Leiter on Joseph Massad on Homosexuality in the Middle East

Leiter over at Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports:

In the case of his latest attack on Professor Massad of Columbia University, Professor Bernstein claims that, like the Iranian President, Massad denies that there are homosexuals…

My suspicion, upon reading this, was that Massad’s thesis was inspired by Foucault’s thesis in The History of Sexuality that homosexuality does not mark out a “kind” of human being, and thus had nothing at all to do with the bizarre delusions of the Iranian President. Since the article in question is accessible from my university computer, this was easy enough to confirm. Foucault’s History of Sexuality is cited in notes 45 and 73 in Massad’s article, and the accompanying text makes clear that Massad is endorsing Foucault’s thesis. (Indeed, the longest section of the article has its own subtitle, “Incitement to Discourse,” a phrase taken directly from Foucault, as Massad acknowledges.) Foucault’s (and Massad’s) thesis does not deny that there exists same-sex contact by numerous individuals in the Arab world (as Bernstein manages to note, though seems not to understand its import); rather, it denies that engaging in same-sex contact marks out a kind of person about whom there are meaningful, lawful (or law-like) generalizations to be made (e.g., that homosexuals are mentally ill; or that homosexual men had bad relations with their father; or that homosexuals only have sex with people of the same sex, and so on). The “kind” of person we call the “homosexual,” and with whom certain traits are said to be correlated, is really a social and cultural construct, not a set of interlinked facts about sexual identity that hold invariant across societies and cultures.