Has homosexuality ever been any real harm to any civilization or culture ever?

I ask that because a lot of historical writers of several periods seem to assume that “rampant homosexuality” is a sign of cultural decadence, but I never have encountered any actual argument to the effect – it is, as I said, simply assumed.

And, come to think of it, I never have encountered any persuasive argument for the existence of such thing as “cultural decadence” in any culture.



Classical Sparta seemed to have problems with a steadily declining number of citizens, which some people have blamed on their weird family structure where young men were limited in how much time they could spend with their wives, but relationships between men were encouraged and less limited. Granted even if its true, there’s more to it then just homosexuality, and no one would ever call the Spartans “decadent”, gay or not. But its the closest example I could come up with.

I think that one can make the argument for it. The problem is making the follow-up argument that it’s some kind of one way street that leads to the destruction of a culture, and not 10-20 years later people just talking about “wow, we sure did get drunk and party too much back then, didn’t we?” The 1960s hippie subculture attitude of “take any drug in reach and see what happens” culture can be argued to have been “decadent”; but people stopped. That completely violates the underlying assumption of “decadence ruining civilization”: that decadence only gets worse and worse, more prevalent and more extreme until everything falls apart.

Which is also the most common assumption behind the idea that homosexuality will ruin or destroy civilization; it’s based on the idea that once homosexuality is openly tolerated it will grow more and more prevalent until everything falls apart because people don’t have children anymore or something of the sort.

… or we’ll all suffocate beneath a tsunami of soft furnishing.

The small NAMBLA subset of gay America could be seem as harmful; or the subset of the Catholic priesthood which targeted boys.

Pedophilia and homosexuality are entirely different orientations.

Gay sex practise was an important vector for spreading HIV/AIDS in the West. That was major harm. Gay culture as practised in Afghanistan where young boys are widely predated upon is major harm.

I consider it cultural decadence, when a native population is unwilling to defend itself against foreign enemies, or due to either laziness, stupidity, moral corruption, or unwillingness to reproduce have to rely on an army of imported workers to tend to their everyday needs. The last you’d find plenty of examples on today, for instance on the Arabian Peninsula. And in general national wealth come by without sweat and toil is not usually conductive to national fortitude or long time health of any nation.

A people running up a national deficit and towering burden of unfinanced national obligations to be the yoke of later generations is also a kind of despicable national decadence. Apres nous le deluge. Come to think of it, the proliferation of aristocratic special benefits in pre-revolution France was also cultural decadence.

And ephebophilia is a third. Desire for teenage-jailbait is a very different thing from desire for pre-pubescents. Don’t try to tell me anyone who ever costarred with Traci Lords was a pedo.

Richard M. Nixon

Regarding which, see this thread from 2009.

Jesus, I thought you were quoting a J.D. Salinger novel.

You’re talking about gay men there. Lesbians are homosexuals too. According to the CDC there has never been a confirmed case of female-to-female transmission of HIV. It’s believed to be possible and there are women with HIV/AIDS whose sexual partners had all been women, but a large majority of these women are known to have other risk factors (e.g. IV drug use) and the rest refused to be interviewed so their other risk factors could not be determined. We do, however, know that most new HIV/AIDS infections in women were contracted through sex with an infected man (CDC: HIV Among Women). So based on what we know now, being homosexual actually helps to protect women from HIV/AIDS.

As for the fellas, while being the receptive partner in unprotected anal sex is the riskiest sex act with regard to HIV transmission (CDC again), this alone did not lead to the AIDS crisis. Had US society in the '70s and '80s been encouraging gay men to settle down and get married to each other and/or had the government responded better early on things might have worked out quite differently. Nor is unprotected anal sex between men the only thing that could lead to an AIDS crisis – AIDS is much, much more prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa than in the US, and sex between men doesn’t appear to have much to do with it there. HIV/AIDS in the region is actually more common among women than men (Wikipedia).

Welll . . . might not have made any differerence. Remember, that was a time when gays in America were feeling the collective excitement-surge of recent liberation. I think the whole scene with drugs, discos, bathhouses, and anonymous promiscuity was just a phase they inevitably had to go through. The more so as many straights were acting pretty wild at the time, too.

That’s part of my point, though – had American society been more accepting of homosexuality earlier on, there might never have been such an “excitement-surge” at all or it might have occurred long before HIV reached the US. The AIDS crisis occurred in a specific social and historical context, not because men having sex with men must inevitably lead to such a thing. And again, the US is in much better shape on the AIDS front than many countries that are far less accepting of homosexuality. The HIV/AIDS rate in Swaziland is the highest in the world, but it’s not even legal for men to engage in anal sex with other men there.

I don’t think that’s true, but even if it is then all this could have been done more safely if the public in general and gay men in particular had been better educated about the risks of sharing needles and engaging in unprotected sex and especially unprotected anal sex. There will of course always be people who are careless or refuse to listen to what “The Man” says, but the government could have done a much better job of dealing with things in the early years of the AIDS crisis than it did. That might have made a big difference in how quickly the disease spread.

Different societies take different approaches to what sexual behaviors are allowed and socially encouraged and discouraged. There’s ample evidence that the different attitudes towards sex have different effects on society. Whether a certain attitude towards certain sex acts counts as “decadence” is, of course, a matter of opinion. In the USA and similar nations today, that term would not be widely used.

For example, in comparing societies that allow and promote polygamy, versus those that put legal and social pressure towards monogamy, researchers have found:
It turns out that “societies that institutionalize and practice monogamous marriage” have major advantages over those that don’t. Among the bad things that researchers found in societies that practice polygamy are “greater levels of crime, violence, poverty and gender inequality” and ”significantly higher levels of rape, kidnapping, murder, assault, robbery and fraud”. Societies that only allow monogamous marriage will see “lower rates of child neglect, abuse, accidental death, homicide and intra-household conflict” and “increases [in] long-term planning, economic productivity, savings and child investment”. The researchers also note that “monogamous marriage has largely preceded democracy and voting rights for women in the nations where it has been institutionalized” and “monogamous marriage increases the age of first marriage for females, decreases the spousal age gap and elevates female influence in household decisions which decreases total fertility and increases gender equality.”

There are also societies that have normalized homosexuality in various ways that, and those allow for research as well:

Among the Etoro, a tribe of about 400 living by hunting and small-scale gardening in the Stickland-Bosavi district of Papua New Guinea, from around age 12, every boy is “inseminated” orally more or less daily by a young man who is assigned to him as a partner. Late in his teenage years, an Etoro boy is formally initiated in an event involving many male sex partners, after which he becomes an “inseminator” rather than an “inseminee.” In due course, the former older male partner often marries the younger man’s sister.

Somewhat similar customs are reported for many other tribes in the remote mountains of New Guinea, and these cases collectively serve as proof that it is not beyond human ingenuity to channel homosexual behavior into a social system. But what kind of social system? For the Etoro, it is one that radically discounts the value of women as mothers and wives. Etoro men defer marriage as long as possible and, when they do marry, are concerned mostly with the advantages to be gained from reinforced links with their male in-laws. The Etoro, as it happens, put significant obstacles in the way of heterosexual behavior. Husband and wife, for example, are permitted to have sexual relations only outside the communal household and only under conditions that rule out about two-thirds of the calendar year. The birth rate, unsurprisingly, is very low.

Does the behavior of a small tribe in New Guinea have any bearing on the debates in contemporary America about “respect” for homosexual lifestyles? Perhaps not. After all, requiring homosexual behavior is far from merely permitting it. But the Etoro and similar societies do illustrate something about the logic of homosexual male relations in human societies. When such relations are subject to cultural elaboration they almost always fit into a pattern of initiation into secrets, male exclusivity, and a low status for women.

In some cases the reasoning is fairly obvious. For instance, where polygamy is normal, rich and powerful men hoard large groups of women, and thus many men can’t marry, and that pool of unmarried men causes all sorts of problems. Other issues may be harder to predict, but are still consistent. In a society where a man is allowed to collect as many sex partners as possible–whether it’s women, men, or children doesn’t matter–men will tend to spend their effort and energy collecting sex partners, because the male sex drive is almost unlimited. In a society where law and social pressure limits a man to being married to one woman and having sex only with her, there’s a much greater chance that men will spend their effort and energy on a career, a stable household, and pro-social activities. Also, if men are allowed to compete for sex partners, violence often ensues. When men are required to stick with one sex partners, they don’t have that motivation to commit violence while competing for sex partners.

:dubious: That pings my fallacy meter. There’s no reason to assume that mandating or expecting some sort of semi-ritualized male/male sexual behavior is in any way responsible for patriarchal exclusivity and oppression, rather than the other way around. That is, it’s just as likely if not more likely that the patriarchal society evolved near-universal sexual bonding between males as one of its strategies to reinforce male privilege, rather than inflating male privilege as a consequence of spontaneous homosexual bonding.