Korea Queer Culture Festival

Korea Queer culture festival is the largest queer cultural festival in Korean and second largest in Asia. It first took place in the year 2000 and usually happens in late May to early June annually for about 15 days. Different year the event takes place at different locations throughout South Korea. Korea is a conservative country and many people see homosexuality as a foreign phenomenon. Homosexuality remains largely taboo in South Korean society and same-sex people are seldom seen in public. LGBT people in South Korea face discrimination that heterosexual people do not. However, unlike many similar events photography is limited in this event. This is done to minimize public exposure of LGBT people to avoid discrimination.

Even though there is no law against homosexuality in Korean history, homosexual couples and households are not entitled any legal protection from the government, unlike heterosexual people. Transgender people are allowed to have surgery to reassign their gender after age 20. People in dominantly religious country are more likely to reject the idea of homosexuality according to the Pew Research Center survey published in Washington Post. According to the survey 18% people in South Korea support homosexuality only. Homosexual people are often stigmatized and sometimes not classified as humans, as the country remains largely conservative on matters of sexuality. Political parties and most elected politicians of South Korea tend to avoid addressing LGBT rights issues except the Democratic Labor Party. The Democratic Party is the third largest political party and has a political panel known as ‘Sexual Minorities Committee.’ Their agenda includes discrimination against homosexual people and discrimination based on sexual preferences and equal rights for sexual minorities. I chose this event for my post because it shows even though Korea is a developed country but still the way people thinks is greatly influenced by religion and political influence. It relates to our class discussion of how politics and religion shapes a person’s view and on a much border scale a nation’s view. Military service is mandatory for all men Koreans. Active homosexual military members are categorized as ‘personality disorder’ or ‘behavior disability’ and honorably discharged. Korean Queer Culture festival receives no support from the government except the Democratic Labor Party.

The festival normally begins with opening events followed by a parade and after-party at club Pulse in Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood, although celebrations continue in all LGBTQ clubs across the city People attending the event wear mask to avoid recognition on a website or newspaper for fear of reprisal by family, friends or co-workers. Demonstrators continue to disrupt the annual gay pride of South Korea where all gay and transgender Koreans meet together for a series of events and parades, recognized internationally as a gay pride month. The number of participants attending the event increased over time-but the increased visibility of LGBT supporters has also meant that the number of protestors also increased. Christian groups ran a campaign for weeks to try to block the parade. In May 2015, they camped out for weeks in front of the police station where parade organizers had to apply for permit and filed a counter request to hold the parade. Police initially ruled in favor of the anti-LGBT response committee, however a court ruled on June 2015 that the parade had to be allowed. The parade was banned in 2015 and this has attracted international attention to the event. This progressed LGBT rights in South Korea. Photography was banned in this event until 2010. The organizers issued no photography stickers, ribbons and bands. People who will allow photography will have to register or else faces will be blurred before publishing online.

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Largest counter-protests was organized by merging some of Korea’s largest Christian Church associations together as anti-LGBT response committee. The committee held a worship service across the street from the gay pride event and the committee was blasting sermons, hymns and prayers loudly enough to overwhelm the sound system of the event. Protestors held sign on their laps which says, “We pray for Korea not to be diseased/sick with homosexuality.” Girls performed ballet which resembles God’s angel and purity and to show what real beauty looks like. Some protestors laid down on the street to block the parade. But they were immediately removed and the parade went off without any major incidents.

korea-queerPictured, a demonstrator protested the 2014 Korea Queer Festival by holding a sign to obscure the view of the performance behind him

General awareness of homosexuality remains low among people in Korea because people are afraid if they come out, they will be face difficulty both in work place and among families. However there is increased awareness of homosexuality and gay-themed entertainment in the media can be seen now. According to a number of advocates for sexual minorities, two major issues are holding LGBT human rights- lack of awareness in society and strong opposition from the Christian Church.

Censorship Issues With Queer Art

In class, we discussed David Wojnarowicz’s silent film, “ A Fire In My Belly.”  David was an artist of New York around the 1980s whose work represents the under privileged people of society which was seen in “A Fire in My Belly.”   The silent film showed images of poverty, little kids outside playing with fire, people begging for money, a mouth being sown up, and the crucifix laying on the ground with ants crawling all over it.  He was homosexual and died of AIDS at a young age with some of the images seen in this film possibly hinting at the AIDS crisis.   This silent film received negative attention by the Catholic League and Congress members specifically because of the crucifix ant image.  It was removed a few years ago from the National Portrait Gallery because of the uproar it stirred with conservative religious groups who thought the film was sinful.  This goes to show that the debate over queer art is still evident and religious or conservative groups have power over censorship rather than the actual art institute in dealing with this category of art.

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Chris Ofili’s piece shown above called “Holy Virgin Mary” is just another piece up for debate.  This shows a painting of a colored women wearing a blue robe that would be seen on the Virgin Mary. The background is a yellowish orange color mocking that light one would see behind a painting of Mary. The painting uses elephant poop and pornographic photos as a medium. The elephant dung is spread across the left breast and the pornographic photos surround the “Virgin Mary” making it almost look like they are insects such as butterflies floating in the air at first glance, but looking closer one can see they are nude female body parts. This piece offended the Mayor of New York and the Catholic Church causing the Brooklyn Museum of Art to temporarily lose it’s funding showing that the control was out of the art Museum’s hands.

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Displayed above,“Miss Kitty” was another piece that tied art and homosexuality together. It was created by Paolo Schmidlin, and showed a statue of Pope Benedict XVI dressed as a drag queen. The Pope is wearing a blond wig in the shape of a woman’s bob, very high patterned or lacy looking stockings, a women’s shawl sliding down both shoulders, underwear with girly bows on the sides, stud earrings, and a pink barrette pinning the one side of hair back. It also appears that he may be wearing makeup on his upper eyelids, and he is not wearing a shirt exposing his entire chest. His actual body appears to be a male even though his hair and what he is wearing looks female. He is also smiling and tilting his head in a flirty kind of manner.  The sculpture was forced to be removed from Milan because of protest from multiple catholic groups. One of these groups included the Catholic Anti-Defamation League which found the piece very offensive for turning a religious figure into queer. Unfortunately, attempts at keeping queer art in museums is a lot harder than one would think thanks to more control being in the hands of conservative catholic groups. Hopefully, censorship of artwork by the catholic religion will not always remain an issue for the future.

http://www.popcrunch.com/15-of-the-most-controversial-pieces-of-art/?img=116141

http://www.popcrunch.com/15-of-the-most-controversial-pieces-of-art/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2010/12/09/AR2010120905885.html

Sub- Saharan African Culture and Homosexuality

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The book African Intimacies: Race, Homosexuality, and Globalization by Neville Hoad, was created in 2007. Hoad is an associate professor for English and women’s studies at Columbia University. Some of his research interests are queer theory, psychoanalysis, and lesbian and gay studies. The book gives a history of sexuality in Africa.  The book goes through about 100 years of African history specifically dealing with colonialism, how “homosexuality” came about through change in African politics. He explains what sexuality is and how we can’t apply the terms that we use in our culture in the United Stated to Sub-Saharan African culture. Hoad, does an overview of time in Africa starting from the blossoming of a Christian nation in the late 19th century, into the current 21st century Africa views on sexuality.

The book discussed Africa in 1886 (before Christianity became their main religion) the last indigenous leader killed men for refusing to have sex with him. This indicates that men having sex with men was not viewed as a negative homosexual experience but instead as a masculine thing to do. If you fast forward to the 1990’s, leaders from Kenya, Uganda, and Namibia expressed how unnatural it is for anyone other than a man and a woman to get married. HIV had become an important reason for why homosexuality is looked down upon but they don’t acknowledge how HIV is mostly transferred through heterosexual contact in Sub-Saharan Africa. The book then begins to delve into what the term “homosexual” truly means. Hoad states that homosexuality is imaginary because he studied its discourse. This came about in their history and “homosexuality is a small and not obvious thread in this wider tapestry of space, desire, and identity. Race is the big one.” Sometimes it is seen as a negative thing where other times it is not.

This book relates to queer culture because it talks about how homosexuality can be viewed differently depending on the culture you are immersed in. Quoted in the book, (Will Roscoe and Stephen O. Murray) Murray and Roscoe argue that telling people to use caution when using the word homosexuality because that word doesn’t always fit into people’s practices.. In the 1980’s, when lesbian and gay studies became a field, there was a controversy over the idea of homosexuality being socially constructed. In America we tend to throw around the words “homosexual” and “gay” but fail to realize what amount of power that word has or does not have. In the case of Africa culture, before Christianity, men having sex with other men was not forbidden or looked at as odd. After Christianity appeared, rules came in place and relationships were viewed about differently. This is important because it points out how cultural change affected the outlook of the people within African communities. Christianity is that something that was projected onto a large group of people and it ultimately changed aspects of societal views on sexuality which once was not an issue.

In class we discussed Freudian and Foucault views on sexuality. Freud identified inverts as people that are lesbian or gay. He believed that inversion could be observed in childhood so it must be a result of unconscious drives common to all people. Foucault on the other hand did not like Freud at all and had views of his own about homosexuality. He believes that your sexuality becomes your identity through understanding who you are based off of a concept that was created by a medical, psychiatric discourse. This discourse is part of the colonial project, transforming Sub-Saharan Africa to a Christian nation. For example, a person identifies as gay or lesbian because we put a bunch of terms together that go under the category of the terms “gay” or “lesbian” and then we take the term and apply it to ourselves. Race is also participating in the same discursive system in Africa because race once did not matter but now it has come to the people’s consciousness partially due to this colonial project.

I believe that points made by Freud and Foucault can be comparable to the book. Freud believes that homosexuality is something in people’s unconscious and anyone is capable of it. This goes along with the idea that homosexuality is innate but it is only expressed through the culture we are in. If our environment is accepting of the behavior then it is acted upon and in Freud’s time period, homosexuality was viewed as disgust. Foucault offered a socially constructed view which the book also tried to make a point of since the term homosexuality only exists due to our society. Just as Hoad mentioned, we can’t use that term everywhere because it may lack meaning depending on the culture a person is in.

300 & The History of Sexuality

 

Upon reading David Halperin’s Is There A History of Sexuality? I immediately connected it to the 2006 film 300, directed by Zack Snyder and starring Gerard Butler, which is based on the 1998 graphic novel of the same name. The film focuses on the historic Battle of Thermopylae in which a small contingent of Spartan warriors took on a vast Persian army. The film and novel are clear fictionalizations of these events, but are interesting to look at for their representations and misrepresentations of a central tenant of ancient Greek civilization: masculinity and sexuality.

The film is ripe with eroticism and hyper-masculinity as the warriors themselves are near naked, incredibly buff and constantly cast in a romantic light. Spartan culture was indeed focused on the ideal male form, to the point of instituting a ritual in which weakness is discarded even as early as birth. Shaved Spartan boys are then thrust into a world of violence enduring what they called the agōgē in which they are taken from their mother’s and raised by men.

What the film completely ignores is the pedagogic relationship boys were required to develop with an adult male Spartan who would be their tutor. There is some hint of this between the soldier Stelios and his younger friend Astinos but what homoerotic behavior might be inferred from this is overruled by the quote early on in the film where the main character King Leonidas refers to Athenians as “boy-lovers” with a tone of disdain. The Persians, meanwhile, are portrayed as much more sexually open, having orgies and presenting themselves effeminately with makeup, piercings and perfumes. They are also portrayed as the villain however, and their legion of inhuman monsters fighting for their lustful androgynous masters makes the film seem even more homophobic.

The monstrous Persian representation, as well as Leonidas’s remark against homosexuality (or potentially pedagogy), is in stark contrast to the rest of the films conception. In addition to worshipping the male form, the film is overflowing with imagery of penetration. This is mostly in the form of spears and swords bursting through Spartan enemies and spraying blood everywhere. Indeed the fighting is glorified at an erotic level, frequently being slowed down to highlight the Spartan prowess at an almost pornographic level. These visualizations fit better with Halperin’s exploration of Greek culture and its focus on male dominance and insertion. The films few sex scenes also revolve around penetration, represented in one scene by the involuntary gasps of air Leonidas’s Queen must release with each thrust of his spear. In another scene the Queen gives her body to a politician to help win support for her husband’s war, and the climax of the film culminates in her penetrating him back with a sword in the gut.

This brings us to the role of women in Sparta, which was unique even amongst the Greeks of this time period. When a Persian messenger challenges the Queen for speaking out of turn, asking, “what makes this woman think she can speak among men?” she retorts “Because only Spartan women give birth to real men.” Even having more rights than most women of their time is somehow still summed up by male dominance, in this case Spartan ego. Still the Queen plays an important role in the plot of the movie and in the war effort, speaking at the Senate to rally support for her husband. Despite this the film emphasizes that love is a weakness in the eyes of the military. This could have to due with the male superiority in Greek culture, as women were seen as inferiors and objects of desire alongside boys. Real Spartan men were not permitted to live with their wives and could only visit them secretly in the night, though leaving the barracks at all was discouraged.

To me, Halperin’s purpose was to display that while today’s society views sexuality as a binary that has existed since the days of Adam and Eve, it in fact has a much more vibrant history. Indeed it seems Greek and Spartan sexual cultures were so different from our own that we cannot completely understand what it was to live within them, let alone expect a movie audience to grasp the cultural differences as historical realities.

Boy Wonder- James Robert Baker

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James Robert Baker was a transgressional gay themed fiction writer and filmmaker. He was raised in a conservative family in southern California and explored his sexuality when in high school and realized he was gay. However, he was afraid to come out as his dad was abusive and conservative. He committed suicide at the age of 50. His interactions with his family and society can be seen in most of his novel and film, but most extensively in Boy Wonder, written in 1988. Baker is best known for his novel, “Tim and Pete”, “Adrenaline”- about two gay fugitives’ lovers. Baker has a very strong voice in gay literature both in the mainstream literary culture as well as the gay community itself.

Boy Wonder was set in Orange County, California about a boy, Gale Shark Trager and how he led his life due to his different way of viewing life and feeling confined by the norms and expectations of the society and how he broke free of the confined. Shark’s father Mac Trager, was a racist bully and his mother, Winnie Trager was a hypochondriac. In both cases, Paul and Shark’s father’s had a conservative mindset. He always had a hard time fitting into the society and adjusting to his school peers similar to the writer Baker. He became friends with his gay neighbor, Kenny Roberts and fell in love with a blonde teen, Kathy Petro. Obsessed with Kathy he filmed her masturbating and while he went to develop the film, Kathy’s father pressed charges against him and Mac learns how perverted Shark was. Mac took Shark for a VD “drip check” and Shark accused Mac of being a homosexual. This can be related to “Paul’s Case” by Cather, where Paul had a hard time adjusting to his school where everyone bullied him. Later Shark moved out of his house and moved with his friend. Throughout his life he randomly hooked up with all kinds of people in his life to make movies and moved from place to place and never settled with anyone. Shark threw out Kathy (who was his girlfriend at that time) out of the car after a fight, the cops shot him afterwards. Even though there are queer people throughout the century, very few people have the strength to come out of the closet and most people either commit suicide or do something stupid that end up destroying their career or sometimes their life. Eventually Shark moved to a bigger city in Los Angeles where he attended UCLA, this can be related to Paul’s moving to New York. This represents that bigger cities have more opportunities and are more open towards LGBT people. He never got any support from his family or peers as he never fit in the traditional norms of society. Both the writer and the character, Shark suffered mental disturbance through their life.

Baker’s suicide can be related to Paul’s suicide for being gay. Even though Paul killed himself for being gay and afraid of the society, Baker’s suicide can be related somewhat for the same reason. Baker killed himself because several critics called his novel “Tim and Pete”-“The Last Angry Man”. He faced difficulty maintaining his financial position and publishing his last novel “Right Wing” primarily for its advocacy of political assassination in combating AIDS discrimination after the AIDS pandemic began to take a huge turn in the gay community.

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Queer Culture In A Home At The End Of The World

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A Home At The End Of The World is a movie that was released in 2004 and directed by Michael Mayer. Pulitzer Prize-winning Michael Cunningham wrote the screenplay as well as the novel that the film was based off of in 1990. The film was shot in New York City, Toronto, Phoenix and Schomberg and its premiere was at the New York Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

Cunningham is a gay novelist and lecturer who wrote about what it was like to be a child in the 60’s and 70’s as well as an adult in the 80’s. The movie spans about 12 years and follows the lives of two best friends­— Bobby Morrow and Jonathon Glover. Bobby has been through many hardships in his life. He loses both his parents and his older brother and turns to Jonathon and Jonathon’s family for comfort and friendship.

Jonathon and Bobby develop a sexual and emotional relationship in their youth. They’re reunited in young adulthood when Bobby needs a place to stay. Jonathon lives with a colorful bohemian named Clare whom he is very in love with. However, Jonathon ends up falling for Bobby, his first and eternal love, all over again. The three roommates end up developing a three-way relationship and having a child together. Clare eventually moves away with baby Rebecca and leaves Bobby and Jonathon to themselves. Bobby cares for Jonathon in his last days while he dies prematurely of AIDS.

I chose to include this film in our digital archive because it shows what it was like to be homosexual as a child and having parents that aren’t necessarily accepting. I feel that this is relevant to our class because most of us are still young enough that our parents have some sort of dictation over our lives, and coming out might cause significant problems in our relationships.

This film represents a different type of queer culture. The beginning took place in the 60’s and 70’s when people were a lot less accepting over homosexuality than they are today. While Jonathon’s mother wasn’t necessarily unaccepting when she caught Jonathon and Bobby together, she was definitely less than happy. This speaks volumes coming from a mother who does drugs with her son; she’s clearly very open but still was uneasy about her child’s homosexuality.

To quote The Straight Mind by Monique Wittig, “These discourses of heterosexuality oppress us in the sense that they prevent us from speaking unless we speak in their terms. Everything which puts them into question is at once disregarded as elementary.” This really sums up how I think Jonathon’s mother acted. She sees heterosexuality as the norm and is confused that her son is straying from it.

Gender was represented in this film through Carlton. His part in the film was brief, but he broke away from gender norms. He wore feminine clothing, had long hair and talked about how beautiful the world was. Sex is represented in this film through Bobby and Jonathon exploring their sexuality together when they were young. Jonathon is beginning to come out as homosexual, but it seems as though Bobby is just open to everything. Even when they’re adults and Clare says in regards to Bobby, “The good ones are always gay,” Jonathon insists that Bobby isn’t gay.

This film clearly represents history well since the time period is set between 35 and 55 years ago. As I previously mentioned, it demonstrates how much harder it could be to be a homosexual person during a time period where things weren’t so acceptable. As far as the contemporary goes, some things really never change. Parents are still often upset about finding out that their child is gay. People still struggle to define their sexuality like Bobby. And people still go through tragedies and hardships, lean on their friends and come out better for it.

The New Black: Homophobia in the African American Community

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The New Black is a documentary that was filmed in Maryland and produced in 2013 by film director, screenwriter and producer, Yoruba Richen. Richen was born in 1972, graduated from Brown University, lived in San Francisco and currently resides in New York City. The New Black won the audience award for AFI Docs, Frameline Film Festival and Philly Q Fest, and was also nominated for the NAACP Image Award and GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary. Yoruba Richen has also produced and directed other films such as Promised Land, which received an award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Her documentary gives the perspective of the African American community struggling with, the then idea of gay rights—it gave insight on gay rights and how it intersects with religious politics and civil politics. The documentary highlights the legalization of same sex marriage and focuses on the different families and religious leaders on both sides of the campaign. The documentary critically analyzes homophobia within the African American community and attempts to determine whether same sex marriage is a religious issue or civil.

“The way I look at civil rights in that order is discrimination is based on something that I had no control over. I had no control over the fact that God made me Black, and I had no control over the fact that God made me a female. So if you discriminate against me on those basis, but being gay and lesbian, to my way of thinking, is something you chose to do.”~ Member of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland.

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Hope Christian Church is a church in Maryland that is led by Derek McCoy. The documentary follows him and a few other people, Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Black Justice Coalition; American minister and Senior Pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, Reverend Delman Coates; Karess Taylor-Hughes, field organizer for Equality Maryland and The Human Rights Campaign; Samantha Master,Youth and Campus Outreach Intern for the Human Rights Campaign; and gospel singer Tonéx.

Religion versus politics is an obvious theme throughout the documentary, but another theme was “Is this a religion issue or civil rights issue?” From the religious political perspective there was Pastor Derek McCoy who was campaigning to stop the redefinition of marriage. He believes that marriage is meant for man and woman and that’s it. During his campaigning he involved children, who appeared to be around 7 and 8 years old, because he thought they were educated enough on the subject. Children only know what they are taught so it is hard for children to form an opinion of their own. From young ages boys are taught they cannot play with dolls because it is feminine and the parents “fear” that their son will become gay. This is especially true within the Black community. Growing up in that setting, on top of growing up in a Black conservative church, homosexuality was something that you didn’t speak about. It is “wrong, damned and ultimately a choice”. Most Black churches believe that being a homosexual is a decision that you made because God did not make man gay and woman lesbian. Pastor Derek McCoy believed that this was a religious issue and nothing more.

“The Black church to this day remains fundamentally conservative.”~ Rev. Delman Coates

On the other hand you have Reverend Delman Coates who was also a religious leader at his church but he believed that same sex marriage was a civil rights issues. He recognized that giving homosexuals, Blacks specifically, this right was another form of freedom.

Oppression on Blacks has existed since slavery and still exists to this day. Homosexuality is not something “new” or “generational” as some religious leaders like to put it. Bayard Rustin was an openly gay Black man who marched beside Martin Luther King, Jr., and was one of the main driving forces of the Civil Rights Movement, but he couldn’t be the “face” of the marches because he was a gay man and that was frowned upon. Reverend Delman Coates critically examined homophobia within African American community because he believed that Blacks are oppressed enough. He didn’t think that African Americans should oppress their own people even more, when the rest of the world is already doing that.

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“They use the pulpit as a space of hate, to undermine people’s rights…”

There is a sense of power that exists when one is in a position to persuade people. There is especially a greater sense of power when religion is involved because when people feel as though they have nothing, they fall back on their faith. Pastors, priests, deacons, etc. use their position to preach what they believe to be true. They use religion and scream what is right and wrong, but forget that denying a human their right to make a decision is wrong. They also turn people away from the church and religion as a whole. One of the gay rights activists in the documentary, Samantha Master, turned away from her faith and fell into a deep depression because the church shunned her sexual orientation.

Saying no to same sex marriage is taking away that freedom—for Blacks it is another form of oppression and is something else that needs the fight.

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“I believe that there is a lot in the African American experience, that same-gendered families can draw from. How to have a family when you are marginalized.”

Ganymedes and Zeus

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The Abduction of Ganymede (ca. 1650),

By Eustache Le Sueur

Verily wise Zeus carried off golden-haired Ganymedes because of his beauty, to be amongst the Deathless Ones and pour drink for the gods in the house of Zeus–a wonder to see–, honoured by all the immortals as he draws the red nectar from the golden bowl . . . deathless and unageing, even as the gods.”

Homeric Hymn 5 to Aphrodite 203 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th – 4th B.C.)

In Greek Mythology, Ganymedes was the embodiment of beauty. He was a handsome, young Trojan who was, as Homer describes, “the most beautiful of mortals.” In the myth of Ganymedes and Zeus, Ganymedes is herding his flock on the mountainside when Zeus sees him and is determined to make Gaynmedes his lover. Zeus, in the form of an eagle, abducts the young Ganymedes and carries him off to Mount Olympus to be the god’s lover and cupbearer. Hera, Goddess of Women and Marriage, and wife of Zeus, upon hearing that Ganymedes was to be cupbearer as well as Zeus’ lover, became enraged with jealousy. Her own daughter Hebe, Goddess of Youth, previously held the favored position of cupbearer. The omnipotent Zeus did not waiver in his affection for Ganymedes who would carry a golden cup as he accompanied the powerful god on his travels. Eventually, Ganymedes, recognizing the thirst of the mortals, no longer coveted his role and, refusing his position as Zeus’ cupbearer, decided to pour out all the wine, ambrosia, and water of the gods. Although Zeus, a notoriously angry god, first wanted to punish Ganymedes, he eventually realized he had been unkind to the boy. Instead, Zeus set Ganymedes’ image among the stars as the constellation and God Aquarius, making him immortal and fulfilling Ganymedes wish of sending rain down to the people of the earth who were in need. This myth is often depicted through artwork of Ganymedes and an Eagle, or Ganymedes and Zeus, seen on canvas, pottery, and multiple other mediums of art.

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Ganymede pouring Zeus a libation (c, 490-480 BCE)

By the Eucharides Painter

Greek mythology often portrays Ganymedes as the God of Homosexuality. It is fascinating that sex between men was not only seen throughout Ancient Greece, but was also revered. Men often lusted after other men, and as can be seen in the myth of Ganymedes and Zeus, the Gods themselves could not resist the allures of the youthful man. The culture does not dismiss homosexuality as an aberrant behavior but rather deifies it. The Greeks appreciated beauty in a very natural, stripped down form, to them beauty was not gendered, nor as we will soon discuss, was it confined by age. This is an important point of notice for queer culture because there was a time where rather than being sin, which is the dogma many religions currently preach, men having sex with men was to the Greeks a behavior of the Gods. Growing up in a world where same-sex relationships are streamlined in religious tests and stories could ultimately result in a more accepting environment.

The story of Ganymedes and Zeus is one that depicts a common theme throughout Greek mythology, which is pederasty. The word pederasty derives from the Greek “love of boys,” and it is the relationship between an adult male and a pubescent or adolescent male. Today, in our culture we may consider this to be pedophilia, however to the Greeks, this was a behavior that their very own Gods partook in.

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The act of Zeus abducting Ganymedes to be

his lover would now make frontline news.

It is important to question why when reading about Ganymedes and Zeus the reader’s focus is on the beauty of the young male, not the actions of Zeus. If translated into common day form, with idols we recognize, people would be outraged. However, it is common to be taught various Greek myths in classrooms, which cover similar content. It is not viewed as pedophilia to us, however if it was rewritten without ties to an ancient culture, you could almost guarantee that if would be controversial. Foucault would link this to his repressive hypothesis. In the beginning of the “The History of Sexuality” Foucault claims:

“Sexual practices had little need of secrecy; words were said without undue reticence, and things were done without too much concealment; one had a tolerant familiarity with the illicit” 

However, a very apparent switch was then made and sex was “moved into the home” where it could be carefully confined. It was restricted to simple procreation between a man and a woman. Other forms of sex were deviant and therefore not discussed. Except…

“If it was truly necessary to make room for illegitimate sexualities, it was reasoned, let them take their infernal mischief elsewhere: to a place where they could be reintegrated, if not in the circuits of production, at least in those of profit. The brothel and the mental hospital would be those places of tolerance: The prostitute, the client, and the pimp, together with the psychiatrist and his hysteric…”

Non-heterosexual behavior was essentially demonized. The only place non-missionary between a man and a woman belonged was in a whorehouse or in a mental institute. Foucault would argue, in his repressive hypothesis, that since the rise of the bourgeoisie if Ganymedes and Zeus were to be rewritten it would be worthy of sending Zeus to a mental institution. Man has come to jail the actions of a God.

It is impossible to know how the individual Greek from ancient times interpreted the actions of their Gods, however we can infer from the recurrent themes seen throughout the myths that pederasty was widely accepted. It is also impossible to know what the focus of the myth was intended to be. Logically, understanding that these myths were embodied through art and storytelling it would make sense to assume that beauty was a central focal point when sharing and preserving their culture. As mentioned earlier, if this myth were to be modernized, our repressed society would not focus on the beauty. However we still read Ganymedes and Zeus in a positive frame of light. The discrepancy is due to the common reader of Greek Mythology reading it in the vein in which it was written. This may be due to the cultural ties that come along with something that is not of our time-period. The only difference between the story of Zeus abducting a child and a Catholic priest and an altar boy is that the former is a remnant of a time period where people were not focused on the sexual acts that occurred and that sentiment carried through the generations of storytelling, keeping beauty the main focus.

“Thus the image of the imperial prude is emblazoned on our restrained, mute, and hypocritical sexuality.”