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Kanakorn Kanteradar 5741207424

Westernization of Homosexuality

In modern political climate, LGBT rights have become one of the most critical social issues
in the world. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) movements were formed to assure
that no one will face discrimination or abuse because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Progress has been made throughout the years. In 1969, Stonewall Riots — protests against police
raid on New York’s Stonewall Inn gay bar — marked a birth in modern LGBT civil rights
movement.1 One year later, LGBT community held the first ever gay pride parade in the streets of
New York City, as a commemoration to the Stonewall Riots.2 As a result of four-decades long
activism, gay pride parades were held in cities all over the world. These events were considered
milestones for gay liberation and simultaneously became tourist destinations market in places like
South Africa, Berlin, São Paulo and Madrid.3 Furthermore, LGBT rights has also been accepted in
international stage. United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed Resolution 17/19 on
“Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” in 2011, which affirmed rights and
freedoms to people of every sexuality, and enforceed international human rights laws to end
violence associated with sexual orientation and gender identity.4 As much improvement the LGBT
movement has achieved, there are still people being persecuted for their sexuality. By 2017,
homosexuality was still criminalized in 72 countries — primarily in southern and east Africa, the
Middle East and south Asia.5 As LGBT rights continue to gain global prominence, it is reasonable
to point out that homosexuality is not a regular global phenomenon, but rather a consequence of
westernization. This essay argues that homosexuality is a westernized concept, generalized by
globalization of LGBT identity and politics throughout the world.

This essay comprises of 5 sections. First, I will explain the theoretical frameworks of
homosexuality, homosexual identities and sexual behaviors. These frameworks are fundamental to
understandings of the West and Non-West concept of homosexuality, and how the western concept
diffuse to other parts of the world. Second, I will describe the history of homosexuality and LGBT
movement, which will showcase how modern concept of homosexuality were formed in the West.
Third, I will depict how western concept of homosexuality spread to the Rest. This section will
focus on globalization of LGBT identity and politics in international level, which resulted from
social movement and sex tourism. Fourth, I will demonstrate perceptions of homosexuality in the
non-West before and after westernization took place. This section will showcase how countries —
including Arab countries, Dominican Republic, Turkey and Thailand — confront homosexual
identities, and how they were different from the western normative views of the subject matter.
Last, I will illustrate additional and more contemporary examples of homosexual ideas in modern
days, which are mostly westernized.

What is Homosexuality?

To understand homosexuality, I must point out the difference in sex and gender. Judith
Butler approached the terms with binary oppositions which featured only two alternatives.6 She
stated that “there are two biological sexes (male versus female), whereas gender (masculine versus

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feminine) definitions are socially constructed. … Gender must also designate the very apparatus of
production whereby the sexes themselves are established.”7 This means that masculinity and
femininity is to be projected into two types of body by nature.8 In many societies, sex is input to the
baby immediately after, or even few months before, birth. Gender then later comes into play as the
baby grows up with color choices, dresses, activities and behaviors coordinating to their sexes.
However, like Butler further suggested, sex and gender are more complex that the two options.
Human bodies illustrate characteristics in spectrum in many levels — anatomical, chromosomal and
hormonal, while gender diffuses in more variability than previously stated.9 Moreover, human
sexuality is also “a product of distinct and changeable social circumstances, especially discourses
around sexuality, which determined the nature of all sexual experience.”10

The term “homosexual” was coined by Hungarian doctor Karoly Benkert in 1869,11 which
describe someone who is “erotically attracted to members of his/her own sex.”12 Although the term
existed for only century and a half, homosexual acts can be traced back to Ancient Greece. Classical
Athens is the best example, where older male mentors took the active role in sexual intercourse with
younger men, and these older men were usually married to women.13 Afterward, Christianity played
a crucial role in homosexuality, where the New Testament deemed same-sex acts as unnatural or out
of ordinary.14 By 12th to 14th century, class conflict and Gregorian reform movement in the Catholic
Church proposed a sharp downfall in perception of homosexuality. The church adopted the concept
of “nature as a standard of morality,” thus forbid homosexual sex since.15 This western influence
carry on to effect places they conquered. As Michael Foucault stated in History of Sexuality that
“the nineteenth century replaced the sin of sodomy with the personage of the homosexual.”16
Conservative Christian sexual morality was exported to countries they colonized, associated
unnatural sexual practices with satanism and sin.17 Later on in the late 20th century ironically
exhibited western attempts to overhaul anti-sodomy laws they previously put in place.

As stated earlier, the term LGBT is shorten from Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered.
These four letters produce a common non-normative forms of gender and sexuality, with lesbian as
women who like women, gay is men who like men, bisexual is men or women who like both, and
transgendered is men or women who performed surgery into an opposite sex. More recently, the
acronym has expanded to include Q and I, with Q as Queer — a more shapeless label that rejects
categories proposed in the past, and I as Intersex — people whose anatomy does not fully
correspondent to male or female categories.18

History of Modern Homosexuality and LGBT Movement

The movement in LGBT rights was sprung after the realization of homosexuality as an
identity rather than a crime or sin.19 The homosexual behavior were categorized as a specific
identity with shared sexual attraction to the same gender in society, as in other words,
Homosexuality has become a product of social constructivism. Lukasz Szulc argues that “The
discussion of the origin and spread of LGBT identities rests on the assumption that sexuality is not
(purely) a natural phenomenon but also, and primarily, a cultural and historical construction.”20 The

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concept of homosexuality then diffuse to many parts of the world, raising scientific awareness in the
subject matter.21 The first LGBT political organization was the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee,
founded by Magnus Hirschfeld from Germany in 1897.22 The organization launched campaigns to
decriminalize homosexuality.23 Hirschfeld’s association came to an end during the Nazi’s rule;
however, many new LGBT organizations emerged after the World War II. These organizations
included COC (previously the Shakespeare Club) in the Netherlands, Arcadie in France, der Kreis
in Switzerland and Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis in the United States, which
accumulated several political protests during the 1960s.24

Stonewall Inn incident launched a progressive LGBT movement, and established the New
York Gay Liberation Front.25 Gay pride parades were held in many parts of the world, and
continuously raised the level of LGBT acceptance into the mainstream. After decades of LGBT
rights movement, most of Western Europeans countries repealed their anti-sodomy laws by 1990s,26
and sexual rights have entered the discourse of universal human rights since then.27 LGBT rights
developed into international stage when 1993’s Vienna Declaration of Human Rights have included
sexual rights in its content, and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex
Association (ILGA) gained official consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social
Council.28 The most recent victory for the LGBT movement happened when the United States
supreme court legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country in 2015, becoming the twenty-
second country to do so.29

One of the simulator in LGBT movement is the AIDS epidemic which occurred in 1980s.
When AIDS first came out, it was known as “gay-related immune deficiency syndrome” as it took
lives from young homosexual men across the United States.30 It was later confirmed that the
syndrome was “transmitted through sexual and blood contact” and the transmission can be
heterosexual too.31 AIDS epidemic has affected on the LGBT movement in two ways: opened up a
new space for discussion on sexual identity and homosexuality in particular,32 and brought the state
and LGBT organizations in closer relations and collaborative terms.33

Globalization of Homosexuality

As mentioned earlier, homosexuality is a westernized concept that spread to all parts of the
world through the help of globalization. The norm of homosexuality became transnational through
two major events — liberatory social movements and consumer demand-based tourism.34

In 1978, International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) was formed at a conference in
England.35 ILGA has gathered group members from 70 countries and has organized meetings in
many places of the world — including the global South, despite being heavily driven by northern
Europeans.36 ILGA has truly become a global organization, and has achieved considerable success
in lobbying international institutions — such as UN and EU.37 Networks like ILGA and many
others alike were pushing a “certain universality of homosexuality,” commonly related to universal
norms of human rights.38 In their 1994 new constitution, South Africa assured protections in its

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citizens’ sexuality. This action caused a stir in Africa as neighboring Zimbabwe’s president Robert
Mugabe condemned homosexuality as a “perversion imported from the West.”39 He further
explained that “South Africa’s approach to gay and lesbian equality is a symptom of cultural
imperialism,” and is a threat to “authentic African culture.”40 It is apparent that definitions of LGBT
sexual identity was not universal as promised, but a concept of western influence to other parts of
the world.

While globalized ideas of sexuality is a straightforward approach, modern views of

homosexuality are also a product of sex tourism. In Thailand, Vietnam War changes how we
perceived Kateoy or Ladyboys permanently.41 Kateoy is described as “intermediate people who
could be hermaphrodites or whose gender roles were not the same as their anatomies.”42 It can be
translated to transgender, feminine male, or androgynous in western terms. As a result of Vietnam
War, Kateoys became a subject of sex workers and developed into the hybridized contemporary
form of the third gender.43 On the lighter note, modern tourist destinations were tailored to the
growing LGBT market. In Australia, a decade after the Stone Wall Riots in New York and gay pride
parades that were held after, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival and Parade were
established. These events not only contributed a social and political acceptance in LGBT
community, but also created LGBT tourism in the country.44 This niche market has branded
Australia, exclusively Sydney, as an “internationally recognised gay and lesbian tourist destination,”
as well as contributed significantly to Australia’s economy.45 Mardi Gras, and other events
throughout the year, has earned their rightful place in the nation’s annual calendar. In retrospect,
Mardi Gras was not just an event of expression in LGBT identity, but a capitalist effect from the
western ideas of homosexuality. As stated by Kevin Markwell, “Mardi Gras contributes far beyond
economic benefit, and the social, cultural and political impacts [of Mardi Gras] have been
profoundly important in the construction of LGBT identities in Australia.”46

Homosexuality and the Non-West

In previous section, I have illustrated how modern terms of homosexuality and sexual
identity have been created in the western hemisphere. This section will explore more about how
homosexuality spread from the West to the rest. The West, especially the United States, played an
essential role in the globalization of dominant LGBT identities and politics.47

In the Arab world, ultimate goal of global human rights discourse and international LGBT
organizations is to “liberate Arab and Muslim gays and lesbians from the oppression under which
they allegedly live.”48 However, Joseph Massad argued that “gays and lesbians have never existed
in the Arab world.”49 This does not mean that same-sex acts never happened in the Arab world, but
perspective of western-oriented gay and lesbian identity was not familiar there.50 Rather than
making a positive impact, Massad further argued that the emerging LGBT norm were resulting in
“heterosexualizing a world that is being forced to be fixed by a Western binary, and the worsening
of the everyday lives of Arab and/or Muslim same-sex practitioners by drawing unwanted attention
to them.”51

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In Dominican Republic, sex tourism has become a big part in defining homosexuality in the
country, creating a combined local and foreign-accompanied sexualities.52 There are two categories
describing men who has sex with men: Bugarrón and Sanky Panky. Bugarrón is “a man who
engages in insertive anal sex with other men, often for money or other instrumental benefits, but
who in other domains of life may not be noticeably different from normal men.”53 And the Sanky
Panky is “a man with small dreadlocks who can be found on the beach near resorts [which will
engage in homosexual acts for money]. Sanky Panky is a type that emerged in the 1970s to 1980s in
response to tourist demand.”54 While Buggarón was a preexisting label, Sanky Panky is a creation
of sex tourism.55 Dominicans’ homosexual identities and behaviors are example of how
westernization effected the presumption of homosexuality in the country.

Homosexuality in many cultures were deemed traditional, and people who practice a
lifestyle other than male or female have their own way of life that were deemed normal. These
traditional lifestyles, however, were considered modern in western views. Therefore, these concepts
were welded to the globalized western sexual identities. For example, in Turkey, Turkish male
homosexuality was identified in four categories: different sexual practices (penetrating or being
penetrated) and assumed gender roles (feminine or masculine).56 After westernized concept came in
to play, “Masculine Gay” were imported.57 This example shows how western concepts have
combined sexual behaviors and identities. To show unification in Western and non-Western
homosexuality, Dennis Altman stated that there are “only one modern [and Westernized] gay
identity that can do nothing other than either trump or exist alongside a set of pre-existing tradition
[non-Western] same-sex practices.”58 Examples of these non-West homosexual identities include
Bakla in the Philippines, Lesbi and Waria in Indonesia, Tongzhi in China and Kateoy in Thailand.59

As mentioned earlier, Thailand’s very own Katoey is one of the non-West homosexual
identity that was later abided by the westernized ideology. Before Buddhism was the main religion,
Kateoys were considered extremely spiritual.60 In the reign of King Rama V, Thailand was heavily
influenced by the West, accordingly adopted Western knowledges, cultures and dresses.61 The
Europeans found that men and women appearances seemed strange, as both men and women “had
long har, wore skirts and wore little above the waist.”62 Furthermore, King Rama V also proposed
male performers to dance and play in palace dramas as women.63 As of King Rama IV, he was
reputed to have private male servants inside the palace.64 He additionally hired a French lawyer to
craft modern legal code, which resulted in the absence of criminalization on sexual identity in any
Thai law whatsoever.65 According to Walter Williams, “Thai people do not make rigid distinction
between heterosexual and homosexual people, but rather view sexuality and gender on a continuum
of behaviors and practices.”66

Homosexuality in the Contemporary World

Westernized concept of homosexuality is continued to expand around the world. One of the
most recent accomplishments is the legalization of same-same marriage in Taiwan — the first in
Asia.67 On the other hand, Western progressive views of homosexuality also faced opposition.

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LGBT Protests and political statements were circulated prior to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
which found authoritative Russia as host.68 One year before the Winter Olympics, Russia passed a
law banning “the propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” which offer crucial penalties to
person who advocate homosexuality to anyone under 18.69 As stated by Russian president Vladimir
Putin, “we have our own traditions, our own culture. We have respect for all of our international
partners and ask that they also respect our own traditions and culture.”70 Two of the examples above
shows both sides of consequences caused by westernized concept of homosexuality.

Other than the group, state and international LGBT movement, the media is also an
important part in promoting LGBT rights and representation. As stated by Arnoldo Cruz-Malavé
and Martin Manalansan, “Whether in advertising, film, performance art, the Internet, or the political
discourses of human rights in emerging democracies, images of queer sexualities and cultures [are]
now circulate around the globe.”71 Global circulation of LGBT identities in media played an
important part in the extension of Western homosexuality concept. In 2017, Moonlight became the
first ever LGBT film to win Best Picture in the Academy Awards.72 Moonlight follows a black, gay
man in a coming-of-age story with issues of drugs, poverty and self-discovery. Not only the film
broke boundaries existed in queer films, it was also a political statement to the newly appointed
conservative federal administration of Donald Trump.73

In television, LGBT representations in US reached record highs.74 GLAAD organization

(previously known as Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) monitored LGBT
representations in popular media and found out that LGBT recurring characters made up 6.5
percent.75 These numbers show growth in LGBT portrayal in popular media, and normalizing
western approach to homosexuality in one of the most effecting ways. Aside from TV series, reality
TV shows also push forward LGBT ideologies. One of the most promising LGBT reality shows
today is RuPaul’s Drag Race. This American TV show documents famous drag queen host, RuPaul,
in the search of America’s next Drag superstar (drag queens are men that dressed like women or
other non-conforming gender). RuPaul’s Drag Race, in its tenth season, has become a national
phenomenon as it continues to attract viewers in the mainstream popular culture, and made more
acceptance and recognition into the art form of drag — the most visually extreme type of
homosexuality.76 The show’s first international franchise adaptation was Drag Race Thailand, the
Thailand’s take on drag reality competition. These TV shows reflected how the norm of
homosexuality can be spread through popular media, and showcased its effects on shaping societies
and promote Westernized LGBT identities in a global scale.

Nowadays, it is undeniable that Internet is the ultimate medium of globalization. The

internet is likewise credited with “the popularization of LGBT representations.”77 Altman and
Symons stated that “the Web has created new sites for sexual encounters, but even more so for the
global dissemination of a language that cultivates sexuality-based identities.”78 In an interview with
LGBT youtuber Tyler Oakley, he described the contribution of internet to the LGBT movement as
an instrument that “opened up new avenues of discussion for younger people, … [and] has caused
the perception of LGBT+ people to change. And now, when I talk to the younger generations, I
know that the future will be just fine thanks to the openness and opportunities the internet

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promotes.”79 As a result, internet endorsed homosexual identities to the greater public. Its audiences
are consisted of people from different age and race, therefore, modern LGBT identity will
continuously evolved into a generalized and universally accepted norm in the future.


In conclusion, Westernization plays a crucial part in the acceptance of modern

homosexuality, which was enhanced by globalization of LGBT identity and politics. Globalization
effected homosexuality in two different ways. Firstly, the Christian demonization of same-sex
relations that spread to different parts of the world throughout the age of colonization. And
secondly, the pro-gay social movements, with association of freedom and human rights, which
exported the modernized concept of LGBT identities everywhere.80 Homosexuality has become a
complex terminology that has been socially constructed over time. Even though same-sex
relationships appeared since the ancient times, the present-day understanding of homosexuality
dated back not longer than century and a half ago. Decriminalization efforts began even before
World War I, but success were made after 1969’s Stonewall Riots and decades-long LGBT
movement that followed, with undesirable help from AIDS epidemic. The globalization of
homosexuality gradually began with international LGBT social movements and consumer demand-
based tourism, which consequently changed how people in many different cultures perceive
homosexuality for good. In the present, LGBT people became more visible and well-represented
with help from international movement, popular culture, media, television and the internet.

We are currently living in the age where limitations of national borders are blurry, and
foreign influences on people across the globe are both effective and direct. To be more specific,
Western influences are undeniably powerful and often hidden in plain sight. The point of the essay
is not to oppose the Western ideas of homosexuality, but to shine the light into the subject matter
and show how basic concepts like homosexuality or sexual identity in general can be victims of
Westernization. To the contrary, whether each person’s sexual identity were traditionally perceived
or latterly altered, none should be prosecuted for being themselves.

1 Lukasz Szulc, “Globalization of LGBT Identities and Politics” in Transnational Homosexuals in Communist
Poland: Cross-Border Flows in Gay and Lesbian Magazines (Cham : Springer International Publishing AG, 2017),
p. 27
2 Brandi Neal, What New York City's Very First Pride Parade Looked Like, Bustle, 22 June 2017, deprived from
3 Eve Stoddard and John Collins, “Transnational LGBT Identities: Liberation or Westernization?” in Social and
Cultural Foundations in Global Studies (New York : Routledge, 2017), pp. 136-137
4 United Nations General Assembly, Resolution Adopted by the Human Rights Council 17/19: Human Rights, Sexual
Orientation and Gender Identity, 14 July 2011, deprived from
5 Pamela Duncan, Gay Relationships are Still Criminalised in 72 Countries, Report Finds, The Guardian, 27 July
2017, deprived from

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6 Eve Stoddard and John Collins, Social and Cultural Foundations, p. 141
7 Ibid.
8 Ibid., pp. 141-142

9 Ibid., p. 142.

10 Robert M. Buffington, Eithne Luibhéid and Donna J. Guy, ed., “Introduction” by Robert M. Huffington in A Global
History of Sexuality: the Modern Era (Chichester, West Sussex : Wiley Blackwell, 2014), p. 3
11 Diane Richardson and Steven Seidman, ed., “Globalization and the International Gay/Lesbian Movement” by Dennis

Altman in Handbook of Lesbian and Gay Studies (London : SAGE, 2002), p. 416
12 Michael Ruse, “Words and Facts” in Homosexuality: A Philosophical Inquiry (Oxford : Basil Blackwell, 1988), p. 1

13 Eve Stoddard and John Collins, Social and Cultural Foundations, p. 139

14 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Homosexuality, 5 July 2015, deprived from

15 Ibid.

16 Eve Stoddard and John Collins, Social and Cultural Foundations, p. 138

17 Ibid., p. 135

18 Ibid., p. 134

19 Lukasz Szulc, Transnational Homosexuals in Communist Poland, p. 27

20 Ibid.

21 Diane Richardson and Steven Seidman, Handbook of Lesbian and Gay Studies, p. 416

22 Ibid.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid., p. 417

26 Lukasz Szulc, Transnational Homosexuals in Communist Poland, p. 30

27 Ibid.

28 Ibid.

29 Dan Roberts and Sabrina Siddiqui, Gay Marriage Declared Legal Across the US in Historic Supreme Court Ruling,
The Guardian, 26 June 2015, deprived from
30 Diane Richardson and Steven Seidman, Handbook of Lesbian and Gay Studies, p. 420

31 Ibid.

32 Lukasz Szulc, Transnational Homosexuals in Communist Poland, p. 38

33 Diane Richardson and Steven Seidman, Handbook of Lesbian and Gay Studies, p. 421

34 Eve Stoddard and John Collins, Social and Cultural Foundations, p. 146

35 Diane Richardson and Steven Seidman, Handbook of Lesbian and Gay Studies, p. 421

36 Ibid.

37 Lukasz Szulc, Transnational Homosexuals in Communist Poland, p. 34

38 Diane Richardson and Steven Seidman, Handbook of Lesbian and Gay Studies, p. 421

39 Graeme Reid, A Globalized LGBT Rights Fight, Human Rights Watch, 2 November 2011, deprived from https://
40 Ibid.

41 Eve Stoddard and John Collins, Social and Cultural Foundations, p. 144

42 Ibid.

43 Ibid.

44 Kevin Markwell, How the Histories of Mardi Gras and Gay Tourism in Australia are Intertwined, The

Conversation, 2 March 2018, deprived from

45 Ibid.

46 Ibid.

47 Lukasz Szulc, Transnational Homosexuals in Communist Poland, p. 38

48 Ibid., p. 39

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49 Ibid.
50 Ibid.
51 Ibid.

52 Eve Stoddard and John Collins, Social and Cultural Foundations, p. 140

53 Ibid.

54 Ibid.

55 Ibid.

56 Lukasz Szulc, Transnational Homosexuals in Communist Poland, p. 40

57 Ibid.

58 Ibid.

59 Ibid.

60 Eve Stoddard and John Collins, Social and Cultural Foundations, p. 144

61 Ibid.

62 Ibid.

63 Ibid.

64 Ibid.

65 Ibid.

66 Ibid.

67 Benjamin Haas, Taiwan's Top Court Rules in Favour of Same-sex Marriage, The Guardian, 24 June 2017, deprived
68 Liz Clarke, Russia’s Anti-gay Law Brings Controversy Ahead of 2014 Sochi Olympics, The Washington Post, 18

August 2013, deprived from


69 Ibid.

70 Shaun Walker, Vladimir Putin: Gay People at Winter Olympics Must 'Leave Children Alone’, The Guardian, 17
January 2014, deprived from
71 Lukasz Szulc, Transnational Homosexuals in Communist Poland, p. 30

72 Nico Lang, “Moonlight” is the First LGBT Movie to Win Best Picture. Here’s Why It Matters, Salon, 28 February
73 Mary Emily O’Hara, 'Moonlight' Makes Oscars History as 1st LGBTQ Best Picture Winner, NBC News, 28

February 2017, deprived from

74 Reuters, LGBT Characters on U.S. TV at Record Highs, 9 November 2017, deprived from https://
75 Ibid.

76 Ryan Houlihan, How RuPaul’s Drag Race Led a Gay Cultural Revolution — and Changed My Life, Teen Vogue,
15 June 2016, deprived from
77 Lukasz Szulc, Transnational Homosexuals in Communist Poland, p. 30

78 Ibid.

79 Jonathan Wells, Tyler Oakley: How the Internet Revolutionised LGBT Life, The Telegraph, 12 November 2015,
deprived from
80 Eve Stoddard and John Collins, Social and Cultural Foundations, p. 141