sexual orientation

The word “heteronormativity” refers to a persistent privileging of “opposite”-sex couples and the relative invisibility of people who partner with others of their “same” sex.  Halloween costumes are a great example of the phenomenon.  Costumes designed for couples nearly always assume that they need to outfit a man and a woman, not two men or two women.

As an example, here is the main page for couples costumes at Party City.  Notice that all couples represented are heterosexual:

Occasionally the costumes even have heterosexualized themes that metaphorically refer to penile-vaginal intercourse, like this plug and socket costume at Buy Costumes

…and this updated usb and dock costume:

It’s a simple point, but worth observing.  For people who aren’t heterosexual, these Halloween costumes are just one more example of how they aren’t recognized or validated by our society.  We are increasingly accepting of gay people, yet they remain marginal in our collective imagination.

Originally posted in 2012.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

In the U.S., we tend to organize politically according to identities.  For example, we have a Gay Liberation Movement, a Women’s Movement, and the Civil Rights Movement, to name three big ones.  All of these are personal characteristics made political.

The cartoon below, by Miriam Dobson, does a great job of showing one of the downsides of fighting for progressive social change in this way.  For one, it can make people who carry multiple marginalized identities (for example, gay black men) feel unwelcome. And, two, it makes it seem like people without the identity can’t be part of the movement.

One solution is to think about oppressions in terms of intersectionality: we are all a mix of identities that resonate with each other in complicated ways.  This is a rich idea, but one lesson that it has taught us is that the strategy of divide-and-conquer has been an effective way to keep multiple groups marginalized.

Instead of emphasizing identities, we could identify issues. And if our issue is oppression, we can join-to-resist.  As the graphic explains: “oppression of one affects us all.”

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Via Sociology SourceAnother Angry Woman, and The Sociological Imagination.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Screenshot_2Sorry for the spoiler!  The gaze in the Wacoal commercial below, sent in by Kathe L., dances all over the body of a lovely young woman, focusing especially on the curve of her breast alongside the lace of her bra.  She slowly removes her make-up and disrobes, only to reveal a male body underneath.  The message?  A push-up bra so good it can even give men breasts.

I wonder what y’all think.  Does this queer the body?  Is there a transgressive identity behind the gaze?  Or is it just more gimmicky advertising based on normative expectations?  Both?

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

1Excellent Occidental College student Ryan Metzler made a great 7 minute documentary about the decline of heteronormativity. Interviewing me and several other scholars and activists about the history of marriage and the changing definition of family, he offers a quick and optimistic analysis of what it means for this country to be changing.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The Pew Research Global Attitudes Project recently released data on attitudes about homosexuality in 39 countries. Generally, those living in the Middle East and Africa were the least accepting, while those in the Americas, Europe, and parts of Asia (the Philippines, Australia, and to a lesser extent Japan) were most accepting:

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Generally, the more religious a country, the less accepting its citizens are of homosexuality:

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The proportion of people who support social acceptance of gays and lesbians ranged from a high of 88% in Spain to a low of 1% in Nigeria:

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Attitudes about homosexuality vary widely by age. There is a pretty consistent global pattern of more positive attitudes among younger people, with a few exceptions:

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Thus far, legalization of same-sex marriage has been largely confined to the Americas and Europe; New Zealand and South Africa are the two outliers:

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The Pew Center points out that of the 15 nations that have fully extended marriage rights to same-sex couples, 8 have done so just since 2010. In the U.S., we’re currently awaiting a Supreme Court’s decision, which should arrive shortly, to know if we’ll be joining the list sooner rather than later.

Thanks to Peter Nardi at Pitzer College for the link!

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

Here’s an interesting new wrinkle in the data on support for same sex marriage.  According to Gallup, 53% of Americans now favor such marriages, but we don’t necessarily think other people do.  Overall, Americans, on average, think that 63% of their fellow citizens oppose same sex marriage; in fact, 45% do.  That’s an over-estimate of 18 percentage points!

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Interestingly, Americans of all stripes — Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative, old and young — underestimate support for same sex marriage.  Liberals come the closest, thinking that 48% approve; conservatives are the farthest off, thinking that only 16% do.

This data resonates with the recent finding that both Democratic and Republican politicians underestimate their constituents’ progressiveness.  I suspect that these misconceptions may make politicians wary about pressing for progressive policies; I wonder how similar misconceptions among the voting public might shape the pace and trajectory of social change.

h/t @tylerkingkade. Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Dieting is for women.

I mean we all know that dieting and women go together like peas and carrots.  We know this — collectively and together, even if we don’t agree that it should be this way — not because it’s inevitable or natural, but because we constantly get reminded that women should be on diets and dieting is a feminine activity.

@msmely tweeted us a fabulous example of this type of reminder.  It’s a reduced fat block of Monterey Jack cheese, re-named “Monterey Jill.”  There’s curvy purple font and a cow in pearls with a flower, in case you missed the message.  And, oh, on the odd chance you thought that this was about health and not weight, there’s a little sign there with a message to keep you on track: “Meet Jack’s lighter companion.”

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So now we’ve gendered cheese and managed to affirm both the gender binary  (heavy vs. light), heterocentrism (Jack’s companion Jill), and the diet imperative for women.  And it’s just cheese people!  Cheese!

That is all.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Clearly depicting a sexual encounter between two women, this billboard — posted on Doheny Drive in Los Angeles — looks like it would undermine heteronormativity: an invisibility of same-sex sexual and romantic relationships.

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In fact, I don’t think it does.  For one, the aim of the advertisement is to appeal to male consumers. The women’s appearance is in conformity with the demands of the hypothetical heterosexual male gaze.  They have long groomed hair and are wearing sexy lingerie and make-up. They are arching their backs and sticking out their busts and butts. The performance of male gaze-compliant femininity is clear, making the male viewer an implicit part of the advertisement.  This enforces heterosexuality and promotes heternormativity instead of undermining it.

Moreover – and stay with me here – that implicit male manifests himself symbolically in the shaft of the champagne bottle.  The woman’s hand gripping the bottle turns this image into a depiction of a threesome rather than a lesbian encounter. This billboard, then, reinforces heterosexuality instead of disrupting it.

Sianni Rosenstock is a freshman at Occidental College. She is an intended Sociology major and Studio Art minor.