Understanding the Societal Response to Homosexuality
Understanding the Societal Response to Homosexuality
“They gave me a reward when I killed two men and gave me a suspension when I loved one”. These are the words of Leonard Matlovich (1943-1988) who was a Vietnam War veteran and one of the best known gay men in America in the 1970s. A journey through the history makes it clear that Homosexuality has always been an issue which has had the highest amount of discussions, disagreements and clashes over the time in every culture and society.
It always generates interest people, who are seeking a better understanding of the deferent cultural values and social behaviors in various times of the history, to know why different societies in different times of the history reacted to different sexual activities in typical ways. This study would comprehensively look into the facts that might have affected the societies in understanding and accepting the homosexual behavior within the communities. What were the social, economical, ecological and political dynamics that drove the societies to respond to homosexuality in a rather hostile way?
Ancient concepts The ancient times that had smaller kingdoms and more of the cult practices gave way to larger empires and syncretism of different monotheistic religions spreading new outlook on man having sex with man. This transformation process was in fact differed in various parts of the world. Till the advent of asceticism, which was against all forms of sexual pleasures, homosexuality was accepted broadly as rather positive human sexual activity except in the pharaonic Egypt (Greenburg 1988). This exception itself is an evidence of the changing values in a society under an organized administrative and religious concept.
The vast empires meant long distance trade and imperial expansion which in turn helped the followers of different cult religions in contact with one another causing the diffusion of religious practices that involved homosexuality (Greenburg 1988). In that context there prevailed an atmosphere conducive for a monotheistic religion which uprooted the polytheism which to a great extend accepted the sexual magic of homosexuality (Greenburg 1988). The changing economical, political and national scenario had caused people to look more seriously into competitive survival accomplishments than bodily pleasures and desires.
The gap between rich and the have-nots increased due to the changing business opportunities and slave trade (Greenburg 1988). Thus the poor men who had to devote their life more into physical labor and combat for the rich to maintain their life style became critical of the rich men who devote their body and life to seeking pleasure from hedonistic pleasure. Moreover, the politics in the larger kingdoms were not mainly in the hands of the public, which kept the common man aloof from the public affaires. This helplessness in fact ended up resulting in a repudiation of desires and pleasures(Greenburg 1988).
The small societies were, further, shaken by the conquest happened during the expansion of empires. The troubled social and political situations due to wars have left the people without any sense of security Davis 1982). The implications of these aspects can be further discussed when looking at different communities in detail. Various Outlooks of Various Communities In many ways the connotation of homosexual behavior for Greeks is slipping between the effeminate behavior and man’s tendency to have sex with another man (Greenburg 1988). One of the Plato’s observations goes as ‘an older lover will plainly court a beloved who is effeminate.
There is also a mention of an Egyptian letter dating back to 145 BC which ‘Malakos’ almost certainly refers to male homosexuality. Where as Boswell (1980) had strongly stated that “malakos is never used in Greek to designate gay people as a group or even in reference to homosexual acts generically”. Dio Crisostom who was a Greek scholar in AD 115 mentioned that someone who loved learning might be called malakoteran (Davis 1982). These uncertain commends on homosexuality in the Greek community for a great extend reveal that though, homosexuality was not accepted among Greeks, it was not abominated.
It could be because the Greeks had a strong and unthreatened sense of cultural superiority. But they lacked altogether the Jewish sense of being a holy people set apart by God (Davis 1982). The Greek never believed that the divine power had reviled to man kind a code of laws for the regulation of sexual behavior. Hebrews always upheld the biblical prohibition of male prostitution as the weapon against homosexuality. A few passages in the Leviticus seem to prohibit male homosexuality precisely. They are Levi. 8:22 “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination” and Levi. 0:13 “If a man lies with mankind as with woman kind both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surly be put to death; their blood shall be upon them”.
At this point it looks like the homosexuality of man is the only thing to abominate, it may not be so but the lesbianism at this stage might have been more of a personal issue handled by the elder male members of the family than a public issue handled by the authorities (Davis 1982). However’ Later on lesbianism became more of a public issue when the early church took to counter it. St. Paul has clearly mentioned it and strongly condemned it when he said Rom. : 26-27 that their women have exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural relationships with women burn with lust for one another.
The hostility towards homosexuality as a prohibited sexual behavior is accounted to be much ferocious in Christian community in many times of the history (Davis 1982). At this juncture, such sexual variation is found to be breaking the boundaries of natural intercourse and thus tend to become the special subject of persecution (Boswell 1980). This strong hostility of Christians towards such sexual variation is to be understood in terms of the Latin Christians who ruled the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem.
They were group in exile and fighting against formidable Muslims to protect the farthest strong hold of Christendom. They lost Jerusalem finally in the 1187, and their leaders fought their heart out, to prevent the secular leaders from making a pact with the Muslims, only to maintain the Latin Christians discriminating and rigid monopoly. Under the influence of the Latin Church the Frankish Knights and warriors who controlled the kingdom of Jerusalem strangely apart from their Muslim subjects.
Thus the normally open knight’s community kept themselves aloof and the sexual variation which was perceived as a transgression was severely suppressed (Davis 1982). The Modern Outlook In the heartland of Christian Europe hostility towards homosexuality became marked only toward the end of the 12th century. The emphasize n the clear definition and rigorous defense of religious and legal boundaries inevitably led to the increased intolerance of forms of sexual behavior involving a breakdown of the boundaries between natural categories(Davis 1982). owever, the leaders of religious and military organizations would consider the maintenance of their status depends heavily on strict boundaries between the insiders and outsiders. If the insiders are male alone, then, the boundaries between them. The maintenance of strict boundaries between the different levels of a military or ecclesiastical hierarchy requires that people of different levels would not have sexual relations (Ruben 1984). In all the male organizations it would mean prohibiting homosexuality.
To wrap up, now such time has come, when the humanity realized that sexuality should be treated with special respect (Ruben 1984). 1873 has seen the first federal anti obscenity law was being passed in the United States. From the late 1940s to 1960s the homosexuals were targeted and persecuted severely in America. In the late 60s, the extreme right came out accusing Sex Information and Education Council of the United States as a communist plot that destroys the family values and eventually killing the patriotism in the coming generation (Ruben 1984).
The recent past have seen AIDS being considers as a homosexual disease even in the United States. It was a fact that the gay community had to deal with misfortune of being known as community in which a deadly disease spread out and became visible. One must look back into the history of epidemic and their victims in the beginning, before one begins to think about an anti-gay initiative on the basis of Aids (Ruben 1984).
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 24 September 2016
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