SOCB51H3 Chapter Notes -Family Values, Heterosexuality, Jonathan Ned Katz
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Postwar Youth and the Construction of Heterosexuality
Sexual conservatives like to remember the 1950s as a lost era of family values and solid
o Sexual politics the 1950s are the standard against which some conservatives measure
changes in the organization of sexuality.
o Mores of that decade sit as a kind of benchmark a symbol of how far North Americans
have travelled since morality has clear gender roles and heterosexual conjugal monogamy
is the primary form of sexual partnership
o This portrait is an idealized version of fifties norms does not decrease its effectiveness
contributing to present-day anxieties about changing sexual behaviors and identities
Study in 1940s and 1950s makes apparent the counter to the gains made by feminists gay men
and lesbians over the past two decades
During the postwar years young people were targets of formal and informal sex education
materials where mainstream sexual norms were reproduced and constituted
Assumptions about the corruption of young people about protection needs of moral harm and
their role as representatives of the future set boundaries for how sexuality is understood
o These systems are about the production of meaning a process not without its material
effects. Discourses across to Foucault crystallize into institutions they inform individual
behavior that act as grids for the perception and evaluation of things.
They are not unrelated to the material aspects of our world and material factors printing presses
institutional resources money are what allow certain discourses to become more powerful than
o The task of discourse analysis is to determine which discourses are operating when and
how and in what configurations. In analyzing discourses one investigates the various
processes language and social practices which make possible the statement of the truths
that order our social world for instance the claim that heterosexuality is the most natural
form of sexual expression
The most profound sexual-social division in present-day western culture is the one between
straight and gay although they divide between homo and heterosexualites is perhaps more a
linguistic construction than a reflection of the sociosexual landscape
o As long as homosexuality and heterosexuality is dichotomized it is difficult to understand
either side of the dichotomy without also considering its so called opposite.
The term homosexuality was coined in 1868 by German sodomy-law reformer Karl Maria. In his
usage the term referred not to sexual object choice as it does now but to gender inversion that is
to effeminancy exhibited by men ad masculine demenour exhibited by women.
According to gay historian Jonathan Ned Katz in his book the invention of heterosexuality this
category of homosexuality was counterposed not to heterosexuality which did not exist as a word
or a concept but to reproductive sexuality
o Abnormal or perverted appetite toward the opposite sex
The equation of heterosexuality with perversion reflected the centrality of reproduction to pre-
twentienth century sexual systems. Katz argues that the emergence of the
homosexual/heterosexual opposition was part of this shift away from reproductive norms and
towards what he calls a different sex erotic norm
o The erotically normal heterosexual is counterpart to the abnormal homosexual thus
setting the groundwork for the hierarchical organization of sexuality that we continue to
Homosexual behavior per se became the primary basis for the labeling and self-identification of
me as queer only around the middle of the twentieth century.
o Prior to that time queerness had been attributed to a man’s inability to fit into normative
gender roles not to the sex of the people he chose to have sex with.
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