Sunday, 24 May 2009

Sex and Prejudice

This is an answer I gave to a discussion on the nature of sexuality and prejudice.

Essentially we are talking about on the nature of prejudice and the circumstances in which particular prejudices arose. Take the example of male homosexuality. In ancient Greece it wasn’t just ‘normal’ to be homosexual in many cases it was actively encouraged, particularly in the military. In the city state of Thebes pairs of homosexual lovers were hand-picked to join an elite formation known as the Sacred Band. The thinking here was that the disgrace and shame would be all the greater for a soldier who abandoned his lover in battle. The inspiration for this came from Plato himself, who wrote;

For what lover would not choose rather to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved, either when abandoning his post or throwing away his arms? He would be ready to die a thousand deaths rather than endure this. Or who would desert his beloved or fail him in the hour of danger?

Although the Romans were more ambivalent the real prejudice against homosexuality and all forms of ‘non-procreative’ sex comes with the rise of Christianity. Even with the decline in Christian belief the prejudice remains, sustained by irrational feelings; sustained, one also suspects, by fears and insecurities about self-identity. I suspect that some of the greatest homophobes are themselves latent homosexuals!

I certainly don’t agree that heterosexual men are prejudiced towards gays out of a general disgust over the practice of anal intercourse. I can assure you that a lot of straight guys are only too keen on the idea when it comes to girls, both giving and-ahem-receiving! Prejudice is just that-prejudice, an irrational fear of that which is different based, for the most part, on no particular experience.

Transexuality, I suppose, falls into the same trap as homosexuality, though, speaking personally, as a self-professed bisexual I have never at any time come across any prejudice whatsoever. Just the contrary; I know guys who would only be too happy to see me get it on with another girl. :-))


  1. Interestingly, there is a study which indicates your suspicion, that homophobes are, or tend to more likely, latent homosexuals, may actually be correct :

    But then again, it may be that they got an erection, for other reasons..Not sure. Or maybe the non-homophobes were more used to gay porn, or more at ease with it.

    But I think the reason heterosexuals find the idea of homosexuality repulsive is because the idea of sleeping with another guy is repulsive to most. Lesbians are okay, as we can understand that..well sleeping with women isn't repulsive. But I guess people dislike lesbians because it means less women for the heteros, especially when an attractive one turns out to be a lesbian.

    I know you mention christian values. But I read somewhere, that the concept, even the word Homesexuality, is a new one, relatively- I think coined in 19th centuary. My guess is that 80 years ago, most people, didn't now what homosexuality was, not to mention even discuss it. I think people were aware that there were host of unusual sexual practices, i.e. other than the 'natural' one, such as bestiality and pedophilia, and people just classed homosexuality in that category, without thinking to much about it.

    In Christianity, technically masturbating is sinful- there is a passage in the old testament, in which a man was condemned for 'spilling his seed'. I believe the justification is that sex is purely for procreation, and otherwise is evil as it leads to loss of control. And I guess, for prudes, (I have to confess I am a bit squeemish) sex is a dirty act, and should be limited only for the survival of the species.

    I read your article on Sex and Identity as well. I have to say, I guess, I am your exact opposite- still immature, though almost your age, but then I grew up in an environmenet where sex is not mentioned at all. And on all accounts I am in that respect totally clueless. Now days I am just confused.

  2. Well, sometimes I get quite confused myself. :-)