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 Topic: Herman Melville and bisexuality

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DireWolf  



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Posted: 22 Mar 2007, 4:38 pm    Post subject: Herman Melville and bisexuality Reply with quote

It's obvious and has been discovered that Herman Melville was bisexual, yet why is he listed as gay/homosexual in his featured article?
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DireWolf  



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Posted: 22 Mar 2007, 4:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

According to Laurie Robertson-Lorant’s 1996 biography, Herman Melville was bisexual. Robertson-Lorant writes:

“In successive drafts of this biography, I have struggled to craft a language for talking about Melville’s sexuality without force-fitting him into the Procrustean bed of theory. Gay critics claim Melville as a gay writer, but I feel it is restrictive to reduce Melville’s writings to coy sexual disclosures, or his life to an elaborate lie. Individuals for whom intellect and sensuality form one strong erotic current may form passionate attachments to persons of both sexes that are not necessarily sexual. Although his writings reflect a deep longing for emotional intimacy with other men, Melville does not seem to have been actively homosexual, according to twentieth-century definitions of the term. He lived a very different life from Walt Whitman, Charles Warren Stoddard, or Oscar Wilde. Whereas Whitman openly proclaimed his preference for men and lived with a male lover, refusing to marry despite proposals from women admirers, Melville lived a heterosexual life, as far as we know. After escaping the forced homosexuality of the forecastle and the multiple seductions of the rover’s life in the South Seas, he married and fathered four children." (Robertson-Lorant, Laurie. Melville: A Biography. New York, Clarkson/ Potter/ Publishers: 1996. p.618)

Elsewhere, Robertson-Lorant distinguishes Melville’s handling of sexuality in his art with Whitman’s:

“Whereas his contemporary Walt Whitman would celebrate the phallus openly in his poetry, Melville expressed himself covertly through puns, jokes, and allegories. He embraced transgressive fiction to reclaim sexuality for serious literature, and when his own ambivalence, combined with heavy cultural and familial repressions, doomed his quest to failure, he went underground.” (Ibid., 111)

Robertson-Lorant continues:

“As a sailor, and as a sojourner in the South Seas, Melville undoubtedly experienced sexual behavior unmentionable in Victorian drawing rooms and genteel novels. When his preconceptions and prejudices about sexuality were challenged by these experiences, he explored new definitions of masculinity in his books, and channeled his anxiety into bursts of bawdy and burlesque. In Moby-Dick, the language itself conflated seafaring sex, so puns on semen and seaman, sperm and spermaceti, came naturally to wordsmith Melville[…] In “A Squeeze of the Hand,” Melville daringly transforms a description of whalers “squeezing case” into a vision of men working not in competition with one another, but in cooperative homosocial bliss that completely defies the official sexual ideology:

Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers’ hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this vocation beget; that at last I was continually squeezing their hands, and looking into their eyes sentimentally; as much as to say . . . Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay let us squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.

By abbreviating the word spermaceti to sperm, Melville conflates the waxy substance taken from the head of the sperm whale with the image of men dreamily squeezing one another’s hands, which clearly signify their sex organs. […] Melville’s ribald description of sailors squeezing sperm not only subverts the pronouncements of preachers and ministers, it also deconstructs bourgeois ideas of masculinity and dissolves gender boundaries, as Ishmael and his shipmates squeeze sperm until it turns into the milk of human kindness.” (Ibid., 285-286)
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nielsen522  



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Posted: 24 Feb 2010, 8:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

DireWolf wrote:
According to Laurie Robertson-Lorant�s 1996 biography, Herman Melville was bisexual. Robertson-Lorant writes:

�In successive drafts of this biography, I have struggled to craft a language for talking about Melville�s sexuality without force-fitting him into the Procrustean bed of theory. Gay critics claim Melville as a gay writer, but I feel it is restrictive to reduce Melville�s writings to coy sexual disclosures, or his life to an elaborate lie. Individuals for whom intellect and sensuality form one strong erotic current may form passionate attachments to persons of both sexes that are not necessarily sexual. Although his writings reflect a deep longing for emotional intimacy with other men, Melville does not seem to have been actively homosexual, according to twentieth-century definitions of the term. He lived a very different life from Walt Whitman, Charles Warren Stoddard, or Oscar Wilde. Whereas Whitman openly proclaimed his preference for men and lived with a male lover, refusing to marry despite proposals from women admirers, Melville lived a heterosexual life, as far as we know. After escaping the forced homosexuality of the forecastle and the multiple seductions of the rover�s life in the South Seas, he married and fathered four children." (Robertson-Lorant, Laurie. Melville: A Biography. New York, Clarkson/ Potter/ Publishers: 1996. p.618)

Elsewhere, Robertson-Lorant distinguishes Melville�s handling of sexuality in his art with Whitman�s:

�Whereas his contemporary Walt Whitman would celebrate the phallus openly in his poetry, Melville expressed himself covertly through puns, jokes, and allegories. He embraced transgressive fiction to reclaim sexuality for serious literature, and when his own ambivalence, combined with heavy cultural and familial repressions, doomed his quest to failure, he went underground.� (Ibid., 111)

Robertson-Lorant continues:

�As a sailor, and as a sojourner in the South Seas, Melville undoubtedly experienced sexual behavior unmentionable in Victorian drawing rooms and genteel novels. When his preconceptions and prejudices about sexuality were challenged by these experiences, he explored new definitions of masculinity in his books, and channeled his anxiety into bursts of bawdy and burlesque. In Moby-Dick, the language itself conflated seafaring sex, so puns on semen and seaman, sperm and spermaceti, came naturally to wordsmith Melville[�] In �A Squeeze of the Hand,� Melville daringly transforms a description of whalers �squeezing case� into a vision of men working not in competition with one another, but in cooperative homosocial bliss that completely defies the official sexual ideology:

Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers� hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this vocation beget; that at last I was continually squeezing their hands, and looking into their eyes sentimentally; as much as to say . . . Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay let us squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.

By abbreviating the word spermaceti to sperm, Melville conflates the waxy substance taken from the head of the sperm whale with the image of men dreamily squeezing one another�s hands, which clearly signify their sex organs. [�] Melville�s ribald description of sailors squeezing sperm not only subverts the pronouncements of preachers and ministers, it also deconstructs bourgeois ideas of masculinity and dissolves gender boundaries, as Ishmael and his shipmates squeeze sperm until it turns into the milk of human kindness.� (Ibid., 285-286)


Nice article you got there. very well said. But I don't know why he is listed as gay but maybe he was known to be a gay or homosexual rather than being a bisexual.
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gennee  



Joined: 15 Sep 2005
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Interests: reading, writing, poetry, transgender issues, gospel, veteran's issues,jazz,education,religion,literature,Native-American and African culture,lighthouses,trails,castles,tractor trailers, playwriting, biograhies, electronics, bass guitar
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Posted: 24 Feb 2010, 10:20 am    Post subject: Didn't Know Reply with quote

I didn't know this about Melville. Ill have to look into this further. I like his books and I believe he's an underrated author.

Gennee
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NickMat  



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Physical Location: NY

Posted: 29 Jul 2010, 6:53 am    Post subject: Re: Herman Melville and bisexuality Reply with quote

if you are bisexual, then you are gay/queer in my book!


DireWolf wrote:
It's obvious and has been discovered that Herman Melville was bisexual, yet why is he listed as gay/homosexual in his featured article?
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DireWolf  



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Posted: 3 Jan 2011, 3:24 pm    Post subject: Re: Herman Melville and bisexuality Reply with quote

NickMat wrote:
if you are bisexual, then you are gay/queer in my book!


DireWolf wrote:
It's obvious and has been discovered that Herman Melville was bisexual, yet why is he listed as gay/homosexual in his featured article?


Uh what? Someone that's bisexual is not gay/lesbian or homosexual at all.

What Does Biphobia Look Like?
Bisexuality is the capacity for emotional, romantic, and/or physical attraction to more than one gender/sex . A person who self identifies as bisexual affirms this complexity and acknowledges a reality beyond the either/or dualities of heterosexism.

What is Bisexual identity?
A bisexual identity speaks to the potential, not the requirement, for involvement with more than one gender/sex. This involvement may mean sexually, emotionally, in reality, or in fantasy. Monogamy and non-monogamy are relationship choices made independently of sexual identity. Some bisexuals are monogamous, some may have concurrent partners, others may relate to different genders/sexes during different times of their lives. Most bisexuals do not have to be involved with more than one person at a time in order to feel fulfilled.
Identity has nothing to do with sexual behavior or experience. Bisexuals, despite the sexually insatiable stereotype, may or may not be sexually active, may or may not have been sexual with more than one person, or may never have been sexual at all. As with all sexual identities, whom one is, or is not having sex with, or whether one is being sexual or not, has nothing to do with the validity of a self professed identity (i.e. a lesbian is still a lesbian, a gay man is still a gay man, and a heterosexual remains a heterosexual whether they are being, or have ever been sexual, or not).
What is Heterosexism?
The institution of heterosexism is based on a mutually exclusive heterosexual/homosexual framework. This heterosexist paradigm posits two sexual orientations on either side of a "fence" that draws the line where privilege begins and ends. Heterosexuals are on the "normal/good" side and homosexuals are on the "abnormal/evil" side. The line separates and protects "us" from "them," while it assures members of each side of what they are not. This line also effectively marginalizes lesbians and gay men as "other" and is the core of homophobia.
Furthermore, lesbian, gay, and heterosexual people are invested, and find a sense of security in being the "other" to each other, and unite in the fact that they are only attracted to either the "same" or the "opposite" gender/sex. This sets up another "us" vs. "them" dynamic which effectively marginalizes bisexual people as "other." Integral to this dynamic is the automatic assumption people can be defined by the gender/sex of their current or potential romantic interest. For example: two women are assumed to be lesbians in a "lesbian" relationship; two men are assumed to be gay in a "gay" relationship; and a man and woman are assumed to be heterosexual in a "heterosexual" relationship. However, any, or all of these people could be bisexual. And depending upon monogamy and non-monogamy agreements and choices, any, or all of these folks could have sexual behavior with more than one gender/sex whether they identify as bisexual or not.
What is Biphobia?
Bisexual women and men cannot be defined by their partner or potential partner, so are rendered invisible within the either/or heterosexist framework. This invisibility (biphobia) is one of the most challenging aspects of a bisexual identity. Living in a society that is based and thrives on opposition, on the reassurances and "balanced" polarities of dichotomy affects how we see the world, and how we negotiate our own, and other peoples lives to fit "reality."
Most people are unaware of their homosexual or heterosexual assumptions until a bisexual speaks up/comes out and challenges the assumption. Very often bisexuals are then dismissed, and told they are "confused" and "simply have to make up their mind and choose." For bisexually identified people to maintain their integrity in a homo-hating heterosexist society they must have a strong sense of self, and the courage and conviction to live their lives in defiance of what passes for "normal."
What Does Biphobia Look Like?

1. Assuming that everyone you meet is either heterosexual or homosexual.

2. Supporting and understanding a bisexual identity for young people because you identified "that way" before you came to your "real" lesbian/gay/heterosexual identity.

3. Expecting a bisexual to identify as heterosexual when coupled with the "opposite" gender/sex.

4. Believing bisexual men spread AIDS/HIV and other STDs to heterosexuals.

5. Thinking bisexual people haven't made up their minds.

6. Assuming a bisexual person would want to fulfill your sexual fantasies or curiosities.

7. Assuming bisexuals would be willing to "pass" as anything other than bisexual.

8. Feeling that bisexual people are too outspoken and pushy about their visibility and rights.

9. Automatically assuming romantic couplings of two women are lesbian, or two men are gay, or a man and a woman are heterosexual.

10. Expecting bisexual people to get services, information and education from heterosexual service agencies for their "heterosexual side" (sic) and then go to gay and/or lesbian service agencies for their "homosexual side" (sic).

11. Feeling bisexuals just want to have their cake and eat it too.

12. Believing that bisexual women spread AIDS/HIV and other STDs to lesbians.

13. Using the terms "phase" or "stage" or "confused" or "fence-sitter" or "bisexual" or "AC/DC" or "switchhitter" as slurs or in an accusatory way.

14. Thinking bisexuals only have committed relationships with "opposite" sex/gender partners.

15. Looking at a bisexual person and automatically thinking of their sexuality rather than seeing them as a whole, complete person.

16. Believing bisexuals are confused about their sexuality.

17. Assuming that bisexuals, if given the choice, would prefer to be within an "opposite" gender/sex coupling to reap the social benefits of a "heterosexual" pairing.

18. Not confronting a biphobic remark or joke for fear of being identified as bisexual.

19. Assuming bisexual means "available."

20. Thinking that bisexual people will have their rights when lesbian and gay people win theirs.

21. Being gay or lesbian and asking your bisexual friend about their lover only when that lover is the same sex/gender.

22. Feeling that you can't trust a bisexual because they aren't really gay or lesbian, or aren't really heterosexual.

23. Thinking that people identify as bisexual because it's "trendy".

24. Expecting a bisexual to identify as gay or lesbian when coupled with the "same" sex/gender.

25. Expecting bisexual activists and organizers to minimize bisexual issues (i.e. HIV/AIDS, violence, basic civil rights, fighting the Right, military, same sex marriage, child custody, adoption, etc.) and to prioritize the visibility of "lesbian and/or gay" issues.

26. Avoid mentioning to friends that you are involved with a bisexual or working with a bisexual group because you are afraid they will think you are a bisexual.
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