Exploration Of The Matthew Shepard Event

1696 words - 7 pages

Exploration Of The Matthew Shepard Event

The human body is an object in which one lives and the medium through which one experiences oneself and the world. Claims on ideology and space are ultimately vested in the human body, and thus conflicts about belief systems and territory are often contested violently on physical bodies. Gay bodies become entangled in violence when they enter into arenas that combat certain ideas. Gay bashing illustrates incidences all in which bodies experience physical injury. In modern U.S. communities various militant conservatives target homosexuals in "gay bashing." Mathew Shepard's brutal murder in 1998 illustrates a relatively recent incident in which the human body becomes politicized. What is the process by which the pain and death of Shepard's body transform the personal to the political? What does "gay bashing" mean to attackers, victims and their communities?

If gay bashing is about violence and being gay is at least partially about sex, then what is the relationship between them? What framework attends to both the sexual and nonsexual activities among contemporary American males? In Between Men, Eve Sedgwick sleds light on the boundaries separating sexual and nonsexual male relationships. According to the author, homosocial and homosexual do not necessarily have to occupy two different, non-overlapping spheres. " 'Homosocial desire', to begin with, is a kind of oxymoron. "Homosocial" is a word . . . [that] describes social bonds between persons of the same sex; it is a neologism, obviously formed with analogy with "homosexual," and just as obviously meant to distinguish from 'homosexual'" (Sedgwick 1985:1). Sedgwick contends that it would be more useful to view homosocial and homosexual not as distinct categories but as a continuum. Applying this concept to gay bashing means entertaining the idea that homosociality that often includes homophobia is not intrinsically dichotomized against homosexuality (Sedgwick 1985).

The homophobia that exists within societies in general is not required in order to perpetuate the established patriarchy. For the purpose of remaining at the top of the gender hierarchy, men need not prove to themselves and to other men that they're homophobic. ". . . it has yet to be demonstrated that, because most patriarchies structurally include homophobia, therefore patriarchy structurally requires homophobia . . . while heterosexuality is necessary for the maintenance of any patriarchy, homophobia, against males at any rate, is not" (Sedgwick 1985:4). Sedgwick illustrates that patriarchy's perpetuation does not need the promotion of heterosexism through expressing homophobia during homosocial bonding. The relationship between patriarchy and homophobia exists within contextual fabrics unique to each society. Within context homophobia could be used either as an agonist or an enhancer of patriarchy. To narrow the scope of analysis, I argue that in many conservative US communities...

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