Meaning if often produced, not through a one-to-one relation to things in the world, but by establishing the difference you or a particular group of people have in relation to the activity/object you are distancing yourself from. The word sodomy is inextricably linked to the Old Testament (Genesis 19:1-11) and has become a popular manifestation for conservative and fundamentalist social and religious critics to use whenever they are critiquing why gay men are different or deviant from normal, heterosexual adults. Furthermore, sodomy has been and still is highly involved in constructing both positive and negative sexual ethics that often define and rule over the lives of those who participate not in sodomy but other forms of non-vaginal intercourse.
The word, action, and taboo of sodomy have blurred the real meaning of consensual non-vaginal sex between people of the same sex. Defined as “anal or oral copulation with a member of the same or opposite sex,” sodomy has become the sign that defines the lives of gay men and keeps them in the social and religious shackles that perpetuates the public opinion that sex between men is deviant, devious, and dangerous to society at large.
We all can point out news stories that have involved men, both young and old, taking sexual advantage of innocent, non-consenting adolescent boys. This blog has even been home to articles discussing former Penn State Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky or the abuses the Catholic clergy inflicted upon adolescent boys for decades. However, what we are looking at is, and has been, the constant recapitulation of the word “sodomy,” through deviant social actions of specific individuals, non-heteronormative sexual acts, and abuses on both national and transnational scales.
The problem with headlines that read “Man Sodomizes Little Boy” or briefs discussing how Jerry Sandusky “sodomized a young boy in the shower,” is that these acts get bundled up and categorized as sodomy without further explanation into the matter. As we saw before, the definition of sodomy, provided by Merriam-Webster, does not provide a negative or positive connotation of the word itself, but nevertheless as a result of these horrible actions, the word sodomy is recapitulated as the deviant and abusive behavior of disturbed or mentally ill men who inflict sexual abuse upon children instead of the social and sexual actions of a larger group of gay/queer individuals who have been longing to define their lives and sexual actions themselves. Ultimately, sodomy, regardless of if it is consensual or not, is always defined and used in a negative light rather than creating or using a new term or sign to describe the perverted and horrific actions of certain individuals and not a larger group of individuals in general.
The word sodomy is used to keep the sexual and emotion lives of gay men in a frozen state and mindset of being. The creation of sodomy has inscribed a blazoned S on the chests of all gay/queer individuals who perform consensual “oral or anal sex with members of the same sex,” as a way to culturally stagnate the positive sexual revolution of ascribing the public opinion that gay/queer individuals are not all deviant or dangerous. Gay/queer individuals are from a community who have had their sexual acts defined for them by heteronormative society at large and who still, to this day, cannot define their own sexual acts without the fear of being labeled a sodomite.
John Erickson is a doctoral student in Women’s Studies in Religion at Claremont Graduate University. His research interests involve an interdisciplinary approach and are influenced by his time as the director of a women’s center and active member in the GLBTQ and women’s rights movements. His work is inspired by the intersectionality of the feminism, queer identity, and religious political and cultural rhetoric. He is the author of the blog, From Wisconsin, with Love and can be followed on Twitter at@jerickson85.