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Article

The practice and social construction of homosexual relations in the Roman Empire were particularly important as the immediate background to the early Christian and patristic responses that determined the widespread suppression of same-sex behavior in subsequent Western civilization; this suppression was already manifest in influential Roman legal texts of late antiquity. Although to some degree influenced by earlier Greek and Etruscan models, particularly in the realms of literature and art, Roman culture evolved its own distinctive set of practices and moral responses. Whereas classical Greek elites exalted voluntary pederastic relations between adult males and freeborn adolescents, framing them within a pedagogical context, Romans viewed any form of passivity as unmanly and fundamentally incompatible with the conquering warrior ethos required by the expansionist Roman state. Hence, pederastic attentions were legitimate only when directed toward current or former slaves. Despite the coercive character of such relations, they sometimes became tender and affectionate, leading to the favored slave’s manumission and even inheritance of property. While literary references in Augustan-era poets like Vergil, Horace, and Tibullus are decorous and idealizing after the Greek style, the treatment of homosexuality in much Roman literature is markedly different, manifesting an anatomical frankness and obscenity seldom found in Greek texts outside of Attic comedy. Accusations of the most extravagant sexual depravity became commonplace in political rhetoric of the late Republic and escalated in the many defamatory biographical accounts of Rome’s emperors, most of whom engendered posthumous infamy from patrician critics. Whether true or not, such accounts contributed to popular perceptions of a hedonistic ruling class more innured to pleasure than the public good. Not surprisingly, Rome evolved a strong tradition of morally inflected satire and ethical critique of homosexual indulgence. In the early period, this took the form of treating it as a foreign, Greek-inspired vice. More serious was the philosophical response of later Roman Stoicism, which advocated a highly restrictive sexual economy and sought to liberate the soul from enslavement to appetitive desires, particularly if not tied to the providential demands of Nature. Other sources, however, regarded same-sex desire as itself a manifestation of inborn dispositions, and Roman imperial literature features several polarized debates between advocates of boys and women as superior objects of sexual affect, presaging modern conceptions of sexual identity.

Article

Oluwafemi Adeagbo and Kammila Naidoo

The dominant belief in Africa is that same-sex intimacy is a child of modern civilization and Western culture. Hence, we see a high level of homophobia and continuous policing of same-sex relationships in most African countries, including those that have decriminalized them. Over time, different scholarly discourses have emerged about homosexuality in Africa. Although some writers believe that same-sex intimacy is fundamentally un-African, others argue that same-sex intimacy is inherent in African culture. Arguably, the introduction of Western religion, such as Christianity, which forms part of the colonization agenda, favors the monogamous, heterosexual relationship (the basis of the “ideal family unit”) as the acceptable natural union while any relationship outside it is regarded as unnatural. Given deteriorating socioeconomic and political situations in Africa, political leaders often find it expedient to use religious-based homophobic narratives to distract their impoverished citizens and muster popular support. Put together, this has led to the criminalization of same-sex unions in most African countries. Modern discourses in Africa on gender equality and sexual freedoms reveal more liberal attitudes, but the same cannot be said about how same-sex desire is viewed. Toleration of same-sex intimacy is seen as a threat to the dominant African definition of marriage, family, and patriarchal gender and power relations. Despite the prevalence of homophobia, the establishment of gay networks and movements that championed the liberation struggles of sexual minorities in South Africa from the apartheid to postapartheid era have sharpened the sense of belonging of LGBTIA groups. While some countries (e.g., South Africa, Lesotho, Cape Verde, Rwanda, Mali, and Mozambique) have abandoned sodomy laws that criminalized same-sex relationships (often after much pressure was exerted), others (e.g., Chad, Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, Tunisia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Mauritania) have upheld the laws with stiff punishment—prison terms up to 14–30 years or death sentences for the crime of being homosexual. The first half of 2019 raised some hopes about LGBTIA rights in Africa when Angola (January 2019) and Botswana (June 2019) decriminalized homosexuality. However, Kenya, which had previously shown a “glimmer of hope” in decriminalizing same-sex relationships, upheld laws that criminalize homosexuality in May 2019. Currently, more than 30 of the 54 recognized African countries still have laws (with harsh punishments or death) that outlaw consensual same-sex relationships. Both theoretical and empirical insights into the current state of Africa’s LGBTIA rights and scholarship are discussed.

Article

The role of the symbolic child figure has shifted substantially within discourses of LGBT politics and activism in the United States since World War II. From the 1950s well into the 1980s, the putatively heterosexual child was portrayed as the potential victim of homosexuality—victimized by influence, predation, and infection. By the early 21st century, the child had become a figure who was often represented as benefiting from LGBT civil rights—either as the child of lesbian or gay parents whose union was strengthened by the acquisition of civil benefits and protections or as a young gay or trans person struggling to accept a non-normative identity. This cultural shift both reflected and helped generate specific governmental and institutional policies—from the sexual psychopath laws of the 1950s, to the emergence of school-based Gay-Straight Alliances in the 1990s, to the central role of the child in debates over same-sex marriage in the 2000s.

Article

Ancient Greece featured at least five different varieties of same-sex relations: (a) pederastic relations, typically between adolescent boys and adult men who were not yet married; (b) relations between male youths of approximately the same age; less frequently (c) homosexual relations between fully adult men; (d) age-differentiated relations between females; and (e) relations between adult females. The origins of pederasty appear to be related to the relatively late age of marriage for males, which evolved as a response to needs to limit population growth in the scarcity-driven economy of the 7th century bce. The contexts of pederastic socialization (athletics, military comradeship, hunting, cockfighting, and intellectual/musical performance at elite symposia) point toward masculinizing pedagogy and mentorship as key social functions. However, social attitudes toward pederasty were not uniform throughout all Greek city-states in all periods. Evidence from several domains suggests that as Athens became more democratic and saw greater distribution of prosperity throughout all social classes, the age of male marriage declined; larger families became socially desirable, while non-procreative alternatives to marital sexuality became less fashionable and even morally dubious. What had always been characterized as an elite habitus during the archaic period and first half of the 5th century no longer seemed at home in a political system where appeal to the common man defined success and popularity. Some philosophical texts from the 4th century bce characterize physical sex between males as para physin (“beyond nature”), whereas others recognize the possibility that it is determined through natural processes grounded in anatomy or spiritual heredity. Of most interest for modern politics is the question of what Greek historical evidence can tell us about the ability of adolescent boys to consent to intimate relations with adult men. Modern jurisprudence, especially in the United States, assumes a universal inability to provide informed consent until well after the onset of puberty, and even voluntary relations between adolescent boys and men are heavily sanctioned in the criminal justice system. Although classical Athens featured a robust tradition of criticizing pederasty for a number of reasons, the notion that pre-adult sex with an older partner was psychologically harmful to boys was not among them. The Greeks viewed adolescent (and even younger) boys as inherently sexual, and the widespread practice of nudity in athletic exercise and daily life conditioned Greek boys to a greater degree of frankness and physical disinhibition. Both iconographical and textual evidence show that Greek adolescents were quite capable of rejecting adult suitors or discontinuing relationships that no longer pleased them.

Article

Over the last decades, in many so-called Western countries, the social, political, and legal standing of lesbians, gay men, and bisexual and trans* individuals (henceforth, LGBT* individuals) has considerably improved, and concurrently, attitudes toward these groups have become more positive. Consequently, people are aware that blatantly prejudiced statements are less socially accepted, and thus, negative attitudes toward LGBT* individuals (also referred to as antigay attitudes, sexual prejudice, or homonegativity) and their rights need to be measured in more subtle ways than previously. At the same time, discrimination and brutal hate crimes toward LGBT* individuals still exist (e.g., Orlando shooting, torture of gay men in Chechnya). Attitudes are one of the best predictors of overt behavior. Thus, examining attitudes toward LGBT* individuals in an adequate way helps to predict discriminatory behavior, to identify underlying processes, and to develop interventions to reduce negative attitudes and thus, ultimately, hate crimes. The concept of attitudes is theoretically postulated to consist of three components (i.e., the cognitive, affective, and behavioral attitude components). Further, explicit and implicit attitude measures are distinguished. Explicit measures directly ask participants to state their opinions regarding the attitude object and are thus transparent, they require awareness, and they are subject to social desirability. In contrast, implicit measures infer attitudes indirectly from observed behavior, typically from reaction times in different computer-assisted tasks; they are therefore less transparent, they do not require awareness, and they are less prone to socially desirable responding. With regard to explicit attitude measures, old-fashioned and modern forms of prejudice have been distinguished. When it comes to measuring LGBT* attitudes, measures should differentiate between attitudes toward different sexual minorities (as well as their rights). So far, research has mostly focused on lesbians and gay men; however, there is increasing interest in attitudes toward bisexual and trans* individuals. Also, attitude measures need to be able to adequately capture attitudes of more or less prejudiced segments of society. To measure attitudes toward sexual minorities adequately, the attitude measure needs to fulfill several methodological criteria (i.e., to be psychometrically sound, which means being reliable and valid). In order to demonstrate the quality of an attitude measure, it is essential to know the relationship between scores on the measure and important variables that are known to be related to LGBT* attitudes. Different measures for LGBT* attitudes exist; which one is used should depend on the (research) purpose.

Article

In general, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) did not treat its gay and lesbian citizens very favorably. Although the legal situation was more liberal than in the Federal Republic (West Germany) and other Western European countries, most homosexual East Germans lived in a state of invisibility at best, or suffered direct homophobia at worst, often at the hands of the government. In the mid-1980s, the public and government stance toward homosexuality liberalized slightly, leading to small improvements in the lives of gay East Germans. However, gay East Germans never experienced many of the same freedoms or opportunities that their West German, other Western European, or American counterparts enjoyed. Gay East Germans occupied a difficult position within the socialist ideology of the GDR. In theory, each East German was equal, enjoying universal rights and opportunities, and living free from discrimination. At the same time, however, the smallest building block of the society was the heterosexual, reproductive, married couple: a model into which same-sex desiring people could not fit. This doctrine of supposed equality probably contributed to the fact that homosexuality was decriminalized earlier in the GDR than in the Federal Republic, but it was also used by the SED (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands: the ruling, dictatorial party) as an excuse not to engage further with the specific needs of gay citizens until the mid-1980s. The GDR saw some limited gay activism in the 1970s in the form of the Homosexuelle Interessengemeinschaft Berlin (HIB); however, the group’s activities never really extended outside of East Berlin and did not lead to significant political or social change. More impactful activism occurred in the 1980s under the aegis of the Protestant Church as the only organization in the GDR that operated largely outside of state control. The SED eventually yielded to some of the demands of gay activists—by sanctioning publications and meeting spaces, for example—but did so primarily to draw gay activists out of the protection of Church structures and in order to be able to monitor and control them more easily. There are few East German literary or artistic works that engage with homosexuality, although a number of relevant literary works were published in the 1980s. These contributed to a fledgling discourse around homosexuality, shifting the issue from a taboo topic to one more acceptable for discussion in the public sphere. However, when East German audiences viewed Heiner Carow’s Coming Out in 1989—the first and only East German feature film to depict homosexual relationships—many claimed that it was their first exposure to homosexuality. And, since the GDR ceased to exist as a state fairly abruptly in 1990, one will never know how the trajectory of gay rights activism may have continued.

Article

Spanning the Renaissance and the Enlightenment—the 15th/16th to the 18th centuries—the early modern period in Europe sees a fundamental evolution in relation to the conception and expression of same-sex desire. The gradual emergence of a marginalized homosexual identity, both individual and collective, accompanies a profound transformation in the understanding of the sexed body: the consolidation of two separate and “opposite” sexes, which sustain physiologically grounded sexual and gender roles. This new paradigm contrasts with an earlier one in which masculinity and femininity might be seen as representing points on a spectrum, and same-sex desire, perceived as potentially concerning all men and women, was not assimilable to a permanent characteristic excluding desire for and relations with members of the other sex. These developments, however, happened gradually and unevenly. The period is therefore characterized by differing models of homosexual desire and practices—majoritizing and minoritizing—that coexist in multiple and shifting configurations. The challenge for historians is to describe these in their full complexity, taking account of geographic variations and of both differences and continuities over time—between the beginning of the period and its end, between different points within it, and between early modernity and the present or the more recent past. The tension between similarity, identity, and the endurance of categories, on the one hand, and alterity, incommensurability, and rupture, on the other hand, defies dichotomous thinking that would see them as opposites, and favor one to the exclusion of the other. In making such comparative studies, we would no doubt do well to think not in singular but in plural terms, that is, of homosexualities in history.

Article

Jorge I. Domínguez

Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), founded in 1959, have been among the world’s most successful military. In the early 1960s, they defended the new revolutionary regime against all adversaries during years when Cuba was invaded at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, faced nuclear Armageddon in 1962, and experienced a civil war that included U.S. support for regime opponents. From 1963 to 1991, the FAR served the worldwide objectives of a small power that sought to behave as if it were a major world power. Cuba deployed combat troops overseas for wars in support of Algeria (1963), Syria (1973), Angola (1975–1991), and Ethiopia (1977–1989). Military advisers and some combat troops served in smaller missions in about two dozen countries the world over. Altogether, nearly 400,000 Cuban troops served overseas. Throughout those years, the FAR also worked significantly to support Cuba’s economy, especially in the 1960s and again since the early 1990s following the Soviet Union’s collapse. Uninterruptedly, officers and troops have been directly engaged in economic planning, management, physical labor, and production. In the mid-1960s, the FAR ran compulsory labor camps that sought to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals and to remedy the alleged socially deviant behavior of these and others, as well. During the Cold War years, the FAR deepened Cuba’s alliance with the Soviet Union, deterred a U.S. invasion by signaling its cost for U.S. troops, and since the early 1990s developed confidence-building practices collaborating with U.S. military counterparts to prevent an accidental military clash. Following false starts and experimentation, the FAR settled on a model of joint civilian-military governance that has proved durable: the civic soldier. The FAR and the Communist Party of Cuba are closely interpenetrated at all levels and together endeavored to transform Cuban society, economy, and politics while defending state and regime. Under this hybrid approach, military officers govern large swaths of military and civilian life and are held up as paragons for soldiers and civilians, bearers of revolutionary traditions and ideology. Thoroughly politicized military are well educated as professionals in political, economic, managerial, engineering, and military affairs; in the FAR, officers with party rank and training, not outsider political commissars, run the party-in-the-FAR. Their civilian and military roles were fused, especially during the 1960s, yet they endured into the 21st century. Fused roles make it difficult to think of civilian control over the military or military control over civilians. Consequently, political conflict between “military” and “civilians” has been rare and, when it has arisen (often over the need for, and the extent of, military specialization for combat readiness), it has not pitted civilian against military leaders but rather cleaved the leadership of the FAR, the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), and the government. Intertwined leaderships facilitate cadre exchanges between military and nonmilitary sectors. The FAR enter their seventh decade smaller, undersupplied absent the Soviet Union, less capable of waging war effectively, and more at risk of instances of corruption through the activities of some of their market enterprises. Yet the FAR remain both an effective institution in a polity that they have helped to stabilize and proud of their accomplishments the world over.