More Than What We Are Inclined to Do
by Dr. Everett Piper
In her new book, Openness Unhindered, Dr. Rosaria Butterfield, former queer theory professor at Syracuse University, argues that the very word “homosexual” and its corresponding ontological assumption of “sexual orientation” are both nineteenth-century inventions that didn’t even exist prior to the modern/postmodern era. The concept of “Sexual orientation,” says Butterfield, “was first used by Freud… to radically resituate sexuality … into something completely new: the foundational drive that determines and defines human identity.” Prior to Freud, men and women were defined in the “biblical/creational context” as being created in His image with a soul that superseded sex; an identity that was greater than inclination; a personhood that rose above proclivities; prior to the twentieth century, we were human beings that were much more than the sum total of our desired human behaviors.
Dr. Butterfield goes further to remind us that “Freud did not come out of nowhere” and that he “was a product of German Romanticism…[a] period typified by the uncontested embrace of personal experience” as the foundation for knowing what we know (i.e. epistemology) and defining who we are (i.e. ontology). Following the lead of the likes of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Romanticism “declared personal feelings and experiences the most reliable means of discerning truth.” Thus, “the nineteenth-century category of sexual orientation reflects Romanticism’s claim on redefining men and women from people made in God’s image… to people whose sexual drives… define them.”
Please read that last sentence again: “Redefining men and women from people made in God’s image… to people whose sexual drives define them…” This is Butterfield’s main point and it is powerful. Even though she has been one of the nation’s leading experts in queer theory, she, at the risk of much personal and professional loss, chooses to tell us that she no longer subscribes to the neologism (i.e. a constructed category; a fabrication) of homosexual identity and its false premise…
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