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A Violent Social Construction: Homosexual Closets
Presented to The Action Committee Against Violence City of Calgary
For Easier printing: Document in Two Parts!

The Homosexuality Factor In Male Youth Gangs.

Increasingly, we have been reading about youth violence, and especially about youth gang violence. Why do some males form youth gangs? Are they different than other males? Than other juvenile delinquents? What is the history of youth gangs?

In 1961, Albert J. Reiss published his findings based on his study of juvenile delinquents with a focus on males who are organized, form youth gangs, and are career delinquents. The paper's title, The Social Integration of Peers and Queers," renders the socially constructed nature of the phenomenon.

By the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, some social scientists were taking a serious look at human sexuality in many cultures, and books such as The [social] Construction of Homosexuality by David F. Greenberg (1988) were being written. Boyer (1989) titled a section of her paper, The Cultural Construction of Homosexuality, which was used to explain male youth prostitution. It has therefore become more evident that both the expression of heterosexuality and homosexuality varies (often greatly) in human cultures, and that sexual behavior is significantly affected by learned beliefs and taboos.

With respect to homosexuality, numerous cultures consider homosexual activity to be normal and acceptable. In such cases the "anonymous sex" phenomena observed in our homophobic culture would probably not exist. Some cultures have also only approved of older males having sex with boys, and sex between males (men who are equals) was unthinkable and even condemned. Therefore, the dominant forms of homosexual expression are (have been) quite different than what exits in our culture where adult homosexual males don't generally have sex with boys.

With respect to heterosexuality, a similar situation applies. There are cultures where most men somehow acquire a violent heterosexuality and raping women has been normal behavior. As Sanday (1981) outlined in the paper, The Socio-Cultural Context of Rape: A Cross-Cultural Study, human cultures can be divided into rape and non-rape cultures, and the nature of heterosexuality manifested also varies greatly. In one culture described, a man was expected to hurt a woman enough to make her scream and cry when he first had sex with her on their wedding night.

People generally acquire (learn) different heterosexualities, bisexualities, and homosexualities possibly having an initial biological component which may be radically altered by the social indoctrination. In a culture where people don't wear clothes, and one's gender identity is therefore not related to clothing, men sexually stimulated by wearing women's clothes (e.g.. high heel shoes, panties) would not exist. This is one type of sexuality - mostly a male heterosexuality - found in cultures where male and female clothing is distinct and different, and such a sexuality is therefore, in great part (wholly?), socially constructed.

Each member of a culture participates in organizing a society with the norm, thus inevitably producing deviant groups who develop sub-social systems to meet their abnormal needs. When the sale of alcohol was banned in the United States, there was a need for alcohol and some people developed a meet the need. The buyers and the sellers met and both benefited from the arrangement. The same applies for illegal drugs today, or for homosexual males who wanted to perform oral sex on very masculine ultra-macho boys up to about 30 years ago. Boys discovered that this need existed and some of them went into business. Meeting places evolved and were established, and the rules were made by the boys who had the power. They would be supplying the sex homosexual males wanted, but only if they were paid and if the established rules were followed.

This is The Social Integration of Peers and Queers described by Reiss (1961), and it's a system expected to evolve (develop) in a homophobic society. Most interesting, however, was the acquired beliefs of boys supplying sexual services to homosexual males; they would never define themselves to be homosexual, or even bisexual because they perceived themselves to be 100 percent heterosexual. Reiss was suspicious of their claim and suspected a repressed homosexual identity (72: 218, 223) because many of these heterosexual boys would also let a male perform oral sex on them, just for the enjoyment (72: 216-217). Reiss nonetheless finally sided with them, stating that most apparently become adults who only have sex with women, although he did not propose a longitudinal study of these boys into adulthood to verify his conclusion (72: 227).

The dominating learned belief permitting these boys to think they were 100 percent heterosexual was based on the idea that "a queer" is "like a woman," given his desire to sexually please men as women do, or as men would want women to do. Therefore, only males who take on the female sex role are "queer," thus permitting the boys act in accordance to their sexually dominant disposition. They were never sexually passive and therefore did not lose their masculinity/heterosexuality status (72: 218). This arrangement met the sexual needs some homosexual-identified males and the needs of the boys. For the latter, the reason always given to justify their homo-sexual experiences was money-related, but the explanation should be viewed with suspicion. As a rule, the homosexual males in these homo-sex engagements did not have orgasms but the boys always did. Personally, because I am male and if I was engaging in homo-sex for money, it would still be impossible to say that I experienced an orgasm because of the money paid. True, I was paid, but the money was not the cause of my orgasm. Basically, people experience orgasms because they enjoy what is happening, thus suggesting that these boys were at least bisexual.

According to Reiss' data, about 62 percent of males who belonged to gangs (in the career delinquent category) were involved with having sex with gay males on a regular basis (72: 203), and we can assume that these boys enjoyed the orgasms they experienced. For male youth who have homo-sex desires but also have a need to deny they are homosexual to any degree, the "social integration of peers and queers" was a blessing and it could have never come into existence without the full approval of these boys. The system may also have had other positive results. Many males, as some married women have discovered, experience mood swings if they are not getting the sex they want and need. They may even become more violent than they usually are, or more prone to losing their tempers and being violent, and these boys were therefore possibly helped by the homosexual males who supplied them with so many orgasms.

Societies nonetheless change and, sometimes, a system developed to meet the mutual needs of certain (often disenfranchised) people is destroyed. Since the 1960s, gay liberation has been responsible for an increasing understanding of homosexuality, and the old "gay males are like women" stereotype lessened, at least until the "bio" research began reporting that gay males are apparently not only more "like women" behaviorally and in terms of self-perceptions, but also more "like females" with respect to certain brain structures. It has also been recognized, however, that males who enjoy having sex with males, even if they are only playing the "dominant role," may be bisexual or even 100 percent homosexual. This ideological development was not a blessing for the above described adolescent boys in need of having sex with males and in greater need of an ideology required to deny the "homosexual' implications of their enjoyed orgasm-producing same-sex activities.

Concurrent with this ideological change, there was also a change in some gay men's perception of self, mostly though thinking, debates, and education. For gay males who were party to "the social integration of peers and queers," the situation was degrading, dangerous, and also costly. Many of these males, I suspect, possibly wanted more from their sex lives and discovered that, increasingly, sufficiently masculine males had ventured into the more visible gay communities and were available for free. Therefore, the old "trade" system could be dispensed, thus reducing the demand for "trade" male prostitutes. This fact is reflected both in gay writing during this period and even in the research results relating to male youth prostitution.

Debra Boyer, in her research paper, Male Prostitution and Homosexual Identity published in Gay and Lesbian Youth (1989), reports that about 80 percent of male youth prostitutes in the 1950s and 1960s defined themselves to be heterosexual while about 80 percent of male youth prostitutes in the early 1980s defined themselves to be either homosexual or bisexual (13: 158-159). From my observations, most male youth prostitutes today could not make a living by only being sexually dominant (heterosexual), mostly because homosexual male customers are now more like heterosexual male customers in terms of the sexual services sought from prostitutes.

This "male prostitution" development therefore brings up an important question. Male youth with a strong ultra-macho identification still exist and, as it existed before, a certain percentage of them are driven to form male youth gangs. The reason for this has been poorly understood by social scientists, although some writers - since the beginning of this century - have speculated that repressed homosexuality is a significant motivating factor. The 1991 book, Homosexuality and Male Bonding in pre-Nazi Germany, edited by Oosterhuis and Kennedy, addresses this sensitive topic. Although my adolescent environment was somewhat different than the ones described in this book, and also different from the youth gangs Reiss (1961) studied, there are similarities. Male bonding is a form of love which often surpasses the love adolescent males may have for females, but adolescent boys and young men will generally not admit this.

If repressed "homosexuality" is one of the causal factors in the formation of male youth gangs, and if about 60 percent of these males have been (are) in need of having sex with males but now have no way (or very restricted ways) in society of having such experiences, how could some of them be resolving the problem? As I see it, and most juvenile delinquents would know this, the only places left in society where these males can have the sex they want (need), while at the same time denying they are homosexual, is in juvenile detention facilities, or in adult male prisons.

During the winter of 1992, a young male in an Ontario juvenile detention center was interviewed for CBC Radio's Sunday Morning news program. The interview ended with a "voice over" as the boy was beginning to describe how he made condoms - with whatever materials were available - for use when he was having sex with other males. It seems like the CBC didn't want the public to know too much about what is happening homo-sexually in Canadian penal institutions, and the same situation exists in American detention facilities

Troxler (1990) describes the changing American prison situation because of AIDS. He reports on a news story from prison in which "the administration could not figure out why the plastic covering from chickens in the kitchen was disappearing, why the plastic from the stockroom was disappearing, why all the plastic from different things was disappearing. And finally they figured out that the inmates were making homemade condoms!" (88: 227) Troxler supplies this information within the context of describing how "the deal" has changed between men who deny they are homosexual and the men they have sex with. Troxler is certain that "there has to be a homoerotic element to that turn-on."

In prisons, ultra-macho heterosexual males still operate under the myth that only the passive male is homosexual, and another myth also applies: the sex they had with a male only occurred because a woman was not available. Stated in picture form, however, these males are saying: "I experience orgasms when I have sex with males because a woman was not available." Obviously, "because a woman is not available" is not, and cannot be, the reason why they have orgasms when engaging in homo-sex..

To my knowledge, no one has yet postulated that some male youths are more violent and may engage in more criminal activity because they are homo-sexually frustrated. These repressed homosexual youths may also be heading to our prisons in increasing numbers because they know it is in prisons where they can have homo-sex in ways acceptable to them. Many people would ridicule this idea, but only because they have little knowledge of homosexual desire and its history. For example, many people remain unaware of the great dangers homosexual males traditionally faced to get the sex they wanted; it once included the death penalty and, up to the 1960s, a probable prison sentence.

To support the above idea, however, I cannot use a case of a dominant male who arranged it so that he could return to prison to get the sex he wants and needs. These males would never admit this to anyone because they cannot even admit it to themselves. Instead, I will use another case (reported in the book Male Rape) which would be even more difficult to believe: the young male, Donald Tucker, who was raped about 60 times in two days by many inmates. Somehow, his sexual experiences in prison had a great effect on him. He had become a "punk" and he was also in need of having sex with real "Men."

When he was released from prison, he explored the gay community to discover what was available but didn't find gay men to be as "credible" as were the men he had sex with in prison. Dominant gay males into rougher sex - often called "leather sex" or "sadomasochism" - usually respect their sexual partner's limits and, as a rule, their sexuality is a combination of reality and good acting. Donald did not like this and therefore realized he could not get the sex he desired in society. He then committed a crime, surrendered to the police, and was sent to jail where he wanted to be because it offered him the type of security he wanted. This security included having a "real Man" to take care of him in trade for sexual services. (89: 73-74)

Concerning male rape victims in prisons, Tucker offered this insight:

It may be that the most serious cost of prison rape to society is that it takes non-violent offenders and turns them into people with a high potential for violence, full of rage and eager to take vengeance on a society which they hold responsible for their utter humiliation and loss of manhood. If they do not turn their frustrated rage against themselves - I suspect that a majority of jail suicides are rape victims - they may turn it on the world outside, perhaps becoming rapists themselves in a desperate attempt to 'regain their manhood' (89: 75).
Sexually dominant males in prisons understand what it means if a sexually passive status was ever imposed on them. Tucker explains that "The Man would rather be killed than fucked" (89: 74). Embodied in this statement is the idea that, for some males, especially if a rape was involved, the consequences could be disastrous. An inmate, James Dunn, describes what he saw in prison. "During my first week there, I saw fourteen guys rape one youngster because he refused to submit. ...When they finished with him, he had to be taken to the hospital where they had to sew him up, then they had to take him to the nuthouse ... because he cracked up" (75: 6).
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