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HREQ 1900 Lecture Notes - Essentialism, Gentle Men, Havelock Ellis

Human Rights and Equity Studies
Course Code
HREQ 1900
Nadiah Habib

of 7
Lecture # 8: Unpacking Concepts of Sexuality II
Women’s sexuality is both varied and fluid.
Women can be heterosexual, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, trans, etc.
Men’s sexuality is both varied and fluid.
Men can be heterosexual, gay, bisexual, transsexual, trans, etc.
In our social environment, heterosexuality is produced as normative
Normative: produced as natural, and normal against which all other expressions of
sexuality are produced as deviant, aberrant and at worst punishable.
In the words of feminist theorist Adrienne Rich heterosexuality is compulsory.
Heterosexuality has always been produced as the norm, an unchanging sexual system that
is universal. Institutions produce and reinforce it (the family, religious institutions,
education, law, etc.)
Compulsory heterosexuality – part and parcel of the dominant ideology
(Dominant ideology so pervasive that it is like fish swimming in water of which fish are
Compulsory heterosexuality: refers to the ideology and social practice that pushes
properly gendered women and men into couples and makes them believe it is a free
Heterosexism does not work only through a negative stance to other sexual practices or
lived lives, but also operates through processes of exclusion
This also works to oppress heterosexuals themselves, since it already determines how one
is to behave as a heterosexual
Women are more induced to ‘find a man’ than men to ‘find a wife’
Once again we need (as with masculinities and femininities) to consider dichotomies or
what we spoke of as binary oppositions.
The world is split in two, where sets of terms become both meaningful and
gendered. And where one term in the pair of supposed “opposites” is always more
highly valued than the other. Usually terms that are associated with (hegemonic) or
dominant masculinity are more highly valued than terms associated with femininity
Fairy tales are one of the early and enduring ways we find out about ourselves, as boys
and girls & as men and women.
Men are subjects of the world and world of fairy tales
Women are objects of men’s desire
Women are feared, hated, desired and worshipped
If we have any doubt: we can look at how girls & women are represented in the dominant
Representation is a clue of the prescription of how to be a girl & woman in our society as
well as a description of what a girl and woman are in our society. As with masculinity,
the narratives available to us about how to be women and girls both discipline and limit
While we have discussed that the category “woman” is not a singular category.
Feminist theorists have argued that it is strategically useful to use the category woman for
politics in order to coherently express mandates for social and political change. This is
known as strategic essentialism. It is nonetheless equally important to know that this
category is a fiction and that women’s lived experience contradicts, challenges and defies
this singular category.
Subjects are produced through representation
But in our world women are produced not as subjects but as objects. Yet, Feminist
theory wants to problematize the category woman and make women the subjects of
feminist theories
Women are often misrepresented or not represented at all
It is therefore not enough to ask how women maybe more fully represented in language
and in politics but we need to ask how is the category women produced? And that
feminist theory is seeking to have women more fully represented in Language and in
politics, yet, the very language and politics that is used by feminist theory to promote
women’s emancipation, works at the same time to prohibit, limit, regulate, control and
even ‘protect’ women in a way that contradicts the very aims of feminist theory.
Juridicial power produces what it claims to merely represent (describe & prescribes at
[the struggle in the Knesset]
It is impossible to separate gender from the political and cultural environment in which
gender is invariably produced and maintained.
In gender theory and queer theory, heteronormativity is the
reinforcement of certain beliefs by many social institutions and social
policies. These beliefs include the belief that human beings fall into
two distinct and complementary categories, male and female; that
sexual and marital relations are normal only when between people of
different sexes; and that each sex has certain natural roles in life.
Thus, physical sex, gender identity, and gender roles should in any
given person align to either all-male or all-female norms, and
heterosexuality is considered to be the only normal sexual orientation.
Heterosexism is a predisposition towards heterosexual people; a
negative attitude toward someone because of her or his sexual
orientation. This is not the same as Homophobia, but rather is the
discrimination towards or against non-heterosexual behavior due to a
cultural bias. Heterosexism suggests that the basis for this bias is not
found in the individual per se but rather has a broader cultural or
biological basis that results in weighted attitudes towards
heterosexuality over other sexual orientations.
what constitutes a slut? Is the term gender specific?
Who gets to acknowledge their desire? men/ women?
why don't young women experience their own desire?
what do they do with it?
women's role is to control and contain men’s desire
the slut/ the virgin/ femme fatale
can a heterosexual man express if another man is good looking? why
-women must sublimate certain feelings to remain in the frame of
femininity (personal desire, etc.) /
men must sublimate certain feelings to remain in the frame of
masculinity (emotions, ect)
-in the Dominant culture, what is considered natural and normal
remains unmarked and invisible, that means if I am heterosexual, I
don’t have to say it. It’s a given. But if I'm gay, it is not a given. I
have to say it. The invisibility of heterosexuality insures its dominance.
I never have to name myself because I am it.
the same applies to issues of ability, racialization, ethnicity, etc.
-contraception. Teenagers are the largest growing group of people
contracting HIV
-in gay communities, people have had to become more comfortable