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.
This Buzzfeed article featured men imitating Instagram pictures posted by women. The article pokes fun at the Instagram photos stereotypically posted by women and includes posts titled “the cozy coffee shot”, “the skinny arm pose and/or the sorority squat pose”, the “eat clean/green smoothie selfie” and more. Even without seeing the actual posts and just reading the titles, one can understand the mockery being used. Although I found this article to be amusing and fairly accurate :), I found it to be an incredibly obvious representation of gender stereotyping and also representative of a heteronormative society that clearly separates men and women in this way.
As we have discussed in class, men and women have different norms in many aspects society. Femininity and masculinity are terms that describe women and men accordingly and behaviors that are perceived to conflict with one’s sex and/or gender are considered abnormal.
The men in this article post these pictures in a way that exhibits themselves in a “feminine manner” and reinforces the differences in gender norms how these posts of men acting or presenting themselves in a “feminine” way is comical and should be laughed at.
This article was actually sent to me by my friend who thought this was extremely funny. Although the post is not particularly offensive or meant to hurt anyone, it does highlight hyper masculinity as it laughs at men doing “feminine things” such as taking pictures with coffee and puppies and “selfies” at the gym. This might be offensive to men that identify as feminine or perhaps homosexual men by mocking these behaviors and pointing out their absurdity with humor.
This article definitely relates to the topics discussed in class and the gender differences that both exist and are reinforced in this society. Social media such as Instagram continues to be a source for these norms and stereotypes to flourish.
Nick Jonas has come into popularity once again. All of our inner sixth graders squealed when those magazine pictures came out…you know which ones.
BUT we’re not here to talk about the pictures
Many rumors have been going around the media about Bruce Jenner transitioning into a woman. Once the world’s best athlete, a label that fits the definition of masculinity perfectly, now transitioning into a female through surgical modification of his masculine features is something nobody would have ever guessed to happen to him.
“Cheered on by a wildly whooping and whistling crowd of 70,000, the United States’ Bruce Jenner grimaced his way across the finish line late last Friday afternoon to claim the one Olympic honor more precious than gold: the title of “the world’s greatest athlete.” (Time.com) Bruce Jenner was, and still is, one of the most well-respected athletes of all time. He won a gold medal and set a world record in the decathlon at the Summer Olympics of 1976. Competing in the decathlon is the ultimate test of strength, agility, and true athleticism, consisting of 10 track and field events. Setting a world record in this at the Summer Olympics defines him as the world’s best athlete, a label that fits perfectly in the definition of “masculinity”.
This idea brings up the overarching question, which we have talked a lot about in class, of what defines “masculinity” and what defines “femininity” and who defines these traits?
Masculine traits tend to include dominance, a lack of showing emotion, being the bread winner of the family, physical strength, independence, and security in himself. Feminine traits, on the other hand, tend to include being weaker than the male (where did this idea come from?), more emotional, physical attractiveness, caring about their physical appearance, and usually working at home and caring for children. The overarching question is this: why are masculinity and femininity defined as stated, and how did it become this way?
Personally, I believe that it started with the primary, biological trait that men are physically stronger than women. God made them this way, and there is nothing females can do about this. But the idea that they are physically dominant over women makes them feel like they should be mentally dominant over them as well. This is where the extreme difference in traits comes from. It comes from the idea that men are the ones going out and bringing home the money for the families, and the women are the ones that stay at home and cook, clean, and take care of the children.
I realize that this video is from TMZ and TMZ is never truly justified, but I believe this video is a great representation of all of the changes Bruce has made to himself to make himself more “feminine”. From the plastic surgery in his face, to his hair, to the shaving of his adams apple (something considered to be a true, masculine feature), to his painted nails, his changes are a great representation of how the world describes femininity.
The overarching question is as stated: how did “masculinity” and “femininity” gain their separate traits? Henceforth, besides the media who defines these traits today?
“Ho told me the other she sent a nigga to jail. I thought it was legal to beat your hoe.” These are the opening lines to Kevin Gates hit single ‘Sposed to be in Love. He goes on to describe the current state of affairs between him and his significant other. In short, the young lady has decided that she no longer wants anything to do with Mr. Gates. She has even moved his belongings out of her home as a show of her seriousness in her decision to cut all ties with the narrator. In response to the young lady’s refusal to have anything more to do with him ,he declares that they are “supposed to be in love and ain’t no breaking up, and there ain’t no walking out”.
Throughout the song, Mr. Gates alternates between telling listeners that he will not allow his significant other the luxury of leaving him alone and describing the behaviors that led her to want to leave him. These behaviors include violence as well as lying and general mistreatment of her. This song reinforces the ideals of heterosexuality and power that plays out in our society everyday.
In her article Sex and Power, Kristen Barber argues that hetero-sex is a mechanism by which men dominate women. She goes on to say that in order to understand the subordination of women in the United States, one must analyze the practice of heterosexuality. Heterosexuality enforces gender norms where men dominate women and women are supposed to adhere unquestioningly to this dynamic of male empowerment and female dis-empowerment. In ‘Sposed to be in Love, we can see this dynamic at play. This song depicts a man exercising his dominance over his female partner. She no longer loves him and has decided to leave, but as the dominant party in the situation he feels as though it is his right to set the parameters of their relationship. Including, but not limited to, whether or not she can leave him. Rap music and songs like this specifically make way for such misogyny to thrive.
This begs the question:What will have to be done before our society can see a balance in gender roles??
Earlier this week, we viewed the “I AM UNBEATABLE” collection at the gallery. The mission of I AM UNBEATABLE is to raise awareness and prevent domestic abuse against children and women. The pictures were very powerful. One of the most moving pictures was a picture of both a mother and a daughter lying in their caskets. They were the victims of a fatal case of domestic violence perpetrated by the mother’s boyfriend. Continue reading
As you already know, society expects a super hero to be big and strong, with a physique that can be unstoppable by any villain or threat against a city. But that idea varies from gender to gender. Throughout comic books and movies, the female body is highly sexualized in a way that makes them look not able to protect themselves or their cities; while the male body is depicted in a way that in order to be viewed as masculine, one must have extreme muscle and power. These forms of media, and probably many others with animated characters Continue reading
Following the Women’s Liberation Movement of 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, women have been encouraged to embrace their freedoms. However, I think that it is very paradoxical that the same society telling women that we should be all that we can be is the same society that has continually placed so many restrictions on what we can be, who we can be, or how we can be. Society has dictated to women that we must act in accordance to its rules to maintain the heteronormative world in which we inhabit and by doing so, has placed limitations on the livelihood of women. This can be seen in several realms of everyday life including the social aspect. Furthermore, an aspect of women’s social lives that is greatly affected by society’s regulation is their sexual lives.
In her article “Adolescent girls’ sexuality: the more it changes, the more it stays the same” Deborah Tolman defines sexual subjectivity as “having a sense of oneself as a sexual person who is entitled to have sexual feelings and to make active decisions about sexual behavior.” While this idea may seem “common sense,” a deeper look into today’s society reveals that sexual subjectivity is only granted to certain individuals. In her artictle, Tolman makes the argument that society should teach women to have desires, not to be desired. As adolescents, girls are taught that there are “good” girls and “bad” girls. The creation of such parallels with and enforces the belief that “good” girls are considered “normal” while “bad” girls are considered “deviant.” Good girls are defined as girls who behave in agreement with and conforms to society’s heterocentric standards in which women are characterized as straight, docile, and abstinent. “Bad” girls are characterized by their rebellious behavior which may include engaging in premarital sex, having several sexual partners, or engaging in what is considered homosexual behavior. Thus, instead of learning to be sexual, women are taught to be sexy, or as Tolman would put it, women are sexually socialized by society and miss the opportunity to experience sexual socialization on their own terms. To combat these issues, Tolman suggests that society begins to think about the development of sexual well-being as essential during adolescence in hopes that it will foster across our lifetimes. All in all, women should learn to define both what and who they consider desirous, for society teaches us that the right way to be sexual is to be a feminine woman who participates in intercourse with a masculine man.
An interesting point in Tolman’s article comes when she writes “Tackling demands for masculinity in boys that have harmful consequences for girls as well … will be part of the task of articulating and securing sexual rights for teenage girl” (Tolman 157). This statement tells us that as a result of not being able to express sexual subjectivity or experience sexual socialization, women are sexually objectified as props for men and their desires; this aligns perfectly with the idea that women are taught to be desirous and sexy. Seeing as how “sex is about male dominance and female subordination,” (Barber 45) it is easy to see how this is an example of a power based relationship. Sometimes, men think that as men, it is their God-given right to have sex with women when in actuality, that is not the case. Though society does not explicitly come out and tell men that they are entitled to every woman, I think that it would be safe to make the assumption that because society does teach men to view women as subordinate and sexual objects, men grow to view women as just that- a subordinate object. Sometimes, this can result in very violent and sometimes fatal events occurring.
According to the Rape,Abuse, and Incest National Network, 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Another alarming statistic is that 9 out of 10 rape victims are females. So, what does this say about rape? I think that these statistics definitely suggest that there is indeed a correlation between rape and gender. As Dr. Chapman stated in class, bodies who are read as female are more susceptible to being raped. In my opinion, all of the issues mentioned by Tolman, including sexual objectification,sexual socialization, heteronormativity, and sexual subjectivity, play a part in exacerbating this newfound rape culture.
Rape culture as we know it is described as a culture in which “people are surrounded with images, language, laws, and other everyday phenomena that validate and perpetuate rape. Rape culture includes jokes, TV, music, advertising, legal jargon, laws, words and imagery, that make violence against women and sexual coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is inevitable. Rather than viewing the culture of rape as a problem to change, people in a rape culture think about the persistence of rape as “just the way things are.” Many times, rapes are justified using heteronormative logic. For instance, the concept of “slut-shaming” which is used to describe the act of making a person, especially a woman, feel guilty or inferior for certain sexual behaviors, circumstances or desires that deviate from traditional or orthodox gender expectations, or that which may be considered to be contrary to natural or religious law. The concept of slut-shaming parallels with the “good girl” “bad girl” argument that Tolman makes in her article. If a girl is considered “bad,” society will more readily blame her for that rape and excuse the behavior of the man using the logic that it is just in the nature of men to be hypersexual. Because it is in men’s nature to be hypersexual, society teaches women that we should “protect” ourselves. For instance, women should not wear short/tight clothing, for that may arouse a man. If women wear “revealing” clothing, then they are, in so many words, asking to be raped. This is an example of how society inhibits women’s ability to experience sexual subjectivity.
While Tolman’s article was very intriguing, I do believe that Tolman left out some important issues. I think that it would have been interesting to compare the differences in the development of girls’ sexualities from different racial backgrounds. For instance, I believe that society views certain female bodies (black) as more sexual. This then raises the question that if these black women’s rights as a sexual being are violated, will those rights be protected or will their rights be denied because society views them as hypersexual? Does the law protect, in the case of rape, all women’s sexual rights equally or are the sexual rights of certain women more important than others’?
It’s interesting to analyze how our minds work in regards to sexuality and race. As we have seen with sexuality, society loves to group people into binaries and categorize them based on their perceived stereotypes. Hetersexual folk go on one end of the spectrum, gays go on the other side, and bi-sexuals are cast out because it’s too difficult to categorize them easily. After learning about this societal impulse it was no surprize to me when I read about racial stereotypes involving Asian males, in Travis Kong’s, “Sexualizing Asian Male Bodies”. Continue reading