Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Heterosexuality's very hetero

Okay. Short post today (or ever).

I think gender and sexuality are not problematised enough. Let us talk about the "heterosexual" and let us use the example of a woman.

Is this woman attracted to a male, a man or a performer of masculinity?

So is a heterosexual woman attracted to the biological male, the cultural man or the social masculine?

The (stereo)typical Singaporean ethnic Chinese woman may like her "man" to be taller, tanner, leaner and preferably ethnic Chinese or Caucasian. So what do these preferences tell us about heterosexuality then?

If this woman says she is heterosexual, will she prefer the abovementioned "man" to a "man" who is, say, shorter, fatter and ethnic Malay or Indian? Which "man" will figure more in this woman's desires and fantasies? Which "man" is more likely to turn her off?

"Heterosexual" is sometimes a convenient substitute for monosexist, culturo-, physiologico-, socio-economico-, etc. -sexual!

At the same time, does this woman get turned on by a biological male who possess the cultural characteristics of the desirable male, or a biological female or non-human being who is able to perform the very same chracteristics?

If we could assign a percentage to it, how much of her love is for the phallus, for the performance of cultural masculinity, for the potential political/social/economic benefits of their union and so on?

Is our idea of romance and attraction predicated only on sexual function? To what extent do gender performance play a part? Do you fall in love with a gender or a sex?


Glass Castle said...

Good questions Sam. When you break it down like this, it's clear that gender and sex are only two features amongst many that go into the complex reactions and interactions that make up attraction. We commonly think of them as less fluid parts of our relations to others than other features, but are they really? And what does it say about our cultural relations in a wider sense that many people often see sexual possibility only in contexts marked by rigid indicators (sex, gender, race, class, etc. etc.)?

To answer your last question, for my part, in my experience I fall in love with neither a "gender" nor a "sex" but a person... :) That said, despite often feeling it's irrational to close off half the human race that way, I do have a rather dominant preference for men!

- Jolene (www.glass-castle.org)

Glass Castle said...

p.s. Hope your shoulder gets better!

Weiye said...

Reminds me of Anj's question. Do you fall in love with people's genitals? Or the person?

Person perhaps can be interpreted as the social performance (of gender, class, race, etc.) Personality is a form of performance too no? Like performing the act of being a gentleman to be a 'gentleman'. Indeed, I am not a 'person' unless the society recognize me as one.

Like Jolene too, I feel it's irrational to close off 'half' the human race, but yeah, I do have my dominant preference. Does that make me sexist? That was something I asked last semester in Media & Representation.

If according to Butler's argument that everyone is physically sexual, but actively (forced or unforced) (hetero/homo)sexual (assuming that there's only 2 sexes so the bisexuals will be most non-discriminating), am I then not discriminating against whichever 'sex' I have little or no preference for? How can I argue for equality when I practice practice 'inequality'?

That's when I realized that equality should not be restrictive for that will be inequality. Equality to me means that everyone can live their lives the way they want it, even if it means they have only preference for one 'sex' and discriminate the other 'sex(es)'.

It seems quite conflicting though. Oh well. Shall leave out the thinking for now.

Sam Ho said...

thanks, shoulder's getting much better!

i think "(hetero)sexism" is a bit weird. is this "-ism" geared towards privileging the biological, physiological, fashionable or performative?

using the male (owner of the phallus) as an example, how much does society expect him to fall in love with the yoni versus him falling in love with a feminine other (which is not exclusive to biological females)?

Glass Castle said...

Sam, I would have thought the whole point of the existing narrow heternormative(-and-lots-of-other-things-normative) prescriptions is that he is only meant to fall in love with a body which combines both those elements you mention. I would also add that in fact not only is "a feminine other" not "exclusive to biological females", there is no sense in which "biological females" are necessarily even "feminine others" to begin with. So the prescription is this: that he must fall in love with a biological female who is in possession of a laundry list of characteristics all of which go into making up an "approved" feminine-and-female mate. There are all kinds of other elements to the prescription, some of which you touch on here - like appropriate ethnicity - and also some you don't, like relative income or educational attainment, being physically able-bodied, etc., all of which inform what it means to be appropriately gendered and appropriately sexed. (And those requirements of gender and sex also inform how those operate.)

- Jolene (www.glass-castle.org)

Weiye said...

"all of which inform what it means to be appropriately gendered and appropriately sexed. (And those requirements of gender and sex also inform how those operate.)"

Agreed. And to add on, they inform what it means to be appropriately human on a suprastructure.

solvent_d said...

srely it could be a question of class conflation?

- mark

Agagooga said...

I think you will find self-identified heterosexual men going for females who do not conform to traditional female norms a lot more often than self-identified heterosexual men suddenly discovering that they are bisexual or gay.

Female sexuality is a lot more fluid and complex than male, though.