Types of Homosexuality
Same sex physical sexual activity, homosexuality, can be historically documented; this activity in and of it is not disputed. This same sex physical sexual activity, homosexuality, has been tolerated; but the meaning given to it has been culturally specific according the individual society in which it takes place. The norm in all cultures and societies is opposite sex physical sexual activity, heterosexuality, marriage and procreation. The idea of a gay identity, (two adults in a homosexual relationship) is a modern western cultural type of homosexuality. A gay identity also must be viewed in the social political context in which gives it its name and form.
Furthermore it was not until near the end of the twentieth century that a gay liberation movement has emerged and made homosexuality a controversial issue. Most commonly seen is that reluctantly societies tolerated some adult male same-sex relations with even more acceptance of adult female same-sex relations. While they more generously approved sexual relations between men and boys with some qualifications: the practice was understood more or less as a rite of passage which must end for the man in his late twenties and for the boy in early teens. In all instances of homosexuality continuing on today, homosexuality is based on behaviors and same-sex physical sexual activity, today the emphasis is based on self-identification as being a homosexual. This homosexual today is a pattern of essentially exclusive adult same-sex relationships, that historically and culturally specific to post-modern western societies.
Equally diverse are the forms of its acceptance. In one group of societies homosexual contacts are tacitly allowed or tolerated for a definite category of people, for example, adolescent boys or bachelors, or for a definite situation, as something temporary, unavoidable, or unimportant. In other societies such contracts are prescribed as a necessary element of some sacred rites, for example, in initiation rites. In the third case homosexual relationships constitute an aspect of a more or less prolonged social process, like socialization of adolescents. In the fourth case homosexuality is symbolized as a permanent life-style with a corresponding social role/identity. Individual sexual motivation is dependent on these cultural variations. (Kon, A Socicultural Approach, p.278-279 in Theories of Human Sexuality, editors James H. Geer and William T. ODonohue. Plenum Press. New York and London, 1987.)
Thus whereas homosexual behaviour can be found in cultures as different as ancient Greece, modern American prisons and the Melanesian cultures of Papa New Guinea, this does not equate with the notion of the homosexual as a fixed social role or condition. (Horrocks, An Introduction to the Study of Sexuality, p.146)
Homosexual acts are probably universal in humans but institutionalized forms of homosexual activity are not; and these depend to a great extent, upon specific historical problems and outlooks of a culture. (Herdt, Same Sex, Different Cultures p.55)
Homosexuality as we know it -that is, long-term relationships of mutual consent between adults-simply did not exist before the nineteen century, when it was invented by scientists to create a pathological condition out of a rarely practiced behavior (previously known primarily as sodomy) The construction of the condition made it possible for increasing numbers of people to identify with it, and eventually to react against its pathological status. (Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? p. 142-143)
Although same-sex attractions and sexual behavior have undoubtedly occurred throughout history, lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities are relatively new (DEmilio, 1983). The contemporary notion of identity is itself historically created (Baummeister, 1986). The concept of a specifically homosexual identity seems to have emerged at the end of the nineteen-century. Indeed, only in relatively recent years have large numbers of individuals identified themselves openly as gay or lesbian or bisexual. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual public identities, then, are a phenomenon of our current historical era (DEmilio, 1983; Faderman, 1991). (Patterson, Sexual Orientation and Human Development: An Overview, p. 3)
Historical and anthropological research has shown that homosexual persons (i.e. people who occupy a social position or role as homosexuals) do not exist in many societies, whereas homosexual behavior occurs in virtually society. Therefore, we must distinguish between homosexual behavior and homosexual identity. One term refers to one’;s sexual activity per se (whether casual or regular); the other word defines homosexuality as a social role, with its emotional and sexual components. Such distinction is consciously rooted in historical and cross-cultural comparisons between homosexuality in advanced societies and homosexuality in other cultures or eras. (Escoffier, American Homo: Community and Perversity, p. 37)
Lesbian and gay historians also discovered that homosexual activity frequently took place in some societies without the presence of people defined as homosexuals, and that intense homosocial or erotic relationships existed between people who did not otherwise appear to be homosexuals. (Escoffier, American Homo: Community and Perversity, p. 110)
The cross-cultural data on homosexuality (and almost all it concerns males alone) is also scarce, of dubious quality and sometimes difficult to interpret. There are, of course, the famous instances of widespread male homosexual practices, but the data are often less than the fame. Classical Greece and some Arab societies are cases of this sort, and one is forced to consider the possibility that these examples have as much to do with cultural stereotyping as with a genuine cultural pattern. (Davenport Sexual in Cross-Cultural Perspective in Beach, Human Sexuality in Four Perspectives, p.153)
When contemporary homosexuals invoke history and anthropology in defense of homosexuality and in opposition to exclusive and universal heterosexuality, their argument is empirically shaky. Actually, history and anthropology provide no evidence for the tolerance of exclusive homosexuality for any general population. There is no society that approves of exclusive homosexuality for the general population, male or female. Some societies permit a small number of men (less commonly women) to engage in nothing but homosexual liaisons, often in conjunction with other roles, such as shamans, magicians, or sorcerers. (Goode, Deviant Behavior, p.193)
Therefore, in the past, homosexuality has not posed the same issues as today.
Homosexuality may be the key to understanding the whole of human sexuality. No subject cuts in so many directions into psychology, sociology, history, and morality. The incidence, as well as visibility, of homosexuality has certainly increased in the Western world in the past twenty-five years. But discussion of it rapidly became over politicized after the Stonewall rebellion of 1969, which began the gay liberation movement. Viewpoints polarized: people were labeled pro-gay or anti-gay, with little room in between. For the past decade, the situation has been out of control: responsible scholarship is impossible when rational discourse is being policed by storm troopers, in this case gay activists, who have the absolutism of all fanatics in claiming sole access to the truth. (Paglia, Vamps and Tramps, p. 67)
Consequently in sections that follow - an exploration of attitudes and customs of ancient peoples toward same-sex eroticism the modern concepts of homosexuality or sexual orientation will be conspicuous by their absence. Within these cultures, sexual contact between persons of the same sex is not necessarily seen as characteristic of a particular group or subset of persons; there is no category or homosexuals. On the contrary, in some cultures, same-sex eroticism was an expected part of the sexual experience of every member of society, which would seem to argue against the existence of homosexuality as a personal attribute at all. (Mondimore, A Natural History of Homosexuality p. 4)
Descriptions of the Greeks, the berdaches, and the Sambia should make us a little unsure about our categories homosexual and heterosexual-at least, they should make us think more carefully about what we mean by these words. But if we are now a little confused about categories, perhaps we can agree on a few simple facts about human sexuality: (1) same-sex eroticism has existed for thousands of years in vastly different times and cultures; (2) in some cultures, same-sex eroticism was accepted as a normal aspect of human sexuality, practiced by nearly all individuals some time of the time; and (3) in nearly every culture that has been examined in any detail, a few individuals seem to experience a compelling and abiding sexual orientation toward their own sex. (Monimore, A Natural History of Homosexuality, p. 20)
The universal claims of the gay myth have seduced otherwise careful scholars to reinterpret history and anthropology in the same way, applying our peculiar explanation of homosexual behaviors to other cultures and other times. Works on Homosexuality in Greece, for example, have attempted to explain the homosexual habits of the Greeks in terms of sexual orientation, an explanation the Greeks themselves would have found eccentric and probably offensive (along with our concepts of sexuality another concept of quite modern origins).
Similar descriptions of the berdaches found among American Indian societies as a common institutionalized form of homosexuality are also a mistake. There is no indication that sexual orientation had anything to do with choosing the life of a berdache. North American Indians had a tolerance for gender ambiguity that provided for more than one gender role without reference to sexual orientation.
The sexual practices of other societies are frequently similar in appearance but express quite different beliefs and social priorities. As anthropologists have told us, no human behaviors are more flexible, more malleable, or more expressive of the social structure of society than sexual behaviors, and it does no good to impose the sexual meanings of one society on others. (DuBay, Gay Identity The Self Under Ban, p.6)
Today as we discuss the topic of homosexuality, we see a wide variety of expressions of it in the lives of people. So now the term homosexualities is often applied in the literature on this topic. When talking about types of homosexualities we must remember we are taking a "verb" and using it as a "noun"; using two different parts of speech to label the same idea. I want to frame the discussion this way, who one is, a homosexual and what one does, homosexuality. Also as we discuss types of homosexualities today we are doing so from a framework of our "postmodern generation" and "western cultural" lenses. There have become two sides in this discussion, with a moral line dividing them: a pro-gay side, (those who support a homosexual identity, including individuals who accept this identity), and those who oppose this homosexual or gay identity. So often objectivity has become the "baby thrown out with the bath water". Common sense has been replaced by blind passion. This objectivity has also been lost in the scientific community. Before accepting the outcome of a scientific project, we must determine, whether the scientists have a particular political/societal agenda. Is the scientist himself accepting a "gay identity"? This present discussion, types of homosexualities is coming from a sociological framework, looking for a scientific causation may be found within my discussion about scientific studies.
Facultative and Obligative Homosexuality
Various authors use several terms in speaking about types of homosexualities. Sometimes you will see the terms facultative and obligative used describing homosexuality. The later, obligative, is considered exclusive homosexuality, a condition in which a person can only bond or pair with a person of the same sex. There is no option for bisexual or heterosexual bonding. Facultative homosexuality is a technical term for sexual orientation and sexual activity with persons of the same sex. This term does not exclude sexual relations with members of the opposite sex; it also may be referred to as bisexuality. The same-sex physical activity may be engaged in only for sexual release, power, or control, or in situations where there are no members of the opposite sex, such as in a prison.
Compulsive, symptomatic, and episodic homosexuality
One author uses three broad categories, compulsive, symptomatic, and episodic homosexuality. (See John F Harvey, The Truth About Homosexuality) This last one, episodic homosexuality is a catchall term and is also called situational or variational homosexuality. Here an individual participates in same-sex physical acts (homosexual activity), but they would normally be heterosexual in their orientation. Homosexual activity takes place in times or places where heterosexual activity is not possible, where people are separated by their sex, for example prisons, schools etc. Also, this homosexual activity may be seen in children or adolescents who do so out of curiosity or in learning about sex. Older individuals may engage in homosexual activity for money, in search of a new thrill, from indifference to sexual morals, or even in rebellion to cultural norms.
When speaking about symptomatic homosexuality, one is acting homosexually as a symptom of a more general personality problem. The stronger impetus to homosexual activity is to resolve a personality/relational conflict which has become sexualized. Three possible areas, though there may be others, can be summarized. There may be problems of unsatisfied dependency needs, such as for love and affirmation. It may be in the area of control issues, seen in unresolved power or dominance needs. So often this is involved with sexual abuse as a child, which possibly leads them to abuse others later on. Boys who are abused by other older males, often feel because this has happened to them, he must be a homosexual himself. This self-labeling may result in these individuals continuing on with a false line of thinking, giving into homosexual physical acts and accepting the homosexual identity and behavior.
Compulsive or obligatory homosexuality has its origins with childhood developmental relational conflicts with their parents and peers. This category is associated with what is being called sexual orientation. The child may prefer and exhibit non-gender conforming behavior, which results in labeling and identifying with homosexuality. Other typical patterns are a passive, absent, or rejecting same sex parent. For males it is a strong mother, overshadowing the father. For females it is often seen as a result of sexual abuse. For both sexes it may be a result of early exposure to sex, which is not age appropriate. At a very early age the individual child sees and feels himself as being different and not accepted. As a result of relational/emotional needs become sexualized during puberty. Whatever the impetus that results into acquiring compulsive homosexuality, its underlying cause is not of being born a homosexual.
More often by many authors homosexuality is discussed within the framework of three types of institutional homosexualities gender-reversed, role-specialized, and age-structured to prove a fourth commonly identified homosexuality the "gay identity". Many of these authors are advocates for homosexuality.
To facilitate the presentation of the cross-cultural cases, I use a model that takes into account five widely agreed on forms of same-gender relations around the world. These forms are (1) age-structured relations as the basis for homoerotic relationships between older and younger males, (2) gender-transformed homoerotic roles that allow a person to take the sex/gender role of the other gender, (3) social roles that permit or require the expression of same-gender relations as a particular niche in society, (4) western homosexuality as a nineteenth-century form of sexual identity, and (5) late-twentieth-century western egalitarian relationships between persons of the same gender who are self-consciously identified as gay or lesbian for all of their lives. (Herdt, Gilbert. Same Sex, Different Cultures: Gays and Lesbians Across Cultures, p.22-23)
Beach, F.A. editor. Human Sexuality in Four Perspectives. John Hopkins Press. Baltimore and London, 1977.
DuBay, William H. Gay Identity The Self Under Ban. McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers. Jefferson ,NC and London, 1987.
Escoffier, Jeffery. American Homo: Community and Perversity. University of California Press. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 1998.
Geer, James H. and William T. ODonohue. Theories of Human Sexuality. Plenum Press. New York and London, 1987.
Goode, Erich. Deviant Behavior. Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1984.
Herdt, Gilbert. Same Sex, Different Cultures: Gays and Lesbians Across Cultures. WestviewPress. 1997.
Horrocks, Roger. An Introduction to the Study of Sexuality. St. Martin’s Press, Inc. New York, 1997.
Mondimore, Francis Mark. A Natural History of Homosexuality. The John Hopkins University Press. Baltimore and London, 1996.
Patterson, Charolette J. Sexual Orientation and Human Development: An Overview. Developmental Psychology.1995, Vol. 31, No.1, 3-11.
Schmidt, Thomas E. Straight and Narrow? InterVarsity Press. Downers Grove, IL, 1995.
Paigila, Camille. Vamps & Tramps. Vintage Books. New York, 1994.