Were there heterosexuals in feudal Europe? (was Were there lesbians or gay men in feudal Europe?)

Philip Ferguson plf13 at SPAMit.canterbury.ac.nz
Mon Dec 4 14:10:54 MST 2000

Lou Paulsen asks:

>This question is posed to Yoshie, Phil Ferguson, and everyone else who is
>defending the proposition that '*homosexuality* and  *homosexuals* did not
>exist prior to industrial capitalism', to quote Phil in a recent post.
>Can you all elaborate on what you mean by this exactly?  Do you mean that
>a) There were no people whose erotic feelings were aroused mainly by stimuli
>associated with persons of the same sex -
>   a1) because erotic responses are culturally determined, and the culture
>of the time was efficiently programming everyone to be heterosexual

Actually I think we have already answered this.  Yoshie's excellent post in
Digest 2934 being the latest explanation.

Saying there were no homosexuals before capitalism is NOT saying people did
not engage in same-sex activities, as both of us have made very clear.  We
have conversely noted that there were no heterosexuals before capitalism
either, but that doesn't mean people didn't engage in male-female relations.

Or, to take another example, Carroll pointed out that the teenager is a
creation of the 1950s.  The teenager didn't exist before then.  I think
this is very true, but it doesn't mean that Carroll (or Yoshie or I) are
trying to say that there were no 13-19 year olds before the 1950s.

Some of the people who pioneered the work on the emergence of the
homosexual later turned their attention to the emergence of the
heterosexual.  I can't remember the title of the book in which this
analysis is developed, but I can search out an old review of it that I have
buried somewhere.

What Yoshie and I are emphasising is the *historical (or historically
specific) character* of these kinds of categories.  This recognition is
quite wide these days in the literature, and the authors Yoshie mentioned
are well worth following up for poeple interested in seeing where the
historiography and sociological analyses have reached - much of this
material is a long way ahead of the still primitive grapplings of many
Marxists on the subject.  Which pretty much reflects the fact that a lot of
the preoccupations of Marxists are irrelevant to the rest of society and
that non-Marxist writers have often assimilated aspects of Marx's
methodology - or, more likely, come to aspects of the same methodology
independently - better than whole schools of official Marxists.

However, if anyone wants to follow up the importance of *historicising*
categories and how this is a central part of Marx's whole methodology, I
might suggest another book - Karl Korsch's excellent 'Karl Marx'
(originally published in the 1930s, and reprinted in the USA in the early
60s).  Korsch has two chapters on historical specificity.  Every Marxist
should read them.

Philip Ferguson

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