Sex. People making love.
No matter if you imagined an old couple or a random on-night stand fuck, the chances that intercourse (precisely penetrative sex), was part the image are pretty high. On your mind was probably the stereotypical idea we have about sex: A social act between two, a female and a male agent. Maybe you came up with a completely different scene, yet we can still assume that most people would have thought of exactly this image. Even if a person prefers other possible sexual interactions, other sex where no penis or vibrator needs to be part of the game. Among others Oralsex. Or for instance Cybersex.
Although there is such a beautiful variety of sex, our cultural understanding of sex prescribes a simplified idea of it as it being The question we should ask ourselves is how our construction of sex as the notion of intercourse – and nothing more or less – had the chance to become such a normalised script up to now. Why does it remain so unchallenged?
The intuitive understanding of sex as intercourse gains support on different levels. A very strong and powerful underlying concept is that of naturalization. Heterosexual penetrative sex is mostly considered to be sex because it is in fact the only one leading to procreation of the human species. An in-depth qualitative study with heterosexual males and females in Newzealand they got closer to the question, what makes penetrative sex so natural. A lot of them described intercourse as a „natural“ notion to want In this sense, male- female sex relations were depicted as fitting to each other. In other words, a lot of people tended to interpret it as a natural drive which is biologically rooted by the need of reproduction. These strong naturalization is then proven by their own desire and lust they feel. Even though it was hard for some of them to describe, why (apart from biology oring and desire) people perform intercourse.
One the one hand, such naturalistic and reproductive reasoning implies strong heteronormativity and at the same time legitimizes penetrative penis-vagina sex to be the ideal sex. Forgetting that all other sexual interaction as well as masturbation could also be seen as “real“ sex. Moreover, it is a social imperative. People just have Sex. We just know that people- in a certain age- do intercourse. Normalization of intercourse is linked to expectations to fulfill the norm to be normal. At this point it can pose pressure. Women tend twice as much as men to engage in intercourse eventough they do not really feel like it. ₃
Thus, sex as a heterosexual intercourse is socially normalized. This means that this concept is so deeply entrenched in our culture that we do not really come to the point to question it. That heterosexuality is still highly normative is no secret, bearing in mind it is that gay marriage and linked to it the right to adopt became officially legal in Germany literally today. It is surprising how narrow and restricted our sex seems nowadays, contrary to our perceptions of being a fully liberated society.
References and further information
₁ Baban, A. and David, H. P. (1994) ‘Romanian Women’s Perceptions of Sexuality, Partner Relations, and Reproductive Behaviour during the Ceausescu Era’
₂ Gavey, McPhillips & Braun (1999)` Interruptus Coitus: Heterosexual Accountings for intercours.´
₃ Sprecher et al., 1994; O’Sullivan & Allgeier, 1998