Final Concept Analysis: Binaries and Stereotypes

This Sex and Society course has taught me about extremely important issues, mentalities, and trends regarding sex and its connection to society. I believe that the societal construction of binaries and stereotypes is the most important concept because it crosses all sexual boundaries and has a major impact on groups in society. We learned that society often creates binaries to categorize certain groups and apply stereotypes to these groups. Binaries allow people to easily apply certain stereotypes and narrow-minded opinions to groups of people, and this often leads to discrimination or systems of hierarchy. Ever since I learned about this concept, I have seen it reoccur constantly in readings and discussion. It seems that it is almost human nature to mentally categorize certain groups as one and the same, leaving little opportunity for the genuine acceptance of authentic and distinct personalities.

The concept of binaries and stereotypes has reoccurred in many different forms throughout the course. We learned how binaries and spectrums are often used to exclude the relevance of certain groups as shown in the documentary (A)Sexual. Kristen G. Esterberg’s “The Bisexual Menace Revisited” showed us that many heterosexuals, gays, and lesbians discriminate against Bisexuals because they do not cleanly fit into a certain binary: heterosexual or homosexual. From “Transgendering: Challenging the Normal” and our discussion of transgender and intersex individuals, we learned that these people face uneasiness and discrimination because they do fall into the binaries of male or female. Travis S. K. Kong’s “Sexualizing Asian Male Bodies” taught us that binaries and stereotypes are used to create sexual hierarchies of who gets the most sex based on their perceived characteristics. Simon Hardy’s “Anal Sex: Phallic and Other Meanings” revealed that people are grouped and stereotyped based on sexual interests and fetishes. Anal sex was, and sometimes still is, considered a perversion and people who engage in this act are often labeled as immoral: another binary. We learned that certain fetishes are stigmatized and therefore, people who show an interest in fetishes like feet or urine are labeled as perverted or gross. Clearly, binaries have a huge influence on sexual culture in society.

The concept of binaries and stereotypes connects to the idea of heteronormativity. Both reveal society’s willingness to place standards for what is normal and what is not. In the case of heteronormativity, heterosexuality is considered the norm, and homosexuality is considered unusual or immoral. Similarly, binaries allow some groups to benefit from this perceived normality while others suffer because they challenge the “normal.” Personally, I have seen the creation of binaries throughout most of high school. Jocks, nerds, druggies, and punks are binaries that people are grouped into. Each group has their own sexual labels and there is little room for originality. It seems that these sexual labels and binaries influence identities to a great extent.

Do you think that binaries are harmful or beneficial to sex and society? Is it human nature to mentally create binaries and stereotypes? Do binaries and stereotypes influence people’s actions and personalities more than personalities and actions mold their binary? Stereotypes and binaries have a huge influence on the relationship between sex and society because they represent society’s interpretation of how various groups should sexually act. Whether we like them or not, binaries will continue to play a major role in how society perceive groups and either accepts or rejects them.

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