Public Discourses of Gay Men

Paul Baker, Lancaster University

Baker, P. (2005) Public Discourses of Gay Men. London: Routledge.

Although sexual and romantic same-sex relationships between humans have existed for millennia, the ways that such relationships and the people who engage in them have been celebrated, normalised, accepted, ignored, problematised or persecuted has been subject to considerable variation over time and across different societies. Particularly over the last fifty years there has been an inordinate amount of controversy and negotiation concerning the ways that gay men have been talked and written about. Public Discouses of Gay Men explores the variety of ways that gay men are constructed in public settings in order to make sense of the current set of discourses or 'ways of seeing the world' that surround this group.

Taking a corpus-based analysis approach to examine millions of words of data from a range of contemporary sources, the book investigates how conflicting discourses have clashed together, resulting in a definition of homosexuality that is often ambivalent, confusing or contradictory.

The corpus-based approach allows for the identification of repeated patterns of language, showing the culmulative effect this has on discourse in everyday life. The following techniques are used to demonstrate these patterns:

  • Collocational analyses - what sort of words tend to regularly appear next to or near words like "gay" and "homosexual" and how does this relate to different contexts?
  • Discourse prosodies - how are gay people regularly constructed in language use? What are the most common patterns - which patterns are less frequent or resistant?
  • Keywords and frequencies - what words, semantic concepts or grammatical categories tend to occur more frequently than expected by chance alone in public texts about gay men? What can this tell us about the ways that discourses of gay identity are currently constructed?
  • Dispersion - how are terms like "gay" dispersed throughout particular texts and how do dispersion pattens relate to discourses of homosexuality?

From conceptualisations of homosexuality as 'unnatural behaviour' in the House of Lords to discourses of shame and outrageousness in tabloid newspapers, it is still the case that homophobia underpins contemporary understandings of homosexuality. However, homophobia is only part of the story - personal adverts and erotic stories show us how desire is constructed for gay men as intensely masculine and ostensibly heterosexual. Additionally, sitcoms like Will & Grace reveal a definition of homosexuality that is weighted in aspirational class-consciousness and camp humour. The full range of discourses is demonstrated in the final analysis chapter which examines safe sex documentation.


Chapters

Chapter 1: What Can I do with a Naked Corpus? 1-37

Chapter 2: Unnatural Acts: the House of Lords debates on gay male law reform. 28-59

Chapter 3: Flamboyant, predatory, self-confessed homosexual: discourse prosodies in the British tabloid press.60-92

Chapter 4: "True Man" and "McFairyland": gay identities in an American sitcom. 93-130

Chapter 5 "No effeminates please": discourses of gay men's personal adverts. 131-153

Chapter 6: As big as a beercan: a comparative keyword analysis of lesbian and ga male erotic narratives. 154-190

Chapter 7: Making safer sex sexy: border crossing, informalisation and gay identity in sexual health documentation. 191-216

Chapter 8: Conclusion. 217-232


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