The titanic debate over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is currently raging between Republicans and Democrats. But in more important news, Lady Gaga gave a speech defending the right of her loudest, most adoring constituency to serve in the military. We here at The Smoking Jacket have a saying: if Lady Gaga does it, it must be right. Sure, it’s gotten us into trouble with the law, sometimes, but we’re on her side with this just like any other rainmaker issue.
Anybody who thinks that gay people can’t kick some ass hasn’t studied their history. Either that, or they imbibed their history from Mel Gibson movies. As you’ll see, sometimes a society’s propensity for ass-kicking manliness is directly proportional to how accepting they are of homosexuality.
Shogun Japan was a man’s world—a veritable island of old-school patriarchy, a place where a man could make his own beef jerky, do some riverboat gambling, and primp his chest hair with chop sticks. Even the word Shogun sounds like it could add a five o’clock shadow and at least two more testicles to your repertoire just by saying it three times and clicking your heels.
When we say men dominated every aspect of this society, we mean every aspect. Since women were perpetually on the lam as a demeaning influence on masculinity, somebody had to fill the sexual void…somebody meaning young men, usually ages 13-19. Their demographic picked up the booty slack by doing things like acting out the female parts of theater productions that were ostensibly prostitution rings where the nobles and shoguns would pay top dollar for their “intimacy” after the curtains were drawn.
But it wasn’t just the shoguns and nobles who rode the dong lightning. We’ll give you a hint: Flashy robes aren’t the only thing Elton John and samurais have in common. That’s right, we just went there. The samurai class revered homosexuality as a way of instilling pupils with traits like virtue and honesty, and making them appreciate the true beauty of the male visage.
One of the first things we all learned about the Aztecs growing up was that they were kind of dicks (pun intended) to other tribes. But in our society, sometimes being a dick courts a kind of irresistible alpha-male manliness. For the same reason Ogre beats up on those pesky nerds and still gets all the hot chicks, the Aztecs can be viewed as the epitome of Mesoamerica masculinity.
However, long before Christian Spanish conquistadors arrived and put a hex on homosexuality, the Aztecs had a gay tradition preordained straight from the heavens. Allow us to elaborate: Among their many, less bloodthirsty Gods, the Aztecs worshipped a deity called Xochiquetzel—the goddess of non-reproductive sexuality and love. Xochiquetzel was both male and female at the same time—a mythical Brigitte Nielsen, if you will—and her male aspect, Xochipilli, was worshipped as the deity of male homosexuality.
Thus, same-sex eroticism was practiced as a sort of communion with the all-important Gods. The Aztecs didn’t have any WWJD?-style bracelets back then, but it didn’t matter. They knew what Xochipilli would’ve done—tap that ass.
Drunken, bestial orgies may not have been invented by the Romans, but they sure as hell perfected the art form. For this reason, it’s probably not that surprising that homosexuality wasn’t a huge deal to them. What’s intriguing, though, is how they decided who would be a top (pitcher), and who would be a bottom (catcher).
During the mid- and late-republic era, Romans took periodic time-outs from crushing their Barbarian enemies phalanx-style to put a prison-yard twist on their same-sex relations. The Romans took the same imperialistic attitude they needed in justifying colonizing just about everybody militarily and transferred it to their sexual arrangements.
It was acceptable for a male Roman citizen to be the top, but not the bottom. To be the pitcher, but not the catcher. Being the bottom was considered an act of moral deviation, something only fit for a slave, or a more passive male. No written record exists explaining if they applied the same attitude as to who would be the big spoon and the little spoon, afterward.
No doubt, 300 was a brick shithouse of a movie, but Frank Miller left out one teensy, tiny, penisy detail about ancient Spartan culture, and their military, in particular. The Spartans, as it turns out, were gay. So gay that they would’ve laughed in the face of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Though with all of 300’s loin-clothed homoeroticism, it’s possible Miller was just being subtle about the 800-pound, leather-clad elephant in the room.
Everything about Spartan society was shaped and geared toward strengthening the military. Okay, that part we all know. But also included in the gearing and strengthening process were the ways Spartan officials determined could best foster that special bond soldiers shared as defenders of the state.
The best way to facilitate comradery and ensure allegiance between men, they figured, was for these same soldiers to have sex with each other. Homosexuality wasn’t just tolerated, it was encouraged. Hell, it was practically man-law. No—screw that, it was law.
Hey Leonidas, know how I know you’re gay? You have sex with men. That’s it. That’s how I know.