Were there gay people in the paleolithic, or do you think homosexuality is a neolithic, "civilized" phenomenon? I don't wish to offend anyone by this question. I'm asking because I would like to know people's thoughts because I'm trying to figure this out myself.
I would say that it is homophobia that is a Neolithic phenomenon.
Homosexuality is found in all sorts of animals. I don't think it has anything to do with civilization.
I think that categorizing oneself or others by sexual preferences is more Neolithic than not. Homosexual behaviors and activities, however, are probably as old as mankind itself.
This probably won't be what you're looking for, but I think you need to define homosexuality before one can really answer the question.
Many guys seem to think that simply thinking another guy is attractive means you're gay. I beg to differ.
I think every guy whether he likes to admit it or not will happen upon a time when he finds another man (a) sexually attractive, but not every man will find another (b) sexually desirable. The latter (b) I think is a necessary aspect of being gay (or bi). But I actually think that if you are capable of gay or bi love (c) platonic love must also be present. I actually think that this is far more common in gay relationships than it is in hetero relationships, and I think this is brought on by a sense of camaraderie and a friendship that you build doing something physical (often athletics..which would explain Ancient Greece and Sparta).
I think (a) is universal. (b) is less common. and (c) even less so. A and B is you just like good looking people. A B and C is you're gay (or bi if you also have A B and C with the opposite sex).
EDIT: After just posting this, I have noticed Luckie's response. Which is essentially the conclusion that I am trying to draw, just with an (overly) verbose explanation.
The Spanish conquistadors burned a lot of Indigenous North Americans alive for homosexual acts. Sure, that was in the Neolithic, but I the Spaniards definitely did not consider them civilized.
I think you have to separate between homoerotic desire (the sexual attraction to someone of your same sex) and homosexual cultural identity (things like gay men being associated with art, musicals, tight pants, etc.)
I've heard of animals in the wild showing homosexual behavior, so I'm perfectly willing to believe that homoerotic sexual attraction existed in Paleolithic humans as well. But I'd be willing to bet that homosexual cultural identity was very different if it existed at all...our current GLBTQ culture is very much a product of modern society and likely to be much different than anything found in Paleolithic communities.
And since culture has such a huge effect on the development of things like desire, sexual behavior, etc., who knows what the expression of those homoerotic sexual desires would have looked like back in the day? They might have played such a different cultural role in the society that they weren't really analogous to anything we currently understand as cultural "homosexuality" or "gayness."
I have to admit, when I first read the title of this thread, I expected a bunch of ignorant comments. But I was pleasantly surprised to see serious and interesting responses. Bravo Paleohackers!
First of our, our closest relative the Bonobo has tons of homosexual behavior, way more than humans. Flush the "not found in nature" argument down the drain. Bonobos also reproduce no problem, and retain that homosexual behavior, so flush the "can't reproduce" argument down the drain too.
It seems that a certain percentage of kids seem to come out gay even in the most anti-gay cultures. Every parent seems to know a kid -- their own or a friend's -- who was clearly gay from age three or so. It's hard to imagine that some kids wouldn't just come out gay in a hunter-gatherer culture too.
Why evolution would select for this is a whole other question, but it's certainly not unreasonable. There are a ton of traits that make it harder to reproduce when they arrive in certain combinations but are advantageous to keep in the gene pool in other combinations. That's the explanation for the genetically-disadvantaged individuals we call nerds!
Homosexuality is as old as sex (which is pretty old).
What is possibly a newer epiphenomenon is defining oneself as gay, but the importance of onself as an individual (personal subjective) is a fairly new social evolution and most likely did not exist anywhere near the degree of superlative importance it has today.
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