Freethinker's Primer Of Male Love.
Provincetown: Pagan Press, 1998. 96 pp.
Reviewed by William A. Percy III, PhD
Journal of Homosexuality, Vol. 41 No. 2 (2001)
Concise, elegant, learned, and readable, this work
constitutes an impressive introduction to gay history and theory whose
usefulness is enhanced by an extensive eight-page bibliography.
Furthermore, it corrects the errors or shortcomings of a number of
well-known best sellers on gay subjects.
For example, under the subheading, “Male love
in the ancient world”, Lauritsen underscores the connection that
existed in Greece between male bonding and military prowess In
this he completes Kenneth Dover's famous Greek Homosexuality.
Dover limited himself to a few early sources, ignoring the later Greek
and Roman writings that glorify pederastic heroes and thinkers.
Similarly, Lauritsen's recognition of the moral and ethical goals of
Greek pederasty confounds the work of David Halperin, who, in the vein
of Foucault, sees such coupling as sadistic efforts to achieve sexual
In its support for the research of Giovanni
Dall'Orto and Louis Crompton, among others, Lauritsen's discussion may
also be considered a reaffirmation of the views of gay historians from
Burkhardt and Symonds through Licht, Hirschfeld, and other members of
the German Homosexual Emancipation Movement. Since the mid-twentieth
has been in decline within the universities. Lauritsen's presentation
represents a healthy and long-overdue return to the facts of history.
It does not bow to post-modernism, feminism, or any form of marxism or
freudianism. For this aspect alone it deserves to be recommended.
A few misprints appear, but they are not of
consequence. Occasionally the brevity of the discussion requires
omission of pertinent material. Lauritsen recognizes the roles of Philo
Judaeus and St. Paul in modern fear of “‘defilement’
from sodomitical acts” (p. 28) but passes over the equally
negative views of those acts by pagan Roman authors. No matter. This
writer understands our history, including the historical and
anthropological fact that in Greece, Rome, and most European societies
before the eighteenth century the majority of males who lay with other
males practiced what we today call pederasty. Still, he refuses to take
sides in the debate over this activity. Rather, Lauritsen argues in the
chapter, “Paradigms for gay Liberation”, that we must cease
to be “mired down in identity politics, masochistically committed
to the cult of victimhood, and futilely striving for a simulacrum of
respectability” (p. 69). Citing Benedict Friedlaender, he posits
two paths out of the mire: “Abolish all laws that deny the right
of males to love each other.” “Restore Male Love to a place
of honor in society.” (p. 69).
The rhetoric is moving, but might there not be an
argument to make for ensuring the protection of the very young? It may
not be easy to fix the age at which a young person can be considered
legally to give his consent; nevertheless, the reasons to try are
Return to Booklist