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.

What’s Sex Got To Do With… Final Thoughts and Reflections Post

 

It’s that time of year again, where students fight it out to the death and with parallels to The Hunger Games, one can only imagine how stressful of a time it is… it’s time to enroll in classes.

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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