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[838a] which is in one way easy, but in another quite the hardest possible.

Megillus
Explain your meaning.

Athenian
Even at present, as we are aware, most men, however lawless they are, are effectively and strictly precluded from sexual commerce with beautiful persons,—and that not against their will, but with their own most willing consent.

Megillus
On what occasions do you mean?

Athenian
Whenever any man has a brother or sister who is beautiful. So too in the case of a son or daughter, the same unwritten law [838b] is most effective in guarding men from sleeping with them, either openly or secretly, or wishing to have any connection with them,—nay, most men never so much as feel any desire for such connection.

Megillus
That is true.

Athenian
Is it not, then, by a brief sentence that all such pleasures are quenched?

Megillus
What sentence do you mean?

Athenian
The sentence that these acts are by no means holy, [838c] but hated of God and most shamefully shameful. And does not the reason lie in this, that nobody speaks of them otherwise, but every one of us, from the day of his birth, hears this opinion expressed always and everywhere, not only in comic speech, but often also in serious tragedy—as when there is brought on to the stage a Thyestes or an Oedipus, or a Macareus having secret intercourse with a sister, and all these are seen inflicting death upon themselves willingly as a punishment for their sins?

Megillus
Thus much at least you are quite right in saying—that public opinion [838d] has a surprising influence, when there is no attempt by anybody ever to breathe a word that contradicts the law.

Athenian
Then is it not true, as I said just now, that when a lawgiver wishes to subdue one of those lusts which especially subdue men, it is easy for him at least to learn the method of mastering them,—that it is by consecrating this public opinion in the eyes of all alike—bond and free, women and children, and the whole State—that he will effect the firmest security [838e] for this law.

Megillus
Certainly; but how it will ever be possible for him to bring it about that all are willing to say such a thing—

Athenian
A very proper observation. That was precisely the reason why I stated that in reference to this law I know of a device for making a natural use of reproductive intercourse,—on the one hand, by abstaining from the male and not slaying of set purpose the human stock,

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