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.

Whats Sex Got to Do With….? Feminism

There seems to be a discrepancy in the way people interpret the word “feminist.” There’s the more formal definition that scholars accept such as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” On the contrary there’s a social definition that everyday people use to interpret feminist: “A Nazi group of females who essentially hate the male species, don’t have sex, and want females to dominate everything in life.” Despite the variety individuals interpretations, everyone can agree that all feminist are fighting for equal gender rights and opportunity.

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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 Military?

According to servicewomen.org, 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?

Identifying as Transgender and Getting Hired

Individuals who identify as transgender face more everyday problems than we may know. The little things, such as having to choose a bathroom without getting yelled at or getting security called, or having to explain why you look absolutely nothing like your drivers license are a few things that heterosexuals take for granted.

The workforce today is strongly dominated by men. Typically white, middle to upper class men. However, when it comes to being transgender, being a white man is not necessarily favored. According to the article in “Introducing the New Sexuality Studies”, by Kimberly Tauches, people who identify as transgender undergo far more than we would expect. Transgenders face conflict in public spaces, language, documentation, sexuality, and also problems in the medical world.

Gender is a term that evolves over time. Today, gender is defined as something different than it was viewed as in the 1950s. A woman in the past who went and did work in an office for example was viewed as masculine, as well as a woman who played sports. Today, gender has obtained a new perspective. Feminine and masculine are different than they were fifty years ago. Gender operates at many different levels, including personal, in the workplace, and through interaction. All of these contribute to gender attribution, which is the process in which we decide and expect a person to act, based on what we see. We base what we see from how masculine or feminine the person acts.

Men have always been viewed as masculine. In the work place, men have always been favored in earning more money, such as doctors, lawyers, and bosses. Men also obtain the label as head of family, and have shown significant power over woman in politics. How is this supposed to come into play when a woman becomes a man?

Transgenders today often have a ridiculous amount of criticism when trying to fit into the workplace. According to americanprogress.org:

  • Fifteen percent to 43 percent of gay and transgender workers have experienced some form of discrimination on the job.
  • Eight percent to 17 percent of gay and transgender workers report being passed over for a job or fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Ten percent to 28 percent received a negative performance evaluation or were passed over for a promotion because they were gay or transgender.
  • Seven percent to 41 percent of gay and transgender workers were verbally or physically abused or had their workplace vandalized.
  • Ninety percent of transgender individuals have encountered some form of harassment or mistreatment on the job.
  • Forty-seven percent of workers have experienced an adverse job outcome because they are transgender. This includes:
    • Forty-four percent who were passed over for a job
    • Twenty-three percent who were denied a promotion

And 26 percent who were fired because they were transgender

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuU5d4-s8BM

The link above is the story of a woman named Vandy Beth Glenn who was fired when she told her boss about her transition from being male to female. The took this into court regarding the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009.

The HRC.org (Human Rights Campaign) noted some important pros and cons of becoming transgender:

Some benefits of disclosure:

  • Living an authentic and whole life
  • Reducing the stress of hiding our identity
  • Being more productive at work
  • Developing closer, more genuine relationships with colleagues, customers and clients
  • Building self-esteem from being known for who we really are
  • Having authentic and open friendships with other transgender people
  • Becoming a role model for others

Some risks/consequences of coming out:

  • Not everyone will be understanding or accepting
  • Family, friends and co-workers may be shocked, confused or even hostile
  • Some relationships may permanently change
  • You may experience harassment, discrimination or violence
    • You may lose your job

Unfortunately, there are no answers on how to perfectly or correctly obtain a transgender identity in the workplace. Being transgender is something that is a challenge that comes with a lot of personal choices. Applications may or may not ask for gender specifications as well as medical paperwork.

Transgender individuals face many problems not only keeping a job, but getting hired. The application and interview process are difficult. There are 29 states in America that make it legal to fire you if you identify as gay. There are many tips on sites that transgenders are required to use in order to keep or receive a job. These tips include some things that most people don’t have to face. Transgenders are suggested to keep their identity private and not make it a crisis at work. If it is to be discussed, it should be done not on-site at work, and made known that it is private. Trasgneders are also required to not slip under any circumstances while on the job. Every move is watched under a very large microscope. Transgenders are also advised to record every move they make. This way, if something slips up regarding discrimination, they have proof that the work was put in. Transgenders are advised to keep calm in situations. One might feel that he or she is constantly being watched or harassed. It might be hard to stay focused at work under that type of pressure.

How would you feel if your co-worker opened up to you?

Do you think that transgenders are going to be given equal opportunity in the next few years?

Do you think that transgenders have to right to be upset with how they are treated or do business owners have rights in choosing who they hire?

The double standard and possible solutions to the problem

We all know about it, but few do something to change it.  Men love it, and women hate it.  What am I? I am the double standard that is present when it comes to hooking up as it relates to men and women.  As most of us know, guys are celebrated and even idolized by their male peers for “getting with” or “getting it in with” an attractive or what his friends would deem as an attractive female.  “Damn bro, you’re so lucky. How was it?” or “F you man I’m jealous” are phrases constantly thrown around the male community when it comes to sex with girls.  On the other hand, females are called nasty things when they have any type of sexual encounter with males.

Things I’ve learned about the double standard: Women are the ones calling each other sluts.  It is very rare a guy would refer to a girl as a slut when talking to his friends.  On the other hand, girls gossip and shit talk each other like it’s their jobs.  If girls hate being called a slut, then why call another girl a slut just because she had sex with this guy or that guy? Does it really matter how many guys someone may sleep with? Does it negatively affect your life? If the answer to these questions are no then calling another girl a slut cannot be justified.  Even if the answer to the questions were yes, let a girl be who she is and don’t judge her on it.  It is hard enough already for girls to be who they are openly before they are called names and constantly judged.

On the other side of things, why do guys praise each other so much for having sex with a lot of girls? For one, guys can talk more openly about sex with each other than I think girls can and they can be truthful in saying they want to have sex really badly or are sex deprived.  Women on the other hand tend to feel embarrassed or shamed if they have a sexual attraction to someone and usually keep it in to themselves.  Also, guys are also more open in telling their friends if they had sex with someone or not rather than keep it in to themselves.  For a lot of guys, it’s about the quantity and not the quality and for this, they feel no shame in bragging about all the sex they are having.

What are the ways to stop this double standard one may ask? To start, opening up the “asking the other person out” lines to both genders could be a start.  This way the male doesn’t always seem like the aggressive one and the one looking for the girl.  Can you imagine a world in which girls asked out guys as much as guys asked out girls?  At first, girls would be called names such as “thirsty” because this would not be a norm.  As time went on however, and more and more girls started to act in this manner, the act would be normalized and not judged.  This would keep women and men on the same playing field and in turn get rid of all the slut shaming.

The next step would be acceptance.  Females would have to accept the fact they like having sex just as much as men in general and because of it should be able to try to obtain it as much as they would like.  The more this happens, the more girls who would change.  Every social trend is generational and takes time to develop.  Maybe the results would not come quick enough to affect the generation that I belong to, but why not save the next one? Men wouldn’t brag about all the sex they are having and who they are having it with because sex would be so normalized that it wouldn’t take an expert or a stud to have a lot of it.  In my opinion there is a positive correlation between the number of girls calling each other sluts and the number of guys praising their friends.  When one starts going down, the other will join.  However, the slut shaming is the start of the problem so it needs to be the first part of the solution.

Rapping things up, I think that time is the biggest and most sacred thing we have as humans in order to fix a social problem.  Slut shaming is a serious issue that has caused depression and even suicides.  The feminist movement and ideals say that men and women should be equals and one should not have advantages or powers over the other.  This being said, guys should not be idolized for having a lot of sex and girls should not be pushed down for having sex either.  Sex should be something that is cherished at the point of it, but not obsessed over after the fact.  Our brains create ideas and beliefs that we know not to be true in order to fill a niche or role in a group of people.  At the end of the day, we all want to be accepted and loved.