In this article I critique anthropological uses of the construct of “ritualized homosexuality” in Melanesia and examine related theoretical problems in the cross-cultural study of sexualities, homosexualities, and erotics. I argue that identifying as “ritualized homosexuality” the semen practices through which boys are made into men in some Melanesian societies engages and relies on Western ideas about sexuality that obscure the indigenous meanings of these practices. By comparing three Melanesian societies, I argue that age and gender hierarchies and a substance-based model for the constitution of social identities together comprise a more useful and accurate framework for understanding boys' initiatory practices in Melanesia. Exploring emerging frameworks for understanding erotics crossculturally, I seek to demonstrate the need for a more self-critical and self-aware stance as well as a more refined theoretical apparatus for the larger project of theorizing sexualities cross-culturally.
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