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Judith G. Coffin

This essay considers the near simultaneity of The Second Sex and Alfred C. Kinsey's reports on sexual behavior. It shows how reviewers in both France and the United States paired the studies; it asks how that pairing shaped the reception of The Second Sex; and it situates the studies in their larger historical context—a moment in which sexuality commanded new and much broader attention. An ever-widening number of disciplines, institutions, sectors of mass culture, and representatives of an expanding consumer economy (from studies of the authoritarian personality or juvenile delinquency to advertising) insisted that sexuality was key to their concerns and enterprises. The ways in which sexuality might be understood multiplied—to the point where an allencompassing notion of “sex” collapsed, giving way, eventually, to a plurality of terms: sexuality, sex roles, and gender.

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Conceiving Judaism

The Challenges of Same-Sex Parenthood

Sibylle Lustenberger

In Israel, personal status is regulated through religious law. This gives Orthodox rabbis the state-sanctioned power to define who is Jewish and to enable and recognize marriage. The impediments that religious law poses to same-sex couples and their children are serious: same-sex couples are excluded from marriage, and their children's religious status is at risk. In this article, I contrast these rabbinic exclusions with the ways that same-sex couples, both religious and non-religious, use Jewish traditions to establish social legitimacy and belonging for themselves and their children. Based on ethnographic findings, the article suggests that the Jewish ritual of circumcision for boys and childbirth celebrations for girls are moments in which relationships are reaffirmed. Even more so, the social networks displayed at these events and the participation of religious specialists (mohalim) performing the circumcision carry a clear message: these families are authentically a part of the Jewish-Israeli collective despite rabbinic opposition.

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Giuseppe Marcocci

In 1578, a same-sex community that gathered in a church, performing marriages between men, was discovered in Rome. Documentary evidence now verifies this story, reported by many sources, including a passage of Michel de Montaigne's Travel Journal, but which was for a long time denied by scholars. While briefly reconstructing this affair, this article explores the complex emotional regime surrounding the episode. In particular, it argues that those who participated in the ceremonies did so not only as an expression of affection for their partners, but also in an attempt to legitimize their relationships in a rite that imitated the Counter-Reformation sacrament of marriage. This approach challenges the predominant historiography on the birth of homosexuality and helps us to better understand the sentiments of those who were part of a same-sex community in Renaissance Rome.

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The Child's Worst Interests

Socio-legal Taboos on Same-Sex Parenting and Their Impact on Children's Well-Being

Zvi Triger

This article questions the way in which the 'child's best interests' test is applied by Israeli courts in cases of children of same-sex parents. It argues that the reluctance to recognize same-sex parenting indicates that the child's best interests is a politicized concept, which looks at heterosexual ideology rather than at the child's specific circumstances. This ideology views the opposite-sex parental model as the ideal model and thus is wary of recognizing same-sex parenting because it also entails recognition of same-sex relationships. I identify this prejudice against same-sex relationships and parenting as the product of what I term cultural and legal 'heterophilia'. To the extent that the objections of judges and social workers to same-sex parenting (pursuant to this ideology) are based on fears of actual harm caused to the children because of their parents' sexual orientation, they are the product of homophobia.

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The Biologically Vulnerable Boy

Framing Sex Differences in Childhood Infectious Disease Mortality

Heather T. Battles

Demographers have noticed longer adult female life expectancies and higher rates of male infant mortality in Europe as early as the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. During the Western demographic and epidemiologic transition of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, infant and childhood mortality rates became increasingly male-skewed. I examine the changing awareness and understanding of sex differentials in childhood infectious disease mortality and the discourse surrounding them in the medical and epidemiological literature, with particular focus on discussions surrounding diphtheria. I identify the emergence of the concept of males as the weaker sex (the “biological hypothesis”) and the framing of boys as biologically vulnerable, and argue that these are products of this historical period, linked not only to observed epidemiological patterns but also to changing ideas of children and childhood and the shift in science and medicine toward the laboratory as the source of knowledge.

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Scott Gunther

This article examines the political style and rhetoric of the Manif pour tous (MPT), the main organization opposing same-sex marriage in France, from summer 2013 to the present. It exposes how the MPT’s style and rhetoric differ from those of their American counterparts, and what this tells us about the different strategies of political movements in France and the United States generally. It is based on an analysis of the language used by activists whom I interviewed in 2014 and 2015 and on a discourse analysis of the MPT’s website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, and press releases since 2013. This analysis of the distinctive features of the MPT brings to light underlying concerns about French identity in the face of globalization. In other words, for the MPT and its members, what is at stake is not just same-sex marriage but the very definition of Frenchness.

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Migration, Empire, and Liminality

Sex Trade in the Borderlands of Europe

Tracie L. Wilson

In this article I analyze accounts from police and women’s activist documents from the turn of the twentieth century, which present narratives of sex trafficking in and from Galicia, an eastern borderland region of the Habsburg Empire. Both police and activist accounts underscore the image of innocent women forced into prostitution, although police accounts provide more variety and nuance regarding degrees of coercion and agency demonstrated by women. I examine what such narratives reveal about the role of crossing boundaries—an act central to both sex trafficking and efforts to maintain empire. In this context, I consider how the Habsburg authorities coped with and attempted to manage populations whose mobility appeared especially problematic. Although this research draws extensively from historical archives, my analysis is guided by perspectives from folklore studies and the anthropological concept of liminality.

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Social Response to Age-Gap Sex Involving Minors

Empirical, Historical, Cross-Cultural, and Cross-Species Considerations

Bruce Rind

Social response to age‐gap sex involving minors has become increasingly severe. In the US, non‐coercive acts that might have been punished with probation 30 years ago often lead to decades in prison today. Punishment also increasingly includes civil commitment up to life, as well as scarlet‐letter‐like public registries and onerous residence restrictions for released offenders. Advocates and the general public approve, believing that age‐gap sex with minors is uniquely injurious, pathological, and criminal. Critics argue that public opinion and policy have been shaped by moral panic, consisting of unfounded assumptions and invalid science being uncritically promoted by ideology, media sensationalism, and political pandering. This talk critically examines the basic assumptions and does so using a multi‐perspective approach (empirical, historical, cross‐cultural, cross‐species) to overcome the biases inherent in traditional clinical‐forensic reports. Non‐clinical empirical reviews of age‐gap sex involving minors show claims of intense, pervasive injuriousness to be highly exaggerated. Historical and cross‐cultural reviews show that adult‐adolescent sexual relations have been common and frequently socially integrated in other times and places, indicating that present‐day Western conceptualizations are socially constructed to reflect current social and economic arrangements rather than expressions of a priori truths. Analogous relations in primates are commonplace, non‐pathological, and not infrequently functional, contradicting implicit assumptions of a biologically‐based “trauma response” in humans. It is concluded that, though age‐gap sex involving minors is a significant mismatch for contemporary culture—and this talk therefore does not endorse it—attitudes and social policy concerning it have been driven by an upward‐spiraling moral panic, which itself is immoral in its excessive adverse consequences for individuals and society.

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Boarding School for First-Grade Black Boys

Stereotypes, a Single-Sex Program, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Joseph D. Nelson and Sangeeta Subedi

Single-sex schooling for boys of color has become popular throughout the United States. Leaders and educators often consider these environments a school-based intervention to address adverse outcomes associated with Black boys. A contributing factor to these outcomes have been negative stereotypes of Black males related to Black masculinity norms, which developmental psychologists contend boys internalize during childhood. Interviews and observations were conducted over 12 months to describe a single-sex boarding program for first-grade African-American boys, affiliated with a coed independent school. Designed to facilitate boys’ positive identity development, the program’s mission and vision, educational philosophy, and schedule/programming will be primarily described from boys’ perspectives. The goal is to explore the merits of this single-sex intervention to ameliorate how Black male stereotypes and masculinity norms contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline.

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“Stop it, f*ggot!”

Producing East European Geosexual Backwardness in the Drop-In Centre for Male Sex Workers in Berlin

Victor Trofimov

In this article I examine the negotiations of national and sexual belonging of a Romanian gay sex worker in Berlin in the contemporary geosexual context defined by binarism between ‘modern’, ‘liberal’ and ‘tolerant’ Western Europe and its ‘traditionalist’ and ‘homophobic’ East European Other. I analyse how, by means of an overt display of his own homosexuality, the sex worker symbolically distances himself from his native country. By extension, this reinforces the image of the East and its inhabitants as inherently homophobic and, therefore, backwards. The article is based on ethnographic research in the drop-in centre for male sex workers in Berlin, an environment that reveals how deeply contemporary geosexual differences are anchored in the cultural logic of everyday life.