Masculinity In a Nutshell…Are Times Changing?

After spending a quarter reading many articles and watching many documentaries, I thought it would be interesting to go back and look at the very first article we read titled “Theoretical Perspectives” by Steven Seidman. Specifically looking at the section titled “Feminism: the gender of sexuality”, the ideas of feminists such as Nancy Chodorow, Adrienne Rich, and Catherine MacKinnon and the relationships between males and females and how they became this way. The ideas of Nancy Chodorow specifically look at the origins of how males and females have gotten to be the way they are today. In The Reproduction of Mothering by Chodorow, she describes that for girls and boys, the mother is often the most loving between the two parents. There is an “extended and intense intimacy between mothers and daughters [resulting] in girls developing a syche that is relationship-oriented. Accordingly, girls tend to connect sex with intimacy and as a means of caring” (Seidman 6). In contrast, boys tend to break away from their mothers at a much earlier age, and come to spend much more time with their “achievement-oriented” (Seidman 7) fathers, hence them becoming more oriented with more characteristics that are described as “masculine”. Chodorow states, “boys’ sexuality tends to be more performance- and body-oriented” (Seidman 7). For this reason, a typical boy activity as a child is going out and playing football with his father, while girls stay inside and play with dolls, a much more “caring” activity than the competition of sports. Looking later in life, she states that, “boys can be intimate, but they will likely express sexual love in terms of the giving and receiving of erotic pleasure” (Seidman 7). For this reason, many females are attracted to boys on a much more emotional level, where boys are characterized to only thinking about sex.

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Expression of Sexuality: Male vs. Female

The world is made up of multiple gender schemas, ideologies that account for the particular way that males and females are expected to behave. These schemas are easily a primary source for double standards. Doubles standards spark because society deems certain qualities and behaviors as normal in one gender, yet rejects this same behavior in the opposite gender. This idea becomes especially complex when breaking down different areas of sexual and social expression.

Most particularly, the response around sexual orientation revolves around this same discourse. Females have much more leeway when it comes to projecting more fluidity in sexual orientation.

In a passage in NSS, LeMare states that heterosexual woman may have very different interpretations of what heterosexuality means. This underscores the complexity of sexuality and the narrowness of contemporary discourses regarding heterosexuality. On the one hand, the interviews, conducted by Lemare, illustrate that some women are able to experience desires and fantasies that are not limited by normative expectations of heterosexuality. Based on sexual orientation alone, “straight” women have little in common sexually aside from their self identification of heterosexuality.

Is this sexual orientation dynamic the same for males?

While woman, in essence, are free to express their sexuality, this same principle is seen as faulty in males. While this may undeniably have something to do with the way society portrays gender roles and expressions, it is also noteworthy to dig deeper into the societal expectations of the genders.

Females are expected to maintain a sense of emphasized femininity. While this term encompasses an array of meanings from domestication to a river of emotions, the term also clings on to the ideas of heteronormative ideologies. Societies view females as being “girly” and, as a means, expect them to participate in activities that correspond with the girl species. This includes playing dress up as a toddler, and eventually evolves into adolescent activities like playing with make up. This linear system set up by society also contributes to the personality traits and mannerisms, both positive and negative, that are linked to females. For example, when considering the word “slut,” what gender comes to mind? When considering the act of prostitutions, what gender also comes to mind? These ideas, of gender traits and contributions, are shaped, in part, by society and leads to the crafting of gender schemas.

When considering the portrayal of negative behaviors possessed by females, one is bound to view Girls Gone Wild as a major source for this depiction. Girls Gone Wild is an adult entertainment company created by Joe Francis in 1997. The company is known for its early use of direct-response marketing techniques, including its late-night infomercials that began airing in 1997. The videos typically involve camera crews at party locations engaging young college aged women who willingly expose their bodies or act “wild“. Since 2008, the Girls Gone Wild (GGW) products have been sold primarily through their website as streaming videos, downloads, and DVDs.

This adds to the conjecture that woman are subjected to sexual exploitation. The Girls Gone Wild sequence also adds to the “slut discourse” that lags behind the perception of many women. With girls making out with girls, and males encouraging the act in the background, the sequence also embraces the acceptance of female fluidity in sexuality and often molds this fluidity into something “hot” and acceptable.

Moreover, men are not expected to maintain this same image of fluidity in sexuality. Societal norms construct an ideology called Hegemonic masculinity, which entails its own separate dynamic in comparison to females. Conceptually, hegemonic masculinity explains how and why men maintain dominant social roles over women, and other gender identities, which are perceived as “feminine” in a given society. This specific ideology also calls for expression in early ages. Boys are expected to like manly things, like cars, “getting dirty,” and being rough. This same belief carries on through adulthood where men are expected to carryout sexual intercourse, being overall dominate over their partners, and projecting a sense of supremacy over females. While society considers lesbian expression as “normal and hot,” males going against anything heteronormative leads to labels like “fag” and “undercover gay (DL).”

In the passage Secret sex and the down low brotherhood, Gayle Rubin argues, “sexual behavior can sometimes be placed on a moral continuum. Some types of sexual behaviors are labeled as good, and some are labeled as bad. What is labeled as good and what bad depends greatly on which individuals and groups have power. In American society, wholesome sex is often limited to consensual sex between same-race couples, preferably married and definitely heterosexual. Individuals whose sexual practices deviate from this ideal are disapproved of to varying degrees, from mild disapprovement to criminalization (382).”

Though Rubin clumps together men and women into the term “individuals,” it is crucial to understand that men and women do not experience this ideology to the same degree. The moral continuum is also shaped by gender expectations, which places a rigid restriction on the sexuality of males. Failure to comply with what is considered masculine or acceptable results in those males being marginalized and considered “gay.”

These differing expectations are not only limited to expressions of sexual orientation, but also remain the center of other social, and even physical, debates. Males and females are always placed in separate categories, which contain their own principles for what is considered immoral and moral.

How does this ideology also play into the bisexual menace and the differing views of men and women expressing bisexual tendencies? How does this argument also play into the idea that females can “outgrow” lesbian tendencies yet males are confined to only their innate sexuality?