Tuesday, July 03, 2007

D'Souza Misunderstands Human Nature:

Not that we should be expecting anything "good" to come from Dinesh D'Souza anymore. This blogpost purports to show homosexuality is not genetic by examining the sexual practices of Ancient Greece and Rome. He writes:

To figure this out we don't have to dispute the controversial scientific studies, which are inconclusive. We simply have to look at a concrete historical example. Homosexuality was widespread in ancient Greece and Rome. The Greeks even had an educational philosophy based on pederasty. As K.J. Dover describes in his study of the subject, older men would take teenage boys as sex partners, and in return for sexual favors they would supposedly provide wisdom and knowledge. Interestingly one character in Plato's Symposium protests this practice. He thinks it is unfavor to the older men!

If these practices are genetic, why aren't homosexuality and pederasty prevalent in Greece and Rome today? Has the gene pool changed that much? These questions can be deepened by noting that for the ancients, there was no question of being either heterosexual or homosexual. The Greeks and Romans were both. In other words, Greek and Roman males typically were married and had families, yet these same married men also had sexual liaisons with younger boys.

A few points: Though certain homosexual practices were "widespread" (meaning a huge percentage of the population engaged in them), homosexuals, as we understand that term today, were not. Indeed, D'Souza, following the leftist "deconstructionists," intimates that what we think of as real homosexuals didn't exist, that all of it in Ancient Greece was pederasty. The pederasts, as noted, "typically were married and had families." These were heterosexual men engaging in homosexual behavior as part of some (what now seems very strange and immoral) socially constructed ritual. Indeed, D'Souza understands the socially constructed aspect of this, when he refers to it as "an educational philosophy based on pederasty."

If these men were true homosexuals, they'd engage in lifelong exclusive or predominant behaviors with members of the same sex and wouldn't be able to flourish in heterosexual relations. History actually shows that these males' predominant relations were with their wives and families and the homosexual behavior was part of some bizarre mentoring ritual (like a perverted form of "big brothers"). The homosexual behavior most often (exclusively?) took place before the adult males were married and sired their families, and when women were sequestered. For the adult male, the sex was a "stop-gap" measure, where the boy could be used as a substitute woman. And indeed, a boy of about 12 or 13 years old is about the closest substitute for a real woman, save a convincing transvestite. (Hence it would feel far more "natural" and less "icky" for a heterosexual man to have sex with a 13-year-old boy, than with another big scrapping adult male). For the boy, it was supposedly about gaining knowledge. When Greek and Roman society did away with this strange ritual and instructed "men" to have sex with women only, the overwhelming majority found they could easily comply with the new social norm. That is, except the between 3-5% of the population who have a constitutional homosexual orientation -- the real homosexuals. And they were never primarily interested in younger boys to begin with, but sought other men.

Social science has irrefutably proven that real homosexuals exist in all populations in small but consistent percentages. When not organized in a social group as they are in Western societies, traits that exist in about only 4% of the populace can seem downright invisible when diffusely spread throughout the populace. The much larger percentage of men openly engaging in the pederastic ritual (who were also expected, as a social norm, to eventually get married and sire families) overshadowed the small percentage of real homosexuals who existed in Ancient Greece and Rome. And yes, they did exist. Indeed, the wise Plato (who may very well have been one himself) testified so with his metaphor for sexual orientation that included homosexuality (and elevated homosexual eros to the same level as heterosexual eros). His metaphor was not about pederasty; it was about homosexual love between equals. It was about "longing" for the other half of an equal self, both "halves" brought into existence at the same time and then split in two.

Plato was wise enough to recognize their existence and the unchosen, "state of being" aspect of homosexual attraction. Obviously, we shouldn't expect D'Souza to be so wise.


Matthew Anderson said...

"It was about "longing" for the other half of an equal self, both "halves" brought into existence at the same time and then split in two."


This sounds like Aristophanes' speech in the Symposium. Do you take that to be Plato's view of the matter?

Jonathan said...

Very good.

After Saul Bellow and Allan Bloom -- I accept their interpretation -- they say these were really Plato's teachings.

Matthew Anderson said...


That's interesting--I didn't know Bellow and Bloom thought that. That's surprising to me, as Strauss argues pretty forcefully (if I remember correctly) that Aristophanes' position isn't Plato's teaching in his Commentary on the Symposium.

Jonathan said...

I'll have to check out Strauss' original work on the matter. Sometimes Strauss himself wrote things in which he didn't believe. Bloom is more coy but lets the cat out the bag cautiously. And Bellow wasn't cautious at all about speaking his mind.

Strauss is named Davarr in Ravelstein which is Hebrew for "Word." And some of the things which Bellow has Bloom saying Strauss would never put into print in his book (but I think behind closed doors, he really believed it). For instance, Strauss, from what I know, publicly denied being an atheist. But Bloom says in Ravelstein, "No true philosopher can believe in God." That's probably what atheist Strauss believed and privately taught.

It could be that Strauss believed this really was what Plato taught but didn't want to publicly say so in print (because it could be subversive of traditional morality). Or it could have simply been a point of disagreement between them.