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10.1: Sexuality

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    5344
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    Sexual Orientation and Cultural Perspectives

    Sexual orientation is the pattern of sexual and emotional attraction based on the gender of one's partner. In the contemporary American culture, heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation that receives complete social legitimacy. Since June 26, 2015, same-sex marriage has been legal in all 50 States and American territories except American Samoa and Native American land.[1] [2] Though heterosexuality is viewed as the social "norm" in the United States, many other cultures maintain a very diverse perspective on sexuality and sexual orientation. Various types of sexual orientation are defined below and can be found in many different cultures across the globe.

    • Heterosexuality: refers to the emotional and sexual attraction between men and women.
    • Homosexuality: refers to the emotionally and sexually attracted to those of the same sex. "Lesbian" refers to specifically homosexual women; "Gay" refers to both homosexual men and women. It is completely interchangeable with the word "homosexual" but is generally used more casually.
    • Bisexuality: Being attracted to two or more genders. It is a common misconception that bisexual people are attracted to their own and the "opposite" gender, specific preferences

    vary from person to person and are not limited to cisgendered "men" and "women".[2]

    • Pansexuality: Is the sexual, romantic or emotional attraction towards people regardless of their sex or gender identity. Pansexuality is defined differently from other sexual orientations by explicitly including people who are intersex or outside the gender binary.
    • Asexual: One that does not experience sexual attraction. Asexuality exists on a spectrum that varies person-to-person, from individuals who are disgusted by the idea of having sex (called Sex Repulsed) to individuals that can and do feel sexual attraction, but only under specific circumstances (called Demisexuality or Gray-Asexual) and every option in between. [3]

    Transgender in the United States

    The term transgender refers to people who have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their assigned sex. There is an embedded stigma within American culture that erases the validity and existence of the transgender community. Oftentimes, transgender people are either highly-sexualized or demonized. Starting in the early 1990s, political activists began challenging the opprobrium associated with being transgender and started to put pressure on the government to recognize the rights of gender variants. The term that these activists use, transgender, refers to someone whom society has assigned a gender at birth, but chooses to perform as another because it is what they feel is appropriate to their mind and being. However, according to American Anthropologist David Valentine, many individuals resist the label "transgender" because it is overly inclusive. While some "cross-dress" to receive erotic pleasure, others have undergone serious and potentially fatal sexual reassignment surgery in order to be their preferred gender. Additionally, these activists are primarily white and middle-class, which contributes to the erasure of racial minority transgenders. While the meaning of "transgender" is still in formation, it is still very clear that American culture still resists accepting people who identify as neither male nor female, instead, they prefer to just be a person. This may be due in part to the idea that Americans view transgenderism as an expression of perverse sexuality, but, regardless, it is imperative that we acknowledge the rights and legitimacy of the transgender community.

    Romantic Orientation

    Romantic Orientation, also known as Affectional Orientation, indicates the sex or gender with which a person is most likely to have a romantic relationship or fall in love. It is used both alternatively and side-by-side with the term sexual orientation. It is based on the perspective that sexual attraction is but a single component of a larger dynamic. For example, although a pansexual person may feel sexually attracted to people regardless of sex or gender identity, they may be predisposed to romantic intimacy with females. For polyromantic people, they are attracted to many but not all genders, also known as asexual. For asexual people, romantic orientation is often considered a more useful measure of attraction than sexual orientation.[3]

    People may or may not engage in purely emotional romantic relationships. The main identities relating to this are:

    • Aromantic: Lack of romantic attraction towards anyone (aromanticism)
    • Heteroromantic: Romantic attraction towards person(s) of one gender other than their own (heteroromanticism).
    • Homoromantic: Romantic attraction towards person(s) of the same gender (homoromanticism).
    • Biromantic: Romantic attraction towards person(s) of two genders (biromanticism).
    • Panromantic: Romantic attraction towards person(s) of any and all genders (pan romanticism).
    • Polyromantic: Romantic attraction toward multiple people, but not all genders.
    • Gray-romantic: Individuals who do not often experience romantic attraction.
    • Demiromantic: Romantic attraction towards any of the above but only after forming a deep emotional bond with the person(s) (demiromanticism).[4]

    Cultural Examples of LGBTQ Relationships

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): 2007 Pride parade in Buenos Aires with LGBQT visible in a groups' banner (top right of image)

    Two-Spirit

    In many North American indigenous tribes, a person could be two-spirit. These people were generally viewed as having two spirits within them; both masculine and feminine. They dressed using both male and female garments and filled an essential and respected role in society. They generally took on this role around puberty. Male-bodied two-spirit's could be gravediggers, conductors of rituals, nurses during the war, craftspeople, storytellers, etc. Female-bodied two-spirit's could be traders, warriors, chiefs, hunters, guides, etc. Both could be diviners or medicine people. It was generally accepted that two-spirit's had a special power; they could have relationships with people of any sex, and the relationship was viewed more as "hetero-gender" than specifically homosexual or heterosexual. In today's world, the role is being reclaimed by Native Americans who identify as such.

    Lesbianism in Mombasa

    Anthropologist Gill Shepherd[5] explored female sexual relationships among Swahili Muslims in Mombasa, Kenya, and found that relationships between females were perfectly acceptable, as were relationships between men. Women are allowed to choose other women as sexual partners after they are married. Many such women also have a husband at home, are widowed, or divorced. Both sexes are open about their homosexual relationships, and it is considered normal. In contrast to some Western cultures, people generally do not think that homosexual relationships would damage a person's piety or moral fiber. Having a woman for a lover is less important than a woman's rank, and her being a good Muslim. A relationship may be set up in a number of ways. A young woman can go around to wealthy lesbian circles in order to find a lover. A wealthy woman may not want her autonomy diminished by a husband and so establishes a relationship with another woman so that she may continue in her independence. A wealthy woman may set up a marriage of convenience with a man for a poorer woman so that when they are divorced soon after the poorer woman will live with her lesbian benefactress. The relationships are not stigmatized and having a lesbian relationship, while less respectable than being married to a man, is nonetheless better than not being married at all. The relationships can or cannot include a sexual relationship, but a sexual relationship is more likely when one woman pays a bride-price, the exchange of a bride for money, land, or other property from the fiance's family, and constructs her own compound.

    Sexuality in Ancient Greece

    In Ancient Greece, same-sex relationships between men were considered the highest form of love; they were just as common and accepted as heterosexual relationships of today. This male-male relationship was based on love and reciprocity and typically called for the older man to initiate the relationship. He would give gifts to the younger man as a promise of love.[6] These relationships were thought to be the highest form of love because they showed that the men regarded furthering themselves in knowledge and intelligence rather than just a physical connection. Some who did not attempt to make this connection were seen as "shallow." The older man would become the mentor and lover to the younger man, and the two would form a close emotional bond. The youth would be taught his duties as a citizen, and skills to further his place in society by the older man, and once the youth reached adulthood, the sexual relationship between the two men evolved into a very strong friendship. As an adult, the youth would then marry a woman, and initiate a relationship with another adolescent.

    An exclusively homosexual relationship was discouraged, however, and not considered a substitute for male-female marriage. Marriage and the children that would be produced within it was required to maintain both the family and society. The wives were viewed by their husbands as domestics and child bearers.[4]. While the men were away with their young lovers, women raised children and took care of the household. Women were discouraged from taking lovers outside of the marriage to bed.

    Ritual Homosexuality of the Sambia

    In 1981, the American anthropologist, Gilbert Herdt described the pseudonymous "Sambia" people, a tribe located in Papua New Guinea. They are remarkable for their beliefs about human fertility cycles and the rites of passage they constructed, as a result.[5] Rites of passage being rituals that are carried out inorder for an individual to transition from one state in life to another. In this case the Sambia people of Papua New Guinea have a rite of passage that allow young boys to become men, and viable husbands in the future. The Sambia place the onus of reproductive vitality on the male, believing that the baby is formed in the mother's womb by the father's life-giving semen. The child then gets all nourishment from the mother's milk, which causes them to grow and develop in the early stage of life. At the onset of puberty, however, it is believed that to develop any further the child must be reintroduced to the life-giving semen—the male's analog to milk. However, since they view semen as a highly scarce, albeit necessary resource for development, it must be carefully distributed among their people. Thus, from ages seven to ten, boys are taken from their mothers and initiated into highly secret and complex ritual associations whereby the boys are taught to fellate older boys and bring them to orgasm, thereby ingesting their life-giving semen. It's thought that by doing this they will develop into strong and reproductively viable human beings. Around the age of 14, the boys switch places and become the fellated, providing the necessary sustenance for the next generation to develop. Interestingly, the cultural practices of secret initiations diminished across the 1980s and by 1990 the secret initiation rituals were no longer practiced.[7]

    Rights of Sexuality

    Family Rights of LGBQT Couples

    In March 2016, U.S. District Judge, Daniel Jordan, ruled that Mississippi's long-held ban on same-sex parents adoption was unconstitutional. He cited the Supreme Court's decision in the Obergefell vs. Hodges court case that made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states in 2015. Mississippi was the last state with such a ban, meaning that it is now legal for gay parents to adopt children in all 50 states. The ban, which simply states "adoption by couples of the same gender is prohibited" had been in place since 2000. Overturning this law was a long, overdue change that even the man who signed it into being, Former Mississippi Governor, Ronnie Musgrove, believed should be overturned. He has said that "this decision that all of us made together has made it harder for an untold number of children to grow up healthy and happy in Mississippi -- and that breaks my heart."[8]

    Obergefell vs. Hodges

    Obergefell vs. Hodges is the supreme court case that made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states on June 26, 2015. It was decided by a 5-4 vote between Judges, Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Anthony Kennedy, and Sonia Sotomayer voting in favor of same-sex marriage, and judges Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas dissenting.[9] LGBTQ+ American's throughout the country celebrated, many buildings including the White House, the Empire State Building, and the Space Needle were lit up in rainbow colors. It was a huge victory for all of the people throughout history who have fought for equal marriage rights and for the millions of LGBT people in the United States.

    Sexual Harassment

    The definition of sexual harassment is, "harassment in a workplace or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks" [6]. An example of sexual harassment in schooling could be teasing someone about their body parts, snapping a girl's bra strap, catcalling, touching or slapping private areas, or asking unwanted questions repeatedly.

    Although in the U.S laws do not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments or isolated incidents, harassment is illegal when it is frequent enough to create a hostile or offensive work environment. The are several consequences for individuals who harass in the workplace such as losing their job or having a restraining order.The International Labor Organization is a specialized United Nations agency that has addressed sexual harassment as a prohibited form of sex discrimination under the discrimination convention [7]. When looking at sexual harassment in culture, it is typical in most cultures that women are the most vulnerable to the abuse. However, in the Kung culture, both men and women are seen as aggressive. Women especially are abusive verbally and tend to tease and provoke others. In Saudi Arabia, in specific the culture and Islam religion (which construct the country's laws) are against sexual harassment and display this in many ways. If an individual harasses a woman then the woman has the right to report it and the punishment for the man is jail time.

    Heteronormativity: The idea that relationships between men and women are the norm, often resulting in harassment from believers of the idea. This also infers that men and women will follow the social guidelines presented by their gender.

    Homophobia, [8] is the hatred, prejudice, and fear of someone who is sexually interested in someone of the same-sex. Often this has to do with direct aggression, violence, and discrimination of homosexuals so that their daily lives are directly affected. If someone is a homophobe they tend to treat homosexuals differently, typically looking down on them in society, this causes them to be isolated from society. Homophobia usually leads to homosexuals not receiving the same benefits as heterosexual couples, in many countries homosexuality is illegal. Homophobia can be psychologically as well as physically harmful to those who identify as homosexual.

    Acephobia is the discrimination and hatred or mistreatment of asexual people. This is very similar to homophobia, and is often expressed through microaggressions, which are everyday actions or words that are common throughout society and reaffirm the privilege of the aggressor,[9] or identity erasure. These microaggressions can be extremely harmful and oppressive over time. For instance, if an asexual person's relative continually nags them about getting a boyfriend or girlfriend, this will over time wear on the person and cause them to emotional harm and distress. Microaggressions like this are so common because society in the modern United States is highly sexualized; whether talking about branding, advertisement, or popular culture, there's a huge emphasis on sex and sexuality.[10] Acephobia is a direct result of this societal norm. Non-asexual people are not only the statistical majority, they're also the only culturally represented group which leads to a common belief (often proclaimed as "truth") that everyone experiences sex and sexual feelings in the same way. Though the development of that mindset is somewhat explainable, the negative effects it has on asexual people are devastating. Commonly, asexual people are told their identity is "just a phase" that they will "grow out of", or that "plenty of people chose not to have sex". The most major problems with these phrases is that they both erase and invalidate the perfectly valid identity of the asexual individual by implying that asexuality is both a choice and/or a "phase" when in fact it is neither.[11] These types of acephobia are harmful not just to the individual they are addressing but also to young and future asexuals who will grow up with those prejudices taught as truth and will probably believe they are somehow "broken" as most asexuals do before discovering the asexual community.


    10.1: Sexuality is shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Wikibooks - Cultural Anthropology.

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