Sexual Freedom and the
End of Romance
It is in the interconnected areas of sexuality and relationships that gays have the greatest impact on social mores, and where one can speak most accurately of the "homosexualization" of modern society. No longer can gay behavior be seen as unrelated to the sexual norms and anxieties of society as a whole; and as traditional norms of sexual behavior and relationships collapse, it is homosexuals who are prospecting the frontiers of new possibilities. The growing preoccupation of society as a whole with sex, the collapse of old beliefs and standards, means that the very outlaw status of the homosexual makes him or her a model of new possibilities that have meaning for others.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the definition of personal relationships. The Western idea of marriage, a product of both economic reality and religious ideology, assumes that only in a lifelong partnership can and should sex be fully expressed; the history of the bourgeois novel revolves around the creation, maintenance, and escape from the restraints of such partnerships. Because of farreaching social changes, this form of organizing sexuality is disappearing as a universal norm, yet few people are sure what might replace it. The search to reconcile unlimited sexual freedom and the emotional security of committed relationships is no longer a peculiarly homosexual problem; it is a growing dilemma for a large part of the population, especially the affluent, well-educated "new middle class."
The increasing visibility of homosexuals also contributes to the growing general discussion and acceptance of sexuality, even if such visibility can also trigger considerable hostility. This is not confined to males; lesbians have played a very significant role in heightening awareness of female sexuality especially through the women's movement.
Acceptance of homosexuality involves an acceptance of sexual-