Homophobia is hatred of homosexuality and homosexualism is love of homosexuality. As homosexuality is an improper concept, both these tendencies are intellectually unsound. Resting as they do on the same improper concept, they often grow and shrink together.
In mid-2001 I read in the San Francisco Chronicle that Egypt was having a crackdown on gays. As background we were told that it is common for non-gay men in Egypt to walk hand in hand and make similar physical expressions of love, something that is simply not so in modern Christendom. But it seems to be so in Sa’udi Arabia, where perversion is punished even more severely than in Egypt, and in South Vietnam, where, I suppose, there is contempt for perversion, if not punishment. In April 2002 there was a big meeting of Arab leaders; the Sa’udi and Iraqi representatives, both male, kissed each other on the lips, something we would never see between same-sex leaders from Christian countries.
We can make a big leap and suppose that rampant homosexualism (involving but distinct from rampant perversion) in Christendom is the cause of this shyness in our culture, a shyness which some Moslem countries have avoided by greater strictness in state attitudes to pseudosexual activity. We have certainly had a tremendous wave of homosexualism, with a consequent increase in homophobia, since the 1960s, the most frightening (because most irrational) event being the 1973 denial by the American Psychiatric Association that homosexuality – here meaning sexual inversion – was a disorder, an absurdity now copied by a lot of learned bodies whose members certainly know better. An interesting example of the effects of homosexualism is to be found in Enid Blyton’s Noddy books: when they were first written, in the 1950s, Noddy when staying overnight with his friend Big-Ears was pictured sharing Big-Ears’ bed; in the revised editions of the 1980s and 1990s Noddy has a camp bed. The aversion to men holding hands seems to antedate the 1960s, of course, but the dying Nelson said “Kiss me, Hardy” (thus repelling generations of British schoolboys) so there has been a big change.
I hazard a guess that the homosexualism of the 1960s had been preceded by a lower-profile movement for a century or more. The occasional remarks I have come across in literature and history seem to indicate something of the sort. I think that Britain for a while in the 2nd half of the 19th Century punished same-sex mutual masturbation (legally known as “gross indecency”) with death (Queen Victoria is said to have denied the possibility of women doing such things, so that only men got it in the neck); this implies that there had been some increase in homophobia, presumably prompted by a significant increase in homosexualism, or at least in perversion.
We in modern Christendom find it difficult to imagine how different relationships might be in an environment with little or no homosexualism. As a consequence we sometimes come to ludicrous conclusions that certain men in the past, for example Shakespeare, were gay, whereas in reality what today might be evidence of gayness is in Shakespeare the result of a comparative lack of gays in his environment, and certainly lack of approval for their behavior. Again, John Boswell, reading descriptions of the now disused Byzantine liturgy for the reconciliation of friends who had quarreled spread the word that the Christian church had formerly celebrated gay weddings: as a result of the homosexualism of his environment, Boswell could not envisage deep non-erotic love between two people of the same sex – or perhaps between any two people.
I have the impression that same-sex physical signs of affection lasted longer in some parts of Christendom than in others; I think in fact that they lasted longer in Catholic countries than in Protestant ones; I have been told that non-gay Italian men still often hug and kiss in public. There are three possible reasons for this, and I suspect that all are true.
Firstly, Catholics are not so much given to homophobia as Protestants, being aware that we are all sinners, with many temptations to battle, and that sins against sexuality are not the ones to combat with the most effort socially (although they are very likely the most important ones to battle within most people’s souls in the search for holiness). Protestants are less tolerant of each other’s failings and more concerned with sins against sexuality than with other sins. Homophobia and homosexualism feed on each other, so Catholics also have less homosexualism.
Secondly, in another way, Protestants may be more tolerant of certain sins against sexuality. We noticed in the 20th Century that many Protestant groups publicly approved of contraception, as though ejaculating in a balloon were somehow less sinful than ejaculating in a rectum. Contraception goes back millennia, but there seems to have been a gradual increase starting some time after the Reformation, and it may have even then been condemned less by Protestants than by Catholics, although it was not until the early 20th Century that significant numbers of Protestant leaders publicly approved it. Furthermore, Protestants were already condoning remarriage after divorce, perhaps due in part to a misunderstanding of Mt 19:9, where Jesus says “here not upon fornication”, a divorce upon fornication being a separation when the couple were not really married, but where many Protestants understand “here not upon adultery”, i.e. unless one spouse has committed adultery. This doctrine is given in the Presbyterians’ Westminster Confession of Faith 24:5, although I do not think I am being malicious in supposing that personal problems of some of the framers may have been more important than an honest misunderstanding of the Gospel in the acceptance of this mistake.
The Mt 19:9 mistake of the Protestants broke the entire natural-law structure of sexual morality, leading to private and later publicly admitted contraception. I suggest that the same rupture led to other kinds of perversion in private, and self-kidding about it, firstly among Protestants and later elsewhere in Christendom.
Thirdly, Protestants have less monasticism. They often seem to fear the contemplative life. In WCF 22:7 the Presbyterians tell us what they think of celibate life – another sign of the proclivities of the framers? – and the Catholic attitude is quite different: marriage is a sacrament, an outward sign of inward grace, whereas the religious, particularly the contemplative, life is itself the grace, and so profession is not a sacrament. Catholics have a better idea than Protestants that varying lifestyles are legitimate, and so pause before condemning the gay lifestyle: they do condemn it, on clear moral grounds, but not merely because it is not their own way of life. Protestantism (and, in practice, Islam) thus tends to greater homophobia and so to greater homosexualism in response.
The Scottish Free Presbyterian Monthly rails against homosexualism, more homophobically than strictly morally, and also condemns the Catholic Church as the mystery of iniquity, refusing to notice implicit agreement with the (more measured) Catholic attitude towards perversion. The FPM does not realize that the Reformation it strives to defend is the origin of the perversion against which it rails.
The perversion which has increased may cover more than voluntary and semivoluntary mutual masturbation and contraception. During the early 1990s someone who had been a family-court magistrate during the 1950s wrote the Spectator a letter claiming that in over a decade of such work he had never come across an instance of erotic child abuse. He acknowledged that there might nowadays be greater willingness on the part of witnesses to mention such crime, but he was sure that he would have come across some instances unless the incidence had grown considerably in more recent times. We can make a guess, corrigible by relevant evidence, that the increase in homosexualism brought with it increased contempt for sexual dignity, with one result being a great increase in erotic child abuse and perhaps another an increase in mutual masturbation by two-sex couples – what is the incidence of fellatio and buggary in Victorian pornography? The infamous Victorian Walter, of course, describes the fun he had raping an eight-year-old girl, and I know there was child prostitution in much of north-west Europe in the late 18th Century – General Booth of the Salvation Army was instrumental in getting the age of “consent” raised. But, whatever led to this abuse of children, it seems to have ceased by the 1950s.
Additionally, child abuse by clergy and other adults in special positions of trust may have increased since some point after World War II. It is possible, of course, that it was merely better hidden in the past, but I doubt that, for the following reason. Much of the complaint about clerical abuse is anti-Catholic complaint, although there seems to be at least as much in other denominations, from reports I have read about how psychologists see it. The abuse has given anti-Catholic propagandists a new weapon. But it is precisely a new weapon. Boccaccio in Decamerone mocks clergy and religious for sins against sexuality, and in particular against celibacy, but does not, so far as I remember, accuse them of child abuse. Similarly, the Maria Monk accusations of the 19th Century mention infanticide as a crime of celibates, but not, so far as I know, erotic abuse of children. We may assume that Maria Monk, if there had been any whisper of such abuse, would have told many stories of it. I therefore conclude that the phenomenon is comparatively new, and possibly in part co-incidental with and consequential on the increase in homosexualism.
Who would like to correct and intelligently augment these thoughts?