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Gender Roles/Sexuality Update

Gender Roles/Sexuality Update

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“(G)iven large changes in gender roles over the last 40 years, surely heteronormative scripts have changed, with men desiring more egalitarian sexual scripts and their woman partners initiating sexual encounters or even playing the sexually dominant role.” (Hill)

Gender roles in society have continued to change cross-culturally throughout the years. These changes have included breaking stereotypes and changing levels of social acceptability on each front. Prior to World War II women having a voice and influence in society was a rarity; today it is expected. Less than fifty years ago, it was unheard of to accept a feminine homosexual male relationship in society; today laws are being passed to grant marriage rights to these individuals. As the gender roles have continued to change within society, so have definitions and acceptance of sexual identities.
In the anthropological study written by M. Kay Martin and Barbara Voorhies (released by the Columbia University Press), the authors discuss females of different species. The authors indicate that “as the sexual life of women falls under the control of society, so sexual activity for women becomes a social obligation symbolically detached from individual gratification” in agricultural societies. (Martin) This suggests that the role given to females in an agricultural society not only obligates a woman’s perceived sexuality, but gives no room for deviance from this female gender role. In many societies, sexuality is assumed and accepted to be hetero in nature; to deviate from this is considered immoral or unnatural in many places. However, more recent research indicates this idea of non-heterosexual behavior as more “natural” than popular acceptance warrants.
To further discuss the idea of gender roles determining sexual identity one must consider how general gender stereotypes influence a person’s activity and perception. A stereotypical male can be characterized by watching sports, degrading women, and drinking beer. Contesting these stereotypes sometimes encourages other males to banter, accusing the deviant of being “less of a man” or having homosexual tendencies. In juxtaposition, women are expected to play traditionally submissive roles in family and career aspects; their physique is expected to be “feminine” with soft features and long hair. Women characterized as having a “softball player look” with broader shoulders and or short hair are sometimes characterized as “butch.” These women are identified as lesbians based on their dominance or physique.
In a gender study of heterosexual males, Darryl Hill examines considerations and consequences of breaking these stereotypes:
“One of the potential difficulties a feminine man may encounter when trying to establish heterosexual relations is that, due to gender and sexuality stereotypes, specifically the heteronormative imperative, women may stereotype the feminine man as homosexual, and therefore he is not seen as a potential sexual partner. Yet consider this: in popular literature, it seems that nontraditional men are "just gay enough" (McLaren, 2001) to be extremely desirable to heterosexual women.” (Hill)
When an individual makes the decision to behave a certain way, he or she is sometimes forced to accept the consequences that go along with it.
Sexual identity is like many other concepts of identity. Individuals identify themselves sexually based on sexual and romantic attraction. (Feminism.org) Homosexuals may identify with the opposite gender and therefore dress or feel more comfortable taking on the masculine or submissive role; of course, assuming sexuality on these behaviors is impossible as sexuality is something personal and unknown to others until one discloses it.
As a result of social norm acceptance of gender roles, negative consequences sometimes incur when breaches are made. “Anyone who does not abide by these arbitrary rules may be targeted for mistreatment ranging from not being included in people's circle of friends, through the cold shoulder, snide comments, verbal harassment, assault, rape, and murder based on one's (perceived) sexual identity.” (Feminism.org)
As education continues to rise on the issue of non-heterosexuality, more efforts are made to stop ignorant treatment of these individuals. Through new studies—such as Queer Theory, which examines gender identity and sexuality—we continue to understand and redefine what will be accepted as “normal.” However, as Professor Alfred Kinsey encountered in the early 1900s, questioning social constructs of sexuality is an uphill battle with society. Luckily, with new voices being heard speaking on behalf of non-heterosexuals this necessary research will be continued and the social acceptability of gender roles and sexuality can be redefined.


Works Cited
Hill, Darryl . ““Feminine” Heterosexual Men: Subverting Heteropatriarchal Sexual Scrips.” Journal of Men’s Studies 14 no2 142-59. Spring 2006.
Feminism.org. “Sexual Identity and Gender Identity Glossary.” Feminism and Women’s Studies. February 11, 2005. Accessed October 7, 2006.
<http://feminism.eserver.org/sexual-gender-identity.txt>
Martin, M. Kay, Voorhies. Female of the Species. Columbia University Press, NY 1975
  • Yay for Queer Theory reference! It never hurts to let a teacher see that you've cited Kinsey or Simone de Beauvoir, either, if you haven't already submitted your paper.
    • I haven't submitted it. I'm not going to use Kinsey, but I'll look into Simone de Beauvoir. Thanks!
      • I named my little girl kitten Simone after Simone de Beauvoir. As sociologists, my girlfriend and I really respect her influence.

        We were going to name the little boy 'Jean-Paul' or 'Sarte' because Simone and Jean-Paul were an item, but that seemed a little incestuous, lol!

        We ended up naming the boy 'Quasi', btw. It's a 'sort of' nice name, haha! (actually we called him that because he has a hunch like Quasimodo, but I like the equivocation)
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