Sunday, 19 August 2012

On homophobia

Here's a failure of imagination on my part. I can't get inside the mindset of a homophobe. To be a little more precise, I can't understand how a person can be revolted and disgusted by gay sex, yet thrilled and excited by straight sex.  It's all sex.  I could, I suppose, understand somebody who found sex revolting tout court; and once upon a time -- but a long, long time ago, surely -- culture defined sexual practice in more gender-determined ways (the missionary position for straights, sodomy for gays) so hating homosexuality was a way of indicating one's preferences in such matters.  But surely one of the fundamental problems 'homophobia' faces today is that straights and gays all get up to pretty much the same stuff in bed.  It's incoherent to hate and fear sex and to love and desire sex at the same time.

... and, of course, when I put it like that I get to the nub of the matter.  Hatred and fear is not coherent, or logical. Homophobes don't occupy a rational position.  Homophobes hate and fear because they love and desire.


Nicola Vincent-Abnett said...

Amen to that, although I do struggle with the question of time changing anything. I'm pretty sure sex was always sex, and that the acts have only ever been limited by the imaginations of the persons taking part, or, let's face it, person, singular.

nostalgebraist said...

I used to be a homophobe in this sense, when I was a young teenager. That is, while I can't remember ever being morally opposed to gay sex, I remember being disgusted by it in a way that I'm not now.

From what I can remember, my feeling of disgust towards gay sex was almost identical to my feeling of disgust toward the concept of incest. The concept of having sex with one of my male friends or acquaintances was unpleasant in the same way that the concept of having sex with my mother was unpleasant. And the argument presented in this post seems like it could apply just as well to incest ("it's all sex" -- i.e., there's no such thing as a specifically incestuous sexual position), and yet most people intuitively understand revulsion towards incest. Does that comparison illuminate anything?

(Though things are a little more subtle than I've suggested, because I think the reason the incest / gay sex comparison occurred to me, as a teenager, was that my prototypical image of "gay sex" was an image of having sex with one of my male friends -- and the repulsiveness of that image was much like the repulsiveness of incest in that it constituted a "pollution" by sexuality of a strong, existing non-sexual relationship. The fact that I never imagined heterosexual, non-incestuous sex as the sort of thing that could complicate an existing relationship probably says a lot about my attitudes at the time toward sex in general.)

Adam Roberts Project said...

nostalgebraist: that's a really interesting, and honest, post: it's made me think. In effect you're suggesting that the logic of homophobia has to do with taboo, in the sense that (say) Freud elaborated it?

Anonymous said...

"homophobia implicitly suggests that antigay attitudes are best understood as an irrational fear and that they represent a form of individual psychopathology rather than a socially reinforced prejudice" (Herek)