When we began discussing social constructions in class, I was wowed. Of course, I have been living my whole life immersed in society and accepting all the messages it was sending me, but I never realized that all of it was just made up. We do, know, and think so many things that allow us to function within society, but most of this was learned. I didn’t inherently know that I was supposed to wear clothes when I left my house, brush my teeth twice a day, or eat three meals a day. I wasn’t born knowing that I was a white, German-blooded, Catholic female who lived in the US, and yet, I’ve grown up with these things as facts of life. Really though, those are all social constructs that have been made up by people and societies who’ve lived before me and taught to me by the people around me. Continue reading
To begin rapping up the final blog posts of the semester, I went back to the very first articles we read at the beginning of class to see if anything caught my eye. I was then taken back to the third week of classes to the Huffington Post article entitled “What I’m Reading: Sex, Teens, And Social Media.” After taking the class and reading this article again, so many new ideas are brought to mind especially in the first section. The first section is titled ‘Social Media Is Destroying Our Lives’ and relates significantly to our lives as college students.
Sasha Belenky, the author of the article, brings up many topics that are extremely relatable. First off, she talks about the obsession with sex throughout social media. She talks about how hookup culture is preferred over dating culture, and social media is the reason for a lot of this modern change in sexual scripts. Throughout this specific portion of the article, Belenky quotes Nancy Jo Sales’ article in Vanity Fair entitled “The Bling Ring” that looked at modern day teen relationships. A girl from L.A. described to Sales that “oral is, like, the new kissing” (Belenky). In addition to sex going much farther much quicker, boys pressure girls for nudes extremely often. Applications like snapchat make this incredibly easy for guys to get away with because, supposedly, the picture “disappears.” Of course the receiver can screenshot the snapchat, but the sender gets a notification if the receiver decides to screenshot. But even scarier and more problematic is that recent studies have come out saying that Snapchat has been keeping the photos this entire time. This entails that the photos that were once said to “disappear forever” haven’t at all.
In addition to social media making it easier to have sexual encounters, social media also makes it easier for boys to talk to girls rather than facing them straight up. We all know those people who will only talk to you on social media or text you and won’t confront you in person. Or, even better yet, we all know those people who won’t talk to you when they are sober, but when they are drunk they come up to you and talk to you like you two have been best friends your whole life. This is why social media is such a problem. It is because with the overuse of it, people forget how to have real, live, face-to-face friendships and conversations. This makes people socially awkward, and it makes people nervous talking in social settings. As a girl named Zoe stated concerning boys talking to girls, “They’re definitely more forward to us online than in person. Because they’re not saying it to our faces.” (Belenky).
Social media makes teens in today’s world socially awkward because social media is their life. A group of friends at the mall admitted to Sales that social media is ruining their lives, so Sales then asked why they don’t just get off of it. In return, a girl responded “Because then we would have no life” (Belenky).
Social media is also a competition with whoever gets the most amount of “likes.” Whoever gets the most amount of likes is considered “more popular.” I agree that this idea is true in our society because I have many friends that will delete a post on Instagram if they aren’t getting a lot of likes in the first 5 minutes of the post. I also have friend who will say things like, “oh my gosh, how did she get that many likes on a picture?!” This statement agrees with the idea that likes on social media is a popularity contest because when you see a person with a lot of likes on an Instagram post, for example, you in turn consider them “popular.”
In addition to being a popularity contest, it becomes a sexual contest. A girl named Greta described to Sales that, “More provocative equals more likes” (Belenky). Her friend Padma agreed, stating, “It attracts more guys and then it makes other girls think about doing it just for the attention” (Belenky). I also agree with this ideology because there are many Instagram accounts that are created solely for the fact of posting sexual posts to get a lot of comments from guys. The girls that have accounts like this live off of guys comments to them, in turn making their self confidence solely based off of the male gender’s perception of them. In addition, the majority of boys who comment on these photos would not say their comments to a girl in person, in turn leading to girls obsession with what boys are solely thinking of them, nothing the guys would say to them in real life.
This article relates to ideas we have talked about in class because it relates to rape culture. Yes, social media is destroying our lives, but one limitation of the article is that it doesn’t talk about rape culture. Social media causes many issues with rape and human trafficking because people will start online relationships with each other. Throughout these relationships, they will form a trusting bond without ever meeting face-to-face. When they meet face-to-face, they often realize that the person they thought they were talking to the entire time wasn’t truly that person. In turn, this leads to many rape and human trafficking incidents.
An example of this in our world today is the T.V. show entitled “Selfie”. This show follows the life of Eliza Doolittle, who lives a life with the goal of achieving fame on social media by only posting selfies. She is extremely awkward and struggles making friendships in real life. This show is a perfect example of how social media destroys us. It creates a life obsessed with talking to people over phone or computer, in turn creating teens who cannot interact with people in real life.
Some questions to consider include do you ever think our society will completely “drop” social media? Do you think our society will ever realize what a burden social media truly is and have it deleted? Also, do you think teens in the next generation will be more obsessed or less obsessed with social media than the current generation?
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.
Sex sells–that’s what we’ve been told again and again. Apparently, it’s working. Continue reading
Project Safe is a program on Vanderbilt University’s campus that provides help, support, and information for students, in regards to sexual assault. A few weeks ago, two of Projects Safe’s leading staff members: Cara Tuttle Bell and Wanda Swan came into class to further explain to us what they do at Project Safe, how they do it, and why they do it. Cara is the Director of Programs for Project Safe and Wanda is a Prevention Educator and Victim Specialist. The whole point of this program is to further spread information about power based personal violence (which includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking) to the Vanderbilt community and act as a safe space for students (who are experiencing any of these things or know someone experiencing them) to go to. Project Safe also supplies information about what defines consent, healthy relationships, and how to maintain a healthy sexuality—to Vanderbilt students. Project Safe works specifically with people who have been affected by some sort of power based personal violence and helps them through their experience by reaching out to other Vanderbilt resources. These resources include the Psychological and Counseling Center, Student Health, the Equal Employment, Affirmative Action and Disability Services Department, and the Vanderbilt University Police Department. Cara and Wanda work with these victims of power based personal violence and outside recourses to come together and create a safer place for students to feel comfortable in and more protected.
In their class presentation, Cara and Wanda explained how they have recently written a twenty-three paged paper defining what sexual assault really is. The document is called the 2014-2015 Vanderbilt University Sexual Misconduct and Power-Based Personal Violence Policy. It outlines Vanderbilt University’s “principles of equal opportunity” and it “seeks to establish and maintain a safe and healthy environment for all members of the University community.” It provides information on steps that students should take for prevention, education, and training—all in relation to power based personal violence. The lengthy paper works to provide an elaborate definition of what power based sexual assault is and all of the aspects that go along with it. The document touches upon where to seek immediate assistance and ongoing assistance, all the different types of offenses (within power based personal violence), how to report an incident, how investigations (of sexual assault) work, and additional information for students, faculty members, and staff members.
While this document specifically touches upon multiple different aspects of sexual assault and is very descriptive—realistically… not many people are going to read it (especially students). I see this as a pretty big problem. Young people, specifically students, need an accessible definiteion of power based personal violence in order to fully understand what it is. While working on my final project, it became clear to me that very few students on Vanderbilt’s campus are actually aware of and could explain what power-based personal violence is—and what it involves (after reading survey responses and listening to interviews from students). Most students were either unaware of the rape culture Vanderbilt has, could not definite what rape culture or sexual assault is, they had no idea what any of the bystander programs are or do, and just in general—knew very little about the topic overall. Students have an unclear definition of sexual assault and many just do not even know what it is or what qualifies as sexual assault. Obviously somebody needs to inform Vanderbilt’s student body of the issues our campus is facing and about the issues themselves. Students need to be knowledgeable about sexual assault, power-based personal violence, and the resources available to them (such as Green Dot and other bystander programs). If we can somehow reach the younger generation in an accessible way (unlike a twenty three page long document) there could potentially be a lot of positive outcomes. If students actually understood what power based personal violence is and how to protect themselves and combat the issue, Vanderbilt’s community could grow to be a much safer place. Once students become truly education on the topic of sexual assault, only then can we see improvements in community life and perhaps a decrease in sexual assault on campus. It is very important students gain awareness on the matter in order to be able to keep themselves and their peers protected. Along with this, all victims of any form of power based personal violence should feel safe enough to come out and tell people what happened. No student should ever feel ashamed or embarrassed. Victims should be informed enough about power based personal violence and all of the bystander programs available around campus. That way, if a student is affected by sexual assault they know about the resources they can go to for any type of help they may need. Overall, Vanderbilt University needs to work towards finding a way to easily, but affectively, inform students on Vanderbilt’s campus in order to generate a safer and all around better campus environment. There may not be an easy solution, but it will be worthwhile (and save young people) in the end.
Do you think project safe does a good job of living out its mission statement? How do you think it could be more affective in helping Vanderbilt students? Do you think the Vanderbilt Community is aware of and uses Project Safe as a resource for those who have experienced sexual assault? How do you think we can help Vanderbilt students to better understand the definition of sexual assault and what it really entails?
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.
For me, the most important concept to understand the relationship between sex and society is heteronormativity. The Oxford dictionary defines heteronormativity as “denoting or relating to a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the normal or preferred sexual orientation.” Throughout the semester we have seen how much this concept plays out in our modern world despite burgeoning support for the LGBTQI community.