chapter  2
18 Pages

Rule of the Phallus

More recently, however, the focus of current debate has been on the differences between antiquity and the modern West. Even more importantly debates in this field have been used to question the very concept of sexuality itself. Although Dover defined homosexuality as a preference for 'sensory pleasure...with persons of one's own sex', the nature of Greek homosexuality raised real doubts for him about the utility of this concept. He thought sexual and quasi-sexual were preferable terms because of the readiness of ancient Greeks to recognize the 'alternation of homosexual and heterosexual preferences'.6 Michel Foucault heightened this ambivalence about the relevance of concepts of homosexuality to antiquity. Foucault and others, such as David Halperin, John Winkler, Paul Veyne, Froma Zeitlin and Maud Gleason, have argued that the ancient world was 'before sexuality'. In other words, they saw a fundamental break between the ancient and the modern world, stressing profound differences which undermine the supposed similarities between 'Greek love' and contemporary homosexuality. This was a key issue in the Foucauldian effort to argue that sexuality was a definably modern discourse and not a transhistorical presence in all cultures.