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What A Big Sword You Have!

Updated on November 1, 2009

A look at how the image of the gay male has changed.

Homosexuality has many stereotypes, the main being overly effeminate males and extremely masculine females. Today’s society is one that claims to embrace equality in all its branches yet homophobia is still a real problem. This article is not to vocalise my views on homophobia but to compare society’s views of same sex interactions in the male world and how it has changed dramatically from the distant past.

Contrary to prejudice beliefs homosexuality has always been around and is not something the unruly kids of today have decided to use to shock and rebel against their parents. Homosexual behaviour has been noted in animals and sea life which makes the uneducated view of ‘nurtured homosexuality’ extremely questionable. Modern society still holds to the ideals of a masculine male, physically strong, practical minded liking beer, football and a good fight now and again. This is a typically working class ideology but one that makes the image of the gay male all that more feminine. The homosexual man is supposed to be slim, physically weaker; he minces when he walks, he may wear makeup, spend time on his complexion and hair, talk with a higher pitch (a sign of hormonal femininity) and be obsessed with looks, fashion, art and all those stereotypically female dominated hobbies and occupations. The media backs this up by portraying gay men frequently in this way; an exaggerated effeminate manner. This was almost an opposite of the views from Ancient times. In Archaic Greece homosexuality was a part of life. The image that many today will conjure is one of an older male of Athenian aristocratic origins and a younger male possibly less well connected engaging in homosexual activities between debates and dinner. Though that may have been true in some cases, the general view on homosexuality in these times was greatly different.

Spartan men were notorious warriors, trained from birth to be soldiers and nothing but soldiers. They have been made famous by films such as 300 for their physical prowess and military culture, muscles rippling, full beards, sword and shield in hand ready for combat. This is not the image of someone classed as gay. However, in the army of Sparta this was definitely the case as homosexual acts were greatly encouraged. The theory was that if men bonded on a deeper level they would not only fight for country but fight harder to preserve the lives of their loved ones, their fellow soldiers. It was common practice for soldiers to engage in homosexual interactions and deemed a good and proper thing to do, a view which was held by a variety of armies in the ancient world. Most love poetry from that era was from one man to another or in the case of Sappho one woman to another. Today the image of a masculine, muscular, rough and ready Spartan is the furthest from society’s picture of a gay male.

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