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Siegel, B.L. (1973). Phallos. A Symbol and its History in the Male World: By Thorkil Vanggaard. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1972. 208 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 42:651-652.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 42:651-652

Phallos. A Symbol and its History in the Male World: By Thorkil Vanggaard. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1972. 208 pp.

Review by:
Barry L. Siegel

Vanggaard, a Danish psychoanalyst, has written an interesting history of the meaning of the phallus as a symbol in certain Western European cultures. He begins his study with the Dorian society of ancient Greece and follows man's use of the phallus as a symbol through ancient Norse and medieval European societies, ending with some comments on modern societal attitudes.

The author's main thesis is that there exists in normal men a 'homosexual radical' which is universal; in ancient times it was an accepted fact and was expressed in certain ritual practices. Vanggaard gives the reader a detailed description of ritual pederasty as practiced in the Dorian culture. He demonstrates the use of the phallus as the conveyor of masculine and noble characteristics from generation to generation through the practice of ritual anal intercourse between a noble adult male, the Erastes, and a potentially noble youth, the Eromenos. The Erastes chose his Eromenos with great care and in turn had to be acceptable to the family of the Eromenos. The essence of manhood, arete, in the form of semen was transferred to the Eromenos. The pederastic relationship usually lasted until the boy began to show signs of pubertal change.

Vanggaard emphasizes the normal character of these relationships and states categorically that the ritual of pederasty was not a result of inverse homosexuality. In other words it was not, as we might think, pathological.

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