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Alicia Adewumi SOC 401-01 W0463595

A Review and Reflection: Capitalism and Gay Identity

Capitalism is referred to as the increased drive for profits through the waged labor of

others. In the article Capitalism and Gay Identity John D’Emilio argues that the gay identity was

created from the development of capitalism. He explains that the movement from the self-

sufficient household or slavery to a labor system based solely on earning wages, granted

freedom for the making of the gay identity. In this particular system, the capitalist own the

means of production, which is termed “private property,” and laborers own only their labor

that is sold to capitalist for those wages. The author claims that these capitalist wages gave self-

determination to same sex eroticism because it became an option rather than a disadvantage

to the individual’s survival in the social world. With that being said D’Emilio contends that gay

men and lesbians did not always exist, but they are only a product of history and its relation to

capitalism and the free labor system. However, this was only a basic material condition that

generated political exclusion. The manifestation of the political exclusion of individuals who

participated in homosexual behavior is what in turn laid the foundation for the assimilation of

the gay man or lesbian title that was later completely affirmed. The gay identity was not

created because of the need to broad cast sexual desire or orientation. It was created because

the people who practiced the homosexual lifestyle wanted political equality.

I believe when sexuality becomes an object of pleasure, it creates an increased desire

for something different than we have had before. Basically, sexual desire can changes over time

form what is old or previously experienced to what is new and has never been experienced

before. For example, the pleasure derived from the sexual intimacy of a new partner. In fact, I

can understand his point on gay identity with respect to capitalism, but the dilemma I began to
Alicia Adewumi SOC 401-01 W0463595

face is when the author moves into, superficially, the topic regarding sexual autonomy of

children. D’Emilio states, “The rights of young people are especially critical. The acceptance of

children as dependents, as belonging to parents, is so deeply ingrained that we can scarcely

imagine what it would mean to treat them as autonomous human beings, particularly in the

realm of sexual expression and choice.” The author asserts that until this happens, gay freedom

will remain out of reach. I want to challenge this particular idea because there is a lack of

conceptualization for terms the author in communicating. When I think of dependence I believe

this concept to mean being “reliant” on something outside of the “self” for survival, connoting

not only the material necessities, but also guidance and protection from certain social realities.

Children are dependent on their parent for their basic survival as well as the wisdom offered in

regards to the lifeworld by helping them weigh the pros and cons of their choices. I believe that

children who do not belong to parents are more likely to become vulnerable to predators in the

social world. Freedom of expression is very important and unfortunately not all parents feel this

way. What would be the cause and effect for awarding children the right of independence from

parents? Survival is learned behavior and children are humans that are learning and must be

protected and guided to make choices based on the facts of social reality. The fact is, as

D’Emilio states, gay identity was created by capitalism and the free labor system by and for

adults. I do not believe children should be autonomously responsible for making such decisions

in realizing and understanding the sexual world. That is a place for adults who have come to a

deep understanding, in a sense, of who they are in relation to eroticism. However, I do believe

that adults should support their children, as they age, in coming to such conclusions about
Alicia Adewumi SOC 401-01 W0463595

sexuality by challenging their thoughts and instilling in them the power of critical thinking in

regard to their sexual choice and expression.

I recently became aware that my son had been sexual molested at the age of 5 and

again at 7. This was especially disturbing to me because this act involved someone he and I

knew, for a large part, rather well. At the time my son did not understand this behavior to be

misguided until he was confronted with the paradox of the event that took place between him

and this adult person. These kinds of events have the power to alter a child’s physiological state

because they are not knowledgeable about the sexual world. If we give independent rights to

children, does that make them adults in the eye of the law and can we still protect them from

such circumstances? I want to give another example, a story from a third party, regarding an

early childhood sexual experience. A young lady was asked a question in reference to a

statement she made about being bi-sexual; “Why is it, that you are bi-sexual?” she replies,

“Sometimes we, as humans, don’t want to know the truth.” She goes on to say, “As a child my

sister sexually abused me, at first I just went along with it until I understood it to be wrong and

it became awkward, but the abuse did not stop and I grew to like it.” I believe children are very

impressionable which makes it easy for them to learn and adapt to behavior, even if it is forced

upon them. My question is; would this young lady have chosen to be bi-sexual if it were not for

this sexual encounter with her sister?

I received a booklet from the child advocacy organization after my son underwent an

interview relating to the sexual misconduct of his adult abuser. In the booklet, it informs

parents that children undergo stages in sexual awareness that is practiced with other children

their own age. This includes playing house, dress up and doctor. These are all forms of sexual
Alicia Adewumi SOC 401-01 W0463595

expression and I believe there is no need to give children independent rights regarding this

expression because it naturally happens within the lifeworld. This idea of children’s

independent rights, to me, should not be argued in relation to gay liberation and needs further

research and study before such a statement is made.

I believe gay men and lesbians deserve and are entitled to rights that are given to all

people (citizens) including the freedom to participate in whichever adult consented eroticism

that they choose. Children should be able, as well, to express their sexuality with the support

and guidance of their parents in a healthy informed fashion. In fact, within the black or African

American community/culture sexuality is very often expressed through dance which affords

children their personal space and an outlet for their wild animal nature. Furthermore, even

without the independent rights of children, gay liberation is on the raise in American society.