February 2011 Archives

Capitalism and Gay Indentity/Sexual Geography and Gender Economy

John D'Emilio creates an interesting argument in which he explains the direct relationship between capitalism and the emergence of Gay and Lesbian identities. He argues that before the growth of capitalism family units were needed for survival, rather than for the emotional private life that we consider them to be now. For example, before it was necessary to bear children that would help with labor, which has now changed. The roles of men and women were so defined that there were completely interdependent. With capitalism came the possibility of economic independence from a family unit, which resulted in the emergence of people being able to create a sexual identity. There were expressions of homosexuality before, but never expressed as an identity as it is now. On page 32 he supports his argument by referring to the Kinsey study says that in the 40'a and 50's there were more gay men that women because men were more included in the labor force and earned more money, therefore were able to create a sexual identity. Furthermore, Kinsey found a correlation between lesbian activity and years of schooling. Women who had a college degree were more likely to be able to support themselves, and therefore were not as dependant on have relationships with men. i found this argument interesting because it seems to exclude the idea of the correlation between lesbian activity and years of schooling could be more related to the fact that more education meant being more exposed to different ways of thinking and different lifestyles, rather than simply economic reasons. How do these two ideas combine? is there a way that we can tell which of the two, economic independence or exposure to other ideologies, is more influential to a person's sexual identity? Or are they both completely unrelated to sexuality?
Joanne Meyerowitz focuses on the importance of studying the different settings, both geographic and economic, that influenced the sexual revolution. She supports her argument by referring to studies, for example, of Chicago's furnished rooms in the early 20th century (that later became more prominent throughout the country) that were a place for "sexually unconventional subcultures". By the late 20th century these rooms became districts, three in the case of Chicago. She explains that in these districts certain social behavior was accepted and encouraged, whereas in other areas it was completely intolerable. Meyerowitz finds a different correlation between economic needs and lesbian culture. She refers to lesbian women who depended on men financially by becoming prostitutes, or who were supported by richer lesbian partners. She also refers to sexual pleasure and sexual dangers (rape) and how this also played a major role in women's experience and expression of identity. Are these aspects more important to the emergence of lesbian subculture? Or is it capitalism? Does the fact that women who still depended on men also were lesbian contradict D'Emilio's argument? Why or why not? Is D'Emilio's argument too simple? Does the fact that he does not talk about aspects such as sexual pleasure and dangers in the emergence of homosexual culture make his argument incomplete? Why or why not?

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