About the event
The idea that children can be ‘recruited’ into queerness or non-normative gender is an old one. Starting in the nineteenth century but strengthening throughout the twentieth in legal, scientific and religious contexts, the ‘gay seduction’ theory suggested that children could be corrupted through exposure to older queer and trans individuals and their lifestyles. Again and again, this has fed into moral panics and has given rise to discourses of protection: with the correct moral guidance and under the right circumstances, children should develop ‘normally’ into heterosexual, gender-conforming adults.
In this talk, Dr Kate Davison will present three episodes in this long history, starting with criminological and sexological adoption of the Verführungstheorie proposed by Freud in the 1890s, moving on to 1980s Britain and the Section 28 laws prohibiting ‘gay propaganda’ in schools, and ending with the more recent culture war over ‘gender whisperers’ and the so-called ‘epidemic’ of trans identity in children.
Dr Kate Davison recently joined the History at Goldsmiths as a Lecturer in Queer History. She has a BA and PhD from the University of Melbourne and an MA from the Freie Universität in Berlin. Her research on the history of sexology spans the fields of science, medicine, emotions and sexuality in Central Europe and across the British Empire. She is currently preparing a book manuscript on the transnational history of homosexual aversion therapy from the 1950s to the 1970s.From the Eventbrite blurb
The whole of the lecture was really not much more detailed than the blurb above but at least it gave Davison many chances to say random words in German, thereby elevating her threadbare analysis to sounding at least a tiny bit erudite.
Davison began with the sad news that management were cutting 4 million pounds from the budget which meant academic heads were about to roll. Davison has just begun her appointment as lecturer in queer history and now has an axe over her head. Let’s hope it falls directly on it.
The lecture she was giving were from a module she was giving for first years on historical debate and she had chosen the discussion about children to be controversial. Davison believes that the ‘nature vs nurture’ debate for sexual orientation and gender identity is a ‘dead end’.
A tweet from the Australian Prime Minister
Davison was incensed that the Australian PM had tweeted this back in 2018. These thirteen words represented more than 100 years’ worth of queer seduction ideology. Davison complained that Morrison was tapping into the idea that kids were innocent. The Daily Telegraph was owned by Murdoch and therefore represented the very worst of everything (NB it is not owned by Murdoch but the Barclay brothers, but ya know, what do facts matter?).
Davison read this extensive quote out from the Daily Telegraph article, emphasising words that she felt were indicative of ‘seduction theory’, views which were being repeated by ‘self-identified feminists’ on social media. And that was about all she had.
Like all gender woo historians, Davison spent an inordinate amount of time talking about Hirschfield’s influence. This was the section where she kept on dropping reminders that she could speak German and gave us a liberal sprinkling of Hirschfield’s theories – like that there was a third sex, that he transplanted animal gonads into his patients and had something of a preoccupation with eugenics.
Different reasons for being ‘queer’ as given by aversion therapists
- Hormones in the womb
- Moral choice
- Learned behaviour
This was a patchy part of the lecture for me, mainly because I was dealing with sausages and oven chips, but I’m sure it was very interesting and made a lot of sense. Certainly I have never heard the theory that Oliver! The Musical represented Oliver as having been seduced by Jewish homosexual but perhaps I haven’t watched it properly.
Lady Gaga famously sung a song called ‘Born this Way’ that was a bit like the biology theory that sexuality was innate. Davison said she could be regarded as the mother of this idea. Then Davison had to back track and admit she shouldn’t really use the word ‘mother’. Doh!
Funny thing is, at the point where I was wondering what Davison’s sexuality was, she revealed that she was a ‘problematic bisexual’. Fancy that! She discussed an Australian man who was a gay aversion therapist, who was apparently bisexual, who ultimately sought to understand where bisexuals ‘fitted in’. This doctor also saw some of the first ‘transsexual’ patients in his clinic in the 60s in his private practice and was an expert on whether surgery should be performed in their cases.
Jenny lives with Eric and Martin
What queer lecture would be complete without this reference to the book about a girl who lived with two men that no one ever read?
Born in your own body
Davison was outraged by the book Heather Brunskell-Evans and Michele Moore have published called Transgender Children and Young People: Born in your Own Body. In particular, she was appalled by the phrase ‘transgendering children’ – again citing that this was evidence of the ‘language of seduction theory’.
Irreversible Damage was another book which was baaaad. Davison was borderline apoplectic that the blurb referred to girls (‘she’s really talking about boys here’). A desperate attempt was made to compare both books to ‘redemption narratives’.
Unforeseen twist ahead
Davison explained that people were using the argument that she was using. Namely that people were trying to say that ‘trangendering’ was conversion therapy. Davison made it clear that such arguments were simply using the Playbook and her theory (i.e. seduction theory) was the only real theory. Bit weak, love.
An unseen academic described Davison’s talk as ‘mind blowingly amazing’. Line of LOLS required. Sorry.
She explained that her area was exploring ‘fat phobia’, was there any evidence that fat women become lesbians because they couldn’t get men?
Davison hadn’t come across this in her ‘research’ and rambled on about gay men having ‘somatic body types’.
A question from the in person audience was asked – I couldn’t hear the question. Davison veered from young boys who were abducted by workmen in the 30s and ended up on talking about David Reimer, the boy who had a failed circumcision and was raised as a girl in an experiment by John Money, the sexologist who practically founded sex change surgery. She described this as Reimer being ‘sent on the wrong track’.
Davison briefly mentioned the man/boy love movement and the ‘history of female intergenerational encounters’ (sounds like incest to me). What about the agency of children, Davison asked, when do things spill over into abuse?
Then the fatphobia academic said that Paedophile Information Exchange had had a relationship with the Gay Liberation Front, what about that? Davison responded that in the queer archives there was a lot of stuff, some of it could be regarded as problematic materials or even abusive (she was trying to sound even-handed about the whole thing, but I have no doubt where her heart and soul really lies – in the gutter).
Another person in the lecture theatre asked a question about resistance. Now it was time for Davison to say a bad swear – queers resisting in the past had had a ‘fuck you attitude’. One queer collective member used to wear ‘fuck off breeder scum’ T-shirt.
For some reason the Q&A ended on the topic of political lesbianism. Davison said this, in its hey-day of the 70s, could be regarded as a withdrawal of sexual services. It was a political act and not an act of desire, in fact it suggested that you could change the course of your desires. Davison suggested one of the students do a paper on it.
Leave lesbians alone!
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