"I wanna be noted for the fall of your Civilization! At the Gay Bar, Gay Bar, Gay Bar, Woo!"**
Interesting article on the otherwise-annoying-me-quite-a-bit-recently Slate today, reviewing James Davidson's "The Greeks and Greek Love." Author Emily Wilson goes over Davidson's "fascinating, meandering, funny, and thought-provoking study of how ancient Greek men loved one another." Observing the current state of things vis a vis gay marriage and the status of same-sex relationships, Wilson calls it
"a central problem for modern Westernized societies. Many countries allow same-sex couples the right to a "civil union" but withhold from them the name of marriage. The Netherlands was the first modern nation to legalize marriage proper for gay people, in 2001. Since then, seven U.S. states have also legalized gay marriages, although one, California, has just backtracked. On May 26, Californian lawmakers upheld a ban on same-sex marriages in the state... The ban is based on the idea that there is—or should be—something fundamentally different about sexual and romantic relationships between people of the same sex and those between a man and a woman. Since history is so often invoked, either implicitly or explicitly, on both sides of the debate, now is a particularly good time to look back at the history of same-sex relationships."She goes on to say that the book
"ought to be required reading for anybody curious about the antecedents of the current impasse. [It] is a landmark study that challenges earlier historical interpretations of the evidence. For instance, [some] scholars... have argued that the Athenians were obsessed with anal sex, which they saw as an act of domination and humiliation. Davidson brilliantly shows that this interpretation is largely a projection on the part of modern historians, who have been reluctant to imagine a world where gay relationships could be expressions of love, affection, and appreciation, rather than deeply skewed power arrangements."Observing Davidson's arguments on the Athenians ("same-sex relationships—which seem to have generally taken place between youths in their late teens and young men in their early 20s—were an important part of a boy's journey to manhood... [and] many men continued to be interested in "boys" even after marriage; happily married poet Sophocles and unhappily married philosopher Socrates both flirted with young men at drinking parties and caused no scandal in doing so. (The amazing thing about Socrates' sex life, according to Plato's Symposium, was not that he fancied the gorgeous Alcibiades but that he resisted having sex with him, even when snuggling under the same blanket"), Cretans ("Cretan rituals were equally strange, from an Athenian perspective..."), and Spartans ("In Sparta... a curious kind of sex seems to have been the custom between well-behaved men and chaste teenage boys. Apparently the lover was supposed to relieve himself only by rubbing against the boy's cloak: The cloak had to remain on at all times, as a sort of all-body condom"), I realized that I must have missed that part of The 300.
Of course, the funniest thing to me about the article (and somewhat exemplifying Slate's more-than-occasional breathtakingly tone-deaf and dumb contrarianism) is that it reminds me of a typical Slate contrarian years ago who was all "can't we have just ONE uber-violent movie with mainly manly men battling, oiled and sweaty, without just ASSUMING homoerotic tones?" To which I thought, sure, go ahead, but if I were you, I wouldn't take my stand on HoYay's inappropriate over-application and tie up the end of my mediocre article on the (lack of real) homoerotic undertones in action movies by talking about "The 300" and fucking SPARTA, where there actually WAS homoeroticism, you know, in the form of HOMOSEXUAL SEX. Not explicitly in The 300 itself, if I recall, but in that silly thing called "real life."
This being, after all, the same real life where two of Western Civilizations's most influential cultures, Greece and Rome, had common and rather accepted forms of gay love and managed to, oh, form the rhetorical and historical basis for much of modern Western society. (Not to mention the many celebrated philosophers we so often cite in our paeans to reason or democracy who, at the very least, batted for both teams, and of course that historical war juggernaut, Alexander the Great.*) But, I'm sure Rome's eventual fall was probably due to a lack of heteronormative "family values."
*"Alexander the Great, just steaming through Persia; took out Darius the 3rd as we all know. And then he ran on... and after a while his army's going, 'Hang on. Alex, I think we lost 'em. You know, I don't know where we live any more, and we've killed most of the people we've met. So would you just like to chill out.' And Alex is going, 'Look, I'm 32, I'm gay, I'm on a roll. Let's go!' On you go."