Blame it on the south wind

If the wind was blowing from the south when you were conceived — in case you are a woman, a “misbegotten male” — it is to blame for your gender! You didn’t know? The man who said so was canonized, so, it must be true. I am referring to Thomas Aquinas, 1225 – 1274, one of the founders of the church and theology as it exists now.

Thomas Aquinas’ “Summa Theologica” — written from 1265 or 1266 until 1273 — can be found here; it makes an enjoyable read.

Not so entertaining is what the Catholic church still has to say nowadays, concerning homosexuals and their wish to be able to marry,  as well as what it has to say about women and their role in partnership and society.

It shouldn’t concern me the way it does, as I am not even Catholic. Yet, many people try and bend their lives around the imposed rules of the Vatican, and as I know quite a few who suffer from this impossible task to comply to arbitrary and contradicting rules — at least this is how it seems to me — it is somehow my problem as well.

Another thing is, as little as people realize, those long-past opinions, one might say, still influence us nowadays. It always annoys me when our government, e.g., stresses the “Christian values” our society is founded upon. In my perception, our society and the things we value most, as they affect our daily life — the freedom of speech, and of actions that won’t harm others — are no Christian traits. It has to do with a process that started in the Renaissance, and hasn’t stopped since, through the French revolution, the American declaration of independence which states for the first time that all men are created equal (even if at the time it wasn’t clear at all if women or slaves were included) and still continues whenever someone asks the simple question how something can be changed for the better. This question is a process, it is never solved — which doesn’t mean one should ever stop trying.

Yet, however modern we claim to be in our western civilisation, those long-past opinions still seem to be present somehow in the human psyche. When I was young, which isn’t so long past, in the village where I come from the old ladies told me (more than once) that having your period is the punishment put upon you for Eve’s sin. Oh, and that the lettuce would go bad if you walk past the field when you are in that state, etc. etc… They were serious, too. Nowadays people tend to forget, but the level beneath the very obvious which is harder to perceive, and thus, to attack, is still there. I cannot count how often I have read (in fairy tales or in quotations) or heard (on the street as well as in interviews,) that a man had “only a daughter.” I refused to even really hear it; I only do so more again since I have a daughter myself and am bound to notice what opinions she is exposed to.  I don’t want her to grow up with the slowly accumulating belief that persons of female gender are second class. And by the way, to quote Aquinas once more:

“…for the agent is always more honorable than the patient…” If you are a Christian; what is with Jesus then? He is the essence of patience, in the Latin sense, which also means suffering or to endure. The argumentation and the quote was hilariously stupid even back then.

Concerning homosexuals, I somehow have the impression that the underlying disrespect of society for women is applied to them as well. Worse than being gay is — be gay and look like a bottom. For comparison, just look at the public reactions (as in youtube comments etc.) various gay or bi actors and artists are getting. Why isn’t Daniel Craig (has been reportedly kissing a man, according to sources Perez Hilton seems to have at hand) being picked upon the same way as Chris Colfer is? Because — this is my theory — Daniel Craig just doesn’t look like a bottom.

I will inquire further on this, though it is hard to find any statistically significant proof for this theory, or proof against it.

The idea persists that a woman is the evil one, the seductress, and the one spreading diseases (because a man can wash, and it’s gone, right?) They are of inferior intellect too, of course, as Aquinias states, and as it still is mirrored in many “blondes” jokes in German, e.g..

People incessantly express their disrespect for the receiving part, the patient one, by the greatest archive of historic beliefs and judgements there is: language. There is no such thing as neutral language. “Now you’re boned. / F* you…” etc. says it all. The one who does it is the hero, the one who gets it is the victim. This is in complete agreement with Aquinas, and the quote we all most probably had a good laugh about just before. A bit scary, isn’t it? If he lived nowadays, I have the notion that Aquinas wouldn’t even really stand out.

Yet, I won’t only pick on a man’s flaws. One of the good things he has done — he has written the “Pange Lingua,” a hymn which has been set  to music quite a few times. Without him, those pieces of music would never exist, which I would consider a great loss. So, one “plus” for Thomas Aquinas. If it is able to weigh up the incredibly sexist rants (even for the time) he wrote — who can judge. Judge for yourselves 😉

annotation: The featured picture was typeset with LaTex…. IT IS SO DAMN SEXY! </nerd>


6 thoughts on “Blame it on the south wind

  1. Hey, thanks for trying to tackle the difficult issue of where homophobia comes from. Christianity has its share of blame, but what’s also interesting is why homophobia persists even in secular environments. I’m sure psychoanalysts and sociologists have a good theory or dozen.

    What do your queer friends say about it — how do they behave when faced with prejudice and assumptions in different situations?

    Also to keep in mind that anti-gay and anti-lesbian feelings probably come from different sources, and how they work depends a lot on the gender of the person doing prejudging. The problem for woman-woman relations was invisibility and presumed impossibility rather than persecution, until about Victorian times. What is the history of legislation of sexual behaviour in Germany?

  2. Oh what complicated questions… .:D I love them, nonetheless.
    FIRST OF ALL — I feel really bad for choosing the quote for the header, as it was not really Aquinas’ opinion but one “objectio” he argued against. Well, to me it still feels like he is giving a compliant “well yes, …” followed by a very shy “but…” as for me, to say that women are great because without them men couldn’t procreate is NOT what I can see as an early form of proclaiming equal rights by any means.
    Still, I feel this must be added in Aquinas’ defence. 😉

    Soooo… first — you asked for a sum-up of German history concerning the practise of prosecution. This is damn complicated, as, in contrary to the way Germany is perceived, it hardly ever was “one” Germany, but devided into Bundesländer (counties), all with their own legislation, and later into east and west on top of that. Nowadays the laws of the criminal code passed by the German state (Bundestag, but the Bundesrat, respresenting the different counties has to agree upon it) are applied in the counties as well, and overriding theirs; when it comes to education, etc., it is still not so, but there the counties have their own laws. You cannot simply study to be a teacher in Bavaria and then work in Berlin, e.g., wich is hilarious. But this just as an annotation, here is what I wrote together… 😉
    What I can tell you from head is when the infamous §175 was abolished – it was 1994, late as that, for the re-united Germany. The actual numbers of people being prosecuted for the offence though had been decresasing over the years. This is mostly due to the fact that the “paragraph,”as the German laws are called, changed quite much over the years, so, even if the label stayed the same, it meant totally different things. The fact that there hardly ever was “one” Germany in history — even until 1994 the law was seperated into DDR Law and West-German law concerning this specific paragraph this makes a sum-up of history complicated.

    Another thing is that female relationships were not even mentioned, as a rule, and, ironically, made subject to prosecution again after 1994, as various paragraphs were merged as the $175a was abolished.

    Before, the age of consent was 14 for heterosexual or lesbian couples, now it is sixteen. Which means… actions between partners where one is over 16, the other not, are punishable (of course not by adult law if the person just turned 16, as a rule, but still.)

    The last version in existance only dealt with male homosexuals, and was this one:
    Fassung vom 23. November 1973 (Bundesrepublik)
    § 175 Homosexuelle Handlungen
    (1) Ein Mann über achtzehn Jahren, der sexuelle Handlungen an einem Mann unter 18 Jahren vornimmt oder von einem Mann unter 18 Jahren an sich vornehmen läßt, wird mit Freiheitsstrafe bis zu fünf Jahren oder mit Geldstrafe bestraft.
    (2) Das Gericht kann von einer Bestrafung nach dieser Vorschrift absehen, wenn
    1. der Täter zur Zeit der Tat noch nicht einundzwanzig Jahre alt war oder
    2. bei Berücksichtigung des Verhaltens desjenigen, gegen den die Tat sich richtet, das Unrecht der Tat gering ist.
    (Excuse me if the translation sounds stupid, I try to make it as word-for-word as possible)
    Version of 23th Nov, 1973 (West Germany, later Bundesrepublik)

    $175 Homosexual actions
    (1)A man over 18 years of age who performs sexual actions with a man under 18 years of age or has the other perform them on him, will be punished by a term of up to five years or by a fee.
    (2)The court can refrain from punishment according to to this rule, if
    1. the delinquent was not yet 21 of age at the time the offence was commited or
    2. if taken the behavior of the one the offence was directed against [the sentence is trying to avoid the word “victim” here by all means] into account, the injustice of the deed is minute.

    The complicated 175 section 2 means: If you are an adult man and have sex with a rent-boy, or even rape him, you are very likely to go unpunished even, as the damage done to the other is considered rather minute. So, this section 2 was the thing that tasted most sour to homosexuals I knew in fact – and it has been scandalous. The other thing was of course that the section one treated homosexual men differently from other people whose age of consent was set to 14. So, this complicated the puberty of homosexuals a great deal; if your bf was a year older, e.g., the moment he turned 18 and you still were 17, e.g. it all of a sudden became an offence; before, it was fully legal; after both persons were 18 again, it was legal again.

    In the former DDR, the east of Germany, a less wordy version was in use, setting the age of consent to 21 years even, from 1968 on, in West Germany from 1969 on, the age of consent was 21, but only punishable from 18 years onwards; moreover, the same as nowadays unregarding the sex of the persons involved, taking advantage of a teacher-son relationship or of rank etc. was prohibited, as well as male prostitution.

    In neither version, east nor west, lesbian women were even mentioned.

    Until 1968/69, in both parts of Germany, “Unzucht,” which is about the same as “sodomy” in the English use of the word at the time was prosecuted, regardless the age of the persons involved. (The literal meaning of Unzucht is about “un-chaste behaviour” or fornication.) You have to be careful, because the meaning of the term “Sodomie” changed over the years, in Germany more quickly than elsewhere – so sometimes “sodomy” means anal intercourse, but mostly in statistics it means sex with an animal, so check twice when copying numbers.

    Wikipedia has a quite good summary of the history, in case you want to check,

    especially the graphs and numbers are interesting.
    Brief course in German:
    Verurteilungen – number of verdicts pronounced
    Quelle(n) – source(s)
    Jugendliche – minors
    Spalte – column
    Vergehen – offences
    Vergehen nach … – offences according to …
    StGB, Strafgesetzbuch – criminal code

    I hope I could be any help 😉

  3. So.. to the other questions you brought up; The subject is vast, and it will surely not be my last blog-post dealing with it.
    I just picked on “Christianity” as it is often said to be such a tolerant, open-minded religion, and it is pointed with a finger at the supposedly so intolerant Muslims instead. Agreed, to try and live as an openly gay couple in Morocco, e.g. – I’m not sure, maybe someone can comment on it who actually has any specific background or further knowledge. All I can say from hear-say from some people I know, also people with other cultural background than my own, is that what people are supposed to do, and what they actually are doing, differs – in Islamic countries as well as elsewhere.

    Also, it needs to be mentioned that most Muslims who live in Germany are quite glad to do so, and not back where they themselves, their parents or even grand-parents came from. A Turkish friend of mine told me something a few days ago which made me laugh so hard: He complained to his dad that the Germans, especially around here, were going on his balls, and severely, with their narrow-minded, old-fashioned, conservative attitude. His dad’s reply was, “If you want to see narrow-minded and old-fashioned I’ll take to to Ankara with me next time..”.

    It is damn hard to seperate religion from normative issues and accumulated habits, prejudices and the sheer wish of people to have a safe harbour of joint experience, evem if they cannot explain what is actually celebrated at Palmarum, e.g..
    The whole idea of a normative institution which sets rules for the people is a bit like the illusion of a benevolent dictator; the idea alone scares me.

    The bible is a collection and selection of documents — some made up later, some not, maybe –interesting, some are great… ; but to actually live after this conglomeration of stuff or according to what Mr. Ratzinger says – a man who was on the whole never taken seriosly around here, not even by the congregation, much criticized because of his outdated views and his fierce hating against queers and women – this is an idea that would never cross my mind. I guess it is just not in me to be a sheep 😉

    Still, it defines our cultural background at least in parts – even the vast percentage of the muslimic community here share it up to a large degree – the Islam is also a religion based upon the Old Testament. Just 80 years ago in the villages around here it was really indecent for a woman to leave her head uncovered, and it still is unthinkable for the russian ladies who attend church around here. Just to stress the point – christianity is not an open-minded fluffy religion by default.

    Cultural background is more than “religion,” as it never was about what people really “believed” . Religion was associated with power. It influenced juristiction, the destilled version of what people agree upon which is “decent” behaviour. When the public opinion starts to shift, like it did hugely in the years 1968/1969 – or when people dared to voice their opinions more strongly than before that is – the law is changed, as it was with the $175. The Catholic church, most prominent of all, refuses to change, it still wiggles the Leviticus into the homosexuals’ face.

    If religion or the idea of a congregation or community didn’t play a role, homosexuals would just shrug and move on, and others wouldn’t give a damn. They do, however – and homosexuals engage themselves a great deal in organizations like HuK (homosexuals and church). As valiant as they are – I never could fully understand it. As little as I can understand any woman who stays in the catholic church. But this is only my point of view, everyone can do what they like. But hey, this is not christian! This is liberal. This specific thing that people can take conscious decisions, and that they are in fact demanded from them, as there is no “one size fits all” rule to go by – It is not Christan, it is the result of the process that started in the renaissance. It is a truly secular idea.
    Even the pope doesn’t make decisions – he pronounces what God tells him, allegedly. The idea of making a decision is not Christian as such.

    I feel bound to stress this because even Angela Merkel, whom as we both agreed upon looks splendid when butching it up – btw according to the Leviticus, as far as I remember, and to Aquinas, crossdressing is a severe offence leading to eternal damnation – who is an ex-East-German agnostic, feels bound to stress the “Christian values” our society is supposed to be founded upon. People long for being told, it seems, they long for black and white, or otherwise, court-shows on TV wouldn’t be so highly successful. Decisions, on the other hand, you have to stand in for, they are complicated to make and you will be picked upon.

    So this is maybe where psychology and sociology comes in.
    — Religion is used to label traditions, prejudices, family traditions and own opinions and unify them under a nice cloak
    — People long to belong to an abstract community like “the church,” or even, without intending to offend anyone, the gay community. There is one, and it works in parts and is a great thing, concerning the attempt to make changes of legislation, and to be perceived by society, of course, which is also vital for young people growing up. It is important to know you are not alone in the world or the only one. Yet, homosexuals have as much in common as heterosexuals. I don’t feel related to Mr. Berlusconi in any way, even if we both, by chance, are heterosexual. So this is a very very difficult issue, but I will try and deal with it whenever I feel in the mood for a really complicated subject again 😉

    Concerning the gender of people doing prejudicing: My bf learns in childcare, and his class – with only one exeption which is the turkish guy I mentioned before — consists of women. They are as harsh in their judgement as any man at times; I on the contrary have worked in a technical field, and mostly with men, and can say – men are just as emo as any woman at times.
    To me, it makes no difference; prejudices are just as daft on both sides, and voiced just as harshly. One thing differs though – I have the impression that as a rule neither straight men or women are fond of lesbians, whether there is a group which I estimate at about 10% in women who have in fact an inverse prejudice going on concerning gay men – that they are all great “Frauenversteher” (great in understanding women,) kind, gentle, fun …

    Another very complicated issue is another, which is sexual – and this doesn’t have to allign with how women or men behave towards same-sex couples.
    I will leave out who it was here, but someone I know very very well worked in a sex shop as well as a video-rent quite a while. All of his female colleagues exclusively watched gay porn. In fact, I don’t know any straight woman who watches heterosexual porn either.
    The men have their specific kinks, mostly they watch about 90% heterosexual porn and the rest lesbian porn. Men mostly like the idea they would be in the middle, while women enjoy to be left out and watch – most of them. (Always deriving from whom I myself asked and what others told me.)
    A few percent of that group of straight women again like yaoi, etc. because they feel uncomfortable to have actual sex that would involve them. There are many virgin yaoi fans. The idea to be able to get close to a man, without being in “danger” that he might voice a sexual interest or demand may have some appeal there.

    — This is complicated! *mental note… some time…

    So, last, what my queer friends say when they are faced with assumptions – very very varied. Most try to avoid the subject at work, even if they live in a relationship and bring their bf/gf if there is a party at their working place, etc. One gay man I know for long mostly has female close friends, and a few gay and straight men in equal parts. He likes to avoid trouble as well though – he had rooms to rent in his large flat, and got in touch with a specific agency solely arranging gay flat mates. He felt he wasn’t going to put up with prejudices against him and his boyfriend in his own house.

    Another person,… he tends to leave sentences out in job applications I always would write. “I live in xxx together with my partner …” Employees like that as a rule, as people with a relationship call in ill less frequently. The fact that he omits it, even if he is comfortable with his life as it is and has no problem to state the facts if asked, still makes me sad somehow.

    So yes, most try to go unnoticed. Sad, but true.

  4. Oh, and this might interest you too… a map of how the European countries handle same sex marriages…

    Compared to the USA this makes us look kind of modern, btw…

    And this is some more reading about the German recognition of same sex unions…

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