Without further ado, I present the modern concept of sexual abnormality. Modern civilization generally prevents ‘men’ from having any qualities in common with ‘women’ and this is the nucleus around which sexual perversion is organised. This monitoring of personalities begins in childhood in which girls are given toys and dolls to ‘prepare’ them for their future role of motherhood while boys are given games such as toy soldiers that involve critical planning and foresight for example.
Boys are monitored more closely than girls for the development of ‘appropriate’ personalities and interests, being called a ‘sissy’ has a negative value and is laced with contempt and derision. The term ‘sissy’ has feminine connotations and boys who get labelled with this term exhibit traits which boys have been taught to despise in men as they are ‘unnatural’ due to their supposedly innate femininity. These boys are thus threatened by the existence of ‘feminine’ boys and become insecure and try to prove their masculinity in the often cruel treatment of the boys who have been labelled ‘sissy’.
Today there is an underlying fear of homosexuality and what constitutes ‘normal’ sexual behaviour has been narrowly and rigidly defined.
Homosexuality questions the divisions between men and women that are believed to be ‘natural’ and furthermore also suggests a relationship that runs counter to male supremacy and the family. What society detests in homosexuality is precisely that a man offers himself to others as a passive object of desire.
In the past, men were not afraid to play a feminine role. This can still be seen today in some African cultures that still hold on to their roots in which men wear make-up and beautify themselves. Indeed, men were societally allowed to play a ‘feminine’ role in the past although these societies were very patriarchal. Patriarchy did not stop men from claiming personality aspects that are today ascribed to the feminine. (Apparently part of the reason there are strict gender divisions today has its roots in capitalism though I skipped that class so I cannot go deeper into it.)
The attitude in which beautiful men who are fond of make-up, jewelry and clothes are considered effeminate and/or shown hostility is specific to modern civilization…it did not exist before. (Can someone say social construction?!) The transformation of the world we live in into a modern one also involved the transformation of beauty into a specifically feminine attribute. (So… capitalism may add a different perspective to this.) Furthermore, in the past, one was while today one has. Therefore in the past a king was divine, handsome, beautifully dressed, materially rich because of who he was. Today, a rich man has a beautiful woman by his side. The nobles in days gone had to be more beautiful that the commoners because of who they were while the bourgeois of today have beautiful woman (even though they are ugly) because of what they have. Obviously the nobles were rich however, they were rich because they were nobles and were not nobles because they were rich. Birth played a role in these things.
In today’s society, you can only be one or the other, feminine or masculine. In other words, there seems to be a distaste for an androgenic role (as can be seen in the recent case of Caster Semenya). It has been suggested (Watanabe and Iwata) that restriction of the androgen role causes an envy of women to be developed in the male unconscious, which in him consolidates the taboo on the expressions of bisexuality. A restriction on men’s androgyny further results in a restriction of bisexuality and this is seen as a limitation on masculinity itself.
Thanks to Mellowyel for her lovely email (this girl always makes me think!) which led me thinking about the religious perspective which is based on the fact that gay sex does not produce offspring. I wanted to steer clear of the modern, Abrahamic, Western religion in these posts and instead focus on traditional, ancient, forgotten religions as my focus was historical. After reading more, I personally think the bringing in of children into this matter is a very modern phenomenon.
Now going into biology, the idea that ‘the natural type of [human] brain is female’ came up in my readings. Perhaps someone who has studied biology will be able to comment more on this, the operation of the androgen hormone during the 6th week after conception that enables the development of the male brain. I have been told that babies do not have a sex while in the womb though then I argued that the default (not only for a foetus) is assumed to be male (go and draw a stick figure without ribbons and ask people if it is male or female). I never even thought about the sex thing till I realised that they probably cannot differentiate the sex because the androgen hormone has not kicked into action yet.
It was also suggested that men may be psychologically affected due to the difficulty in the development of the foetus with the XY chromosomes into a normal boy. According to them, man is an altered state of woman and thus has the tendency to remain a woman as can be seen in the high number of male-to-female transsexuals as opposed to the female-to-male transsexuals. Man is more androgynous that woman and this may explain why transvestism and institutionalisation were often accorded only to men historically.
Now I am smart but not entirely, what I got from this was that foetuses are by default female. Then the Y chromosome sets to work after a while and then the foetus becomes male.
A man has to become a man due to society, in today’s world boys and girls are ‘socialised’ into contrasting personalities and roles. Gender divisions today are based on the biological and psychological differences thought to determine masculine and feminine personality. The naturally psychologic sex is undifferentiated at birth and the individual becomes psychologically differentiated as masculine or feminine in the course of growing up thanks to society.
Many of the stereotyped feminine characteristics are linked with the caring role of motherhood. This attempt to neatly section the masculine and feminine becomes a process in which concepts of ‘normal’ behaviour are contained in nice labelled boxes and feminine becomes the opposite of masculine.
So women are supposedly gentle, demure, sensitive, submissive, non-competitive, sweet-natured and dependent. Men on the other hand are supposed to be psychically strong, aggressive, assertive and to take the initiative, competitive. Women occupy the role of ‘being’ while men occupy that of ‘doing’.
I find this so interesting and I will have to go deeper into the socialization of girls and boys but that will be another post.
There, I have laid out everything I have read and promised to reproduce in a post. One may agree or disagree but I think looking at history does raise a lot of questions on what is today thought of as normal and natural. I mean if it is natural then it should always remain the same shouldn’t it? I do know there are people who will dismiss the pederastic traditions and the rites of passage as the ‘waywardness of the ancient people’ or their ‘deviance’. I find that to be very very condescending. Anyway I have my own beliefs on sexuality and it is simply that sexuality is not so easily defined, you know one’s either gay or straight or bisexual. From now on I reject all those terms…at least for my own self. I also reject this stupid accepted socially constructed notion of what is feminine and masculine if anyone tells me ‘this guy is acting like a girl’ they are going to get a long talk from me.
Books I read
Sharpe Sue (1976), ‘Just Like a Girl’: How Girls Learn to be Women, Penguin Books, Middlesex, England.
Tsuneo Watanabe & Jun’ichi Iwata (1989), The Love of the Samurai: A Thousand Years of Japanese Homosexuality, GMP Publishers Ltd., London.
Cartledge Paul (2003), The Spartans: The World of The Warrior Heroes of Ancient Greece, The Overlook Press, United States of America.