Wednesday, January 8, 2014

We Are in America, Darling, We Have to Make Do

This will be short, because I'm swamped again today, reading half-a-dozen books at the same time.  One of them I've just begun, Peter Hegarty's Gentlemen's Disagreement: Alfred Kinsey, Lewis Terman, and the Sexual Politics of Smart Men (Chicago, 2013), but it looks promising.  I'll probably have more to say about it, but for now I just want to quote a sentence that reflects back on my recent posts on sexual orientation.  Early on, Hegarty refers to one of Kinsey's first public presentations of his research into human sexuality:
His AAAS paper (1941)  showed variability in men’s histories that would bedevil any attempt to divide men into two clear species of “homosexuals” and “heterosexuals” [5]. 
There's nothing new here, but two things to notice.  First, Kinsey resisted and critiqued what is commonly called the “modern” or “Euro-American” homo/hetero binary; Hegarty is, I believe, alluding to Michel Foucault's claim that "the homosexual", unlike "the sodomite," was regarded as a "species."  Kinsey's focus on behavior, as opposed to personality types, supports the notion of sexual "fluidity" to which so many people today pay lip service and then forget. Which makes it all the stranger that he is misunderstood and attacked by academics and others who think they are also engaged in that critique.

Second, within the inversion model (which Kinsey rejected, remember), those two “species” are interdependent – inverts need (or think they need) “normal” men or women as sexual partners, since for two inverts to copulate together is taboo.  "Normal" men don't need inverts, except as they need people who are "bad," polluted, as extramarital sexual partners.  In some ways the invert is preferable to the whore, because the invert reverses the usual practice, and may pay the man to penetrate him.  (Not always, though: one of Martin F. Manalansan's New York-based bakla informants told him gleefully that in America in contrast to the Philippines, the man pays the bakla!  [Global Divas, Duke UP, 2003, 110]).  I hadn't thought of this interdependence before.