Erwin J. Haeberle
Bisexuality: History and Dimensions of a
(The article first appeared (in longer form) in E. J.
Haeberle and R. Gindorf (eds.): "Bisexualities - The Ideology and Practice
of Sexual Contact with both Men and Women", New York: Continuum 1998, pp.
1. If someone says, "There is a great deal of homosexuality in prison", he is speaking of homosexuality as a behavior, a particular kind of conduct. He is actually saying, "There is a great deal of homosexual behavior in prison". He does not mean to say that there are many "homosexuals" in prison or that many people there become "homosexual". Rather, the sentence merely states that many prisoners, lacking partners of the other sex, have sexual contact with one another.
2. An entirely different idea is behind the question, "Is homosexuality a sickness?" Here the word does not mean a kind of behavior or conduct, but rather a condition. Depending on the answer, the condition may be good or bad, but, in any case, it is a condition, a character trait, a type of quality inherent in certain persons. "Homosexuality" is something that some people have, not something that they do.
3. Finally, when researchers speak of different "homosexualities", they indicate that they think of "homosexuality" neither as a behavior nor a condition, but rather as a social role, that is, of different homosexualities as a spectrum of such roles. They do not mean different forms of same-sex contacts or different subdivisions of the same diagnosis, but rather different types and ways of how people live in society as "homosexuals."
Indeed, the noun homosexual itself can have three meanings: either someone who engages in a particular kind of conduct; or someone who has a particular condition; or someone who plays a particular social role.
In most Western countries, though, there is now a tendency to lump all three meanings together and to see conduct, condition, and social role as different aspects of the same phenomenon: "Homosexuals do what they do because they are what they are, and so they can always be recognized by their typical lifestyle."
This modern view, however, immediately becomes blurred once we turn our gaze to the past, that is, to a time before the word homosexuality had been invented. Our distant ancestors had, of course, a whole range of terms for same-sex eroticism. Of these, Greek love, pederasty, sodomy, and buggery are still known today. Yet none of these expressions can be correctly translated as "homosexuality", since they were meant to express entirely differene notions. First of all, they referred only to men. There was a special word for same-sex female eroticism: tribadism. (The word lesbianism for love between women was first introduced toward the end of the nineteenth century. Prior to that, already in antiquity, it had meant "oral intercourse", regardless of the sex of the persons involved.) There was no expression that would have applied to both sexes.
Second, the older terms referred only to sexual acts that, theoretically, could be performed by anyone; they did not suggest a particular type of person. A devotee of "Greek love", a pederast, a sodomite, or "bugger" (bougre in French) was someone who did certain things, not someone who suffered from a particular condition. Sodomites committed sodomy as thieves committed theft; both were very well capable of behaving correctly like everyone else. Thus, sodomy was no more a condition than was theft. Instead, these were acts committed wickedly and willfully, crimes that the community had to prevent or at least punish. It would therefore have been both pointless and impossible to call someone a "pseudopederast" or a "latent sodomite." It was just as inconceivable that adolescents should go through a purely psychological "sodomitic phase." There simply could be no thief without theft, no adulterer without adultery, no murderer without murder, no pederast without pederasty, and no sodomite without sodomy. In short, the old terms referred only to people who had actually performed certain acts. If there was no such act, the terms could not be applied.
It is also important to understand that "sodomy" and "buggery" were very negative terms¡ªafter all, they had been first introduced to describe religious "abominations", i.e., the sins of Sodom and the heresy of the Bulgarians ("bugger" is a corrupted form of Bulgar[ian]). Indeed, even the word "pederasty" became a term of reprobation as soon as people took it out of its original, ancient Greek context. "Greek love" was somewhat more neutral, but whoever wanted to say something positive about love between men had to forego all traditional terminology and try, with the help of amicable verbs, to formulate new, complete sentences avoiding the traditional loaded substantives.
Yet as long as the Occident was dominated by Judeo-Christian moral ideas, it would have been utter folly for upright citizens to say anything positive about same-sex eroticism. The few who dared to do so were quickly silenced and their works publicly burned. It was not until the Age of Enlightenment, the subsequent French Revolution and Napoleon's reforms that the religious influences on the penal law were removed, at least in parts of Europe. For the first time since antiquity, sexual contact between men lost its "criminal" character and could thus again be openly defended.
The first important defense of this still widely condemned behavior was written during the early nineteenth century by the Swiss milliner Heinrich Hössli (1784-1864). Under the title Eros: Die Männerliebe der Griechen¡ªihre Beziehungen zur Geschichte, Erziehung, Literatur und Gesetzgebung aller Zeiten (Eros: The man-male love of the Greeks¡ªIts relationships to the history, education, literature, and legislation of all time), the autodidact published a two-volume work whose subtitle hinted at a new idea: The Undependability of External Marks in the Sex Life of the Body and the Mind. This idea becomes clearer in an opening quote on the title page of the first volume. In it, Hössli's own comprehensive text is anticipated:
|"Rabbinical teachings about the soul have a peculiar trait, namely, they explain the contradictions in the character of the sexes and their often strange sympathies and antipathies by appealing to reincarnation such that, as homonymous poles, female souls in male bodies are repelled by women and male souls in female bodies are repelled by men, yet, conversely, they attract one another despite the same corporeal sex due to the different sex of the souls. A fabulous, yet quite refined and ingenious explanation of some matrimonial contrarities...."(Literatur-Blatt, edited by W. Menzel, June 4, 1834.)|
So here it is, two years after the death of Goethe, the future explanation of sodomy! For the first time in occidental apologetic literature, some strange creatures make their long-lasting, ill-fated appearance¡ªthe "female souls in male bodies, " the particular, as yet unrecognized and unclassified human beings, the mysterious, outwardly masculine non-males who are only acting in accordance with their female nature when they love men.
Hössli's entire work consists in showing that same-sex lovers have no choice. They have an entirely particular character of their own and are thus "different from the others." For this reason, it is unjust and a crime against nature to oppress or persecute them. After all, the ancient Greeks, as was well known, had never done this either. Modern laws that call for the punishment of such lovers must be abolished.
Hössli's two volumes had no measurable influence during his lifetime. A planned third volume did not appear, the work was banned altogether, and the remaining copies, stockpiled in an attic, were burned in an accidental fire. Yet a German forensic authority soon had ideas of his own that were similar to Hössli's. From 1852 on, J. L. Casper wrote various articles in his Vierteljahrsschrift für gerichtliche und öffentliche Medizin (Quarterly for Forensic and Public Medicine) and distinguished in them between acquired and congenital pederasty. He also found that the act of "sodomy" (anal intercourse) did not take place in all same-sex contacts, and that some such contacts were actually quite legal. In any case, most of the contacts could be proven in court only with difficulty, and it would therefore be best to let them all go unpunished. 1
Similar conclusions had been drawn by others in the meantime, and so the laws against "unnatural fornication" were abolished in several German states in imitation of the Code Napoléon. In Bavaria, Württemberg, and Hanover, for example, consensual sexual relations between men were no longer punishable. Unfortunately, though, the old laws in Prussia continued to stand, and it turned out that, in the course of the expected founding of the German Reich, Prussian law was to be extended to all German jurisdictions, including those already reformed.
|Three authors who were far ahead of their time in demanding the abolition of laws against same-sex behavior.|
|Heinrich Hössli||J. L. Casper||Karl Heinrich Ulrichs|
In the face of this worrisome development, a man-loving legal assessor from Hanover, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, set out on a lonely crusade. As early as 1864, under the pseudonym Numa Numantius, he had published two broshures: "Vindex" and "Indusa." The subtitle of the latter clearly summarized its content: "Proof that sexual love of men is hereditary in a class of anatomically male individuals."2. Laws against this love were therefore unjust and had to be abolished. After all, an absolutely fundamental principle was involved: The state may punish people only for what they do, not for what they are.
Both pamphlets were banned in several states and then allowed to be published again, attracting much attention in the process. They were soon followed by additional writings from the same pen and, in the course of the next thirteen years, the author produced exactly a dozen titles that elaborated his fundamental thesis. After some initial hesitation, he also abandoned his pseudonym and signed his real name. Indeed, Ulrichs went even further and appeared before a German lawyers' congress in 1867 in order to call for the decriminalization of love between men. However, his enraged colleagues shouted him down, and he had to leave the podium without having finished.
In spite of the great public interest in his work at the time, Ulrichs remained completely unsuccessful in reaching his goal. Impoverished and forgotten, he died in Italy in 1895. Nevertheless, in retrospect one can say that he was and still is one of the most influential figures in sex research. More than anyone else, he propagated same-sex love as a particular condition, a special way of being, and even researchers who rejected his conclusions accepted - sometimes unconsciously - his premises. For this reason, we quote Ulrichs's basic idea here in detail:
|At all times and among all peoples, the observer of the human race notices among anatomically male individuals expressions of sexual passion vis-avis anatomically male individuals.... The question then becomes pressing to him: "Is this phenomenon, which seems to be so abnormal, natural, genuine, sexual love?" The answer does not seem easy at first sight. For, on the one hand, a firm conviction tells him that a man cannot love a man. "Thus", he might conclude, "this phenomenon cannot be genuine natural love." On the other hand, though, all those expressions really bear the mark of unartificed true sexual longing. Thus, a seemingly inextricable entanglement.... And, yet, there is a solution. All difficulty disappears as soon as one reasons the other way around: "That love directed toward men is obviously true sexual love; a man cannot love a man: therefore, the loving part cannot be a true man."3|
This "untrue", i.e., "false" man belongs to a special group of people who had been hitherto unrecognized or overlooked. This was also the reason why there had not been any word for them, no term for their peculiarity. Thus, Ulrichs had to invent a new terminology and make it acceptable to all parties:
|Those men who, as a result of their congenital nature, feel attracted exclusively to male individuals, I call Uranians. I call their love Uranic and the entire phenomenon Uranism. The Uranian is a riddle of nature. He is a man only in regard to anatomy, not to amorous drive. Indeed, his amorous drive is that of a female.4|
This means that, in the case of a Uranian, anatomy and psyche, body and soul, are not in agreement. As a "half-man", he is therefore the representative of a "third sex." His case is best described as a "female soul in a male body, " or, as Ulrichs, the accomplished Latinist, put it: "Anima muliebris virili corpore inclusa." He derived the term "Uranism" for this state from a passage in the text of Plato's Symposium where a distinction is made between two Aphrodites or love goddesses: (1) the "common" Aphrodite, the daughter of Zeus and Dione and (2) the "Uranic" Aphrodite, the motherless daughter of Uranos who came into the world entirely without female participation. She is the goddess of love between men and of the Uranians. In contrast, the "common", "Dionic" Aphrodite is responsible for the love between man and woman and for the men who love women. Ulrichs calls them Dionians.
If one now applied this distinction not only to men but also to women, then the well-known two sexes turned into four: Male and female Dionians (old) and male and female Uranians (new). In addition to the complete, genuine, total men and women, one now had to recognize hybrid forms¡ªpreviously unsuspected pseudo-males and pseudo-females in whose bodies dwelled the souls of the other sex.
Unfortunately, however, Ulrichs was not able to enjoy the brilliance of his ingenious insight for very long, because a disturbing reality soon began to intrude and to dim its original luster. He received a large number of letters from enthusiastic readers who praised his basic idea but claimed certain exceptions, modifications, and additions for themselves. Some men, for example, did indeed feel attracted to the same sex, yet could not discover anything feminine in their own souls. Instead, they considered themselves masculine through and through. Others reported a persistent love for both sexes, and still others, in contrast, told of episodic changes between their desires for women and men.
Thus, Ulrichs had no choice but to modify his original thesis and to make room for variations. After much thought he therefore introduced a new scheme that, instead of the initially postulated four sexes, now presented a total of ten.5
The male (not the female!) Uranians now appeared in three variants: Masculinians, Intermediate Stages, and Femininians, and there also was a new category¡ªthe Uranodionians, who were attracted to both sexes and were themselves again divided into two subgroups¡ªthe conjunctive (persistent) and disjunctive (episodic) Uranodionians. Ulrichs was tentative abour the female version of this category, the female Uranodionians, because, while he saw them as theoretically necessary, he had apparently not yet received any information about their real existence.
At this point, Ulrichs's original, simple idea has already become quite complicated. Moreover, further possible differentiations are already contained in his new the outline. After all, if - just as in the male parallels - one should also admit three variants of the female Uranians and two variants of the female Uranodionians, one would arrive at a new grand total of thirteen sexes instead of the ten actually outlined here.
Yet a scheme that, instead of the traditionally accepted two sexes, now proposes thirteen, some of which are very fuzzily defined, no longer has anything in common with a brilliant idea, a simple explanation of otherwise inexplicable phenomena. On the contrary, it carries this explanation ad absurdum.
At this point, one might have expected that Ulrichs, corrected and instructed by reality, would have looked for another hypothesis, but far from it! It never occurred to him to doubt his own unquestioned assumption that "a man cannot love a man." Indeed, he did not understand that his entire theory had become necessary and possible only on the basis of this modern, quite arbitrary assumption that no ancient Greek or Roman would ever have made. Actually, no Arab, Polynesian, Chinese, or Japanese would have made it either or did make it during Ulrichs's lifetime. What appeared to him, a German lawyer, as a problem of natural science was, in reality, nothing more than a culturally defined, sociopolitical and ideological, i.e., "artificial" question, and a meaningful answer could have been expected only from a cultural science that critically reflected on itself. But such a science was still far away in the age of imperialism and the belief in unlimited progress.
In spite of his personal lack of success, Ulrichs's writings continued to have a growing long-term effect. True, people soon abandoned his poetic-literary terms Uranian and Uranodronian and replaced them with various expressions that sounded more medical or technical, but his naive association of same-sex erotic inclinations with a reversal of gender roles or identities was just as naively perpetuated. In the case of men, same-sex interests were somehow associated with a physical or mental "femininity", and, in the case of women, with a corresponding "masculinity". In 1869, for example, an Austro-Hungarian writer and journalist, Karoly Maria Kertbeny (originally Karl Maria Benkert), coined the Greco-Latin hybrid word der Homosexuelle (the substantive "homosexual") and, within a few years, the correlate der Heterosexuelle") also found wide acceptance. 6
Karoly M. Kertbeny
One year later, the Berlin psychiatrist Carl Westphal introduced the concept of "contrary sexual feeling" that was now supposed to designate a psychopathological condition.7 A patient fitting this diagnosis was a "contrasexual." Translated into Italian as amore invertito, it then became the English and French inversion. This, in turn, finally produced the German retro-translation Inversion. The patient suffering from this deplorable condition was an "invert." All of this meant what Ulrichs had also meant - a reversal or transposition of masculine into feminine erotic feeling in the case of men and of feminine into masculine erotic feeling in the case of women. The word "contrary"signalled that such a reversal went against nature and health, in short, that it was wrong, and that, ideally, there should be only complete "total men" and complete "total women" in whom everything "fit together."
As one can see, the Uranians, homosexuals, contrasexuals, or inverts disturbed a sense of psychiatric order. Female souls or feelings in male bodies (or vice versa) simply were not to be accepted as normal. This was some "psychic hermaphroditism", a psychosomatic hybridism in need of correction for the benefit of the hybrid patient. His or her soul had to be brought back into harmony with the obvious physical appearance.
The new scientific "experts" simply did not recognize that linking a particular erotic behavior to a particular gender role or identity was an arbitrary decision, an intellectual fad of the times, a typically modern scientific error. If one had instead, just as in antiquity, seen gender role and sexual behavior as two different, often mutually independent factors, one would never have been able to talk of hybridism. It would never have occurred to anyone to look for a sort of femininity in the same-sex desires of a man or for a sort of masculinity in those of a woman. Indeed, these problematic alleged characteristics of the other sex in persons having same-sex erotic feelings were simply psychiatric projections. Had one avoided or abandoned these projections, then the disturbance or "mismatch" would also have disappeared with them. Therefore, in the final analysis, it was an ignorant and arrogant psychiatric sense of order that here created the problem for itself.
One may note, however, that the nascent psychiatry of the 19th century was very grateful for the great number of patients produced by its projections. The hidden femininity of so many men was to be rooted out, and so many women were to be delivered from their unbefitting masculinity that a growing guild of psychiatrists was kept busy with the respective therapies. It would have been asking a great deal if one had pleaded with them to ignore this new source of income.
And almost no one in the medical profession dared to utter such a plea, except the Berlin "physician for nervous disorders" Magnus Hirschfeld. As he himself had same-sex erotic inclinations, he refused to find anything wrong with them. (Incidentally, Ulrichs had not done so, either.) Rather, Hirschfeld took up Ulrichs's concept of "intermediate stages", albeit in a much broader sense. According to Hirschfeld, in real life there was nothing but a large spectrum of intermediate stages between the "total man" and the "total woman." In the actual world, most people fell somehow between these extremes, in their anatomy as well as in their psychology. It was thus no wonder that there were masculine as well as effeminate homosexuals and heterosexuals. In either case, in fact in almost all cases, one was simply dealing with natural variations such as had to be expected among living creatures. (At most, anatomical deformations, i.e., the various forms of genuine, somatic hermaphroditism, could be pathological.)
In May 1896, Hirschfeld first introduced this idea that he had borrowed from Ulrichs. However, he was smart enough to put forth only two simple scales instead of his predecessor's confusing groupings and bracketed sub-groupings of ten or more different sexes.8
Figs. Hirschfeld 2 and 3
The first scale measures the "drive" in ten levels from 1 (apparent total lack) to 10 (wild frenzy); the second scale, likewise in ten levels, measures the degrees of "attraction" to the other sex or to one's own. There are three examples given for the second scale:
(1) In the case of a "total man" and a "total woman", a ten-level column of heterosexual inclinations stands opposed to a merely three-level column of same-sex inclinations. The latter are thus insignificant in comparison to the former.
(2) In the case of "psychycological hermaphrodites", both columns have seven levels and are therefore equal.
(3) In the case of a "complete Uranian", we find a constellation showing the exact reverse of the "total man" (ten-level same- and three-level heterosexual columns).
Hirschfeld exdudes any possibility of therapeutic influence on (1) and (3) and believes in a limited possible influence only on (2).
In fact, though, the three illustrated cases are only samples of the two extremes and of the exact middle. In real life, an infinite variety of possibilities lie between them and must be taken into account.
With these variable, ten-level columns, Hirschfeld broke free from the previous, confusing proliferation of petrified categories and made a differentiated view possible.
The progress in comparison to Ulrichs is clear, but his original error is yet again uncritically perpetuated. The arbitrary linkage of erotic inclination and gender role continues to be maintained: Men who feel same-sex erotic attractions are somehow feminized and their female counterparts are somehow masculinized. Homosexuality somehow has to do with a defective gender role or identity. Homosexual men are somehow lacking in real maleness and homosexual women are somehow lacking in real femaleness. Instead, the typical sensibility of the other sex, even if diluted a thousand times over, is in them somewhere, perhaps in their brains.
Now, Hirschfeld in particular knew very well that there were completely virile men who were attracted to other completely virile men, and this observation alone should have been enough to falsify the entire hypothesis. However, as Ulrichs and all the others had done before him, he resorted once more to circular logic: The inclination itself was an expression of femaleness, and this was proof enough even if no other trace of it was found. Loosely based on Ulrichs: "A man cannot love another man. If he does, then it follows that he is not a real male, but rather has a female or, at least with regard to this point, a feminized soul."
A man's psychological "femaleness" was thus always proven per definitionem and a priori by the mere existence of his same-sex inclinations, and any other proof was therefore unnecessary. All the better, though, if, in many men, feminized body forms or effeminate gestures also came into play. This could only support the original thesis.
Curiously enough, it was to be Hirschfeld's fate as a researcher to discover and name a sexologically new category of human beings - the transvestites. These were men and women who preferred to dress in the clothes of the other sex and to mimic that sex in speech and gesture as well. Unexpectedly, though, a great many of these very effeminate men and masculine women felt an erotic inclination to the other sex; indeed, many of them were married and wanted to remain so.
Nevertheless, even this did not faze Hirschfeld and his contemporaries. They simply talked of "miscellaneous psychological characteristics" that came into play here. On the other hand, one did recognize that male transvestites could, in turn, not only be more or less feminine or masculine, but also more or less homosexual or heterosexual. Feminine behavior in males and masculine behavior in females could thus become manifest independently of their homosexualiq or heterosexuality.
At this point, then, gender role and erotic predilection were finally beginning to be perceived as separate phenomena, and nothing more would have stood in the way of genuine conceptual progress. But this line of reasoning was not pursued long enough before the Nazi dictatorship put an end to German and then to other European sex research.
Interestingly enough, twelve years later, it was left to a trained biologist to prove Hirschfeld and all his predecessors wrong. In 1941, the American Alfred C. Kinsey had already conducted 1,600 of his interviews and examined the "criteria for a hormonal explanation of the homosexual?in a first publication. In it, Kinsey presented a thirty-point rating scale showing thirty cases from his collection that demonstrated thirty different shadings and combinations between exlusively heterosexual and exclusively homosexual behavior. 9 From these examples, Kinsey conduded that a hormonal explanation of "the homosexual" is extremely difficult at best, but probably impossible:
|Any hormonal or other explanation of the homosexual must allow for the fact that something between a quarter and a half of all males have demonstrated their capacity to respond to homosexual stimuli; that the picture is one of endless intergradation between every combination of homosexuality and heterosexuality; that it is impossible to distinguish so-called acquired, latent, and congenital types; and that there is every gradation between so-called actives and passives in a homosexual relation.|
|Any hormonal or other explanation of the homosexual must allow for the fact that both homosexual and heterosexual activities may occur coincidentally in a single period in the life of a single individual; and that exdusive activities of any one type may be exchanged, in the brief span of a few days or a few weeks, for an exclusive pattern of the other type, or into a combination pattern which embraces the two types.|
|Any explanation of the homosexual must recognize that a large portion of the younger adolescents demonstrates the capacity to react to both homosexual and heterosexual stimuli; that there is a fair number of adults who show this same capacity; and that there is only a gradual development of the exclusively homosexual or exclusively heterosexual patterns which predominate among older adults. 10|
This first essay, initially published in an endocrinological journal, attracted no serious attention despite its provocative statements. Their true implications were probably first understood by only very few readers. However, when Kinsey and his associates presented their famous first "Report" in 1948, it caused an international sensation. The text was now based on more than 11,000 interviews and presented its findings about homosexual behavior on a seven-part scale.11
Fig.4 Kinsey Scale
Of course, Kinsey's new, seven-point rating scale was basically a simplified version of his first. Indeed, this realization once again makes it clear that the important thing in the Kinsey scales is not the number of (arbitrarily determined) subgroups, but rather the fluid transition from one group to another. As Kinsey himself stated:
|Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. Not all things are black nor all things white. It is a fundamental law of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories. Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separated pigeonholes. The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behavior the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex. 12|
For Kinsey, then, nature was too varied to be forced into the picayune contrast "homosexual / heterosexual." Man as a species possessed the capability to react to same-sex as well as to other-sex stimuli, since he was heir to a corresponding mammalian heritage. If anything at all had to be explained here, then it was the exclusivity of behavior at both ends of the spectrum. Undoubtedly, this was to be attributed mostly to cultural intinences. In any case, from the standpoint of biology, homosexual behavior as such was just as "natural" as heterosexual behavior.
Kinsey's second, seven-part scale subsequently acquired a certain degree of international renown and was reprinted in many textbooks and reference works. Unfortunately, however, it was often incorrectly interpreted, because few people bothered to read Kinsey's own directions and explanations. Specifically, he emphasized that his scale represented both overt and covert experiences, i.e., not only actions performed but also purely psychic reactions that did not lead to any sexual contact at all. Thus, for example, a married man without any real homosexual contacts who regularly fulfilled his "marital duties" yet, while so doing, fantasized primarily about males, was not rated at 0, but rather at 2 or 3, according to how strong or frequent his homosexual wishes and fantasies were. On the other hand, a male prostitute who had only one girlfriend but thousands of male customers could receive the same rating of 2 or 3 if his actual sexual wishes were directed toward this girlfriend and he served his male clients without any erotic desire of his own "only for the money."
Alfred C. Kinsey
In view of the enormous, statistically documented discrepancies between wish and deed, in view of the enormous scope of variation between exdusively heterosexual and homosexual behavior, and in view of the many changes¡ªindeed reversals¡ªbetween them, Kinsey no longer saw any justification to speak about "the homosexual" as he had still done, albeit ironically, seven years earlier. He now drew the logical condusion:
|It would encourage clearer thinking on these matters if persons were not characterized as heterosexual or homosexual, but as individuals who have had certain amounts of heterosexual experience and certain amounts of homosexual experience. Instead of using these terms as substantives which stand for persons, or even as adjectives to describe persons, they may better be used to describe the nature of the overt sexual relations, or of the stimuli to which an individual erotically responds. 13|
Once this usage was adopted, it also became clear that the question about the number of homosexuals in a certain population had, as a matter of principle, no scientific answer. It was only possible to state how many people were to be assigned to which section of the Kinsey scale at any given time.
With his radical suggestions, though, Kinsey marched too far ahead of his contemporaries. They remained quite incapable of leaving their now familiar beaten track. The compulsion to dassify was simply too deeply ingrained. The German physician Walter Bräutigam, for example, expressly referred to Kinsey's research, but then nevertheless started to make a list of different "forms of homosexuality": developmental homosexuality, pseudo-homosexuality, inhibited homosexuality, and preferential homosexuality. 14
Whether wanted or not, such clinical typifications led many minds back to the idea that one was dealing with different types, hybrids, or intermediate stages of more or less distinct "homosexuals." It was not at all easy to distinguish beeween development in one instance and inhibition in the other, between real and pseudo-preference. Apparently, in case of doubt, some expert had to determine whether "genuine" homosexuality was present in a certain person. In any case, "preferential homosexuality" by implication once again referred to a distinguishable, particular group.
Yet, it was not only clinicians who saw merit in clearly distinguishing between heterosexuals and homosexuals. Indeed, prepared not least by Kinsey's enormous public effect itself, a homosexual liberation movement gradually arose, which also wanted a clear distinction. It fought for an end to social discrimination and for the reform of the penal law directed against homosexual behavior, and the demands seemed much more easily attainable if one postulated the existence of homosexual people who would then organize themselves as a large sociopolitical pressure group and "sexual minority".
In view of the necessary gay liberation struggle, Kinseys abolition of "the homosexual" seemed to be of little help, indeed, it seemed retrogressive. Therefore, this old-fashioned psychiatric Golem who, in the Kinsey reports, had already crumbled to statistical dust, was quickly resurrected as the modern gay man, clad in a stylish "Castro clone" costume - a modern, strong, and healthy fighter for the Good. Moreover, he was soon joined on the front lines by the lesbian woman, and thus there arose a new social group that, in pursuit of its goals, cultivated a separate identity of its own.
Of course, this process was set in motion and maintained by sociopoliticat forces, not scientific discoveries. In the daily struggle for power and influence, science first had to take a back seat. Eventually, though, the burgeoning gay movement also led to a growing acceptance of gay research and this, in turn, brought long-forgotten historical and ethnological facts to light that did not jibe with the initial, naive gay self-image. In 1974, for example, there appeared the first issue of a special scientific journal, the Journal of Homosexuality, that became increasingly self-critical under its openly gay editors. Among other things, Kinsey's work was also rehabilitated; indeed, his ideas were again taken up and pursued much further than he himself had dared to pursue them at the time; but more about this below.
At first, the postulate of a "gay or lesbian identity" led to a dichotomization that was useful for the gay movement. One either belonged or one didn't. One was either gay or not, and if one was, even in secret, then one had the moral duty to strengthen the ranks of the oppressed brothers and sisters by "coming out" openly, i.e., by admitting to "being gay."
In fact, more and more men and women soon decided to take this step. The movement grew and won an increasing number of rights for itself. With success, though, there appeared unexpected signs of fragmentation as well. For example, a new, hitherto unknown group began to organize because it found itself oppressed by both dichotomized camps - the bisexuals.
They refused to join either side, established their own organizations and journals, and finally held their own national and international congresses with the expressed goal of bringing together bisexuals for the representation of their own interests. Indeed, some demanded a special bisexual identity for themselves and their lovers of both sexes.
This also followed the logic of the new sociopolitical developments. Indeed, there had already been similar self-identifications for some time. Thus, some men and women took the seven stages of the sliding Kinsey scale, entirely against the intentions of the author, as a fixed designation of types and then typified themselves as a "Kinsey 3" or a "Kinsey 2", for example. This again shows how much Kinsey's suggestion went against the intellectual climate of the times, how difficult it was for most people to understand him at all, and how stubborn the urge to categorize still remained. The classified as well as their classifiers simply could not break free from the old way of thinking, the old concepts, the old ideas. Only a few of them were aware that these ideas had first been introduced by Ulrichs and were thus little more than one hundred years old.
With their deliberate self-organization, the bisexuals also began to require a dichotomization that would help them to draw clear lines. They wanted to be able to distinguish between themselves and others and therefore invented the new term "monosexual" for them. The former "heterosexuals" and the former "homosexuals" were thus united under an overarching concept: They were erotically interested in only a single sex (regardless of whether it was the other or the same one). Compared with this, then, the bisexuals now appeared as the actual fully rounded personalities, the only real "total men" and "total women." (This witty terminological move was not completely new, however, as Hirschfeld's contemporary Benedikt Friedländer had already mocked nonbisexuals as "stunted?or "morally stunted ") 15
Predictably, all of these polemical and combative ideas contributed little to rational insight, and they did not stand up to critical examination over time. As Ulrichs and all his disciples after him had also had to learn, things are not quite so simple, and, in their zeal, neither the old psychiatrists nor the new gay and bisexual liberators did justice to the complexity of the issue.
A well-known author on the topic of bisexuality realized this early on. The American therapist Fritz Klein followed Kinsey's lead and constructed a "sexual orientation grid" that divided up seven variables in three dimensions (past, present, and ideal). One number from 1 to 7 (corresponding to the numbers 0 to 6 in Kinsey's scale) was to be entered into each of the resulting twenty-one spaces. Completely filled out, the grid gives a very differentiated, individualized picture that hardly ever repeats itself exactly even in larger groups, such as among the male and female students in a classroom. 16
At best, Klein's grid is again nothing more than a simple teaching aid to illustrate the complexity of what is today usually called "sexual orientation." The scientific discussion about this has since developed much further, as it received a powerful impetus from sociology at the end of the 1960s, contemporaneous with the growing gay movement.
The closer study of "deviance" and "stigma" to which critical sociologists turned in the 1960s, sooner or later also had to lead to different approaches in sex research. On the topic of homosexuality, one of the first signs of this was the essay "The Homosexual Role" by Mary McIntosh (1968).
This author again denied - and more emphatically than Kinsey - that "homosexuality" was a condition, an essence,
or exclusive character trait of certain people. After all, there were still the "bisexuals", who made any clear
distinction impossible. In addition, it was obvious that "homosexuals" voluntarily or involuntarily played a deviant
and stigmatized social role and that other people, certain "non-homosexuals" in particular, did not play this role
despite de facto identical sexual behavior. Therefore, any attempt to contrast a "clean" random sampling of
homosexuals with an equally "clean" control group of "heterosexuals" was scientific nonsense and purely
arbitrary. For this reason, it was also pointless to investigate the genesis of the supposed character trait
|"One might as well try to trace the etiology of 'committee chairmanship' or 'Seventh-Day Adventism' as of' homosexuality'." 17|
Instead, she proposed that researchers should investigate why and how the incorrect notion of homosexuality as an essence had developed in the first place.
This proposal was indeed taken up by several "gay" historians who showed that the role of the "homosexual, " as we know him today, first arose in the course of the eighteenth century with the beginning industrialization in Europe. Soon, though, they were contradicted by other "gay" historians who, at least in isolated instances, believed to have discovered examples of this role, indeed, genuine "gay communities", already in antiquity and the Middle Ages. Initially, this dispute among experts confused many observers. 18
Additional impetus from the sociological side was thus more important for the continued debate. The Americans John Gagnon and William Simon, both associates of the Kinsey Institute, for the first time interpreted sexual behavior as "scripted behavior."
John Gagnon and William Simon
According to them, human sexual behavior is not the natural expression of a universal inner drive, but rather the result of individuals processing and appropriating different (in part competing and even mutually exclusive) "scripts" furnished by society. Here, the word script is to be understood like a screenplay or a theatrical text telling one how to act. It also tells us when and how to react to other people's "cues" and what the entire drama means. Since everyone of us is offered an entire bundle of different sexual scripts from different sources (parents, siblings, friends, church, school, mass media, and so forth), we must choose from among them or, more particularly, we must piece together our own script over the course of time from the various scripts according to our own preferences and abilities. Armed with this personal script, we then meet male or female partners who also follow their own scripts, and these scripts can either be reconciled with ours or not. Or a mutual accomodation results: Both partners change their scripts a little in order to arrive at a new, common script they can live with as a couple. 19
However, scripting has not only the just mentioned intrapsychic and interpersonal aspects, but also a general, cultural one: Scripts also determine what is considered "sexual" in a particular culture and what sexual behavior is considered conformist or deviant and under what circumstances. In this sense, "homosexuality" as a concept and its positive or negative connotations are also culturally determined constructs. Such constructs determine the bounds within which couples and individuals experience and help to create - as well as misunderstand - their own conformity or deviance.
For example, an old and, despite all scientific progress, long-lived misunderstanding is the equation of reproductive behavior, gender behavior, and sexual behavior. If researchers do not keep these three behaviors separate, they will unavoidably go astray. As John Gagnon explains:
|Appropriate patterns of reproductive, gender, and sexual conduct are all products of specific cultures and all can be viewed as examples of socially scripted conduct. Western societies now have a system of gender and sexual learning in which gender differentiated scripts are learned prior to sexual scripts, but take their origins in part from these previously learned gender scripts.... There are two important points: The first is that both gender and sexuality are learned forms of social practice, and the second is that looking to "natural differences" between women and men for lessons about sexual conduct is an error. 20|
Yet, apparently, this error is very hard to correct. For example, the gender role reversal among feminized male rats and their subsequently changed postures, movements, and gestures in attempted reproductive behavior, have led some hormone researchers to false conductions about sexual behavior between men. 21
Such conclusions are inadmissible on logical grounds alone, to say nothing of the fact that rats are not people. (It goes without saying that so-called "homosexuals" reproduce in exactly the same way and with the same gestures, movements, and body language as "heterosexuals", a fact that many lesbian mothers and gay fathers will gladly confirm.) Or, to take another example, the researchers Ulrichs and Hirschfeld saw a reversal of gender in homosexual behavior, e.g., a female or feminized psyche in men. Not only that, many of their readers, thanks to the massive suggestion of their environment, actually experienced this in themselves. Following the script handed to them by their culture, they thought that homosexuals were somehow feminized, and therefore they devoloped all sorts of feminine mannerisms, often up to the point of "going in drag", i.e., wearing dresses, even if they did not have any transvestite inclinations. Lesbian lovers, on the other hand, made an effort to simulate a division of gender roles like those between a man and a woman. One played the "active" masculine role (butch) and the other the "passive" feminine role (femme). Among both gays and lesbians, these stereotypes often determined the minutest details of sexual contact.
For example, in the late 1960s, i.e. before the successes of the modern gay movement, it was obvious to every visitor that the San Francisco "scene" was dominated by "drag queens", effeminate "Marys" and "sissies, " and even the other, outwardly inconspicuous gays had a repertoire of feminine, "limp-wristed" gestures which they used, often emphatically and ironically, among themselves. They addressed one another with female first names, not infrequently giggling and shrieking like schoolgirls. When sexual contact occurred, a distinction was often made between "active" and "passive" roles. Gay bars competed for customers with "female impersonators", "male actresses", and "drag shows."
Fifteen year later, after the almost complete victory of gay liberation in San Francisco, the drag shows had disappeared from the bars. Customers were no longer concerned with the distinction between "active" and "passive"; instead, "everybody did everything". Almost no one believed any longer in the old T-shirt inscription: "It's a bitch to be butch!" On the contrary, a great majority now cultivated a decidedly masculine appearance with deep voices, short-cropped hair, mustaches, lumberjack shirts, blue jeans, and thick-soled hiking boots. This then became fashionable in the other gay scenes of the U.S. and Europe as the "Castro clone look" (named after Castro Street in San Francisco).
In both cases, however, these were mostly the very same people who now, by the late seventies, had grown fifteen years older.
This dramatic change in the appearance and self-perception of gays can best be explained by new internal and external scripting. This change also once and for all laid to rest the old theories from Ulrichs to Hirschfeld that had linked homosexual behavior to a reversal of gender roles. Indeed, as now had become clear, this linkage had nor been "given by nature", but rather had been imposed by culture. It now revealed itself as an instrument of oppression and self-oppression, as the way of living up to a cliché, as a type of self-fulfilling prophecy. As soon as the oppression was lifted and a sufficient measure of gay self-determination had been attained, the old cliché lost its force.
Needless to say, the "Castro clone look" itself was also a cliché, albeit a historically necessary one. It was a deliberately developed "countercliché", as it were, that finally destroyed all the old prejudices not only in society but also in one's own head. Not until gays had convinced themselves through their own experience that they by no means had to be feminine but could, on the contrary, be supermasculine, was it possible for them to bring about for themselves the dissociation of sexual behavior from a reversal of gender roles. After that, it was only the broad, "unenlightened" public - including the political and religious "gay bashers" - and some researchers who still believed in the old stereotypes. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, they simply failed to notice the great "turnaround" in the gay scene.
The basic assumptions of the scripting theory were thus once again confirmed:
(1) Sexual behavior varies according to culture and historical period.
(2) The significance (in the double sense of importance and meaning) of sexual behavior varies according to culture and historical period.
(3) The definition of what is "sexual" and its experience vary according to culture and historical period.
(4) The linkage of sexual behavior, gender behavior, and reproductive behavior varies according to culture and historical period.
(5) The academic study of all this (i.e., sex research or sexology) is itself culturally and historically determined with respect to both subject and method. 22
Thus, scripting theory was able to become critical also of its own conductions (and those of all other theories). These conclusions were not "eternal truths", but rather intellectual conventions acceptable here and now. All explanations of the cause of homosexuality, for example, are never more than "culturally plausible reports", regardless of whether they are given by scientists or ordinary "gay people". It is important only that the reports come from "authorized explainers". According to the cultural environment in question, these can be priests, lawyers, psychiatrists, endocrinologists, neurologists, geneticists, sex researchers or early "gay" thinkers, or other "authorities." Today, though, not everyone accepts all authorities, if only because they vehemently contradict one another. In fact, various older or more recent reports appear plausible to different academic schools or sexual-political groups, and thus even the "scientific" discourse now presents us with a "simultaneity of the unsimultaneous."
Furthermore, such reports or, to put it more precisely, justifications of motivation, are generally offered only for same-sex behavior. Heterosexual behavior is largely seen as unproblematic and requiring no explanation. Only when it, too, violates social norms, (as in the cases of adultery, sex with minors, or rape) is a search for the causes made. The decisive motive for this search, however, is always the wish to prevent the violation of norms in the future. The "explanation" that is then finally offered must be plausible in this sense for the culture concerned: "
|Such ways of explaining conduct should be understood as cultural conventions rather than scientific truths." 23|
Applied to the supposed scientific problem of explaining homosexual behavior, this means for John Gagnon that:
|From the perspective of scripting theory, same-gender erotic preferences are elicited and shaped by the systems of meaning offered for conduct in a culture. What is usually construed as culture against "man" or culture against nature is thus actually conflict among differently enculturated individuals or groups. 24|
|What is required is a constant recognition that acts of usage and explanation are acts of social control in the strong sense, that "homosexual" and "homosexuality" are names that have been imposed on some persons and their conduct by other persons - and that this imposition has carried the right of the latter to tell the former the origins, meaning, and virtue of their conduct.25|
This is true, although, on the face of things, it was initially men-loving authors like Ulrichs, Kertbeny, and Hirschfeld themselves who had propagated labels like "Uranian", "homosexual", and "third sex." They had done this, however, only as a reaction to concrete social oppression which they hoped to escape through the postulate of a special class of people. Indeed, the legal context in which these neologisms arose irrefutably proves this (the struggle for the abolition of the Prussian penal paragraph 143, the corresponding paragraph 152 in the North German Federation, and finally paragraph 175 of the new German Reich).
Since the topic of homosexuality ultimately always has to do with social disputes, Kinsey, the biologist, was also naive when he justified the great breadth of variation between exclusively heterosexual and exclusively homosexual behavior by pointing to the diversity of nature.
According to him, erotically exclusive behaviors are deliberately cultivated by societies just as plant monocultures are in modern factory farming or in the so-called agribusiness. If human nature were simply left alone, its great erotic diversity would also remain apparent for all to see.
Gagnon holds against this that scientific considerations of this sort play virtually no role in the social reality of our Western industrial world and that, on the contrary, clear delineations are the order of the day. Heterosexuals, homosexuals, and bisexuals constitute themselves as groups and fight over their "appropriate" position in society. In so doing, they develop their own respective scripts and paradigms, which are never anything more than ideological instruments of struggle. For several sex researchers, Kinsey's biological explanation sufficed to dissolve the traditional dichotomy of heterosexuality/homosexuality, but it was not plausible enough to modern Western culture in general to succeed politically.
Nor did the ideological critique by openly "gay" researchers accomplish anything in this regard. For the German-speaking countries, for example, Rolf Gindorf criticized Ulrichs's, Kertbeny's, and Hirschfeld's ideological and biologistic concepts of sexuality already in 1977 and pointed out the dangers immanent to those concepts. Instead of the classical sexual theory of a universal (and uniquely "healthy") heterosexuality on the one hand and of its "homosexual counter-ideology" of a specific biological-genetic "predisposition" on the other hand, he called for an "overcoming of the dichotomization":
|The dilemma of traditional sex research lay in the unconscious, but unquestioningly assumed division into opposing drives and hereditary factors.... The division into heterosexuality and homosexuality, into heterosexuals and homosexuals, is also an artifact that rests on a grave error, namely, on the assumption that a fundamentally different model is necessary to explain heterosexual and homosexual behavior. The entire investigation of etiology was ideologically loaded beforehand because it separated a segment of the sexual continuum and attempted to make analyses with the help of fundamentally different concepts. 26|
Here, too, heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality were already characterized as "virtual realities", 27, a view that later came to be called "social constructionism."
But it was all in vain: The discriminators and the discriminated, the researchers and their objects, maintained - albeit for opposite reasons - the postulate that "homosexuals" were identifiable as a group. Therefore all of them also continued the search for the cause of that identifiability.
The searchers for causes are today referred to by the umbrella name "essentialists". They are mostly natural scientists who believe in an essence, special quality, character trait, or condition called "homosexuality." On the opposing side are the "constructionists", mostly social scientists. For them, "heterosexuality", "homosexuality", and "bisexuality" are nothing more than sociopolitical constructs which are misunderstood as natural phenomena.
The essentialists seek the cause of homosexuality somewhere in given biological factors, in a person's physical
in prenatal hormonal influences, certain brain structures, or in the genes. 28
The essentialists believe that these physical/biological factors, individually or in combination, explain the inclination to same-sex contacts. This explanation, in turn, is then supposed to relieve homosexuality of all moral blame, because it would stand revealed as a somatically determined and diagnosable condition - like skin color, hair color, and left-handedness, for example.
If homosexuality, like skin color, should finally turn out to be a physical characteristic, then, it is hoped, there would no longer be any reason for discrimination. Homosexuals would have to be given their full civil rights, and natural science would once again have liberated a prematurely judged, oppressed class of people by means of clear identification and value-free classification.
However, instead of reaping universal gratitude for their efforts, the essentialists find themselvs mocked and ridiculed by the constructionists at every turn, and a flood of arguments rains down upon them:
(1) Natural science has never liberated anyone. On the contrary, its findings have all too often been misused for the worst kind of oppression. Social Darwinism, racism, forced "eugenics", and psychiatric torture are only the most obvious examples. Proof of a biological predisposition toward homosexuality would only be cause for further discrimination. Hirschfeld's thesis of congenital homosexuality, for example, was by no means a barrier for the Nazis' persecution of homosexuals, but rather served as a welcome justification. After all, the "Reichsführer SS" Heinrich Himmler, without scientific proof and solely on the basis of his "Germanic spleen", also firmly believed that homosexuality was congenital. For exactly that reason, he had homosexuals, including his own nephew, killed by the thousands as "racially inferior".
(2) Obvious congenital biological characteristics like skin color and sex have by no means protected blacks and women from disenfranchisement. Indeed, even left-handed and redheaded people have occasionally been oppressed and disadvantaged.
(3) It is quite naive to assume that prejudiced people who are eager to discriminate can be stopped by scientific arguments. Thus, the real question is not "What biological condition do we find?" but rather "What social consequences should follow from the condition once we find it?" The answer to this question is always a value judgement. Value judgements, however, are a moral issue, not a scientific one.
(4) Moreover, proof of a physical trait that "excuses" homosexual behavior would lead to yet another, very interesting question: "How should the homosexual behavior of persons be judged who have not been shown to possess this trait?" Since they are not biologically excused and thus act "unnecessarily" and "willfully" should they be condemned? If so, should those found guilty be able to claim another, unknown, as yet undiscovered somatic cause? Should society then set up an entire system of experts in order to distinguish "real" from "fake" homosexuals according to the most recent scientific findings? But if the "fake" ones would not be condemned, i.e., if society intends to tolerate even "willful" homosexual actions anyway, then what was the purpose of all that previous, allegedly exculpating research?
(5) In the age of genetic manipulation, proof of a "gay gene" is a rather nightmarish idea. Were such evidence
to become available, one might well fear that people would soon try to locate the gene in unborn fetuses. Then the parents
could decide whether they wanted to have a "gay" son or a "lesbian" daughter. If not, an abortion could
be offered. How many people would take advantage of this? How many could pay for it? In which countries could a prenatal
diagnosis be offered? To which citizens? At what prices? Should health insurance companies pay for it? Should a "medical
indication" for its permissibility be introduced? In the end, would there be homosexuals only in poor countries and in
poor segments of the population? But isn't it exactly there, where the birth rates are highest? Would homosexuality, like
rickets in earlier times, ultimately become a new mark of poverty? Conversely, could the birth of homosexuals one day be
consciously and intentionally promoted? Who could have an interest in this, and under what circumstances? Lesbian mothers,
for example, who would pay for artificial insemination by a gay man? Or "normal", nonconformist parents who
thereby want to protest against the government? Would the birth of a homosexual child thereby become proof of its parents'
political unreliability? Or, on the contrary, could governments become active, wanting to compensate for a shortage of
women by offering premiums for homosexual progeny? 29 Could and should "gay" soldiers be bred for special elite
troops, similar to those in ancient Greece? Could the widespread implantation of "the gay gene", especially in
third-world countries, ultimately be the only way to prevent the world population explosion? 30
Such questions and many others have not even been asked yet, let alone thought through.
(6) In all this, the criteria formulated by the biologist Kinsey as early as 1941 for an explanation of "the homosexual" continue to be completely disregarded. For example, are scientists also planning to discover a large number of variably distinct "bisexual genes"? And if such genes were found, what would this accomplish? Are they really needed in order to justify the existing sexual diversity? But if they are not needed for that purpose, would simple proof of a "gay gene" be enough? After all, one could claim that this gene was sometimes or often modified or weakened in its effect by various social influences. But if social influences could, through this back door, again have a determining and exculpating effect, then what is the reason for all that preceding natural scientific research?
Summa summarum: It would be wrong to see only an old, familiar pattern in the debate between essentialists and constructionists: nature vs. nurture, innate vs. acquired traits. This by now entirely obsolete debate existed already in the eighteenth century between "preformationists" and "epigenesists." The former believed that every future organism was already "preformed" at the beginning of its growth and thus already contained all future developing traits en miniature. The latter, on the other hand, believed in a postnatal shaping by the environment.
But this is no longer the point of contention today. Everyone agrees that innate as well as acquired factors have an effect on human behavior. Much more important now are the fundamentally different scientific assumptions in the definition of the scientific object. One group claims to study a concrete object existing in reality, "the homosexual." However, this "natural" existence is disputed by the other group. Any agreement between the two hostile camps on what exactly is to be studied is therefore impossible. They use the same terms, and both speak of homosexuality, but with very different implications, and thus they simply talk past each other. It is like the case of tunnel drillers who begin working simultaneously on opposite sides of a mountain (here called "homosexual behavior") but who, in the middle, miss one another by miles. It thus turns out that they simply had worked on different levels.
The constructionists do not deny that homosexual behavior exists, but they do deny that this behavior defines a certain type of person. Rather, it is a behavior that occurs rarely, occasionally, frequently, or constantly in many people; it grows stronger, weakens, or disappears, and, in many cases, it exists concurrently or intermittently with heterosexual behavior. This observation alone invalidates every attempt to localize any sort of physical predisposition to homosexuality in certain individuals. For example, the selection of a "homosexual" random sample as well as an appropriate (opposite) control group raises considerable methodological problems. However, with an astonishing naivité, these are simply ignored by most natural scientists.
When a biologist, endocrinologist, neurologist, or geneticist looks for "homosexuals", he usually finds them among volunteers from "gay" organizations, bars or clubs, among readers of "gay" magazines, in correctional institutions, or in various patient collectives. Their own claim that they are "gay" or "homosexual" is usually taken at face value. Hardly anyone asks about their actual (and not infrequently bisexual) behavior. Indeed, neurologists have even compared the brains of supposed "homosexual" and "heterosexual" corpses that could no longer be questioned. If questions are asked at all, the Kinsey scale is often used, but never as its author intended. On the contrary, the scale is misapplied as a means to place the subject, as a type, on one of the levels from 0 to 6 according to the frequency of his homosexual contacts. It is then also left to the discretion of the investigator where he draws the line for heterosexuality. At 6 or 5 or 4? Or even at 3? Investigators themselves sometimes also decide without further questions whether a particular subject is homosexual. They simply judge according to appearance or body language or even according to information from third parties. But even if there could be general agreement on strict criteria for a "homosexual" random sample, and even if these criteria could then also actually be met, there would still be the question about the necessary size of that sample i.e., about how representative it was or could be of all persons with predominantly homosexual behavior. Any claim to universal validity founders on to this question alone.
Conversely, control groups frequently consist of participants in other, nonsexological studies, and these participants are often simply classified as heterosexuals without any background checks whatsoever, especially if they come from the same work group or are even colleagues of many years. It is just simply inconceivable that such people and other acquaintances should be homosexual or even bisexual! For that reason, an exhaustive questioning of control groups is even rarer than that of the original samples. 31
The strength of the evidence presented in many homosexuality studies is correspondingly minimal. Different investigators proceed from entirely different definitions of who their subjects are and then also constitute their differently sized random samples according to completely different criteria. Some American critics once took the trouble to analyze two hundred twenty-eight articles about homosexuality from forty-seven different scientific journals. The fundamental definitions of "sexual orientation" diverged so far from one another that, in the end, "nothing could be compared with anything" and there was no appreciable overall result. The critics came to the conclusion that all such investigations would remain unfruitful as long as they assumed the existence of a homosexual identity or a dearly definable homosexual orientation. They also conducted that, in the future, it would make more sense to investigate only sexual relationships, not homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual individuals. 32
But even if, against Kinsey's advice, one were to "divide the world into sheep and goats" and were to study only "pure" random samplings and control groups from the extremes of 0 and 6 on his scale, what would it prove, since all others, some of whom repeatedly move back and forth between 1 and 5, would remain unconsidered? What could be learned about them, and how?
Indeed, it was no accident that even the inventors and propagandists of "the homosexual" from Ulrichs to Hirschfeld sooner or later, for better or worse, had to concern themselves with "transitions" as well. All of their parentheses, columns, bars, and sliding scales, all their subgroups, special forms, and "intermediate stages" were surely enough indication that, upon closer view, the "third sex" itself dissolved into a multitude of new sexes. Thus, in the end, the "bisexuals" always ruined even the most ambitious theory of homosexuality.
In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, attempts to bring the diversity somehow into a simple system of classification never ceased. Still, eventually, investigators learned from past mistakes and no longer tried to classify individuals, but rather their behavior, and this in such a way that a single conceptual key would open all secret doors.
An interesting attempt of this sort was made by John Money, who thereby hoped at the same time to mediate in the debate between essentialists and constructionists. His new magic formula was called "Nature¡ªCritical Phase¡ªCulture"; that is to say, biological predispositions are formed in a critical early phase of fetal or child development in such a way that subsequent cultural influences have an effect primarily in a particular direction and no longer in another. He sees homosexual and bisexual behavior (as well as several other types of otherwise puzzling behavior) as being explained by an early "gender cross-coding." 33
However, well-intentioned as the effort is, it has a serious drawback: Once again, same-sex behavior is explained as a transposed gender role or identity, as if in men it somehow had something to do with femininity and in women it somehow had something to do with masculinity. Indeed, Money's "gender cross-coding" is all too reminiscent of Westphal's "contrary sexual feeling." Therefore, after everything that has been said so far, our esteemed colleague's presumed new insight can only give the impression of being a rehash of long outmoded ideas. After critical examination, his entire scheme thus seems like a procrustean bed into which he, for the sake of diagnostic order, forces all sorts of phenomena that are actually independent of one another. It is simply too nice and too good to be true.
The repeated, and now probably final, deconstruction of the categorical triad "Homosexuality - Bisexuality - Heterosexuality", the disappearance of this concept and of all concepts derived from it in the recent sex research literature, the current attempts to address the old questions differently and with a different vocabulary, must sooner or later also have consequences for scientific and professional practice. This can be shown most easily with an example from epidemiological research.
In view of the threat posed by AIDS, anonymous surveys were designed in many countries in order to determine the actual or possible risk of infection among persons willing to be tested or who had already been tested. Initially, the questionnaires were often very naive. A man, for example, might simply be asked before a test, "Are you gay?" If he answered "yes", then "homosexuality" was checked in a box on the form as a risk factor. If he said "no", it automatically meant the box "heterosexuality." Only gradually did epidemiologists understand that not all self-defined gays are sexually active and that many men with same-sex contacts do not define themselves as gay. So the question was changed to "Have you had homosexual contacts?" Yet all too many persons who were questioned still did not think that their own same-sex activities were being referred to, especially if they simultaneously also had heterosexual relationships. Having become somewhat cleverer, the questioner then asked, "Have you had homosexual or bisexual contacts?" According to the answer, one of three boxes was then checked: "Patient is heterosexual?" or "Patient is homosexual" or "Patient is bisexual." But here, too, the questioners had to learn that many men did not associate the word "homosexual" with their own same-sex activities and that others rejected the label "bisexual" for their behavior despite proven or admitted sexual contacts with both women and men. Therefore, one finally asked them separately and even more simply, "Did you have sexual contact with men, with women?" If both were affirmed, the interviewer wrote, as usual, "Patient is bisexual. " Not only that: the persons in question, together with "the homosexuals", were added to a new epidemiological category, "homosexual and bisexual men". (By the same logic, of course, one might also have lumped together "heterosexual and bisexual men", but this did not occur to anyone.) The new, combined category ("homo/bi) was then introduced all over the world under the influence of the American Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
However, it became clear to several epidemiologists, over time, that very different types of behavior were here being treated alike, and that, epidemiologically, they were of very different relevance. For a valid prognosis, it was obviously important to find out exactly what the bisexual behavior consisted of in each individual case. If a male prostitute, for example, served several male clients daily and had several girlfriends at the same time, he played an entirely different epidemiological role than an otherwise "faithful" husband who used the services of this male prostitute (and only of this male prostitute) as a client once per year. This crucial distinction was needlessly obliterated by the blanket categorization "bisexual patient". Other types of bisexual behavior, long known to sexologists, were also discovered, such as that of dyed-in-the-wool gays who sometimes had sex with women, even with lesbians, or that of "heterosexual swingers" who sometimes also "accepted same-sex partners into the bargain", or that of sexually experimenting teenagers, or of prisoners, and so forth.
The epidemiologists' original short-sightedness was even greater in the case of women who had sex with women. Thus, the CDC, for example, defined a woman as a lesbian "if she has sexual contact with women and has not had sexual contact with men since 1977. 34
This even excluded the majority of those who called themselves lesbians, to say nothing of the large number of women who, despite identical sexual behavior, did not so define themselves. Even the comparatively "sophisticated" Department of Public Health in San Francisco did not recognize until ten years after the beginning of the AIDS epidemic that the mutually exclusive terms "homosexual" and "bisexual" led to false conclusions about the risk of infection among women. (The sexologists working in San Francisco could have told the officials this right from the start, but they were not consulted.) So it was not until 1993 that the previously ignored insight was officially announced:
|Women who have sexual contact with women exhibit a diversity of sexual identities, personal traits, and manners of behavior that put them at risk of HIV-infection. The concepts "lesbian" or "bisexual" are usually used to refer to these women, but their choice of partners and their sexual behavior no longer always accord with such descriptions of identity. There are self-defined lesbians who have sexual contact with men, even for money, and there are women who define themselves as heterosexual but have female sexual partners. Women who have sexual contact with women might have few or many partners, they can be mothers, drug addicts, college graduates, street prostitutes, homeless persons, or prisoners. Despite these differences, current HIV statistics can lead them to believe that they run no or only a minimal risk of infection.35|
Suddenly worried, the office thus came to the following conclusion:
|The facts described here show that it is problematic to use broad categories of identification instead of concentrating on specific types of behavior that carry a risk of HIV infection. Our attempts to reduce HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases as a part of public health will be inadequate as long as we remain unable to speak plainly and clearly about specific behaviors with all segments of the population.36|
In view of such belated insights, the traditional questionnaires did indeed seem somewhat too simple. There were thus attempts in several countries to allow for more differentiation. These attempts essentially tried to avoid historically and culturally loaded (that is, ideological) concepts such as "homosexual" and "bisexual" and to ask only about the number of sexual contacts with the one or the other sex. As a model for such a procedure, a simplified, anonymous (albeit never used) form I myself designed years ago is reproduced below.
Fig.6 HIV Risk Questionnaire
The trouble spent in filling out such a form is basically no greater than before. But the form offers several advantages:
- It supplies numerical relations between the various possible sexual contacts and thus a clearer idea of possible "promiscuity".
- It also gives an approximate idea of the total number of sexual contacts.
- It completely avoids the adjective "homosexual" and the substantives "homosexual" and "homosexuality", yet describes same-sex contacts all the more precisely.
- It describes contacts with both sexes according to the differing preponderance of those contacts (balance of heterosexual and homosexual contacts).
- It distinguishes between prostitutes (male and female) on the one hand and "johns" on the other.
- It documents the character and the extent of sexual contacts outside of "stable" sexual relationships.
It forces the physician, counselor, or questioner to come at least one step closer to the sexual reality of the questioned person, who possibly deviates significantly from the commonly assumed "normality". This can become a very valuable aid in counseling.
In spite of these undeniable advantages, considerable and probably insurmountable difficulties stand in the way of the universal introduction of such a survey form, even if the strictest anonymity could be guaranteed. They range from political reservations to the problems and costs of organization. In addition, there is also justified mistrust on the side of those questioned and insufficient training in the techniques of questioning on the side of the questioners. Nevertheless, independently, and as a first step, the forms of some countries (such as those of Switzerland and the U.S.) have since come to follow some of the ideas presented here.
My questionnaire should therefore not be taken as a proposal for immediate, concrete action, but rather as an illustration of how inadequate the traditional categories are when it comes to capturing the diversity of real life. Moreover, it forces one to look more closely at the individual and to choose simple, precise language that admits of no misunderstandings and does not run up against ideological reservations.
This is especially important when taking a patient's sex history before medical treatment (such as for sexually transmitted diseases). Nonmedical sex therapists and marriage counselors also sometimes need to gain a realistic picture of the sexual behavior of a client or couple in order to be able to help at all. It is precisely in these situations that terms like "homosexual" and "bisexual" often meet with some inner resistance and even rejection. Ultimately, they hinder effective communication. The only certain way to success here is the avoidance of all cliches, stereotypes, and ideologically loaded concepts. Only simple, precise questions about the gender and the number of sexual partners can be helpful here. In addition, the questioner must make it known through his entire demeanor that he himself is entirely free of stereotypical ideas, that he knows about and accepts the actual diversity of human sexual behavior, and that he has no inclination whatsoever to label or denigrate people, no matter what they tell him. Only then does he have some chance to obtain truthful information.
Of course, all this is also true of any kind of sex research, whether by questionnaire or by personal interview. Concepts like "homosexual" and "bisexual" would only cause unnecessary confusion here and therefore are always scrupulously avoided by today's sexologists. In other words: The nineteenth-century concepts are today no longer used in either epidemiological or sexological research. Neither are they used in sexual counseling or sex therapy, and they should also be abandoned in sex education, sexological training, and continuing medical education. On the contrary, it is precisely the training of experts that should sharpen the critical consciousness about the dubiousness of traditional labels. Not until physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, educators, sociologists, lawyers, criminologists, epidemiologists, theologians, and silence writers have broken the habit of using these labels will a much-needed sense of reality with regards to human sexual behavior return to our society.
These considerations once more throw a helpful light on the preceding scientific debate. It is now clear that this debate had been too abstract, "academic", and divorced from life, and that, for more than a century, its terminology had painted the picture of a neatly ordered reality that never existed. To that extent, sexology today once again finds itself in the ungrateful role of a spoilsport vis-a-vis medicine and other established disciplines. It disturbs the beloved old siren songs of reductionism with an obstinately dissonant basso continuo of doubt and thus seems to live up to its reputation as the perpetual academic outsider. This, too, contributes to the well-known, ongoing rejection it meets from universities the world over. The messenger is shunted aside, because no one is eager to hear his message that, in all matters sexual, "nothing is ever simple".
1. Johann Ludwig Casper, "Über Notzucht und Päderastie und deren Ermittelung seitens des Gerichtsarztes" (On rape and pederasty and its investigation by the forensic physician), Vierteljahrsschrift für gerichtliche und öffentliche Medizin, Vol. 1 (1852). Additional articles are in subsequent issues.
2. Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, Inclusa, 1864. Reprinted by Max Spohr in Leipzig in 1889.
3. Prometheus, 1869. Reprint by Max Spohr in Leiptig, 1889, 10-11.
4. Ibid., prefatory remark.
5. Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs, Memnon, 1868. Reprint by Max Spohr in Leipzig, 1889, 50.
6. Karoly Maria Kertbeny (as anonymous author), "Section 143 of the Prussian Penal Code of April 14, 1851, and its upholding of Paragraph 152 in the draft of a penal code for the North German Confederation. Open, expert fetter to His Excellence Herr Dr. Leonhardt, Royal Prussian Minister of State and Justice, Berlin 1869". Reprint in the Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstudien (Yearbook for sexual intermediate stages), 7:1, i-iv and 3-66.
7. Carl Westphal, "Die conträre Sexualempfindung, Symptom eines neuropathischen (psychopathischen) Zustandes", (Contrary sexual feeling: Symptom of a neuropathic [psychopathic] condition), in Archiv für Psychiatric und Nervenkrankheiten (Archives of psychiatry and nervous diseases), Vol. 2:1, 73-108.
8. Magnus Hirschfeld, Sappho und Sokrates: Wie erklärt sich die Liebe der Männer und Frauen zu Personen des eigenen Geschlechts? (Sappho and Socrates: How is the love of men and women to persons of their own sex to be explained?) 2d ed. (Leipzig: Max Spohr, 1902), (ist ed., 1896), 9 and 16.
9. Alfred C. Kinsey, "Homsexuality: Criteria for a Hormonal Explanation of the Homosexual", in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology, 1: 5, 424-28.
10. Ibid., 428.
11. Alfred C. Kinsey et alt, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 1948), 638.
(The scale here is slightly modified in order to make dearer its similarity to Kinsey's preceding scale of 1941, Fig. 9.)
12. Ibid., 639.
13.. Ibid., 617.
14. Walter Bräutigam, Formen der Homosexualität (Forms of homosexuality) (Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke Verlag, 1976).
15. Benedikt Friedländer, Die Renaissance des Eros Uranios (The renaissance of Eros Uranois) (Berlin: Bernhard Zacks Verlag, 1908), 86.
16. The diagram is reproduced here with minor modifications. The original is in Fritz Klein, Barry Sepekoff, and Timothy 1. Wolf,
"Sexual Orientation: A Multivariable Dynamic Process", in Journal of Homosexuality, 2: 1/2, (1985), 39-42.
(Klein himself has subsequently introduced various slight modifications.)
17. Mary Mclntosh, "The Homosexual Role", in Social Problems, 16: 2 (Fall 1968), 182-92 (here, 183).
18. The most prominent gay historian on the essentialist side was John Boswell, who already signaled his position in the title of his
large study: Christianity Sorial Toleranee and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the
Fourteenth Century (Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1980). The most prominent person on the constructionist side was Michel
Foucault, who placed the invention of the homosexual in the nineteenth century in his book "Sexualität und Wahrheit:
Der Wille zum Wissen" (Sexuality and truth: The will to knowledge) (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1977) (see 58 in particular concerning
the topic of "the homosexual"). Foucault's thesis is essentially shared by the Englishmen Plummer and Weeks, who, however,
locate the genesis of the homosexual already in the eighteenth century. (See Kenneth Plummer, Sexual Stigma: An Interactionist Aceount
[London/Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975]; Kenneth Plummer, The Making of the Modern Homosexual [Totowa, N. J.: Barnes 8: Noble Books,
1981]; Jeffrey Weeks, Coming Out: Homosexual Politics in Britain from the Nineteenth Century to the Present [London: Quartet Books, 1977].)
John Boswell later attempted to reconcile misunderstandings that had arisen between essentialist and constructionist historians of
homosexuality in the essay "Revolutions, Universals, Sexual Categories", in Salmagundi, No. 58-59, (Fall/W-mter 1982-83),
19. The scripting theory was first applied by the authors to human sexual behavior more than twenty years ago. See John Gagnon, William Simon, Sexual Conduct: The Social Sourca of Human Sexuality (Chicago: Aldine, 1973).
20. John Gagnon, "The Explicit and Implidt Use of the Scripting Perspective in Sex Research", in Annual Revieva of Sex Research, Vol. 1, (1990), 5.
21. Of these researchers, the Berlin endocrinologist Günther Dörner has long been the best known. Over the course of years, he has repeatedly clarified and expanded his findings. See, for example, Dörner et alt, "A Neuroendocrine Predisposition for Homosexuality in Men", in Archioes of Sexual Behavior, No. 4 (1975), 1-8; Dörner, "Hormones and Sexual Differentiation in the Brain", in Sex, Hormones and Behavior, ed. R Porter and J. Whelen, Ciba Foundation Symposium 62 (new series), Amsterdam, 1979, 81-112; Dörner, "Sexual Differentiation of the Brain", in Vitamins and Hormones, Vol. 38 (1980), 325-81; Dörner et alt, "Prenatal Stress as Possible Aetiogenic Factor of Homosexuality in Human Males", in Endakrinologie, No. 75 (1980), 365-68; Dörner et alt, "Stress Events in Prenatal Life of Bi- and Homosexual Men", in Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology, Vol. 81 (1983), 83-87; Dörner et alt, "Sexual Differentiation of Gonadotropin Secretion, Sexual Orientation and Gender Role Behavior", in Journal of Steroid Biochemistry, Vol. 27 (1987), 1081-87.
22. See John Gagnon, "The Explicit and Implicit Use . . . ", ibid., 1-43.
23. John Gagnon, "Gender Preference in Erotic Relations: The Kinsey Scale and Sexual Scripts", in Homosexuality/Heterosexuality: Conerpts of Sexual Orientation, ed. D. P. McWhirter, S. A. Sanders, and J. M. Reinisch (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, The Kinsey Institute Series, 1990), 195.
24. Ibid., 194.
25. Ibid., 183.
26. Rolf Gindorf, "Wissenschaftliche Ideologien im Wandel. Die Angst vor der Homosexualität als intellektuelles Ereignis" (Scientific ideologies in change: Fear of homosexuality as an intellectual event) in Der unterdrückte Sexus. Historische Texte und Kommentare zur Homosexualität (The repressed sexus: Historical texts and commentaries on homosexuality), ed. J. S. Hohmann (Lollar: Adhenbach, 1977), 129-44.
27. Ibid., 143.
28. Aside from the already mentioned endicronologist Günther Dörner, the (openly gay) neurologist Simon Le Vay, the twins researcher J. Michael Bailey, and the geneticist Dean Hamer have also come forward with biological models of explanation for human homosexual behavior. Le Vay believes that it is possible to pinpoint the organic cause of homosexual indinations in a certain region of the brain (Le Vay, "A Difference in Hypothalmic Structure Between Heterosexual and Homosexual Men", in Sciencc, Vol. 253 , 1034-37). Bailey and Hamer believe in a genetic cause, and Hamer even thinks that he has localized a region for a corresponding gene on the end of the X chromosome (Harner et alt, "A Linkage Between DNA Markers on the X chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation", in Science, Vol. 261 , 321-27). Hamer and his coauthors do indeed call "homosexual orientation" a "naturally occurring variation" and they expressly warn of misusing their discovery to determine or to change this variation (321 and 326), but it may weil be doubted whether they themselves believe that the misuse can be avoided. Incidentally, it is also useful to remember in this context that geneticists have earlier believed to have discovered specific genes for violence, alcoholism, and even thalassophilia (love of seafaring). Little remains of these discoveries.
29. On this point, we include without commentary an excerpt from a recent newspaper artide: "In China, It's Mostly a Boy¡ªThanks to Ultra-Sound". "Only one girl was born in our village last year¡ªotherwise, there were boys everywhere", seid Y. H. Chen.... He expained that, for a bribe of $35-50, a physician would reveal whether a pregnant women could expect a boy or a girl. "If it's a girl, then it's aborted" . . . Partially for this reason, the ratio of newborn boys to girls in China was 118 to 100 last year.... This means that more than 12% of female fetuses were aborted. . . . Worried about this development, the press is beginring to warn that today's male infants will not be able to find any women in 20 years. However, aside from vague warrings about the increase of "bachelor villages", no one is investigating what social consequences could result in a society that has a large surplus of men. China is not the only country with this problem.... Apparently due to prenatal ultrasound examinations, the ratio among newborns in South Korea is 113 boys to 100 girls. -International Herald Tribune, July 22, 1993, 1-2.
30. The reader is reminded that already Aristotle saw a means of birth control in homosexuality. He reports that the government of Crete had intentionally encouraged homosexual behavior in order to prevent an overpopulation of the island (Politics, II, 10).
31. See Wendell Ricketts, "Biological Research on Homosexuality: Ansell's Cow or Occarn's Razor?", in Journal of Homosexuality, 9: 4 (1984), 65-93.
32. Michael G. Shively, Christopher Jones, and John P. De Cecco, "Research on Sexual Orientation: Definitions and Methods", in Journal of Homosexualiy 9: 2/3 (1983-84), 127-36.
33. John Money, "Agenda and Credenda of the Kinsey Scale", in Homosexuality/ Hetcrosexuality: Conccpts of Scxual Oricntation, ed. D. P. McWhirter, S. A. Sanders, and J. M. Reinisch (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, The Kinsey Institute Series, 1990), 54.
34. S. Y. Chu, J. W. Buchler, P. L. Fleming, and R L. Berkelman, "Epidemiology of Reported Cases of AIDS in Lesbians, United States 1980-1989", in American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 80 (1990), 1380-81.
35. Department of Public Health, "HIV Risk Among Women Who Have Sex with Women", in San Francisco Epidemiologic [Bulletin, 9: 4 (April 1993), 25.
36. Ibid., 27.