Sexual Orientation

While pre-Boasian anthropology was interested in maintaining Victorian morality, contemporary research has little use for such prudery, and actively lobbies against it (e.g., Deacon, 1997; Hare, 1985; Jacobus, 1990; Mead, 1928; Roscoe, 1995). AIDS was and continues to be a controversial issue, not just because of the politics of identification and prevention, but also of treatment, such as in the case of needle exchange programs. In activist gay communities, alternative therapies for AIDS—that is, those that do not conform to the standards of the medical community—became normal and no longer "alternative" (Eisenberg et al., 1993). AIDS has the highest percentage of alternative therapy use of any chronic ailments. Estimates of alternative therapy use among AIDS patients range from 36% to 73%, compared with 7% for cancer patients, and 5% among the general population (Furin, 1997). The disease came to be identified as a punishment for unacceptable lifestyles, and disease as caused by "sin" re-entered mainstream discourse about the disease. Because of the AIDS epidemic, anthropological research focused upon and found encouragement for studying the drug subculture and the subculture of the homosexual community within the United States (Furin, 1997; Singer & Baer, 1995; Whitehead, 1997). Since AIDS was initially categorized as a gay disease, and because some men who engaged in homosexual activity did not necessarily think of themselves as gay, they did not think the warnings about AIDS applied to them. This has resulted in the high frequency of AIDS among men who are members of "racial" minorities. In the American context, African American men who engage in homosexual behavior use the term "gay" only in reference to homosexual European American men (Whitehead, 1997). In the Washington, DC, area, 66% of the new AIDS cases are African American men who have low survival rates after diagnosis (Whitehead, 1997, p. 412). Whitehead (1997)

argues that contemporary sexual behavior has historical precedent in the plantation system. The northward migration of slaves meant the transportation of plantation lifestyles. One of the features of plantation culture was the idea that "the more children a man has, the more of a man he is" (Whitehead, 1997, p. 414). By examining the roots of social behavior, Whitehead joins historical to present-day health indices, a process that has been borne out by Caribbean research (i.e., Jones, 1994). Similarly, Latino men are also hesitant to display openly homosexual behavior because it constitutes grounds for violent attacks (Singer, 1996; Singer & Marxuach-Rodriguez, 1996).

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