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In sociology, homosociality describes same-sex relationships that are not of sexual nature. For example, a heterosexual male who prefers to socialize with men may be considered a homosocial heterosexual. Homosociality implies neither heterosexuality nor homosexuality.
Homosociality is a term frequently used in discussions of the all-male world of knightly life in medieval culture.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Homosocial relationships are not obliged to be sexual relationships, they are merely same-sex social interactions. The term homosociality is most often used with reference to male relationships.[How to reference and link to summary or text]Rosabeth Moss Kanter used the term "homosocial reproduction" (originally, "homosexual reproduction") to describe the alleged tendencies of corporate executives to socalize with and promote other men, resulting in a glass ceiling for women in the same environment.
The term homosocial is particularly associated with the thought of Eve Sedgwick, and her book Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (Columbia University Press, 1985). She acknowledges that the term predates her in occasional usage, with a generic meaning: "'Homosocial' is a word occasionally used in history and the social sciences, where it describes social bonds between persons of the same sex" (p. 1) Sedgwick's contribution, however, is the notion that the boundaries between the social and the sexual are blurry, fuzzy; thus homosociality and homosexuality are connected and can never fully be disentangled. She acknowledges that the nature of this boundary varies from society to society and from era to era, and even within one society it can differ between women and men. She points to how, in the contemporary United States, there is a clear connection and continuum (but not an identity) between the desire of women to help their fellow women (feminism) and the desire of women for their fellow women (lesbianism). However, turning to men, the story is different: patriarchy is analogous to feminism, in that it involves social relations among men (she connects this to Heidi Hartmann's notion of patriarchy as "relations between men... [which] create interdependence and solidarity among men that enable them to dominate women"); yet the men who most further patriarchy are also (at least publicly/consciously) those who are most homophobic. She writes (p. 3):
- When Ronald Reagan and Jesse Helms get down to serious logrolling on "family policy", they are men promoting men's interests... Is their bond in any way congruent with the bond of a loving gay male couple? Reagan and Helms would say no--disgustedly. Most gay couples would say no--disgustedly. But why not? Doesn't the continuum between "men-loving-men" and "men-promoting-the-interests-of-men" have the same intuitive force that it has for women?
She also cites ancient Greece as an example of a very different society, where there was a clearly observable continuum between men furthering men's interests and male homosexuality. One of Sedgwick's major thesis, however, is that the seeming male heterosexual in our society is actually a displacement of male homosocial desire. When men desire women, she argues, often the ultimate object of the desire is not the woman desired, but rather other men; the desire for women serves as a conduit through which the desire for men can be expressed. She develops this through René Girard's study of love triangles (in Desire, Deceit and the Novel, 1961), and his thesis that in a love triangle the desire between the rivals is just as strong if not stronger than the desire between each rival and the beloved, in conjunction with the notion derived from Gayle Rubin and Luce Irigaray of patriarchal society as involving traffic in women (and especially Irigaray's notion of traffic in women constituting male homosexuality, although Sedgwick acknowledges "the male 'homosexuality' discussed here turns out to represent anything but actual sex between men" (p. 26)).
She also discusses how homophobic blackmail actually serves male homosocial ends: "the result has been a structural residue of terrorist potential, of blackmailability, of Western maleness through the leverage of homophobia." (p. 89)
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