Passive Male Homosexuality in Pre-Christian Scandinavia
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“The love that dare not speak its name” truly was a mute love in pre-Christian Norse society. The Norse viewed male homosexual intercourse through a curious (by modern American standards) dichotic lens. Similarly to Roman and Greek societies, the Norse attached no great negative stigma or condemnatory connotations to the idea itself of homosexual intercourse. However, the Vikings intensely disapproved of free men taking the passive role in any male-male sexual acts. Norse society regarded passivity in all penetrative intercourse as intrinsically related to unmanly, and therefore feminine, behavior. Thus, any man who participated in this behavior was defamed as less than worthy of the title of ‘man’. Sociolinguistic evidence, contemporary legal accounts, and social mores and norms all confirm the intense contempt that the Norse had for free men playing the passive role in any form of intercourse.
As a disclaimer, throughout this paper the terms ‘homosexual’ and ‘passive intercourse’ are used often. To clarify, the term ‘homosexual’ is anachronistic when applied to the Viking Age (793-1066) at all, being coined much more recently in the late nineteenth century by Karoly Maria Benkert (Pickett). All the literature read and cited to support the arguments in this paper maintains that Norse society recognized no concept of exclusivity in sexual orientation, or indeed any concept of modern sexuality at all. Thus, throughout this paper, the word ‘homosexual’ refers to any male who participated in male/male sexual intercourse without taking into account other factors such as if the male in question has also engaged in heterosexual intercourse. The other term ‘passive intercourse’ is used in the cited literature to refer to the acts of be...
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... upon sex or love between males. The only limitation that the culture put on intercourse was the prohibition on two free men engaging in penetrative intercourse due to perception of honor and gender. Considering these facts, one could safely say that Norse society before the advent of Christianization was not homophobic in the modern sense of the word.
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