Sex and sexuality
What is the first thought when we hear these two words? Do you identify with it? Have you explored it? Have you explored enough? What’s that gnawing question at the very last bench of your brain. Let’s talk about that. To begin with, there is a noticeable difference between sex & sexuality. Sex in terms of identity is usually thought of as a given and stable. The act of sex has the potential for being a)playful,joyous,erotic,passionate,romantic and creative or b) traumatic,abusive and violative. On the otoher hand sexuality is a broader term that denotes a total sensory exprieince of not just the body(or the genitalia) but also of the mind and the spirit.
A person’s sexuality is influenced by his or her values,attitudes,behavior,physical appearance,beliefs,personality,cultural and social conditioning. Sexuality links the human body with fantasy and desire. There is also the aspect of what is considered desirable over a period of time within specific ethnic,religious and class-based groups. This is where gender mediates our experiences of sex and sexuality in a direct way.
Sex and sexuality therefore have many dimensions-relational,recreational,emotional,physical ,sensual and spiritual. These are all interlinked and can not be separated. Procreation is just one aspect of sexual activities. Although sex and sexuality are analytically distinct terms,the term sex is often used to combine both, besides being used to refer to sexual practice or behavior.
Sexual rights and class
Sexual desire and sexual behavior are both intensely physical and at th same time social processes. They cannot be seen apart from the social fabric such as gender, caste, class, religion, abilities, disabilities.
- The topmost structure that comes in this social fabric is family where the child learns its first lessons in intimacy,love and pain. This is also where the child is introduced to the prohibited and what is allowed
- Religious policing
- Community, ethnicity culture ,religious culture and class
- Then comes on the basis of region and the national political context
- Which gives birth on the conversation of queer discourse, mobilization of sex workers, local and legal frameworks, trafficking, etc.
In popular discourse on sex, penile-vaginal sex is seen as the only natural and legitimate sexual act.both binary ad non binary womenare deeply conditioned to fulfill a mans sexual appetite. Regressive cultural mythology and the deeply ingrained notion of sacred ‘virginity’ act as controls on women’s sexuality particularly in south-asian culture. Patriarchy accomplishes in controlling the women’s identities which are interlinked to sexuality with the purpose of it being as a means to please/satisfy cisgendered heterosexual men.
The Madonna-Whore divide
This dichotomy sees women from two polarizing spectrum where at one end either the women is good,chaste or bad and promiscuous. Often in the heteronormative environment the heterosexual men see the women from just these two lenses. The Madonna-whore dichotomy sees the effect of how this has often impacted their romantic relationships with women, which in general effects the relationship of the heterosexual men in other relations too. Research supports more generally that endorsing traditional gender roles negatively affects sexual satisfaction for both men and women. At the societal level, greater gender equality predicts higher sexual satisfaction across cultures, perhaps because egalitarian societies place greater importance on achieving sexual pleasure and enhancing closeness through sex. Holding a view of women as either Madonnas or whores not only limits women’s sexual expression, but it creates a false dichotomy and impossible standards. It also strips women of their right to pleasure in the same way that men simply expect it, without question.
Gender dynamics play a big role in such a scenario. Trnsgender men and women often find it difficult to be accepted as men or women.A boys’ transgression is not treated as outrageous as that done by a girl. It is seen that fathers “accept” and sometimes even approve of girls as tomboys.Given the deep-preference for a son,a transgendered girl goes through such traumatic experiences in their lives. In today’s time when visiting the importance of sexuality we need to revisit the transgender community and the bisexual community where biphobia and transphobia is something that we hear,read or sometimes even see on daily basis.The education system continues to reinforce the child’s sex and gender identity link recklessly or inadvertently. In most present-day cultures,the core of heteronormativity is formed by sexual difference insisting that humanity can be ‘neatly’ and ‘naturally’ be divided into biological males and females,therefore men and women. As we look at it socially,politically and ideologically the core of this functioning is the binary model of hetero-normativity.Yet,even the body that lies at the heart of this hetero-normative model is never as stable or ‘natural’ as it is made out to be. Intersex people challenge its stability and its resilience. Masculine women and feminine men appears as cracks in this binary structure. Which in turn compels the system to answer what consistutes ‘normal’.
The sex and sexuality difference can be put together in few words at the end of this blog that : ‘Our bodies speak. sometimes they speak differently from the language of the mind,the one made by society and its ideologies. Many a times,the body and the mind could say two different things.’
This post is part of Causeachatter and I am talking about gender.