The Invention of Heterosexual Culture


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Envisaging this as the first in a trilogy of volumes, Tin may indeed be in a position to undertake this work himself. One looks forward to the results.

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Sign in now. Lennard Davis wonders whether activist academics have wrongly prioritised exuberantly bad behaviour over the hard graft of working for real change. Proposed new law not as tough as some feared — but critics argue focus on Dutch ignores benefits of studying in English. Book of the week: Lara Douds applauds a brilliant dissection of Western prejudices about the Russians. John Morgan speaks to her about making a difference locally and the lost tradition of extramural university teaching. Skip to main content. The Invention of Heterosexual Culture. The man-woman pairing displaced other well-established forms of bonding, finds Robert Mills.

November 1, Share on twitter Share on facebook Share on linkedin Share on whatsapp Share on mail. Please login or register to read this article. It doesn't mean that we haven't built a whole damn civilization on it. Doesn't mean that we don't live our daily lives on it, doesn't mean that we don't use it all the time every time we're walking down the street.

This is real. It's stuff that has physical manifestations in the real world. But that does not mean that it is organic. Or innate.

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But these categories have also been very practical. Gay rights wouldn't be imaginable without them. Well, you know, minority politics has been a lot easier to sell than to just say, "Being human ought to get you human dignity," full stop. If you can pin down the difference, if you can make the difference the salient issue, it somehow makes it easier for people to stomach the fact that they can't go out and just beat people over the head.

I don't know why that is. I find it intensely frustrating. Do you think the success of the gay rights movement is helping broaden our ideas of sexuality? I think that it is having an interesting effect of making the boundaries of the categories more permeable. Simply because we now have this doxa [omnipresent acknowledgement] of gayness in our culture where we believe that gayness is a thing, we believe that it exists, we believe that we know what it looks like, we believe that we know what it acts like, and therefore, when we see it, we're actually very likely to say, "Hey, that over there, that looks really gay," regardless of whether or not that person may be, in fact, gay.

Those boundaries are becoming more porous. The term "bromance" cracks me up, but it is also promising. For the past hundred years or so, a lot of men have found it very difficult to express affection and love for other men without having it assumed that that love is necessarily sexual. And now we're actually coming around to a place where at least some people, some of the time, are able to avail themselves of a category in which they can say, "Oh, OK, here's a way that men can be affectionate toward each other and one another and love one another and we don't have to assume that we know more about it than that.

Women, in particular, seem to be eschewing the traditional between binaries of gay and straight these days, at least in pop culture. The same thing doesn't seem to be true of men. There's a reason for that. Every queer woman I know -- and I'm a queer woman -- understands intuitively that a lot of people don't consider what two women do together sexually as sex.

It's a whole lot easier to fly under the radar when what you're doing is not something that a lot of people are even going to consider as sex. But men, for various other cultural reasons also seem to be more attached to categories.

The Invention of Heterosexual Culture - Louis-Georges Tin - Google книги

It functions partly as a sort of safety mechanism. I think there is a lot of safety in categories. And there's a hell of a lot of safety in a binary. When you can just say, you know, anything that is not this is automatically that. You know, it frees up a lot of spare time. I have a number of friends who are negotiating the reverse of this, in that they for a long time identified as lesbians and have now started dating transmen and now have to negotiate the awkwardness of being in what ostensibly looks like a heterosexual relationship.

I've been around several friends who, when they mention their boyfriend in a queer setting, reflexively say, "Oh, but he's trans. And I think that really points as well to the fact that these are constructed categories. This is about your subjectivity, it's about your allegiance, it's about where your social networks are, it's about the kinds of cultural priorities that you embrace and that you endorse. This is not just what gets you hard or what gets you wet.

This is not just about what kinds of sex you have, or the congenital configurations of the people you have sex with. It's very much about what cultures you participate in.


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  2. The Invention of Heterosexuality;
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  4. Louis-Georges Tin, The Invention of Heterosexual Culture.
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What cultures you ally yourself with, you know, whose flag you fly. It's interesting that transgender men and women could marry their partners long before gay people could get married, even though they are probably far more despised by conservatives in this country, simply because they fit into this heterosexual idea of marriage. Many in this camp aim to expose the counterfeit credentials of sexual orientation and, taking a page from Nietzsche, to genealogically explain it away once and for all.

My own prediction is that we will see this binary thoroughly deconstructed within our lifetimes. But in my view, we proponents of Christian chastity should see the impending doom of the gay—straight divide not as a tragedy, but as an opportunity.

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More than that, I want to suggest that we should do our best to encourage the dissolution of orientation within our own subcultural spheres wherever possible. O f course, given our immersion in a culture for which these categories seem as connatural as the English language, uprooting them from our vocabulary and worldview will not be anything like a simple task.

So why bother? As long as we do not succumb to sinful acts, why does it matter if people—even we Christians—continue to identify as homosexuals or heterosexuals? First of all, within orientation essentialism, the distinction between heterosexuality and homosexuality is a construct that is dishonest about its identity as a construct. These classifications masquerade as natural categories, applicable to all people in all times and places according to the typical objects of their sexual desires albeit with perhaps a few more options on offer for the more politically correct categorizers.

Claiming to be not simply an accidental nineteenth-century invention but a timeless truth about human sexual nature, this framework puts on airs, deceiving those who adopt its labels into believing that such distinctions are worth far more than they really are.

The invention of the heterosexual

A second reason to doubt whether this schema is one that we Christians should readily use is that its introduction into our sexual discourse has not noticeably increased the virtues—intellectual or moral—of those who employ its concepts. On the contrary, it has bred both intellectual obscurity and moral disarray.

As to the former, orientation essentialism has made ethical philosophy in this realm all but impossible: It has displaced the old marital-procreative principles of chastity without offering any alternative that is not entirely arbitrary. The newer heteronormative system, on the other hand, cannot account for the wickedness of same-sex sodomy by reference to anything but a conditioned and unprincipled gag reflex, and one which, left unjustified, has weakened considerably over time.

As to the latter result, moral disarray, the orientation takeover has counterproductively shifted our everyday attention from objective purposes to subjective passions. Young people, for instance, now regularly find themselves agonizing over their sexual identity, navel-gazing in an attempt to discern their place in this allegedly natural Venn diagram of orientations.

Such obsessions generate far more heat than light, and focus already sexually excited adolescents on discerning extraneous dimensions of their own sexual makeup. There is a third reason this categorization should be disposed of, this one theological: It is at odds with the freedom for which Christ set us free.

My future prior in religious life, Fr.

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That was left to the casuistry of occasions of sin, and to spiritual direction. If the sin is theft, then is the standard of evaluation kleptomania? If drunkenness, alcoholism? If sloth, clinical depression? It intensifies lust, a sad distortion of love, by amplifying the apparent significance of concupiscent desires. It fosters a despairing self-pity, harming hope, which is meant to motivate moral virtues.

But given the inherent tension between the classical Christian narrative and the modern sexual-orientation account, it should come as no surprise that the praiseworthy outliers who try to combine these two inconsonant traditions are the exception rather than the rule. B aptizing the homosexual identity is fraught with preventable perils. And yet, when it comes to the gravest evil effected by the sexual-orientation binary, homosexuality is not the culprit.

Heterosexuality is—not, of course, as though we can have one without the other. The most pernicious aspect of the orientation-identity system is that it tends to exempt heterosexuals from moral evaluation. If homosexuality binds us to sin, heterosexuality blinds us to sin. Such hetero-identification thus ushers in a pathetically uncritical and—hopefully it goes without saying—unmerited self-assurance, not to mention an inaccurate measure for evaluating temptation.

Of course, we do have a model norm for the evaluation of sexual deviancy. But that model is not heterosexuality. It is true that homosexuality may be distinguished by an inappropriate despair, accepting sinful inclinations as identity-constituting and thereby implicitly rejecting the freedom bought for us by the blood of Christ. But heterosexuality, in its pretensions to act as the norm for assessing our sexual customs, is marked by something even worse: pride, which St.

Thomas Aquinas classifies as the queen of all vices. T here are practical reasons to be wary of heterosexuality as well. Freud, by the way, was one of the most influential architects of the vicious orientation-essentialist myth. To avoid being mistaken for gay, these days many self-proclaimed straight people—men especially—settle for superficial associations with their comrades and reserve the sort of costly intimacy that once characterized such chaste same-sex relationships for their romantic partners alone.

Their ostensibly normal sexual orientation cheats them out of an essential aspect of human flourishing: deep friendship.

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