Homosexuality, Ritualized

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    The concept of ritualized homosexuality was coined by Gilbert Herdt to describe practices of semen ingestion as part of male initiation among the Sambia of Papua New Guinea. It depicted nonreciprocal relations as young novices fellated older bachelors and ingested their semen to grow into strong, mature men. Herdt discerned desire and fear, eroticism, and violent masculinist hierarchy in such practices. He compared similar practices among several groups in Papua New Guinea and more widely in Melanesia. His groundbreaking ethnography powerfully influenced the cross‐cultural and historical study of homosexualities, although the concept of ritualized homosexuality was increasingly criticized, including by Herdt himself and by Deborah Elliston and Bruce Knauft. Knauft suggests that the concept is now “vestigial” not only because of the abandonment of such practices by Melanesian people but because of its lessened salience as a frame for contemporary researchers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe International Encyclopedia of Anthropology
    Editors Hilary Callan
    Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
    PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons Ltd.
    ISBN (Print)9781118924396
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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