Feminist Review

, Volume 83, Issue 1, pp 79–98

moral ambivalence and irregular practices: contextualizing male-to-male sexualities in Calcutta/India

  • Paul Boyce
Themed Article

DOI: 10.1057/palgrave.fr.9400282

Cite this article as:
Boyce, P. Fem Rev (2006) 83: 79. doi:10.1057/palgrave.fr.9400282


Male-to-male sexuality in India has been described as both heavily stigmatized and implicitly tolerated. This paper examines these apparently contradictory attitudes, arguing that they reflect broader moral ambivalence about homosexuality in Indian culture and society. While the effects of homophobia in India are very real, simultaneous social latitude allows for relatively un-scrutinized same-sex sexual contact. The paper explores this scenario as a post-colonial legacy and considers the consequences for contemporary sexual subjectivity, particularly in respect of irregular responses to emerging gay identities and socially ambiguous male-to-male sexualities. Conceiving of men who have sex with men as subject to both prejudice and tolerance raises complex questions for HIV/AIDS related policy, programming and activism. The paper argues that understanding male-to-male sexualities in India as practiced within a climate of ambiguous moral censure offers critical insights for the future promotion of health.



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© Feminist Review Ltd 2006

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  • Paul Boyce

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