Friday, August 10, 2007

Victor Davis Hanson sets Michael Gravel straight on gay sex in the military

I met Mike Gravel in D.C. in June. A rather nice fellow he actually is capable of taking some sensible positions. He's in favor of tax reform and favors a national consumption tax that would get rid of all other taxes. Knowing that I'm a Boston boy, he was quick to tell me that he was from Springfield, MA. Regrettably I told him that Springfield is one of the most corrupt places in New England. He didn't exactly brush off my comment smiling away.

At last night's gay debate where the Democrats fell over each other to pander to a special interest group Mike Gravel blurted out a whopper in response what I think was a question about the military's "don't ask, don't tell policy.

Without the aplomb of Barry Obama, Gravel blurted out: "the Spartans trained their people to be homosexuals because they were better fighters.”

To which the classicist Victor Davis Hanson replied in a post today:
Not quite.

I think the popular myth that has fooled Gravel has arisen lately because of the movie 300 — and the natural confusion between the Spartan 300 who died holding the pass at Thermopylai (480 BC) and the 300 of the Theban Sacred Band (378-338 BC).

The Spartans did not instruct their youth to be homosexuals (no word really exists in the Greek vocabulary for our notion of homosexual). Xenophon (Lac. Pol. 2.13), for example, insisted that the older males in the army were specifically not to engage in physical relations with their younger warrior-pages (paidika).

And if in reality some hoplite soldiers occasionally did engage in what we would call gay sex, in Sparta or elsewhere, the practice was analogous to the protocols of the modern prison in the absence of women: physical relationships were loosely defined among those interested as an active older male and a younger male that served as a surrogate female.

In general, most Greeks thought that male sexual passivity was shameful, as was exclusively male sex, as were those who appeared outwardly feminine.

The closest the classical Greek world of the polis came to Gravel’s notion of an idealized gay warrior cult was in Thebes, where the 300 aristocrats (150 pairs of “lovers”) of the Sacred Band fought often at the acme of the phalanx-a very small cadre (perhaps less than 2-3% of the Boiotian army) that was predicated on class and philosophically idealized.

But even here we are not quite sure what actually was the relationship between eromenoi (“beloved”) and erastai (“lovers”) in this tiny clique; it might not necessarily have even been physical.

So in general, the Spartans most certainly did not train their soldiers to be homosexuals.
The gay political theorists and hucksters of "queer theory" bloviating on the foul air of Michel Foucault are entitled to engage in a debate about the usefulness of "don't ask, don't tell." It's a debate worth having as time moves on and the data becomes clearer from battlefield experience. Until then the gay left (and non-Gay supplicant/politicians) aren't entitle to their own facts. Trust Victor over Michel. It's not even close.

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