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Desiring Brotherhood


various sexual behaviors in human society. The term “sexual

inversion” was coined and used by sexologists such as Richard von

Krafft-Ebing, Havelock Ellis, and then by Freud to classify sexual

behaviors that “deviated” from the presumed existence of a

normative heterosexuality.


As a quintessential form of sexual

inversion, homosexuality was viewed as a form of arrested

development or a failed Oedipalization. This clinical and scientific

discourse on homosexuality surely influenced McCullers’s

portrayals of her homosexual characters and their inverted desire.

However, while drawing on the deprecatory association of

homosexuality with inversion, McCullers struggles to

deterritorialize and reterritorialize the meaning of effeminacy in

homosexual men, exploring its powerful force in the expansion

and transformation of the dominant masculine stereotype.

Masculinity as a regulatory ideal must guard against

effeminacy and weakness. Gender differences have to be sharply

demarcated and feminine traits kept firmly in their proper place: in

men they are a sign of weakness and pathology. In his study of

masculinity and modernity, George Mosse charts the rise and

gradual erosion of what he variously calls “normative masculinity”

or “the manly ideal” (Mosse, 1998: 4). In his book, Mosse argues

that the manly ideal is partly defined by what it excludes, those

dangerous, pathological, or unhealthy elements that are thought to

pose a threat to the healthy body of masculinity and ought to be

vigorously resisted. In

Reflections in a Golden Eye

, Langdon, as an

epitome of this manly ideal, asserts his heterosexual, white, and


Despite Freud’s radical early thoughts on the inherent bisexuality of all men,

psychoanalysis reverted to the views held by the sexologists, who saw

homosexuality as a treatable disease. For a discussion of the documents of the

pioneers of sexology, see

Sexology Uncensored: The Documents of Sexual Science

(1998), edited by Lucy Bland and Laura Doan. See also George Chauncey’s


New York

(1994) for a historical account of words such as “inverts,” “perverts,”

“degenerates,” “faggots,” “fairies” or “queens.” As Chauncey shows, these words

were highly volatile and went beyond the conventional or homophobic

understanding as terms of insult.