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Thread: Is homosexuality a reflection of society ?

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    Satyavrata Maciamo's Avatar
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    Post Is homosexuality a reflection of society ?

    It always amazes me how many famous ancient Greeks and Romans were homosexuals, or actually bisexuals : Alexander, Julius Caesar, Augustus... It is well known that ancient Greeks not only tolerated homosexuality, but even encouraged it (especially between an older and a younger man). In Sparta homosexuality was even compulsory, because it reinforces ties between warriors during battles ! (on the basis that someone would fight harder to protect their friends if they had intimate relationships with them). I suppose that it was also why most famous Greco-Roman generals or military leaders were gay or bisexual, so as to be closer to their men.

    We hear much less of homosexuality for women in the Greco-Roman world. On the contrary, in the contemporary developed world bisexuality is much more common for women that men (surveys have shown that up to 1/3 of women could have homo-/bisexual tendencies, against only 5% for men). In any case I am almost certain that compulsory bisexuality for men would never been accepted by any modern population (at least in the Western world). I believe that this discrepency between ancient Europe and the modern Western world is due to the very different lifestyle of these periods.

    In the ancient world, life was much harsher and tougher than today. There were no motorised transports, no mass produced food, less confortable furniture and clothes, etc. There were more wars and slavery was seen as part and parcel of human society. Slavery was not even the more civilised form practised by Europeans in the Americas, but a pre-Christianity form where slaves were relegated to such a low status that their owners could kill them on a whim, without causing the least public consternation. All we can say is that life was utterly different in ancient Greece and Rome as it is now. Their lifestyle showed much stronger masculine attributes than ours : harshness, toughness, violence, lack of compassion...

    In the Greco-Roman society, men had little opportunity to express their feminine side - and let us not forget that all men are half women genetically, carrying an X chromosome. War was much more common for ordinary people than it is today. It was almost part of everyday life. All free Spartans (as opposed to slaves) received a military training and were constantly ready to defend their city or attack others. A high percentage or Roman men were also soldiers. In this tough world, young men appaeared as rather feminine to older men hardened by wars. Likewise teenage boys looked up to their elders as very manly and dominant figures. Homosexuality not only reinforced ties, it also allowed men living with men to express their feminine side.

    Nowadays, we (Westerners) live in an increasingly feminine world; a world of communication, avoidance of bloody wars, condemnation of violence, comfort, where artists are more popular than soldiers, where countries increasingly opt for no military service or conscription, where men take partnela leaves to take care of their babies... In this feminised world, men feel the urge to display more virility; they do bodybuilding, they practise violent sports, play violent video games or urge to become powerful business people, all in order to satisfy their male instincts.

    Women are left with too much femininity and too many opportunities to display it, with a bigger abundance in clothes, cosmetics or sexual freedom than ever before. In result to this, some women feel like they are becoming too feminine, and by association too weak or dominated by men. This realisation led to the feminist movement, where women strives to behave like men : get men's job, dress like men, and even join the army. This may be why some once overfeminine women meet masculinised women, they feel like their mindset is far apart enough to be in a heterosexual relationship. The latter one then takes the role of the man, in the same way as the innocent or feminised teenage boy of the Antiquity was seen as a substitute for a woman by older, toughened men.

    It is thus society, in my opinion, that shapes the sexual tendecies of its people, depending on how feminine or masculine its attributes are. It is also why male bi/homosexuality was better accepted in ancient Greece and Rome, while female bi/homosexuality is better accepted nowadays.
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    In Greece during one of their warring periods with Macedon at the Battle of Chaeronea (338 BCE), there was a fighing force of gay warriors known as the Sacred Band of Thebes. Most were killed during the battle, one where they held their position while the rest of the armies gave and fled, and it moved King Philip II (father of Alexander the Great) of Macedon, the victor, as he walked amongst their corpses to say some words on behalf of their bravery at the site of their deaths for which they fought for one another.

    "Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly." -- Recorded by Plutarch


    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    It is thus society, in my opinion, that shapes the sexual tendecies of its people, depending on how feminine or masculine its attributes are.
    I am not sure if it is society that shapes or forms a person`s sexual desires, but I would suggest it shapes the sexual practices they indulge in -- both through "repression" and "encouragement". I think you covered the "encouragement" side quite well with regards to soldiers in Greece and Rome.

    I would suggest that homosexuality was much more permitted in ancient Rome and Greece due to the fact that Christianity had not yet become entrenched, and therefore homosexuality had not been yet stygmatized with moral repugnance/sin.
    Last edited by strongvoicesforward; 04-09-06 at 06:00. Reason: Correcting some information
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    Satyavrata Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by strongvoicesforward View Post
    I would suggest that homosexuality was much more permitted in ancient Rome and Greece due to the fact that Christianity had not yet become entrenched, and therefore homosexuality had not been yet stygmatized with moral repugnance/sin.
    I thought about that too, but it does not explain why some traditionally Christian countries have become so tolerant toward homosexuality nowadays as to allow gay marriages (Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada...). Likewise most (younger) Westerners now do not raise an eyebrow when they see two women rubbing their bodies or even kissing in video clips or movies. The same is not true of men though. As I said, modern Western society is quite tolerant of women bisexuality, and even encourages it, while male homo/bisexuality is still mostly taboo in public. I don't remember seeing any two men kissing in video clips, and it would disgust me - while two women kissing can be beautiful if not arousing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    I thought about that too, but it does not explain why some traditionally Christian countries have become so tolerant toward homosexuality nowadays as to allow gay marriages (Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada...).
    I see your point, but that only explains the acceptance of it in those countries within the last several decades, primarily after the influence of the church in peoples' lives since the end of WWII. Prior to the emergence of the Church, like in your OP homosexuality did not seem to be so stygmatized.



    I don't remember seeing any two men kissing in video clips, and it would disgust me
    I find it humorous. I don`t know why, but I tend to laugh when I see men acting in a feminine way or when they kiss each other.

    - while two women kissing can be beautiful if not arousing.
    Yes, they are.

    Strange that our minds are wired with this double standard in views. Perhaps it could be that humans, like many animals have an aversion to fecal matter and try to distance themselves from it as much as possible. When we are confronted with a gay image of men, it might be that we associate it right off the bat indirectly with fecal matter and therefore there seems to be a repulsion in some, if not most men. However, we know that women on women sex does not entail anal sex and therefore no fecal matter. I don`t know. Just throwing out a thought on it.

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    Satyavrata Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by strongvoicesforward View Post
    Strange that our minds are wired with this double standard in views. Perhaps it could be that humans, like many animals have an aversion to fecal matter and try to distance themselves from it as much as possible. When we are confronted with a gay image of men, it might be that we associate it right off the bat indirectly with fecal matter and therefore there seems to be a repulsion in some, if not most men. However, we know that women on women sex does not entail anal sex and therefore no fecal matter. I don`t know. Just throwing out a thought on it.
    What about the ancient Greeks then ? Were they not humans like us ?

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    They are human like us, but I am not sure that the majority of the population engaged in male gay sex or had the natural sexual desire to do it. I am not aware of Plutarch sources or other ancient historians of sorts saying that gay men sex was the norm for the majority of the citizen males. Saying that many men engaged in it is different from the majority. It may have had the main purpose of bonding/forging a relationship rather than as the main purpose of satisfying desires. The writings about it in ancient Greece seems to depict it as the practice of the nobility, well educated, or in some cases the warrior class. That is far from the majority of the population, I would assume.

    But, I am no expert on ancient civilizations and gay culture of those societies, so basically, I am just throwing possible ideas on the subject around that I most surely would not defend tooth and nail.

    Why do you think that most people have an aversion to men/men gay sex but not to women gay sex? If a society has come up with a rathr collective and general fixed view on it (i.e. a negative view to men gay sex), it has to stem from some where. Where and why? My thought suggests that an aversion to fecal matter associated with men gay sex is the main reason the majority of the population in any given society abstains from it or views it negatively.

    Even before Christianity, in other belief systems, fecal matter, blood, and death were often associated with impurity or uncleanliness. Perhaps the psyche of the mind of the average person is somehow wired to avoid this, which I had already mentioned. Perhaps ancient beliefs about these unclean things have become part of a collective subconcious memory actually divorced from ancient beliefs as facts, but nevertheless have altered our view of anything that brings one in contact with blood, death, or fecal matter. Remember, though, I am speaking for the general populace. Of course there are going to be those aberations from the norm -- hence the warriors class, nobility, or well educated intellectuals.

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    1 members found this post helpful.
    I think what you said in your first post pretty much makes sense, Mac. I think there are some people who are born with some kind of genetic predisposition to same-sex attraction, but I also think these people are far fewer than those who, during/after puberty, experience same-sex attraction linked in other ways through social context. Naturally, the more society is accepting of same-sex relationships, the more people are going to feel encouraged to express that feeling. If society is very against it, then even people who feel exclusively same-sex attraction might well try and conceal it. Also, people often take example, even subconsciously, from 'role models'.

    @ SVF: I also agree with what you said in your post about the bad associations of fecal matter being what makes male-male sex seem repugnant to a lot of people. It's a kind of natural self-preservation instinct steering people away from things that are unhygienic.

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    Is homosexuality a reflection of society ? No. Homosexuality has been around since the dawn of time. In ancient Roman times it was even fashionable among the upper classes. It was widely practised in ancient Greek society and so on. There was a period when homosexuality was driven underground and was considered abhorrent. The wheel has turned and it is now considered to be acceptable in most societies.

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    Sexual Orientation is argued to be an outcome of the nature-nurture interaction. My PhD study looks into sexual orientation and some of the biological underpinnings and socially-guided developmental milestones.
    Thanks for posting.

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