In an article first published in France in 1965, Devereux complained that the circulation of women in marriage—the phenomenon Lévi-Strauss described as generating The Elementary Structures of Kinship—hardly explained the origin of kinship in human society. To understand matrimonial exchanges and the ‘infrastructure of kinship systems’, Devereux said, it was necessary to pass from purely sociological discourse into the realm of psychoanalysis. The moment ‘certain general psychological and cultural facts’ are combined, he argued, the exchange of women in marriage expresses not merely the law of talion or a system of prestations mutuelles (Mauss, 1967), but ‘an obsessional tendency toward “bilanisme” …a compulsive quest for symmetry’ that is the hallmark of latent male homosexuality (Devereux, 1978:204). It is always men who exchange women in marriage—never the converse—according to Devereux because men’s homosexual fantasies lie at the heart of kinship systems. ‘Kinship is not rooted in heterosexual but in homosexual drives’, he said (ibid.: 209). The institution of marriage repels ‘the threatening specter of latent homosexuality’ by allowing men to achieve their goal in symbolic form, disguising homosexuality ‘as a heterosexual act’. ‘Marriage is sacred, that is: dangerous, precisely because it permits what is forbidden; it consecrates a sacrilege’ (ibid.: 211).
Devereux realised that his ‘addendum’ to Lévi-Strauss’ theory, which turned the deep structure of kinship into an avoidance—and thus a covert expression—of male homosexuality, was a ‘singular’ idea, and he states at the beginning and end of his article that he hesitated for years to publish it (ibid.: 180, 212). But he sounds disingenuous, or anxious to please his mentor, when he insists that his ‘analysis is perfectly compatible with Lévi-Strauss’ structural analysis’ and that ‘those who might try to oppose his theory of kinship and mine, or inversely, will labor in vain’ (1978:211-12). Certainly, Lévi-Strauss’ demonstration that marriage regulations ‘do not concern the relationship between men and women but between the