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Before the early 1900s, the terms lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, homosexual, and heterosexual were not used. They were not invented, therefore no one labeled themselves as such an orientation. In order for heterosexuality to become a social institution, these names had to be coined together by sexologists looking to persecute in any way they could. Heterosexuality was not truly made the “correct” social institution till the first decade of the 1900s, and it was expanded from that in the post-war “witch hunt” era.
Romantic friendships were allowed, in fact, encouraged, throughout the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. However, when sexologists, psychologists, and sociologists got in the way, this all changed dramatically. They equated lesbianism with trying to be a man. For example, “…they believed the lesbian’s predominant identification with masculine sexualness was the core of her sexual identity…The ‘scientific’ case studies that they so prominently presented in their discussions reinforced the image of a woman trying to live like a man” (Black 106). Even though sexologists made the terms for different sexual orientations, it was, “as Vern Bullough painstakingly proves, no profession spent more time trying to trace the causes of and develop a cure for homosexuality than psychiatry” (Black 109). Lesbianism soared with romantic friendships between women. They were common when women decided to shun marriage and go out into the workforce to earn money, or receive education from colleges that accepted females. Women wrote intimate letters to each other, slept in the same bed, and formed what is commonly known as a Boston Marriage. They were called it this mainly because it was common in the eastern United States. However, after time, these romantic friendships were put under scrutiny by no one else than the sexologists.
Regardless of the extent or nature of romantic friendship and love…when the sexologists…who began writing about sexuality in the latter half of the nineteenth century turned their attention to homosexuality, they were more easily able to acknowledge that intimate relations between women in the classes “beneath” them could go beyond the platonic than they could with reference to women of their own class. Their early definitions of the female “sexual invert” (their term for the lesbian) were based on women of the working class (Faderman 39).
It was in that stage when romantic friendships were outlawed, because in the 1930s “lesbians were…considered monstrosities” (Faderman 119). Obviously no one wanted to be a “lesbian” or “invert” in that time period, especially when “the early sexologists and psychoanalysts defined the debate over female homosexuality in terms that forced the women to see themselves as blemished and diseased” (Black 110).
During the era of World War II, lesbianism sprung out in a popular frenzy. This happened through women’s corps being the “ideal breeding ground for lesbians” (Faderman 120). Both of the world wars were rather important for creating a subculture of lesbianism. One major development during the Second World War was the Women’s Land Army. This was where homosexual acts between women were prominent, even allowed.
“It’s called lesbianism. There’s really nothing wrong with it.”…”For the first time I had a name for myself” (Faderman 121).
Women began labeling their feelings as something other than inverted or sickening. They were lesbians, plain and simple. After the Women’s Land Army, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps came into play. When the United States joined the war, the military wanted to wean out men who may be of a homosexual orientation. If homosexual tendencies were suspected by military officials, a man would receive a Blue Discharge and leave without a fuss. However, when more and more women flooded into all branches of the military, rules toward homosexuality became much more lenient (Faderman 122). During the war, women were allowed, sometimes ordered, to act or dress in a manly way. If they were going to serve in a war, then they had to be as strong as possible.
It was what we call the post-war era where the heterosexual institution in society wrote itself in stone. This was when the lesbian sicko could be cured by Freudian psychoanalysts by laying on a couch and spilling their deepest homosexual issues (Faderman 130). Heterosexual professionals, such as Frank Caprio, a so-called lesbian expert, believe that “lesbians are incapable of any kind of satisfaction in life, most especially personal happiness. Even if they claim they are happy, they are deceiving themselves” (Faderman 131). Heterosexual claim over the U.S. was especially portrayed in the media. Same-sex love was considered sick or perverted. In the 1950s, Hollywood showed heterosexual love to be a wonderful and magnificent thing. However, homosexual love automatically was deemed troubled and even frightening. Conformity ruled the masses during this time of picture-perfect images. This is proven by the fact that “parents even had daughters locked up in psychiatric hospitals for being ‘uncontrollable’ because of their lesbianism” (Faderman 133). This is absurd thinking in modern day-and-age, although some people still have reservations toward those with homosexual tendencies. It is no longer considered perverted, just something that needs to be practiced in privacy.
Lillian Faderman and Allida Black sum up the entirety of same-sex love and how it was not ethical for the 1900s and 1950s way of thinking. Most mental health professionals spent so much time trying to fix a problem that many did not even think was a problem. Over time, the social institution of heterosexuality is going down. Heterosexuality, over time, became the correct social institution, but was instilled and hunted down during the 1950s to a severe extent.