Similar to everyone else it seems, before taking this course I was not sure what to expect. While I expected a class addressing sexual intercourse solely, I was surprised when I arrived the first day and we began delving into the material we did. From learning about sexual assault to Marxism to racial hierarchies to LGBTQI, there has certainly been a wide spectrum of material we’ve learned. Although all very important, I believe my favorite thing we learned about this year and the most influential to me was heteronormativity in American culture.
As we learned, heteronormativity is the belief that people fall into distinct and complementary genders with natural roles in life. Although subconsciously compulsive heterosexuality is something we each are engrained with from a young age, I never fully accepted the social problems behind this. In our modern world between movies and TV shows and songs, this idea of man and woman is the only concept that is ever portrayed. Heterosexuality is depicted as “normal” whereas everything that is not considered “heterosexual” is then displayed as abnormal. We’ve become accustomed to seeing this type of social script displayed in our everyday lives. It was not until I took this course that I began recognizing little things that show compulsive heterosexuality and heteronormativity in our culture. I do believe there is a problem with compulsive heterosexuality today. It alters people’s minds and opinions on what’s “right” or what is “expected” and thus creates this binary which all people feel as if they must follow. This binary is encouraged through traditions like prom king and queen and love stories like The Notebook or Titanic. It is an unfair expectation that all people must follow this “way of life”, yet we still expect people too. There was an interesting post earlier this year on the song, Let It Go from Frozen. In this post, the writer talks about how this song demonstrates someone breaking free from the binary, and not caring about what people say or think about who she is. It was something I’d never really considered when hearing this song, but it is a great step I think to starting a new era in Disney. This song is one recent example of the maybe shifting views on sexuality.
From another angle, heteronormativity not only discriminates against those considering “abnormal”, but it promotes male dominance in everyday life. There is certainly a stereotype about how our world should be run: men in the work place, women in the kitchen… right? There is a quote by Kristen Barber that I think perfectly highlights problems within our society. She states that “sexuality is a social construct…hetero-sex in general is a mechanism by which men dominate women…in order to understand the subordination of women in the United States, one must analyze the practice of heterosexuality (NSS 45).” I find this quote to be so true—unfortunate, but true. Ultimately, I also believe male dominance is a form of heteronormativity and the “expectation” of relationships. This class has taught me that we must work to end these expectations and binaries.