The Gay World is written by a research psychiatrist who wanted to disprove his peers who were claiming that being gay was a mental illness. So Martin Hoffman went outside to meet regular gay guys in bars and parties and stuff in San Francisco to understand what they were really up against. He found that the biggest hurdle in the gay world is American society at large.
This is a cool book because you can see Hoffman navigating some outdated science with a valid viewpoint. The Gay World was published in 1968 and so you have to forgive and accept some of the studies and missing studies. What makes this still so worthwhile is that Hoffman is astute in his analyses. He doesn’t let people slide saying or implying homophobic things in the science world. He knows that gay people are just people and that is really his point.
He includes some good case studies too. Like he interviews two guys separately who hooked up with each other. One was married with kids and lived a straight life. The other was chronically single and only sleeping with other gay guys. They got together one night and never spoke again, and it’s like at first it sounds as if Hoffman is implying that gay men’s sexual practices and alleged promiscuity is unique to the demographic, which would be problematic. But as he moves along, he proves that the only reason their sexual lives are like this is because they are socialized into being ashamed, quiet, and hidden. This social prohibition means they can’t have normal relationships. They can’t just live together or hold hands somewhere or whatever because they will be harassed, arrested, fired, ostracized.
Hoffman also shows that this isn’t just a gay guy problem. This is something that effects everyone because the real issue is that we are all socialized to repress any sexual inclinations towards someone of the same gender as yourself. This is where the moral and legal stuff comes into play. Gay sex is portrayed as “unnatural” and that idea stems from biblical ideas about sex being only for procreation. So that means even a straight couple having anal sex was technically breaking the law (and that two lesbians not having anal sex were not breaking the law). As far as arrests go, most (not all) of those are instances of public sex, which Hoffman agrees should be illegal no matter who it is, while also understanding why that might be more common for gay guys, given their situation.
He argues that laws against gay sex should be abolished, and he wants to “end police activity against homosexuals, in all its forms, including use of decoys and harassment of gay bars and homosexual meeting places” (199-200).
Great book. Glad I read it.
Best line: “People are really more diverse and their sexual orientation more complicated and changing than either the popular mind or many writers on human sexuality would have us believe” (Martin Hoffman 129).