Gore Vidal writing for Playboy in 1979.
The sexual attitudes of any given society are the result of political decisions.
Although our notions about what constitutes correct sexual behavior are usually based on religious texts, those texts are invariably interpreted by the rulers in order to keep control over the ruled. Any sexual or intellectual or recreational or political activity that might decrease the amount of coal mined, the number of pyramids built, the quantity of junk food confected will be proscribed through laws that, in turn, are based on divine revelations handed down by whatever god or gods happen to be in fashion at the moment. Religions are manipulated in order to serve those who govern society and not the other way around. This is a brand-new thought to most Americans, whether once or twice or never bathed in the Blood of the Lamb.
At any given moment in a society’s life, there are certain hot buttons that a politician can push in order to get a predictably hot response…. It is good politics to talk against sin–and don’t worry about non sequiturs. In fact, it is positively un-American…to discuss a real issue such as unemployment or who is stealing all that money at the Pentagon. To divert the electorate, the unscrupulous American politician will go after those groups not regarded benignly by Old or New Testament.
In desperation, the nation’s ownership has now gone back to the tried-and-true hot buttons: save our children, out fetuses, our ladies’ rooms from the godless enemy. As usual, the sex buttons have proved satisfyingly hot.
Today Americans are in a state of terminal hysteria on the subject of sex in general and of homosexuality in particular because the owners of the country (buttressed by a religion that they have shrewdly adapted to their own ends) regard the family as their last means of control over those who work and consume…. In the Symposium, Plato defined the problem:
“In Ionia and other places, and generally in countries which are subject to the barbarians [Plato is referring to the Persians, who were the masters of the Jews at the time Leviticus was written], the custom [homosexuality] is held to be dishonorable; loves of youths share the evil repute in which philosophy and gymnastics are held, because they are inimical to tyranny; the interests of the rulers require that their subjects should be poor in spirit and that there should be no strong bond of friendship or society among them, which love, above all other motives, it likely to inspire, as out Athenian tyrants learned by experience; for the love or Aristogeiton and the constancy of Harmodius had a strength which undid their power.”
This last refers to a pair of lovers who helped overthrow the tyrants at Athens.