Sodomy, Sodomists, and Sodomizing (pt. 2)

For the 1981 data, the use and thus the meaning of the term ‘sodomy’ is highly diffuse. It can indicate anal intercourse, both hetero- and homosexual, both forced and consensual. However, in a significant number of instances, the word is used to indicate violent, illegal or immoral sexual behaviour without going into detail. It can be said with some justification that ‘sodomy’ can refer to any sort of sexual behaviour that might be deemed illegal or immoral. Furthermore, the term is used both as a legal and a colloquial term, with conflicting and overlapping meanings.  The following table shows the significant collocates of ‘sodomy’ which will be used in my argument.

Collocate Frequency LL rank by LL
brutalities 2 13.05 1st
bestiality 2 13.05 2nd
fornication 8 12.05 3rd
decriminalize 2 12.05 4th
decriminalized 3 11.82 6th
adultery 9 11.41 10th
burglary 6 11.38 11th
robbery 17 11.27 12th
mayhem 2 11.24 13th
kidnapping 3 10.93 18th
charged 31 10.52 20th
statutes 2 10.46 21st
rape 22 10.43 22nd
counts 8 10.43 22nd
heterosexual 4 9.21 39th
laws 5 8.28 56th
committed 3 8.15 60th
homosexual 10 6.96 76th


While I found that ‘rape’ indicated forced vaginal intercourse and the verb-forms of ‘to sodomize’ often meant forced anal intercourse, the same cannot be said for the noun ‘sodomy’. In fact, some of the uses seem to be diametrically opposed to this finding. See for example the instances for the most significant collocate of ‘sodomy’, namely ‘brutalities’:

  • He [Judge Garteinstein] said that Mr. Ross “would be immediately subject to homosexual rape and sodomy and to brutalities from fellow prisoners such as make the imagination recoil in horror.” [1]
  • He [Judge Garteinstein] said in a four-page opinion that Mr. Ross “would be immediately subject to homosexual rape and sodomy and to brutalities from fellow prisoners such as make the imagination recoil in horror.”[2]

It has to be conceded that this instance repeats a quote by the same person, making an idiolectal issue possible. However, there are more instances where ‘sodomy’ is used for different kinds of sexual behaviour:

  • Arrested later in an undercover operation, Lyon is charged with agreeing to commit oral sodomy on an undercover male police officer for money and offering the officer the sexual services of a 27-year-old woman who police charged with prostitution.[3]
  • Detectives, posing as customers seeking to make a pornographic movie, paid the McIntyres $300 to film them having intercourse. The couple was charged with sodomy and prostitution.[4]
  • Homosexual rape and object rape (in which inanimate objects are used in a rape), which used to be classified as forceable sodomy with a maximum 10-year prison sentence, will both carry the same penalty as rape — a maximum of life in prison.[5]
  • Under the present law, a man and wife who participate, both willingly, in unorthodox sexual behavior are guilty of sodomy and can go to prison for 10 years.[6]

‘Sodomy’, in these instances, appears to denote oral sex between men, filmed sexual intercourse, rape using objects, and non-procreational heterosexual intercourse. The term seems to serve as a placeholder for a variety of sexual behaviours that can be either violent or consensual, but are deemed immoral or are illegal.

Further evidence of the spectrum of meaning for ‘sodomy’ are the instances where it co-occurs with ‘rape’, and, to a lesser extent, words like ‘burglary’, ‘robbery’, ‘mayhem’, and ‘kidnapping’.

  • The accused – Max Lindeman, 23 years old, and Harold Wells, 22 – were accused in a 17-count indictment with rape, sodomy, aggravated sexual abuse, assault, robbery and burglary in the Oct. 10 attack at an East Harlem convent.[7]
  • Three other young men have been charged with committing other slayings with Mr. Bonin, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, robbery, sodomy and mayhem.[8]
  • George J. Dailey, a 36-year-old city maintenance worker, was booked for investigation of kidnapping, sodomy and child molestation, the authorities said.[9]

Apart from this, there are instances where ‘sodomy’ is used in a context of legal language and appears to be strictly defined as ‘anal intercourse’, being one of several illegal sexual behaviours such as ‘bestiality’, ‘fornication’ and ‘adultery’. The historical framework for these occurrences is the attempt to reform the D.C. legal code to exclude said behaviour from the list of illegal behaviours. The reform was passed initially, but then subsequently overturned by Congress. This also explains the co-occurrences of ‘sodomy’ with ‘decriminalizes’ and ‘decriminalized’.

  • [Moral Majority’s Vice President Ronald Godwin said:] “Make no mistake, a vote against the resolutions is a vote for sodomy, bestiality, fornication, adultery and seduction of a student by a teacher.”[10]
  • As it stands now, the bill decriminalizes only homosexual acts and sodomy between consenting adults.[11]
  • The measure also contained sections that decriminalized homosexual acts, sodomy, fornication and adultery between consenting adults.[12]

In terms of legal context, laws forbidding homosexual behaviour or anal intercourse were often referred to as ‘sodomy laws’:

  • Nemetz, a West German who works in Springfield, had applied to become a naturalized citizen in 1976, but the Immigration and Naturalization Service rejected his petition, arguing that it believed that as a homosexual Nemetz had violated Virginia’s sodomy laws.[13]
  • Sodomy laws in Virginia, they said, have caused many apartment owners to deny one-bedroom apartments to members of the same sex.[14]

Also, the often implicit, but sometimes even explicit mentioning that ‘sodomy’ can also be performed by ‘heterosexual’ people as well as ‘homosexual’ people reinforces the notion that ‘sodomy’ here strictly means ‘anal intercourse’.

  • It is illegal in the District for anyone, heterosexual or homosexual, to commit sodomy.[15]
  • Sodomy by either homosexual or heterosexual adults is illegal in the District.[16]

However, there are also instances where ‘sodomy’ co-occurs with other legal language terms, but here again its meaning can be best summarised as a placeholder for unspecified deviant, immoral, illegal or violent sexual behaviour (committing / charged / statutes / counts)

  • Reid W. Diggs Jr., a former Northern Virginia minister who battled sex scandal charges guilty to committing sodomy with a 14-year-old female parishioner.[17]
  • Stewart pleaded guilty last month to committing sodomy on a minor, enticing a minor, and taking indecent liberties with a minor.[18]
  • Albert J. Sell Jr., a nine-year veteran assigned to the 2nd District, was formally charged with corrupt influence, sodomy and obstructing justice involving an incident that allegedly occured [sic] last Sept. 30.[19]
  • Harold Wells, 22, and Max Lindeman, 23, each are charged with eight counts of sodomy and two counts of rape, robbery, burglary and assault, and one count of aggravated sexual abuse.[20]
  • The defendant, 28-year-old Richard Gantz, was convicted May 8 of 11 counts – including sodomy, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment -connected with his Aug. 11, 1979, escape from a state prison in Fishkill.[21]

The word ‘sodomy’ is also explicitly associated with homosexual men. However, as I have shown, this particular meaning is only one in a string of possible uses of the word.

  • For instance, the new law would delete all reference to sodomy as a criminal offense, a change that Washington’s homosexual community has sought for more than a decade.[22]
  • Under the present law, adult homosexuals who engage in sexual activity, no matter how privately, are guilty of sodomy and subject to 10 years’ imprisonment.[23]

So, in summary, the 1981 data on the term ‘sodomy’ allows the deduction of the following meanings (in no specific order): anal intercourse, other forms of non-procreational sexual activity, unspecified acts of sexual violence, homosexual behaviour. It is fair to say that the uses of ‘sodomy’ show a diffuse and un-defined spectrum of meanings, despite the existence of a legal term such as ‘sodomy laws’.

[1] New York Times 9 Apr. 1981: B/5. Print.

[2] Shipp, E. R. “Refusting to Jail a White is Called Racist by Koch.” New York Times 10 Apr. 1981: B/3. Print.

[3] Boodman, Sandra G. Washington Post 15 Nov. 1981: 1/A1. Print.

[4] Boodman, Sandra G. “Director of Gifted Children Program Cleared in Prostitution Case.” Washington Post 11 Dec. 1981: 1/A49. Print.

[5] Sager, Mike, and Margaret Shapiro. Washington Post 1 July 1981: Metro/B1. Print.

[6] Raspberry, William. “Sex Bill Fiasco.” Washington Post 8 Oct. 1981: 1/Op-Ed/A31. Print.

[7] New York Times 26 Nov. 1981: B/3. Print.

[8] New York Times 12 Jan. 1981: A/14. Print.

[9] “Girl, 12, Missing Five Months, Tells of Capitvity in Coast Pit.” New York Times 6 Aug. 1981: A/18. Print.

[10] Isikoff, Michael. Washington Post 1 Oct. 1981: Metro/B1. Print.

[11] “Jerry Falwell Comes to Town.” Washington Post 13 Sep. 1981: Outlook/Editorial/C6. Print.

[12] Isikoff, Michael, and Eric Pianin. Washington Post 2 Oct. 1981: 1/A1. Print.

[13] White, Ronald D. “Court Overrules Barring of Citizenship to Homosexual.” Washington Post 28 Apr. 1981: Metro/C1. Print.

[14] Russell, Brenda A. Washington Post 22 June 1981: Metro/B1. Print.

[15] Sherwood, Tom. Washington Post 6 Feb. 1981: Metro/B1. Print.

[16] Sherwood, Tom, and Joann Stevens. Washington Post 5 Feb. 1981: 1/A1. Print.

[17] “Former Minister Pleads Guilty in Morals Case.” Washington Post 18 Mar. 1981: Metro/C3. Print.

[18] “D.C. Man is Sentenced to Up to 10 Years for Soliciting Young Girls.” Washington Post 17 Jan. 1981: Metro/C3. Print.

[19] “D.C. Officer Charged with Corrupt Influence.” Washington Post 4 June 1981: 1/A8. Print.

[20] Washington Post 28 Nov. 1981: 1/Around the Nation/Addenda/A4. Print.

[21] “Rapist-Robber Given 25 Years in Jailbreak.” New York Times 6 Jan. 1981: B/4. Print.

[22] Richburg, Keith B. Washington Post 15 July 1981: Metro/B1. Print.

[23] Raspberry, William. “Sex Bill Fiasco.” Washington Post 8 Oct. 1981: 1/Op-Ed/A31. Print.

Findings for ‘queer’ in my General Corpus

The term ‘queer’ is used in a variety of ways, and only in a minority of cases can be linked to the topic of homosexuality. Often, the word is simply used as an alternative or synonym for ‘weird’, strange, or similar words denoting non-normality. See for example:

  • Now, as we packed up the house and rolled up the carpets, I felt as if we were sweeping up our personal history. The tables and chairs would never quite be the same, the angles all wrong, the sounds queer and unfamiliar.[1]
  • “If the tax law is changed,” Guttman said, “real estate is going to be traded again on an economic basis, not on a tax-shelter basis, and you won’t see as many weird and queer financing deals that distort the price of real estate.[2]

In the instances where ‘queer’ can be linked to homosexuality, it is almost exclusively meant as slur. See for example:

  • Persons fearful of their own sexual identity react with great negativity because of their own discomfort. Remarks and jokes about “fags,” “queers” and “dykes” abound in offices and locker rooms.[3]
  • According to one listener, D. described the gay community as “faggots and queers,” and linked them to the bombing of the Capitol on Monday night.[4]

Most striking is probably the case of Louie Welch, the Republican candidate for the mayor’s office of Houston, TX. He said that one possible way of dealing with the spreading HIV/ AIDS epidemic was to ‘shoot the queers’, explaining the high rate of co-occurrences of these two terms.[5]

There is, like with faggot, only one example which might hint at a reclaiming strategy of the word ‘queer’, as seen in this quote:

  • While some expressed their gay pride with buttons and T-shirts that ranged from “Faggot” and “Queer” to the more low-key, “I’m One Too,” Ed Murphy, 58, of New York City wore a sash that declared him to be “An Original Stonewaller.”[6]

In all, ‘queer’ has to be counted as a slur, similar to ‘fag’ or ‘faggot’. The reclaiming, which would eventually be successful (as seen in the contemporary abbreviations such as LGBTQI[7]), has at this point apparently not permeated into the discourse sphere discussed here.

[1] Wallace, Barry. New York Times 10 Mar. 1985: 11CN/26. Print.

[2] Hinden, Stan. “The Time is REIT for Federal Realty Investment Trust.” Washington Post 21 Jan. 1985: Washington Business/Washington Investing/33. Print.

[3] Bauman, Robert E. “AIDS: The Fear is of Homosexuals.” Washington Post 14 Sep. 1985: 1/Free For All/A17. Print.

[4] Trescott, Jacqueline. Washington Post 10 Nov. 1983: Style C1. Print.

[5] See for example: Shipp, E. R. “Concern over Spread of AIDS Generates a Spate of New Laws Nationwide.” Washington Post 26 Oct. 1985: 1/30. Print, or: Reinhold, Robert. “AIDS Remark is at Issue in Houston Vote Today.” New York Times 5 Nov. 1985: B/6. Print.

[6] Perl, Peter. “15,000 Parade, Picnic and Politick on Gay Pride Day.” Washington Post 21 June 1982: Metro B1. Print.

[7] Green, Eli R., and Eric N. Peterson. LGBTQI Terminology. LGBT Resource Center UC Riverside, 2004. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <http://​​/​documents/​LGBTTerminology.pdf>.

Sodomy, Sodomists, and Sodomizing (pt. 1)

For the word-field of ‘sodomy’, a distinction was made between the persons (‘sodomite’, ‘sodomites’, ‘sodomist’, ‘sodomists’ and ‘sodomizers’), verbs (‘sodomize’, ‘sodomizes’, ‘sodomizing’, ‘sodomized’) and nouns (‘sodomy’ and ‘sodomies’).

The terms denoting persons has one significant collocate, namely ‘rapists’. In both instances where ‘sodomites’ co-occurs with ‘rapists’, it denotes both groups of people as sexual offenders (which is technically true according to then-existing laws).

  • This maximum-security facility, to house 160 juvenile murderers, sodomists, rapists and armed robbers, will impact even more of our residential areas, schools and recreational facilities.[1]
  • “One of the teachers, right in front of the children, told us, ‘You are sitting with sodomists and rapists,’ ” another visitor to the Pyramid facility reported angrily.[2]

The verb-forms of ‘to sodomize’ indicate that the terms are often used to describe non-consensual, forced (possibly anal) intercourse, regardless of the age or sex of the victim.

  • (30) Golliver is charged with stabbing to death and sodomizing Christopher Gruhn, 14, on March 20 while the boy was on his Sunday paper route.[1]
  • Unhappily, they [two male teenagers] met Melissa Walbridge and Meghan O’Rourke, two sixth-graders taking a shortcut home from school; they overpowered the two 12-year-olds and dragged them into the brush, where they raped, sodomized and tortured them with the knife, shot them several times and left them, bound and gagged, for dead.[2]
  • (32) In one case, in September 1981, four guardsmen at the Cerron Grande outpost near the town of San Martin got drunk at a beer stand, sodomized two young men, raped two young women, another woman and her daughter, then killed three of the young people and wounded the woman, according to the document.[3]
  • A jury of seven Marine officers tonight found a 27-year-old military policeman guilty of kidnaping, raping, sodomizing and attempting to murder a woman on the Marine Corps base here last spring.[4]

As examples 30 and 32 show, for female victims, the verb form of ‘to rape’ is used distinctly from the forms of ‘to sodomize’, indicating that ‘sodomizing’ indeed refers to forced anal intercourse as opposed to forced vaginal intercourse referred to by ‘raping’. In three texts, the collocations of ‘oral’ and a verb indicating the performing of sodomy refer to forced oral intercourse, adding another meaning to the list of uses of verb-forms of ‘to sodomize’. See for example:

  • C. police spokesman William White III confirmed yesterday that the D.C. police department sex squad is investigating the girl’s charges that she was orally sodomized by a 27-year-old corrections officer about 5 p.m. Sunday.[5]
  • The arrest came after a 17-year-old girl, who was incarcerated at the jail on charges of soliciting prostitution after telling authorities she was an adult, told police that she was orally sodomized by a corrections officer against her will.[6]
  • According to court papers, the woman complained that she was orally sodomized Sunday against her will by a guard while in the jail.[7]

It has to be noted that these three examples stem from the same case, were published within a three-day period and two of the three articles were written by the same person. It is possible that there is either some sort of idiolect influencing the data or that the author copied or paraphrased the collocation of ‘oral’ + ‘to sodomise’ from a police report or similar source.

[1] New York Times 20 May 1983: B/2. Print.

[2] Washington Post 10 June 1985: Style/B2. Print.

[3] Dickey, Christopher. New York Times 15 Feb. 1982: 1/A1. Print.

[4] Moore, Molly. Washington Post 12 Oct. 1983: Metro/C1. Print.

[5] Anderson, John W. Washington Post 16 May 1985: Metro/C1. Print.

[6] Anderson, John W. “D.C. Jail Guard Arrested on Charge Of Sexually Assaulting Girl in Cell.” Washington Post 17 May 1985: Metro/C5. Print.

[7] “D.C. Jail Guard Released.” Washington Post 18 May 1985: Metro/B2. Print.

[1] Horgan, Barbara. “Dutchess County Needs no Fourth Prison.” New York Times 8 Jan. 1981: A/22. Print.

[2] Alexander, Ron. New York Times 20 Mar. 1983: 1/2/61. Print.

Findings for “sapphic*” in my General Corpus

The term ‘sapphic’, as a way of describing lesbianism, is a rare word in the corpus, and its use is nearly restricted to discussing the fine arts. Interestingly, three of the five articles that use this term are authored by the same person, Anna Kisselgoff, possibly indicating either some sort of idiolect or a topical focus within her writing. See these examples:

  • Maria Calegari, tenderly attended by Jerri Kumery and Helene Alexopoulos, introduces a note of Sapphic lyricism.[1]
  • The ensuing pas de trois, in which Jerri Kumery and Helene Alexopoulos partner and frame Maria Calegari brings to the surface the note of Sapphic love and lyric tenderness that gives “Antique Epigraphs” its special quality.[2]
  • Debussy’s inspiration – sensualism and Sapphic themes in his “Six Epigraphes Antiques,” the myth of the Greek nymph turned into a reed in his flute solo, “Syrinx”- find their counterpart in Mr. Robbins’s ballet.[3]

Kisselgoff is named as the author of 19 New York Times articles, all reviews of ballet or dance shows. None of these articles, however, makes an explicit link to the socio-political situation at hand during the early HIV/ AIDS crisis. All of Kisselgoff’s articles – and all that others that use the word ‘sapphic’, for that matter – remain within the discursive arena of the fine arts and do not use this term to discuss homosexuality in the public sphere.

[1] Kisselgoff, Anna. “Ballet: A Robbins World Premiere.” New York Times 4 Feb. 1984: 1/11. Print.

[2] Kisselgoff, Anna. New York Times 12 Feb. 1984: 2/8. Print.

[3] Kisselgoff, Anna. “Dance: City Ballet Resumes Season.” New York Times 10 Jan. 1985: C/17. Print.

Findings for “homoerot*” in my General Corpus

The terms covered by the AntConc query ‘homoerot*’ showed that the use of the words homoeroticsm or homoeroitic was mostly limited on the discussion of theatre plays, musical shows, literature and poetry, and similar or related topics. See for example:

  • If Mr. Winston never answers that “delicate, perhaps crucial, biographical question” that his widow sidesteps in her Afterword, he examines Mann’s homoeroticism more candidly than any observer has before. “Never in his whole life was he to admit openly to that defect,” Mr. Winston records, “except in the deep privacy of his diaries.[1]
  • His [Paul Cadmus’] work, frankly erotic, often homoerotic, has ever since been identified with controversy — a later picture, titled “Sailors and Floozies,” again stirred up a ruckus, this time at an exhibition in San Francisco.[2]

This section, if it does not contain much information regarding the discourse on homosexuality during the early HIV/ AIDS crisis, sheds some light on the usability of a hybrid methodological approach. Especially the first example (the text glossing over Thomas Mann’s homosexuality by calling it a defect) could only be found by a qualitative, closer reading of the text, since the position of ‘defect’ is too far away from the position of ‘homoeroticism’ and thus the quantitative approaches could not catch it. However, only a text-mining approach in combination with an electronic search for the relevant terms could make this discovery viably possible.

[1] “Books of the Times.” New York Times 8 Dec. 1981: C/13. Print.

[2] Brown, Joe. “Capturing Cadmus.” Washington Post 14 Nov. 1984: Style/D9. Print.

Findings for “bugger+++” in my General Corpus

The AntConc query for ”bugger +++“, designed to catch word forms like ‘bugger(s)’, ‘buggered’, ‘buggering’ or ‘buggery’, returned next to none significant findings with regard to the topic of homosexuality. The only exception is an article that actually reflects on the meaning of the word ‘bugger’:

  • Miss Goodman’s paragraph illustrates two points: First, the word bugger has lost its original pejorative meanings, which included an ethnic slur on “Bulgarian,” and later came to mean “sodomite” and, finally, in its most loathsome incarnation, “one who implants secret listening devices.” Today, bugger – meaning “gizmo, whatchamacallit, unidentified sitting object” as well as an intensified “thing” – has become an acceptable noun in family newspapers.[1]

This comment that the term ‘bugger’ lost its relationship to homosexuality is evident in the language data of the corpus, as this example shows:

  • But a citrus industry representative said, “Of this stuff that’s being thrown away, if you gave somebody a bag of them, 50 percent of those oranges would be thrown away because people wouldn’t take the trouble of peeling the little buggers.[2]

The only cases were a word form of ‘bugger’ is still associated with homosexuality is the use of the word ‘buggery’. In these cases, however, ‘buggery’ is marked or used as an obscure, even archaic, term that would not be used in then-contemporary discourse, but rather when talking about the arts or historic events. See these examples:

  • The wildest character is Ben, a Butley-clone that John Christopher Jones plays with such macabre mania that we can almost overlook the fact that he seems too boyish for the part. As this newscaster gets sloshed, he stumbles about like an uninvited guest, letting loose with typically malicious (and hilarious) Gray jests about the rituals of public school “buggery” and other people’s suicides.[3]
  • The professor traced the earliest [execution of non-adults] to Massachusetts in 1642 when a 16-year-old boy was put to death for the crime of buggery.[4]

So, it can be concluded that forms of the word ‘bugger’, which used to have connotations of homosexuality, had fallen out of common use in this type of discourse by the early HIV/ AIDS crisis.

[1] Safire, William. “On Language.” New York Times 12 Feb. 1984: 6/9. Print.

[2] “California Oranges Dumped.” Washington Post 14 Feb. 1981: 1/A2. Print.

[3] Rich, Frank. “Theater: ‘Close of Play,’ by Simon Gray, Opens.” New York Times 25 Feb. 1981: C/24. Print.

[4] Reinhold, Robert. “Execution for Juveniles: New Focus on Old Issue.” New York Times 10 Sep. 1985: A/14. Print.

Findings for “faggot+” in the General Corpus

Using “faggot+” as query term in AntConc, the relevant examples clearly show that the terms are used as derogatory slurs. In terms of absolute numbers, this use of the word is the overwhelming majority. In these instances, the term is applied to both actual homosexuals and people perceived as such.

  • He answered a flurry of telephone calls, some from opponents. “Nothing really threatening, just nastiness,” Mr. Longstaff said. “They say, ‘Faggot, go home.’ [1]
  • Those, he said, were the kids who beat him up, broke his ribs and jaw and called him a faggot when he took ballet lessons at age 13.[2]
  • […]a guy, very calmly, threw a piece of granite through the wall. Three months later, the same guy came back, walked into the store muttering, ‘I’m gonna kill all you faggots.’[3]

Interestingly, in two very relevant cases, collocates of ‘faggot’ show instances where that homosexuals also used this term to describe either themselves or other homosexuals. The values of these collocations are given below.

Collocate Freq Freq L Freq R Stat
queer 2 1 1 12.33
homosexuals 2 1 1 8.41


In the process of language-reclaiming, members of a subculture or a minority will appropriate and use terms that are also, and usually more commonly, used as derogatory insults or slurs. For the collocations of ‘faggot’ and ‘queer’, we see this:

  • According to one listener, D. described the gay community as “faggots and queers,” and linked them to the bombing of the Capitol on Monday night.[4]

But also, this:

  • While some expressed their gay pride with buttons and T-shirts that ranged from “Faggot” and “Queer” to the more low-key, “I’m One Too,” Ed Murphy, 58, of New York City wore a sash that declared him to be “An Original Stonewaller.”[5]

For the collocations of ‘faggot and ‘homosexuals’, we see:

  • Again, Williams denied being a homosexual, or hating them, a partial motive police have suggested for the murders, even though he testified today that he referred to homosexuals as “Hostess cupcakes, gays, faggots and Twinkies.”[6]

But also this:

  • “Well,”said David Goff, a [Gay Men’s] chorus member, “there are faggots who give homosexuals a bad name, and there are preachers who give religion a bad name.[7]

While the examples (4) and (6) clearly reinforce the notion that ‘faggot’ is a slur for homosexual people, (5) and, to a lesser extent, (7), point towards a possible reclaiming strategy. However, the fact that most examples of the use of ‘faggot(s)’ are harsh and homophobe utterances indicate that either the reclaiming of faggot was either a rather new or an unsuccessful instance of this type of discursive strategy. ‘Faggot’, in these instances, remains a strongly negative term applied to actual or supposed homosexuals, even more so than ‘fag’.

[1] Homosexual, a. U.S. Resident 19 Years, Faces Deportation.” New York Times 3 June 1984: 1-1-40. Print.

[2] Hill, Michael E. Washington Post 3 Nov. 1985: TV Tab 10. Print.

[3] Wadler, Joyce. “No, Dorothy, You and Toto Certainly Aren’t in Kansas Anymore.” Washington Post 1 Aug. 1982: 1 A2. Print.

[4] Trescott, Jacqueline. Washington Post 10 Nov. 1983: Style C1. Print.

[5] Perl, Peter. “15,000 Parade, Picnic and Politick on Gay Pride Day.” Washington Post 21 June 1982: Metro B1. Print.

[6] Harris, Art. “Williams Sticks to His Version of Events on the Chattahoochee.” Washington Post 24 Feb. 1982: 1 A6. Print.

[7] Darling, Lynn. Washington Post 19 June 1981: Style C1. Print.


Findings for “fag+” in my General Corpus

In the source texts, the terms ‘fag’ or ‘fags’ are applied in a variety of meanings. The relevant instances for this study are the times where the word is used to denote homosexual persons. These denotations are decidedly negative, as can be seen from these examples:

  • (1) Rodwell finally replaced his store windows with shatterproof glass after they had been smashed for the third time, and he said it is not uncommon to arrive at the shop and find that someone has defaced the building with a swastika, or ‘Kill Fags.’[1]
  • (2) “I live in Logan Circle,” said 29-year-old Jeff DeMontier, “and have to deal with the prostitutes daily, and it’s always, ‘Oh, you fag — you give AIDS.’ ” […]He [Rock Hudson] could have covered it [suffering from AIDS] up, said it was cancer . . .Even today, people, politicians don’t come out. They might lose two-thirds of their business. You say you’re a fag and you’re finished.[2]

Using a “fag+” query in AntConc, I found 22 significant collocates with at least 2 occurrences for ‘fag’ or ‘fags’ in a 5L/5R window. Here, I want to focus on three striking collocates, as they form a noteworthy union: ‘basher’, ‘bashing’, and ‘baiting’. The relevant values are given below:

Collocate Freq Freq L Freq R Stat
basher 3 0 3 17.68
bashing 2 0 2 15.87
baiting 3 1 2 14.17


The terms ‘fag-baiting’ and ‘fag-bashing’ or ‘fag-basher’ are used to denote verbal (for the former one) or physical (for the latter two) abuse of homosexuals. For the use of the terms denoting verbal abuse, see for example:

  • (3) Falwell, after all, is a regular Anita Byrant on the subject of homosexuality. In mailings and broadcasts, he appeals to the basest sort of antihomosexual sentiment, couching his demagoguery always in religious terms, raising the specter of “avowed homosexual” teachers seducing school children. Always his justifications for what amounts to plain old fag baiting are either the scriptures or his absolute certainty that God, like him, is, in effect, a bigot.[3]
  • (4) Neither the threat nor the existence of AIDS exonerates what amounts to nothing less than fag baiting or justifies a moral condemnation of the entire homosexual community.[4]

For the use of the terms as denoting physical abuse, see for example:

  • (5) Homosexual activists packed a courtroom today and watched angrily as three juveniles were allowed to remain free on charges of killing a homosexual man who drown after he was thrown from a bridge. David McMannus said of the decision, “It says to every fag-basher this is the time – go out and get them.”[5]
  • (6) The Republican Party has traditionally espoused principles which would allow it to support nonintervention in individual rights . . . but it has become associated with some people who indulge in ‘gay-baiting’ and ‘fag-bashing,’ ” said Bauman.[6]

Bauman’s statements show that these terms are meant to mark people as violent and intolerant, as can be seen from his distancing himself from being called ‘baiter’ or ‘basher’.

  • (7) Bauman, who is practicing law in Easton, Md., acknowledged that during his political career he has twice voted against the interests of homosexuals on specific pieces of legislation. But he said that contrary to popular belief, he had never given speeches or been outspoken on the issue of homosexuality: “I have never been a ‘fag-basher’ or ‘gay-baiter.’[7]
  • (8) But I [Bauman speaking about himself] was no more a vociferous opponent of gay rights than any other conservative. I think it fitted the press’ definition of a conservative to think that they were gay baiters. I never said anything about it for reasons that should be obvious. I am not, as The Baltimore Evening Sun said in an editorial, an ex-fag-basher.[8]

So, interestingly, while the term ‘fag’ itself is apparently used as a derogatory term, words that are used to denote verbal and physical abuse of homosexuals employ the derogatory term ‘fag’ as well, as was shown for ‘fag-baiting’ and ‘fag-bashing’ or ‘fag-basher’. Comparing how ‘baiting’ and ‘bashing’ relate to ‘gay’ should yield interesting results as well, seeing how Bauman used these terms in examples 6, 7, and 8.

[1] Wadler, Joyce. “No, Dorothy, You and Toto Certainly Aren’t in Kansas Anymore.” Washington Post 1 Aug. 1982: 1 A2. Print.

[2] Hall, Carla. Washington Post 27 July 1985: Style G1. Print.

[3] Cohen, Richard. “Demagougery.” Washington Post 31 Aug. 1982: Metro C1. Print.

[4] Cohen, Richard. “AIDS.” Washington Post 16 June 1983: Metro B1. Print.

[5] Washington Post 18 July 1984: A 15. Print.

[6] Murphy, Caryle. “Republican Homosexuals Form Gay Rights Group.” Washington Post 19 May 1984: Metro B8. Print.

[7] Barbash, Fred. “’Yes, I Am Gay’ Bauman Is Joining Homosexual Rights Movement.” Washington Post 3 Aug. 1983: 1 A7. Print.

[8] “On Being Gay and In Politics.” Washington Post 7 Aug. 1983: Outlook C3. Print.

Captain’s Blog, 2015.11.16

Die letzten Tage gingen sehr schleppend voran. Ich habe festgestellt, wie unausgereift die Methodik der historischen Diskursanalyse eigentlich ist, wenn man eine klare Vorgehensweise haben will. Man ist sich einig darüber, dass Diskurse und Wissen zusammenhängen, dass die Konstruktion von Wahrheit auch immer was mit Macht und dem (Un)sagbaren zu tun haben, und dass die Diskurse durch wiederholte Aussagen in den Quellen rekonstruierbar sind.

Über die notwendige Dichte von Quellen, der Repräsentativität, das Verhältnis von Sprachform und Sprachinhalt, die zeitliche Verortung eines Diskurses zwischen Zustand und Prozess und viele andere Themen gibt es wenig konkrete und teils sehr disparate Aussagen.

Das alles macht die Darstellung der Methodik schwierig – und es sind sich noch nicht mal alle ForscherInnen einig, dass die Diskursanalyse tatsächlich eine μέθοδος, ein “mehr oder weniger planmäßiges Verfahren zur Erreichung eines Zieles” ist.

Trotzdem muss ich irgendwie aus meinen Versatzstücken zur Historischen Diskursanalyse (HDA) ein stringente Überlegung für meine Arbeit basteln. Dabei hoffe ich, dass mir meine nächsten Lektüren weiterhelfen. Landwehrs Einführung [1] habe ich inzwischen komplett durchgearbeitet, und auch an Eders Sammelband [2] und den dazugehörigen Aufsätzen [3] [4] [5] [6] bin ich dran. Danach kommen noch Aufsätze von Wengeler [7] und Jäger [8]; vor allem auf den letzteren setze ich einiges an Hoffnung.

Ich bin inzwischen gedanklich immerhin so weit:

  • Diskurse sind aus Quellen rekonstruierbare Objekte und somit der historiographischen Forschung zugänglich
  • Aufgrund der zeitlichen Lage meines Themas und meines Umgangs mit den Quellen kann ich davon ausgehen, dass mein rekonstruierter Diskurs repräsentativ ist
  • Ich werde zwar einen kurzen Zeitraum beschreiben, der aber von einem großen Wandel geprägt ist. Ich werde also den Diskurs auch als sich wandelndes Objekt darstellen (müssen) und kein statisches Bild zeichnen (können).

Irgendwie ist das alles grad ein bisschen ätzend. Wer Tipps hat, kann mich via Twitter @historytoby oder per Mail anschreiben und weiterhelfen 😉

[1] Landwehr, Achim. Historische Diskursanalyse. Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 2008. Print. Historische Einführungen 4.

[2] Eder, Franz X., ed. Historische Diskursanalysen: Genealogie Theorie Anwendungen. Wiesbaden: VS, 2006. Print.

[3] Eder, Franz X. “Historische Diskurse und ihre Analyse – eine Einleitung.” Historische Diskursanalysen: Genealogie Theorie Anwendungen. Ed. Franz X. Eder. Wiesbaden: VS, 2006. 9–23. Print.

[4] Haslinger, Peter. “Diskurs, Sprache, Zeit, Identität: Plädoyer für eine erweiterte Diskursgeschichte.” Historische Diskursanalysen: Genealogie Theorie Anwendungen. Ed. Franz X. Eder. Wiesbaden: VS, 2006. 27–50. Print.

[5] Keller, Reiner. “Wissen oder Sprache: Für eine wissenschaftliche Profilierung der Diskursforschung.” Historische Diskursanalysen: Genealogie Theorie Anwendungen. Ed. Franz X. Eder. Wiesbaden: VS, 2006. 51–69. Print.

[6] Frings, Andreas, and Johannes Marx. “Wenn Diskurse baden gehen: Eine handlungstheoretische Fundierung der Diskursanalyse.” Historische Diskursanalysen: Genealogie Theorie Anwendungen. Ed. Franz X. Eder. Wiesbaden: VS, 2006. 91–112. Print.

[7] Wengeler, Martin. “Das Szenario des kollektiven Wissens einer Diskursgemeinschaft entwerfen: Historische Diskurssemantik als ‘kritische Linguistik’.” Aptum: Zeitschrift für Sprachkritik und Sprachkultur 1 (2005): 262–82. Print.

[8] Jäger, Siegfried. “Diskurs als ‘Fluß von Wissen durch die Zeit’: Ein transdisziplinäres politisches Konzept.” Aptum: Zeitschrift für Sprachkritik und Sprachkultur 1 (2005): 52–72. Print.

Captain’s Blog, 2015.11.04 (Update)

Heute habe ich mich mit zwei Texten tiefergehend beschäftigt:

  • Füssel, Marian, and Tim Neu. “Diskursforschung in der Geschichtswissenschaft.” Diskursforschung: Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch, Bd. 1: Theorien, Methodologien und Kontroversen. Ed. Johannes Angermuller, et al. Bielefeld: transcript, 2014. 145–61. Print. DiskursNetz 1.
  • Jóhannesson, Ingólfur Á. “The Politics of Historical Discourse Analysis: A Qualitative Research Method?” Discourse 31.2 (2010): 251–64. Print.

Der Text von Füssel und Neu war wirklich gut, und hat mir sehr viele grundlegende Gedanken zur Theorie und Praxis der historischen Diskursanalyse geliefert. Der Text von Jóhanesson war dagegen nur in kleinen Teilen hilfreich; im Allgemeinen versprach der Text viel mehr, als er lieferte, und bestand leider zu großen Teilen aus Allgemeinplätzen (“Forscher müssen ihren subjektiven Stand reflektieren!” “Lies die Quellen genau und aufmerksam durch!”) und gab auch den etwas verwirrenden Tipp, einfach mehr Quellen zu akquirieren, wenn der aus den Quellen erfahrbare Diskurs nicht den eigenen Erwartungen entspräche.

Dazu habe ich weiter aus Landwehrs Klassiker zur historischen Diskursanalyse ( = Landwehr, Achim. Historische Diskursanalyse. Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 2008. Print. Historische Einführungen 4. ) exzerpiert und einen rough draft des Kapitels begonnen. In diesen Draft geht auch ein Text von Landwehr aus der Docupedia ein ( = Landwehr, Achim. Diskurs und Diskursgeschichte. Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte, 2010. Web. 2 Nov. 2015. <https://​​/​images/​5/​52/​Diskurs_​und_​Diskursgeschichte.pdf>.)

In this chapter, I will present the principles of Historical Discourse Analysis (HDA). It is important to note that HDA is not a full-fledged empirical approach with a rigorous step-by-step structure (yet), but is still a conglomerate of fragmented theoretical and methodological ideas.[1] Discourses, like any object of historiographic study, are only available to us through the remains that survive into our day.[2] Still, they had, at one point in the past, a both a contemporariness and a [Ursprung] and can thus be approached like by historians like any object or topic of the past.[3]

Discourses are social practices of speech that constitute knowledge and reality through the iteration and reforming of statements.[4]

[1] Füssel/ Neu 2014: 146.

[2] Füssel/ Neu 2014: 146.

[3] Landwehr 2010: 6.

[4] Based on the ideas of Foucault, this axiomatic idea of social constructivism has been accepted by many researchers in the social sciences and humanities. While these ideas have met and still meet criticism, I follow the numerous researchers who agree that there is an undeniable connection between language, truth, knowledge, reality and power. See Füssel/ Neu 2014: 150, Landwehr 2010: 2f; Jóhannesson 2010: 256.

Besonders die 4. Fußnote hat mich ziemlich Kraft beim Schreiben gekostet und ich bin mit dem ganzen Text wirklich noch nicht zufrieden. Mal sehen, wie es sich weiter entwickelt, wenn ich Landwehr 2008 einbauen kann.