Putting sex back into homosexuality at the Mosse lecture

Gert Hekma gave this years’ Mosse lecture at the public library in Amsterdam and organized by the George Mosse Foundation. Every year the foundation asks a notable person to give a lecture on LGBTQI issues. Gert Hekma is a popular and well-known lecturer gender studies (specialty LGBTI studies) at the University of Amsterdam and former president of the Mosse foundation. After a long career at the university he is going into retirement. So in a year full of farewells this lecture was his last hurrah to the LGBTI studies as a professional. More than 250 people attended his Mosse lecture.

From unattainable ideal till insufficient perspective

Gert Hekma started his lecture with a broad sweep overview of the history of gay and lesbian liberation in the past fifty years. His key thesis during this part of his speech is that being gay is a social construct. Gay identity develops during the individual discovery of sexual attraction to same-sex people. Therefore being gay is a socio-cultural expression of a sexual orientation. And that he illustrated during his reading with how the fight to express that sexuality created an own culture. A culture with queer radicalism, a search for new ways to form relationships and ways to live together.

The liberation movement seemed on the surface very successful. The first big succes was making sex between men not punishable anymore by law (there was never a law that made sex between women illegal). Then the years in which after the first legal successes there was the fight for safety on the streets. And finally culminating with a marriage open for partners of the same-sex. Nowadays the political and legal fights centres around the rights of gay, lesbian and multiple parents.

Rebel and adjust heteronormative culture

And here Gert started to question the success of this liberation. Despite all these legal and political successes the gay and lesbian culture seemed to become sanitized. The gay community seemed to adjust itself more and more to ‘normal’ society the more it succeeded in acquiring equal rights. The sexual explicit character of the LGBT culture, that what defines (or defined?) this culture got lost. Gays and lesbians started to become more and more like straight people and gay and lesbian bars, clubs and other meeting points where their own culture blossomed got lost. The sex was meanwhile being digitized behind apps like Grindr, Planet Romeo and Scruff.

In short Gert pleaded to bring the sex back into homosexuality. To celebrate the reason gays and lesbians make a personal journey and give cultural expression to that reason. To rebel and try to adjust the heteronormative culture. Or as he formulated it “Acceptance of gays by society is silver, but gay culture is gold”.

Reaction to the Mosse lecture: more lesbian sex

The lecture was illustrated with a host of pictures of the past 50 years of gay and lesbian culture and liberation. Many of those in the crowd recognized friends or even themselves in some of those pictures. And a few even brought out laughs.

After the lecture there was a brief discussions with Gert about his lecture. Marjan Sax, a former Mosse lecture speaker, asked Gert how he proposes to make call for a more sexual explicit gay and lesbian culture reality. Gert stressed in his answer the importance of sex as being more than just penetrative sex. A lot of sexual pleasure can be expressed in a non coital way. In fact, he made a case in his answer against coitus. You can tell this lecture was quite academic by using expensive words for fucking.

That gave inspiration to Maaike Meijering to wish for more lesbian sex for everyone, especially for gay men and straight couples. That is in her eyes the best way to remove the focus from coital sex.

Mosse lecture and Mosse foundation

George Mosse
George Mosse

The George Mosse Foundation organizes the Mosse lecture in cooperation with IHLIA (LGBT Heritage). The George Mosse Foundation has the aim to further the study of gay and lesbian history at the University of Amsterdam. George L. Mosse (1918–1999) was a well-known, liberal historian of German-Jewish decent who was visiting professor gay studies in 1988 at the University of Amsterdam. He was great friends with Gert Hekma. After his death he left money to the University of Amsterdam to promote the cultural and historical study of homosexuality in Amsterdam.

Previous Mosse lectures were held by a variety of people. Speakers like Hafid Bouazza, Marjan Sax, Ruud Bouma alias Dolly Bellefleur, Bas Heijne, Maaike Meijer, Gerardjan Rijnders, Gerrit Komrij, Gloria Wekker and many more represented different aspects of Dutch culture, academics, politics and society.

The full 2017 Mosse lecture can be watched on Youtube here. It is in Dutch, but with the automatic subtitle feature of Youtube, you can follow most of what is said. The transcript of the lecture (again in Dutch) is available here. See below a youtube clip of the opening of the IHLIA exhibition and Mosse lecture posted by Gert Hekma.