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By John Helmer, Moscow

The dickhead question is not which direction the dick is pointing in, but whether it’s connected to the brain. The heart being an automatic organ, it’s the brain which must obey the rules of informed consent and their corollary, the age of consent. Among the ancient Greeks, who celebrated homosexuality more than any culture before or since, these rules were enforced to the point of capital punishment for infringing them.

If you plan on travelling to Sochi with homosex on your mind, and you are having trouble understanding what the French President has been doing with his dick, and what the Russian President says you shouldn’t be doing with yours, you should read the 634-page history of how the ancient Greeks regulated the passions between age-groups.* A second primer by the same author explains what endorsers of Hollande’s conduct today fail to appreciate when they attack Putin’s conduct – this is the ancient Greek concept of dickheadedness. The Greeks called it ἀκολασία (akolasia), meaning intemperance; lack of self-control; the vice of excess when desires are not corrected by reason. This is the key to understanding 135-FZ, the Russian law banning public “propagating non-traditional sexual relations among minors”, enacted by the State Duma, the Federation Council and Putin in June of 2013.

For the text of the law in Russian and English, click here. For an analysis of the enactment in its comparative legal context, click again.

The Greeks have always understood that sex in private is a lawful and legitimate secret. But the instant sex is publicized politically, the dickhead question is the one on everyone’s mind. At the end of 1988 the then Prime Minister of Greece, Andreas Papandreou, asked me to draft a version for his traditional New Year’s Day speech. Papandreou’s problem at the time was threefold. On the one hand, he was facing re-election six months away and the polls were showing he had lost the support of a majority of voters, especially women. On the other, he had suffered massive heart failure and been saved by a rare operation in which he received a replacement aorta. Just how serious this was had been kept secret at the time, but as he went into the operation, Papandreou knew his chances of coming out alive were less than 40%. After he survived, he knew he was on borrowed time – five years if he were fortunate, eight years maximum.

Papandreou’s third problem followed from the second. Because he loved a woman who wasn’t his wife, he asked for her to be at his hospital bedside in what he anticipated might his last days or hours. When that became public, he renounced his marriage, divorced his wife, and married his lover. None of this is likely to have happened if Papandreou hadn’t thought he was dying. He would have kept his marriage in public, his lover in privacy. When he couldn’t, Greek women voters jumped to the conclusion that the prime minister was allowing his dick to rule his head.

papandreou

Papandreou with French President
FrancoisMitterrand who asked
for secrecy when he spent
weekends in Greece with
his mistress

The objective of the New Year’s speech draft was to combat the perception, and restore trust in Papandreou’s judgement on public matters. The speech addressed these concerns explicitly, summoning up classical Greek precedents for the proposition that the prime minister’s head would never be ruled by his dick. As for his heart, the speech explained how Papandreou’s organ had been failing in its job so badly, his lower legs were turning green and he was gasping for air. The metaphorical organ, Papandreou’s heart for love — it was also explained — continued to beat notwithstanding, as it was human to do, even on the threshold of death. The adult audience for the speech was invited to judge what their brains would have commanded their hearts to do on the same brink, and how much (how little) political expediency should weigh at that point.

Papandreou didn’t give the speech as it had been drafted. He did lift the text, at least the parts about the brain and the heart, for an interview he gave a publication whose readers were adolescents. Blunt talking about dicks was withheld from their young eyes and ears.

In the outcome in June 1989, though he had closed most of the margin among women voters, Papandreou lost the election, and was replaced for a time by his conservative opponent, Constantine Mitsotakis. Papandreou returned to power in 1993, but by then his aorta replacement was fast failing. He died in 1996, just under eight years after his surgery.

It’s rare for heads of government to talk publicly about their organs when they are operating normally; uncommon when they are failing. In the United States, politicians do all sorts of things with their dicks in hiding, but they haven’t suffered politically for it until after John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson got away with their games. Candidates like Gary Hart or Ted Kennedy, or incumbents like Bill Clinton, don’t get into political trouble for their sexual antics so much as for the lies they tell about them. In US politics, it’s the mouth which gives away the dickhead, not the dick.

The presumption of American democracy is natural enough. A politician who lies about a private matter is likely to lie about a public, political one. In the cases of Kennedy, Johnson, and Clinton, the correlation is +1.0. American democracy is also better at detecting private lying. It is a failure at exposing the public lies which lead to wars – Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Ossetia, Libya, and the Obama Administration’s recent lying on the use of poison gas in Syria.

In France, President Francois Hollande had already reached a 24% approval rating, the nadir of public support late last year, well before he was exposed as having a sexual relationship with somebody to whose bed he commuted on the pillion seat of a motor scooter. The gender of the body to whom he rode, and the sexual orientation of them both, are privacies which aren’t secret any longer. Politically important are such issues as how much in taxpayer funds has been spent on the scooter driver, a presidential bodyguard, and what presidential favours might be owed to the owner of the apartment in which the goings-on occurred. For the time being these remain state secrets.

Fresh opinion polls this month show that Hollande’s scootering has improved his approval rating with women voters by 3 percentage points; cost about 2% among undecided male voters; and left a super-majority of 77% unshaken in the view that the president’s sex is a private matter, not a public concern. Overall, Hollande is 2% more approved after the scootering was revealed than before.

rating
Source: Le Nouvel Observateur, January 13, 2014

If the body which was the object of Hollande’s scootering had been male, and his chauffeur female, Hollande isn’t likely to have done worse in the opinion polls. On the other hand, if the body had been a boy’s or girl’s between the ages of 15 and 17, Hollande would have broken French law and his exposure would mean the end of his political career. (Much the same law has been applied in Italy to convict Silvio Berlusconi and disqualify him from public office.)

In Russia the age of consent to sexual acts was 14 until 2002. That was the result of two enactments by then-President Boris Yeltsin, one in 1996 and another in 1998. Initially, the late president was in favour of 16 for lesbian acts and anal sex between males; 14 for male-female acts. He reconsidered though, and made 14 available to all-comers. By 2002, the US State Department issued a public condemnation that Yeltsin’s age of consent was too young, and was encouraging sex crimes, including the production of pornography, among juveniles. Putin then raised the age of consent to 16.

There is no record of a western media campaign against Yeltsin for lowering the age of consent, nor a record of western media supporting Putin for raising it. The contrast is obvious in the current campaign by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations, accusing Putin of homophobia, and worse, for defending 135-FZ. Even Hollande, before one of his scootering expeditions in December, authorized a French government statement that no senior French official would attend the Sochi Games, allowing this to be understood as a condemnation of 135-FZ. So far the campaign against 135-FZ has focused on what hasn’t happened at Sochi, rather than on evidence from the Russian courts over the seven months the law has been in force.

Putin’s defence has consistently stuck to the two elements of the law which, before Hollande and US President Barack Obama went on the attack, were part of Russia’s human rights code – protection of the age of consent, and protection of the right to privacy in sexual orientation. According to Putin’s statement on January 17, “we have no ban on nontraditional sexual relations. We have a ban on propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia, I want to underline that, on propaganda among minors. We aren’t banning anything, we aren’t rounding up anyone, we have no criminal punishment for such relations, unlike many other countries. One can feel relaxed and at ease, but please leave the children in peace.” Putin followed on January 19 with a counterattack aimed at Americans in particular: “homosexuality is a criminal offence in 70 countries, including the USA. It is still a criminal offence in some states of the United States, for instance in Texas, and I think in three more states. So what, shouldn’t we hold any international competitions there? …I would like to ask our colleagues – my colleagues and friends – before they try to criticise us, to solve the problem in their own home first… In some US states, homosexuality is criminally punishable. And how can they criticise us for a far gentler and liberal approach to these issues compared to the one they have at home?

grThe original Athenian democracy went further because its age-sets were precisely defined for reasons of citizenship, legal standing, military service, and property ownership. Strict prohibitions were enforced on what could be done, seen, or said between over-18 year olds and under-18 year olds. Sex acts were prohibited, and so too was what 135-Z now calls propaganda. As for the enormous varieties of homosexual love allowable in the ancient Greek bedroom, the barracks, and the symposium, the Greek code put limits on what could be publicized for an individual to keep his reputation among his peers. A man who made a public display of his sexual passions ran the risk of being publicly referred to as euruproktos (wide-arse), kinaidos (fop), katapugon (debauched). From words with literal reference to genitals, anus, buttocks, and fingers, the Greeks started our metaphorical application of such terms as common insults like arsehole, bollocks, bugger, and bum’s rush. For talking out of their arses, and bending over for men with money, politicians were often referred to this way, then as now.

In response to Plato’s, er Putin’s advice for LGBTs to keep their mouths zipped in front of under-18 year olds, the White House spokesman issued a statement on Friday with an obvious falsification: “We fundamentally disagree with the idea that anyone needs protection from LGBT individuals or from those advocating for the human rights of LGBT individuals. All people are created free and equal in dignity and rights, regardless of who they are or who they love.” The term “anyone” is restricted in US law, as it is in Russian, French and most other codes, by the protection required for those under the age of consent.

There’s nothing new in the pitches western politicians are making to voters who publicize their sexual orientation or politicize their bedroom preferences. Such appeals to the homosexual lobbies increase when politicians are trailing in the polls; for them to attack Putin to pick up homosexual approval at home is predictable and it’s cheap.

What is genuinely new about the international campaign against 135-FZ — what has never happened in the history of the world before — is that dickheads are asking dicks to vote.

[*] James Davidson, The Greeks and Greek Love: A Radical Reappraisal of Homosexuality in Ancient Greece, London 2007; and by the same author, Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens, London 1998.

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