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A focus upon youth is characteristic of classical discourse about paiderastia not because it is pederastic but because romantic love and desire always presuppose an age difference, and romantic love for the Greeks was often homosexual rather than heterosexual. All romantic desire, heterosexual as well as homosexual, is presumed to be directed towards the young, and 'most Athenian males married women considerably younger than themselves.' As far as cross-cultural evidence is concerned, many interpreters misleadingly apply the inaccurate term 'intergenerational sex' to relationships that typically entail a difference in age of only a half or a third of a generation. The only valid meaning of a 'generation' is the difference in age between parent and child, i.e. the 'generation gap.'

In historical and anthropological studies it is usually defined with reference to the average age at which a male marries and produces offspring, i.e. the difference in age between a father and his first-born child. A generation thus equals 20-30 years, and in most historical writing it denotes a period of 25 years (i.e. 4 generations per century). But the average difference in age in so-called 'intergenerational' homosexual relationships is usually 7 years, rarely 15 years, scarcely ever a full generation. The classic relationship of institutional military pederasty in Sparta/Crete is between a 12-year-old 'hearer' and a 22-year-old 'inspirer': a gap of 10 years. Heterosexual relationships in ancient and indigenous societies, in contrast, are invariably 'intergenerational' by this standard, in fact usually the age difference between men and women at marriage is significantly greater than between homosexual partners. In the Spartan/Cretan model, the 30-year-old man would marry an 18-year-old woman, a gap of 12 years -- 2 years longer than the gap between 'hearer' and 'inspirer'. Aristotle recommended that men marry at the age of 37 and women at the age of 18 -- proposing 19 years as the ideal intergenerational gap in heterosexual marriages!

On the other hand, to assert that the 'modern' homosexual was invented in the late 19th century, and then go on to say that 'modern' homosexuality is characteristically egalitarian rather than pederastic or transgenerational, is to completely ignore the fact that pederasty was still a major and perhaps even dominant model for homosexual relations at least until the Second World War. The strongly pederastic magazine Der Eigene was published in Germany from 1898 through 1930. Late Victorian and Edwardian homosexual literature is dominated by pederastic themes. Young rough trade is a common feature of homosexuality in England at least through the 1930s. In France Pédérasts were the archetypal homosexual roles through the 1950s. In southern Europe today it is common for there to be significant age differences between partners, and even in France the pédérast is still an important queer cultural paradigm. It really was not until the late 1960s, and specifically in America, that androphilia or egalitarian homosexuality came to be held up as the ideal model for a modern queer democracy, and the pederastic model was characterized as being exploitative.

But early gay liberation collections of poetry, such as Winston Leyland's Angels of the Lyre or Ian Young's "The Male Muse" or Paul Mariah's "Manroot" journal, contain a super-abundance of pederastic verse. Homosexual photographic magazines in London were dominated by the slim adolescent male through most of the 1970s. Chunky rough types were not common until the 1980s, and 'older men' were not common objects of desire until the late 1980s (as long as they wore leather). The view that a 'fundamental transition' has taken place is hardly tenable for the period since 1969, and demonstrably untrue as an indicator of the 'modern' period in general. Those who think that equal-age 'androphilia' rules the day ought to peruse 1990s personal ads and porn videos, a typical title of which is "Just 18"

In the ancient world the ideal beloved was not a 'boy' but an 'ephebe' just below 17 years old; to judge by modern gay literature and videos the 17-year-old boy is still the primary object of desire. Late adolescence is the classical ideal, as in The Greek Anthology (third century): 'I delight in the prime of a boy of 12, but one of 13 is much more desirable. He who is 14 is a still sweeter flower of the Loves, and one who is just beginning his 15th year is yet more delightful. The 16th year is that of the gods, and as for the 17th it is not for me, but for Zeus, to seek it. But if one has a desire for those still older, he no longer plays, but now seeks "And answering him back". The ideal Renaissance ephebe is of course Michelangelo's statue of David, a classic queer icon. Such ephebes feature prominently in the photographs of Bruce Weber and Herbert List – which regularly reappear on the covers of modern studies of gay history and autobiographies.

Age-asymmetrical relationships are surely not a thing of the past. One look at a photograph of Christopher Isherwood with his lover Don Bachardy ought to dispel the notion that 'pederasty' is purely an ancient paradigm. In 1996 Mr. Gay UK was 20 and his lover was 36; he has taken his older spouse's last name, a not uncommon practice. In heterosexual culture May–December relationships are nearly as common today as they used to be in the Middle Ages. Photographs of couples on the 'social pages' of contemporary newspapers and magazines make it obvious that wealthy and important men have wives noticeably younger than themselves. When a successful businessman takes a second wife, she is always the same age as his first wife, though he himself has doubled in age. The higher a man's status in 'high society,' the younger his wife is likely to be (and his mistress is even younger). It was ever thus.

Historians of homosexuality recognize that the transgenerational relationship was idealized, but they seldom go the necessary one step further to note that the age difference itself is part of an ideal fiction rather than reality. Ihara Saikaku's work in the 17th century 'makes it clear that the strict formulation of male love as a relationship between an adult man and a youth is frequently maintained only in the form of fictive role-playing.' In one tale the samurai youth and his boy lover are both 9 years old. In another the samurai is 26 years old and his lover is 63 years old but still sports the hairstyle of the 'youth.' In another, a 14-year-old samurai in order to establish his new manhood goes out and gets a 'youth' -- a 24-year-old kabuki actor/prostitute. Greenberg may be the person most responsible for promoting the conceptual category of the 'intergenerational' or 'transgenerational' relationship, which he regularly conflates with 'pederastic.'

He states as if it were a matter of fact that 'Many of the male homosexual relations of the time [during the Renaissance] were pederastic. Salai was 10 when he began living with the 38-year-old da Vinci; Michelangelo was 58 when he took up with the young Roman nobleman Tommaso Cavalieri.' In fact there is no evidence that relations between Da Vinci and Salai actually commenced when Salai was age 10. In fact Cavalieri -- whose age Greenberg does not mention -- was not a young boy but a hot young man. Greenberg seems almost intent to deliberately mislead us: 'Homosexual relations within the male aristocracy were generally pederastic, in congruity with the explicit inequalities that constitute an aristocratic order. George Villiers, duke of Buckingham, who shared James I's bed, was 25 years his junior.' Strictly speaking this example is correctly called 'transgenerational,' but Villiers was a 21-year-old adult at the time James fell in love with him, so it is quite wrong to call it 'pederastic'. Greenberg, and others in his steps, use their terms indiscriminately, and quite regularly call relationships involving an adult and a child 'transgenerational' even though there is very little age difference between them, and relationships involving adults 'pederastic' even when both partners are over 18 or even over 21. Such a practice seriously distorts the meaning of both words, rendering them not very useful for queer history.

It should be emphasized that the extensive friendship literature of Latin classicism and the Renaissance all focused upon love between men of about the same age. Montaigne in his essay 'On Friendship,' inspired by his love for Etienne de La Boétie, pointedly contrasts this masculine love with the inequalities of pederasty. Sir Francis Bacon explicitly holds up 'equality' as a key feature differentiating friendship between men from heterosexual marriage. A major theme of this tradition is that 'my friend is another myself,' which erases all inequalities. Virtually no 'anachronistic adjustments' have to be made in combining 16th-century friendship literature with the 'manly love of comrades' advocated by Walt Whitman in the 19th century –- often cited as the locus classicus of egalitarian homosexual love. The ideology of egalitarian homosexual relationships is not a product of capitalism or the modern age, but is directly traceable to the classical and Renaissance homosexual literary tradition. Boswell has similarly pointed out that the ideology of earlier medieval same-sex unions emphasizes their mutuality and equality, in marked contrast to the ideology of heterosexual unions which always emphasize subordination and possession of the woman by the man. Ceremonies of same-sex union closely follow heterosexual marriage ceremonies but notably omit the section about one partner 'yielding control' to the other. The rise of 'companionate marriage' itself draws upon several centuries of the philosophy of same-sex friendship.

'Brotherly' comradeship for many centuries has been emblematic of queer relationships, to such a degree that they have been perceived as a threat to the hierarchical structures of straight society, from the time of Harmodius and Aristogiton to the time of Oscar Wilde and his 'panthers' or working-class boys on the make. The view that all homosexual relationships in the ancient world were temporary and age-related 'is exaggerated even for Athens, and homosexual relationships in the rest of ancient Europe were certainly far more varied and flexible than this, probably not very different from their heterosexual counterparts ... Most ancient writers ... generally entertained higher expectations of the fidelity and permanence of homosexual passions than of heterosexual feelings.'

Take note that there is a very important difference between pederasty and homosexuality. Most overviews of homosexual history claim that there is a clear line of development from (1) ancient pederastic relationships through (2) early/modern patron/protégé relationships to (3) modern egalitarian relationships. It is no accident that this resembles the alleged dialectic leading from (1) feudalism through (2) capitalism to (3) a class-less society. All three paradigms have been simplified and exaggerated, and the alleged shift from one period to another cannot be supported without ignoring a host of exceptions.

The basic premise that the dominant model of male homosexuality has shifted from the ancient and pre-modern model in which the partners were significantly separated by age (transgenerational, intergenerational, cross-age) to the modern model in which the partners are roughly the same age (egalitarian, androphilia), is challenged by the fact that egalitarian models also existed in ancient times and transgenerational models also exist in modern times. An outstanding exception to the supposed rule, dating from around 2600 BC is the tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep discovered at the necropolis of Saqqara in 1964. It is a joint tomb built for two men to cohabit through eternity. On the two pillars flanking the entrance, both men are given the identical title 'Manicurist and Overseer of the Manicurists in the Palace, King's Acquaintance and Royal Confident.' Above the entrance, the two men's names are combined into one name, with a play on words signifying 'Joined in life and joined in death.' The men were given the tomb by King Niusere of the 5th Dynasty. Although both men were married and had children, a series of bas reliefs nevertheless depict them embracing virtually as lovers.

Greg Reeder, who illustrates these images on his website, describes the culminating image as 'the most intimate embrace possible within the canons of ancient Egyptian art. Niankhkhnum on the right grasping his companion's right forearm; Khnumhotep, on the left, has his left arm across the other man's back, tightly clasping his shoulder. Again the tips of the men's noses are touching and this time their torsos are so close together that the knots on the belts of their kilts appear to be touching, perhaps even tied together.' The large relief of a banquet scene curiously has a space behind Niankhkhnum once occupied by an image of his wife, but which was effaced apparently before the tomb was sealed, so as to suggest that only he and Khnumhotep are present at the eternal banquet. The earliest visual evidence from the ancient world concerning two men who loved one another intimately thus depicts two adult men -- albeit hairdressers. The earliest written evidence of specifically homosexual relations also shows the love of two adult men, though from different classes: the love of King Pepy II Neferkare (Phiops II; 2355–2261 BC) for his general Sisinne.

The love of Achilles and Patroclus, described by Homer during the 6th or 7th century BC, is clearly an example of egalitarian love rather than institutional pederasty. But authors after Homer imposed a pederastic model upon the egalitarian pair, to accord with the paiderastic model found in Greece at their own time. They oddly portrayed Patroclus as the catamite, though in fact he was about a year older than Achilles. It has become so commonplace to view ancient homosexual relationships as examples of pederasty that we even think of Alexander and Hephaestion as a case in point, when in fact Hephaestion was a nobleman of Macedonia, and the same age as Alexander. Many pairs in lists of famous lovers that feature prominently in the homosexual literary tradition are egalitarian, in marked contrast to the modern attempt to force the pederastic model upon them.

'Intergenerational' is commonly used as a synonym for 'pederastic' or 'adult/adolescent' relationships, but the younger partner is by no means always adolescent. Euripides at the age of 72 fell in love with 40-old Agathon: 'A fine Autumn is a beautiful thing indeed!' Demosthenes is supposed to have fallen in love with Plutarch, who was never young. In the institutionalized homosexual marriages among the indigenous South African Thonga, the nkhonsthana, the 'boy-wife,' is often more than 20 years old. Just as age inequality is a cultural ideal of romantic love (gay or straight) which does not necessarily mirror reality, so the 'beautiful boy' is an icon of the homosexual imagination. Love letters between gay men regularly begin 'My Dear Boy.' but this is just a romantic form of address. For example, Marcus Aurelius was 18 years old at the time Marcus Fronto addressed him as 'Beloved Boy,' George Villiers was 21 when he was King James's 'sweet and dear child,' the Earl of Sunderland's 'dearest Boy' Captain Wilson was 22, Whitman's 'Dear Boy and Comrade' Peter Doyle was 18, Henry Greville's 'dear boy' Frederic Leighton was 26, Henry James's 'dearest Boy' Hendrik Andersen was 27, and Lord Alfred Douglas was 23 when Oscar Wilde wrote his infamous letter to 'My own Boy.'

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