Is discrimination against gay men an example of a “second sexism”?

In his controversial book, The Second Sexism, David Benatar eschews analyses that see a structural element to kinds of discriminations, such as racism and sexism. Thus for him, the fact that gay men are more likely to be the target of violence than lesbians are (if that is indeed true) shows that gay men are discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation but also on the basis of the fact that they are male (p. 137). Another example of unjust discrimination against (some) men. End of story.

This clip, sent to us by its producer/participant gives us a clearer picture of what’s going on:

Thanks, Nicola Fonti

If you have trouble in viewing the video, try going to youtube.

3 thoughts on “Is discrimination against gay men an example of a “second sexism”?

  1. Alas, “This video is currently unavailable” is all I see when I click on it.

    I do not know if there is a way of ascertaining that gay men suffer from more violence than lesbians. But that aside, I wish to suggest that the sexism inherent in victimizing transgressors of heteronormativity is not new, and is rather the product of punitively enforcing a variety of _masculinity._ As my students know, I tend to argue that models of masculinity and femininity are long-standing sources of oppression.

  2. I haven’t read the book. But from the description above, am I getting it correct that Benatar objects to analyzing violence against gay men (which, let’s assume for the sake of argument, is more pervasive than violence against lesbians) by recognizing that perhaps what is so threatening about male homosexuality is that involves men “acting like women”? So that, for instance, if one man beats up another because the second is “a fairy” or “limpwristed” or “takes it up the ass” this is merely a case of anti-male sexism with nothing at all to be said about the larger gender relations of the society?

    Would this be a proper analogy to that sort of view? Suppose the claim is that there is unjust discrimination against members of religion X, period (with nothing to say more generally about the structural relations between Xs and non Xs). And suppose the evidence for this claim is that *some* Xs (who share certain traits, behaviors, and attitudes) are victims of violence at greater rates than most non-Xs who are similarly situated.

    I guess if you simply refuse to engage with the details and background context, perhaps you could conclude that “Xs are victims of unjust anti-X discrimination, period” on the basis of the above. But it’s extremely easy to fill in details that make that conclusion look ludicrous.

    Suppose we dig deeper into what is going on. Who, after all, commits this violence against *some* Xs? Suppose it is other Xs. Why do some Xs commit this violence against other Xs? Suppose it turns out that the Xs who are victimized are those Xs who attempt to leave religion X and/or refuse to properly conform to the dictates of religion X in terms of how they dress, how they act, etc., and/or who associate too much with non-Xs. You see, most Xs think being a non-X is degrading and inferior. So it is particularly confusing and threatening if an X should decide to become (more like) a non-X. Perhaps it is also threatening when a non-X wants to become (more like) an X, but for whatever reason this is not nearly as concerning as Xs who want to be like non-Xs. Perhaps the X religion holds a doctrine that a non-X simply can never be a “real” X. Or perhaps the X religion has in some strange way eroticized the idea of a non-X attempting to at like an X.

    And so, Xs giving up their X-ness is a particular threat to most other Xs. Some worry that these Xs attempting to leave the religion are predatory and will attempt to seduce them into leaving (and deep down, some Xs might have just the tiniest bit of interest in non-Xness and might be worried that they could be tempted.)

    Thus the Xs who deviate from proper Xness are more threatening and thus more hated, and thus must be punished than the non-Xs whom they behave like or the non-Xs who attempt to behave like Xs.

    How in the world could anyone look at that background context and conclude simply: “Xs are victims of unjust anti-X discrimination, period. And it has nothing to do with non-Xs as there is no structural oppression of non-Xs”?

    Granted, things are much more complicated and much more subtle in the case of gender and homosexuality, but the basic framework seems very similar to me.

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