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19 Responses to “ “Stunted By Sexuality” ”

  1. John,
    Not speaking for Tom, I don’t think secrecy has done anyone any favors. What troubles me is the tendency now to build identity constructs around sexuality. “I am what I want.” Or even “I am what I love.”

  2. From the linked article:

    I was blessed with great male friendships as a youth and young man. I had at least one close male friend at every school I attended and in every city where I lived, until I got married in my 30th year. Three of these men were roommates of mine. But look out. There are dangerous words there. “Roommates.” “Men.” Does that pairing carry the same easy innocence it did 25 years ago? No, it’s tainted now with the question, “Are you . . . were you . . . ?”

    The words are only “dangerous” and only carry a “taint” because of an implicit abhorrence of homosexuality and the dread of being associated with it. (In my case, the answer would be “I’m straight, but I’ve shared premises with gay friends often enough.” And I would take offense at the question only if it were asked in a hostile or demeaning manner.)

    The general cultural acceptance of gays doesn’t create this problem, it solves it.

  3. Sure, you could say that, Adam. The thing is, when I was in those friendships there was never any question about sexuality entering in. No one, including myself, had to wonder about that.

    Your comment here makes it sound like you didn’t read the rest of what I wrote. Please beware of LMU blogging or doing similar kinds of commenting. You weren’t mocking, but you were doing something similar by pulling something out of context and missing the real point.

    You won’t find the real point in any short snippet, but you can easily obscure it with snippets. If you had even read ahead a couple of paragraphs you would have seen that my primary point had nothing to do with the stigma of homosexuality but with the confusion that can be introduced to same-sex friendships when there is the possibility of homosexual activity entering in. For example,

    Widespread homosexuality drapes a layer of confusion over friendships, especially for younger boys and girls asking themselves (as I never had to ask), “If I really like this friend, does that mean I’m gay?” It makes closeness confusing.

    Please read the linked Esolen article, too. Again, this is not about the stigma. It’s about something else.

  4. One more thing, Adam: sexuality can make opposite-sex relationships “dangerous,” too, in something like the same way I was referring to in the article. There’s a reason the words “sexual” and “tension” go together. There’s an energy, a power, a pull, to sexuality, that can make a relationship both extremely desirable and rather risky at the same time.

    The point of the article, again, has little or nothing to do with a “danger” of stigma, but with creating safe spaces for relationships that are free of that kind of sexual tension.

  5. The thing is, when I was in those friendships there was never any question about sexuality entering in. No one, including myself, had to wonder about that.

    Surely no one “has to” wonder about it, now or then. You didn’t question your own orientation, which is fine. But history testifies that in other dorm rooms in other colleges people of other orientations engaged in other activities. If we’ve traded the crippling stigmatization they endured for the inconvenience of having to specify our own orientation when the questions arises, it seems to me we’ve made tremendous moral progress.

  6. The point of the article, again, has little or nothing to do with a “danger” of stigma, but with creating safe spaces for relationships that are free of that kind of sexual tension.

    Creating safe spaces for non-sexual relationships is a laudable goal, and I would suggest that ending stigmatization is relevant precisely because it makes it possible for us to speak frankly with one another about what we do and don’t want from a relationship. Do you imagine non-sexual male-male friendships were never subject to malice or suspicion until Stonewall happened?

  7. “Possible to speak frankly.” Yes. It also makes it necessary to negotiate these things in each relationship. I don’t see that being a net plus at all.

    Let me ask you this: do you get the point of the articles? Do you see anything of value in them? Or is all just wrong? Could you explain what you think Esolen and I are trying to communicate? I’m asking because I don’t really see you displaying real understanding of what you are disputing.

  8. Adam, what if incest become normalised such that when people saw close-knit families they assumed, or at least didn’t rule out, the possibility of their having sex? Do you not think that your relationship with your parents/children/siblings would be impaired by the fact that any sign of affection towards or from them might now be interpreted as a sign of sexual attraction?

  9. Openness about homosexuality just acknowledges what always existed secretly before.

    “Given the stakes, most gays and lesbians are dismissive or hostile toward anyone who doesn’t think being gay is an essential, natural characteristic of some members of the human race. But a surprising group of people doesn’t think that – namely, scholars of gay history and anthropology. They’re almost all LGBT themselves, and they have decisively shown that gayness is a product of Western society originating about 150 years ago.”

    Always existed? No and they weren’t “born that way” either.

  10. BillT,

    Another quote from David Benkof shows he’s saying something more nuanced:

    There isn’t any evidence of straight people either. As far as we can tell, in societies before the 19th century, even happily married people were assumed to be capable of enjoying intercourse with either sex, and only our own society includes people believed to be unidirectionally oriented.

    Are you ready to agree with him on this as well?

  11. “Possible to speak frankly.” Yes. It also makes it necessary to negotiate these things in each relationship. I don’t see that being a net plus at all.

    I’m not sure it was ever possible not to “negotiate” these things in a relationship, if only implicitly or intuitively. A presumption of heterosexuality doesn’t create universal heterosexuality. Have you read Whitman’s Leaves of Grass? Whitman’s America had a very different vocabulary for these things, but Whitman seemed perfectly able to discern the spectrum of masculine friendship from platonic to sexual affection.

    I don’t really see you displaying real understanding of what you are disputing.

    I don’t really see you displaying any real understanding of my response to the articles, either, so maybe we should leave it at that. These things generally don’t get resolved in the comboxes of apologetic blogs, but I do thank you for your time and attention to my remarks.

  12. I need to call attention to the fact that being perceived as gay is a very serious problem for a heterosexual man today. Everyone will think he is defrauding his wife when he marries. Acceptance of homosexuality does not solve that problem.

  13. I dunno about that Esolen article. Seems to be based on some premises I can’t get behind. The notion that the current generation is going to hell and that kids today are in terrible shape – that’s always been the case. Cole Porter wrote “Anything Goes” in 1934. The idea that men cannot develop unless they are deliberately separated from women – well, I look at Saudi Arabia and I can but shake my head. And, of course, there doesn’t seem to be any consideration of the consequences to women of that exclusion.

    And I don’t think you can just brush aside the “stigma” issue. How exactly would you arrange things so that homosexuality was unthinkable without such a stigma?

    Also, whatever the virtues of men’s clubs – and I certainly grant that there are, I like “guy time” too – the way that they’ve been inextricably entangled with business and politics frequently shuts women out of critical elements of those spheres. Do we just accept that because guys should have robust friendships?

    In short, I’m not so sure the goods you seek are unattainable by other means, and I also think you’re not tackling some attendant costs of your approach.

  14. Hi MH

    “I need to call attention to the fact that being perceived as gay is a very serious problem for a heterosexual man today. Everyone will think he is defrauding his wife when he marries. Acceptance of homosexuality does not solve that problem.”

    That’s quite a broad definition you’re using there.

    Sincerely
    Shane