“Thinking about Homosexuality” referencing the historian, Boswell


In Anne Fausto-Sterling’s  “Thinking about Homosexuality,” in Sex/Gender: Biology in a Social World (New York: Routledge, 2012), 70–98, she writes about the history, and thinking behind homosexuality.  What is most interesting in Fausto-Sterling’s writing though, is the historian, Boswell, and the thinking that he brings to the discussion.  Fausto-Sterling writes about people in earlier times trying to dissect the people who had sexual feelings about the same sex, and the category that they could fit “those” type of people in.  When they were trying to figure out these types of individuals, they categorized them into two groups-Heterosexual (us), and homosexual (other). The scientists did not understand how to deal with homosexuality, so putting them into the dichotomous groups-us and other- made it somewhat easier to understand.  They started with two ideas they knew much about, which was masculine, and feminine.  The only way that they could wrap their heads around the idea of men liking men and women having feelings for women, was to assume that one person in the relationship had to be an invert, and depending on the sex of the individual, the other person in the relationship had to have over exaggerated features of the opposite sex.  Meaning that if they were looking at a lesbian relationship, one of the women had to have very masculine features.  These beliefs were those of the 18th century.

In the 1990’s, Fausto-Sterling writes that a historian, named Boswell, tells us humans “are quite possibly born with particular sexual inclinations wired into our bodies. The acquisition of culture shows us how to express our inborn desires…but did not create them”.  This statement supports the term “nature not nurture”, instead of “nurture not nature”, which is an idea that many people who may simply be uninformed, may believe.  People argue the latter term though because they feel their past experiences have shaped them into who they are today.  These people will cite something along the lines of “When I was younger, my mother never soothed me.  This is why I have a hard time with my emotions”.  What people who use this type of reasoning do not understand though, is that not being “soothed” ( I am using this word simply because I used it in my example) was created because of the way they were brought up.  Being homosexual does not have direct correlation to the way you were brought up, or treated as a child.

Fausto-Sterling’s article tells readers about the history of the conceptualization of homosexuality.  She also writes about how Boswell’s thinking may have shut down many of the beliefs of those in the 18th century.



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