The Social Body and the Sexual Body<sup>†</sup>

David Halperin

in Sex and Difference in Ancient Greece and Rome

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2003 | ISBN: 9780748613199
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651016 | DOI:
The Social Body and the Sexual Body†

Show Summary Details


Plato's testimony and Caelius Aurelianus's testimony combine to make a basic conceptual and historical point. Homosexuality presupposes sexuality, and sexuality itself is a modern invention. Homosexuality presupposes sexuality because the very concept of homosexuality implies that there is a specifically sexual dimension to the human personality. This chapter provides a picture of the cultural formation underlying the classical Athenian institution of paederasty, a picture whose details will have to be filled in at some later point if this aspect of ancient Greek social relations is ever to be understood historically. Sex in classical Athens was a manifestation of personal status, a declaration of social identity; sexual behaviour did not so much express inward dispositions or inclinations as it served to position social actors in the places assigned to them, by virtue of their political standing, in the hierarchical structure of the Athenian polity. Sexuality, for cultures not shaped by some very recent European and American bourgeois developments, is not a cause but an effect. The social body precedes the sexual body.

Keywords: Athens; social body; sexual body; homosexuality; sexuality; paederasty; personality; social identity; sexual behaviour; social relations

Chapter.  10454 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.