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Dead, but Not Irrelevant: Classical Sociologists and Sexual Orientation

Denay Patterson
Ohio Northern University

Sexual orientation has become something of a hot topic in our society.  In the past two years, we have seen same-sex marriage legalized in several states, either through the courts or the legislatures of those states.  But we have also seen gay marriage struck down by a referendum in two states.  A federal hate crimes bill that includes provisions for sexual orientation was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama, and recently there have been heated debates about the controversial Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.  Aside from the political realm, sexuality has been ubiquitous in the media and entertainment industry.  The topic is frequently featured in television and movies, and it even caused controversy at the Miss America pageant.  Although the issue is highly relevant now, it seems to be a very modern issue.  So what could the work of sociologists from the 19th and early 20th century tell us about this topic?  Quite a bit, as it turns out.  This paper will detail the insights into this topic that Charles Horton Cooley and Max Weber can provide us.

North Central Sociological Association Conference, Chicago, IL