Stephen Tropiano

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In his autobiographical film Taxi Zum Klo (Taxi to the Toilet, 1980), German actor/director Frank Ripploh offers a candid, personal account of his double life as a closeted gay schoolteacher with a passion for cruising the streets of West Berlin. Through his blend of absurd humor and the explicit, unapolo-getic depiction of his many anonymous sexual encounters, Ripploh critiques the values that "straight" society imposes on both his public and private life.

In one amusing and insightful sequence, Ripploh sits at his kitchen table tutoring one of his pupils, a young boy named Holger. Meanwhile, in the next room, Ripploh's lover, Bernd, and their friend, Wally, a transvestite, watch an educational film Ripploh brought home from school. The film, Christian und sein Briefmarkenfreund (Christian and His Stamp Collector Friend), is an actual short produced by the West German education system that was still being shown in schools to warn young boys about child molesters. The story focuses on io-year-old Christian, who visits his adult friend, Herr Buckard, to see his stamp collection. The gentleman generously offers the lad one of his rare stamps, which he graciously accepts. But Christian soon discovers what his ''stamp collector friend" expects in return when he starts to fondle him. As the panic-stricken boy heads out the door, Buckard warns him not to tell anyone or they will both be imprisoned. But when Christian arrives home, he tells his mother what happened.

Bernd and Wally are both offended by the film and the implication that Buckard is a homosexual. Wally insists there is no correlation between consensual adult male sexual relations and child molestation. ''Do you think that's [Buckard fondling Christian] right?'' Wally asks. ''I don't think that's right. I mean, when we adults do that, it's something different.'' Meanwhile, in the kitchen, a restless Holger would rather play "horsy" with Ripploh than do his homework. The boy offers his teacher one of his toy soldiers (mirroring Buckard giving the stamp to Christian) and then jumps into his lap. Rip-ploh promptly picks up Holger, puts him back in his chair, and insists they get back to work.

By crosscutting between Christian and the tutoring session, Ripploh draws an obvious comparison between Buckard and himself, who, despite the boy's innocent flirtations, displays no sexual interest in his pupil. The sequence completely shatters the homosexual seduction myth, which constructs adult gay men as lechers who, unable to control their sexual desires, prey on innocent youth, thereby transforming them into homosexuals. As Simon Watney explains, the adult male homosexual's pursuit of a young boy is one of the major "streams of images'' which constitute the "long shadow of 'the homosexual''': "the spectacle of erotic seduction, in which an 'innocent,' 'vulnerable' youth is fantasized as an unwilling partner to acts which, nonetheless, have the power to transform his (or her) entire being.''1

The myth (henceforth referred to as the ''seduction myth'') is based on an ahistorical and acultural interpretation of the sexual practices of the ancient Greeks. As Dover, Halperin, Foucault, and other historians have demonstrated, homosexual relations in ancient Athens (c. fifth century bc) were an institutionalized practice that operated in accordance with the patriarchal power structure of the state.2 As the most powerful members of Athenian society, adult male citizens could hold office, participate in the state assembly, and have sex with any member of a subordinate group who was inferior in social and political status (namely females, boys, foreigners, and slaves). The intergenerational relationship between an adult male citizen (the erastes, which means ''lover'') who pursued and seduced a male youth (the eromenos, the ''one who is loved'') was pedagogical in nature and consensual. An individual's social status also determined the role one assumed in sexual relations. Consequently, the adult erastes would always assume the ''active'' position, while the eromenos was always ''passive.''

Although they are often equated, there is no correlation between the sanctioned pursuit and seduction of an eromenos by his erastes in ancient Greece and what are today commonly referred to as pederasty and pedophilia. Still, labels like ''pederast,'' ''pedophile,'' and ''child molester'' have been and continue to be used interchangeably with ''homosexual.'' This association is by no means accidental, but rather ''stems from the way in which homosexuality has been theorized since the late nineteenth century, when the word largely replaced other terms and produced the idea of a single, coherent, uniform type of human being—'the homosexual.'''3 In fact, the equa tion of homosexuality with pedophilia explains why sodomy laws have often carried harsher penalties for the "active" partner, who, assuming the dominant position in the sexual act, poses the greater threat to a passive youth. It is also the reason why, in some cultures, the age of consent for sexual relations between two males is higher than it is for relations between a man and a woman or between two women.4


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