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)

This 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:

For 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.

The 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.

The “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.

Apologists for 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: 

Although 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 41) 

To 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.

In 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.

Lauritsen 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.

Lauritsen 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.

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