glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq


   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy





social sciences

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-E  F-L  M-Z

page: 1  2  3  4  5  

Experts also began to juxtapose "true" homosexuality with "cultivated ." The latter was attributed to temporal or situational constraints, most typically the absence of women from the social environment (hence its attribution to prisoners, military conscripts, schoolchildren, and clergy, but also to prostitutes), as well as to so-called perverts, typically men with an insatiable desire to cultivate new perversions as others became less gratifying.

"Pederasty" was seen by sexologists as a form of behavior requiring correction or criminal sanction, precisely because it was believed to be voluntary. "True" or "congenital" homosexuals, on the other hand, were understood to manifest the same behaviors involuntarily. This variety of homosexuality was believed to be innate, deeply embedded in the constitution of the individual, and therefore not criminal.

Sponsor Message.

The scholars who did the most to amplify this position were doubtless the jurist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, who theorized that "uranians" were female souls in male bodies, and the physician Magnus Hirschfeld, whose comparative anatomical studies identified both male and female homosexuals as "sexual intermediaries" along a continuum from male to female.

Such theories that linked male homosexuality to femininity were directly challenged by a small number of Hirschfeld's homosexual contemporaries (the Gemeinschaft der Eigenen, or the "community of the special"), who were inspired by classical Greek ethical writings in their claim that male-male eroticism was the province of the social elite and therefore more, not less, masculine.

Hirschfeld's copious writings and international lecture tours, however, convinced a great many of the correctness of his theories, as did comparable English-language work by his colleague Havelock Ellis. The original belief in constitutional immutability, however, did not stop later generations of researchers (notably doctors in Nazi concentration camps) from attempting surgical "cures" and hormone therapy on homosexual prisoners in order to correct their "defect."

As the definition of male homosexuality congealed, an analogous condition for women began to be imagined, grounded once again in the principles of same-sex eroticism and gender role non-conformity. Once again, there was an apparent synergy between discourses on female homosexuality and emergent same-sex erotic practices among women.

Medical and juridical attention continued to be paid mostly to men, however, primarily because the laws against same-sex sexual behavior that reformers wished to overturn targeted men almost exclusively. The fact that many of the reformers (notably Ulrichs and Hirschfeld) were themselves homosexual men, as well as the prevailing belief that women were by their nature asexual beings who could not initiate erotic contact with one another further fueled this bias.

Homosexuality and Its Discontents: Emancipation, Essentialism, Constructionism

No sooner had homosexuality been conceptualized than homosexual emancipation had begun. The earliest extant texts on the topic were political tracts protesting European sodomy laws. The relationship between jurists and physicians was an extremely productive one; some doctors (such as Hirschfeld) themselves became champions of the jurists' (including Ulrichs) cause. Agitators for homosexual rights, in their turn, could not operate independently of medico-scientific personages or the concepts that they promulgated.

It was only with the advent of gay and lesbian liberation in the 1960s and 1970s that the rejection of scientific explanatory models for homosexual behavior and homosexual identity came to characterize the movement for homosexual emancipation. Yet the displacement of "homosexual" by "gay and lesbian," as gay liberation advocated, did not ultimately challenge prevailing medical assumptions regarding homosexuality. Challenging those assumptions required challenging the late nineteenth-century European medical concept of homosexuality itself.

As historians of homosexuality in the 1970s worked to uncover more evidence about the lives of "gay" people in the past, they ran up against a formidable obstacle: namely, the apparent absence of the concept of "homosexuality" or an analogous concept prior to the second half of the nineteenth century in Europe. Anthropologists were also confronted with the fact of "homosexuality's" geographic specificity; no precisely corresponding term could be identified outside of Western Europe and areas of heavy European settlement.

Prior to the late nineteenth century in Europe, same-sex sexual interaction seems to have been understood as episodic and strictly behavioral, a sin or a crime to be punished by the appropriate religious or secular authorities. Just as sin did not inhere in some individuals more than in others, sodomy (along with other sexual delicts such as masturbation, fornication, seduction, and rape) was a vice to which anyone could fall prey.

More recently, anthropologists' studies have shed light on societies in which same-sex erotic contacts were regarded with varying degrees of social tolerance or opprobrium, but which in any case did not perceive same-sex and different-sex sexual interaction as constitutionally opposed or as inhering in persons comprising two mutually exclusive social groups.

  <previous page   page: 1  2  3  4  5   next page>  
Contact Us
Join the Discussion
Related Entries
More Entries by this contributor
A Bibliography on this Topic

Citation Information
More Entries about Social Sciences
Popular Topics:

The Arts

Drag Shows: Drag Queens and Female Impersonators
Drag Shows: Drag Queens and Female Impersonators

Photography: Gay Male, Pre-Stonewall
Photography: Gay Male, Pre-Stonewall

Erotic and Pornographic Art: Gay Male
Erotic and Pornographic Art: Gay Male

New Queer Cinema

White, Minor

Halston (Roy Halston Frowick)


Winfield, Paul

McDowall, Roddy
McDowall, Roddy

Cadinot, Jean-Daniel
Cadinot, Jean-Daniel




This Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc. is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.