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- Note: This article is not about the various compounds of sodium.
Sodomite is a word traditionally used to describe gay men. Anal sex is sometimes called "sodomy," especially in law. Sodomy can also refer legally to any sex act other than male/female penile-vaginal intercourse.
The biblical Book of Genesis describes a city named Sodom as being wicked. God has promised to destroy four Canaanite cities, but Abraham has bartered him down to destroying them only if there are less then ten good people in all of Sodom. Among the specific acts of wickedness mentioned is the story of Lot.
Genesis 19 describes an event in Sodom in which Lot accepts messengers of God into his home as guests. Villagers come to the house and demand the messengers be sent out to be raped. Lot, not wishing to violate the strict Middle-Eastern traditions of "guesting," offers up his virgin daughters instead. (The daughters' opinions are not reported.) At this point, the men break in, then the angels blinds them, evacuate Lot and his family sans his wife as a reward for his hospitality and destroy the cities (fire and brimstone or something like that). This eventually leads to incest (judging from the text of the bible, they thought, that the catastrophe, that befell the five Canaanite cities was global instead of regional and that they had to repopulate the planet), but that is not covered here.
In Ezekiel 16:49, the sin of Sodom is mentioned, but it is not sexual in nature, i.e., the aforementioned incest. "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."
There are many interpretations to the story of Sodom. Among them are:
- Male anal sex is wrong
- Homosexuality is wrong
- Rape of men by men is wrong, or at least worse than rape of women by men.
- Violating "guesting" traditions is wrong
- Offering up your daughters for gang rape is, if not exactly great, better than letting your guests be "sodomized"
- God rewards those who uphold the safety of guests in their house.
Sodomy in law
Sodomy as a sexual term goes back almost a thousand years. Sodomy was seen as a viable punishment in Roman law, and in the early Republic, forcible sodomy was an appropriate retaliation against a trespasser by a paterfamilias. Modern law is obviously slightly, um, different.[note 1]
In American law, sodomy is any sexual act other than penile-vaginal intercourse and can sometimes be denominated, instead, "crime against nature," usually preceded by "infamous," "detestable," or "abominable and detestable" (or the reverse). The Texas statute overturned by Lawrence v. Texas prohibited sodomy, and John Geddes Lawrence was convicted at the trial level under this broad definition. Many states still have laws on the books classifying sodomy as a crime and imposing penalties ranging from a $500 fine (Texas) to life (Idaho). However, laws prohibiting sodomy are per se unconstitutional under Lawrence v. Texas: fundamental due process protections inhere to prevent the state from regulating private sexual conduct on the basis of mere morality. (An exception is made for cases in which sodomy is an aggravating factor in another crime, such as rape, however.)
The criminalization of sodomy, although not enforced in most states which forbade sodomy, provided many problems for the gay rights movement. The holy grail of many in the movement (although "queer theory" adherents disagree) is a Supreme Court ruling that sexual orientation is a "protected class" for which people cannot be discriminated against. Gay rights activists frequently argue for "protected class" status by stating that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has no rational basis outside of subjective, Christian morality. However, as long as same-sex sexual activity was a crime, sexually active gay men and lesbians were per se criminals, and homosexuality could not form a legitimate basis for discrimination. Gay people are closer to being considered a protected class now that sodomy is no longer criminal, especially considering Romer v. Evans.
Sodom in the modern era
Sodom is thought by some to be at the bottom of the Dead Sea today, which means, in all likelihood, that bits of dead Sodomites get rubbed all over peoples' hands every day in mall kiosks run by shady (but usually really hot, so make sure to watch your fake-flirt alarm), allegedly-Israeli entrepreneurs. Let that sink in. Unless you realize the whole story is a folk tale anyway, in which case your hands will simply be really soft for a few hours.
- Oscar Wilde (although the initial accusation was spelled wrong)
- Alan Turing (pardoned by Queen Elizabeth II), considered the father of computer science, which must really chafe for people who use the Internet to spread their homophobia
- Dan Savage
- Rick "Santorum" Santorum
- Leonard Bernstein
- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
- Alexander the Great (supposedly, but you know those Greeks/Macedonians...)
- Although if you believe the James Dickey novel/movie Deliverance, rural Georgia has its own slant on the matter.