Regulating sex. Moral panic about gays and lesbians in the public sphere
Graduate School of Social Science Polish Academy of Sciences Warsaw, Poland
Sexual behaviors are manned and regulated by the moral system of a society. Changes of morals always results in the transformation of the traditional norms and values. However, if the changes are too sudden and intense, the disruption of normative order they cause, might be simply too difficult for a society to accept. Hence the system of social control is called for action.
It appears that joining the European Union in May 2004 provided the Polish gay and lesbian movement with more confidence to make some attempts to challenge the general prejudice and intolerance feelings. Parades and demonstrations were organized in order to attract public attention and to raise important questions. The strictly heterosexual Polish public sphere has been disturbed by gays and lesbians who not only admitted openly their homosexuality but also claimed for acknowledgment of their rights. The long non-spoken subject of "other" sexualities had suddenly resurfaced the public discourse proving that the existing norms are no longer credible, and rushing the politicians, authorities and the audience to tackle the new situation.
This paper is based on the content analysis of the Polish press in 2004-2007 period in which a volatile moral panic about homosexuals took place. It seemed that the heated social anxiety was caused by an apparent threat posed by gays and lesbians to moral order. However, the hidden issue of the panic were the attempts to widen the definition of accepted sexualities. We will trace the measures and proposals taken in order to regulate the new situation and to defend the "old patterns" of sexual behaviors. A special attention will be devoted to those means which had been used in order to sustain the existence of the traditional norms. A more theoretical account of the events will be provided/ given by drawing on Foucaultian perspective on the reasons for regulating sex as well as the concept of Nomos by Peter L. Berger, which offers a broaden framework for looking at the ways of protecting traditional values, norms and moralities.