Hands be Bound with Ropes and Shame

San Sebastian

Saint Sebastian is possibly the earliest gay icon. His strong and shirtless physique, symbolic arrow-pierced flesh, and rapturous look of pain combined have intrigued both gay and straight artists for centuries. This interest launched the first explicitly gay cult in the 19th century. Journalist Richard A. Kaye wrote, "contemporary gay men have seen in Sebastian at once a stunning advertisement for homosexual desire (indeed, a homoerotic ideal), and a prototypical portrait of tortured closet case." Because Saint Sebastian is a gay icon, Tennessee Williams chose to use that name for the martyred character Sebastian in his play, Suddenly, Last Summer. The name was also used by Irish writer and poet Oscar Wilde (as Sebastian Melmoth) when in exile after his release from prison. Wilde was about as "out of the closet" as was possible for the late 19th century. He is himself considered a gay icon.

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