Gender and Sexuality in the Parthenon Frieze

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Gender and Sexuality in the Parthenon Frieze
Younger addresses the problem of the Parthenon Frieze through a different perspective than the long argued narrative debate. He instead looks at what the scene says about gender relations and sexuality during the time, based on changes in composition and the relationship between different blocks of the frieze. By comparing the differences in how male relationships, female relationships, and the relationships between the deities are represented, Younger makes conclusions about what Athenian society meant to portray as the sexual norm through the Parthenon frieze.

Younger first identifies the gender of each figure. The two central figures are an adult man and woman, to either side of them are two children, and to the left of the woman is a young adult female. Younger begins by establishing the sex of the child to the right. He first describes the child’s clothing as a himiton, worn by both boys and girls. However, girls were usually depicted as wearing a chiton beneath, whereas boys and this figure in particular were left bare. Next Younger decides that the possible presence of Venus Rings does not exclude the figure from being male, as many of the male figures on the Parthenon frieze have them. Next Younger compares the child to other children on the West and East friezes. They closely resemble one another, and appear to all be made from the same design: that of a boy. Then Younger studies the difference in composition between each block of the frieze. Each compositional change signifies a change in narrative. The West III block depicts a man turning abruptly toward a nude boy, and when compared with vase designs from earlier periods, features a homoerotic theme. Since the East block is a repetition of the West III and North XLII and XII composition, Younger states that their themes must also be the similar. In all three blocks, the focus is on the adult male’s sexual desires between the ephebe and the young boy....
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