What’s Sex Got to Do With…Heteronormativity?

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Thinking about the most important or influential concept to understanding the relationship between sex and society that we covered in class brings an array of ideas to mind because we have covered so many topics. After much thought, I have come to a conclusion: the most important concept is the idea of heteronormativity in our society. We have talked about many concepts, but the idea of heteronormativity seems to come to mind in every one of them. Our society is extremely heteronormative, meaning that people believe heterosexuality is the only sexual preference, completely leaving out the entire LGBTQ community. It comes down to something so simple as stating that heterosexuality is privileged in our society. Awards like prom king and queen are completely geared toward the heterosexual community and leaves out the LGBTQ community completely. In addition, the media is heteronormative through expressing heterosexual relationships at the forefront of the TV shows we all watch and love. Some TV shows like Modern Family are now starting to depict homosexual relationships in the shows to make a statement, but it is going to take a lot of time and hard work to make our society completely equal in sexual orientations.

In addition, the idea of heteronormativity completely enforces gender stereotypes in our society. Males are the dominant gender, and females are left behind them. Heterosexuality enforces this because in the relationship, males are the bread winners and are supposed to have traits like dominance, physical strength, toughness, and being emotionless. Females, on the other hand, are supposed to stay at home and take care of children, cook, and clean and have traits like care, love, emotion, and less physical strength than men. Heteronormativity enforces these stereotypes because in a heteronormative relationship, these traits and ways of life are how it’s “supposed” to be. This is in quotations because there are many relationships where the mother is the bread winner, but as we stand in today’s time, the father is the bread winner in the majority of relationships.

An example of a heteronormative relationship from the media that embodies gender norms in our society is Phil and Claire Dunphey of Modern Family.

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Phil and Claire Dunphey are the epitome of the modern, heterosexual relationship because Phil works, while Claire is a stay-at-home mom. Phil has a great relationship with his son and frequently talks to him about girls. Claire is a loving mother who makes (or tries to make) dinner every night, and is caring and loving toward her children. In addition, she always looks gorgeous, wearing a nice outfit with makeup on throughout the show. This is the classic heterosexual relationship. As much as I love Claire and Phil, their relationship enforces heteronormativity and gender stereotypes in our society.

Do you think we will ever be able to have a society that is completely “sexual orientation neutral”? If so, how much time do you think it will take, and/or do you think our society will need to make some major changes before we can get there? Also, do you think we will ever have a gender neutral society?

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2 thoughts on “What’s Sex Got to Do With…Heteronormativity?

  1. I think that the gender binary and expectations for women and men are so deeply embedded in our society and institutional understandings of how society works, that a “gender neutral” societal way of functioning is pretty unlikely. I think there has been tremendous progress made simply by new discourses arising around the breaking down of barriers to identities and categories and trying to make people fit in when they may want to intentionally stand out, but I don’t think that the gender binary we have created will ever fully go away. I also think that there are too many media references and examples that perpetuate, such as Modern Family like you mentioned, the idea of heteronormativity as the correct ideology. Scholarship is making progress and recognizing the importance of the recognition of all identities, but mass media and television has not quite caught up yet.

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  2. We’re slowly progressing to sexual equality with the implementation of gender neutral restrooms and other ‘safe zones’ for people of all identities. It’s not something that can be changed overnight. I feel like it has to start with legislation. They’re the ones who are supposed to run the country. The lawmakers today, who tend to be older people are perhaps more conservative and less open-minded. Perhaps when the younger generation who’s maybe more adamant about change gets into offices, there will be more changes made.

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