Francis - On the Myth of Sexual Orientation.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
University College Courses
Scott Rayter

- The idea of sexuality as constitutive of truth, according to Foucault, has made reverse discourse possible where homosexuals speak against the medical and scientific voices that use the existence of homosexuals to establish their legitimacy (1) - This reverse discourse (ex. saying that homosexuality is not sinful or a disease) has been important to the LGBT fight for civil rights (1) - However, this reverse discourse assumes there is a homosexual/heterosexual binary (1) - Many people have taken a very fixed idea of sexual orientation under the idea of anti- homophobia (ex. Saying they're born this way is less homophobic than saying it's a choice, but this reinforces the idea of the binary) (1) - This discourse fails to consider sexual orientation as a cultural or historical construct (1) - The boundaries of sexual categories are constantly shifting in the personal, pedagogical, and historical realms (1) - Sexuality isn't a discovery about a truth contained in oneself but a construction that we can explain by examining history and culture (1) - There has always been discourse that suggests that women's sexuality is biological and binary, but empirical research from as early as a century ago suggests that there is a great deal of complexity and fluidity to female sexuality (2) - The practice of labelling sexuality as identity has served a variety of strategic and contradictory purposes for both the medical and scientific community as well as homosexuals (2) - The knowledge of the instability of the gay/straight binary is often used against gay people by those who want to "cure" them (2) - But even essentialism may hurt homosexuals more than it will help them by allowing parents to abort babies with the "gay gene", if one exists (2) - Perhaps normalization (ie the binaries themselves) is the problem, so deconstruction can be used to think about the discourses of difference and visibility (2) - Discourse locates desire, agency, and personal truth solely in the body, while in reality, it isn't that simple to say that sexual orientation as an entity is innate (3) - The writer was attracted to men for twelve years but was then attracted to women for eleven because she disliked being in a relationship where she was not respected as a partner (3) - She still enjoys masculinity, but she prefers her boys to be girls (3) - She doesn't fully identify with either lesbianism or bisexuality; these are identities she has both claimed and resisted, and these terms are really just strategies to reject heteronormative and misogynist norms (3) - James Baldwin - "As long as I complain about being oppressed, the oppressor is in consolation of knowing that I know my place" (4) - The author served as coordinator to TEACH (Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia) (4) - The whole idea of queer people coming to educate straights about heterosexism reinforces the binary and the idea of normativity (4) - Most antiheterosexism education relies on the narrative of the coming out story, but this narrative reinforces (4) - How can we reduce the heterosexism of the classroom without reinforcing essentialist representations of queer sexuality? (4) - One thing that made it impossible for TEACH to effect real change was that the whole idea of talking about sexualities was considered a "special event" or an "afterthought of inclusion", which is then unable to challenge the everyday heteronormative paradigm (5) - TEACH workshops were considered disruptive or marginal and not given large amounts of time, and the cultural taboo of homosexuality continued to prevent people from fully sharing their experiences (5) - Judith Butler - sexuality and gender are embodied but not essentialist social practices (5) - When this embodied self is unsettled, ex through TEACH workshops, people feel discomfort because their sexual and gender identities are being questioned (5) - This is because the identity is always at risk of being undone, and it "knows" of this risk, so it fears any questioning of this identity - "heterosexual panic" (5) - Feminist, anti-racist, and queer historical narratives suggest that mainstream "objective" narratives are biased and written only from one standpoint and thusly not universally applicable (6) - Sexuality has often been theorized as pathological, so historical records of homosexuality often focus on sin or criminality, while other viewpoints have been removed from records through vandalism and suppression (6) - Historians try to find a subaltern (outside of the hegemonic class) perspective in historical societies where the only account available is that of the dominant class (ex in ancient societies where the poorer classes might have been illiterate) (6) - Gayatri Spivak - historians must read against the grain of these historical accounts by looking for difference within the text of elite accounts instead of looking for another identity (6) - The only way we can find an accurate picture of historical sexuality is to map the techniques by which homosexuality has been marked as different and pathological and then locate resistances to this homophobia (6) - Factors in the Sex Life of Twenty-Two Hundred Women - published in 1929 by Katherine Davis, who studied female graduates from college and university and members of women's clubs, who were white and middle or upper class (7) - So Davis' research reflected and perpetuated racist and classist assumptions about the sexuality of other less "respectable" women (7) - The reason why this study got funding was because of conservative social attitudes at the time which favoured the abolition of prostitution and eradication of venereal disease (7) - Ironically, the results of the study cast doubt on "respectable" women's ability to fit in with social sexual norms, which is the opposite of what it intended (7) - Many "experts" at the turn of the century considered white bourgeois women to be passionless, but the Davis study demonstrated that they were much more sexual than people believed (7) - More than 50% of single women in the study had intense emotional relationships with other women and 26% in the entire group of married and unmarried women had had sexual relations with other women (7) - Very few historians in women's sexuality in turn of the centuryAmerica speak of the Davis report at any length, because "early romantic friendships need not have been sexual" (although many were) (
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