Thursday, 25 March 2010

HERDT, Gilbert H: Same sex, different cultures:

 Exploring gay and lesbian lives

Westview Press, 1997

204 pages

Because homoerotic relations can be found in so many cultures, Gilbert Herdt argues that we should think of these relations as part of the human condition. This new cross-cultural study of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals around the world, Same Sex, Different Cultures provides a unique perspective on maturing and living within societies, both historical and contemporary, that not only acknowledge but also incorporate same-gender desires and relations.Examining what it means to organize “sex” in a society that lacks a category for “sex,” or to love someone of the same gender when society does not have a “homosexual” or “gay/lesbian” role, Herdt provides provocative new insights in our understanding of gay and lesbians lives. Accurate in both its scientific conceptions and wealth of cultural and historical material, examples range from the ancient Greeks and feudal China and Japan to the developing countries of Africa, India, Mexico, Brazil, and Thailand, from a New Guinea society to contemporary U.S. culture, including Native Americans. For all of these peoples, homoerotic relations emerge as part of culture—and not separate from history or society.In many of these groups, loving or engaging in sexual relations is found to be the very basis of the local cultural theory of “human nature” and the mythological basis for the cosmos and the creation of society. The mistake of modern Western culture, Gilbert contends, is to continue the legalization of prejudice against lesbians and gays.In this light, the book addresses the issue of “universal” versus particular practices and reveals positive role models that embrace all aspects of human sexuality. Finally, it offers knowledge of the existence of persons who have loved and have been intimate sexually and romantically with the same gender in other lands through divergent cultural practices and social roles.The most important lesson to learn from this cross-cultural and historical study of homosexuality is that there is room for many at the table of humankind.

NAPHY, William: Born to be Gay

GREENBERG, David: The Construction of Homosexuality

"At various times, homosexuality has been considered the noblest of loves, a horrible sin, a psychological condition or grounds for torture and execution. David F. Greenberg's careful, encyclopedic and important new book argues that homosexuality is only deviant because society has constructed, or defined, it as deviant. The book takes us over vast terrains of example and detail in the history of homosexuality."--Nicholas B. Dirks, New York Times Book Review

Editorial Review - Kirkus Reviews Copyright (c) VNU Business Media, Inc.
A densely documented study of societal attitudes toward homosexuality through the ages and across the cultural spectrum. To supply insight into prehistoric practices, Greenberg begins with homosexuality in tribal societies. In various Pacific Island tribes, for instance, prepubescent boys are placed under the aegis of an older male for manhood-training--which includes a ritualized pederastic relationship until the younger male marries. Throughout the world, a number of tribal societies regard nonritualized homosexuality for men and, occasionally, for women with considerable tolerance. The widespread homosexuality in ancient Greece and Rome may, says Greenberg, have evolved from earlier rituals. The Christian era was characterized by official hostility to all nonprocreative sex, with horrendous penalties (castration, stoning, immolation) for homosexual acts. Such penalties were rarely invoked, and large medieval and Renaissance cities contained sizable male homosexual undergrounds. With Protestantism and the Industrial Age, attitudes hardened as a burgeoning middle class saw nonconformity as a threat to their values, children, and societal stability. Gay liberation has now produced a backlash triggered by the sudden visibility of homosexuals, with the AIDS crisis further ammunition against deviation. Every page here bristles with information: Greenberg cites over 2,300 books and articles. Although he relies on no original sources, he has assembled and interpreted well a mass of fascinating material.