Saturday, July 11, 2009

Typology of homosexuality

The publication of the two landmark volumes of Alfred Kinsey et al. in 1948 and 1951 opened the way to a vast amount of research and publication in the field of human sexuality. Yet the yield has not been as much as might be expected, in part because political considerations hindered the funding of other studies of similar scope.

In the study of same-sex relations there were particular problems. Initially there was a need to overcome a vast amount of lingering antihomosexual prejudice which hindered accurate assessments. Then, just as it seemed that victory over these obstacles had been secured, two forms of obfuscation welled up from the gay camp itself. The first, surfacing in the 1980s, was the social-construction trend, which claimed, among other absurdities, that there had been no homosexuality prior to 1869. This aberration was followed by Queer Theory, which substituted verbal dexterity (of a sort) for genuine research and analysis.

This essay discusses one finding about same-sex behavior that I would have thought is secure--though some say that it is not.

In 1979 Stephen O. Murray, a major gay scholar residing in San Francisco, established a three-fold typology of male same-sex behavior. The three basic types are: 1) age-differentiated, as found in the pederastic culture of ancient Greece, medieval Islam, and the Japan of the Samurai; 2) gender-differentiated, as found in the shamans of Northeast Asia, the Amerindian berdache, and a number of contemporary societies in Southeast Asia; 3) egalitarian (or androphile) in which the partners are of roughly the same age and gender identity. The latter type is characteristic of the advanced industrial societies of the West, but occasionally elsewhere, as in the Old Kingdom in Egypt.

The examples given are for the purposes of preliminary description only. In complex societies there is usually one dominant type, with one or both of the others represented as a minority preference. In the US, for example, the egalitarian form is dominant, while age-differentiated and gender-differentiated types exist among smaller portions of the population. With this proviso, research has shown that this typology is valid world wide, and that there are no other major types of male same-sex behavior capable of rivaling these three.

Some observers object, however, saying what about those who are attracted across class boundaries, and those who seek interracial unions? And what about those who look for slender or muscular partners, ones who are hirsute or not. Should't options like these be added to the list?

Closer analysis shows that these preferences, while significant to those who hold them, are not on the same plane as the primary ones mentioned. First, let us note that the three categories themselves draw on but two variables: age-grading and sexual dimorphism. These categories, I would argue, are fixed.

But are they? Advancing age can be disguised, but cannot be denied. As far as sexual dimorphism goes, some now claim that they have changed sex. There are two views regarding this claim. Some skeptics say that there really is no change of sex, simply an elaborate series of plastic- surgery interventions, supplemented by hormones. For the purposes of argument let us accept that complete change has occurred, so that Linda has become Larry. If then Larry choses to form a relationship with a biological female, the partnership is heterosexual, and does not enter into our purview here. If Larry, by contrast, goes with a biological male, then the relationship is likely to be of the egalitarian-homosexual type, because that is the dominant form in our society.

Observance of class distinctions is a product of a relatively recent stage of advanced industrial society; it is not a cultural universal. Race presents thornier issues. First, however, there are no pure races, and the matter of choice in this area is complicated. A white person attracted to blacks might tend to prefer “authentic blacks,” that is those with dark skins, ignoring the others. By contrast some blacks themselves are known to prefer light-skinned partners of their own race. Arguably, Michael Jackson changed his race. At all events, after the interracial partnership is established, it will fit into one the three types, with say an older white man forming a relationship with a younger black one, or vice versa. Similarly, one or the other partner could be transgendered. In our own society, though, such relationships are likely to be egalitarian.

Other preferences fit the malleability model fairly easily. A man who lacks muscles can acquire them, or slim them down later, if he wishes. Body hair can be shaved off, though not so easily added. Almost any man, though, can grow facial hair.

These issues are, some of them at least, debatable. But what rules all the rest, which decides whether the “go” signal is to be triggered, is the location of the desired individual on the love-map of tripartition. Consider, once again, the white chocoholic in the following scenario. This person sees a black male he thinks may be available. What determines whether he makes a move is the set of three options under discussion. If the white guy is an older intergenerationalist he will act only if the targeted individual is an adolescent or ephebe. If he is attracted to gender-benders he will want to see some capacity for cross-dressing and/or effeminacy. And of course if he is an egalitarian he will want to go with another of roughly his own age and habitus. As in the other two cases, candidates who do not fit this profile are excluded, even though they are black.

Thus the three characteristics the model singles out--age-differentiated, gender-differentiated, egalitarian--are trumps, deal makers or deal breakers. As a rule, they m u s t be in alignment for any action to occur. Other qualities are secondary because they do not possess this power of acting as trumps.

Some will find this discussion unfortunate. In sex as in life, shouldn’t we be open to a variety of experiences? In principle, certainly yes. Yet for reasons that lie deep in our biological heritage, sexual choices are not entirely free choices. Or to put it differently, one can indeed go with someone who is not part of one’s love map. Ultimately, though, we tend to end up with (or wish we had ended up with) an individual of our desired type.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sex chromosomes CANNOT be fooled, and Linda does not become Larry, except in NAME only. Ergo: Nominalism. Plastic surgery, I believe, is deemed artificial, while DNA, I believe, is irreducibly natural. All the artificial changes does not affect the natural constituent of life itself, DNA, where the dimorphic sexes are incontrovertibly expressed -- even in ambiguous cases of genetic disorders.

Transgender, unlike homophilia, remains a diagnostic disorder, because if not, medical intervention of any kind would be malpractice. Not that psychiatry is science, but it finally recognizes that homophilia is biologically-normal standard variation of human sexual expression, while transgender's aetiology stems from a "Gender Identity Disorder" -- a mental/physical conflict.

One's erotically arousal (sexual orientation) is a wholly different ontological order than which gender one tries to modify to fit because the mental and physical profiles are incongruent. Gender, unlike sex, is more malleable, because sex chromosomes cannot be changed once made. What clothes and accoutrements one wears is a fashion statement, not a fact of nature.

Queer Theorist might take a basic biology course, rather than absorb the toxic waste of QT.

11:36 AM  

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