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Homosexuality


Homosexuality in Western popular thought over the course of the 20th century has generally referred to sexual acts between individuals of the same sex. In reality, many individuals engage in a wide spectrum of sexual behaviors at any given stage in their lives or over the course of their lives. While there are individuals who at any given point in time may engage in exclusively other-sex or same-sex sexual behaviors, others may exhibit a pattern of "bisexuality" that involves varying degrees of both other-sex or same-sex behavior.

Furthermore, an individual who at one point in his or her lifetime engages exclusively or primarily in other-sex behavior may opt to engage exclusively or primarily in same-sex behavior, or vice versa at a later point in time.

The Famous Kinsey Studies Highlighted Homosexuality

In his now classic studies on male and female sexuality in U.S. society, published respectively in 1948 and 1953, Alfred C. Kinsey, a prominent pioneer in sexual research, argued that humans cannot be easily put into invented categories such as "heterosexual" and "homosexual."

Somewhat later, Michel Foucault, a prominent French philosopher and psychologist, argued that the category "homosexual" is a social construct that is only a little over 100 years old.

Indeed, not until 1926 was the term first seen in print, in the New York Times. Foucalt asserted that the practice of sodomy became transformed into an explicit social category referred to as homosexuality. This term has been interpreted in a wide variety of ways, ranging from a form of psychodynamic pathology to an alternative sexual lifestyle engaged in by sensitive and enlightened individuals who often refer to themselves as gays or lesbians.

No Homosexuality in Ancient Greece

According to this social constructivist perspective, homosexuality per se did not exist in ancient Greece or various other indigenous societies in which same-sex behaviors of one sort or another reportedly occurred.

Indeed, the ancient Greeks did not even have an equivalent for the terms "homosexual" or "heterosexual," although same-sex sexual behavior was not only practiced but extolled. At any rate, same-sex behaviors include oral-genital intercourse, anal intercourse, insertion of dildoes, mutual masturbation, hugging, kissing, stroking, and various other activities. To a large extent, same-sex oriented people engage in many of the same forms of sexuality as do other-sex oriented people.

Until recently, most theorists and therapists tended to view homosexuality as a deviant or aberrant form of behavior — a view still widely held by the general public and by certain religious groups.

Cross-cultural evidence demonstrates that same-sex behavior in many societies may be regarded as different but not morally defective or psychologically abnormal.

Socially-Institutionalized Homosexuality

Indeed, various indigenous groups, such as the Sambia on the island of New Guinea, actually have a form of socially-institutionalized and approved form of homosexuality in which adolescent males engage in same-sex acts, such as fellatio, before marrying a woman and rearing a family. Some males may choose to restrict their behavior to same-sex acts after adolescence and some married males may occasionally engage in same-sex acts.

By contrast, Western psychology and psychiatry, at least until relatively recently, have tended to regard same-sex behavior as abnormal and the product of inappropriate gender socialization.

Although Freud argued that humans are born with a bisexual nature which in time becomes mediated by culture, the American Psychiatric Association up until 1973 had designated homosexuality as a pathological form of behavior. The Association lifted its claim that homosexuality is abnormal in 1974, and now maintains that there is no scientific evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness of any therapies that attempt to transform homosexuals into heterosexuals.

In 1994, the American Medical Association, a traditionally conservative organization, called for "a non-judgmental recognition of sexual orientation by physicians."


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