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(Update: Blogger hasn't fixed its problem with the "adult warning". Will go back to posting at my WordPress blog)

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Serendipity. Isn't it a wonderful word! Good old Horace Walpole and the eighteenth century enlightenment.

In this case, I meant that I find wonderful things when I start researching for the posts I write. Mostly -- though not always -- I'm looking for pictures to go with my rants. But as the Wikipedia item on serendipity says, an informed search, that is, one where you can see the usefulness and relevance of pictures or articles even if Google hasn't done the linkages for you, makes for some very satisfying discoveries.

I was looking for an image to go with my May-September Relationships piece, and I came across this website, a collection of images on non-western homosexuality.

A few thoughts popped into my head when I found it. First, it is a common lie from the Christian-Fascists that homosexuality is a western evil, introduced to noble savages by our degenerate culture. The images (and other work) suggest that the opposite is true: homophobia is the evil introduced by us into more primitive societies.

Consider for example the picture of the of the oh-so-Christian conquistadors murdering "sodomites". The brave Spanish soldiers are having a bit of a party, murdering evil gays. Look at their insouciant, even joyful attitudes. What fun it all is, to be sure. In Reay Tannahill's Sex in History, she describes how many pre-Columban cultures were tolerant of homosexuality. In one culture from meso-America, a young man was given a male slave to satisfy his hormonal urges on reaching adolescence. The big no-no wasn't gay sex, it was fathering a child with an inappropriate woman, because that created all kinds of obligations for the family. Better to let him get his rocks off with a young man. One wonders whether the scion of the family and his slave ended up fond of each other.

This familial reason for promoting adolescent homosexuality is probably one of the reasons the Greeks tolerated and even encouraged the pattern of a young man being taken in hand by an older to show him how to be a man -- a bisexual man -- something Mary Renault uses to great effect in her novels set in Ancient Greece. After all, the Greeks also exposed babies to control population.

So we have the thoroughly decent and endearing Spanish conquistadors murdering evil sodomites and then we also have a photograph of a indigenous American vase in the shape of two men fucking. You know, I think I'll just pop down to Target and get an anal sex jug. So much for homosexuality being a western import! (Reay Tannahill also says that the priests of the new imposed religion in Spanish America were always asking their parishioners to tell them during confession whether they'd had sex in the "proper vessel" -- the Indians used heterosexual anal sex as a birth-control device)

The next thought that struck me was one I've often mentioned: that in a world where it doesn't matter whether you have sex with your own or the "opposite" gender, bisexuality would be normal and widespread. Have a look at the charming picture of the Threesome in India, the glorious peacock eyes of all three participants, the one man up the other who is in turn fucking the woman. I love the way they have taken off all their clothes except their headdress. I love also the sublime looks on all their faces. Glorious.

The final thought was that perhaps May-September relationships are historically all too common. Look at the utterly charming painting of the Sheik and his boy enjoying a party in the garden. Maybe I should have chosen this image to illustrate my May-September piece.

Final point: it seems to me that the more you look, the more you dig, the more you find that gay and bisexual is universal, throughout all cultures and all times. And that when Judeo-Christianity is absent, mostly it's tolerated and in some cases even welcomed.


Hunter said...

I suspect that a large part of the reason we find homosexuality and bisexuality so common in, not "non-Western," but rather "non-Christian" societies, is that most of them had much more realistic attitudes toward sex in general than the patriarchal, property-driven attitudes of the Judaeo-Christian traditions.

Add to the Greeks and Native Americans the ancient Irish and the pre-Meiji Japanese, the Chinese, and yes, pre-colonial Africa, all cultures in which same-sex relationships were accommodated without a twitch.

Someone has even theorized that the erastes-eromenos relationship, the May-September pairings that you describe among the Greeks, was a pan-Indo-European institution -- there's some evidence from the ancient Albanians as well as the pre-Christian Celts. (Interestingly enough, under ancient Irish law, a woman could divorce her husband for spending too much time with his male lover.)

Interesting post -- nice pictures, too.

Nigel said...

Thanks, Hunter.

I agree -- On the whole, "non-Christian" is a better description than "non-Western".