Homosexuality and University Press Essay Sample

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Homosexuality refers to sexual behaviors and desires between males or between females. Gay refers to self-identification with such practices and desires, like homosexual, both terms mostly used only for men. Lesbian is its female counterpart. Such definitions have run into major problems, and nowadays the concept “queer” is used to indicate the fluency of sexual practices and gender performances.

Sociological context

Since the 1970s, homosexuality has become the topic of an interdisciplinary specialization variously called gay and lesbian, queer or LGBT studies (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender to which sometimes are added QQI: Queer, Questioning and Intersexual). The field is far removed from traditional sexology that has its base in psychology, medicine and biology, and is closely linked to what once were called minority (black and women’s) studies and now gender studies. Most of the disciplines involved belong to the humanities and social sciences: language and literature, history, cultural and communication studies, sociology, anthropology and political sciences, philosophy. Sociology had a late start although some of the key figures in the field were sociologists (Mary McIntosh, Ken Plummer, Jeffrey Weeks), but their work was seen as primarily historical.

Michel Foucault made a major imprint with the first volume of his Histoire de la sexualité (1976). Other major sociologists contributed to or supported the field, for example Pierre Bourdieu (1998), Michel Maffesoli (1982), Steven Seidman (1997, 1998). Notwithstanding its important intellectual proponents, the field has a very weak base in the universities and departments of sociology where few tenured staff have been nominated anywhere specifically for the field, not even for the sociology of sexuality. Most often tenured staff started to work on homosexual themes because of personal and social interests. Gay studies has kept a strong interdisciplinary quality, often with close cooperation between sociology, history, anthropology and cultural studies.

The words homosexual and heterosexual were invented in 1868 and first put in print in 1869 by the Hungarian author Károly Mária Kertbeny (1824-1882). In 1864, the German lawyer Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825-1895) had come up with the words “uranism” and “uranian” to describe a similar social reality while “philopedia” was created by the French psychiatrist C.F. Michéa in 1849. These words no longer referred to sexual acts that were sins and crimes and were called sodomy, unnatural intercourse, pederasty and so forth, but to sexual identities and desires that were deeply imbedded in persons. Ulrichs and Kertbeny were predecessors of the gay rights movement and wrote mainly against criminalisation of sodomy.

They spoke largely from personal experiences and historical examples. Most medical authors who started to use the new terminologies, discussed mainly the causes of such identities and desires and the question whether they were pathological or normal. They set the standards for the search of a biological basis that continues to this day (“gay gene”). Most physicians started to believe that homosexuality was an innate condition (but not the Freudians) and took the position that it was a disease or abnormality that should be healed and prevented. The early research by psychiatrists was mainly based on case histories of what they called “perverts”. They not only began to discuss homosexuality, but other perversions as well that got new names such as masochism, sadism, fetichism, exhibitionism, necrophilia, zoophilia and so forth. The centers of research were on the European continent: Berlin, Paris, Vienna.

The early medical research had several sociological angles. Ulrichs and Magnus Hirschfeld, the founder of the first homosexual rights movement in 1897, came with the first statistics on the numbers of homosexuals that closely resemble the data of today. While Ulrichs thought his uranians were less than 1% of the population, an anonymous Dutch adept of him estimated it in 1870 at 2% as Hirschfeld later did. The Dutch physician and homosexual rights activist Lucien von Römer worked with Hirschfeld on sexual statistics. In a survey of 308 Amsterdam students done in 1904, he not only counted the men who identified as homosexual (2%) and bisexual (4%), but as well those who had gay sex during puberty (21%) or homosexual fantasies (6%). In the first Dutch gay novel that appeared this same year, the author Jacob Israël de Haan told how he as a student made fun answering the questions.

He already made clear how unreliable such data often are. Hirschfeld also came with the first urban geography, “Berlin’s Third Gender” (1904) in which he described the city’s gay subculture of bars and parks and the elaborate world of male prostitution. Mainly German books on the history of sexual morality (“Sittengeschichte”) that often included chapters on homosexuality, preceded and influenced the work of later sociologists and historians, like Norbert Elias and Michel Foucault. The work of these psychiatrists who started to give names, definitions and identities to disease, crime and perversion, made possible the work of sociologists creating labeling theory. In many ways, this early research paved the way for what would become a sociology of (homo)sexuality (Schmeidler 1932). The enormous body of work, available mainly thanks to early, prewar German sexology, was largely forgotten when the main location of sex research after World War II moved to another language, English, and to another country, the United States.

Most of the scholarly work on homosexuality remained focussed on psychiatry, both in Europe and the United States. The major sociological breakthrough came from Alfred Kinsey (1894-1956). Although he himself was a biologist specialized in wasps, Kinsey is generally considered to be the founder of the sociology of (homo)sexuality through his two fat books on the sexual behavior of the US male and female (1948, 1953). Although these studies have been criticized for methodological weaknesses and the reduction of sexuality to only “outlets”, this work has been pivotal to put sexuality on the agenda of the social sciences. Kinsey was the first to come up with more or less reliable statistics on sexual behavior, and placed them in the larger contexts of biology and history.

From his research stem ideas that 37% of US-men ever had homosexual experiences and 4% exclusively and lifelong while 50% had at some point same-sex fantasies. He was as well a man with a mission who did not hide his political agenda. He stressed time and again that the large majority of the citizens would have to go to prison if the US-laws were applied rigorously, indicating that it was a better idea to change the laws. He did much to normalize taboo acts such as homosexuality, masturbation, premarital sex, adultery and prostitution. His important data on child sexuality have become controversial due to the moral panic around pedophilia.

Kinsey established an institute for sex research in Bloomington, Indiana, that has become one of the world’s most important archives on sexual behavior and culture. At the end of his life, Kinsey had seen enormous successes but as he was so controversial, he lost most of his financial backing. Without resources, his successors were unable to continue his important work. They could have contributed in a major way with their research to the subsequent sexual revolution of the 1960s, but did so largely in retrospect as the major work of the sociologists connected to the Kinsey Institute (John Gagnon, William Simon, George Weinberg) was published in the 1970s and after.

Kinsey offered a sociological instead of a psychological perspective on the topic. In his footsteps and in the wake of the nascent homosexual right movement in the US and the UK, sociologists Edward Sagarin and Michael Schofield (1965) started to write on homosexuality from a social perspective, using the pseudonyms Donald Webster Cory (1951, 1956) and Gordon Westwood (1960). Cory’s books gave an overview of what was known on the topic while Westwood interviewed 127 homosexuals on their sexual life. Especially Cory’s work had a wide readership among gay men. These works changed the focus from the aberrant homosexual who had gender identity problems or abused boys, to the society that discriminated against homosexuals and largely contributed to their problems (see Minton 2001 for an overview of early sociological research in the US).

The Dutch psychiatrist Tolsma who earlier believed homosexuality was pathological and homosexuals recruited boys for their rangs, did research on its origins and discovered in 1957 that no gay man had become this way through seduction (Hekma 2004). In the footsteps of Kinsey and Schofield, more surveys were done among gay men in the 1970s, in Germany by Dannecker and Reiche (1974), in France by Bon and d’Arc (1974) and in the USA by Harry and De Vall (1978) and Bell and Weinberg of the Kinsey Institute (1978). Whitam and Mathy (1986) did a survey in four countries and found effeminacy in gay men in all four locations which suggested innateness. The homosexual behavior of many non-homosexual men in these societies was explained as a secondary sexual outlet. Other de/constructivist perspectives would later change this line of thinking. Surveying quickly developed in the wake of aids (see below).

Other centers of research and theorizing took over in the 1950s from the Kinsey Institute and independent gay researchers. The Chicago School of urban sociology started to include sexual variation in its agenda and to study urban gay subcultures. Maurice Leznoff and William A. Westley were the first to write on “The Homosexual Community” (1956) “in a larger Canadian city”. The topics range from cliques, their gossip and incest taboos, being secret or overt and professions (many hairdressers). The topics are still very close to those of psychiatry. Later work discusses the gay bar and the gay gettho in a more sophisticated way (Achilles 1967, Levine 1979, Reade 1980). Manuel Castells wrote a landmark study on geographical distribution, community organizing and political activity of San Francisco gays and lesbians, a chapter in his T he City and the Grassroots (1983). San Francisco also was the topic of an ethnographical study by Alain Dreuilhe (1979). The concept of the “gay gettho” was introduced in the article of the same title by Martin Levine in the collection he edited Gay Men. The Sociology of Male Homosexuality (1979).

This was the first article on gay geography and included maps of several gay vicinities that had come into visible existence since the late 1960s. After the queer turn of the 1990s, several books on space and sexuality appeared that were more cultural studies but still included sociological material (Whittle 1994; Bell & Valentine 1995; Ingram 1997) while the field of gay urban histories boomed (Chauncey 1994; Higgs 1999). Armstrong (2002) produced a study of gay and lesbian movements in San Francisco that she divided in three stages: the more prudent homophile movement before 1969, a short interlude of the radical gay movement that connected gay and left interests and since the early 1970s the identity and one-issue gay (and lesbian) movement. 1969 is the year of the Stonewall rebellion when fairies, butch lesbians and drag queens resisted a police raid in the bar of the same name in New York (Duberman 1993; Carter 2004). That event is nowadays globally commemorated.

The major concept of the 1970s was stigma. It fitted well with the change from psychology to sociology, from pathology to activism. Symbolic interactionism was added to urban sociology. What homosexual men suffered from, was not their innate abnormality or viciousness, but social rejection. At the time that activists asked for removal of homosexuality from psychiatric classifications such as DSM, and came out of the closets into the streets, sociologists started to discuss sexual stigma (Plummer 1975). A landmark study was Sexual Conduct (1973) by John Gagnon and William Simon who developed the concept of sexual script(ing). Their script was what others later named narrative or story (Plummer 1995). Gagnon and Simon wanted to turn away from biological and Freudian perspectives to a sociological one that combined the social and the individual. Persons become sexual beings in an interaction between both. With many examples, they indicate how the social influences the sexual and the reverse.

Theories that focus on instincts and impulses proved to be less helpful to explain erotic experience. Other work engaged with the homosexual “coming out” in which the various stages of this process such as sensitivation, resistance, acceptance, integration were studied and demarcated (Dank 1971; Weinberg 1983; Troiden 1988). Other sociologists engaged with the theme of gay and lesbian youth and their organizations (Harry 1982; Savin-Williams 1990; Herdt & Boxer 1993) or sexual education (Irvine 2002; Levine 2002). An early and most controversial contribution in the *symbolic-interactionist tradition was Tearoom Trade by Laud Humphreys (1970) on casual homosexual encounters in a public toilet. The debate was both on the topic and on the ethics of the research method. Humphreys had used the number plates of the cars of men visiting tearooms to arrive at additional information, without their knowledge. So he came to know that visitors often were married and highly conservative men.

The major line of research became since the late 1970s historical-sociological. In 1967, Mary McIntosh wrote a first promising article in this direction suggesting that a homosexual role had only come into existence in the eighteenth century. The major work were Michel Foucault’s three volumes Histoire de la sexualité (1976, 1984, 1984). The first volume La volonté de savoir was the founding work of “social constructionism”, a word Foucault himself never used. In this work he remarks on the change from the legal concept of sodomy, an act, to the medical one of homosexuality, an identity that will be insistently researched as part of the politics of the body. His work is a strong critique of the idea of sexual liberation, then prominent on the social and scholarly agenda through the work of Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse.

He showed how discourses of sexual liberation had been around since the eighteenth century and mainly contributed to stricter controls of sexuality. His theory of an omnipresent power that used such ideologies to get a firmer grip on sexual practices, spurred a new generation to engage with sexual history, also because sexuality was reconceived as something that changed over time and may in fact not have existed as a special social reality before the rise of sexual sciences. Movements of resistance that were included in his theory of power, played an ambivalent role as they largely contributed to the innovation of body politics. Although the work of Foucault deals with sexual culture in general, his leading theme may well be said to have been homosexuality (see Eribon 1989; Halperin 1995). His studies extended the realm of Gagnon and Simon from micro- to macrolevel and gave it a historical twist.

The main sociologist who works in the same vein as Foucault and whose first studies on sexuality appeared around the same time, is Jeffrey Weeks. He first started with works on the development of the homosexual rights movement in England and continued with a general history of sexuality (1977, 1981, 2000). His later work is about sexual ethics (1985, 1995) while he recently took to research on intimate relations of gay men (2001). The Foucauldian approach came at the same time as the establishment of gay and lesbian studies and inspired the first international conference (Aerts 1983). Most new work was based on the idea of “the making of the homosexual” (Plummer 1981; Dannecker 1981). Social constructionism was opposed to essentialism that sees sexual preferences as innate. Few people in gay and lesbian studies defend that position while most of the biologists who research gay genes, brain parts and hormonal systems, are unaware of this critique. Stein (1990; 1999) and Lancaster (2003) analyzed the debates and the various positions.

A main theme became the development of essentialist sexual sciences (Hekma 1987; Irvine 1990; Oosterhuis 2001). The rise of aids stimulated research on several aspects of gay life, especially on sexual and preventive practices. The main aim was to impede risky behaviors. The positive side was that it produced much information on gay sex and created greater openness. But too often the research neglected the social context, once more focussing strongly on sexual outlets of “men having sex with men” (MSM). Some sociologists produced more nuanced work (Pollak 1988, 1992, 1994; Davies 1993; Dowsett 1996).

Many countries saw major surveys on sexual behavior (Zessen 1991; Spira 1992; Wellings 1994; Laumann 1994) while efforts were made to compare the results on a European scale (Bozon & Sandfort 1998). The outcome of these surveys surprised the gay movement because the attested numbers of gay men were everywhere lower than those found by Kinsey in the 1940s. Stuart Michaels who wrote the chapter on homosexuality in Laumann (1994) found that the higher numbers of gay men in cities can not fully be explained by their migration to the more gay friendly towns, as was expected, but that cities as well produce more men identifying as homosexuals.

Special topics
With the development of gay and lesbian, and later queer studies, the research specialized. Apart from gay bars and urban cultures, particular groups started to receive attention. Very popular became male prostitutes that already were the object of Reiss (1961). These studies discussed the pay, the sexual identity of the hustlers who often are straight, their age and sexual techniques, the locations where they work, their drug use, ethnicity and class (see Harris 1973; Schmidt-Relenberg 1975; Hennig 1978; Schickedanz 1979; Poel 1991; West 1992; McNamara 1992; Gelder 1998; Aggleton 1999). It is a circuit where the ganymedes, sexually unsure and unprofessional, rob and murder their clients (Gemert; ). Later bisexuals (Weinberg 1994; Mendès-Leité 1996; Storr 1999; Angelides 2001), drag queens (Newton 1972; ), transsexuals (Hausman 1995; Prosser 1998), transgenders (Herdt 1994, Kulick 1998), intersexuals (Kessler 1998; Preves 2003) and sm (Weinberg & Levi Kamel 1983; Thompson 1994) emerged. A very controversial issue is pedophilia that is, unjustly, often seen as a gay issue (Sandfort ;Lautmann).

Anonymous sex on the streets (Delph 1978; Leap 1999; Delany 1999; Proth 2002) and other places (Dangerous Bedfellows 1996) was studied. Other topics varied from gay men in ethnic groups (Hawkeswood 1996; Pettiway 1996; Manalansan 2003) friendships (Nardi 1999), sururban gay lives (Brekhus 2003) to violence (Comstock 1991; Herek), suicide (Remafedi 1994) and aging (Berger 1982). Masculinity became a topic (Connell 1995), sometimes with a focus on the leather scene (Levine 1998). With the start of discussions on homosexuality and the army (Williams & Weinberg 1971; Ketting & Soesbeek 1992; Rimmerman 1996) and same-sex marriage these issues also came on the sociological agenda. The discussion on intimate relations was started by Weston (1991).

Later studies showed opposite results. While Weeks and others (2001) underlined the transgressiveness of same-sexual families that were more open to others and educated children in various social constellations, Carrington (1999) stated that the couples he researched, largely imitated straight codes when it came to the gendered division of labour, household tasks and financial arrangements. It is likely that these opposite results could be explained by different samples (Gabb 2004). Patrick Moore (2004) suggested to revive the culture of the 1970s, before the times of aids, when gay men developed a patchwork of sexual situations, passions, love relations and friendships that bridged the gap between single and couple. They felt culpable for the epidemic, but with the knowledge of safe sex it is possible to recreate this culture “beyond shame”.

Current emphases (see above)

Methodological issues
The main question in gay research is the definition of what is the object of study. Most research is dependent on self-identication of the interviewees who may be unwilling to disclose their sexual interests. There are no objective criteria to define the homosexual. Kinsey (1948) therefor developed a homo-heterosexual scale from 0-6 in which he integrated sexual practices and sexual fantasies. Other authors created layered scales that included more facets or developments in time as some men move between sexual identifications during their life. Aids-research put a strong focus on sexual practices, while some opposed this perspective because behavior is strongly connected to personal identities and social contexts.

Another major stumbling block in research is the absence of representative groups. Most research uses the snowball-method. Gay men are invisible so researchers depend in surveys on their self-disclosure. Several techniques have been developed to circumvene this problem, for example rather asking “how often did you have sex with men” than “are you gay”, or embedding the question in a series that deals with heterosexual experiences. The terminological changes pose another problem, every new generation creating a new concept for its same-sexual experiences. They moved from uranian, homosexual, homophile, gay to LGTBQQI and queer while these vocubalaries always give different meanings to the various terms, while translations into other languages pose their own problems.

Future directions
Some of the research is driven by social developments so it can be expected that controversial issues such as same-sex marriage, homosexuals in the army, violence against LGBT-people or discrimination in various situations such as in offices or sports will remain high on the agenda. The same regards sexual education and queer initiation. Specific groups such as elderly, ethnic minority and questioning young gays will receive more attention. The turn from biology to sociology in gay research means that attention will shift from genes and identities to space and time as context for the development of gay identifications and queer cultures. The worst developed terrain of research is sexual pleasure both in its individual developments and social locations. The sex research being done in the context of aids-prevention has been weak on this issue while it has been otherwise largely neglected. The scripting Cruising regrettable mainly from a literary perspective (Turner 2003) Bech


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