THE MEANINGS OF PERVERSION
It is possible that at any one moment a society may contain a wide variety of forms of sexual perversion as I’ve defined it. Many such perversions are so obscure that they remain unknown and unknowable, if only because of the innocuousness of their practices. Still others occur with sufficient regularity that they become part of a society’s canon of perversions. Of these, a small number become a special focus of attention and these frequently provoke an intense response; their appearances are not merely sanctioned severely, but their dangers advertised and their potential suspected, and actual practitioners are aggressively pursued.
The perversions that generally command the greatest attention are those whose incomprehensibility is being lessened by a diminishing of the differences that certify their very status as perversion. In other words, attention is paid to those “perversions” that begin to appear on the shadowy borders of plausibility and, as a result, where the increased scrutiny for signs of such taint in others occasions a similar scrutiny of the self. Such scrutiny is associated with a sense of impending epidemic as it brings to perception an enlarged number of decipherable signifiers. Collective and individual expressions of hostility to one or another form of perversion are obviously fed by the utility of such expressions. They offer demonstration of the remoteness of the individual from the taint of such perversions. They also become moments for unambiguous and increasingly rare opportunities for heightening a sense of social integration. Much of the expression of homophobia that commonly permeates our culture, and in particular what might be termed the cultures of masculinity, tends to reflect these kinds of usage: a way of unambiguously affirming that the individual is not one of them and wholly a member of the group.