Die griechische Knabenliebe (extract, English translation)

Patzer, Harald
Place PublishedWiesbaden

Sitzungsberichte der wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft der Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universitat Frankfurt am Main, Vol. 19, No. 1, Wiesbaden, 1982.  pp. 62-66:

Die griechische Knabenliebe, Sitzungsberichte der wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft der Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universitat Frankfurt am Main, Vol. 19, No. 1, Wiesbaden, 1982.

pp. 62-66:

... This points to the fact that the term "homosexuality" is used with many different meanings, and it is indeed very important to expose and overcome an underlying confusion of terms which goes unnoticed here as well, and which is firmly rooted in the popular imagination and has not been thoroughly abandoned even by science. It has enormous impact, because it causes barriers to understanding and communication that may even have disastrous practical consequences.

The word "homosexuality" has two very different meanings. It is in fact an abstract noun for the characteristic "homosexual". The characteristic can be applied to persons or to objects, in the given case: acts, whether these are completed or only imagined (perhaps desired). The possession of the characteristic is extremely different in each of the two cases.

  • As a personal characteristic, "homosexuality" is one of those characteristics that is much more often ascribed to a person when it represents a permanent character, a "habitus" (like "brave", "timid").
  • The object-related term, however, signifies only that an actual act has this characteristic. "Homosexual", then, as a characteristic, is only isolated and temporary like the single act.

Thus it is evident that the two terms are very different, and that the object-related term has a much broader scope than the personal term.

  • [Ipce remarks: This same analysis can be made regarding "pedophiles" and "pedophilia".]

It is significant, however, that

  • the "homosexuality" of a person is at the same time a motivating reason for homosexual acts, because it is indeed the habitus of this person to seek or to exercise such acts.
  • The object-related term as such, however, is undetermined as to the motivation of the respective act, is purely formal and must be supplemented by the specific naming of the respective motivation in order to be completely informative.

The two very different conceptions of "homosexual" (and of "homosexuality") are constantly confused with one another in popular use (even by Dover). That can have no harmful consequences only when those who speak in this way make the unquestioned assumption that every homosexual act is motivated by the habitual homosexuality of the person exercising it.

Dover apparently also makes this assumption by thoroughly interchanging this term (his "disposition" corresponds essentially to the "habitus"). But precisely this assumption has long been proven inaccurate by insights from the relevant sciences, and for this reason, the confusion of terms is disastrous.

Since the motivating reason is decisive, and forms the essential distinguishing trait for every act, and talk of a "homosexual" act becomes sufficient only when its motivating reason is mentioned at the same time, there is no getting around the need for the one using this word (and he can only use it in the comprehensive, i.e. broader sense of "homosexual" acts) to keep in view the variety of types of motivation of homosexual "behavior" that are recognized today.

The main motivating reasons for homosexual acts recognized today within the entirety of human cultures are the following:

1) sexual affection for persons of the same sex, usually called tendency homosexuality [Neigungshomosexualität], but more accurate would likely be: "affectional homosexuality"[Zuneigungshomosexualität], because tendency has a double meaning here:
a)= "inclination" i.e. fixed (naturally individual) drive direction (thus Dover's "disposition"), and
b) "sympathy" (in contrast to: "antipathy").
Recently it has been recognized, especially by Kinsey, that this homosexuality (namely, of acts) motivated by disposition must be differentiated in turn into the exclusive, the preferential, the equally strong, and the less strong tendency toward one's own as opposed to the opposite sex.

2) lack of opportunity for heterosexual drive gratification ("homosexuality by necessity"). It often develops (naturally in the same way on the female side) in case of the long-term living together of exclusively persons of the same sex, as in prisons, barracks, ships, boarding schools, etc.

3) sexual experimentation drive (in youthful age) ("developmental homosexuality").
This can be directed more towards the gathering of experience in bodily sexuality (children's sex play, see Ford and Beach, Patterns of Sexual Behavior, 1951, pp. 180ff.) or be more of a searching behavior in the case of a still unstable psychic drive direction.

4) need for tenderness (in case of passionate friendships), usually, but not exclusively in adolescence and predominantly with female partners (Mead, Coming of Age in Samoa; Ford and Beach, pp. 126ff.). According to Vanggaard (Phallós), the male friendships in the Age of Sensibility and Romanticism, which he understands as homosexual ties without the actualization of such feelings in homosexual acts, are close to that. This appears to be ritualized in the custom reported in Albania where homosexual acts are supposed to have sealed a friendship pact there (Bethe, Die dorische Knabenliebe, Rheinisches Museum, 1907, p. 475 epilogue).

5) sacral acts within the framework of social institutions.
Such an institution is either profane and sacral, as in the initiation of boys and youths in certain tribal cultures (Ford and Beach, pp. 131ff.), or purely sacral; then it consists of cultic acts. These are known especially of the ancient Canaanites within the sphere of operation of fertility divinities, which included temple prostitution of boys (Bleibtreu-Ehrenberg, Tabu Homosexualität, die Geschichte eines Vorurteils, 1978).

5a) Homosexual behavior in sacral acts of male shamans only apparently belongs to this category, since it is a logically consistent accompanying phenomenon of a sacral transformation of the entire gender, which is regularly associated with transvestitism
(esp. Bleibtreu-Ehrenberg, "Homosexualität und Transvestition im Schamanismus", in Anthropos, St. Augustin, vol. 65, 1970, pp. 99ff., and ibid., Tabu, pp. 110f.).
This form of ritual pseudo-homosexuality must be excluded from our consideration.

6) symbolic demonstration of power superiority ("aggressive homosexuality"). Vanggaard in particular made reference to this.

This list encompasses the findings that have become known from all human cultures. Some of these various types of motivation for homosexual acts, especially those mentioned under 5, do not take place in our Western culture. But for precisely this reason, it is all the more necessary to consider them as well. For since there is nothing in our culture that corresponds to Greek pederasty, assistance in understanding it must be taken from foreign cultures. For it can be presumed that some practices exist among them that will have correspondences that may help to clarify the Greek cultural phenomenon.

Among the types of motivational reasons listed above, some are universally human, like those under mentioned 1, 2, and 3, while others, like 4, 5, and 6, are found only in certain cultures. Therefore, they are culturally determined, i.e. the result of "social learning".

The list is presumably not exhaustive, but it is sufficient to show initially how inadequate the restriction to tendency homosexuality (1) must be for the explanation of homosexual conduct.

Furthermore, it is understood that in reality the boundaries between the various motivations are fluid, which is immediately obvious for example in 3 and 4.

Therefore, for the more precise determination of Greek pederasty, which is our task, the list may not be used for generating a fixed scheme, but only for the sake of a general orientation. Naturally, different types of motivation will often be linked with one another. Above all, the question will be whether and to what extent the acts not actually based on homosexual drive gratification may be linked with it. But in this case, a precise distinction must be made between primary motivating reasons and secondary motivating reasons (i.e. not necessarily linked with the former). For the primary reasons, the secondary reasons are to be ignored at first, and the list is to be understood in this way. The role of the supplementary motivating reasons is to be clarified afterward in the concrete individual phenomenon; it is, obviously, also of great significance for pederasty.

To the purpose, the list teaches us the following already:

a) Only "affectional homosexuality" (1) ("homosexuality", as part of a descriptive phrase, is always to be understood here as the designation of a characteristic of acts) is determined by an individual habitus (a "disposition"); all other types of motivation are occasional, i.e. determined by circumstances (which may be psychological). The latter are based on the prerequisite of a universal human capacity for freely chosen homosexual acts (for any motivating reasons whatsoever).

b) Only in the case of "affectional homosexuality" (1) is a homosexual gratification sought primarily. "Homosexuality by necessity" (2) is oriented primarily heterosexually. All other types of motivating reasons are aimed primarily not toward sexual gratification at all.

Thus - a very important conclusion - all homosexual acts that arise from motivating reasons other than those gathered under 1 are to be classified under a generic term that does not itself contain the trait "homosexual". They appear thus without exception side by side with non-homosexual sub-types of their main term.

Thus, for example, the "sexual experimentation drive" (3) also leads to heterosexual acts, and along with homosexual symbolic-demonstrative gestures of superiority (6) there are also non-sexual ones, etc. The uniquely subordinate meaning in which "homosexuality" appears except in habitual "tendency homosexuality", becomes very visible when we formulate the generic terms possible for 2 to 6 as follows:

2) substitutive fulfillment of a heterosexual desire,
3) sexual discovery play in the developmental age,
4) displays of tenderness in passionate friendships,
5) sacral ritual acts within the framework of profane-sacral and purely sacral social institutions,
6) demonstrative symbolic gestures that indicate subjugation.

c) The "ritually motivated" homosexual acts (5) have in addition the peculiarity that they are only parts of a larger action context. In this case, therefore, the motivating factor for this more comprehensive entirety must be clarified, that is, for the respective profane-sacral or purely sacral institutions, in order to determine thereafter the function of the homosexual sub-actions included in and subordinate to it which are motivated by this function.

The variety of possible motivations found for homosexual acts within humanity as a whole, discovered by the most recent research and hinted at here briefly, has made it possible to review much more precisely the problem of how to appropriately determine and identify Greek pederasty.

The term "homosexuality" used by Dover for this his subject (in the sense of a preference-disposition), which is consistently confused with that of merely homosexual acts, fails to satisfy the distinction now urgently needed by research. This confusion of terms is based, as we saw, on the unquestioned assumption that every homosexual act is motivated by a (habitual) "constitutional" homosexuality.

But precisely that is a uniquely Western prejudice that has a long history behind it (cf. Bleibtreu-Ehrenberg, Tabu). From Kinsey (1952) to Ford and Beach (1952) to Vanggaard (1969) to Bleibtreu-Ehrenberg ("Homosexualität und Transvestition", p. 190), researchers have urgently recommended refraining from assigning the characteristic "homosexual" to persons, because of that generally likely mix-up and the necessary confusion.

That has, however, had hardly any effect in the popular imagination and even in scholarship this distinction is still not automatic.

Thus one finds again and again occasional "homosexuality by necessity" and "developmental homosexuality" thrown together with habitual "tendency homosexuality". This confusion of terms can even have disastrous practical consequences in the area of education and jurisprudence, and there is indeed the danger of a "self-fulfilling diagnosis".

The usual Western concept of (habitual) "homosexuality" does not even suffice for every sort of homosexual conduct that happens in our own culture. It is even less capable of doing justice to phenomena in foreign cultures in which homosexual acts are in some way significant.

In short, there is an "ethnocentrism" inherent in this very term, and when Dover claims it without question for Greek pederasty, which is a significant phenomenon of a culture that is indisputably distinct from ours (in spite of strong traditional connections to our modern Western culture), then the residue of such an "ethnocentrism" has thus been preserved unnoticed in his new presentation that is otherwise so admirably sensitive to foreign cultural characteristics.

The moral prejudice, so difficult for the Westerner to set aside with respect to everything that may be called "homosexual", has been overcome by Dover in exemplary fashion, but a kind of terminological prejudice survives unnoticed and sets limits on the understanding of the full uniqueness of Greek pederasty ...