Male domination was a part of the world of the Vikings; it was a basis of leadership among them. Any one could rape a women, they reasoned, but it took a real man to rape a man, especially a warrior. Whether in fact or through symbolism, when a warrior challenged a rival he evoked sex. He would use expressions like those old Anglo Saxon invectives we still use today, like the modern "screw you": what he was saying, and felt, meant "I can and will mount you and I can and will penetrate your anus". A Viking warrior making such an assertion was putting his rival on notice that the rival was considered to be at a lower status than the man making the challenge.
The Vikings, like the Dorians who had swept down from the north to invade Greece a thousand years earlier, apparently believed in the nobility of loving boys. The norm was for younger boys to be seduced by mature men: all young men who associated with warriors could expect to be seduced-it was part of their education. Their sexual proclivities have been depicted on the walls of caves from the end of the ice age to the pottery of later ages. Early pictolyths reveal a phallus-dominated society.
Theirs was a harsh, hostile environment. Survival depended on each mans ability to hunt, find food, or take what he needed from others. Leadership required the ability to dominate others and defend the clan and their gods condoned their customs, blood feuds and sexual dominance included. The harshness of the land led to use of the sea. Life on board ships was conducive to their homosexual activities as they would spend months at sea. After about the year 600 A.D. when they perfected the use of sails, they became the scourge of the seas and plundered widely.
It is inherent in our culture to resist the idea that great and powerful warriors would engage in homosexual activities, but it can be confirmed through the accounts of victims and in the study of their language. Old Norse is a language which is rich in words describing sexual matters.
Martin Larsen, the Norse philologist, pointed out the significance of the word argr, which was in common use. It was one of the crudest terms of verbal abuse to be applied to a man. It indicated that a man had submitted himself beneath his status and as a woman. The accusation implied a most serious breach of Icelandic and Norwegian law.
The term was not a "put-down" of homosexual conduct; rather it was a condemnation of a leader who submits to sex in a passive role with a subordinate. Dominating a man sexually was honored as a sign of power to be boasted about: similarly there was nothing wrong in having sexual relations with a junior. Submitting to a superior person was not considered demeaning, it was expected: there was stigma only if the person being seduced presumed to be a leader, who should have been in the dominant role.
Even the gods were involved.
There is a tale which relates a problem experienced by the god Thor. Thor loses his hammer and to get it back requires stealth. He must disguise himself as a bride. However, the prospect of dressing as a woman concerns him: "The gods may call me argr".
He complains of this and fears the loss of face. He fears that the other gods may think that he had been mounted and his anus penetrated. In another situation, Odins powerful warriors fought over the use of Gundmundr. Sinfjotl asserts that, in Valhalla, the warriors were successful in seducing and "winning the love of Gundmundr" and that they penetrated him.
The phallus was a powerful symbol for the warriors. Things of power or importance were given phallic qualities. The word to plow a field was phallic; the word to fertilize it was phallic; even the prows of ships were phallic. To this day we speak of "mowing" down the enemy, or "plowing them under". We still use common four letter, sexually charged, words to express dominance in anger. By the time of the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the Norse had barely been Christianized. Their attitudes and customs were not yet overly burdened by Christian morality. It is not surprising to find so many of the early descendents of the William the Conqueror to have been actively homosexual.