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Social Science
SOSC 1900
Nadiah Habib

Unpacking Concepts of Sexuality I 1 -discussion of Sarah Baartman and continuation of last week’s lecture Women’s sexuality is both varied and fluid. Women can be heterosexual, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgendered, pansexual, celibate, etc. Men’s sexuality is both varied and fluid. Men can be heterosexual, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgendered, pansexual, celibate, polyamorous 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 unaware) 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 choice 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’ 1 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 culture. 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 us. 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
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