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The book that never was, Part II

Fri 14 Oct 2005 In: Comment

Remember Garnet Milne and World Net Daily's beatup job over a 'book' that Haworth Press actually never published? According to gay classicist David Halperin, paedophilia was never part of Ancient Greek same-sex relationships. As I've noted beforehand about Alexander the Great, 'straight' and 'gay social identities organised around same-sex desire and specific sexual practices are a recent invention, dating back to the seventeenth century at the earliest. In Ancient Greek and Roman societies, it mattered more whether you were a top or bottom than whether you did it with someone of the same or opposite sex. These mapped onto dominant social, sexual and gender roles, as well as age cohorts. Here, confusion has arisen. David Halperin contributed an entry on 'homosexuality' to a recent volume on classical Greek and Roman culture and society which clarifies matters. Contrary to what both apologists for paedophilia and Christian Right homophobes argue, 'boy' did not mean prepubescent male child in those societies. It actually meant someone who we'd describe as a mid-adolescent, around sixteen or so. Remember, diet and other environmental factors can delay or speed up puberty. And remember, sixteen has been the common age of consent in New Zealand for over nineteen years. Even then, same-sex male sex between adolescents and adult males was likely to be 'intercrural'- between closed legs of the younger party, rather than anal sex, until the younger man acquiredbodily hair, at which point he was supposed to turn top. Penetrative sex was limited to women, male sex slaves and stigmatised 'kinaidos' adult males who liked it. In other words, modern sexual identities like bears, 'butch bottoms,' heterosexuals and egalitarian cross-class heterosexual and gay relationships alike were all unknown, so it was rather a prescriptive time, and not a golden age. It didn't tolerate paedophilia either, whatever both paedophile apologists and homophobic smear merchants might want to believe. Nor, for that matter, should we. Source: David Halperin: "Homosexuality" in Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spawforth (eds) Oxford Companion to Classical Civilisation: Oxford: OUP: 1998: 347-354. Craig Young - 14th October 2005    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Friday, 14th October 2005 - 12:00pm

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