LITERATURE: Phaedrus Sexual Love

In his comment to a prior post, Mark brings up what I have been purposely avoiding, or justifying on terms meant to allow the reading to apply to modern times and society.

There is no denying that in Symposium and Phaedrus the focus is upon man as lover, young boy as the beloved.  I have discounted this focus as primary for many reasons.  For one, I would feel that whether it be heterosexual or homosexual, abiding love that encompasses romance, lust, and friendship and esteem, they are no different from each other in theory or depth.  Secondly, while it is apparently clear that sexual love is included in these discussions, the same good and bad would apply in either case; the jealousies, the transitory nature, the demeaning and debasement that love can arouse just as the ecstacy and joy of fulfillment will be there.  I would think that what the Philosophers are seeking and focusing upon is the intimacy of the meeting of minds of the lovers, something that again can be achieved in any form of relationship.

But there is something else here that need be updated, and that is the current societal view of what would be considered pedophilia in a sexual relationship defined by Phaedrus, Socrates, and the others.  It is clear that Socrates, in discussing love, uses this as an example:

"Now the lover is not only unlike his beloved, but he forces himself upon him. For he is old and his love is young, and neither day nor night will he leave him if he can help; necessity and the sting of desire drive him on, and allure him with the pleasure which he receives from seeing, hearing, touching, perceiving him in every way. And therefore he is delighted to fasten upon him and to minister to him. But what pleasure or consolation can the beloved be receiving all this time? Must he not feel the extremity of disgust when he looks at an old shrivelled face and the remainder to match, which even in a description is disagreeable, and quite detestable when he is forced into daily contact with his lover; moreover he is jealously watched and guarded against everything and everybody, and has to hear misplaced and exaggerated praises of himself, and censures equally inappropriate, which are intolerable when the man is sober, and, besides being intolerable, are published all over the world in all their indelicacy and wearisomeness when he is drunk."

And elsewhere, in Symposium, the youth is described as not having yet come to beard.  But there are centuries of changes in the age of puberty, and so I have for the most part, read around this designation as well.  Then too, society and cultures vary; nine years of age may be considered by some to be a good age for marriage for a young girl.  In our own society, while only a century ago sixteen was fine and twenty for a young woman was considered nearly an "old maid," through the past several decades the age for both men and women has risen.  Thirty is common for women, thirty-five or older for men to consider marriage.  This of course also ties in with the rising level of longevity as well, and the childbearing years of women.

So as I read more into Phaedrus to reach into Socrates’ final argument (after all the friendly discourse of the first section, and the deniably valid argument of the second), I do hope that I am not bringing into the reading a preconceived notion that will change the wisdom of the words.  But as with Symposium (not necessary with Consolation of Philosophy), I will seek out research notes to help with the conclusions and proper understanding of the piece.

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