Homosexual Relations In Ancient Greece

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In the book The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault analyzes 4 “arts of existence” in ancient Greek life: aphrodisia, dietetics, economics, and erotics. In the final section, erotics, Foucault analyzes homosexual relations in ancient Greece and how it became a problematic aspect of Greek culture. The Ancient Greeks are well known for their bountiful expression and practice of sex. The Greeks had disparate sexual lives to the ascetic cultures that arose later on due to the practice of Christianity and asceticism. Rather than restricting oneself to a set of rules to live by, like Christianity, Greeks shaped their behavior through modeling after cultural figures. Although Greeks are known to have had orgies and men freely cheated on their…show more content…
Contrasting to most civilizations who conceptualize bisexuality as a dual formation of sexual desire, Greeks saw bisexual relations as a single form of desire. Greeks believed that sex was a natural desire for beautiful human beings regardless of their sex. Homosexual relations in Greek culture was problematic for various reasons according to Foucault. In a socially appropriate form, homosexual relations were practiced in the form of pederasty between a man and a young boy. It was uncommon for sexual relations to be between two men because one of them would have to accept a passive role. This was considered undignified because Greek males attributed passivity to a woman’s role and not a man’s. Women were perceived as lesser and as the property of a man’s, making assuming a woman’s role of passivity humiliating. To ensure they were not dishonoring a worthy man’s integrity, Greek men resorted to pederasty with boys who were on the verge of receiving status as a man. The older and educated male was to be the instigator of the pursuit and take up the socially, morally, and sexually active role. The boy was to still…show more content…
This type of teacher- student dynamic between the man and the young boy during pederasty is based on the love for truth. Through the act of sex, the older man would be experiencing two types of love; the loving of the boy and the love for truth. This is another reason why the boys were to conduct a level of passivity. However, a problem that Foucault point out is the ambiguity of the extent of passivity that was correct for the boy to assume. The older male would allow the young boy a choice of rejection, however it was expected of the boy to not reject his love entirely. There was specific courtship that boy was to follow: he “had to be careful to not yield too easily; he also had to keep from accepting too many tokens of love, and from granting his favors heedlessly and out of self-interest, without testing the worth of his partner; he must not show gratitude for what the lover had done for him”. These rules of conduct convey how sensitive of a factor that homosexual relations play in Greek society and how one’s concept of manhood was constantly at stake in the role of the younger boy. Foucault points out the issue with self-mastery in homosexual pursuits. Because they are not restricted to standards of behavior like married men and women, “the principle of regulation of behaviors was to be sought in the relation itself, in the nature of the

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