Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ancient Etiquette, Modern Felony: It's All Greek To Me

In my last post I delved into the ancient Greek practice of an adult man taking on a young boy-lover. (Maybe I shouldn't say I delved into the practice of it so much as I cut and pasted some stuff about it from an online resource—otherwise I may set off some kind of Federal Perv-Alert, resulting in a visit from dark-suited men with sunglasses who will tell me things like "You're disgusting!", and "You have the right to remain silent.")

I mentioned former Representative Mark Foley (who in 2006 resigned after there came to light a particulalry salacious IM conversation with a Congressional page), and I suggested that the scandalous acts of contemporary elected officials often bear a striking resemblance to the societally sanctioned behavior of men deemed noble in the days of ancient Greece. To wit, this passage from an article in the aforementioned resource, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

The cultural ideal of a same-sex relationship was between an older man, probably in his 20's or 30's, known as the erastes, and a boy whose beard had not yet begun to grow, the eromenos or paidika. In this relationship there was courtship ritual, involving gifts (such as a rooster), and other norms. The erastes had to show that he had nobler interests in the boy, rather than a purely sexual concern. The boy was not to submit too easily, and if pursued by more than one man, was to show discretion and pick the more noble one.

The ancient Greeks may have invented democracy and given us great works of theater and philosophy, but they were also a ribald and rooster loving bunch.

We in the modern world may seem to have more proper and prudish attitudes towards sex, but if you just scratch the surface you'll see that things aren't that different. Don't imagine that we don't have same-sex courting rituals between adults and minors anymore—it's just that now they take place using Instant Messenger (also they're sort of illegal). Here's a brief excerpt of Mark Foley's ruinous cyber-chat (which can be viewed in its entirety here, or if you prefer a conveniently color coded pdf version, here).

Maf54 (7:46:01 PM): well I better let you go do oyur thing

[redacted screenname] (7:46:07 PM): oh ok

[redacted screenname] (7:46:11 PM): have fun campaigning

[redacted screenname] (7:46:17 PM): or however you spell it

[redacted screenname] (7:46:18 PM): lol

[redacted screenname] (7:46:25 PM): ill see ya in a couple of weeks

Maf54 (7:46:33 PM): did any girl give you a haand job this weekend

[redacted screenname] (7:46:38 PM): lol no

[redacted screenname] (7:46:40 PM): im single right now

[redacted screenname] (7:46:57 PM): my last gf and i broke up a few weeks agi

Maf54 (7:47:11 PM): are you

Maf54 (7:47:11 PM): good so your getting horny

[redacted screenname] (7:47:29 PM): lol...a bit

Maf54 (7:48:00 PM): did you spank it this weekend yourself

[redacted screenname] (7:48:04 PM): no

[redacted screenname] (7:48:16 PM): been too tired and too busy

Maf54 (7:48:33 PM): wow...

Maf54 (7:48:34 PM): i am never to busy haha

[redacted screenname] (7:48:51 PM): haha

Maf54 (7:50:02 PM): or tired..helps me sleep

In the exchange, Foley was pretty clear about his sexual interest in the page, but also, in accordance with the erastes/eromenos rubrick, evidenced his "nobler" concerns for the teenager, for instance, indicating his hopes that the youngster doesn't get in trouble with his mom, and inquiring whether or not the page had gotten a "haand job" from any girl over the weekend. (I think "haand job" is a Dutch term, pronounced "hond yawb," for a toasted cheese sandwich.)

Despite these efforts, Foley was a little sloppy in his adherence to the ancient rules of seduction, providing no farm animals or other gifts. He may have been able to seal the deal if only he'd had the texting chops to proffer an emoticon-style rooster.

Maf54: cock-a-doodle-do! lol

As for the underage page, he seems to have been observing proper eromenos protocol by playing hard to get: IMing that his mom was calling, and claiming that he had to sign off in order to do "HW" for his AP English class. There's no way to know for sure of course; maybe he was being coy and made that stuff up, or possibly he was telling the earnest truth about those interruptions, or, who knows, it could be he intermittently signed off because he was simultaneously fielding advances from Congressman Eric Massa.

If this were the case, Foley would've been facing some stiff competition; Massa was apparently honing his lewd advances since back in his Navy days. Also, as a slightly younger and presumedly more tech savvy man, Massa was likely more adept at typing pictures of cocks (and other gift-worthy animals).

Furthermore, while Foley exceeded Massa in age, and in years of service as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives—and was therefore, at least on paper, the "nobler" of the suitors—I suspect that a coveted room may have opened up in Massa's home/underpaid-staffer crashpad.

Sadly this living arrangement was not in the public eye until after Massa's political demise, because it would've made for the best season of MTV's "The Real World" ever.

The lesson in all of this, of course, is that, well, first of all, sexual mores have changed in the last few millenia (by "sexual mores" I'm referring to attitudes towards sex, not eels that like to get it on); and second, that members of Congress haven't figured out that just because a message is instant, that doesn't mean it's not permanent.

For practical purposes, if you are in a position of power or esteem, and one day you find yourself tempted to titillate a teenager with textual doodles of a farm-cock, take my advice: cock-a-doodle-don't.

And if you are a teenager yourself, watch out for lusty IMs from U.S. Congressmen, and over the weekend don't have too many "haand jobs"; remember, moderation in all things.

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