MODERNIZATION AS NATURALIZATION
Cultural license was granted to contemplate the sexual, but in an isolation that actually reinforced the continuing exile of the sexual from the rest of social life. The experience of sexual conduct was necessarily viewed as translatable into the facts of sexual behavior—the idea that the establishing of the physical geography of the sexual orgasm could become the foundation of sexual science at its most transcendent. The naturalization of the sexual required a view of the sexual that was increasingly ahistorical. An ahistoricism, in turn, that produced a concrete abstractness that allowed orgasm to become a thing unto itself, a “hyperreality” with a physiology, chemistry, and neurology all its own. From Kinsey et aids (1948, 1953) “outlet” to the Masters and Johnson’s (1966) graphic representation of the stages of the orgasm, the new science of sex was complicit in producing an alienated orgasm—one fortunately alienated more in its thinking about orgasm than in most people’s experience of orgasm.
This naturalization of sex encouraged, first, the adoption of a preference for taxonomic distinctions that assumed permanent basic differentiations. The Kinsey homosexual-heterosexual continuum often became in its uses discrete categories as if delineating sub-species, describing individuals by the number of their position on this continuum as if some specific position along it was reflective of some basic characterological attribute. And, similarly, much of the continuing quest for origins of homosexuality assumed a singular source, a naive assumption that a homogeneity of acts implied a corresponding homogeneity of actors. In effect, what was little more than an analytically convenient but shallow typology was transformed into an oppressive taxonomy; the multiple meanings of all sexualities were dissolved into global identities that obscured more than they revealed, beyond the social responses they often legitimated.
Involved was a conceptualization of the object of sexual desire so abstract that, when applied to behavior, the issue of sexual desire was almost totally obscured by a preoccupation with the limited issue of the gender of the sexual object. This encouraged a vulgar behaviorism that tended to render invisible the meaning of the larger part of observable behavior and virtually all of nonobservable behavior, such as motivation and the intrapsychic landscapes that evoke sexual excitement. This objectification also served the politics of sexual behavior by allowing the issues of inclusion and exclusion to appear to be solidly based upon the biological substrate. Thus, ironically, what were initially attempts to reduce the significance of the homosexual-heterosexual distinction evolved into the raw material for the creation of a homosexual whose difference was inscribed in nature, appearing almost “racial” in character (Epstein 1987; Escoffier 1985).