three pairs of lovers with space

INTRODUCTION TO THE USES OF HISTORY BY PARKER ROSSMAN

 

The following is the introduction to “The Uses of History”, the seventh chapter of Dr. Parker Rossman’s Sexual Experience Between Men and Boys (Association Press, New York, 1976), one of the only three book-length general studies of Greek love in English. Following this introduction, Rossman went on to cover the whole history of pederasty in eight sub-chapters:

The Earliest Pederast
The Greek Experiment
Roman Sex Exploitation
The Judeo-Christian Reaction
Pederasty in the Non-Christian World
Pederasty à la Mode
The Western Underground
Who Dares Speak of Love?

These sub-chapters were followed by “Some Concluding Observations”.

Just as the special value has been pointed out of Rossman’s chapters preserving testimonies about Greek love from the 1970s, the like of which is otherwise rare, so by the same token it must fairly be pointed out that he was no kind of historian. Much of what he says about the remote past is exaggerated or distorted, unsurprisingly so since he was far more inclined to cite a book by another modern as unversed in history as himself rather than any primary source. This chapter is therefore presented with misgivings as his least valuable, and the reader anxious for the historical truth is asked to pay attention to the footnotes.

 

The Uses of History

Putto Holding a Mask by Jean-Léon Gérôme

Pederasts often search through the history of sexual customs in an effort to understand themselves, asking questions. How different are human beings today from those in ancient Greece, where sex play between men and boys was sometimes highly approved? Do we look for the origins of pederasty in history as a learned behavior passed from culture to culture and generation to generation? Or are there certain types of cultures which nurture pederasty? An adequate historical study of pederasty would require volumes, for it would involve a study of sexuality and human nature in each epoch, including the role of women and the family, prostitution and adventurism, religion and morality, and other complexities involved in the development of sexual customs.

Despite a growing volume of research, however, very little is known for sure about such sexual practices in the past. Many of the sources are suspect, having been written either to attack pederasty or to defend it, with little objectivity on either side. While this chapter is dependent upon the research of scholarly pederasts, its aim is not a “pederastic interpretation of history.” We must, however, note the danger that the categories used to organize known facts may obscure the truth and lead us in wrong directions, for historians are obliged to impose a point of view in order to fit together the limited data they have. Taylor,[1] for example, fits the facts into his theory of alternating sexually permissive and sexually repressive societies. Some historians use Freudian categories, and others Marxist. Some scholars search for evidence in the past for the type of gay-homosexuality which thrives in urban society today, and confuse pederasty with gay-homosexuality. Karlen[2] suggests they often abuse history. But we are dependent upon our guides to the underground and their perspectives. This chapter focuses on the history of pederasty as we know it today.

 

[1] G. Rattray Taylor, Sex in History. New York: Ballantine, 1954  [Author’s footnote].

[2] Arno Karlen, Sexuality and Homosexuality. New York: W. W. Norton, 1971. [Author’s footnote]

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