Day Twelve: February 28


Make sure to look over this announcement carefully. 

Download the lecture notes here

This week, the readings are all about sexuality and sex practices. Today's readings focus on the historical and social construction of sexuality, particularly the modern history of heterosexuality, and the other half of its binary, homosexuality. The readings for Wednesday focus on the social/historical construction of normal/good and deviant/bad sex practices. 


By not studying the heterosexual idea in history, analysis of sex, gay and straight, have continued to privilege the "normal" and "natural" at the expense of the "abnormal" and "unnatural." Such privileging of the norm accedes to its domination, protecting it from questions. In making the normal the object of a thorough-going historical study we simultaneously pursue a pure truth and a sex-radical and subversive goal: we upset basic preconceptions. We discover that the heterosexual, the normal, and the natural have a history of changing definitions. Studying the history of the term challenges its power (Katz, 150).

Important Questions to ask (for Katz):

What has been and is the social function of sexual categorizing? Whose interests have been served by the division of the world into heterosexual and homosexual? Do we dare not draw a line between those two erotic species? Is some sexual naming socially necessary? Would human freedom be enhanced if the sex-biology of our partners in lust was of no particular concern, and had no name? In what kind of society could we all more freely explore our desire and our flesh (Katz, 160)?


1820-1860   Before Heterosexuality

  • cult of true womanhood = purity
  • proper procreation, women as procreators not sexual subjects
  • True Love, true men, true women
1860-1892  Late Victorian Sex-Love
  • heterolust
  • families: from producers to consumers
  • new pleasure ethic
  • emphasis on the erotic
  • medical model of Normal Love
1892-1900  Heterosexuality
  • Krafft-Ebing and the modern heterosexual
  • heterosexuality introduced as "erotic feeling for a different sex"
  • homosexuality introduced as counter, same-sex erotic feelings
  • break from procreative standard
  • doctors' normalization of heterosexuality
1900-1930  The Heterosexual Mystique
  • tied to oppositeness of sexes
  • reflects deep anxieties by men about changing economy and the "new women"
  • social transformation and revaluing of pleasure and procreation, consumption and work
  • the menacing "lesbian"
1930-1945  The Heterosexual Steps Out
  • the term gains popularity
1945-1965  Heterosexual Hegemony
  • cult of domesticity
  • feminine female and masculine men as prolific breeders
  • Kinsey, quality to quantity
  • emphasis on acts, not identities
1965-1982  Heterosexuality Questioned
  • feminists and gay rights advocates challenge/critique sexual repression
Weeks: "...sexuality is something which society produces in complex ways. It is a result of diverse social practices that give meaning to human activities, of social definitions and self-definitions, of struggles between those who power to define and regulate, and those who resist. Sexuality is not a given, it is a product of negotiation, struggle and human agency" (Weeks, 19). 

PART TWO: Popular Media, Everyday Practices and Critical Thinking

HERE are some details for your group media analysis assignment, which is part of your media examples assignment.

Controlling Images: In "Mammies, Matriarchs, and Other Controlling Images," Patricia Hill Collins describes how "controlling images are designed to make racism, sexism, poverty, and other forms of social injustice appear to be natural, normal, and inevitable parts of everyday life" (69). 

Motivated Representations: bell hooks writes: "What does it mean that media has such control of our imaginations that they don't want to accept that there are conscious manipulations taking place and that in fact, we want to reserve particularly for the arena of movie making [or production of advertisements] a certain sense of magic? A certain sense that reality is being documented..." (cultural criticism and transformation"). How do these representations affect us?

Here's one more take on the impact of some "controlling images" and "motivated representations" on different women from Jean Kilbourne's Killing Us Softly, part 4 


I think that part of the power of cultural criticism and cultural studies has been its sort of political intervention as a force in American society to say, there really is a conscious manipulation of representations and it's not about magical thinking, it's not about pure imagination, creativity, it's about people consciously knowing what kinds of images will produce a certain kind of impact (bell hooks, Cultural Criticism and Transformation).

Heterosexuality is just not natural! It is socially organized and controlled. To understand how we give meaning to one of our major institutions is to participate as a critical consumer and citizen actively engaged in the production of cultural and the social order (Ingraham, "Thinking Straight," 81). 

Back in January, ShaiGuy312 posted "What's Sex got to do with...Pop?" Right after the Superbowl, I posted this entry, "What's Sex got to do with...Pepsi Max and the Angry Black Women?" And ojan0011 posted "What's Sex got to do with...a soda can?" After checking out Sociological Images yesterday and finding this entry, I decided it might be useful to engage in some critical thinking about media representations of sex, gender, sexuality and race in advertisements about soda, especially Pepsi and Dr. Pepper products. Check out the following advertisements, 5 of them are very recent (between 2009-2011) and one of them is from 1998. 

Example One: PEPSI MAX 2009 for Men

Text: Men can take anything except the taste of diet cola. Until now. Pepsi Max. The first diet cola for MEN!

Example two: PEPSI MAX 2011 for Men

Pepsi Max. 0 calories. Maximum taste. 

Example three: DR. PEPPER 2011 for Men

Text: Hey Ladies? Enjoying the film? Of course not. Because this is our movie. And Dr. Pepper Ten is our soda. Only 10 manly calories, but with all 23 flavors of Dr. Pepper. What guys this. Catch phrase. So you can keep the romantic comedies and lady drinks. We're good. Dr. Pepper Ten. It's not for women.

Question: It's Just a Joke! Parody as critical intervention or perpetuation? What does making fun of gender or sexual stereotypes do to the normative roles that these stereotypes play? Does humor allow us to have a critical distance from them? Does it expose their ridiculousness? Or does it reinforce and perpetuate the stereotypes? 

Example four: DR. PEPPER CHERRY 2011 for Men?

Music: "Get ready 'cause here I come boy..." That's smooth...Dr. Pepper Cherry. It's amazingly smooth. 

example five: DIET COKE 1998 for WOMEN?

Text: I'm here for my 11:30 appointment...No wonder it's so hard to get an appointment here... Diet Coke: You are what you drink. 

Example Six: The Pepsi Skinny Can


The picture on the left is for Pepsi's new skinny can. The picture on the right is of the model, Sophia Vergara.

While there are many different ways in which we could approach this series of commercials from the perspective of a politics of sex, I want to focus today on examples #4 and #5. Both of them seem to represent women as sexual agents, that is, as subjects who have some ability to express (and engage in) their own practices of desire. What kind of sexuality do these women have (or do they express) in these two commercials? How do they negotiate their own sexuality? How are those sexual expressions gendered? Are these women freely exploring their sexual desire? Why/why not? 

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