Immigrant Sexualities

In the article, “Mexican immigrants, heterosexual sex and loving relationships in the United States” by Gloria Gonzales, she talks about the transformation of Mexican immigrants’ sexualities before, during, and after migration. Through her work, she came to find how sexualities constantly evolve and there is so much fluidity especially when it comes to immigrants. Migration effects the way Mexican-American women teach younger women about sexual activities. In Mexican culture, virginity is scared and the more pure a woman is, the more attractive she is to a man. When they migrate to America, they feel they are able to teach their young girls that losing your virginity is okay because men do not care about it. Not only that, but this idea of men not caring about virginity can also be seen as an “immigrant nightmare” because it depicts the United States as a sexually dangerous place because the immigrants’ previous vision of the “American dream” was more morally inclined. What comes with migration is anonymity. Immigrants move to the United States with pre-established identities and practices, but once they are here, they have the opportunity to become whoever or whatever they want. Physical distance from authority and friends give Mexican women chances to take steps in experimenting or claiming new sexualities. With this sense of anonymity, it does not cover the guilt one may feel from departing from their ideologies, but it still gives them the opportunity to be sexually free especially within their community where their interactions with Americans and other immigrants give them new sources of information for sexual health and concerns. In contrast to women, more men reported drug, alcohol, and gang abuse. Also in contrast to women, she mentions that for men, migration does not have as many sexual gains as it does for women. I can imagine this because of the way people believe women are supposed to be especially in more strict cultures where they HAVE to be pure, heterosexual, and submissive, while the man exercises most of the freedom. She points out that they may have more sexual gains than men because their interactions with other immigrant women helped improve the quality of their sex lives and the fact that they become more empowered because they are allowed to get a job and control their own paycheck. Within getting a job and controlling their own money, it helps them shift the dynamics of their heterosexual relationship.

Empowerment

“No more.I do not have to suffer more.”

The idea of the transformation of immigrant sexualities plays into the role of capital feminino. Capital feminino is the belief that a woman’s virginity sacred and should not be tampered with. It can also be seen as a “social endowment”, which means virginity is structured as a gift of nature or property to the society that the person lives in. Within capital feminino being seen as a social endowment, the woman, herself, then becomes a pure piece of property. It is even extreme to the point that there are doctors to “repair” virginity women who have raped or tainted not so that women can be more self-assured in her purity, but so that they would be more desirable to men. Virginity represents moral integrity and responsibility in women, and that is how women in the Mexican community earn honor and respect for their family. Also, within capital feminino, a sociological aspect of virginity includes a trade-off between men, money, and women. Women can only lose their virginity in exchange for a marriage with a man with money. In this, it is allowing the woman to be bought for something that is supposed to be her “little treasure”.
For example, there was a Mexican girl who moved to my small town my freshman year in high school. By this time, she had pre-established beliefs and morals, and swore she would stick to them. As time went on, she was exposed to new sexualities and she had a little more freedom in her actions. By junior year, not only had she slept with numerous guys and also claimed a bisexual identity, but she had also become a feminist. When I talked to her about her change in demeanor, she simply said that in Mexico or in her culture, even at a young age, she was supposed to like boys, but not too much because she had to maintain her virginity in order to be increasingly desirable so she could be married off to a machista. She explained that a machista was a sexist man. Now that she was in the United States, it gave her a chance to not just be exposed to something different, but it gave her a chance to experiment with something different to see what she liked instead of conforming to her culture. She liked being able to be versatile with girls and guys and her new sense of longing for equality for men and women played into her giving herself a new identity because she felt like she could.
Do you think anonymity plays the biggest role in constructing new identity ? Why not ?
Do you think women have more of a sense of sexual empowerment by migrating to the US ?
Do you think that immigrants should maintain their pre-established ideologies due to the United States heteronormativity, or do you think you think they should exercise their freedom even thought their voice is less likely to be heard when deciding rights for non-heteronormative people?

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One thought on “Immigrant Sexualities

  1. I do believe that anonymity plays a large role in establishing a new identity in a new location. We see this not only in migration but also with incoming college freshman. When they arrive on campus there’s a sense that this is their fresh start and they have the ability to reinvent themselves if they’d like. Similar to how migrants feel when they enter their new home land. I believe that it depends where the woman is coming from to assess if the US gives her more sexual empowerment. Obviously, a woman coming from the Middle East will see a substantial increase of sexual freedom, however, a woman coming from a country just as progressive as the US if not more, will not notice much of a difference. I think that when a migrant enters the US it is up to them how they craft their own sexual ideologies. Even though our culture tends to be heterocentric that’s not to say that they can’t find liberal areas (Providence, RI or San Francisco, CA, for example) where there is more diversity and more wiggle room.

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