Throughout the course of the semester, we have learned about and discussed a wide variety of sexual orientations and how western culture has normalized a sex and gender binary. We traversed through the LGBTQI alphabet soup, learning how each identity has to navigate through society and the common dangers they face by merely existing as an unconventional body. Homosexual bodies, particularly gay men, are learned to be feared from a young age through the existence of the “fag discourse” perpetuated in schools. Bisexual individuals are also often viewed as predatory and dangerous because of their refusal to cooperate within the straight/gay binary that society has constructed. Further complicating sexual binaries are transgender individuals, whose by definition identify as a gender different to the one they were assigned at birth. Intersex individuals, who were born with ambiguous genitalia, can fit into any one of these categories, or none at all. Completely removed from the sexuality spectrum in which all of these other identities exist is asexuality, which can be defined as a lack of sexual drive. Since around the 1960’s, when sexuality shifted from a behavior to an identity, heteronormative attitudes have emerged and worked to confirm heterosexuality as the “correct” form of sexual identity while marginalizing all others.
One of the preoccupations with a heteronormative society is to scrutinize the identities of non-hetero people. A clear example of this can be seen among the bisexual population, where the straight (and sometimes gay) populations discredit the “bisexual” identity. Some claim that bisexuals are just “gays in denial” or straight, but “going through a case.” For some, that may be the case. For others, not at all. The bottom line is that it really should not matter what someone identifies as. Everyone has their own definition of their own orientation, and it is ignorant and presumptuous to simply say that one’s identity is “incorrect.”
One identity that has come under considerable scrutiny for lacking a clear definition is asexuality. In the documentary (A)Sexual, we are introduced to a number of people who identify as asexual, but very few of them conduct their romantic and sexual activities in the exact same way. Some maintain a long term romantic partnership devoid of sexual interaction. Some acknowledge that they do engage in some sexual behaviors, but prefer to do so without the presence of a partner. Because asexuality itself seems to be a spectrum, people are very hesitant to accept someone’s identity as an asexual body because it differs from their own prototype of an asexual in their mind.
One of the most important and lasting lessons I have learned this semester is that people will attack and scrutinize the legitimacy of a sexual identity far more than any other personal identifier. Because heteronormative constructions have deemed “straightness” the norm and every other identity as degenerate and ultimately “abnormal”. This dichotomy has allowed those who identify as “straight” to incorrectly assume privilege and marginalize others. The only person who can declare someone’s sexual identity is that individual. We must end our preoccupation with accusing others of having “false” identities if we truly want a just world.
Before taking this class; Sex and Society, I never really thought about sexual assault, how common it was, or understanding it from an academic stand point. I now know so much information that really has shifted my thinking in the best way possible. I feel like I have the knowledge to pass on to others and would be able to help anyone with questions in understanding various topics we have discussed such as; the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer, intersex, asexual community, BDSM, sexual assault, the hookup culture, and how society influences sexuality. However, in my opinion, the most influential and most important topics that we discussed are LGBTQIA communities and the hookup culture. The reason why I believe these were the most influential is because of how prevalent they are in the college scene and within society.
Learning about LGBTQIA was incredibly influential because I wasn’t very familiar with what really goes on in the community and what everything exactly meant. I had no clue what asexual meant before this class, I didn’t fully understand the process of a transgendered person, I didn’t understand the difference between queer and gay or lesbian, and finally, I didn’t fully grasp the impact that legislation plays in a person’s life that falls into one of the LGBTQIA categories. I also think one of the most helpful and impacting parts of this topic was when the LGBTQIA group came to our class to share their stories and answer any questions that we had. It was great to hear first hand accounts about what their experiences were like when they came out and what motivated them to be in this organization. After listening to them speak, I quickly learned how important it is for these organizations to be on college campuses all around the country because it is the best resource for someone that needs guidance in trying to figure out who they truly are. Also, learning about this topic has made me more sensitive about what I talk about and how I phrase my words because I realize how easily I could offend someone if I’m not careful.
The other topic I felt was most beneficial and influential was discussing the role of hooking up, whether it is on campus or after college. Within this topic, I felt it was necessary to discuss the battle against sexual violence and how much of a role it plays on campuses. I had no idea that one out of five women would be sexually assaulted. That statistic shocked me and still shocks me to this day. Discussing how frequent sexual assault is was important for me so that I can be more aware of the people around me. I have also used this to be safer on campus and to watch out for my friends around me if we go out. We discussed the role alcohol plays in hooking up and how dangerous it can be. Learning about this is beneficial for every college student to learn, especially before they enter their freshman year. Overall, this class has been incredibly important and helpful in learning about sex and society. I have learned so much about the topics that really matter and really impact our society.
The documentary Asexual was a great source of information to understand what being asexual really means. Before this documentary, I didn’t really understand what it meant or how common it was because it is not discussed in schools or in the media. I feel like it is not well- known, even in the LGBTQ community, which was shocking. When a group of people that were asexual went to the Pride Parade, people at the parade did not understand what it meant to be asexual. The show The View, had David Jay (the main character in the documentary) on the show to discuss his experience as being asexual. He explained what it meant to not be attracted to either sex or sexual intercourse and also discussed the lack of community that he has as support. The hosts of the show started asking questions by trying to get a general understanding of what the term even means. In my opinion, these questions were helpful because a vast majority of society do not know what it means to be asexual. One of the hosts asked; “Is it a problem?” which is a valid question for someone that has a hard time understanding, but is definitely not polite toward someone that is asexual. On the show, they joked about being asexual and not wanting to have sex because to most, that’s impossible to feel. She then jokingly asked; “Then why do you have to organize?” Because it is such a foreign concept to people, they don’t understand why people are that asexual and why they are calling attention to it.
The same host that asked the above questions also asked if he was repressed or if he was afraid to face sexuality. I was also wondering this because what if it takes the right person to feel that sexual drive and desire with? Throughout the documentary, many asexuals described their experiences of having sex and not having sex. Their stories are astonishing because it is such a different concept. Can you think of anyone that doesn’t want to have sex at some point in the life? I thought that this documentary was very necessary to fully understand what asexual meant and the importance for others to understand and spread the word. There is over three million people that are asexual, according to the documentary, so it is necessary that those people do have a community to turn too.
In the clip, you can see how important it is for asexuals to have an outlook or a community to explore their questions about their sexualities, especially when they first realize it. The hosts of the show ask the questions that I believe are the questions that everyone wants to know and David Jay does a great job explaining what its like. It sounded like he was describing his “coming out” in a similar sense as if someone was gay, lesbian, queer, or transgendered. I even found it interesting how he described that he can still have a normal relationship with someone just without the sexual part. As in, he still has to build a connection with someone just like any type of relationship, the only thing that is different is the sexual attraction. He finds personalities more attractive than looks or bodies. David Jay also explained in response to one of the hosts of The View that being asexual is an orientation even though they can choose whether or not they have sex. What do you think? Do you think asexuals have a choice in how they feel or is it an orientation? David Jay compared having sex with someone as an asexual is like a gay man having sex with a woman before he comes out. He really put into perspective how difficult it can be living as an asexual person but also explained the importance for people to understand how they feel. However, by the end of the documentary, he explained how hard it is to have a relationship without sex and realized that he would have to give in some times. He discussed how this is how to maintain a strong relationship with someone and that for him to get what he wants, he is going to give what his partner wants. Do you agree with this? Do you think David Jay and other asexuals should succumb to the pressures of sex just so that they can have a healthy relationship? I think it would be very interesting to see how well someone could fake this act, to do something that is not so desirable for them, but just to make someone else happy. It also still shocks me that the LGBTQ community rejected the asexual group at the Pride Parade in the documentary, because it would seem as if they would accept anyone. What do you think about this?