“A Dance to the (Disco) Music of Time: A review of Homosexuality and Civilization, by Louis Crompton,” by John Derbyshire, The Claremont Institute, http://www.claremont.org/writings/crb/spring2004/derbyshire.html, 6 April 2004.
“An interview with John Derbyshire,” Collected Miscellany, http://collectedmiscellany.com/archives/000047.php, 11 November 2003.
“Derbyshire Interview Follow-Up,” Collected Miscellany, http://collectedmiscellany.com/archives/000058.php, 11 November 2003.
“Here to Stay: We’re here, we’re mildly and tolerantly homophobic, get used to it!” by John Derbyshire, National Review Online, http://www.nationalreview.com/derbyshire/derbyshire200405140857.asp, 14 May 2004
In the middle of a fascinating interview on Wall Street, novel writing, and mathematics, a fascinating prediction and statement
This is probably going to happen to me sooner or later, actually. I am not very careful about what I say, having grown up in the era before Political Correctness, and never having internalized the necessary restraints. I am a homophobe, though a mild and tolerant one…
Defending his views in a follow-on essay
I described myself as “a mild, tolerant homophobe.” This means that I do not like homosexuality, and I think it is a net negative for society. As a conservative, inclined to give the benefit of the doubt (when there is doubt) to long-established practices, I cannot help note that there has never been a human society, at any level of civilization, that has approved egalitarian (that is, adult-adult) homosexuality. Male-male buggery has been proscribed in every society that ever existed. I am inclined to think that there are good reasons for these universal prohibitions. To say the least of it, male homosexuality is very unhealthy–much more so than, for example, cigarette smoking. A lot of the people who howl “Homophobe!” at me whenever I write anything about this topic are people who have to swallow a bucket of pills eight times a day just to stay alive. Is it any wonder I have trouble taking them seriously?
Earlier in a book review, Derbyshire questions the meaning of homosexuality
His topic is, of course, homosexuality, and this raises a number of problems right away. What is homosexuality? The term is currently used in reference to those who find erotic fulfillment only with coevals of their own sex. A great deal of Crompton’s book, however, deals with different matters. Much of it is about ephebophilia, or boy-love, a phenomenon whose connection to homosexuality is unclear. Indeed, many present-day homosexualist propagandists insist hotly that there is no connection at all.
And Derbyshire quotes Sir Kenneth Dover as writing
If Spartans in the fourth century B.C. unanimously and firmly denied that their erastai and eromenoi [i.e., senior and junior partners in an ephebophilic bond] ever had any bodily contact beyond a clasping of right hands, it was not easy for an outsider even at the time to produce evidence to the contrary, and for us it is impossible.
Further in the review, he breaks the situation down into four kinds
Reading Professor Crompton’s book, I found that the most useful way of thinking about his topic was as a sort of dance—a “dance to the music of time,” as it were. (Apologies to the late Anthony Powell.) The participants in this dance are not individual human beings but invariant components of the human personality, found in all times and places. Principal among those components I would list the following:
* Homosexual orientation. Some small proportion of people find erotic fulfillment only with members of their own sex.
* Ephebophilia. Some much larger proportion of adult men can be sexually aroused by contemplating the bodies of well-formed adolescent boys. Overt expression of this attraction has been approved in some societies (or among some social strata in some societies—this seems to be controversial), where it has led to open romantic bonding between adult men and boys. Some similar, but much less historically significant, phenomenon is found among women.
* Faute de mieux homosexuality. In societies, or institutions in societies—monasteries, prisons, etc. —where social custom or institutional imperative severely constrains access to the opposite sex, some large proportion of adults, perhaps a majority, will find erotic satisfaction, or at least release, with members of their own sex, when there are not strong institutional prejudices against this (as there are, for instance, in elite combat units of the U.S. military).
* Homophobia. (Note: This ugly and etymologically stupid word has entered general currency, so I use it here for convenience, though under protest.) The contemplation of homosexuality induces negative emotions—disgust and contempt, mostly, but also sometimes indignation, anger, and hatred—in many people.
The story told in Homosexuality and Civilization is in large part the story of a long dance among these four partners, with sometimes this one, sometimes that one taking the lead. The well-known proclivities of the ancient Greeks, for example, arose mainly from the union of the second and third of the factors I have listed.
But perhaps this is fiddling while Rome burns
My personal bet is that homosexuality will disappear before homophobia does — possibly quite soon, in a generation or so. Here’s my logic: One of the least controversial things you can say about homosexuality is this: Practically nobody wants his kids to grow up homosexual. Some people mind the prospect more than others, but practically nobody welcomes it — not even, I should think, homosexuals. (One of the rare exceptions is Sharon Osbourne, who recently remarked: “My only regret in life is that none of my children are gay.” I doubt any very large number of Americans take Mrs. Osbourne as a parenting role model, though.)
Now, the trend in current research on homosexuality, if I have understood it correctly, suggests that the homosexual orientation is indeed mostly congenital — the result of events in the mother’s womb, or in early infancy, with perhaps some slight genetic predisposition. The thing is, in short, mainly biochemical — part of a person’s physical make-up.
Supposing this is true, let us conduct a wee thought experiment — admittedly a fanciful one. A young woman in the late stages of pregnancy, or carrying a small infant, shows up at her doctor’s office. “Doctor,” she asks, “is there some kind of test you can do to tell me if my child is likely to become a homosexual adult?” The doctor says yes, there is. “And,” the woman continues, “suppose the test is positive — would that be something we can fix? I mean, is there some sort of medical, or genetic, or biochemical intervention we can do at this stage, to prevent that happening?” The doctor says yes, there is. “How much does the test cost? And supposing it’s positive, how much does the fix cost?” The doctor says $50, and $500. The woman takes out her checkbook.
Of course this is not happening anywhere in the U.S.A. right now. If my understanding of the state of current research is correct, however, it might very well be happening on a daily basis ten years from now.
Thus ending the first well-written defenses of homophobia I have read.