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The Ancient Greeks: More Sexually Accepting Than Us

As part of our final projects for Dramaturgy class, each student chose an adaptation of a Greek play or myth. We were sectioned into groups of three or four based on the source material of our adaptations, their genre, author, or another linking factor. While some plays clearly have stronger ties to one another, nearly every group who has discussed their plays so far touch upon the common themes of sexual identity and gender roles.

Why is this? Do Greek plays inherently have some common, underlying thread that crops up when adapted?

Perhaps it is because, to Greeks of Ancient world, sex- in nearly all forms- was an accepted and celebrated part of life. The God Eros, God of love, was worshiped through any and all sexual acts.

Spartan art celebrating sex between two men

Spartan art celebrating sex between two men


Helena Smith wrote for The Guardian, “Eros, the god of love and the great loosener of limbs, was many things: irresistible, tender, beautiful, excruciating, maddening, merciless and bittersweet. There was no position, no touch, no predilection too outre to pay homage to him. From the affectionate embrace to group sex, love came in many forms.”

There was nothing marginalizing about homosexual tendencies in Ancient Greece. There was nothing shameful about orgies. All acts of sexual desire were a kind of worshiping of one of their many Gods.

In several of the adaptations discussed in class metrosexual,  androgynous, and homosexual characters play a large part. For example, in Caridad Svich’s adaptation of Iphigenia at Aulis, entitled Iphigenia Crash Land Falls on the Neon Shell That Was Once Her Heart (A Rave Fable)an androgynous rock star with few limiting morals surrounding sexual acts stands in for the character of Achilles. In Ned Dickens’ City of Wine Plays the unnamed characters, who serve as a modern chorus, switch genders from one play to another or are written to be cast as either male or female. Will Powers’ adaptation of The Seven Against Thebes, entitled Seven a gay couple exists within the world of the play. In Caridad’s Svich’s other work, Wreckage– an adaptation of Medea– the Medea character is lesbian.

These are just a few examples among many.

Now compare that information about Greek adaptations with the information provided by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation: based on the overall quantity, quality, and diversity of LGBT representation on scripted programming not a singe network received a score of “excellent.” The networks which received “good” all had 50% or less LGBT inclusive hours. ABC and Fox were the only networks to improve their percentage of LGBT inclusive hours since 2012.

Cam and Mitchell: a stereotypical gay couple featured on ABC's sitcom "Modern Family"

Cam and Mitchell: a stereotypical gay couple featured on ABC’s sitcom “Modern Family”

I live in a world where LGBT individuals exist 100% of the time and its almost never a big deal. Why can’t more modern theater and television include characters who just happen to be something other than heteronormative? If the Greeks can sculpt thousands of statues overtly depicting and celebrating homosexual and polygamous sexual acts why is it such a big deal every time two guys kiss on screen or on stage?

I’m not asking for more plays and shows that deal with the nitty gritty issues of being LGBT in our society be written and produced. I actually think its more powerful and more progressive to write shows and plays about other things, like tennis, outer space, or hospitals, that include people who just happen to be not homosexual or transgendered. Because homosexual and transgendered people are so much more than homosexual and transgendered people. They are tennis players, astronauts, and doctors with opinions about more topics than just what its like to be LGBT.


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