Monday, July 12, 2010

Ancient Mentorships (With a Little Sex Occasionally Thrown In)

It has been suggested that I do another one of my history posts this time on the ancient practice of pederasty. Before you NAMBLA folks get too excited, this is not a post about Man/Boy love, and it is not a post about pedophilia. It is about pederasty and what I think is the modern equivalent.
Pederasty (or Greek Paederasteia) is the relationship between an adult male and a boy, generally one between the ages of twelve and seventeen, in which the older partner is the mentor to the younger man. Pederasty is a relationship between an older man and an adolescent boy outside his immediate family. The word pederasty derives from Greek (paiderastia) "love of children" or "love of boys", a compound derived from παῖς (pais) "child, boy" and ἐραστής (erastēs) "lover".
Historically, pederasty has existed as a variety of customs and practices within different cultures. The status of pederasty has changed over the course of history, at times considered an ideal and at other times a crime.
In the history of Europe, its most structured cultural manifestation was Athenian pederasty, and became most prominent in the 6th century BC. Greek pederasty's various forms were the subject of philosophic debates in which the carnal type was unfavorably compared with erotic yet spiritual and moderate forms.
Anthropologist Geoffrey Gorer distinguishes pederasty from pedophilia, which he defined as a separate fourth type that he described as "grossly pathological in all societies of which we have record." According to Gorer, the main characteristic of homosexual pederasty is the age difference (either of generation or age-group) between the partners. In his study of native cultures, pederasty appears typically as a passing stage in which the adolescent is the beloved of an older male, who may act as a mentor. He remains as such until he reaches a certain developmental threshold, after which he in turn takes on an adolescent beloved of his own.
Ancient history
Among historical figures, some were recorded as having relations with others of their own sex — exclusively or together with opposite-sex relations — while others were recorded as only having relations with the opposite sex. However, there are instances of same-sex love and sexuality within almost all ancient civilizations. Additionally, Transgender and third sex peoples have been recorded in almost all cultures across human history.

Ancient Greece and Rome
The earliest documents concerning same-sex pederastic relationships come from Ancient Greece. Such relationships did not replace marriage between man and woman, but occurred before and beside it. A mature man would usually not have a mature male mate (exceptions aside, such as Alexander the Great) but he would be the erastes (lover) to a young eromenos (loved one). The ideal held that both partners would be inspired by love symbolized by Eros, the erastes unselfishly providing education, guidance, and appropriate gifts to his eromenos, who became his devoted pupil and assistant, while the sexuality remained short of penetrative acts. The hoped for result was the mutual improvement of both erastes and eromenos, each doing his best to excel in order to be worthy of the other.
Many historians believe that early pederast relationships were not sexual. In fact, these relationships are much like an internship. The older man, who was generally a better classed or more powerful citizen than the young man’s family, taught the young man how to be a man and how to join in politics or trade. There is little doubt that the relationship was sometimes sexual, but most historians now think that is rare.
I will give two famous examples of both a sexual relationship and that of a non-sexual relationship.
The first relationship is that of Emperor Hadrian, a grecophile and the third of the so-called Five Good Emperors. Hadrian believed in the concept of pederasty and had a relationship with a young man named Antinous. Antinous was born to a Greek family in Bithynion-Claudiopolis, in the Roman province of Bithynia in what is now north-west Turkey. One version is that Antinous joined the entourage of the Emperor when Hadrian passed through Bithynia in about 124, and soon became his beloved companion who accompanied him on his many journeys through the empire. Another version has it that Hadrian had the empire searched for the most beautiful youth, and chose Antinous. Although some have suggested the two might have had a romantic relationship, it is uncertain if this was true. In October 130, according to Hadrian, Antinous was drowned in the Nile. It is not known whether his death was the result of accident, suicide, murder, or religious sacrifice. At Antinous's death the emperor decreed his deification, and the 2nd century Christian writer Tatian mentions a belief that his likeness was placed over the face of the Moon, though this may be exaggerated due to his anti-pagan polemical style.
The second great example, and one that was probably not a sexual relationship, is that of St. Paul (Saul of Tarsus) and St. Timothy. The New Testament describes the relationship between the older Paul and the younger Timothy as a mentor/mentored relationship. Since Paul was a Roman citizen and a Greek Jew, he would have been very familiar with the idea of pederasty. It is my belief that the relationship between Paul and Timothy was a pederastic relationship, however, since Paul became so pious and self-denying (or you might even say ascetic) he probably did not engage in any sexual conduct once his conversion occurred.
What is the modern day equivalent to pederasty?
So above was the history lesson, now here is how I think pederasty translates to today. In recent weeks, I have been trading emails between some older bloggers. Now you younger bloggers out there may consider me one of the older bloggers, I am 32, but I think of myself as what is probably middle-aged in blog years. There seems to be three age groups: they young twenty-something bloggers, us middle-agers (LOL) in our thirties and forties, and the older guys in their fifties and sixties. I think all three groups can learn a lot from the others. Sometime, it’s just nostalgia for me with the younger guys, and it’s a learning experience with the older guys.
Anyway, with some of the older guys I have been talking with, I have definitely learned a lot. I have always found I learn a lot from older people. Don’t count them out, you younger guys! For younger guys they often don’t understand the difficulties older guys had. Especially, when coming out could been either losing your job or being put in jail for sodomy. They often got married and tried to live a so-called hetero-normal life. It often didn’t work out. When I was growing up, it was still not acceptable to be gay. It often was perceived as a death sentence, because I was a kid during the height of the AIDS crisis in the eighties and early nineties. I had a cousin and his partner who died of AIDS and his family never acknowledge that he was gay nor that he died of AIDS. However, it was not a huge secret, at least behind closed doors. This cousin went to one of the only doctors in the state who specialized in AIDS patients and then a year or two after he died his partner died the same way. Yet, still it wasn’t talked about.
I think the three generational gaps are because of this. The older guys lived in a time when you had to be in the closet. The middle guys lived and remembered the horror of the AIDS crisis, the great unknown that it was back then. The younger guys grew up in the age of Will & Grace, when being gay was much more accepted and continues to be more accepted each day. There are still parts of this country where incidents like Matthew Shepard’s death can and does still occur.
Older men have a lot they can teach us younger men. They can teach us about history. They can teach us about being responsible sexually. They can teach us about the mistakes they made. They can teach us how to be better lovers (they often do tend to have more experience). They can teach us about being better gay men. They can teach us about the struggles gay men have gone through. And they can teach us that, though we may be in different stages in our lives, we are not alone. There aren’t a lot of pics to this post, mainly because I don’t think it needs to distract away from the message, and there just aren’t that many Daddy/Boy (adult bois) pictures out there that aren’t bondage pics.
Thanks for reading, and if you go to the end of the post, congrats, LOL.
I will have a post in a little while about my first sexual experience with another man, who was an older man.

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