Final Reflection: A Post on Society & Sex

Upon being asked the question of what the most important and influential concept to understanding the relationship between sex and society covered in this semester, I began to think about all the different concepts talked and read about in class. When thinking about everything, I began to see connections between different terms that came up throughout the semester that were discussed that I had never seen before. The concepts are all fairly different, yet are all still related in some ways because of the manner that society has been formed over the years. Agents of socialization, sex education, social constructions, and heteronormativity have all become interconnected, creating an environment of hostility towards people who do not identify as heterosexual.

The agents of socialization people are exposed to impact their views on everything in life. However, their views on sex are affected more so than some other aspects of life are. The socialization of sex and sex education has a more prevalent impact on how a person forms their ideas and views on sex. The environment a person was raised in, their religion, schooling experience, family, friends, and the media all heavily influence the formation of what sex means and should mean to a person. But, this can be dangerous- with the amount of societal constructions (such as what “good” or “normal” sex is, gender, etc.)  that exist today, it is easy for the manner in which a person was socialized to negatively affect their views on sex or gender. For example, many religions do not condone homosexuality, so if someone is raised in that environment, it is likely they would judge and discriminate anyone who is homosexual.

SInce gender is a social construction, it easy to stereotype and discriminate against those who do not fit into the gender binaries that exist today (boy and girl). So, those who appear as  lesbian, gay, queer, bisexual, or transgender are easily stereotypes and judged. The heteronormative ideals that are held by the majority of the people in this country also lead to stigmas and discrimination. When people who have other sexual orientations other than heterosexual, they are often mistreated by society and can even be susceptible to violence, sexual violence in particular (as seen in the video of the transgender man who used the bathroom of a New York McDonald and was beat for it by the manager, yet was charged for a misdemeanor when in actuality he was the victim ).

Over the years, this problem has perpetuated. It has become easier for discrimination and violence to occur without any repercussion on the perpetrator. The connections between these terms and these societal constructions and manifestations all lend to why society is as it is today and why people discriminate, act violently toward, and outcast nonheterosexual people. Having a good understanding of all these terms allows for a person too see the interconnectedness and understand why these horrible things occur. It allows for people to be aware of  the problem and not lend to it or be an enabler.

A New Definition of Consent

It’s no secret that sexual assault and violence on college campuses has recently become very prevalent in media and the minds of students and faculty across college campuses, as well as in the minds of the government; multiple stories and different accounts of sexual assault and rape have been in the the news, forcing attention to be drawn to this issue and for it to be addressed. Recent studies in sexual assault on college campuses across the United States reveal that one in five women report being assaulted on college campuses, which is terrifying considering in the past, cases of this have never been properly reported or given attention. Students and victims of sexual assault have begun to cry out also, bringing attention to this issue. Some of their accounts can be read in newspapers or seen on the news, as the sexual assault that took place on our very own campus here was. Time magazine even devoted an entire issue due to this problem; in this issue, multiple politicians, activists, scholars, authors, lawyers and victims shared their voice and opinions on sexual assault on college campuses and how it should be taken care of.

Two of the articles in this issue that stood out to me the most include an article called “‘My Rapist Is Still on Campus’” written by Emma Sulkowicz, a victim of rape and junior from Columbia College, and an article written by Jonathan Kalin, a student activist who formed a movement for consent called “Consent Must Be Created, Not Given.” In Sulkowicz’s article, she tells of how she was raped the very first day of her sophomore year, and she is near the end of her college life yet her rapist is still free and on campus and will graduate with her. Not only did her rapist commit an act of sexual assault on her, but also on two other girls. Sulkowicz would wake up everyday afraid to leave her room for the fear of her rapist; in the future when she looks back on her experience at Columbia, it will be defined by this. it will be defined by how she received no help from the university when she asked for it and how she will have to life with this injustice for her entire life. When Sulkowicz did reach out to the school for help, administration and the campus justice system dismissed her case and the accounts of what had happened to her.

Situations similar to Sulkowicz’s happen way too often, and are the reason for all of the recent backlash that Universities are facing today; in fact, 55 universities are under investigation by the federal government for lacking in dealing with sexual assault cases on campus properly.  Many universities figure that they can brush these cases under the rug for fear of losing prestige and credibility. This may have worked in the past, however, rape on college campuses has become so prevalent, and on some campuses more so than others, that it can no longer be ignored. In recent years, rape culture has been perpetuated due to the media, sexist mentalities, and a sense of apathy from society. Relationships displayed in movies, TV shows, and music’s lyrics lend to the idea of rape and make power based violence seem acceptable in certain situations. Whether people or conscious of it or not, these images and messages are received by people and can contribute to their mentality and beliefs on sexual assault, swaying them to become more accepting, or even apathetic.

In Kalin’s article, he speaks of his movement to recreate the definition of consent and educating people about sexual violence in hopes of preventing it. He asserts that societal norms and the expectation of what college life should be like have created an environment where sexual assault is way too prevalent always featuring repeatedly shamed survivors of assault and perpetrators who plead the crime as one of “misunderstanding.” Although the government has recently stepped in in trying to help prevention, Kalin believes it will take a lot more than just this to change the culture associated with this; in order for it to change, the definition of consent must be considered and changed. Consent is not a silent practice as it appears in many movies and TV shows. It is something that must be verbalized and discussed to ensure that there are no misunderstandings and the participants are on the same page. If consent is an assumed silent thing, then there will obviously be multiple misunderstanding and can lend to the amount of sexual assault that occur on college campuses. Kalin also asserts that consent should not be made out to be a commodity, therefore people should no longer say that consent was “given” or “got,” but rather that is was created. If consent is created, then it should be backed by full understanding on both parties involved.

The recent strides made by the government and other activist organizations have helped the this cause immensely. College campuses have created outlets and resources to aid student victims and give them an outlet for support. Organizations such as Project Safe, Green Dot, and the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center all on Vanderbilt’s campus all strive to do this. Legislation has urged and pushed for bills to be written and rewritten to aid in preventing and solving the issue of sexual assault and violence on college campuses. Today, activists are still urging people to take notice of the issue at hand and hope to cease the perpetuation of rape culture on college campuses across the culture. In order for this to happen, college students need to be well informed and educated on the issue, knowing exactly what constitutes as sexual violence.

How could Vanderbilt do a better job of educating its students on sexual assault? Should informing students on sexual assault and violence be required by all universities? How effective do you really think the programs are on Vanderbilt’s campus at aiding in the prevention of sexual assault on campus?

Wait, What’s Hooking Up?

Sociologist Kathleen Bogle, a woman who experienced the early stages of the hookup scene herself in the early 1990s, found herself intrigued after trying to explain the hookup culture to a fellow member of the sociology department who was a member of the dating-era. Upon this episode, she was urged to follow up and do a study on it. To do so, she conducted a series of interviews throughout northeastern college campuses, and began to collect data. All of the information that she gathered was organized, forming her book, Hooking Up. She seeks to reveal many aspects of the current hookup scene on college campuses today, including what hooking up is, the shift from the dating scene, the existing double standard between men and women, and life after the hookup scene. the most interesting aspect of all of the studies to me personally is the question of what it means to hookup.

The main assertion in Bogle’s chapter about what it means to hookup is that there is no concrete definition; the definition can change based on the people involved, the situation, and the environment. This chapter features an interview with a man named Tony who attends a State University and helps explicate this idea further. In the interview upon being asked to define a hookup, he said that it could be taking someone home, spending the night with them, and having intercourse- but it could also mean just kissing, having sex, or other sexual acts. In Bogle’s dissection of this interview and others, it became clear that the term, “hooking up,” is very ambiguous. It can refer to multiple things, such as having sex, oral sex, making out, sexual touching, and just kissing. Students are aware of the ambiguity of this term, and it is clear that different people use the term differently. Because of this, saying that you have “hooked up” with someone begs follow up questions to clarify exactly how far the hookup went.

This is the problem with the term “hooking up”. The obscurity leaves room for people to make assumptions and form ideas of what happened when they really cannot be sure unless follow up questions are asked. Because of this obscurity, it is easy for people to blur the lines of hooking up, embellish stories, and downright make up stories of what happened during a hookup. The issue with this term is not what constitutes as a hookup, because clearly, the definition will shift based on the person that is asked and the situation, but it is the uncertainty that follows the term because of the ambiguity of the term itself. A person saying that they hooked up with someone is normal, and expected of college students; however,  problems can begin to arise when others make assertions about someone else’s hookup.

In class when asked to define hooking up, most everyone had different answers, similar to Bogle’s interviews, yet some were the same. The definitions really do vary based on a student’s age, friend group, environment, social scene, upbringing, etc; agents of sexual socialization could also play into this. The definitions also shifted between males and females. From these discussions, it has become evident that the “bases” metaphor to hooking up no longer stands and has shifted, and that there is a disparity between what these terms and ideas mean whether you are a man or a woman. It seems as if the bases are beginning to go further than they have previously. What is now “first base (making out accompanied with sexual touching” is what used to be second, and what is now “second base (oral sex)” used to be third. Some might even argue that oral sex comes with first base, but not necessarily both male and female oral sex; oral sex performed on males is now expected to happen prior to oral sex performed on females in heterosexual relationships.

Relating all of the assertions made in Bogle’s book, formed and class and made by me, myself, proved to be very interesting when relating them to the social groups I am involved on here on Vanderbilt’s campus as well as other college campuses across the country. Once again, the definition of hooking up varies based on the person. In my friend group here, hooking up seems to mean having sex to the more sexually experienced girls, whereas to the less sexually experienced girls, it could mean kissing, making out, or possibly oral sex. To those who are more sexually experienced and hooking up means sex, they would say they just made out if that is all that happened rather than saying they “hooked up.” This is very normal here on Vanderbilt’s campus, but compared to other schools, there are disparities on the hookup scene and definition of hooking up. My three best friends go to Arizona State University, University of Kansas, and University of Portland. At Arizona State, my friend said that the hookup scene is so prevalent that hooking up, regardless of who the person is, almost means sex. The same goes for at Kansas, yet not quite to the same level ASU. However, at Portland, the scripts are much like here at Vanderbilt.

Why do think that the hookup scenes vary from campus to campus? Why is Vanderbilt’s so unique? Does region and prestige play in a role in this? How influential are the agents of sexual socialization in someone’s definition of hooking up?


Global and Transnational Sexualities

Being an immigrant in a culture affects a myriad of aspects in a person’s life. The way they interact with people, their everyday routines and practices, and all aspects of their lives in an immigrant country are all altered and begin to fall into the mold of that of the host nation. Women immigrants see and feel the effects of being an immigrant more so than other people. Racial and gender hierarchies become a prevalent factor in how their lives are lived, and consequently, their sexualities and employment statuses are shaped based on the expectations of the dominant race or gender. When people immigrate to other countries in numbers, the people of that country typically experience moral panic, fearing that their social order and habitual customs are at risk to change due to foreign people coming in with their “alien” practices. This forms a resentment toward the immigrant people and culture, and gives the host nation’s culture a sense of informal power over them. Consequently, racial hierarchies confine immigrant women to a status of diminished personhood where their rights, culture, and sexual agency are treated as second rate to a dominant culture.

In the United States, hispanic and latino populations have grown immensely in the past decade. Many Mexican and Latin American people have immigrated to the United States seeking better work and opportunities for themselves and their families. Many have joined the labor force, working jobs in the realms of farm work, agricultural work, or on construction; a good amount of these workers are undocumented laborers. The employees in these situations, including the Mexican women who worked on the fields in California who were featured in the documentary, “Rape in the Fields,” are a part of this population. However, because they are immigrants, and are women, they have little to no power; they are easy to take advantage of. Their statuses and sexualities are at the disposal of people of higher racial or gender standings through neocolonialism. They are at the disposal of their employers. Because they have no rights, papers, little money, and need to provide for their families, these women are forced to keep working in unhealthy situations, where they are confined and mistreated. They have no choice but to submit to their employers and obey what they or told for fear of being acted towards violently.

The lack of rights that these women face impacts them in the most negative possible ways. Employers and people of higher racial or social standing feel as if they can take advantage of these women. These women are raped because of this, yet have to bite their tongue and endure the conditions just to provide for their families. Even when these women tell of their experiences of being exploited and taken advantage of, they are treated as second rate. Their claims are dismissed and they are forced to live with the violence and rape they face in their workplaces. If a white woman claimed rape, then she would receive all the attention and her needs would be met; but because these mexican women are part of a diaspora culture and carry no social weight compared to the dominant culture, they are completely disregarded. Historically, rape cases for white women have taken precedence over rape cases for minorities- some cases have even become national news, yet minority cases go completely under the radar.

The documentary “Rape in the Fields” portrayed this idea well. It displayed the notion of rape against Mexican immigrant workers as insignificant when showing the story of the man that would continually take a woman worker far away in the fields and force her to have sex with him. She told authorities about this man, and no one listened. He would rape her and threaten her, yet she had no power whatsoever to combat these actions. When authorities actually did take the situation into their hands, the man pleaded innocent and was not questions, getting away for free. Unfair situations like these cause life-lasting feelings of unrest and fear for the women who have to face these types of men. Situations like these happen often in these certain worker communities, leaving the women hopeless and feeling as if they cannot receive any help. This perpetuates over time, and becomes a culture. When it becomes a culture, it creates an environment where there is an unsaid expectation of the women to submit to the men in authority and their sexual wants without even questioning it or fighting it. These notions become widespread, and women are expected to keep their mouths shut, and they do because it is what they have to do to make a living and survive.

Unfortunately, I do not believe that this culture exists only in these realms, but probably also exist in other circles of immigrant and minority cultures. It probably exists not only in the United States, but in countries across the world considering the historical  gender bias and power complex that has been present for years. Do you think that the assertion above is potentially true? Will there ever be justice for these women immigrant workers, or will they continually be disregarded by the authorities and the United States’ justice system? What do you think it would need to take for this culture to change? Why do you think it is that these women who face these situations are completely disregarded?


What’s Sex Got To Do With… The Disney Channel?

Upon going home for Thanksgiving, I spent the majority of time in my house with my 10 year old sister. As a mode of compromising, we would spend part of the time watching the shows she wanted to watch, then the sows I wanted to watch. We probably watched at least five DIsney Channel shows a day.

Watching these shows as a kid, you are unaware of the true plot, implications, and meaning of situations and dialogue in the show. After watching these shows as a college student, it has become evident that all these children that star in the shows are over sexualized and the content of the show lends itself to heteronormative ideals.

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There are multiple times throughout the shows where there are subtle sexual jokes and innuendos present; some are ever extremely inappropriate, yet it goes unnoticed by the viewers because they are far too young to understand. Also, if one of the characters in the show is in a relationship, it is a very standard, stereotypical, and heteronormative relationship that is to be expected of any typical American teenager.

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The fact that all of the of the relationships featured in these shows are so heteronormative is curious, especially  considering the strides that have recently been made in the acceptance of homosexual relationships. Thinking about why this could be, it seems as if displaying a homosexual relationship in Disney Channel for young kids to see would be “inappropriate,” and many parents would probably not approve. Also, it would be far too “controversial’ for the executives of Disney to do such a thing.

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Why do you think it is that there are no other relationships displayed in Disney Channel shows rather than the heteronormative ones? Do you think that there ever will be any other types of relationships displayed? Why do you think it is that sexual innuendos are often included in shows?

What’s Sex Got To Do With… The Maryville Case?

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In 2012, a 14-year-old girl named Daisy Coleman was raped by her older brother’s friends who were seniors at the time after a house party in Maryville, Missouri under the influence of alcohol; the rape was recorded on one of the boys cell phones. Matt Barnett, the perpetrator, asserted that the sex was consensual, but the story that Daisy Coleman told asserted otherwise.

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When this case was first brought up, it was ignored and Daisy Coleman received a lot of scrutiny from the media and classmates. Because she had “blacked out” around the time that the rape had occurred, many people speculated her claims and labeled her as wild, a slut, etc. Upon the case being taken to court, it was dismissed because Daisy’s claims were not “credible” due to the state she was in, but also for political reasons because Matt Barnett’s grandfather was a trooper for 32 years and a four-term state representative for Missouri.

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The case was closed in 2012, and then reopened in 2014 due to help from The Kansas City star who published a long story on Daisy’s accounts. The story gained national recognition, and the nation was disgusted at how the small town of Maryville, MO turned its back on this young rape victim. This began to spread through social media, and the case was reopened again in 2014 where Matt Barnett pleaded guilty of endangerment.

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The fact that Daisy Coleman was shot down, criticized, and ignored when she first tried to share her story lends to the issue of why women who are raped are often afraid to tell anyone about it. They fear that because they are a woman and were a victim of power based violence and sexual assault, they are insignificant and no one will appeal to their assertions. Without the help of advocates across the country and social media, Daisy Coleman would have had to face shame and a sense of unrest for her entire life.

Why do you think that her claims were so heavily combated by the society she lived in at first even though there was video evidence? Do you think the case would have been ignored without the national outcry from the Kansas City Star’s article? Why do you think it is that Matt Barnett pleaded guilty for endangerment when he was supposed to get charged for rape?

What’s Sex Got To Do With…The Military?

According to, despite 25 years of investigation under the Pentagon due to sexual assault cases in the military, military cases of rape, sexual assault and harassment continue to grow. One would think that an institution of our country that prides itself on justice and valor would be different, however, tens of thousands of unwanted sexual acts are committed yearly in the military, and only a fraction are reported. Those that are expected to be covered up and not talked about.

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These statistics are shocking for multiple reasons. One of the most is because these assaults occur in all realms of the military, including present Active Duty, the Reserves, the National Guard and in the military academies. More importantly, there is a culture of victim-blaming, lack of accountability, and lack of liable command in these situations and it has become prevalent. These statistics threaten the strength, readiness, and morale of the United States military system. It takes away validity from our nation and US national security.

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Recently, a New York Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand has been making a bipartisan push to change how the military deals with cases of sexual assault with the help of Col. Don Christensen, former chief prosecutor of the Air Force. They are hoping to bring recognition to the Military Justice Improvement Act, which aims to remove commanders from the process of deciding whether or not to prosecute sexual assault cases. The issue with this is that commanders are oftentimes friends with both the alleged victim and perpetrator, and they become the enablers in this situation.

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The current situation present in the military is no different than that of college campuses. Both contain a lack of accountability, however, at colleges, it is that of university administration in failing to handle cases properly. Also, in both institutions, the misconception that victims ask for it and are at fault in sexual assault cases is present, when in reality, victims are never to blame. Another similarity between the two is that there are similar programs present at Vanderbilt and within the military to combat sexual assault and educate people about it.

Why do you think that there is such a heavy push-back on sexual assault and measures of prevention are just now being brought up with both institutions?

What’s Sex Got To Do With… Gone Girl?

Disclaimer: If you haven’t seen Gone Girl and want to, then I wouldn’t read this… I don’t want to spoil it for you.

This past October, the film, Gone Girl premiered. The film was highly anticipated for a multitude of reasons, including the fact that it’s based on a novel, because it stars Ben Affleck, and because of the crazy plot and the twists… but there is also the sex.

These days, sex is featured in almost everything. It plays a different role in each show or movie, whether it is big or small. The sex in Gone Girl, although it may be overlooked by most people in it’s importance, actually plays a huge and indicative role throughout the film.

It is an indicative sign of power and persuasion. In the movie, when Amy Dunne (a main character) is telling of her relationship with her husband, she tells us of how at first, they had great sex, but over time, he began to use her for sex on his own terms. Around this same time, he began to abuse, becoming violent and more controlling.

Later on in the movie, when Amy Dunne is in a situation where she needs power to achieve her plan, she uses sex over a man to sway him and gain control on the situation.

It is curious how sex can contribute to someone’s power so heavily. This is not the first or last time sex will be used over someone to gain something; in fact, these are the same ideals and thoughts that contribute and are related to power based violence and rape.


An array of very different sexual practices exist in the world across cultures and societies, BDSM being one of the most notorious and stigmatized practices. This stigma and social disapproval for BDSM is based on a lack of knowledge of the practices and principles, but also on the portrayals of BDSM relationships in the media through TV, movies, and novels. The acronym, BDSM, stands for Bondage, Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism, and Masochism. When people hear these terms, they are most likely shocked and create preconceived ideas and stereotypical images of what these relationships looks like. They make incorrect assumptions about what goes into this structured relationship, disregarding consent and ethics. Groups such as the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom have made strides to increase the general understanding of BDSM practices and to decriminalize BDSM relationships when they are consensual. Although there are clear negative connotations on BDSM in society today, it is curious that the novel, 50 Shades of Grey, featuring a BDSM relationship, was on the top of the New York Times best seller list for weeks.

The novel, 50 Shades of Grey, tells the story of a soon-to-be college grad Ana, and a controlling, mysterious, arrogant, powerful young CEO named Christian Grey. From the moment the two meet, there is clearly some sort of attraction present, able to be seen through Ana’s nervousness and Christian’s brashness. The relationship begins as a professional one, but over short amount of time, advances to something more from flirtations. Christian, who clearly has some sort of unresolved problems and carries a certain darkness with him, knows he is not good for Ana; however, despite his weariness of falling for her, he pursues her, and she falls for him more and more each time they are together. The relationship begins advancing and things become more serious, yet Christian refuses to touch her without “written consent.” Later on in the novel, we find out that Christian’s sexual practices are not that of the norm; he wants to be the dominant and wants ana as his submissive in a BDSM relationship. There is a contract in place with hard guidelines. She must obey him, and if she does not, she will be punished. However, there are hard limits, and she may use safe words stop or slow down any action. This is all very new to Ana, who is actually a virgin, so he encourages her to take her time to consider and research the practices. Reluctantly and after mixed feelings, she agrees, but on her own terms.

Although their relationship may seem unconventional, it works for them. They both understand the implications and limits of the practices, which is very important in relationships such as these. There are clear terms of consent in place, which contrary to popular or stereotypical belief, is a key part of BDSM practices. Legally and ethically, the question of consent has importance that goes further than just between the sexual partners, but also matters in legal terms to assure all parties are agreeing with the actions that are taking place. The practice of being a dominant and having a submissive can be gray area, so terms are essential to the establishment of  relationship like this. Although there are limits, guideline, and rules in place when contracts are made and consent is discussed, there are still risks present that could cause potential issues. Nevertheless, these relationships work and only work with terms of consent.

There are an array of practices included in BDSM, which is a power exchange relationship;  They include a dominant and submissive, bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism. Oftentimes, there are very specific rules in place meant to be followed. Also, many items are used including ropes, cuffs, ties, restraints, blindfolds, and chains. In 50 Shades of Grey, a wooden cross, shackles, riding crops, and floggers were also featured. To many people, the usage of these items in sexual practices seems unusual, or very unconventional. There are many stigmas placed on these practices by those who are uninformed about the mechanics of BDSM relations. Despite the stigma, people are still intrigued by BDSM, and this is why 50 Shades of Grey is as popular as it is. Some people, whether they are willing to admit it or not, are bored with their sex lives and fantasize about these types of things, but do not feel it is socially acceptable to engage in; they can almost experience a relationship like this through Christian and Ana in the novel. People are tyoically lured by exoctic things, and BDSM is definitely one of these.

Towards the end of her four year relationship with her boyfriend before going separate ways prior to college, one of my best friend’s engaged in some BDSM type of activity. At parties, I noticed her boyfriend getting fairly aggressive towards her yet she was completely okay with it, and I was really confused, so I confronted her. Turns out, after four years of a standard sex life, they decided to spice things up by implementing some bondage and discipline practices into their sex life.When I asked her about it, she told me they were taking “baby steps” and experimenting with a couple BDSM type of practices. They were bored with the sex they were having and wanted to try something new. She told me there was biting, hitting, slapping, and choking involved; they would get rather aggressive and mean towards each other during sex, yelling and calling each other awful things. Yet right after, they would go right back to normal and say “I love you” to each other, and everything was good. Her boyfriend got the idea of starting these  practices after watching porn, which I found very interesting. When other friends of ours found out, they judged them and talked about them.

Do you think the stigma on BDSM stems from a lack of knowledge, the fear of no consent, or otherwise?


Breaking Binaries

Society has been constructed in such ways that people’s actions and decisions can fall inside or outside or the norm, yet there is little to no room for a gray area. One of the most prominent social constructions that we face today is that of gender. It is a binary: man or woman, female or male, with no room for interpretation. This gender binary creates an environment with heavy heteronormative ideals where people are expected to be straight, and stigmatized if they are not; men and women are expected look look and act a certain way. Although there are a multitude of other genders and sexualities that exist, heterosexuality is by far the only one that is widely accepted. In fact, it is expected. Anyone who identifies as otherwise faces potential discrimination, harassment, abuse, etc.

So what happens when someone who identifies as transgender and that person has to do something as simple as use the bathroom? There is a clear gender binary when it comes to bathrooms, considering the pictures on the doors identifying who uses which room are typically a man wearing pants and a woman wearing a skirt. Transgender people use which ever bathroom they feel most fits them, yet are very susceptible to violence and harassment when they make the decision of which room to use. The issue of what bathroom a transgender person should use is an overlooked issue; it seems simple yet when they do use they do use the bathroom they receive so much backlash.

This phenomenon can be seen in the documentary “Toilet Training.” It tells the stories of people and shares anecdotes of times when a transgender man or transgender woman used the restroom in a public space and were discriminated against, harassed, or acted against violently. If a homophobic person with heteronormative ideals sees a transgender person using the “incorrect” restroom, chances are they will intervene with harassment and violence, as seen commonly in these stories. Transgender people are denied equal access in these situations. In fact, some transgender people fear using the bathroom in public spaces so much that they force themselves to hold it, fearing the possible repercussions from people who would judge them. Sadly, “holding it” is a common problem that transgender people face when having to use the bathroom in public spaces; not only is it unfair and inconvenient for transgenders, but it actually can cause legitimate health problems including causing cysts or infections. All of these issues are serious issued that transgender people could potentially face, and all are demonstrated in the documentary.

Of all of the anecdotes in the documentary, however, there is one that stood out to me most and stuck with me. The story is of a transgender woman who was brutally attacked for using the “wrong” restroom. At a McDonalds, a transgender woman with diabetes had to go to the bathroom. The men’s room was out of order, so she used to women’s room. While in the bathroom, the store manager began to bang on the door with a lead pipe. He threatened to kill her if she would not come out. The woman had to come out at some point, obviously, so terrified, she opened the door. Immediately, she was smashed in the head and on her body with the pipe, causing her teeth to break bruises and bleeding on her body. She was then strangled. Upon calling the police and their arrival, the police, who are supposed to help, were immediately biased, showing clear gender discrimination against the transgender. The police blatantly disregarded everything she said, threatened to arrest her, and eventually did just because she refused to accept the fact that she was getting arrested for being the victim of a gender based attack. On top of that, she was also denied from her own property and medical treatment. Although her charges were eventually dropped, her attacker was never punished and never had to face any consequences for his actions.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of this whole story is the fact that there is a law in place to protect transgenders from discrimination like this. The fact that the police, people who are supposed to abide by and protect the law, were so unhelpful and biased toward heteronormativity goes to show that there is too strong of a stigma on transgender people still despite efforts towards stopping discrimination. This tragic bathroom incident goes further than just an issue of gender and acceptance, but this is an issue of public space as well, denying equal access to all people. One of my older sister’s best friends is a transgender woman. She has told me multiple stories of her getting discriminated against on multiple occasions. She has told me that there is hardly a day where she doesn’t face discrimination or harassment in some type of way, whether it is subtle or obvious. Fortunately, she has never been acted towards violently, but regardless, she has said that facing all discrimination and harassment weighs down on her and can be really tough.