Re: Homosexuality: male & female

Lars Eighner (
14 Sep 1996 16:08:56 -0500

In our last episode <51es9b$>,
Broadcast on sci.anthropology
The lovely and talented (Yousuf Khan) wrote:

>On 12 Sep 1996 08:11:42 -0500, (Lars Eighner) wrote:

>>This attitude is a very wide-spread pattern, and in many cases
>>I doubt it is an invented excuse to avoid identification
>>of the one partner as homosexual -- although it does serve as
>>such an excuse when an excuse is thought necessary.
>>I think it has everything to with concepts of masculinity and
>>the status of women. It is not that the act is homosexual
>>that is the perceived problem, but that one of the parties
>>accepts a role perceived as womanly. I think you will find
>>these sorts of correlates if you look at many such cultures:
>> 1. rigid gender roles,
>> 2. exceptionally low status of women
>> 3. lesbianism generally tolerated or ignored

>Yes, but doesn't it just go to show how far off people are in their
>definitions of what is homosexual and what is heterosexual behaviour?

This impression comes from looking at these cultures through our
own biases. To them, that the partners have genitals of the same
sex is immaterial. They haven't misidentified homosexual behaviour;
"homosexual behaviour" is a meaningless concept to them. Rather, their
concern is whether the person's behavior is consistent with the
person's role. Two males in the masculine role are forbidden to
have sex, not because they are of the same sex, but because one
of them would have to violate the boundaries of his role. However,
if one of the biological males is in a nonmasculine gender, the
same people will see nothing wrong with his having sex with a
male in the masculine role.

Does this make their definitions "off"? Only if you agree
that people's genitals should be the absolute determinate
of their behavior. Needless to say, there is no reason a
priori to assume that one view is superior to other, that one
is the "right" way of looking of things and the other mistaken.

Now, of course, in our own culture the excuse "he's the homosexual,
he let me penetrate him," does not wash. It *is* just an excuse,
and anyone raised in our culture ought to recognize it as a
feeble attempt to rationalize the behavior.

>You can quiz such guys if they were hetero or homo, and they would all say
>without question that they were hetero, despite their obvious homosexual

It is because you asking them something that makes no sense in
their culture. It is like a Spanish speaker whether he is pronouncing
b or v in certain words. The difference we hear is meaningful in
English, but has no significance in Spanish. Or it is like asking
a speaker in the Southern US to distinguish "pin" from "pen."
That difference doesn't exist in their speech; the words are

The actions are homosexual to us because the meaningful thing
to us is the genitals of the parties involved. The actions
are not peculiar to the Foobars because to them, what counts
is the relative gender roles of the parties.

>But if you say that it's a common excuse and wide-spread, then it does seem
>to me that it's a way of acknowledging homosexuality even within a very
>closed-in and traditionalist society. In a traditionalist society there
>should be no tolerance of homosexuality whatsoever, yet they are willing to
>make such excuses to keep the peace within their society, because they know
>it exists and they can't do anything about it. As for this "not being an
>invented excuse", I don't buy that: at some point in the past, somebody
>(maybe even several people independently) must've invented it, and it
>became dogma after it passed from mouth-to-mouth. If you repeat a lie often
>enough, then it becomes a truth.

This supposes that all societies begin by banning homosexual
behaviors and then some carved out the various roles as practical
excuse for permitting the behaviours under some circumstances.
Suppose these societies had no prohibition on homosexuality to
begin with and the present roles we observe have crystalized around
the more common ways in which homosexuality was expressed--just
as roles have crystalized around nonsexual behaviors into fairly
rigid expectations. How would you tell the difference between these
situations? I think you could not.

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