Welcome Instapundit Readers!!!
Maybe I shouldn’t read Instapundit on days when I oversleep. While I was eating my breakfast, I kept chancing upon posts which inspired me to pen three of my own (including this one).
This morning, Glenn linked an article that addresses an issue that has long fascinated me, particularly as it relates to the ancient Greeks, but also because it deals with the complexity of human sexuality. The article considers the homosexual practices of ethnic Pushtuns in Afghanistan:
An unclassified study from a military research unit in southern Afghanistan details how homosexual behavior is unusually common among men in the large ethnic group known as Pashtuns — though they seem to be in complete denial about it.
The study, obtained by Fox News, found that Pashtun men commonly have sex with other men, admire other men physically, have sexual relationships with boys and shun women both socially and sexually — yet they completely reject the label of “homosexual.”
Sounds a lot like the ancient Greeks where older men often took a younger man (really a teen) as a lover and sought to educate him while enjoying the pleasures of his body.
But, can we call them “gay”?
It is only recently in human history that we have considered the notion of sexual orientation as an immutable characteristic, with most people physically attracted to members of the opposite sex, a certain percentage (which may well vary across history and culture) are physically and emotionally drawn exclusively to their own sex. To be sure, in the Symposium, Aristophanes was did articulate a view of human sexuality similar to the current notion. But, his ideas didn’t gain much currency until recently. In many cultures, when men had sex with other men, this recreation was just an extracurricular past time. It did not define their sexual identity.
The Greeks of mythology and history, Achilles and Alexander, respectively, held up as gay exemplars, were anything but. While each had a male lover*, neither steered clearer of the “fairer sex.” Indeed, the Iliad begins with Achilles enraged because Agamemnon wants to take a nubile young woman away from him. And while Alexander was alleged never to have been beaten save by his (male) lover Hephaistion’s thighs, he did succumb to Roxanne’s feminine charms.
Basically we’re just seeing, as our military has learned in studying the Pashtuns of Afghanistan, that acculturation very often helps determine our sexual behavior. While widespread acceptance of the notion of sexuality identity is relatively recent in human history, acceptance of homosexual behavior is not. Cultures may have dressed it up as something other than it is, as the Pashtuns seem to do, but it has been an ongoing aspect of human behavior for as long as our fellows have recorded our history and the deeds of their cultural heroes.
*though some scholars contest the notion that Achilles and Patrocles ever physically consummated their love.
NB: Fixed a meg-typo in the post as per comment #24 below.