What’s Sex Got To Do With… Identity? (Final Reflection)

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.

Advertisements

What Sex Got To Do With….Final Post and Reflection?

Before taking the course, I braced myself for a course that merely discusses sexual intercourse/sexual assault and how those elements impact society in general. I was definitely not prepared for the depth of the concepts, where ideas of sex were linked to heavily conceptualized theories like Marxism and Essentialism. From discussing LGBT politics to discussing the idea of asexuality, a common theme always seemed to resonate with me: heteronormativity is a concept that has a profound effect on our everyday life. It is a concept that we too often see and hear, yet it has become so apart of everyday living that it only has become apart of the norm.

 

This concept has been greatly engrained into our heads throughout the semester, but it was during a specific excerpt by Kristen Barber that I started to find a link between the construction heterosexuality and the power that ultimately comes with it. 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).” Another excerpt of our reading discusses expectations based on gender, where males are expected to maintain a masculine composure while females are expected to act in a feminine manner. Moreover, it largely expected that these two gender roles come together to form a companionship hence the male and female relationship is the most suitable way to fulfill this expectation according to society. In this aspect, this expectation perpetuates the ideologies that are established by heteronormativity.

 

When turning on different movies or watching different shows, it has become extremely difficult for me to not notice how the media highly favors heterosexual relationship and almost marginalizes gays and lesbian relationships. The latter relationships are not seen as the ideal “American dream” family, and this only fosters an environment that sees being gay or lesbian as inferior. For example, in the most popular love story films, men and woman are considered perfect according to the expectations of society. In “the notebook”, for instance, the male has a hyper-masculine personality that seems to only compliment the feminine female character. In “the vow,” these same gender roles are maintained throughout the entire film. These movies, in essence, contribute to the socially constructed idea of heterosexuality and what defines a man and woman in a relationship.

 

Love movies are not the only source of heteronormativity in the American society. As aforementioned in an earlier post, advertisement adds to the idea of what constitutes an ideal straight man’s sexuality and straight woman’s sexuality. We often see fit men who have an immense amount of sex appeal surrounded by females with perfect skinny bodies because that’s societies overall perception of an ideal heterosexual male.

 

So why is this such a important concept in our society? Because it is a concept that surrounds us everyday and, sadly, sexuality is indeed something that determines people’s worth in the American culture.

 

The moral to the story is that this class changed my life. It is not life changing in the sense that I am able to walk away with a large body of knowledge, but I am also actually able to see the concepts come to life on a daily basis. I am actually able to see how heteronormativity is played out and im

American School Systems and Heteronormativity

Americans have this tendency to call certain days/events “the biggest day of my life” or even “the most important day of my life.” We all know this reference usually corresponds to  wedding days, the day of the birth of their first child, or even the day that one buys their first house or apartment. Many people forget that before these events, senior prom was once considered to be one of the most important and memorable experiences of their life.

Senior prom is solely an American tradition. It is a formal dance, as we know, where students come together for socializing, dancing, and food. This dance is often coupled with alcohol and has a firm reputation as night that is filled with sexual intercourse. While this is all extremely problematic, and I could go on an endless tangent about how this connects with our Sex and Society course material, I wanted to analyze another aspect of senior prom: the pressure of finding a date.

Girls and Boys recognize prom as a time for finding the perfect date to go to the traditional event with. They place major importance on who they bring, and see this as an opportunity to seize their own self status based on who they go with and what group they go in. Many people don’t realize that schools have fixed regulations about dates at senior prom, and though it may be an unspoken regulation, schools expect their student body to abide by the established policy. A policy that stands out, in this respect, is one particular one that is the set by a school district in southeast Missouri. The policy declares that “high school students will be permitted to invite one guest, girls invite boys and boys invite girls.” While this high school’s policy seems a little more direct than other school’s policy, they all essentially rally about the same underlying principle: same-sex couples in a formal setting is just not worth the upheaval that it will spark and students must not go against heteronormative values.

Continue reading

What does sex have to do with Gender Norms?

http://media.tumblr.com/5a847a6a9b1d9f943a387547d18f1214/tumblr_inline_na242ncnfW1swsomb.jpg

This class has effectively worked to go against societies standards that are present on and off campus. It has critically analyzed the different aspects of society that address sex and sexuality. The basis of all these topics can be lead back to one of our very first topics covered, gender norms within society. Gender norms are societies view of how females and males are supposed to act and behave; females- innocent and submissive, males- dominates and strong. These gender roles cause society to place expectations on relationships and sexuality. Continue reading

Spotlight on Drag Bingo

IMG_0340

Though Mad Donna’s may seem like your average American restaurant, with typical menu items like queso, chicken wings, mac and cheese, and burgers, walk upstairs and you enter a whole new world. The menu items still remain, but every Tuesday night at 8:30 in the dark lit room the world of drag queens and burlesque shows creates a new atmosphere. The audience has a wide variety of people, from first-timers like us to regulars who dress for the occasions (some in drag, some in wigs) to out-of-towners here to have a fun night out.

Continue reading