Aug 19, 2015

A brief note on homosexuality


We haven't studied this, of course, not in a serious way, but when you are standing with one leg in the classical-antique period, as we did for a while, working on Plato's Symposium or studying Hadrian's life, you can't help but observe that the classical attitude vis à vis homosexuality was very different, very different from the attitudes my generation grew up with during the latter part of the last century. Not only attitudes, in fact, but facts, or perceived facts. The perceived facts were that there's a fairly sharp divide between gay and straight behavior, separating anything between 90-95% of the population from the rest---the overwhelming majority being straight, a small minority being gay or lesbian, with a few bisexuals in between.

Antiquity wasn't like this at all. There wasn't a single male deity in the Greek Pantheon that's wasn't bisexual, for example. Out of the first fifteen Roman emperors 14 "made" (to put it in Gibbon's words) "incorrect sexual choices," (at least according to the author of Decline and Fall...). Etc.



"What I believe," (1947) Paul Cadmus

We are not the first to observe this, and helpful theories in re have been proffered for quite some time, the dominant ones putting the onus on Christianity. How these theories will fare in the future remains to be seen, there's some historical research now showing that gay marriage was tolerated during Roman times and accommodated by the Christian Church (one of the funny things in the debate about gay marriage is that practically everybody making historical claims (i.e., the conservatives) is ignoring the fact that the institution didn't require sacral input then. Marriage was a matter of private contracts, and it took the Roman law quite some time to adapt to the Judaeo-Christian claims as to its sanctity (marriage still is, in Islam, a private affair). Anyhow, with the advent of Christianity, the screws on sexuality started to tighten, which wasn't particularly helpful for the gay cause.)

Now, finally, 2000 years later, we're more or less back to square one, religion having been reduced to ritual and the largest part of the (Western) population ignoring the traditional-moralistic stance of the Church.

And? How about homosexuality? That's where the results from YouGov come into play, the British polling researcher.  Look at the latest numbers (this uses McKinsey's scale of sexual orientation, 0 == exclusively heterosexual, 6 == exclusively homosexual):




Taken as a whole, 72% of the British public place themselves at the completely heterosexual end of the scale, while 4% put themselves at the completely homosexual end and 19% say they are somewhere in between – classed as bisexual in varying degrees by Kinsey. Of the people that do place themselves in this 1-5 area, the majority incline away from homosexuality – 15% are closer to the heterosexual end, 2% directly in the middle and 2% are closer to the homosexual end.




With each generation, people see their sexuality as less fixed in stone. The results for 18-24 year-olds are particularly striking, as 43% place themselves in the non-binary area between 1 and 5 and 52% place themselves at one end or the other. Of these, only 46% say they are completely heterosexual and 6% as completely homosexual.

You say. We love it.

No comments: