Skip to content Skip to navigation


Blog entry

An interesting article that tackles the association of Sappho, Lesbos, and female homosexuality from a different angle.

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 220 – John Lyly’s Gallathea - transcript

(Originally aired 2022/01/16 - listen here)

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 219 - On the Shelf for January 2022 – Transcript

(Originally aired 2022/01/02 - listen here)

Welcome to On the Shelf for January 2022.

Just a reminder that submissions for the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast's 2022 fiction series will be accepted for the entire month of January. I'm looking forward to having just as hard a time picking just four as I did last year!

Submission Guidelines

This brings to a close my summary of Boehringer's Female Homosexuality in Ancient Greece and Rome. The book was everything I hoped it would be. (Well, ok, I fantasized that it might include data that I'd never encountered before, but I'm not surprised it didn't.) This book makes a good pairing with Williams' Roman Homosexuality, which primarily focuses on the male side of the equation. Read Williams to get a grounding in the dominant structures of the Roman sexual system, and then forget everything he says about f/f sex and read Boehringer.

I have some thoughts about the structure of the book, in how the examination of the Dialogues of the Courtesans is placed apart from the main presentation, as if it were a different type of evidence. As the most complex and extensive presentation of sex between women in the classical era, I can see how it makes sense to sort out the simpler texts first and then use that analysis to interpret the dialogues. And given that it's an adaptation of an independent article, Boehringer may have had structural reasons for separating it from the overall outline.

Several years ago, I did a podcast on f/f sexuality in classical Rome, based on everything I had read up to that point. Obviously, I might discuss certain details differently with the addition of Boehringer's analysis. That's only to be expected and entirely unsurprising. If I weren't learning new things all the time, I might as well close down the Project. And conversely, if I waited to post any summaries or analysis until I had perfect and complete knowledge about a topic, I'd never post anything at all.

In the texts discussed in this section, it is particularly important to keep in mind that these are fictional depictions, created for specific rhetorical purposes. While the women and their sexual activities in these texts need to make sense to the audience (to say nothing of needing to be imaginable by the author), these are not neutral, documentary descriptions of random real-life women. We have a complete absence of neutral documentation of real-life Roman women who engaged in sex with women.

It remains frustrating that essentially all of the surviving source material on female homosexuality in classical Greek and Roman contexts comes not simply through male voices, but through elite male voices who tended to view women as a whole as standing outside the concept of "virtuous, acceptable, praiseworthy behavior." It becomes impossible to filter out the authors' attitudes towards women, and towards relations between the sexes, from any possible evidence about how the women (hypothetically) involved in such relationships might have felt.

Just a quick intro this time, as it's the morning after Worldcon and I'm in that "mentallyexhausted in a good way" state. The convention had a LOT of challenges, both leading up to this week and in the execution, and while it was far from perfect it was also quite good. I did a lateral-flow Covid test last night and came up negative, so I'll continue keeping my fingers crossed that the strict safety requirements the convention had in place have been successful.


Subscribe to LHMP