from Books & Reviews
Introduction to the Book:
In this explosive book, Dr. Socarides, an early and persistent advocate of civil rights for homosexuals, dares to relate how gay politics has sold society on the notion that same-sex sex is "a normal variation, like left-handedness."
Dr. Socarides knows that homosexuality is not a normal variation. Nor are gays "born that way" -- another idea that has been created by pseudo-science and accepted as truth by the media and the courts and academe. He knows that the seeds of his patients' homosexual orientation were planted in their earliest years, usually before the age of three, and their appropriate gender-defined self identity impaired as the result of early family relationships.
He documents this clinical opinion by summarizing a number of systematic studies, first reported in the early psychoanalytic literature, and continuing on into the 1990s, and by giving us an inside look at his successful work treating homosexuals over more than 40 years.
Treatment? "Yes," he says, "in suitable cases, through the insight that comes with a successful analysis, we can free men from their compulsions and help them go on to happy family lives, with women (and children) who love them."
In these pages, he shows us how he himself has made this happen in the course of his career.
But Dr. Socarides is more than a physician and an analyst and the author of no less than 80 books and learned papers on sexual problems. He knows that healthy patients become healthier in a healthy society. And so, in the tradition of Sigmund Freud, Dr. Socarides here becomes a social critic, someone who must share his grave concerns about American society today, a society that seems to endorse same-sex as simply "an alternate life style."
Dr. Socarides continues to work with men and women who are deeply troubled about their orientation and want to change. Indeed, Dr. Socarides leads a group of therapists around the world who specialize in dealing with homosexuality. In the spring of 1995, he won the Distinguished Professor award from the Association of Psychoanalytic Psychologists, British Health Service, and lectured on his research findings in London at the Anna Freud Child Development Center, the Portman Clinic, the Tavistock Clinic and before the British Psychoanalytic Society.
The following passage is reprinted from Dr. Socarides' recently published book, A Freedom Too Far. Here we listen in on a lively, sometimes wryly humorous conversation about the changes in our culture and universities since the gay-rights movement came to prominence.
Q.: [Interviewer] You think students are getting misinformation and disinformation about same-sex sex?
A.: [Dr. Socarides] Yes, and often enough in the name of two current fads: "diversity" and "democracy." Academe has bought into diversity at any price, even to the ruination of the very idea of a university. Just look at the words. Diversity is the exact opposite of university. University says wholeness. Diversity implies division. And so now they're turning centuries of civilization on its head, by trying to institutionalize same-sex sex.
Q.: And they're doing so in the name of diversity and democracy?
A.: Yes, but they're using spurious arguments--the kind that will destroy the civilization we built in this nation under the old theory of the melting pot--a theory that didn't deny differences brought to our shores from afar, but opted, wisely, not to put taxpayers' dollars into structures that would emphasize them.
Q.: So, by analogy, we now have gay and lesbian studies?
A.: According to a 1993 report by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, more than 45 U.S. colleges and universities have started to offer at least one course on the homosexual experience-- usually in literature, history, sociology or psychology departments. The City University of New York began a gay and lesbian research center for graduate students in 1991. In the fall of 1993, San Francisco State University became the country's first four-year school to offer a formal academic program of courses on gay, lesbian and bisexual culture. Students there can get a minor in Gay and Lesbian Studies. Professor John DeCecco, who is gay, heads the program.
Q.: What kinds of courses?
A.: Lesbian literature. Sexual identity. Homosexuality on Film. AIDS--Contemporary Health Crisis. Variations on Human Sexuality. Things like that.
Q.: Some of the very questions we've been talking about in this book.
A.: That's right. But believe me, Prof. DeCecco would never have me on his faculty.
Q.: Why not?
A.: Because these courses are all pro-gay. They're intended to raise gay consciousness, one more proof that American education has become politicized--and become more propaganda than science. DeCecco and others like him around the nation who are setting up these gay and lesbian programs--they're nearly all gays and lesbians. Anyone who has different ideas gets plowed under.
Q.: Where are they coming from?
A.: Those teaching in gay and lesbian studies believe that same-sex sex orientation fundamentally affects the way literature is written, art produced, history analyzed, science investigated. And anyone who isn't gay or lesbian is obviously unqualified to teach gay or lesbian literature, or art, or history.
Q.: What's wrong with that view?
A.: First, it presumes that being gay or lesbian gives a gay or lesbian some special cache'. It doesn't. Gays and lesbians are human beings, and if their art or their science is any good, it must reflect what is universal in nature or in humankind. If Michelangelo was a homosexual, as many gays now claim, what is it about his art that marks the art as "homosexual?" Nothing. It is, simply, human. Oscar Wilde was a homosexual. But his plays weren't about homosexuality. He wrote one of the most perfect plays in the history of English literature, "The Importance of Being Earnest." It wasn't informed by his homosexuality, but by his intelligence and his wit. That's why college and community theater groups still mount the play. You think people will want to see "Angels in America" a hundred years from now? Twenty? Ten?
Q.: What about a course on gay history?
A.: History is history. And I would like to think that, in our college classrooms, we're giving students a history that is whole. Teaching a special course on gay history, especially at the college undergraduate level, tends to present a partial view. Why would you teach gay history--or Catholic history--unless you are trying to enter the realm of special pleading? Up to now, most universities have wanted to stay away from special pleading. The really good Catholic universities decided decades ago that they wanted no part of what they called "hyphenated learning." No such thing as Catholic literature. Much less Catholic science. Educators like Father Hesburgh of Notre Dame said that a university is a place where, presumably, people are in search of the truth. If you try to say there is such a thing as "Catholic truth," you're implying there are other truths, which is to say there is no truth at all, that everything depends on your point of view. Then the only criterion for what you teach is fashion. And if that's true, then only the campus groups who have fashionable causes can have their own courses and programs.
Q.: What's wrong with raising someone's consciousness?
A.: In its proper place, it's okay. People have the Constitutional right of free assembly. But why should the taxpayers pay for it? These programs are also divisive. They propagate and perpetuate the notion of "us-against-them." They also tend to give official legitimacy to a lifestyle that ought to remain "off-scene." Instituting a special program at San Francisco State puts the State of California in the position of saying, by implication, "gay is good." And, as I've been trying to show, gay ain't so good.
Q.: But now, in academe, there are some pretty high- powered intellectuals who have succeeded in popularizing the opposite view.
A.: Yes. They've organized several national conferences devoted to gay studies, three at Yale and one each at Harvard and Rutgers. There are plans for others, at CUNY and San Francisco. Since 1991, they have had a national Lesbian and Gay Studies Association. There are a number of academic journals focused on homosexuality. And they've published dozens of books on the history, incidence, and culture of homosexuality.
Q.: Sounds like a new fad in academe.
A.: Yes, and, like deconstructionism, which took American universities by storm in the 1980s, this fad also started in France, principally under the influence of Michel Foucault.
Q.: Who is Michel Foucault?
A.: You mean "who was he?" He died in 1984, still working on the third volume of his history of sexuality.
Q.: Did Foucault have a key idea?
A.: Yes. In all of his many writings, he tries to demonstrate that what most people consider as "normal" are mere human inventions. By implication, they're also arbitrary. In his History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction, Foucault said that sex itself was a relatively recent historical construct.
Q.: And what was the logical consequence of this idea?
A.: Foucault attempted, in his own life, to liberate himself by breaking out of the construct. In fact, he tried to deconstruct himself by indulging in all manner of polymorphous perversities.
Q.: Did he succeed?
A.: In his personal program? Yes. During three separate appointments as a visiting professor at Berkeley, he became quite entranced with the gay bathhouses of San Francisco. He was absolutely fascinated with the S & M scene across the Bay, and succeeded in de-constructing himself, quite literally. On June 25, 1984, he died of AIDS at the Hospital de la Salpetriere in Paris, the very institution he had studied in Madness and Civilization, a place that served in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as a de facto prison for beggars, prostitutes and criminals. After the Revolution, Salpetriere became an institution for the insane.
Q.: Why didn't the coming of AIDS bring down the gay liberation movement?
A.: Through skillful propaganda, and by picturing themselves as helpless victims, the gay movement gained strength, even though many gay males were already dying. Perversely, a good many other scholars who are now gay jumped on the gay bandwagon--as Muller said, "in the name of self-creation and re-creation." And many U.S. scholars have bought into Foucault's notion that truth is merely the product of power. They transform truth by changing the structure of power. Thus, they do not engage anyone in debate according to any norms that are traditional. To them, there are no valid norms. They're all arbitrary.
Q.: How can they carry this off?
A.: Easy. There's been virtually no resistance to this ideology within American academic life. Tim Egan, the gentleman from The New York Times in Seattle, reported in 1988 about a business major named Pete Schaub at the University of Washington who enrolled in a course called "Introduction to Women's Studies" taught by Donna Langston and Dana-Michele Brown. On the first day of class, he and the class were told that traditional American families are dysfunctional. Students who said their families were quite functional were shouted down by the teaching assistants with cries, in unison, of "Denial! Denial!" A few days later, Prof. Langston brought guest speakers in to talk about masturbation. "They said you don't need a man," Schaub told Reporter Egan. "They proceeded to show how to masturbate with a feather duster, and they had dildos right there." When Prof. Brown said statistics showed lesbians could raise children better than married couples, Schaub went up after class and quietly asked for her source. Prof. Brown dismissed him and his question. "Why are you challenging me?" she said. "Get away from me. Just leave me alone." A member of the class called Schaub "a chauvinist goddamn bastard." The next day, his professor had two campus police officers there to enforce her order, banning Schaub from her class. Schaub protested the ban. Weeks later, the administration said he could go back to class. But Associate Dean James Nason advised him to drop the course.
Gays and lesbians have pre-empted criticism from outside academe (principally from the media, including the world of book publishing) because they've been able to define any opposition as a disease called "homophobia." Insofar as the media buy that gay-and-lesbian definition, Prof. Muller said, "it is impossible to give good reasons for the cultural disapproval of homosexuality." He wonders whether anyone will be able to articulate the case for heterosexuality.
Q.: How do you feel about gay tutors in every dorm at Harvard?
A.: I'm from Harvard. I am appalled. This is just another form of child abuse, late-adolescent branch. Kids in their late teens are still vulnerable to assaults on their sexual identity. Many of them haven't yet come to full terms with their identities (and some of them may not do so until late in life). But bombarding them with misinformation and disinformation and enticements to try same-sex sex because they might like it--well that's a form of sexual subversion. I can only think back on my first years at Harvard. What if I'd been told by a gay tutor, "Try it, you'll like it?" I was as horny then as any shy young man of 18 from a small town in Massachusetts, and I had had my eye on a sophisticated beauty from Manhattan who was attending Radcliffe. At that time, I was trying, in vain, to figure out ways of approaching this girl, who then seemed so unapproachable. What if I'd taken the easy road to orgastic relief--acceded to the suggestion of my gay tutor?
Q.: What is their bias?
A.: Kinsey stated it very clearly at the end of his report on male sexuality. He said that all types of sexual activity-- sex with the opposite sex, sex with the same sex, sex with both sexes, sex with children, sex with whips and chains, fisting sex, sex with animals--any kind of sex was normal. Long live diversity! And that's the notion that they've been able to promulgate throughout the schools in this country. To Kinsey, all this sex "may seem to fall into categories that are as far apart as right and wrong... In actuality, they all prove to originate in the relatively simple mechanisms which provide for erotic response when there are sufficient physical or psychic stimuli... But the scientific data which are accumulating make it appear that, if circumstances had been propitious, most individuals might have become conditioned in any direction..."
Q.: In other words, according to Kinsey, sexual orientation is a matter of indifference to nature?
A.: Yes, and I can't help but laugh now, in this context, when I think of a psychiatric meeting we had in Atlanta in 1988. Dr. Richard Isay, a gay psychiatrist and a leading proponent and promoter of same-sex sex, was on a panel where someone asked him about a Kinsey-like statement that Isay had made--something about nature's indifference to any form of sexuality. The questioner asked Isay about farm boys who might be attracted to sheep. Would he encourage these boys to have sex with sheep? With a straight face, Isay said this was entirely acceptable, "as long as the erotic attraction was satisfying to both the boy and the ewe." Here was the leading spokesman for the gay and lesbian caucus at the A.P.A., giving a rationale for bestiality.