Sexuality: Chapter 10
o Guest Presenter: Rees Nam
o Centre for Women and Trans People, York University
o The Centre for Women and Trans People ("the Centre") is a student-funded,
collectively run, volunteer-driven organization at York University. We are a
progressive, pro-choice, anti-racist, queer-positive, trans-positive, feminist
organization committed to: …
Video Recommendation from Ameera
o Canadian documentary about a boy (David Reimer) who had his genitalia
severely damaged during the circumcision process in infancy, and as a result
of this his parents decided to remove his remaining genitalia and
raise/socialize him as a 'girl'. The documentary touches on difficulties during
childhood in terms of his gender identity and later on becoming aware of the
fact that he was born a male. It also discusses his choice to make the
transition back to 'male' and the hardships he had faced as a result of this
decision. The ending is quite tragic, but I found it to be very relevant to what
was covered in last lecture.
o Who was Miss G?
The Story of Miss G
o The Miss G Project
o Further Off the Straight and Narrow
o New Gay Visibility on Television, 1998-2006
o Canadians spend a considerable amount of time thinking about sex.
o A key-word Internet search of ‘Sex—Canada’ came up with more than 129
o Sociology has done much less thinking about sexuality until relatively
o There is general agreement that only in the 1960s did sociology begin to
study sexuality. o Important sociological theorizing decades ago built the foundation for
current thinking on the subject.
o When sociologists write about‘sex’, they are conventionally* referring to the
biological facts associated with being born male or female (anatomical facts,
hormonal facts, etc.). [*Recall our discussion last class.]
o People generally tend to differentiate people as male or female despite the
knowledge that these categories are not mutually exclusive.
o Some people are born with ambiguous genitalia.
o Those who are intersexed possess bodies that do not fit with our traditional
discourses of sexual difference.
o Intersexed people comprise approximately 2 to 4 per cent of children.
o Our society has little tolerance for ambiguity.
o When children possess ambiguous genitalia, we typically reconstruct it to fit
into existing notions of male and female.
o Sexuality is, therefore, a political and social issue.
o Because our society dichotomizes sex, we also tend to dichotomize sexuality,
sexual identity, and sexual orientation.
o Many aspects of our lives are built on the assumption that ‘normal’ people
are heterosexual. This is known as heteronormativity.
o According to the World Health Organization, sexuality includes sex, gender
identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy, and
o It is experienced in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values,
behaviours, roles, and relationships.
o The World Health Organization (WHO) also adds that sexuality is influenced
by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political,
cultural, ethical, legal, historical, religious, and spiritual factors.
o Packaging people into boxes leads to sexism and homophobia.
o Sexism refers to the subordination of one sex by another.
o Homophobia refers to the irrational fear and/or hatred of homosexuals and
o Essentialism is the idea that people have cores or essences that are natural,
normal, and inevitable.
o Many believe that masculinity and femininity are essences that all people
Sex and Spirituality
o Sex and sexuality have been closely linked among some cultures and belief
o Most religions have had something to say about sexual, procreative‘nature’.
o Many cultures have had sacred male and/or female prostitutes.
o Many North American Aboriginal societies had transgendered or two-
spirited shamans or healers who possessed spiritual qualities.
o Five sexes, Revisited by Anne Fausto-Sterling
o In China, sex was seen as a form of worship that led to immortality. o In India between the third and fifth centuries CE, the Kama Sutra was written.
It equated spirituality with spontaneity in sex.
Sociology of Sex
o Sociologists frequently stress the social and cultural relativity of norms
surrounding sexual identity and roles.
o Sociologists understand sexuality as connected to cultural, political, legal,
moral, and ethical phenomena.
o Irvine has identified five broad themes in the sociology of sexuality.
o The denaturalization of sexuality (a shift away from biological