The Naked Classical Model
Lauritsen, John: A Freethinker's Primer of Male Love;
Pagan Press, Provincetown, 1998. 94 pp. ISBN: 0-943742-11-0. $6.95.
Reviewed by Richard Dey (International Homophilics Institute)
is a very unusual book. It's for young men who love other guys with
body and soul, but who aren't going to grow up to be queans and who
won't give people permission to call them queer. John Lauritsen calls
it a “celebration and defense of male love from a secular
humanist perspective.” It's also a defense of the
“classical model” for the gay movement, which to him means
the example of Ancient Greece:
over a thousand years, in the glorious dawn of Western Civilization,
love between males was celebrated in art, poetry, drama, and
philosophy. It was considered the highest form of love, and was
recognized by both State and Religion.
Many gay males are going to read this book, even as they read Lauritsen and Thorstad's 1974 book, The Early Homosexual Rights Movement: 1864-1935.
Here is the homophilic heritage in a nutshell, with admonitions to
those opportunists who would sell it cheap for a chance to dance. This
is a Pagan book, pun intended, and, like many works from this press, it
will be an underground best-seller.
Matthew Arnold, in Culture and Anarchy
(1869), posited a Hebraist-versus-Hellenist counterpoint in Western
Civilization: obedience and faith versus individuality and reason.
Throughout the book's first essay, “A Freethinker's Primer of
Male Love”, Lauritsen emphasizes this dichotomy, contrasting
Hebraist sexual morality (based on unquestioning submission to priestly
prohibitions) to the natural and philosophical morality of Hellas.
assault of intolerant and ignorant Faith against Reason and Freedom has
been going on for a long time. The Christians declared war on
Greco-Roman culture as far back as 391 AD, when Theodosius had Bishop
Theophilus torch the Alexandrian library. Three years later Theodosius
abolished the Olympian games, which had been for 12 centuries
“the proudest institution of Greek civilization”. As
Lauritsen puts it: “From this time forward, the high physical
culture of the Greeks gave way to the pious self-mortification and
uncleanliness of the Christians.” (p. 21) The lights went out all
over Europe for a millennium. What little pagan genius has survived was
saved by gay monks and homophilic Arabic scholars.
“Primer” gives a capsule history of homophobia. Unlike the
current breed of lesbigay scholars, Lauritsen dares (correctly) to
identify the Holiness Code of Leviticus as fons et origo
of antigay bigotry. Roughly 2500 years ago the Levites, priestly caste
of the tribe of Judah, formulated a taboo on sex between males, with
death by stoning for those who violated it.
Judeo-Christian homophobia, leftists, feminists,
social-constructionists, queer-theoreticians, effeminists, and
fundamentalists will not care for this book. At the same time many
young men, gay and straight, are going to read it and see homophobia
for the barbarous superstition that it is.
As though reading a
will, Lauritsen sums up a gay male's heritage, the vital facts of gay
history which antimasculinists would sacrifice for queans' rights, not
gay rights. Lauritsen treats gay genius succinctly:
the present tendency is to belittle the “gay geniuses”
argument, I believe that it should be advanced with vigor. The roster
of great men who were distinguished by a propensity to love other males
... is so illustrious that one must conclude either (a) gay men
constitute a superior minority (in which case Judeo-Christian culture
has subjected the very best men to systematic persecution) or (b) the
majority of men have the potential to love members of their own sex (in
which case all men are oppressed by the taboo on male love). Though the
two views are not mutually exclusive, I incline to the latter. (page
paraphrase Emerson, gay history is gay biography, and gay biography is
an embarrassment of riches. Gay men, out of all proportion to their
expectable numbers, were major contributors to civilization.
the book's second major essay, “Paradigms for Gay Liberation:
from Heinrich Hoessli to Queer Nation” (given at the 1992
Columbia University Seminar on Homosexualities), Lauritsen dissects the
Medical Model, the Minority Model, and the Popular Front Model to their
collective embarrassment. The effeminists in particular come out
looking tawdry in his autopsy of movement history. He diagnoses the
psychiatrists Adler, Kardiner, Bieber, Ovesy, Socarides, and Bergler
for the sarcomas they are and excises their collective malignancy.
Lauritsen also handily wipes up Kurt Hiller's Minority Model for the
gay movement in six incisive paragraphs, concluding: “The main
argument against the Minority Model is quite simple: homoerotic desire
is inherent in virtually all males, not just in a minority.”
Lauritsen denounces Queer Nation (the motley crew of
“marginals”) as combining “the worst features of the
Medical, Minority, and Popular Front models.” In all these
models, one's “gayness” is subsumed to more important
political matters, often misandrist and homophobic, and lacking of
forethought as much as those homosexuals who leapt in bed with the
Soviet Communists only to lose their lives in the gulags.
quotes a young man who said: “I'm not homosexually gay, I'm
politically gay”. When a lesbian made the same statement to me at
the Gay Men's Center in Boston in 1976, it was a defining moment in my
own radicalism, one that would lead me to appreciate (as it does
Lauritsen) the insidious influence of feminism in the gay movement.
Here Lauritsen is at his most incisive. The effeminists have argued
that gay men's natural allies are women, even as their unnatural
enemies are men. In bold strokes, Lauritsen slashes pornophobia
crusades, feminist censorship, affirmative action, the “Unisex
Monolith”, and gender parity to shreds. Standing strong for
freedom of association, he writes: “A literary association
excludes illiterates, an athletic team excludes the unfit, a men's
group excludes women, and a women's group excludes men.” He
wittily footnotes Christina Hoff Sommers as his own final opinion on
the matter. Whap!
The all-male bonding enclaves upon
which the classical paradigm depends have been today nearly eliminated
by “State-enforced feminism”; feminism has become an
oppressor of masculine gay life. Lauritsen doesn't cite his
portentous Dangerous Trends in Feminism
(1974), but he was the first to call attention to the real threats to
democracy posed by “political correctness” and is often
quoted in the modern men's movement. For Lauritsen “the gay
movement has lost its bearings: mired down in identity politics,
masochistically committed to the cult of victimhood, and futilely
striving for a simulacrum of respectability.”
In eight excursus,
Lauritsen digresses on Male Beauty, Gay Christian Revisionism and
Boswell's apologia, Pluralistic Ignorance, Freethought (he's for it),
Circumcision of the Spirit (nasty Philo Judaeus meets the nasty
Anglicans), Shelly's translations of The Aster Epigrams of Plato,
Jowett's translation of Plato's Socrates in Phaedrus, and such. There is an extensive but unconnected bibliography showing Lauritsen's mastery of homophilica.
is ultimately defending, in the words of John Addington Symonds, the
“wisdom of [homophilic] Athens” against the “folly of
[homophobic] Jerusalem.” The need is urgent in the context of the
current sex panics. Will Lauritsen's ideal reader — “a
young man: sound in mind and body, and a lover of his own kind”
— be able to understand this book? It's brilliantly condensed,
but the vocabulary level will send some of them to the dictionary if
they have no erastes to explain it for them.