Friday, January 18, 2013

Recent discussions of the designation LGBTQ and its variants demonstrate that the perceived diversity of sexual identities and orientations is increasing quite rapidly Yet, as a friend reminds me, we are far from attaining the dizzying heights posited by the Dutch sexologist L. S. A. M. von Römer over a century ago. In a learned article published in a German periodical in 1904, von Römer posited the existence of more than 800,000 sexual orientations.

How did he achieve such an astounding total? I have misplaced my photocopy of the original article, but as best I can recall it goes like this. Let us start with homosexuality as then understood. As a first step this category bifurcates into two subdivisions: gay men and lesbians. These in turn are divided into tops and bottoms (or butches and fems for women). Then there is the question of whether one is attracted to people of one’s own age, or a different age. If the latter, is the object mainly young people, adults, or old people? Is one attracted to individuals of one’s own class, or another? Some differences reflect body type: slender, athletic or zoftig? Then does one like hirsute individuals or those with smooth bodies? Does one focus on the genitals or the whole body? Is one given to BDSM or not?

As you can see, if one adopts this diversitarian perspective, it is not hard to see how von Römer reached his zany conclusion. The Dutch physician got no thanks for his pains in his own time. But maybe his day has finally dawned.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for mentioning Lucien (Sophie Albert Marie) von Römer.ömer

800,000 sexual orientations? What a generous man! Showing the diversity of human sexuality is the best medicine for the treatment of gay/straight narrow-mindedness. I guess that most patients will become impatient even before sexuality number 10,000 is fully discussed. GGGGLLBT is the acronym for those who have made it and who don't suffer from sleepless nights because other 'sexual minorities' are still criminalized.

4:10 PM  

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