There is nothing about male homosexuality which inherently defies or contradicts male power and dominion. The real issue is not whether men screw boys or girls, but their cultural investment in the warrior ideal, the value which is placed on the masculine characteristics of aggression, toughness, ruthlessness, and violence. Where this ideal is paramount, you have what Eva Keuls calls phallocracy : . . . the concept denotes a successful claim by a male elite to general power . . . . In sexual terms, phallocracy takes such forms as rape . . . and access to the bodies of prostitutes who are literally enslaved or allowed no other means of support. In the political sphere, it spells imperialism and patriarchal behavior in civic affairs.
The Theban Greek tradition in which paired male warrior-lovers fought and slept together, and the Attic Greek tradition in which men's deepest and tenderest love was often reserved for teenage boys, were wholly consistent with imperialist expansion, militarist hero-worship, and the enslavement and imprisonment of women. So was their predisposition to public nudism. The men of ancient Athens habitually displayed their genitals, and their city was studded with statues of gods with phalluses happily erect. The painted pottery of the Athenians, perhaps the most widespread of their arts, portrayed almost every imaginable form of sexual activity. The public display of naked statues, phallus-images in stone and wood, and paintings depicting graphic sexual (and often violent) activities did not particularly improve women's position nor reduce military conquest.
Prostitution (both straight and gay) was not only legal in ancient Athens, but completely institutionalised, with a portion of State income deriving from the brothel tax. A handful of exceptional women achieved wealth and pleasant notoriety in the trade; most remained sex peons, until old age rendered them worthless - at which point, without even the grudging support of a patriarchal clan, they died of starvation and illness. Since girl children were unwanted except for strategic marriages, the excess of daughters was disposed of by one of two methods: immediate infanticide or exposure (leaving the baby outdoors in either a remote or public place). The girl babies who were left on public streets were gathered up and raised by the brothel owners, so the system was as neatly self-perpetuating as our own. (In our system, the girls who run away from sexually abusive fathers and brothers are usually in their teens, so the whoremaster is saved the expense of raising them and can put them to work immediately.)
Amid the glory that was Greece, the women of ancient Athens did not even rate individual names; their names (if they had any) were not recorded, and it was normal for a husband to address his wife as woman. Prostitutes, however, were often referred to by professional nicknames derived from bodily characteristics or parts (like Goldie for a blonde woman), names roughly translatable as Belly, Gorgeous, etc.
So much for those who assert that violence and militarism can be attributed directly to sexual repression and State censorship; that public nudism, open prostitution, and free access to sexually explicit material, must inevitably pacify and civilise men. They would do well to study the ancient Greek city-states.
But that was in the ancient world. Surely we all know that modern Fascism is puritanical, anti-sex, and ragingly homophobic? Perhaps.
The Nazis are the paradigm of 20th century fascism. Though they eventually got around to collecting and destroying male homosexuals along with the other genetic undesirables to be purged from the New Order (funny how Bush kept using that same phrase), earlier in the movement there was a strong homosexual faction in the Party. Modeling their aesthetic and philosophy very closely on that of ancient Greece, these Supermen romanticised military heroism as well as the beauty and vitality of young men. The most visible of these men, SA leader Ernst Räoehm, was sufficiently active and powerful to challenge Hitler for power and party leadership, which led to the bloody putsch known as the Night of the Long Knives; soon thereafter, male homosexuality was officially forbidden in the Third Reich and the nightmare began for Germany's queers.
Although the Party's later diatribes about public decency and order, and the roundups of gay men, tend to make us assume that Räoehm was purged only because of the sexual habits of himself and his officer friends, how far SA leader Räoehm's homosexuality . . . affected Hitler's decision is difficult to say. It seems plausible that it did, but the only evidence on this point comes from Schirach himself . . . one is left wondering how reliable Schirach is on this point. (Baldur von Schirach was freed from the authority of the SA and put in complete command of the Hitler Youth organisations when Räoehm was purged.)
We may indulge in a little speculation, however: suppose the Räoehm faction had prevailed. The mere fact of homosexual activity among its officials and soldiery would not have impeded the military and social programs of the Third Reich. It might have been kept a Party secret, known only to initiates (like the details of the Final Solution) so as to spare the limited consciousness of the bourgeoisie - but it would have been in no way inherently contradictory to the general plan of conquest and empire.
It is sissiness that frightens, enrages and offends the men of the phallocracy, not queerness per se. As in China, Byzantium, and medieval Persia, homosexuality . . . was mainly devoted to the expropriation of the bodies of people of inferior rank, which meant slaves and commoners of both sexes, by the powerful androcentric ruling classes of the ancient empires. Aristocratic men could indulge themselves with any form of hedonistic amusement that struck their passing fancy.
Male homosexual activity of certain kinds is institutionalised into warrior culture, not only in ancient Greece, but among, for example, the Azande of the southern Sudan and the Sambia of Papua New Guinea. In each of these cultures young boys are the sexual partners and servants of young men, eventually themselves graduating to warrior status and acquiring boy-brides or servants of their own.
Among the Sambia, the boy apprentices are required to fellate as many young warriors as possible every day so as to assimilate into their bodies the semen which the Sambia believe to be the strength and courage of maleness. Among the Sambia and similar Papua New Guinea societies, the solidarity forged in the men's house, the training for hardness and masculinity, the sharing of life-giving semen, have their payoff on the battlefield. The fact that the men of the Sambia are careful in later life not to have intercourse too often with their wives, so as to avoid the polluting powers of women and the wasting of precious semen, gives some indication of the status of women in this warrior culture.
There are cultures, however, including our own, which do not permit the insertee in a gay male sexual bond to outgrow this status and become a real man - there are many men in America who believe that screwing another man only proves one's super-masculinity, but that permitting oneself to be screwed (as the colloquial uses of the word show) degrades one permanently to the status of a non-man: an object, or a woman. The infamous Tail Gunner Joseph McCarthy and his aide Roy Cohn, who so viciously and persistently persecuted America's gay men in the 1950's, were known to have had sex with men; but by their own standards that did not make them queers, it only proved that they could and did fuck queers as a means of asserting their maleness, contempt, and domination.
The Nazi Party could, internally, have adopted any of these models to institutionalise male homosexuality within the context of its imperialist program for Europe. Their government was at no time constrained by mere bourgeois morality, whatever use they might make of it in their PR. For years the Party papers replicated reams of Kinder, Kirche, Kªueche rhetoric about the sanctity of German womanhood and the German family. But later in the war, when the male population was diminished and the birth rate dropping, it was able without the least embarrassment to recommend the heroism of unwed motherhood. There was some bewildered opposition from the women of the Party, but its elite theorists were able to propose (seriously) the institution of state-funded brothels/baby-farms in which elite SS guards could pass on their excellent genes to selected Aryan damsels - and presumably, get a little R&R at the same time. The Nazis were busy trying to rewrite cultural tradition, philosophy, religion, law, and even biology; they had enormous ideological flexibility and imagination, and a place for male homosexuality in the New Order could have been engineered.
In summary: there is nothing automatically progressive about male homosexuality; it is perfectly compatible with male supremacy. The only truly subversive model of male gayness is one which rejects violence and the encoding of established power in the sexual relationship. Bonds of affection, tenderness and sex between males of approximately equal age and power are profoundly disturbing to the phallocracy; so are men who refuse to be men. But the consumer model of sex, the master/slave, man/boy, top/bottom, john/hooker model of sex, has long been comfortable and familiar within male supremacist and warlike cultures, whether here and now or far away and long ago. Whether hetero- or homo-sexual, it has no power to challenge the phallocratic status quo.
One interesting side effect of the sex marketeers' efforts to open up the gay community as their new marketplace is the potential breakdown of gay and straight as political alignments. In Pat Califia's short story The Surprise Party, for example, the lesbian protagonist is taunted and raped by men who the reader believes to be police officers, until they are revealed as her male friends in police uniforms. Her own experience with straight sex had been . . . unsatisfying . . . But this act of penetration was firmly situated within a context of dominance and submission - the core of her eroticism. In short, though Califia defines herself as a gay writer and the story is intended as lesbian pornography, the central sexual action is heterosexual.
The fact that the sexual action is sadomasochist, in Califia's story, is more important than whether or not it is lesbian. Her eroticism is not focussed on women, but on sadomasochism, and male friends who are willing to provide the scenario she prefers are acceptable sex partners. The definition of sexuality as a commodity leads to a market mentality, in which the gender of the whore and the client is almost irrelevant compared to the kind (or cost) of services required.
Bewilderingly, I now have more solidarity and sense of community with straight women who seek creative ways to redefine their relationships with male lovers (such as agreeing to forego standard heterosex entirely in favour of more egalitarian activities) than with lesbians devoted to sm, or gay apologists for pornography (though these are in theory my people). Their desire to derive entertainment from weary old racist and sexist cliches, from glamourised woman-hatred, from the look and feel of fascism - and their pride in this desire, their inconceivable arrogance in claiming it as an achievement and a liberation - anger me beyond words and beyond any sense of commonality.
At one point both the lesbian and gay men's movements emphasised the potential egalitarianism and tenderness of gay love, its radical potential for challenging heterosexual habits of dominance and hostility; now first the gay men and later the lesbians have proclaimed the sexy trendiness of dominance and hostility. The distinction between gays and straights is not so relevant as it was. In fact, I see the new dividing line not between straight and gay (what gender of whore do you prefer), so much as between two ethics for living. One is the tough-guy laissez-faire or consumer-oriented philosophy which American industry would like us all to pursue; the other is the nascent, often inconsistent, Green outlook: an awkward mix of ecological and feminist concern, anti-racist intentions, and a striving away from excess and towards responsibility and moderation.
The gay communities are momentarily in the position of some Third World nations, divided in heart between those who believe success and liberation come from emulating faithfully all the methods and achievements of the First World, and those who believe that (as Audre Lorde memorably said) the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house.