Monday, February 02, 2009

Origin of the homosexual recruitment myth?

It's probably one of the most powerful lies in the anti-gay lobby's rhetoric: that homosexuals recruit. I'm curious about where it first appeared.

The usual "deduction" to justify it is that homosexuals can't procreate, therefore they must need to recruit. There are a whole load of problematic assumptions in this "deduction" that, I think, would not be so conveniently skipped over if there wasn't such a long history of the belief of homosexual recruitment in Western culture. It's the social entrenchment of the belief rather than any internal logic to the idea that is the problem I think.

Believing the recruitment myth is not a requirement of believing that homosexuality is wrong. It is a requirement of believing that homosexuality is a "social disease" which needs to be "contained". Is there any other society that viewed homosexuality as socially contagious before Western culture introduced the idea to the world? I honestly don't know. I suspect not.

What few writings I've examined about the recruitment myth so far merely try to refute it or, in the case of anti-gay tracts, support it. I've found almost nothing about the origin or spread of the belief. Has anyone actually ever bothered to research it?

There is just one reference I've found, in a newsletter from 1993 put out by Paul Cameron's Family Research Institute. He points out a single passage in an early writing by the Christian founders. The Didache contains the single line "you shall not corrupt children", which Cameron portrays as a prohibition on attempts at homosexual recruitment. Another work called the Apostolic Constitutions, chapter 7 of which is apparently an expansion of the Didache, suggests that the "corruption" referred to is indeed male homosexuality: "Thou shall not corrupt boys: (5) for this wickedness is contrary to nature, and arose from Sodom, which was therefore entirely consumed with fire sent from God."

That's the only reference to an origin of the recruitment myth I can find, and it's still vague (does "corruption" specifically refer to the idea of recruitment here? I'm not 100% convinced that it must do so). I'd be very interested in further exploring the origin and trajectory of the idea if at all possible.


Clifford Rosky said...

I am currently writing an article on this subject, which I would be happy to share with you when it's finished. In the meantime, I'll point you toward David Halperin, Deviant Teaching, in A Companion to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies, at pages 146-167. In this essay, Halperin traces the historical origins of the fear that teachers will corrupt students into homosexuality.

Z said...

I would be interested in reading your article when it's finished, yes. Thank you for that, and for the pointer to David Halperin's work.