Torso, August 1999

John Lauritsen.
A Freethinker's Primer of Male Love.
Pagan Press 1998.

Reviewed by Ian Young

The advent of AIDS in the early '80s seriously weakened the gay movement and, in spite of the bold face it puts on, it is still convalescing.

John Lauritsen, a gay activist since the '60s, believes the movement has “lost its bearings”, becoming “mired down in identity politics, masochistically committed to the cult of victimhood, and futilely striving for a simulacrum of respectability while unreformed sodomy laws sit on the books.”

A Freethinker's Primer of Male Love presents “a defence of male love from a secular humanist perspective” as well as a brief history and critique of the gay movement. A compelling case is made that the roots of the taboo on homosexuality lie in Judeo-Christian religious prohibitions which have “crippled the male psyche” for many centuries. Lauritsen's sympathies are “wholly with the Greeks” (“the wisdom of Athens”) and against the Hebrew and Christian traditions (“the folly of Jerusalem”), whose hegemony he regards as an historical calamity.

In a section called “Paradigms for Gay Liberation” Lauritsen traces the course of modern gay movements and offers astringent critiques of the Medical, Minority, and Popular Front Models, as well as of contemporary feminism and the current promotion of the word “queer”.

There are a few holes in the fabric of Lauritsen's thesis: the most virulently antigay regimes of the modern world have been neither Jewish nor Christian but Islamic, atheist (the U.S.S.R.) and pagan (Nazi Germany), a fact glided over rather swiftly here. Even so, there is a great deal of common sense and simple historical truth in the little 95-page “primer” — and lots of food for thought on everything from Orpheus' fate at the hands of the Thracian women to the nature of male beauty. The critique of some of the idiocies of the current crop of gay spokespersons is particularly welcome.

Lauritsen offers a simple “way out of the thicket”, beginning with the abolition of all antigay laws, and continuing with “restoring male love to a place of honor in society”. And there is an excellent, briefly annotated bibliography.

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