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May 14, 2009

HIstorical Gender through Fashion

Jeffrey Weeks quoted Vern Bullough that "sex in history was a virgin field" (Weeks 19) and that sexuality is a product of history. Weeks argues that sexuality is a socially designed and enforced construct, rather than a biologically identifiable constant. Fashion provides support of changeable, wieldable sexuality. Throughout history, fashions show that fluctuating taboos, defined by those in power, directly alter the social contract (Dillon).
King Louis XIV implemented court-mandated fashions, though courtiers and citizens seem to have always followed their leaders, to distract and impoverish power-threatening nobles. During the reign of King Henry VIII, both men's and women's clothing admired a traditionally masculine figure. Padded broad shoulders and chests tapered into smaller, corseted waists and hips. His daughter, Elizabeth, has been largely lauded by feminists for her powerful, progressive reign. Corsets during that time began moving toward the more recognizable hourglass shape, above bum rolls and farthingales that flared the hips. Men's breeches widened at the hips into pumpkin-like shapes, and jewelry, like single ear piercings hung with pearls, gained popularity again.

One of the most glaringly obvious morality-based styles is the white wedding dress. White dresses were almost never made before the nineteenth century because bleaching the fabrics was prohibitively expensive. A woman wore her best dress to marry. Only the very rich could afford white gowns, and some did, to prove the wealth they were bringing to the union. Late in the nineteenth century, Queen Victoria sported white at her wedding, sparking a trend. Largely seen as an example of strict Victorian morals, it quickly became associated with purity rather than wastefulness. The Great Depression largely eliminated pricey white evening gowns except for weddings. With the elimination of laws protecting virginity during engagement, providing a white trousseau and visually demonstrating purity gained importance in the wedding ceremony (Epstein 1). Currently, white is considered mandatory for all traditional wedding ceremonies and certain officiants refuse to perform marriages for brides wearing other colors. White is considered "traditional", despite gaining popularity barely a century earlier (except in Jewish weddings, where white for bride and groom has symbolized purity for over two thousand years), and white considered too "bridal" for evening wear, despite remaining popularity until the 1940s. Film might have influenced an identifiable costume.
It's important to note that men's wedding fashions have always been restricted to the most formal clothing for the ceremony's time of day, somewhat contradicting Jackson and Scotts' assumption that men's sexuality is not constricted since men have been predominantly in power. I worked at a tuxedo rental shop and can say that men are currently extremely unhappy with their socially enforced attire. Men, and occasionally women, in power have swayed the expression of gender and sexual status for everyone, and those not fully conforming to plus-5 standards were all affected, including poor, uneducated and/or homosexual men.

Continue reading "HIstorical Gender through Fashion" »

February 12, 2009

Blog #1


Weeks discusses sexual normatively and what our culture defines as normal. An interesting point made in his argument is the paradoxes that we can see in sexuality and sex in our culture. Sex is supposed to be something that is personal, but we have made it very public and political, even though our society isn’t necessarily comfortable speaking out loud about it. Weeks focuses on what is happening and not necessarily what is right or wrong. I think this is a more realistic approach on sexuality because it allows history to define how our culture is progressing regarding sexuality. Scott and Jackson speak about radical, liberal, and political lesbians and what defines each of them. Radical lesbians versus liberal lesbians show a difference between wanting equality and wanted superior authority of women and men. The political lesbians, on the other hand, are for female empowerment, but not necessarily lesbians. I think the importance about understanding the grouping of these lesbians is noticing the public and private aspects that surround them. The political lesbians aren’t lesbians, although they carry most of the same beliefs of the other lesbians, they want to make public that they are not homosexual. This is an example of making known sexuality and making it necessary for society to be aware of their sexual orientation. Scott and Jackson also call upon the paradox of political and personal ideas about sex by using echoes of queer theory. Blurring the lines of gender, sex and sexuality definitely make the topic of sexuality harder to define, but this also forces our society to deal with sexuality out loud. I think Scott and Jackson are making a point to force sexuality to be spoken about and want to make awareness about sexuality that may not be defined as normative, but should become more public in our society in order for history to progress positively.

February 9, 2009

Socially Constructed Sexuality

Weeks does not believe that sexuality is something that is derived from human biology alone. While he acknowledges that interaction between men and women has a biological, reproductive context, he goes on to point out that many aspects of human sexuality do not lead to reproduction. From this, he reasons that there are other elements of human culture that construct these other aspects of sexuality. He explains that societies construct sexuality in their own ways over time. Each time and place has a different set of circumstances that lead to peoples of that era viewing sex and sexuality in varying ways. Cultures construct sexuality by naming certain acts, interactions, and situations as being sexual in nature. In this way, different societies create different cultural/sexual norms. For example, the viewing of homosexuality as taboo varies across cultures. Some entirely condemn it while others accept it in certain cases in its entirety. Even incest has been encouraged in some western societies that are concerned with preservation of royal bloodlines. In regards to history, Weeks says that, “[sexuality] does not exist outside history, but is a historical product.? Quite honestly, I’m not entirely sure what he means by this, but I imagine that the fact that old social norms on sexuality hold strong though time unless changed by revolution may have something to do with it.
Such a perspective seems to be present In Jackson and Scott’s ‘Feminism and Sexuality’. The authors point out the long standing double standards endured by women. They also make reference to the longstanding western ‘heterosexist’ way of thinking.

Blog One

Jeffrey Weeks is a sociologist who asserts that our understanding of sexuality is constructed through historical processes and cultural discourses. In the pair of articles that we read by Jeffrey Weeks, he attempted to express how these factors have caused our society to become sexually repressive. In his article titled, “The Languages of Sex,? Weeks explores how the work of the first sexologists led to the development of a certain discourse for sexuality (i.e. a certain way of talking and thinking about the subject). In an attempt to discover the so-called “truths? of sexuality, these sexologists actually just impaired society and the ability of its members to obtain sexual pleasure by defining norms as to how sex should be performed. The ideas of these sexologists have become embedded in our society and way of thinking. As Weeks argues on page 16, “Existing languages of sex… set the horizon of the possible.? I think that Weeks’ critique of the sexologists, and the effect of their ideas on society, is valid. By attempting to treat sex as a hard science with definite answers and ways of doing things, the sexologists have limited the ways in which the members of society can carry out sexual desires. The combined forces of history and cultural discourses have also led to the labeling of certain sexualities as wrong. Many individuals argue that the limited sexual freedom allowed for by the heternormative model is harmful to the sexual health of our society.
The idea of feminism picks up on the idea that the limited sexual freedom allowed for by heteronormativity has been harmful to members of society (women in particular). Many feminists believed that penetrative sex (the norm in heterosexual relationships) was unfair, as women did not receive the pleasure they deserved. Jackson and Scott explain, “Heterosxuality was seen as an institution through which men appropriated women’s bodies and their labor? (13). This quote implies that the subordination of women to men that occurred in the bedroom was the basis for the more general subordination of women to men in society.

Blog Response

My impression of the arguments put forward by Weeks was that every way in which we discuss, dissect or otherwise examine sexuality is really a reflection of ourselves and our own cultural background. Rather than coming to any sort of deeper truth about human sexuality or what may result from it, discourses muddy the water, obscuring whatever truth we may be trying to find. In order to better relate to the people around us, experts will put define and mold other peoples behaviors into something that more people can relate to. This process can, in some circumstances lead to more understanding between people. But more often than not it only forces people into certain categories and stereotypes which they may or may not have chosen for themselves. It is this discourse which has led to the often harsh distinctions between the perceived “normal? heterosexual and the “abnormal? homosexual. This sort of predetermined sexuality has been established by cultural practices and is perpetuated by our cultures. The clear opposites of clothing and behavioral standards have been set for the young child, who has been taught to never cross the line and risk becoming an outcast.
There are clear references to Weeks’ idea of sexuality being purely socially constructed throughout the Jackson & Scott essay. As they discuss the political revolution of the 60’s and 70’s they showcase the feminist movement’s efforts to break free of the long-held standard of the subordination of women. They also give the one belief common to all feminists, “…belief in the social origins of women’s oppression…? This focal point in directly in line with Weeks idea, of sexuality, being a product of societies and cultures, and that women have come to be oppressed by the tides of common opinion and established social norms.

Blog 1.

Weeks successfully exposes himself as not looking for the "kernal of truth" that many philosophers, such as Foucalt, was trying to identify with Enlightenment ideals. Instead, Weeks is interested in what is going on with the sexual norms. By abandoning Foucalt's "Repressive Hypothesis," Weeks explains how we can better understand the mechanism of power and its three axis' at any time period (Invention of Sexuality, 36.) Weeks suggests the three axis' being Sex vs. Class, Gender, and Race. Social studies cannot be completely understood without the study of sexuality through these axis'. Additionally, Weeks shows that while social norms change over time and space, so do the expectations of people in society concerning sexuality.
Jackson's and Scott's writings also show evidence of this perspective in their writing. Additionally, Jackson and Scott focus on the argument of whether female sexuality is socially constructed or not. Those arguing base female sexuality upon three things: 1. Male Dominance, 2. Sexual Desires at a level of individual subjectivity, and 3. Varialbilities of desires. Additionally, the varibility of desires is focused on the idea that sexuality is socially and historically cultured. If those studying sexuality can demonstrate that sex is not the same for all cultures, they also can argue that sexuality is subject to change, just as Weeks had suggested social norms are subject to change. If change can be clearly shown, the potential of future transformations is understood.

Blog 1

Monkey see, monkey do. We as a whole grow and develop by mimicking others. We think and act the way we do because at one point or another we have seen another do the same and it looked like a good thing to us. So thus it is only natural that we get our sexuality ideas from those before us and those currently around us. As we grow as a race, theories expand and categories multiply and become more narrow and distinct. Weeks argues that the study of sexuality should be studied through the scopes of anthropology, sociology and historians, for the time and place dictate the definition of sexuality. After all sexuality is used to categorize one, to place a label on oneself so another can fit one into a box and know how to react and respond to you. The connotation of the way one defines oneself and others define you can tell a lot about the time, for the negative or positive connotations the category holds reflects on the progression, liberalism and economic status of that in which one lives.
The argument is that sexuality has its grasp on everything. It influenced and influences class, gender, religion ect. As well as plays a major factor in telling where you sit on the social hierarchy of your society. Weeks thinking of conversation, speech and liberalism of society’s thoughts form how we talk/identify/react to sexuality and what we as a whole dictate as the norm can be strengthened by the feminist movement. The feminist wants to break away from the norms , to release woman from the chains and sexual parameter society has placed upon them. Destroy the norms, the gender roles and politicize sex. Which all can be seen through the scope Weeks advocates. Women were suppressed by the discourses forced upon them, sex was a private not woman thing, women were to be housewives and should be supported by man. One can also look at what was going on at the time as well, the hippie movement, ending of the war (during the war women were given more freedom and liberation from the housewife role since bodies were needed to support the demand created by the fighting) and the return to the 1920’s idea of housewife. All in all Weeks thoughts on sexuality can be used to explain the feminist movement and why it boomed during the time it did.

~Blog One

~Blog Assignment One
Weeks argues that sexuality is constructed through historical processes and cultural discourses for the reason that he believes that sex and sexuality have been shaped by time and what time entails: change. Weeks states that, “…sex in history was a ‘virgin field’,? which indeed it was. Sex and sexuality were not discussed openly in the past, and seeing that people were obviously procreating, it was happening under a mask from the media and also historical knowledge itself, neglecting its existence. Jackson and Scott include evidence of this same theory in their writings. They say in their piece Feminism and Sexuality that their objective was to, “reproduce material which is representative of the diversity of feminist theory and politics illustrative of some of the shifts in perspective which have occurred over the last two-and-a-half decades.? They agree with Weeks belief that views on sex and sexuality have changed over time, and feminist’s general and political views on this subject are also transforming.

One interesting example Jackson and Scott discuss is how social and hierarchical relationships between men and woman have been changing, or some may say improving. The old and often closed minded public view of the past would believe that yes, men and women in heterosexual relationships are improving their sex lives and sexuality with new knowledge of masculinity and femininity. Jackson and Scott explain how this is also shaping lesbian and gay sexuality with the newfound acceptance of education and exploration of each other’s gender and sexual existence. Within society the change is very clear. Sexual education is being taught in most, if not all schools, sex shops are becoming mainstream, children and young adults are now being taught about and exposed to relationships that are not “cookie cutter.? Examples like white, heterosexual, and monogamous relationships are not the only relationships people see and practice. Overall change is clearly occurring especially with feminists and the general public’s acceptance of learning/knowing about sexuality and what it entails, instead of masking it.

Blog One

According to Weeks, he argues that sexuality is produce by society, and varies from culture to culture. I as well as Weeks believe that sexuality is a very complex idea. In class we discussed briefly the idea of power, those who have power and can use it tend to create the idea of sexuality and how sexuality is expressed. Sexuality is a result of society’s norms. According to Weeks “it is a result of diverse social practices that gives meaning to human activities, of social definitions and self definitions.?Through out history sexuality and the economy have also been linked. During the twenties and thirties women who worked in factories had better knowledge of their sexuality then those who stayed at home. They had access to information regarding birth control and other advice. Historically sexuality has been defined by cultural attitudes, for example one culture that thinks something is appropriate is inappropriate to another culture. There have always been limits or laws on how society sees sexuality and what the norms are. Therefore the limits can shape the attitudes and beliefs of those affected by the rules; it also creates the ideas of power. Throughout history do to social norms, race, class and gender affects sexuality.Sexualtiy is limited by those who have little power; historically lower class, women of color have had little or no power therefore they have had their sexuality repressed. According to Jackson and Scott they too identified the sexual repression of minorities and the ideas of the economy being linked to sexuality. Jackson and Scott talked a lot about the second wave feminists who debated heavily on the ideas of what is “sexuality? and “sex?. Second wave feminist focused more on the sexual revolution; many people were concerned that with sexual revolution men would have more access to women bodies and the removal of the right to say no. What the second wave feminists did do was questions the idea of sex altogether. It gave them a chance to express their “dissatisfaction with their relationships with men both in the bed and out?. They addressed the ideas of sexual pleasure for females that goes against patriarchal society’s ideas. Like Weeks, Jackson and Scott address the issues that female sexuality was/is repressed by society and if you are not a rich white man sexual pleasure should not occur. Though second wave feminists argued towards sexually equality as well as being able to express sexuality with no limits, many of them left out gay and lesbian issues for sexuality. They promoted the idea that sexuality is normal for only heterosexuals. Another topic about sexuality was the “myth of the vaginal orgasm? that scared many into believing that the idea rendered men unnecessary for pleasurable sex. Many lesbian feminists, frustrated with the ignorance of straight feminists created the “Queer Theory? to address the issues and educate others, because the feminist movement ignored them. Weeks is, in many ways very similar to Jackson and Scott, though I believe that defining sexuality very subjective and changes with time and place.

Sexuality and Changing Cultural Discourses

For me, sexuality and sexual identity are really closely tied to the social and biological aspects of fitting in. Your sexuality helps you fit into society and relate to others around you and help you find others in similar situations. So where and how you fit in is your sexuality and it is shaped by history and cultural discourses. What we perceive to be “normal? is a fluid concept; it changes with whoever and whatever has the power. Examples of these are Christianity (and the dominance of the religion in the West) and the Christian Bible, or the religion of Islam and Sharia. These cultural phenomena greatly shaped human sexuality for centuries and greatly defined specific sexual and gender identities.

In the reading, Jackson and Scott talk about the “myth of the vaginal orgasm.? Even though current research today shows that orgasm via penetration is possible, the research that proved women could orgasm outside of penetration was groundbreaking. It disturbed the balance between men and women that had been in place for centuries. It also proved that sex didn’t biologically exist just for reproduction. Ultimately, it rendered men less relevant in the lives of women across the nation. It showed that women don’t need a man to achieve sexual pleasure, and the same idea can be extrapolated into other spheres, such as the workforce or politics.

Another example found in the reading is Queer Theory. Queer theory aims to destroy any sort of ideas about what gender and sex should be. Even though this isn’t terribly accepted in society, it challenges old-fashioned ideas about what men, women, gays, and lesbians are like, such as women like to clean and men should be the ones who work. It even goes as far as to discredit stereotypes of lesbians as being “butch? and gay men as being “flamboyant.? It accepts gender and sexuality as a broad continuum and almost a “melting pot? of sexual identity.

Blog #1

In the reading by Jeffrey Weeks, we learned that his feelings of sexuality are based on what we have learned from the past. By this, I mean that the history of sexuality has changed as we as have changed. As the culture changes so do our thoughts and feelings about sexuality. This can also be seen by looking at the differences in all of the cultures around the world: from couples who meet on the day of their wedding to couples who have been intimate long before they decide to wed. With these changing cultural trends we can see that there is no "perfect" definition of sexuality, it is always twisted by what our culture is going through. Weeks points out that sexuality is "a fictional unity" and is an "invention of the human mind (Weeks, 15)." Therefore we have made the debate about sexuality up ourselves. We are the reason that sexuality is such a hot topic. He argues that "different biological and mental possibilities (Weeks, 15)" have been molded over time to create this idea of sexuality. The fact that we as a people have made sexuality such a debatable issue can be seen daily in the media, which Jackson and Scott point out. Every time you turn on the television or the radio you can hear the fact that they use the ever popular scheme that sex sells. We have sculpted this marketing idea over the ages to help earn profits. The particular brand of sexuality that we sell now is much different than it was fifty years ago, but it was still there. In our society, I feel that sexuality will always be a prevalent aspect that, as we have seen, will change as the years pass on.

February 8, 2009

My 1st Blog

Weeks believes that sexuality is constructed through historical and cultural discourses. He points out that throughout history sexuality is a subject that is in “constant flux.? Sexuality is always changing and has a different meaning for each individual person. History has shown us that sexuality has came very far in being more open and talked about but if for example you are studying sexuality you can be viewed as “morally suspect.? History has also constructed sexuality through the ways that before the main purpose of sex was for reproduction and for the pleasure of men. The main focus of sex has also been for the pleasure of men and women did not have sexuality they reproduced. History was in place to tell people what was socially right and wrong, how to think and feel about their sexuality. Cultural discourse in sex was to keep a hierarchy, white, upper class men were the norm and the man on top sex was also the norm. Culture discourses were put in place to keep women from expressing their sexuality and homosexuals. They constructed a norm and if you did not fit into the norm you did not fit into society.
Jackson and Scott bring up evidence to fit Weeks’ views of sexuality. Their article talked about how the cultural norms of society did not want women discussing or even thinking about their own sexuality. They were to stay sexually repressed about their needs because their roles were only to reproduce or to make their man happy. Their article also brings up how sex is constantly changing and one reason for that is the media. In the media sex sells, but it is to the expense of women and how women should be treated or does the media feed into the ways that society believes woman should act.

blog 1

Sexual norms differ amongst cultures because the cultures themselves differ. Sex and all that it entails has been a keystone to the development of societies primarily because, as Weeks asserts, sexuality is “a product of many influences and social inventions, (Weeks)? rather than a natural circumstance. For this reason the nature of sexuality is fluid, changes with time, and is not a truth about humanity. For example, in Western society incest was once considered to be marriage between the seventh degree--first cousins are now permitted to marry. Furthermore, Plummer suggests that, “nothing is sexual, but naming makes it so.? In this way cultural discourse through religious laws and the media inform society what is the norm in light of sexuality. Through commercials, traditional practices, celebrity news and more, people are both consciously and subconsciously instructed how to behave as sexual beings.

Feminism too is simply a part of humanity’s sexual history; it blossomed when society permitted it to. Its origin is based on how women were previously been treated namely, second to white men. Feminism was only one part of the sexual revolution, which “opened up sexuality as a political issue (Jackson).? During this time the boundaries of what was sexually normal were provoked and criticized. What is interesting is how many women rejected men all together as opposed to trying to create a unified species. This is a cultural characteristic too because it was not as typical among black women as white because black women has fought along side black men in the fight for racial equality.

Blog One: The Construction of Sexuality

In the reading “The Invention of Sex,? Jeffrey Weeks discusses how society and social relations, rather than nature are the true forms in which sexuality is constructed. He even goes so fart to say “that sexuality only exists through its social forms and social organization.? [Weeks, 24] Here he’s stating that sexuality as we know it today is based on the cultural discourses and social practices of the time rather than the physiology and morphology of the body. He states there are five areas in particular that play a crucial role in the ways that sexuality are organized: kinship and family systems, economic and social organization, social regulation, political interventions and the development of ‘cultures of resistance.’ These social aspects help us to understand sexuality, but still are affected by historical processes. For example, the people we describe as our family is dependent on the different geographic, religious, ethnic groups in which we relate to.

Stevi Jackson and Sue Scott agree with Weeks in their writing, discussing how cultural discourses rather than nature form how we view sexuality. They then go on to describe how challenging biological determinism is essential to end women’s subordination. Furthermore, what is sexually normative has changed over the course of time due to the even-changing culture that we are all apart of. Within the women’s movement, the cultural distinction between femininity and masculinity as well as the social division between woman and man has been socially constructed. I believe that they as well as Weeks would agree that this social distinction and the historically accepted relationships between women and men profoundly affect our sexual lives.

Weeks' Constructed Sexuality

Weeks looks at all the other work surrounding sexuality studies - that of psychologists, biologists, anthropologists and sociologists - and critiques all of their arguments by offering one basic alternative: what if there is no 'natural sexuality'? Sexuality seems too fluid and too 'uncategorizable' to have some natural inner essence that explains it all. If this is true, it means that our knowledge and beliefs about sex and sexuality is "an invention of the human mind." (p. 15) The only things you know about sexuality are gleaned from the culture around you, and that culture was shaped by the people and events before you.

Scott and Jackson must use this perspective when discussing feminism and essentialism. Essentialism is the argument that there is an innate natural sexuality apart from cultural contamination and influence – basically the opposite of Weeks’ theory. Scott and Jackson must try to discuss sexuality in the context of culture – what they call ‘constructivism’ – without it losing its base in the body and sexual desire. If this connection is lost, feminist ideals lose their root in the real, physical needs of women. Thus, Scott and Jackson must walk a kind of tightrope between a very Weeksian view of sexual norms, and the physical desires that seem so countercultural.

Blog #1

In his book “Sexuality,? Jeffrey Weeks asserts that sexuality is a socially constructed phenomenon as opposed to a natural occurrence. He has many reasons to support his claim. For example, sexual norms vary significantly from place to place. In some cultures many forms of intimacy, such as kissing, are frowned upon before marriage. In other cultures, greater degrees of intimacy are acceptable outside of wedlock. Why do these differences exist? It’s because people’s beliefs about sexuality are formed in large part by the culture they live in. Religions create a set of rules to live by as do governments and other social groups. They often define the age of consent for sexual relations and make laws regarding who can legally get married. The government also has a say in the extent and content of sexual education taught in public schools.
There are many other mediums that create the sexual discourse of a culture. The media has a huge impact on a society’s knowledge of sexual practices and norms. This can include anything from a commercial for birth control to a graphic scene from Desperate Housewives. We are constantly bombarded with images that impact how we act (often subconsciously).
Jackson and Scott also found that many feminists believe that sexuality is socially constructed. They gave the example of Margaret Mead. She studied three New Guinea societies to determine their views on masculine and feminine traits. She found that each society differed and concluded that sexuality is malleable. This is an important argument for feminists because the fact that sexuality has changed in the past means that it can change in the future – to create a more equal playing field between men and women.

Blog Uno

“What we so confidently know as ‘sexuality’ is, then, a product of many influences and social interventions. It does not exist outside history but is a historical product. This is what we mean by ‘the social construction’ of sexuality? (Weeks 31). If you want to try and describe sexuality, it can be said it is a creation of the past and our society. Our society, through out history has had a set of beliefs about what is acceptable and what may not be acceptable. “Within the wide parameters of general cultural attitudes, each culture labels different practices as appropriate or inappropriate, moral or immoral, health or perverted? (Weeks 26). Our culture, very much define sexuality, or more so the norm of sexuality, combined with events that have happened in the past and or present also helps to determine these norms. Sexuality is therefore not concrete but an always changing force; time slowly molds sexuality from events that have happened in that society. “Laws banning obscene publications more often than not give rise to court cases that publicize them. Banning sexy films give them a fame they might not otherwise deserve? (Weeks 29). For instance this event could help to contribute to the growing trend of porn. Which is now not an uncommon thing to see around today, honestly I know many many people that watch porn. In Jackson and Scott’s article I feel like that historical process undeniably took a main role in shaping sexuality. From “the ideology of woman’s place being in the home was still firmly entrenched (Jackson and Scott 3)? to the sexual revolution that “did open up sexuality as a political issue? (Jackson and Scott 5). The sexual revolution was a great way to call attention to many questions and debates. Women were finally getting heard and were confronting the biased behind sexuality, such as the “double standard?, “politics of housework?, and “politics of orgasm?. Whether sexuality is constructed socially and or culturally is a more arguable topic for Jackson and Scott. “The majority of these theorists have conceptualized sexuality as socially constructed, but precisely how this process occurs has been the focus of much debate? (Jackson and Scott 7). They question desires and condoning desires, do we only express sexuality at the right time in our culture? Do we limit ourselves to appropriate behavior in our culture, or is it more ambiguous? Overall they lean towards agreeing that sexuality is social constructed, but bring up many good questions that contradict the theory slightly.

Blog One

Since sexuality is a liquid term and cannot be factually defined, it must construct through discourses over time. Jeffrey Weeks explains how historical processes and cultural norms greatly shaped sexuality in the previous decades. He notes the shift from looking at sex for its reproductive function to the emergence of critical sexuality studies. This altered the norms and knowledge of sexuality by bringing in new light. Weeks shows how sexuality evolves over time, and how authors like Margaret Mead and Bronislaw Malinowski brings forth a “cultural relativism? from their writings. People started to realize that sexual norms across the globe vary, and the Western ideas attached to the subject do not necessarily translate into other cultures. Sexologists started to make sense of the paradoxes, and a stress started to reduce from the “natural element? of sexuality. Weeks supports his argument with many claims from other authors covering different aspects of sexuality, and gives the reader a good overview of the “formation? of sexuality. Naturally, sexuality is going to remain ever-changing as new individuals speak new ideas and sexual norms continue to change form.
Jackson and Scott also display the transformation of sexuality but through feminist view. Some issues were the same; women, too, wanted to view sexuality different from the “natural element? or as a reproductive act. Female sexuality changed drastically starting in the 1960s with the “sexual revolution.? Many women were tired of the domination of the heterosexual male and wanted more power, and freedom, for women. The “myth of the vaginal orgasm? brought much havoc, and took some power away from men and penile penetration. The transformation of sexuality for feminists was about deconstructing the norms for females and giving them their own power and voice.

Blog 1

“The Language of Sex? I did not really like, I believe it was common sense. On the same note, I believe that it was necessary to read so we will try to eliminate playing with word definitions when discussing this so call “taboo? topic and it also explained the different careers (Sexologist…). In the reading “invention of sex? I learned about the discourses which were categorized. I personally found that many of the categories seemed the same to me. The reasons that these categories seemed related was because in my anthropology class we discussed the reason behind marriage and female and male relationship, and I believe it had to be very over analyzed to separate them into different categories. None the less, I agree with the idea that the discourses are created to maintain a social hierarchy. The construction of theses social norms are critical in order to understand the histories and reasoning behind it, particularly if we were to prove them false, or outdated. I believe that the social norms are created by the people in power (church officials, upper middle class males, heterosexuals) because they have benefited from these norms the most, and they also have the authority and the financial power to carry out these norms. These discourses led us into the idea of the plus five system, which I might add I am no so fond of. The plus five system I believe has the western European (western hemisphere) at the center of its argument. I believe that each culture even within the western hemisphere has its own discourses which define and categorize some of the gender roles, and gender freedoms.
All the readings done for the past week have been explaining the norms and have been discussed to see what qualify within the norm and what does not. Also it has been trying to isolate the people/groups that have created theses norms explicitly or implicitly.

Weeks - History and Culture.

Weeks claims that sexuality has nothing to do with biology. It is purely learned through culture and history. He says that sexuality is an “ideological justification? and confirms that humans look for reason in everything. The sexual norms that we abide to are not a natural part of our existence but a result of societal pressure. Society puts pressure on diverse sexuality when national security or health is threatened. Jackson and Scott claim that when sex is mentioned, we are taught by culture and history to purely picture heterosexual sex. As women, we are also taught by our culture and history to portray our sexuality a certain way. In the high school I went to, it was “normal? to be homophobic, and it stifled any diversity in sexuality. Recently, there have been writings and research implemented on other culture’s sexuality. This has led to a wider range of acceptable behavior in the younger generations of the United States, usually in more urban areas, opposed to rural areas.
Jackson and Scott agree with Weeks on many different points, but the one that stood out to me was when female activists tried to make a name for themselves and other women alike, the only way they could gain respect from male leaders was to have sex with them, or they would be exiled by the community. This was exactly what they opposed and struggled with this lose-lose situation they were put in.

The Cultural Constructs of Feminists in the Radical Democrats

The author Jeffery Weeks thinks that sex is formed within historical processes and cultural discourses because of the way we learn about how to act as sexual beings in the world through history, politics, and society. I believe you can find many of the feminist approaches to sexuality that Jackson and Scott talk about to fit Weeks idea. One example could be the participation of feminists in the radical democratic movement of the 1960’s. Although they were both fighting for the deconstruction of cultural norms, the issue of women was not one they wanted to deal with.
In the 1960’s there were many different movements that found their voice, one being the radical democrats. They particularly fought for the ending of the Vietnam War, but also for the rights of those who felt injustice. They also were one of the promoters of the sexual revolution.
This I believe is what caused a stir between the men on the Far Left and the women. Men still had the idea that a women’s purpose is to please a man and if nothing else, to be beneath them. This is a cultural construct that was even a problem for people trying to tear them down. It posed as a problem for the women of the group who wanted their opinions to be thought of as equal, and their place being not just the sexual partners of the men.
This same line of thinking is still a problem today. Many men of all walks of life believe they should have the right to have sex with who they please, which may be so, but think the same is not true for women. These are examples of the prevalent cultural constructs of women being subservient to men, which Jackson and Scott write about.

Blog One

Sarah Hahn
GWSS 1002
Blog One
2/5/09


Jeffery Weeks argues that sexuality is formed through historical processes and cultural discourses. By this he means that sexuality is defined by the social norms and practices of the time and can change from one period in history to another and from one culture to another. Social norms and practices establish how people understand sexuality and sexual norms. For example, Weeks highlights five areas that are important in understanding how different social aspects affect sexuality and how it is defined. The five areas include kinship and family systems, economic and social organization, social regulation, political interventions and cultures of resistance. All of these areas influence the way people understand and define sexuality. In addition to social practices, sexuality can also be defined by power and who has that power. There are three sources of power that can affect the construction of sexuality and they include class, gender and race. The social practices of different periods in history affect the way sexuality is understood at that time. The understanding of the term ‘sex’ in another era can alter society’s perception of sexuality. For example, Weeks mentions that in the early 16th century the word sex was used to differentiate between male and female, while today it is more often used to refer to intercourse. The understanding of sexuality can also be shaped by different cultures. For example, different cultures see different practices as appropriate or inappropriate, which then affects they way they perceive sexuality. This perspective on the invention of sexuality is evident in some of the points that Stevi Jackson and Sue Scott make about feminism and sexuality. The idea that social norms and practices construct sexuality is present. The expectations that society holds for women affect the way that female sexuality is viewed. Jackson and Scott argue that women’s sexuality is regulated while men’s sexuality is not. The concept of power also influences Jackson and Scott’s argument. Since men have the power in today’s society they get to construct sexuality. Jackson and Scott say “heterosexuality is constructed around a hierarchy of gender evident in its specifically sexual practices as elsewhere? (Jackson and Scott). The aspects of social norms and power form Weeks’ article are present in Jackson and Scott’s position on feminism and sexuality.

The Historical and Cultural Discourses

Weeks makes a very realistic argument dealing with sexuality, based upon the historical processes and cultural discourses around us. Weeks argues that our knowledge of sex, sexuality, etc. is not innate, instead our knowledges are formed by the cultural discourses and historical processes enforced around us. An historical process that has enforced our perception of sexuality could be something as complex as the translation of women and their sexuality throughout history. We, as women, are told growing up what of our sexuality can and cannot be identified. Also, a cultural discourse could tie into this woman example. Instead of focusing on the change throughout history towards women, the cultural discourse makes us focus in on why a woman would dress a certain way or what comes of discussing your sexuality in different cultures. Both of these factors (historical and cultural) vary greatly.

In Jackson and Scott’s piece, they use Week’s argument that sex and sexuality are constructed through historical processes and cultural discourses by providing their own examples of this in act. Their first piece of evidence they discuss is sex versus sexuality in the western sense. We are taught that when we think of the word sex, we think of the actual act, but only heteronormatively. Sex is packed with historical and cultural discourses that are taught to us at a young age. Sexuality, on the other hand, is a somewhat broader term, but in the western world has limited meaning. Once again, we are told that sexuality mainly is referring to what we find attractive (man or woman.) Once again, the heteronormative box is set up around sex and sexuality, the basis of the western world.

Another example that Jackson and Scott outline is the second wave feminists and how they became their own. These women joined certain groups in order to bring equality and peace to the world, but instead were brought face to face with the discourses they were trying so hard to get away from. Male leaders told female activists that they must provide sex in order to be respected, or if they decide not to, would be shunned by the community. Either way, these women felt that their arms were being twisted and their basic human rights infringed. Either way, the whore label would be pinned on their chests. Second wave feminism sprung from these cultural and historical discourses and these discourses provided a great inspiration to these women to fight the enforced power hierarchy.

History Matters

Weeks argues that sexuality is not about what is biologically inherent to us as humans. He believes instead that sexuality is constructed by our culture; that our norms are not caused by inherent necessity but by societal forces. Therefore, rather than looking at animals to learn about our sexuality he believes that we should look to our history and to our culture.

Jackson and Scott explicitly recognize this view of sexuality as dominant in the works which they cover. On the top of page 2 they say that the material they survey are concerned with the “social and cultural shaping of human sexuality? rather than “a biological and psychological phenomenon.? This approach is clear throughout the piece. The focus is on the history of feminist approaches to sexuality, so by definition the paper focuses on history and not on biology.

Even when they discuss biological determinism (page 6), they talk about why it was important politically for feminists to challenge it rather than discussing arguments rooted in biology for rejecting the idea. However, they do continue to how feminists argued against biological determinism: “If we can demonstrate that sexuality is not the same in all cultures and that historically it has been subject to change, then we have an effective counter-argument to biological determinism.? This argument fits closely with Week’s idea, but it does not require it. If biological determinism is incorrect, then something else must cause sexuality but it would not have to be “historical processes and cultural discourses?, although this does appear to be the route that most feminists take.

I think that it is clearly demonstrable that sexuality does change in different cultures and thus that strict biological determinism is incorrect. It also seems likely that a significant portion of that variation is due to the effects of our history and our culture. However, I think it is also important not to understate the impact of biology. Although we can be conditioned to have many varieties of sexuality, conditioning takes advantage of inborn or previously conditioned desires and behaviors to produce new ones. Without understanding the “blank slate? that we start from, we cannot fully understand how we are affected by our environment.

February 7, 2009

Disucssion of Weeks/Jackson and Scott

When Weeks discusses how sexuality is constructed through historical processes and cultural discourses, he is referring to the historical notion of sexuality and repression that can be traced back for centuries. As human’s began to study human behavior and what makes up sexuality, it formed a dichotomous society of normalcy and outliers. The discourse of normalcy (heterosexuality) is built on the notion that white, heterosexual males should be seen as the exemplary model. Since the notion of masculinity is so closely associated with normal or exemplary behaviors, acting feminine is seen as second to masculinity which causes a repression of the notion of femininity. This relates to sexuality because expression of gender and what is thought of acceptable. Sexuality follows the same pattern in the sense that heterosexuality is seen as the default at which all other expressions of sexuality are compared to. Our cultural surroundings dictate what is acceptable sexual behavior and practices, and clearly marks what is abnormal or nonconforming. Historically, Western culture has been repressive when it comes to expression or even simply speaking of sexuality. Although, our society can now be seen as more open to discussing sexuality, it is still desires to place individuals into categories. Taking sexuality as something that needs to be figured out or categorized does not necessarily lead to a better understanding of expression of sexuality, but instead leads to more comparison to what is thought to be normal. When Jackson and Scott discuss the feminist debate between innate female sexuality and sexuality that is socially constructed, they are discussing whether individual desires, political or patriarchal influence and a broad range of possible sexual outlets can outweigh a person’s “innate? sexuality.

Sexual Norms and Our Knowledge of Sexuality

Through his research, Jeffrey Weeks has found that sexual norms and our knowledge of sexuality is constructed through historical processes and cultural discourses. According to Weeks, the view of the world of sex is engrained in our culture. Sex is all over our culture today. The culture of the United States provides an ideological justification for male lust, and for the downgrading of female sexual autonomy. Weeks also believes that in our culture, sexual minorities are treated differently than the majority. It would be hard to argue that sex is not a part of our culture today. Anyone who reads popular magazines, or pays attention to television knows that sex plays a big role in our society. And because of the fact that most people watch television on a regular basis, and can recognize the pop culture stars of today makes me believe that America's knowledge of sexuality can be highly based on pop culture.
Also found in Weeks articles on sexuality are the ways in which historical processes have shaped the minds of people in regard to their opinions on sex norms. Weeks says that much was talked and written about in the past about our historical knowledge of sex, but it has been mostly neglected. However, a lot has changed in the past decade. There has beeen a minor explosion of historical writings about sex concerning topics such as marriage, prostitution, homosexuality, birth control and sexual violence.
Along with the information the Weeks article gives us, the Jackson/Scott article also provides some useful information on sexuality. A theoretical perspective shared by Weeks and Jackson/Scott is that sex norms have changed over time due to the always-changing culture we live in. The Jackson/Scott article argues that women have always gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to sexuality. For example, women in the prostitution business are frowned upon much more harshly than their male clients. However, both Weeks and Jackson/Scott can agree that the further engagement in our culture concerning sexuality is becoming more fair as time goes on.

blog uno


In your own words, describe what Weeks means when he argues that sexuality (including sexual norms and our knowledges of sexuality) is constructed through historical processes and cultural discourses. Can you find evidence of this theoretical perspective in any of the feminist positions on sexuality Jackson and Scott outline?

By saying that sexuality and sex is constructed through historical and cultural discourses, this means that everything that has come before has had an influence on how we perceive sex today. So the fact that we view everything through a heterosexual lens, is because heterosexuality has been constructed as the norm due to customs and social structures in the past.
This basic idea can be found in almost any of the readings we have done this week.

do it 'cuz it feels good

A professor of mine once described the Repressive Hypothesis kind of like this: "All this talking about sex is keeping us from actually having sex." That is, we've devoted so much time and energy into using scientific thought processes to dissect sex and desire, that we've invented a label for everything that feels good and categorized it. Over this period of time, we've developed a way of thinking about sex that completely undermines our natural instincts.

On page twenty of "The Invention of Sexuality," Weeks notes that most forms of erotic interaction are not reproductive-- gay, straight or otherwise. This should be a big clue that the everyday-normative-hetero-baby-making paradigm, from which most people view sexuality, is flawed. It simply doesn't account for the fact that people enjoy other things. While this is true in Western culture, it is especially true from a historical/global perspective. Social norms are different all over the world and have varied throughout time, so the claim that sexuality is a biological determinant ignores so many important things that need to be considered.

This theory, that sexuality is an invention, is a very important political issue for some feminists, as Jackson and Scott describe, because society’s acceptance of heterosexual normativity is the basis of patriarchy. Like it says on page x in the Jackson/Scott article (anybody know?), women started to see that the problems they had to deal with in everyday life were not unique to themselves, but were born out of the sex/power imbalance.

All that said, Weeks does acknowledge that biology and our physiological composition are important, but only insofar as they determine what is possible in the realm of pleasure and desire (p.25). Biology and our bodies do not dictate how we sex each other, just to what extent we are able to sex each other.

Blog 1

When Weeks asserted that sexuality, or our view of sexuality, is constructed through historical events, he was really taking about how historical events, society, and political changes directly influence how sexuality is evidenced. Discourses, like how people viewed sexuality, discussed it, wrote about it, and portrayed it, WERE what defined sexuality for that time. Of course, when times changed (politics, economics, cultural shifts), so then did sexuality because people were forced to view it in a different light. It’s like a chicken and the egg; do people shape sexuality or does sexuality shape people? Weeks argued that sexuality was shaped by people and society as a whole, not the other way around. In the article by Jackson and Scott, they definitely discuss the history of feminist thinking. It’s titled “Twenty-five Years of Debate on Women and Sexuality;? eluding to the fact that they will be discussing the history of feminism and how women and their sexuality were treated through the past quarter-century. They acknowledge how the changing laws in Britain and “political upheavals? of the United States in the 1960’s dramatically altered the feminist movement. Entirely, the article seemed to at least shine a light on how, through the changing society, politics, economics, war, etc., the way women (in this case, feminists) thought about sex, their bodies, and how their sexuality should be portrayed was also dramatically altered. The discourses of the feminists were affected by (one could argue “constructed through?) historical processes. Whether or not the authors directly come out and say this is unclear to me, but I could draw parallels between the readings.

February 6, 2009

Blog Response 1

Sexuality is a topic in which everyone has either very strong or very passive notions about. Weeks has argued that sexuality, along with all its fundamentals, is constructed through historical processes and discourses. I think that what he means, overall, is that when people define and construct their own sexuality, they look how it is displayed within their specified social contexts and norms. They look at how people act and react to everything going on and see how they "should" fit within it. Our society lives off the reality that what worked back then will work now, so they use the nations past to determine the future; in this case, when defining and practicing sexuality.
This type of perspective is also seen within the feminists’ positions on sexuality throughout the Jackson and Scott outline. The slogan: "The personal is political" was said within their article and it seems as though it is the "poster child" of Weeks' theory. This is when women found that many of their personal issues were shared by the collective and that they were not alone in their feelings, so they felt as though it should be politicized in order to figure it out as a whole. I think that this unintentionally made discourses of sexuality because when these women compare themselves to the collective, they want themselves to be mirror images-as to not stand out, so they do. Even if they might think differently, they feel as though they are not "allowed to" due to a silent set of guidelines and regulations. Another position that Jackson and Scott outline that reflects this theoretical outline is when they bring up Rich’s position on “Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence?. She argued that what was seen as being a ‘natural’ choice was in reality imposed on women. This showed up front how discourses are put into society and if a person was seen to stray away from them, it’s not appropriate. She was trying to say that even if a person was trying to get out of their “box?, they would always go back to their ‘natural state’ and if they didn’t, they were not living what they ‘should be’. I think that this has some truth to it, but I also think that everyone has the right and almost the obligation to go outside their ‘box’ in order to explore all options. There shouldn’t have to be these ‘boxes’ in the first place, but its within our human nature to categorize in order to make sense of things, otherwise there is not a clear picture and people don’t like to keep questioning.

Blog Response One

I feel that Weeks means that there is an entire culture around the way that different people talk about sex and sexuality. He suggests that sexuality is constructed from many "languages". These languages are made up of many discourses such as education, laws, even popular TV shows and music. They all work together to form a way to identify the meaning of sexuality. They show us the way we're supposed to act and let us put ourselves into a quantitative system based on the norms that have been created through highly qualitative ideals of society. He argues that sexuality is not something nature, but instead made up of past histories and social structures. We must look at it as such through different gender identities, needs, desires, etc. It was because of these things that sexuality took form and, Weeks suggests, there may come a day when these issues change in a way that sexuality is once again deemed unnecessary.

The great variance of meanings of sexuality across class and sexual orientation have come from economics, social regulations, public interventions, political interventions, and resistant cultures. The way in which people seek out mates is affected by the class divisions that are created from different economic positions. We have seemed to have moved farther away from social regulations that rely highly on the views of morals of the church into ones that rely more heavily on secular views such as medicine and education. Jackson and Scott bring up the role of political interventions in their article when they discuss the impact of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Contraceptives became more widely available and legislation around sexual issues started to form. Free love became widely accepted and the idea of marriage was called into question. This example helps to solidify Weeks' argument of the large role that history plays in the shaping of society's views of sexuality.

Blog Response One


To begin with, Jeffery Week points out in his article, The Invention of Sexuality, that “sex in history was a virgin field? (19). Sexuality was generally not discussed. Not a whole lot was known about the subject, and the little that was, was limited and for the most part, inaccurate. Fortunately, Weeks argues, much insight, knowledge and effort has been put into critical sexuality studies so we can now understand its complex nature. Weeks is a man who is unsure about the true definition of sexuality, he actually believes there may be no such thing.

Sexuality can be interwoven into multiple facets of daily life. Our current sexual norms and knowledge about sex have been greatly developed through these facets. The economy around the 1920s and 30s defined how much knowledge women had about birth control. Certain religions gave guidelines about sexuality and what is morally wrong or right. One’s social class could define what sexual acts were allowed or accepted. One’s race and gender classified people into how open the “could? be about their sexuality. These facets (historical processes) have all developed overtime, constructing our view, and Weeks view, on sexuality. In terms of cultural discourses, Weeks agrees with the fact that all cultures view sexuality differently. In his article, The Languages of Sex, opposition to sexual education, gay marriage, and other social issues and political concerns are all apart of Weeks arguments toward that (12). These differences are what give us the broad knowledge of sexuality that we know today. Obviously the feminists in the Jackson and Scott piece felt strongly about how women were poorly portrayed in the 1920s and 30s and about some of the degrading gender stereotypes that were alive in the past. Ultimately Weeks believes in these main points; sexuality is developed gradually overtime without much effort..it mostly just comes to us, and there really is no reachable version of the “truth? regarding sexuality.

February 5, 2009

Weeks and sexuality

Jeffery Weeks claims that there is no inherent sexuality which should dictate any aspect of our behavior. The differences between men and women are neither natural nor continuous. Rather, he says, sexuality and sexual norms are constructed by the society in which they occur. In other words, sexuality is a way of relating to other people as determined by the prevalent culture and, often, by the social hierarchies which exist in a society. How we display our sexuality is determined by the most visible in our society as well as the "authors" of the discourses we use.

Scott and Jackson portray similar beliefs in several situations. To explore the idea of society creating our knowledge of sexuality, the two criticize Anne Oakley for equating sex to relations "between the sexes," because this perpetrates the heterocentricity of our society, which they say is neither natural nor inherent, but simply culturally dominant. They also reference women's movements which focused heavily on proving that the subversion of women and particularly women's sexuality is not a biological imperative. These groups cite the idea that it would be impossible to challenge something biological in nature and, since they are challenging the power structure, it must be unnatural. In addition, Scott and Jackson touch on the idea that these sexual norms are perpetrated by society at large and, more specifically, by often well-intentioned individuals.

Scott and Jackson's focus on the separation of sexually-based expectations for men and women also explores an element of Weeks' philosophy: that social norms are decided by the group in power at any given time in history. In a patriarchal society, then, it makes sense that men would use their power to afford women fewer freedoms than they receive and thus ensure 719 S. 2nd St. of their state of power.

February 4, 2009

Blog One

Weeks is not convinced that the current definition of sexuality is the right one, or indeed that it can be defined at all. Instead, he argues that the current ideas about sexuality have been produced and reproduced by historical texts and cultural discourse, and that by strengthening these ideas we become no closer to the truth. His study of sexuality diverges from the sexologists’ in that he studies the discussion surrounding sexuality rather than the sex act itself. I doubt he believes there would be any merit to this study of sex, as any conclusion he would draw would inevitably be in the context of the modern definition of sex, gender, and sexuality.

In the Jackson and Scott reading, much of the section “Challenging Biological Determinism? aligns with Weeks’ view on constructed sexuality. They write that a divide exists between those feminists that believe in innate female sexuality and those that believe this sexuality is constructed. Of those that believe in the social invention of sexuality, there are three main pursued analyses: patriarchal structures at the sexual level, the birth of individual sexuality, and the inconsistency and flexibility of human desires. Jackson and Scott support the synthesis of these three studies in order to gain the most accurate perspectives on the construction of sexuality. I believe Weeks would agree with all three of these viewpoints, and especially with the idea of established connections between them. The first’s study of patriarchy answers his question of who benefits from the existing social structure. The second, with its emphasis on why we become sexualized the way we do, agrees with his idea that our gender and sexuality are developed, not inborn. The third, which concentrates on how variable and easily shaped our sexual desire is, also implies that sexuality is not a permanent, innate characteristic, a notion Weeks would undoubtedly support.

February 2, 2009

Blog Assignment One

GWSS 1002
The Politics of Sex

Blog Assignment One

In your own words, describe what Weeks means when he argues that sexuality (including sexual norms and our knowledges of sexuality) is constructed through historical processes and cultural discourses. Can you find evidence of this theoretical perspective in any of the feminist positions on sexuality Jackson and Scott outline?