the Greek paiderasteia, literally meaning the love of boys. In English pederasty has come to signify almost exclusively the practice of sexual inversion. But in Greek literature paiderasteia is used to refer to both to pure, disinterested affection and to physical homosexual relations. (Flacelliere, Love in Ancient Greece, p.62)

In the Greek language the word paederasty had not this ugly sound it has for us to-day, since it was regarded simply as an expression for one variety of love, and had no sort of defamatory meaning attached to it. (Licht, Sexual Life in Ancient Greece, p.413)

I hope that sufficient documentary evidence has been given to show that paiderasty was cultivated by heterosexually normal men in ancient Greece, where it did not presuppose an inversely homosexual type of personality. It was not considered a transgression, to be tolerated, nor was it felt to betoken to any laxity in moral standards; it was a natural part of the life-style of the best of men, reflected in the stories of the gods and heroes of the people. (Vanggard, Phallos A Symbol and Its History in the Male World, p. 32)

In Ancient Greece, homosexuality was described as pederasty, and was an integral part of life of the polis because it was a culture that allowed the norm to function. It therefore did not preclude relations with women, which was based on the reproductive order, and was based upon the division between an active principle and passive principle: a free man and a slave, a boy and a mature man and so on. Its function was, in other words, initiatory. Only the men had the right to practice pederasty, and the hierarchy precluded any equality between the partners. But a homosexual who refused to have anything to do with women was regarded as abnormal because he infringed the rules of the polis and the family institution. (Roudinesco, Our Dark Side A History of Perversion, p. 33)

The core of this interpersonal dynamic is a pedagogic relationship between the inspirer and the inspired, terminology shared by the Greeks and the Etor of New Guinea (Dover, 1978; Kelly¸1976). The younger man enters an erotic apprenticeship that immerses him in male culture and gender functions transmitted as a collective lore to new adherents. Consistent with the one way socialization process is role differentiation: The younger male is a recipient and the older, the provider,; a role contrast that generally structures anal and oral intercourse. Unlike the Nyakyuas, the ancient model is a fundamentally intergenerational sexual dynamic in which exclusively homosexual younger men become bisexual in adulthood by acquiring wives and youthful lovers.
The ancient model finds its highest development in the early imperial societies of Greece, China, Byzantium, and medieval Persia where social class complicates the inequality between adult and youth.;
(Adams, Age, Structure, and Sexuality: Reflections on the Anthropological Evidence on Homosexual Relations, p.21-22 in The Many faces of Homosexuality: Anthropological Approaches to Homosexual Behavior, editor Evelyn Blackwood)

As we have seen, Greek pederasty fundamentally differed in form and function from modern sexuality. Admittedly, the Greek situation offered great opportunities to those males whose sexual interest mainly concerned other males, but this preference had to be limited to boys and, moreover, the passive and active roles in these relationships were sharply defined. In addition, this preference had to be propagated with moderation, without completely excluding the opposite sex. At the same time, the aspect of initiation into the adult world illuminates an even more important difference between Greek pederasty and modern ways of homosexuality. Whereas modern homosexuals often occupy a marginal position in society and are regularly considered to be effeminate, in Greece it was pederasty that provided access to the world of the socially elite; it was only the pederastic relationship that made the boy into a real man. The Greeks, then, certainly knew of Greek love’ and their interest in boys was never purely platonic, but they did not, in any sense, invent homosexuality! (Bremmer, Greek pederasty and modern homosexuality, p. 11) in From Sappho to De Sade, Jan Bremmer editor.)

This shows that not only writers but also painters are aware of the fact that in order to maintain its proper character, pederasty has rules. (Lear and Cantarella, Images of Ancient Greek Pederasty Boys Were Their Gods, p. 192)

Paiderasty served the highest goal education (paideia). Eros was the medium of paideia, uniting tutor and pupil. The boy submitted and let himself be taken in the possession of the man. (Vanggard, Phallos A Symbol and Its History in the Male World, p. 87)

But it was only after the formation of the city that the Greeks took to loving other men, and more particularly boys? Male homosexuality in Greece, in fact or at least its most socially and culturally significant forms was, in practice, pederasty, and was extremely widespread. The problem if its origins remains open. (Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, p. 4)

In Athens, homosexuality (which as we know was really pederasty, in the sense the sexual relationship between and adult and a young boy) held an important position in the moral and political formation of young men, who learned from their adult lovers the virtues of a citizen. (Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, p. viii)

Such pederasty was supposed to transmit manly virtues of mind and body from nobleman to young lover (Vangaard, 1972). (Karlen, Homosexuality in History, p.79 in Homosexual Behavior: A Modern Reappraisal, editor Judd Marmor)

While for the Dorians the purpose of the love relationship was the development of a warrior, for the Athenians it was the vehicle through which males were educated in the values, beliefs and manners important to the Athenians, and through which the young man was introduced into adult male society. The relationship served a socializing function, whereby the youth, as companion to an older man, learned how to comport himself in society, how to enjoy the pleasures of life, and how to bring self-control and moderation to the enjoyment of those pleasures. With the guidance of his mentor/lover, the boy began cultivation of what were to the Greeks the all-important virtues of courage, temperance, justice and wisdom. Though the boy received a basic education in such areas as reading and writing from a tutor, or in later times a primary school which he would attend until his early teens, it was through his relationship with his lover that he acquired knowledge and experience in the world of the Athenian citizen, became conversant in politics, civic virtues and philosophy, and acquire an appreciation of the arts. This educational emphasis reflected the Athenian view that civic strength rested not just on military might, but on a citizenry composed of educated and virtuous men. (Neil, The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies, p.163)

For instance, in ancient Greece, homosexual relationships between older men and younger men were commonly accepted as pedagogic. Within the context of an erotic relation, the older man taught the younger one military, intellectual, and political skills. The older men, however, were also often husbands and fathers. Neither sexual relationship excluded the other. Thus, although ancient Greek society recognized male homosexual activity, the men in these relationships rarely defined themselves as primarily homosexual. (Escoffier, American Homo: Community and Perversity, p. 37)

An adult in ancient Greece and Rome standardly took a prepubescent youth for a partner, an adolescent whose body hair had not yet begun to grow. In Greece, relations with a citizen youth were ideally supposed to have a pedagogical function. The older lover was supposed to teach his beloved how to be a virtuous citizen. At the same time, the older lover was supposed to marry and have children, though some may have not done so. Sexual relations might also be had with members of other subordinate categories, such as slaves. (Greenberg,Transformations of Homosexuality-Based Classifications, p. 181 in The Gender/Sexuality Reader Culture, History, Politico Economy, editors Roger N. Lancaster and Micaela di Leonardo.)

So these love relationships were not private erotic enterprises. They took place openly before the eyes of the public, were regarded as of great importance by the state, and were supervised by its responsible authorities. (Vanggard, Phallos A Symbol and Its History in the Male World, p. 39)

They were tied together in a pact equally compelling for both. It was the obligation of the erastes always to be an outstanding and impeccable example to the boy. He should not commit any deed that would shame the boy. His total responsibility to the boy made him dependent on the boy in ways far beyond the purely erotic. He was judged by the development and conduct of the boy. Even in regards to the bodily aspect of the relationship the boy could assert himself against his tutor. (Vanggard, Phallos A Symbol and Its History in the Male World, p. 88)

Many scholars have written much about early paiderastra-since Homer does not mention it, some scholars argue that it must be an innovation of the later Iron Age. Scholars than looked for causes (population control [Percy 1996], or a byproduct of athletic nudity [Scanlon 2002]. Paiderastra, however, is not homosexuality; it is a coming-of-age rite, and as such it has anthropological parallels that situate it in a stage of state-formation, at the tribal level. In that case, paiderastria should originate in the Bronze Age (Cantarella, 1992; 5), and I myself would put its development no later than the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 1900- 1600 BCE). (Younger, Sex in the Ancient World From A to Z, p. xv)

The practice born in the Greek gymnasium to which Cicero refers to is not homosexuality but paiderastia, the courtship of free youths by older males, and the central issue was status rather than gender. (Williams, Roman Homosexuality Ideologies of Masculinity in Classical Antiquity, p.64)

The abundant surviving literature composed by the ancients in praise of pederasty always assumes it to be an affair of minds, not bodies, a pure, Platonic love, as still call it today, from which carnality is excluded. It was declared that Eros in such cases would not tolerate the presence of his mother Aphrodite. For Eos, as we have already suggested, symbolized the passion of the soul, and Aphrodite fleshly unions, whether homosexual or not. (Flacelliere, Love in Ancient Greece, p.67)

Instead the homosexual connection favored by the Greeks was not so much homoerotic as pederastic; the archetypal relationship was between a mature man at the height of his sexual power and need and a young, erotically underdeveloped boy just before puberty. The standard Greek nomenclature gives the older, aggressive partner the title of the lover (erastes) and the young, passive male that of the beloved (eromenos). (Keuls, The Reign of the Phallus Sexual Politics in Ancient Greece, p.275)

The term used to describe the sexual pursuit of adolescent males by adult males was ’paederastia’. In stark contrast to modern attitudes towards sex between teachers and students, paederastia was usually conceptualized as a pedagogic and erotic mentoring relationship between an adult male, the ’erastes’ (lover), and a young, passive ’pais’ (boy) called the ’eromenos’ (beloved), usually between 12 and 17-20 years old (though professional teachers and trainers, often former slaves, were not allowed to seduce their students, nor were slaves allowed to seduce young free-born males). Often presented as a normal part of the education of a young man, paederastia institutionalized a relationship in which the mentor instructed the boy in philosophical matters and general knowledge, and prepared him for his citizenship role. (Mottier, Sexuality A Very Short Introduction, p. 12)

The model of socially validated homosexuality was paiderastia (following Thorkil Vanggaard I will use this form to avoid identifying the Greek practice with the associations pederasty has in our world), the love of an older man for a youth (By older man here we mean mostly men in their twenties, while youths were adolescents.) The context was the gymnasium, where youths went to exercise (and display) their physical gifts, and the older men went to watch, appreciate and select. The arena was an upper-class one paiderastia was essentially an aspect of the paideia, the training for citizenship of aristocratic youths. (That same-sex love tended to be mocked in comedy, an art form that attracted the masse may indicate it played a less focal role in their lives. (Downing, Myths and Mysteries of Same-Sex Love, p. 137)

As is well known, to define it simply as a homosexual relationship (as was customary in the past) would be to falsify reality, attributing to the Greeks a concept which did not exist in their world. Today, it is generally accepted among scholars that an adult man in ancient Greece could with, little or no risk of social disapproval, express sexual desire for another male, so as long as the desired male was an adolescent (pais), whom the adult loved within the context of the socially codified and positively valued relationship which we call pederastic. This kind of relationship took place, then, between and active adult and a passive boy, though by activity and passivity- this is an important aspect of the question-the Greeks understood not necessarily and not only sexual roles, but also and above all intellectual and moral roles.; (Lear and Cantarella, Images of Ancient Greek Pederasty Boys Were Their Gods, p. 1-2)

Sexual roles in these relationships were prescribed. The boy was expected to show affection to his older lover, but not to respond sexually. (Greenberg,Transformations of Homosexuality-Based Classifications, p. 181 in The Gender/Sexuality Reader Culture, History, Politico Economy, editors Roger N. Lancaster and Micaela di Leonardo.)

To facilitate the understanding of the Hellenic love of boys, it will be as well to say something about the Greek ideal of beauty. The most fundamental difference between ancient and modern culture is that ancient is throughout male and that the woman only comes into the scheme of the Greek man as mother of his children and as manager of household matters. Antiquity treated the man, and the man only, as the focus of all intellectual life. This explains why the bringing up and development of girls was neglected in a way we can hardly understand; but boys, on the other hand, were supposed to continue their education much later than is usual with us. The most peculiar custom, according to our ideas, was that every man attracted to him some boy or youth and, in the intimacy of daily life, acted as his counselor, guardian, and friend, and prompted him in all manly virtues. It was especially in the Doric states that this custom prevailed, and it was recognized so much as a matter of course by the State that it was considered a violation of duty by the man, if he did not draw one younger to him, and a disgrace to the boy if he was not honoured by the friendship of a man. The senior was responsible for the manner of life of his young comrade, and shared with him blame and praise. (Licht, Sexual Life in Ancient Greece, p.418)

It is beyond dispute, therefore, shocking as the fact may appear, that homosexuality contributed to the formation of the moral ideal which underlies the whole practice of Greek education. The desire in the older lover to assert himself in the presence of the younger, to dazzle him, and the reciprocal desire of the latter to appear worthy of his senior’s affection necessarily reinforced in both persons that love of glory which always appealed to the competitive spirit of mankind. Love-affairs accordingly provided the finest opportunities for noble rivalry. From another point of view the ideal of comradeship in battle reflects the entire system of ethics implied in chivalry, which is founded on the sentiment of honour. (H.-I.Marrou, Histoire de l’ Education dans l’ Antiquite, pp. 58-59)

But the apprenticeship to courage and the love of honour and glory, important as they were to the Greeks, comprised only a part of Greek education. For lovers claimed that they participated actively in all the moral and intellectual development of their loved ones. (Flacelliere, Love in Ancient Greece, p.87)

Basic to the understanding of the nature, meaning, and importance of paiderasty is the following:
Firstly, the age difference between the erastes and his eromenos was always considerable. The eraste was a grown man, the eromenos still an immature boy or youth.
(Vanggard, Phallos A Symbol and Its History in the Male World, p.43)

Secondly, as has been demonstrated, an ethical basis was essential for the Dorian relationship. (Vanggard, Phallos A Symbol and Its History in the Male World, p. 43)

Thirdly, the homosexuality of the paidersty relationship had nothing to do with effeminacy. On the contrary, among the Dorians the obvious aim of education was manliness in its most pronounced forms. Refinement in the manner of dressing and in regards to food, house, furniture, or other circumstances of daily life was looked upon with contempt. Contemporary as well as later sources agree in stressing that it was among the warlike Dorians in particular that paidersty flourished. (Vanggard, Phallos A Symbol and Its History in the Male World, p. 44)

Fourthly, Dorian paiderasty was something entirely different from homosexuality in the usual sense in which we use the term, as inversion (see definition on page 17). We have repeatedly pointed out that ordinary men regularly cultivated paiderasty and active heterosexuality at the same time. Men who stuck exclusively to boys and did not marry were punished, scorned, and ridiculed by the Spartan authorities, and treated disrespectfully by the young men. (Vanggard, Phallos A Symbol and Its History in the Male World, p. 44)

From the point of view of many older male lovers, boys and girls were equally desirable, but elite girls were secluded at home, while boys went to school and exercised nude at the gymnasium. Teenage male youths were seen as the most beautiful objects of desire, muscular yet, still hairless, smooth-skinned, with the small, delicate penises adult Greek men regarded as erotic. Since they were young they did not have the status of adult males and could be seen as somewhat feminine. When boys reached the age where they began to sprout beards and public hair, when their skin grew coarse they seemed much less desirable; they acquired the status of citizens, and might pursue their own young male lovers before they married. (Clark, Desire A History of European Sexuality, p. 23)

If we are to draw conclusions from what has been said as to the ethics of Greek love of boys, the following emerges as an undeniable fact: The Greek love of boys is a peculiarity of character, based upon an aesthetic and religious foundation. Its object is, with the assistance of the State, to arrive at the power to maintain the same and at the fountain-head of civic and personal virtue. It is not hostile to marriage, but supplements it as an important factor in education. (Licht, Sexual Life in Ancient Greece, p.445)

Although the Greeks believed that the same desire attracted one to whatever was desirable, they nonetheless thought this desire entailed particular problems when it arose in a relationship between two males of distinct age cohorts, one of whom had not received yet achieved the status of adult citizen. The disparity was what gave the relationship its value-and what made it morally problematical. An elaborate ritualization of appropriate conduct on the part of both participates was designed to give such relationships a beautiful form, one that would honor the youth’s ambiguous status. As not yet a free adult male, he was an appropriate object of masculine desire; as already potentially a free citizen, his future subjectively must be honored. The active role can only be played by the older partner, but the younger partner must be treated as free to accept or reject his suitor. Thus the Greeks believed that the relationship should be designed so as to provide an opportunity for the younger to begin to learn the self-mastery that would be expected of him as an adult. The older man’s desire was seen as unproblematic; what was difficult was how to live that desire in such a way that its object might in turn become a subject. (Downing, Myths and Mysteries of Same-Sex Love, p. 138)

Despite general social acceptance of paederastic relationships, the fact that free-born boys were future citizens entailed a certain degree of moral preoccupation about social status. It was therefore crucial to observe sexual etiquette in this area. In particular, boys were not expected to experience sexual desire in the paederastic relationship. If they conceded sexual favours to the older man, this was expected to be out of ’philia’ - friendship, respect, and affection for the suitor. It was thought proper that boys should submit only after a respectably long and sometimes expensive courtship. Deriving sexual pleasure from-male-to-male sex could open the boy up to accusations of ’feminine’ shamelessness and ’less than male behaviour’ (given women’s supposedly voracious appetite for sexual pleasure). (Mottier, Sexuality A Very Short Introduction, p. 12)

The truth is that pederasty is a vice encouraged by abnormal social conditions, such as life in military camps or purely masculine communities. Society was essentially masculine in the classical period of Greek civilisation, even outside of Sparta. Homosexuality in fact develops wherever men and women live separate lives and differences in education and refinement between the sexes militate against normal sexual attraction. The more uncompromising such separation and diversity become, more widespread homosexuality will be. (Flaceleitere, Love in Ancient Greece, p.215-216)


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