midterm review - final copy

Revealing about the temperament of individual human

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revealing about the temperament of individual human beings, more significant determinants of personal identity, than, for example, patterns of dietary object- choice (light vs. dark meat) in the same way, it never occurred to the ancients to ascribe a person’s sexual tastes to some positive, structural, or constitutive sexual feature of his or her personality we need to de-center sexuality from the focus of the cultural interpretations of sexual experience Categories, Experience, and Sexuality by John Boswell - gender and sexuality are inextricably entangled - constructionism: the view that “sexuality” is an artifact or “construct” of human society and therefore specific to any given social situation - constructionists cannot argue that there are not natural (physiological) components to human sexuality in terms of the functioning of body parts, response to stimulus, etc. - some other force- genes, psychological influences, etc.- creates “sexuality”, which is essentially independent of culture - essentialists assume that humans are differentiated at an individual level in terms of erotic attraction, so that some are more attracted sexually to their own gender, some to the opposite gender, and some to both in all cultures
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Week 3 - the strengths and limitations of the constructionist theory of human sexuality (1) philosophical: two assumptions that underlie the social constructionist critique of conventional historiography o a general reaction against post-enlightenment positivism and its tendency to treat abstractions as concrete signifiers rather than abbreviations for loose generalizations abstract categories of one culture (i.e. gender, class, etc.) cannot be projected onto others o controversy in the issue of free will centers on the extent to which humans determine their own character, preferences, interests, desires, etc. as opposed to passively experiencing or inheriting them (2) semantic o is it legitimate to ask questions of the past using the categories of the present? o constructionism says we should suppress modern categories as irrelevant and focus instead on the categories the ancients would have used themselves the abstractions “homosexual” or “homosexuality” are uncommon or unknown in most premodern languages it is revealing that Romans and Greeks had many words for age-related sexual categories and no words to describe persons, regardless of gender, involved in what we call “homosexuality”? – probably not o there is no reason to suppose that the lack of a perfect word match with English in terms of its organization proves a fundamental discontinuity either of experience or conceptualizations (3) political o it is perfectly unclear what factors produce varieties of sexual interest; no one can claim to “know” that there were or were not such interests in the past o since every human being is both like others and different from them, there seems little reason to assume that one strategy is better than another, unless there is a political
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