Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote in queerchoice,
Gayle Madwin

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Homophobic religious nut David Klinghoffer quotes homophobic religious nut Joshua Berman in a recent column on BeliefNet, arguing against legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Berman accurately cites evidence to show that sexual preferences are socially constructed. Since this evidence does nothing to suggest that exclusive heterosexuality is a superior social construction to any others, his bizarre effort to force his evidence to lead in that direction results in much hilarity:
Homoeroticism is, to a large degree, socially constructed. It turns out that where homoeroticism is granted full social sanction, as it was in Rome, it flourishes -- so much so, that one writer noted that the emperor Claudius exhibited an unusual trait: he was sexually interested in women alone!

Men, we learn from ancient Rome, will enjoy sex with other men, if there is no social censure. Now, all of this should be fine for us as well -- after all, we should let free choice and tolerance reign.

The real problems begin, however, when we read what these writers had to say about marriage. Consider this piece from the first century BCE poet Catullus (Carmen 61:134-141), in which the poet addresses himself to a bridegroom on the eve of his nuptials:

"You are said to find it hard, Perfumed bridegroom, to give up Smooth-skinned boys, but give them up... We realize you've only known Permitted pleasures: husbands, though, have no right to the same pleasures."

The social history behind this piece is clear: once they've experienced sex with other men, Catullus tells us, men are unsatisfied with what their new wives provide them. Notice that the poet is unconcerned about the husband's dallying with other women -- it's the other men around that threaten the marital union.

If Catullus addressed the bridegroom on the eve of his wedding, the satirist Martial (Book 11, Epigram 43) depicts the reality of married life itself. As satire, the section is too bawdy to be reprinted here, but the sanitized version goes like this: A woman chastises her husband for continuing to dally with male acquaintances. He counters that many other married men are doing it as well. Desperate, she offers to service him in the same way that his male suitor does. He rebuffs, concluding that she just can't satisfy him the way his suitor can.

And so now we come back to the idyllic day of free choice and tolerance envisioned by the gay and lesbian movement. It turns out that that day has winners and losers. The winners -- big time -- are homosexual men, because the historical record shows that they can expect their potential pool of partners to expand exponentially. Of note here is that this expanded pool of partners accrues to gay men, but not to homosexual women. At the risk of getting too explicit, I leave it the reader's basic grasp of anatomy to figure out why in ancient Rome a man who found pleasure in a woman, could also find pleasure in a man, while the record shows that a heterosexual woman rarely found sexual satisfaction in the company of another woman.
"Basic grasp of anatomy"? Yes, that's right, because women's anatomy just doesn't allow us to feel any pleasure at all without a penis inside us - never mind the fact that actually, the location of the clitoris prevents many women from having orgasms from coitus alone, while I've never seen a shred of evidence suggesting that any women are anatomically incapable of having orgasms without a penis involved.

I've lost count of how many women I know who have at some point or another had sex with a self-identified heterosexual woman, but from what I hear, queer women don't seem to have any difficulty at all in pleasing those women in bed. If more ancient Greek women had learned to write and more of their writing had survived to the present day, I expect the historical record would bear this out. As it is, I certainly don't recall anything in Sappho's writing that suggested she had any trouble pleasing anybody in bed, so I'd like to know where Berman got the idea that the historical record shows anything about any women's supposed lack of sexual satisfaction with other women in ancient Greece. Not that there couldn't possibly have been an occasional woman or two who was sexually unsatisfied by another woman, just as much in ancient Greece as anywhere else - but I've never heard of an instance of surviving writing by an ancient Greek woman that documents another woman's inability to please her in bed.

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