Sunday, 4 October 2009

Classical education

In a recent New York Review of Books (no link, it's a paysite) Glen Bowersock reviews two books on classical Greek sex between men and boys. He starts by explaining the words erastes as lover and eromenos as beloved. These are the usual euphemisms, but eros connotes physical love, i.e. sex. So in fact erastes = fucker and eromenos = (male) fucked, but the NYRB doesn't like the f-word. Most of the article is taken up with a detailed discussion of the evidence for exactly what happened (intercrural rather than anal apparently, and it goes on from there). Thank you Professor, it's your job to know this sort of thing. I must admit, I like grown women but this stuff functioned well as a form of higher porn. Oh, and the Romans were no better than the Greeks; google coitum plenum et optabilem to see what I mean.

So why on earth did Thomas Arnold choose classical Greek and Latin as the basis of an English boys' boarding school education? Lytton Strachey is hilarious on this subject in his Eminent Victorians, explaining that classics was what Arnold knew, so he would, wouldn't he? But Strachey was himself as gay as a Bristol pub, so why didn't he comment on the fact of Arnold institutionalizing a system where boys, of the same age as the eromenoi, were closeted, as it were, with teachers of the same age as the erastes? It is surprising that responsibility for a correct analysis should be left to this blog, but Precision Handling does not shirk its obligations.

10 comments:

Gadjo Dilo said...

Hmmm, I'd never heard of "intercrural sex" before, but I can see the advantages: none of the discomfort nor infection spreading, and maybe also the eromenos is not lumbered for the rest of his life with a bottom fixation.

I'm all for higher forms of porn - Picasso paintings do it for me :-)

nursemyra said...

Bowersock is a strange name

Kevin Musgrove said...

Isn't 'bowersock' an old street word for a rubber prophylactic?

inkspot said...

Gadj, more research is required.

Nurse, wow, that is the key insight. Why hasn't the gimcrack promoted you?

Kevin, it is now.

Gyppo Byard said...

I went from a scuzzy West Midlands comprehensive to Oxford and was frankly shocked to discover how many of the public schoolboys were of the gelded catamite persuasion.

Most of them were quite vocal in how much they had enjoyed it. One even "entertained" us over drinks one evening with the tale of how he had "lost his anal innocence" (his exact words) to the chaplain of his (major and famous) public school.

On the plus side, it meant that there were a lot of sexually-frustrated posh women around among whom it paid to get a reputation as "rough trade"...

inkspot said...

Gyppo, my first reaction was to ask you to reassure us that gelded was a typo for gilded, but a little light googling revealed that it isn't. Eurgh. As for your Oxford friend, if he'd had a proper classical education his ruptured innocence would have been intercrural wouldn't it, so he must have been an impostor.

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

How strange, I am about to post later today about why there seem to be more gay men in Scotland than elsewhere, perhaps there's a link. I had never heard of intercrural either. Will have to go and look it up now. Hope it doesn't make me feel sick, I'm not very well today as it goes.

inkspot said...

Daphne, I went into the details and intercrural sex turned out to be less fun than I thought. Yes, I know, how drearily normal of me. About Scotland, could it be the kilts? Did you think to ask Maroon?

nursemyra said...

I'd wager that the city of Sydney has more gay men than the whole of Scotland

BEAST said...

Presumably intercrural sex is only fun if visited upon the chubby , so listen for the sound of chafing thighs before choosing a date