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To what extent was homosexuality seen as a deviation from the norm for a classical Athenian male citizen?
Athenian homosexuality is a huge topic, which has stimulated vast scholarly debate. The Athenians themselves were very confused regarding homosexuality, which makes our understanding of it even harder. It is important to recognize that their norm and our norm are vastly different ideas, they had no words to define straight, gay, homosexual or heterosexual, which in itself shows a different out look on sexual relations entirely. The importance in the word norm is to think about the legality of male homosexuality, the acceptance of it and also the practice of it. While looking in to modern scholarly attitudes, from Cohen to Dover, this essay hopes to untangle the web of confusion surrounding Classical Athenian attitudes to homosexuality.
By definition the norm is something that is usual, typical or standard. In modern England sex is everywhere, but there are limits in its portrayal. Gay marriage was only legalized relatively recently in 2014[footnoteRef:1], with other places around the world still considering it illegal. With homosexuality’s slow legalization around the globe, it is considered more normalized, especially amoung younger generations, who can fail to consider the history of debate surrounding sexual orientation. While heterosexuality has defined limits, people even now still struggle to define homosexual rights. Homosexuality has been prevalent through out the centuries. Is it the increase in practice or the increase in acceptance that makes it normal? In regards to homosexuality and normality in our current lifetime there has been huge debates and there still is, there are people adamantly against homosexuality, others that see no wrong, often the dividing line comes from moral opinion. Classical Athens is known for its supposed tolerance for homosexuality. Dover in his 1978 Greek Sexuality, differentiates our modern homosexuality from Ancient Greek through the intertwining of hetero and homosexual relations in Athenian culture, “the alternation of homosexual and heterosexual preferences in the same individual [and] its implicit denial that such alternation or coexistence created peculiar problems for the individual or for society”[footnoteRef:2], many young men (known as the eromenos) would partake in homosexual relations with an older man (the erastes), then later in life give up his homosexual tendencies in favour of marriage.[footnoteRef:3] Dover argues that this easy transitioning between heterosexual and homosexual relationships make the homosexual acts more normalized, as they were less defined[footnoteRef:4]. In this, Dover explains that the terms homosexual and heterosexual would be entirely irrelevant to a Classical Athenian, as the attraction of men to men was not unnatural, and did not warrant definition or separation between female to male attraction[footnoteRef:5]. Dover...