Classical Athens offers a useful comparative test‐case for essentialist assumptions about the necessary harm that emanates from sexual intimacy between adults and adolescent boys. The Athenian model does not fit victimological expectations, but instead suggests that adolescent boys could be credited with considerable powers of discretion and responsibility in sexual matters without harming their future cultural productivity. Contemporary American legislation premised on children’s incapacity to “consent” to sexual relations stems from outmoded gender constructions and ideological preoccupations of the late Victorian and Progressive Era; that it has been extended to “protection” of boys is a matter of historical accident, rather than sound social policy. Rigorous social science and historical comparanda suggest that we should consider a different “age of consent” for boys and girls.
A Cursory Overview of an Ancient Gender Studies Discourse
This essay examines surviving traces of the Zeus and Ganymede myth and identifies two interwoven discourses on male love in antiquity: one, a tradition integral to a Cretan initiatory rite and its didactic nature evidenced by an analogous and opposite Boeotian cautionary myth; the other, a nucleus of polemic and shifting male love constructions from Minoan times through Late Antiquity. The mythic tradition is discussed as an archetypal key to identifying the ancient pedagogical and erotic functions of male love and the ancients’ evolving attitudes toward such relationships. As the myth and its offshoots, which are presented here in the form of a pastiche evocative of the atmosphere of the tradition, reflect their Classical and modern echoes through Western and Oriental interpretations, a recurring male love ethic and aesthetic is seen to take shape.