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Lecture 4

FEM1100 Lecture 4: The Social Construction of Sexuality

Women's Studies
Course Code
FEM 1100
Mythili Rajiva

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Monday, October 5, 2015
Lecture 4
The Social Construction of Sexuality
Michael Messner. “Becoming 100% straight”
-Studying up vs. studying down in Sociology
-Research on sexuality & sport has been dominated by “how do people become
-This normalizes heterosexuality; it is always invisible, left un-examined or analyzed
-Heterosexuality is actually a complex process
-He and 4 male colleagues (3 straight, 2 gay) examined their own biographical
experiences to uncover how, when & why they “became” heterosexual or didn’t.
-Methodology used: Frigga Haug’s “memory work”: use of researcher’s memories of
a particular subject, which is written about & then analyzed by the group in terms of
the connection between the biographical & historical (personal & political)
-Unconventional, many researchers argue it’s not objective, can’t generalize from
the stories to a larger population.
-strengths of the method: objectivity isn’t the point. Also depends on how we defined
objectivity. And understanding is gained through systematic analysis of the
experiential Some psychological studies argue that even for self-identified
heterosexual men, it’s natural part of development to go through “bisexual” or
“homosexual” stages of life (Kinsey, Freud)
-author initially disagreed, saw himself as 100% heterosexual
-After he started the project, he remembered various incidents that made him
question this 100% identity Herbert Marcuse: the sublimation of homoerotic desire
into an aggressive, violent act as serving to construct a clear line of demarcation
between self and other
-Moments of engagement with hegemonic masculinity; heterosexuality & masculinity
aren’t things people “are” they are things people “do”. Heterosexuality =
performance & institution, not just the act of sex between a man and a woman.
-Asking why some people “become gay” while don’t is a dead-end question
-More important, interesting questions:
1. how has heterosexuality, as an institution & as an enforced group practice,
constrained & limited all of us – gay, straight & bi?
2. how has the institution of sport been an especially salient institution for the social
construction of heterosexual masculinity?
3. why is it that when men play sports they are almost always automatically granted
masculine status, & thus assumed to be heterosexual, while when women play
sports, questions are raised about their “femininity” & sexual orientation?
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