three pairs of lovers with space

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

 

Collected here are comments of general interest made on individual articles. LTTE will highlight reader information, insights, questions and answers regarding any aspect of Greek love history and literature. Please feel free to comment from this page (some editing may be involved).

 


Nineteene Yeares Travayles by William Lithgow

Tropic of Gemini27 January 2022

In Palestine, Lithgow won't speak of the "twofold kind of voluptuous abomination" practiced with female prostitutes, lest it give innocent northern minds funny ideas. But he boldly records all the boy-buggering going on in Italy, Constantinople, Cairo, Morocco, Malta and Hungary (the whole southern world in fact). Does this suggest Lithgow thinks sex with boys already common knowledge in northern lands? No innocence to be saved when it comes to pederasty? And is it a lesser evil than sodomy with a woman? (If I'm even reading him right.)

Also, he makes two interesting climate-related comments. In Morocco they open three thousand boy brothels in the summer time. In Rome, sodomitical Sixtus grants his cardinals the use of boy brothels for the three hot months. (One assumes he's referring to the temperature of the air, not the cardinals.) It smacks of Richard Burton's sotadic zone. In the torrid tropics, boy as breezy refreshment becomes irresistible?

And more: the introduction to Persia quotes from a 1082 text where a father gives advice to his son. Part of that advice is for the young man not to limit his inclinations to either women or boys, but to enjoy both. Dad gets quite specific in fact: "During the summer let your desires incline toward youths, and during the winter toward women."

Third time's a charm!

A turtle's gender is determined by the temperature of the egg in which it grows. Could boysexuality be similarly configured? The beautiful boy partly represents the dream of transcending the gross materiality of procreative sex. This is nowhere better exemplified than in the heat-seared lands of premodern Arabic Islam, with its thousand years of Platonic boy-love poetry. So when the temperature rises dangerously high, perhaps a boy is the only chance of escaping hell on earth.

If it's true, if high temperatures promote boy-love...it would certainly explain the millenarian hysteria surrounding Global Warming. Our house is on fire! Break the glass!

 

Edmund Marlowe, 28 January 2022

"Does this suggest Lithgow thinks sex with boys already common knowledge in northern lands? No innocence to be saved when it comes to pederasty?"
My guess is that this is right. Surely, almost all northerners would have heard of sodomy, if only from the fulminations of their preachers? And since, everywhere that we know of then, it was taken for granted that men having sex with boys would sodomise them, the longing for sex with a boy would have been seen as the obvious cause of sodomy.  Weren't man/boy sex and sodomy thus almost synonymous in the early modern mind? The incentive to sodomise women would surely be very slight in a society where you could hang for it and your soul be damned while there were no disincentives to enjoying coitus with your wife or a whore. Quite possibly sodomising a woman had never occurred to most northerners. It would be interesting to have some evidence though.

"And is it a lesser evil than sodomy with a woman?"
Maybe not, but more understandable?

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HOMOSEXUAL CUSTOMS RETURN TO KANDAHAR, 2001

P. Hill22 January 2021

“I was beautiful. I never left home for a year and a half – I was that afraid," says Farid...when an Afghan commander took a liking to him.

Hey, I'm gunna steal that one: no, I wasn't a sad, sickly little 'fraidy cat -- I was too damn beautiful to live!

Look on the bright side, Farid - at least you were safe from covid.

In the space of three sentences we're told that Kandahar's Greek love culture is one of rampant boy rape, and that the boys openly flaunt their relationships with men. Funny boys. Hope they never teased Farid.

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SPECIAL FRIENDSHIPS: THE WESTERN AS PLAYGROUND (GIRLS KEEP OUT!)

Sam Hall21 January 2022

SHANE (1953): A Boy-love Masterpiece

Steven Freeman’s superb Special Friendships is, to my thinking, far too dismissive of the 1953 Western Shane. He says the film “deserves only an honorary mention here, because the intense bond is absent.”

This is just plain wrong. Sure, the film depicts no gabby, elbow-in-the-ribs friendship between man and boy, but the bond gains unusual strength and depth by dispensing with the usual nervous need to dissipate male passion in guffaws and arm-punches.

Freeman goes on to say, “Shane’s writers could never have guessed that this sub-strand would resonate deeper in the audience mind than the coy will they?/won’t they? flirtation with Joey’s mother...”

Sub-strand? From first scene to last, ten-year-old Joey is head-over-heels in love with Shane who fully, if quietly and a little melancholically, returns his affection. All the surrounding plotlines gain their coherence and symbolic power from this central man-boy pillar.

Brandon deWilde, blonde hair and blue eyes, is a striking presence as Joey. One moment he’s a dreamy, gap-toothed baby-Marlon Brando, the next a stolid little nugget of unwashed iron-ore. To the lone drifter Shane, Joey becomes a stumbling block, a driven claim-stake that halts his drifting and places his manhood firmly on the map. Joey, dressed like a tumbleweed and moving outdoors with the determination of a ploughshare, has an unguarded innocence evident even during his cool calculating appraisals of the masculine status-contests that rage around him.

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SPECIAL FRIENDSHIPS: KID SIDEKICKS DO HAVE THEIR USES

Misplaced Misrule19 January 2022

Last Action Hero met the fate it deserved. It was a stinker. Criminally so, because it was a fine idea with a perfectly cast boy but a totally botched script and non-existent direction. The movie within the movie needed to be neat and simple, allowing a realisation of the comic potential of magic boy invading and, as unintending Lord of Misrule, upending a clean and neatly scripted action world. Instead the movie within the movie was a parodic hodgepodge unto itself, one moment playing it for cheap laughs, the next trying to get us to invest. Hopeless. There was no discernible story or character arcs at work. Throwaway jokes were tossed in only to remain limply on screen as half-baked plot points. Something went seriously wrong in the making of this dud.

I suspect the problems may well have flowed from the central irreducible problem: Arnie. The big lunk can play it for laughs, sure--made a couple of fun ones with Danny DeVito--but only as a lunk. This movie called for some subtle and sophisticated comic acting from the lead. Think Bill Murray, or even, at a pinch, Tom Hanks. Actually, I'd love to have seen Clint Eastwood have a crack at this role. He had a naturally subversive undercurrent of humour in even his most gung-ho moments. At least then young Danny's adoration wouldn't have been left stranded like a tin trophy on Arnie's lacquered mantelpiece shoulders.

And, for crying out loud, you can't expect a boy actor--even one as enthusiastic and winning as Austin O'Brien--to carry a man-boy duo. The friendship remained as flat and dull as Arnie's gubernatorial career. The tragedy of all this was highlighted by the final scene of parting between Arnie and Danny. Danny saves his wounded hero by carrying him across the threshold of the movie screen, back to the safety of his celluloid home. In tears, the boy tells Arnie he can't bear to leave him, wants to stay right there with him. Arnie delivers his one convincing line when he softly but robotically says, "But I'm imaginary."

Could have built a movie round that.

* * *

ANON   Thursday, 08 July 2021

Was a physical copy of this book ever published?

Editor   09 July 2021

No, sadly not. Publication was intended and was discussed by the author with his friends, but never quite happened. Besides its intrinsic value, the posting of it here is an attempt to fulfill his wishes.

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PEDERASTY ISN’T GREEK TO POST-TALIBAN AFGHANS, 2002

Edmund Marlowe14 January 2022

Truly the modern Afghans and ancient Greeks are cultural kin in important respects. This article ought to be food for thought for the millions fond of using the almost meaningless term "western", especially English-speaking peoples who use it to foster a myth that they belong to an “us” that includes the Greeks, versus a “them”, in which Near Eastern and Central Asian peoples are often seen as the prime opponent. Most startlingly, we see here the Afghans attached (probably without interruption since before Alexander founded their second city) to a socio-cultural practice accorded great importance by the Greeks and reviled more than anything under the sun by the whole anglosphere. That of course has much broader implications concerning beliefs about the social roles of sex and of men and boys. But it is not only that. Behold the Afghan and Greek boys in these images. They look similar, faces, haircuts and (colour aside) dress (which of course has broader cultural implications). Certainly, they look more like each other than most anglo boys.

I only say “almost” meaningless, because I have to concede that belief in the myth of being “western”, despite its inherent self-contradictions, has generated for now a certain pernicious reality we would be better off without.

 

Sam Hall, 15 January 2022

The "west" is a very woolly term, but can't it usefully refer to societies who have self-consciously aligned themselves with the combined Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian traditions?

Surely it's meaningful to talk about a "western" canon of art and literature. Harold Bloom read every damn word ever written on planet earth, and he certainly found the concept useful.

In the sixties there was, briefly, a genuine and exciting desire to open the "west" up to the "east", particularly in matters spiritual, ie Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism etc. It referred to something meaningful, and one of the great tragedies of our time is that the movement foundered while politics swallowed all.

The Greeks, the Romans, the French, the British, the Americans -- they've all had a shot at being the engine room of the "west", this amorphous rough beast, this "myth". The now-widespread violent hatred of pederasty you rightly attribute to the Anglosphere is a product of the British-American dominance of the "west" and the world over the past two centuries. That puritanical homophobia is, I would say, a very western cultural product. One can trace its origins all the way back to Plato.

Still, perhaps it's impolite to talk of the dead like this.

 

Edmund Marlowe16 January 2022

You make a good point about Plato, but it’s also very revealing. I think it is rather typical of believers in the “west” to have Greek philosophy and, above all, Plato in mind when they think of themselves up as cultural heirs of the Greeks. And yet Plato was an oddball in no way representative of ancient Greece, not least because of his peculiar and unhellenic hostility to sex. There was a great deal more to being Greek than the writings of some Athenian philosophers. Shouldn’t we also remember that for several centuries after the fall of Rome, it was Arabic scholars who were preserving and absorbing Greek writings of every description, centuries when the English were totally illiterate apart from the odd priest and (so far as is known) not a single man in England could read Greek?

If only your definition of the “west” as societies combining “Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian traditions” held up in practice, I would have to admit it had validity as a term (while still lamenting its overuse), but it simply doesn’t. To give one stark example, how can Russians be logically excluded from a west thus defined, as they invariably are? Compared with, say, the English, they are much more Greek (their script was a huge gateway to a flood of Greek ideas), much more Roman (they practise Roman law, by far the most important legacy of Rome) and more Christian too.

The real reason the Anglosphere excludes the Russians from their idea of the west is also very revealing: it is purely political and thus has nothing to do with your proposed definition. It has suited the United States and its principal political cronies very well to popularise a term that makes a supposed cultural "us" of their alliance, and a "them" of its opponents. It is therefore a propagandist lie. With the anglosphere responsible, as you say, for the violent hatred of pederasty over the past two centuries, I contend it is also an evil one.

* * *

P. Hill16 January 2022

"There is a boy across the river with a rectum like peach, but alas I cannot swim."

Nice quote -- sums up the work of gay historians and social commentators perfectly.

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RINGS, SUBCULTURES AND THE UNDERGROUND BY PARKER ROSSMAN

Eccepuer, 14 January 2022

Thanks for posting the Bobby Pell cover of TRIM Feb. 1962. That issue was, indeed, my own introduction to gay digest purchases. I was 16 years old, on one of my many truancy days spent in NYC, when I spotted it hanging on the inside wall of a sidewalk newsstand. I think my heart stopped. I badly wanted to buy it, but it took 15-20 minutes of walking fretfully about until I worked up the courage to hand over my money. Many such purchases followed over the years, including other issues featuring Bobby Pell, but none have remained as memorable to this day.

 

P. Hill, 15 January 2022

If I saw that Bobby Pell cover on a newsstand today, it's not my heart I'd be concerned about but my sanity.

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PEDERAST BY ANGUS STEWART

P. Hill   14 January 2022

Stuart wrote: "A circumscribed sexuality inevitably exaggerates erotic fantasy, channels energy into extraordinarily trivial obsessions, and produces all manner of hyper-sensitivity."

It reads like one of Kipling's "Just So" stories -- "How The Gay Got Its Rainbow".

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SPECIAL FRIENDSHIPS: AN AWFULLY HONEST FILM

Edward   12 January 2022

One of the many enjoyable aspects of Freeman's book is that one can swing so effortlessly from whole-hearted agreement to fierce opposition -- without ever endangering the good humour and enlightenment he offers. I was startled, for instance, earlier on when he mentioned in passing he loathed the term "male-bonding". Now I admit the term has a tendency to be bandied about by those embarrassing bear-hugging types, but the term itself I'd always thought blameless and benign.

But his views here on "The Lost Boys" are bang on the money, I reckon. An extraordinary production that managed to illuminate the enigma that was J.M. Barrie and his boys, without ever man-handling it into some gross Hollywood trope or other.

Freeman says Barrie had a "wistful veneration of boyhood", and was "completely in thrall to a romantic view of boyhood". I think that's a fair description of Barrie's emotional core, but it's equally significant that Barrie was quite sarcastically scathing of his own boy-infatuation. In fact this was the quality that fired the sharp, often dark wit which his boys found so attractive. Un-riddle me that!

Barrie certainly didn't romanticise his eccentric, somewhat marooned existence in Neverland. The paradox of his boy-love, an unarguably sexual phenomenon, being deeply and fundamentally celibate--well, that's a mystery beyond anyone's ken, even the subject's biggest thinkers such as Plato. But Barrie accepted it, and lived it with admirable courage, dignity, honour--and the all-important humour. A boysexual of any era, fraught or free, can't aspire to much better.

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A REVIEW OF BOM-CRIOULO BY ADOLFO CAMINHA

Helen11 January 2022

The depth and breadth of this book review make Carminha's novel as fascinating and compelling as could possibly be; it almost wouldn't matter if the novel were a fiction of Mr. Hall's imagination. He gives us so much to react to here, but I feel I should wait until I've read the book to do so myself. Efforts such as Hall's deserve serious attention.

This website is getting richer every day, it seems. Bravo.

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