Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Virginia Tech Mass Murderer as a Repressed Homosexual: Conflating Sexual Non-Conformity, Social and Mental Deviance in America

In a post on April 22, 2007, Conflating Sexual Deviance and Politico-Religious Deviance: Arab Homosexuality and Spying for Israel in Egypt, I explored the way in which an English based Middle Eastern publication exploited a story about the arrest of a Muslim in Egypt on charges of spying for Israel to demonize both the accused and Israel by conflating religious, political, cultural and sexual "deviance." Such conflations, I suggested, "serve a number of useful purposes: protecting the boundaries of sexual dominance within Egyptian culture, inscribing the enemy with sexual and social practices incompatible with any sort of friendly relations, and gendering bad conduct (political betrayal) as defectively male (and thus female)." Id. Those conflations have significant resonance in a society in which religious conformity has deep meaning in the political culture or otherwise provides the filter through which individual action can be understood and judged.

But the conflation of sexual and social deviance is not confined to the Muslim world. In the West similar mechanics exist. But here science substitutes for religion as the filter through which society filters action and judges individual conduct. And that filter conflated gender norm expectations with science as surely as we have seen the conflation between gender norm expectations and religion in the dar al Islam. I have written on Western "scientism and the disciplining of male sexuality. See Larry Catá Backer, Emasculated Men, Effeminate Law in the United States, Zimbabwe and Malaysia, 17 YALE JOURNAL OF LAW & FEMINISM 1 (2005).

It should come as no surprise that it has been suggested that the perpetrator of the recent mass shooting at Virginia Tech University, Mr. Cho, acted out of repressed homosexual feelings. According to those who hold this view, Mr. Cho was not only a social deviant, but was mentally ill as well, and that mental illness expressed itself in sexual pathology marked by deviance of a sort that could fuel or at least parallel the depths of the social pathologies that led eventually to his violent actions. Sexual and social deviance are conflated. Thus, Judith Reisman writes:

One of the Virginia Tech killer's plays was released to the press. The rest are cloaked in killer ''privacy." . . . In this play, the killer writes pornographically about his 13-year-old boy protagonist's mom doing it "doggie style" with his homosexual/pedophile step-father. Was there homosexual molestation in the killer's life as well? [Reisman notes that one of Cho's professors was said to have stated that] his poems revealed someone engaged in ''a personal violation� objectifying his subjects,'' doing things ''to your body parts." . . . .[That professor] was describing erototoxins – pornography. The killer's violence was sexual, such as, ''Your bra is torn, and I'm looking at your flesh." Judith Reisman, Commentary: Cho's Erototoxic Addiction, World Net Daily, April 23, 2007.

But the science of psychology addresses Mr. Cho's sexual/social pathologies in other ways as well. On the Anderson Cooper 360 Show, distributed through the authoritative media source CNN, Dr. Helen Morrison, a forensic psychiatrist, suggested that Mr. Cho killed as a means of acting out against repressed homosexual tendencies.

COOPER: Dr. Morrison, what do you make -- you know, in his writings, there seemed to be sort of an obsession with the debauchery, the hedonism of other people. He seemed to need to prove his masculinity a lot.
MORRISON: Well, one of the early theories about paranoia is that it's a defense against the person's own urges of homosexuality. And that's a very old theory. But, if you look at the writings he had in both of his plays, they are focused on things occurring that would generally happen only in a same-sex-type relationship. But they're very threatening. And his response to those threats is to kill.
COOPER: But he seemed to be attracted to women.
MORRISON: Well, but, you know, it's like anything else. If you are trying to prove yourself, and trying to show that you're the complete opposite of what you might be afraid of, you will definitely stalk. You will definitely look into a woman's eyes and see promiscuity, which is one of the things he talked about. But the focus on the sexuality of females was only masking what appears to have been a tremendous fear that he was not truly attracted to females. Id.
Murder might be understood, then, as a pathological response to his self doubts about his manhood--understood as the absence of "deviant" sexual desire. This parallels a charge made against one of the September 11, 2001 terrorists who hijacked a plane that crashed into the World Trade Center. See Larry Catá Backer, Emasculated Men, Effeminate Law in the United States, Zimbabwe and Malaysia, 17 YALE JOURNAL OF LAW & FEMINISM 1 (2005). "Science" thus supplies the necessary "factual" basis for this conflation--this is what brings a certain measure of comfort to American society. Once we understand the social pathology as illness, and that illness as deviance--and especially as sexual deviance, we can rest easy. "Normal" people do not kill like this. But we have also managed to solidify the borders of appropriate sexual conduct; normal people are not sexual deviants, either "gay" or otherwise sexually "disordered."

And in this way there is produced further objective evidence of the connection between sexual deviance and social deviance. This conflation, this homosexualization of violent social pathology, expressed in the objective language of science, has potential for significant social and legal change. In the wake of the allegations, the usual crew of social conservatives proposed legislation voiding current hate crimes laws. The efforts are nicely described in Exploiting Virginia Tech--Take 4.

1 comment:

RMB said...

I would agree that with a perceived Western shift toward empiricism - science is a more shiny, and convincing lens for most of "us." Again, appealing to whatever set of values (or frame of reference) the media/government knows will help them either 1. rationalize 2. posture. or 3. entertain. Very valid.

I did think Dr. Moorison might have just been better off to admit it was possible, just possible - he was nothing more than a psychotic bi-sexual. Clearly a crazy person's perceptions on virtually every level of their being must be skewed by psychosis (to include sexuality or violence). Alternatively, I suppose the bi-sexuality suggestion raises a whole new conflaction issue. One that is quite fascinating - namely the fact that female bi-sexuality is quite sheik these days (I am referring to the "non-butch" version), while male bi-sexuality is not.