The Feminine Kinaidos
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The Feminine Kinaidos

The kinaidos was neither a homosexual nor an ordinary man, however all his actions are seen as socially deviant. Kinaidos was a category of person, not just an act. The word cinaedus describes sexual deviance, also effeminate behavior, referring typically to males who most often prefer to play a "feminine" (receptive) role in intercourse with other men. Many cinaedi are destined to be prostitutes.

A kinaidos was a man whose most salient feature was a supposedly "feminine" love of being sexually penetrated by other men.  The word cinaedus describes sexual deviance, also effeminate behavior, referring typically to males who most often prefer to play a "feminine" (receptive) role in intercourse with other men. Many cinaedi are destined to be prostitutes.

There are several examples of kinaidos in literature, as well as political figures like Demosthenes, who was known for performing his political discourse along the lines of a precocious female. In the Argonatica, Jason is neither heroic nor skilled in combat. He only has one thing going for him and that is good looks. In that aspect, he comes off as effeminate. This does not necessarily mean he is destined to live the life of a prostitute, however it does mean that his actions and behaviors are more representative of a female.

The Latin physiognomy offers a profile of the cinaedus that is substantially identical to Polemo's portrait of the androgynos:  a tilted head, a mincing gait, an enervated voice, a lack of stability in the shoulders, and a feminine way of moving the body1.

The kinaidos was neither a homosexual nor an ordinary man, however all his actions are seen as socially deviant. Kinaidos was a category of person, not just an act. We see another example in Aechine’s Speech Against Timarchus. Timarchus was involved in relationships with men as a young man. He was fundamentally a hooker, and by his actions, showed his own character.  He was not interested in personal relationships, but money. He was in a separate category of men. Why? He saw nothing wrong with what he was doing.

Consequently, Gleason writes that the cinaedus was a "life-form" all to himself. His condition was written all over him in signs that could be decoded by those practiced in the art. What made him different from normal folk, however, was not simply the fact that his sexual partners included people of the same sex as himself (that, after all, was nothing out of the ordinary), nor was it any kind of psychosexual orientation-a "sexuality" in the 19th century, but rather an inversion or reversal of his gender identity: his abandonment of a "masculine" role in favor of a "feminine" one2.


  1. Maud W. Gleason, “The Semiotics of Gender: Physiognomy and Self-Fashioning in the Second Century C.E”, 396.
  2. Ibid., 196.

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Comments (2)

Very educational piece and nicely composed too.  Thanks for posting here

Great to know this Lauren, thanks.

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