Adolescence is a difficult time for everyone. All young people struggle to find themselves and to define their identity. However, while adolescent females struggle to develop their sexuality and identity in a society where they are expected to sexy but not to have sexual feelings of their own, or rather they are supposed to be sexual objects but not sexual subjects (Tolman 153-158), males also face many difficulties because they are very restricted by a need to protect their masculinity by never appearing too feminine or weak. If boys lapse or deviate from the social standards, they risk becoming a target for unrelenting homophobic harassment. In order to avoid this, most young boys work very hard to convince others of their heterosexuality at all costs.
Can you remember a time before you were who you are now? A time when society was not telling you who you are, innocuously, through seemingly inconsequential labels? Think about who you are, how you introduce yourself. For most of us, we say something like “Hi my name is X I am a girl/boy, I am gay/straight, I am a student/professor/parent” the list goes on and on, but there is almost always a qualifying label. The great, “I am,” phrase implies that your essence is inextricably tied up with that identity. However, this thinking can be very dangerous because, most often, individuals are not choosing their own labels, but rather are being labeled and then internalizing those labels.
Sexual assault on college campuses has been a huge topic of discussion in the media lately. As the reports of rape and assault on campuses increase, everyone is frantic to find a solution. Various groups have tried to combat the issues of inequality which inevitably lead to these heinous crimes. However, some believe that crimes like sexual assault, stalking, and other forms of power based personal violence are natural and uncontrollable. This reinforces rape culture.
R.W. Connell argues that people believe sexual violence is just part of being a “real” man in Western Society. She suggests that society views men as uncontrollably aggressive and sexual and therefore, accepts that rape and sexual violence perpetrated by men is just a natural consequence of their existence (Barber, 47). Basically, society is trained to accept sexual violence as “normal” because men are “naturally” aggressive and just cannot control themselves. Sociologists believe that many men use violence to obtain power over others as an expression of their dominance in the social world. This sentiment has been echoed, albeit not as directly, many times since Connell made that argument.
Even as our society continues to try to reduce inequalities, messages which glorify dangerous sentiments permeate the media and serve to normalize very dangerous and unhealthy behaviors. In Maroon 5’s new song and music video, Animals, they glorify and romanticize the risky behavior of stalking. Adam Levine, the lead singer of the band and the main character in the video, holds the title of “sexiest man alive” from People Magazine. In the video, he is a butcher who stalks a young woman, covers himself in blood, breaks and enters into her home to watch her while she sleeps, and is rewarded, not punished. He faces no negative consequences for his actions and, using his celebrity status, reinforces the very backward idea that men are uncontrollably aggressive and that women should be flattered, not offended, by their unwanted advances and sexual violence.
I was surprised that more people were not outraged by this video (although here is a very interesting parody of the video). What do you think about it? Do you think it is an acceptable video, one that just fits into our society’s current status quo, or is there something wrong with this portrayal? Is it wrong for individuals with that much power and sway to portray themselves as violent stalkers who are not punished or is it just freedom of speech and expression?
All of you were children yourselves at one point and a large portion will eventually adopt or have children of your own. Think back to your childhood to a time when you had a babysitter who was not a family member. What did this babysitter look like? Was this person a male or female? How old was he/she?
For most, this babysitter was a female who your parents may or may not have known beforehand. It pretty unlikely that your image of a babysitter is a male because the media and society generally portray babysitters, nannies, and other child care providers as women. Why? Are women instinctively better care providers? Is there some reason to NOT have a male babysitter?
According to this article in the Washington Post, most people are afraid to hire a male babysitter because, statistically speaking, males are more likely than females to be pedophiles. While this may be true, not ALL non-females are child abusers and some females are. Interestingly, the article never talks about men being incapable of caring for children, and suggests that this idea is a huge problem.
“Here is the real problem when we err on the side of statistics. By telling the millions of men that they cannot be trusted with children, we are reinforcing gender stereotypes at school, at home and at work.”
According to Essentialists, your sex and gender are inborn. Basically, it is a natural part of who you are and, because of this, women are born to be more caring, sensitive, emotional, and feminine while men are born to be strong, resolute, logical, and masculine. On the other hand, Constructivists say that your sexuality and characteristics are socially constructed by the culture in which you are raised. Basically, women are taught to be caring, sensitive, emotional, and feminine while men are taught to be strong, resolute, tough, logical and masculine (Seidman, 3-17).
So, which is it? Are women naturally more competent care providers? Are they trained to be care takers? Or perhaps, men and women are equally capable of caring for children, even with the very different socialization they undergo? The media tells us that men just cannot be trusted to do a good job in films like “Daddy Daycare”, “The Pacifier”, and “Mom’s Night Out” and never shows us men competently caring for children. This sexism hast to stop.
This sexism extends far beyond child care into all aspects of society. Men are more likely to become doctors while women become nurses. Most engineers are men while most teachers are women. Even when women cross over into male dominated fields such as being a college professor, they are generally paid less than their male counterparts for the same work. Why?
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution ensures that all US citizens have freedom of speech and are free to choose and participate in whatever religion they want. However, there is and has always been a lot of controversy over where one person’s rights begin and another person’s end. Fisher argues that, in the United States, the discourse surrounding sexual morality is predominantly based on the more powerful religious cultures (namely Christianity) which act to control the sex lives of the populace and to organize individuals into those who are “pure” and those who are “polluted”. There are those who corrupt, typically men and “impure women”, and those who are corrupted, typically children.
Following this logic, the United States is organized in such a way that sexuality is suppressed, children are taught abstinence only sex education, and women are slut shamed. However, in recent years there has been a major shift in the discourse. With the ever growing marriage equality laws across the country, people are more aware than ever of the inequality and oppression that those who fall outside of the heteronormative Christian group face.
Recently, the Duggar’s, a very conservative Christian family, the stars of the TLC show “19 Kids and Counting”, have been at the center of controversy. 100,000 people have signed a petition to remove them from the television claiming that they are “fear mongering” and “spreading ignorance and hatred” about the LGBTQI community. All of this started because the mom, Michelle Duggar, opposed a law for her community which would allow transgender individuals to use restrooms and changing rooms based on their chosen gender, not their assigned one. Duggar remarked that she did not want the system to be abused by child predators who could lie about being transgender.
Do you think Michelle Duggar’s response to her town’s proposed bill warrants such extreme reactions from the public? Are her rights protected less under the First Amendment because she is a conservative Christian? Where is the line between freedom of speech and religion and “fear mongering” and discrimination?
Racial hierarchies around the world consistently rank “whiteness” as more valuable and other races as less valuable. Being able to “pass” for white, which is a fluid commodity rather than a set racial identity, oftentimes opens up spaces of privilege while being perceived as “not white” in conjunction with being an immigrant, can be very limiting and harmful. For immigrant women particularly, racial hierarchies, in which whiteness is often valued and being “other” is restrictive, greatly influence their social experiences in the countries to which they immigrate. This racial phenomenon looks very different in different regions. In the United States for instance, Asian males, who in some parts of the world, are seen as white, are not viewed as “white enough”. As a consequence of being viewed as lower ranking in the hierarchy of male bodies, according to Kong, their bodies are desexualized, making it difficult for them to thrive and express their sexuality in this culture.
Women are directly or indirectly told, “Don’t get raped” on a daily basis. Various products like color changing nail polish, pepper spray, and tear resistant anti-rape clothing are sold to women under the assumption that it is their responsibility to not get raped and these products will aid in that pursuit. Unfortunately, most of these products are impractical, difficult to access, or very expensive. Additionally, none of these products work unless you buy and constantly use them. However one resource is available to women which cannot be misplaced and it is impossible to run out of: self-defense training.
Define “Hooking Up,” for yourself. Go ahead, try. Now, define what someone else means when they say, “We hooked up last night.” There is a large range of activities which can be encompassed by the phrase “hooking up.” Interestingly, there is a generational change for the term hooking up. For some, especially older adults, hooking up means meeting up with a group of friends to spend time together or, “Let’s all hook up after work at Charley’s to grab some drinks and talk about the upcoming business proposal.” For others, particularly middle-school students, hooking up can mean anything from providing connections for someone as in, “Jimmy hooked me up with tickets to the school dance,” to the more traditional young adult meaning. Teenagers and young adults in this historical moment, use hooking up as an ambiguous term to describe almost any sexual experience, from kissing to intercourse. In her book, Hooking Up, Kathleen Bogle suggests that, in this instance, it is intentionally ambiguous so that one can exaggerate or minimize the sexual encounter (28). However, regardless of your specific definition, one aspect holds true through all of them: the foundation of hooking up is social interaction.
People have always resisted ideas which fall outside of socially constructed binaries. It makes us feel uneasy to not be able to categorize everything in our lives into neat, separate spaces. One half of this binary is typically viewed as “good” or “acceptable” while the other is “bad” or “deviant”. What about nonconforming individuals? People who are outside of the binary all together? Most people think sexuality is fundamental humanity as illustrated by this House clip. Indeed, if it is a large part of our human identity, then it must exist, right? For people outside of the realm of sexuality all together, challenging this binary based on the existence of sexuality can cause dis-ease among those who fit and thus encourage a search for the “reason” behind asexuality.
From that very first utterance of “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” a child’s life is forever altered. Even if there are not that many biological differences between boys and girls, the appearance of different genitals ensures, at least in our historical moment, that the social differences will more than make up for the lack of biological ones.