Sexual Behaviour in Canada: Patterns and Problems

By Benjamin Schlesinger | Go to book overview

Lesbianism: knowns and unknowns

SUSAN HANLEY, BENJAMIN SCHLESINGER AND PAUL STEINBERG


HISTORY AND BACKGROUND

Homosexuality is as old as humanity itself. Lesbianism has been with us from the beginning of recorded time and no doubt even earlier, in primitive societies and sophisticated ones - in ages known for rigorous moral standards and in others equally renowned for their sexual liberality. Often in the corridors of history the lesbian's presence has been overshadowed by male-loving males who, more numerous in almost all instances and more apparent as well, have attracted greater attention. The female has, nevertheless, not been absent from the scene. Furthermore, female homosexuality has, for a number of reasons, been met with more acceptance or less condemnation both in the past and at the present time. Kinsey lists approximately eleven reasons for this, some of which are [ 13 ]: the superior status of males historically, frequency of incidence, the nature and type of sexual contact, and religious outrage and objection concerning 'the wastage of semen in all male activities that are noncoital.' The advent of Christianity and the Justinian code and later Mohammedanism perpetrated the idea that male homosexuality was a sin as semen was viewed as a precious life-giving fluid whose waste was contrary to divine law. Therefore lesbianism was regarded as less sinful because the female had 'nothing to waste' [ 6 ].

Perhaps the most well-known, important, and influential seat of culturally recognized and approved female homosexuality appeared in Greece. Its advocate was the celebrated poetess, Sappho, who lived on the island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea. It is Sappho who has traditionally been hailed as the founder of lesbian love and in fact, lesbianism is a term derived from the name 'Lesbos,' the

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