Sunday, 13 May 2012




Sex And Punishment

Eric Berkowitz's new book Sex And Punishment, out today from Counterpoint, is a fascinating survey of how legal systems over the millenia have attempted to regulate and police sex. In this excerpt, a discussion of the once-wide acceptance of same-sex unions between men in Europe of the Middle Ages.
Despite the risks, devotional relationships between men were common in Europe at the time, at least among the literate, and many of these affairs must have included sex at some point. Knights, aristocrats, and especially clerics left expansive evidence of their intense passions for male lovers, relationships that often ended in side-by-side burials. A letter from a respected monk–scholar in Charlemagne’s court named Alcuin (circa 735–804) to a beloved bishop shows how thick those relations sometimes became:

I think of your love and friendship with such sweet memories, reverend bishop, that I long for that lovely time when I may be able to clutch the neck of your sweetness with the fingers of my desires. Alas, if only it were granted to me, as it was to Habakkuk, to be transported to you, how would I sink into your embraces . . . how would I cover, with tightly pressed lips, not only your eyes, ears, and mouth but also your every finger and your toes, not once but many a time.

While this epistle is unusually erotic, it reflects the intimacies that existed among men everywhere. Assuming, as we must, that at least some of these men’s sexual longings were fulfilled, the next question is the extent to which intimate homosexual relationships were tolerated. Love was one thing, sodomy another. If male hustlers on the Rialto were burned to death and other European sodomites were being cut to ribbons, could long-term, loving relationships among men ever be permitted?
The answer, paradoxically, is yes. In the period up to roughly the thirteenth century, male bonding ceremonies were performed in churches all over the Mediterranean. These unions were sanctified by priests with many of the same prayers and rituals used to join men and women in marriage. The ceremonies stressed love and personal commitment over procreation, but surely not everyone was fooled. Couples who joined themselves in such rituals most likely had sex as much (or as little) as their heterosexual counterparts. In any event, the close association of male bonding ceremonies with forbidden sex eventually became too much to overlook as ever more severe sodomy laws were put into place.
Such same-sex unions—sometimes called “spiritual brotherhoods”—forged irrevocable bonds between the men involved. Often they involved missionaries about to set off on foreign voyages, but lay male couples also entered into them. Other than the gender of the participants, it was difficult to distinguish the ceremonies from typical marriages. Twelfth-century liturgies for same-sex unions, for example, involved the pair joining their right hands at the altar, the recital of marriage prayers, and a ceremonial kiss.
Same-sex unions were denied to monks to the same extent that men in monastic orders were forbidden to marry women, but other clerics who were allowed to marry took part. One thirteenth-century Ukrainian story tells of the deacon Evagrius and the priest Tit, whose “great and sincere” love for each other led them to a same-sex union. Unfortunately, that love found its limits, and the men had a bitter falling out. When Tit later fell ill, some monks brought Evagrius to his sickbed to help the couple reconcile before the end. Evagrius refused and was struck dead, and Tit recovered. Even had Tit and Evagrius made up and lived happily ever after, they would never have produced natural offspring, which was the main difference between same-sex unions and traditional marriages. Yet the couple’s barrenness did not impede sanctification of their relationship by the church. One version of the liturgy had the priest recite:

O Almighty Lord, You have given to man to be made from the first in Your Image and Likeness by the gift of immortal life. You have willed to bind as brothers not only by nature but by bonds of the spirit . . . Bless Your Servants united also that, not bound by nature, [they be] joined with bonds of love.
It is difficult to believe that these rituals did not contemplate erotic contact. In fact, it was the sex between the men involved that later caused same-sex unions to be banned.
With the widespread criminalization of homosexual relations starting in the thirteenth century, the marriages of men in church could not last. The Byzantine emperor Andronicus II decreed in 1306 that, along with incest and sorcery, sex between men was prohibited. He added: “If some wish to enter into ceremonies of same-sex union, we should prohibit them, for they are not recognized by the church.” No Latin versions of the ceremonies survive—presumably they were destroyed—and several of the surviving Greek texts appear to have been defaced over time by disapproving churchmen. By the sixteenth century, Montaigne would write of a “strange brotherhood” in which Portuguese men in Rome “married one another, male to male, at Mass, with the same ceremonies with which we perform our marriages, read the same marriage gospel service and then went to bed and lived together.” They were burned to death.
Given that men could no longer marry in a church without risking punishment, and that long-term love between men was not going away, something less inflammatory had to take the place of matrimony. In England and many Mediterranean societies (especially southern France), the new institution for same-sex unions was theaffrerement (“brotherment”) contract. Affrerement was not designed specifically to accommodate same-sex love relationships; it was adapted to permit such couples to live together in peace. An affrerement was a written agreement between two people to form one household and share un pain, un vin, et une bourse (“one bread, one wine, and one purse”). In Italy, the contracts used a similar phrase: a une pane e uno vino. The reference to sharing the same bread and wine was meant to signify that the people would share all their property in the years to come.

Eric Berkowitz is a writer, lawyer and journalist. He has a degree in print journalism from University of Southern California and has published in The Los Angeles Times and The Los Angeles Weekly, and for the Associated Press. He was an editor of the West Coast’s premier daily legal publication, The Los Angeles Daily Journal. He lives in San Francisco.

Ship with 11 Indians hijacked

MUMBAI: Twenty-six crew members, including 11 Indians, have been held captive by suspected Somali pirates after the hijacking of a Liberian-flagged crude tanker off the Omani coast, the Directorate General Shipping said on Saturday. 

The pirates boarded MT Smyrni while it was sailing in the Arabian Sea on Thursday afternoon, a DGS statement issued late this evening said. The DGS has asked the ship's manager and recruiting agent in Mumbai -Dynacom Tankers Management - to obtain information on the condition of the Indian crew. The vessel, loaded with 135,000 tonnes of crude and owned by a Greek company, is headed towards the Somalian coast, it said. The abducted Indians include the master of the vessel, which also had 14 Filipinos and a Romanian. 

According to a BBC report from London, the hijacking is thought to have happened about 630 km off the Omani coast.

Cameron auctions 'most valuable' Sachin Tendulkar's bat

Cameron auctions 'most valuable' Sachin Tendulkar's bat
Sachin Tendulkar's bat fetched 3,400 pounds (approx Rs 3 lakh) at an auction at the Lord's. (AFP Photo)

LONDON: British Prime Minister David Cameron, who considered a bat signed by Indian cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar as one of his 'most valuable possessions', has donated it to raise money for a cricket stadium in Rwanda.

The bat fetched 3,400 pounds (approx Rs 3 lakh) at an auction at the Lord's to raise funds for the stadium project, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Some days ago, at an event of the Conservative Friends of India, Cameron had spoken how he cherished the bat and Tendulkar's signature during his visit to India in 2010.

He told the Indian audience that he was horrified when he saw his wife Samantha play French cricket with the same bat at the Chequers, the Prime Minister's country residence, adding: "I said, 'No, darling, put it down, this is probably the most valuable possession I have.'"

The auction, held in the Long Room at Lord's, was to commemorate the life of Christopher Shale, Cameron's constituency chairman, who was found dead at the Glastonbury festival last summer.

Shale's son, Edo, said the event raised almost 130,000 pounds for the project.

He told the daily: "We are all delighted and a little exhausted. These funds are the springboard this charity needs to take us into the construction phase of the cricket stadium."

Insufficient evidence to arrest Hafiz Saeed: Gilani

Insufficient evidence to arrest Hafiz Saeed: Gilani
Pakistani Prime Minister said: "If you arrest him, that means he will be released by the courts. For the courts you need more evidence."

LONDON: Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said there is insufficient evidence to arrest Mumbai terror attackmastermind Hafiz Saeed, a media report said.

"If you arrest him, that means he will be released by the courts. For the courts you need more evidence," quoted Gilani as saying.

"You know the judiciary is completely independent in Pakistan."

Hafiz Saeed, founder of the Lashkar-e-Taibamilitant group, is accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attack in which 166 people, including foreigners, were killed by 10 terrorists from Pakistan.

The US last month announced an award of up to $10 million for information leading to arrest and conviction of Saeed and $2 million for Hafiz Adbul Rahman Makki, under the Rewards for Justice programme, for information on the two terrorists.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during her three-day trip to India earlier this month, said she had authorised the award for Hafiz Saeed who was responsible for the attack in Mumbai.

"It may take longer than we like but we will stand with you and trying to make that happen," she said May 7 in Kolkata.