Most words that began free of sexual meaning and evolved in modern times to a sexual connotation, for example, the words “gay,” and “slut,” started out innocently enough. Gay used to mean a happy person, and slut meant a woman with soiled clothing, not necessarily one who committed adultery.
It is therefore somewhat fitting and ironic that the word “platonic” had its roots in the homosexual environment of ancient Greece, and like the alternative lifestyle it represents, swung the other way (to a non-sexual meaning).
Platonic today means a non-sexual friendly relationship with a person of the opposite sex.
The word is named after Plato, a genius Greek philosopher mathematician of the Fourth Century BC. Plato was a student of the equally famous Socrates, a brilliant man whose teachings on ethics laid the basis for Western thought.
Platonic is also derived from the Greek word “platon,” meaning broad-shouldered.
I think it’s safe to assume that Plato was a young artistic hunk with broad shoulders standing five-foot-three. Most people were short back then. This was in the days before vitamins, when you had to exist on untreated water and a limited diet of baklava.
Let’s be open-minded and not homophobic. We all know very artistic and intelligent people who are gay.
Homosexuality in ancient Greece carried no stigma, was no different than heterosexual behavior. After all, there were very few women around. Except for the town’s worked-over harlots, women were often hidden away in tiny rooms or Vestal Virgin convents as virtual slaves, untutored unlike Plato, seemingly brainless, too busy cooking and scrubbing things and being dirty (sluttish) and worn out to be interested in sex. Only the richest of men could afford women in the home, and this was a world where life was a struggle just to exist into next week.
Sex of any kind was way down the list of priorities.
You grabbed it where you could.
Thus, if you’re Plato, you’re a dreamy-eyed, highly intelligent artistic sophisticate, sitting in a class of only men, where you admire the mind of your teacher. And he, a portly little fellow with a beard, pot belly and bad breath, admires you because you’re not only smart, you have broad shoulders. You look good in a suit of armor. One thing leads to another.
You go out for a ride together in your chariot. There’s a full moon.
You’re not going to bother to pursue a woman whose only skill is scrubbing out a chamber pot. C’mon!
Western culture developed into world prominence because these guys were interested in each other. I mean, let’s face it. If Plato had been lusting after an ignorant maiden, sure he would have produced some children, but he would never have learned from his master Socrates, and the Parthenon would not have been built.
Unlike people, there’s only one Parthenon.
Interestingly, it was a Renaissance man in Italy approximately 1,700 years later reading Plato’s writing about Socrates and his interest in young male students, and assuming much, who changed the intent, the meaning of the word platonic, to its present sexless form.
It wasn’t that Plato and Socrates were gay lovers that offended him. It was rather the notion advanced by the church at that time that pleasure of any kind was wrong.
In other words, it was okay for Plato to be smart and for people to learn from him. After all, we needed his teachings to climb out of the Dark Ages when we were all a bunch of morons who couldn’t even figure out how to use a knife and spoon. But it was not okay for Plato and Socrates to fool around during break-time from school.
This 14th century word meaning change was the first example of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy toward gays of the kind currently used by our military.
History repeats itself.