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The Nature of Being

rethinking the facts of life

As I wrote in the last article, intercourse is still regarded to be the one and only sex. Such a normative discourse about sex poses pressure, especially for women to have sex even if they don’t really want it. Or other than that do not really like it. The inequality between the sexes is strongly displayed in sexuality and sexual satisfaction. For example, young women are more likely to depend on the  satisfaction of their partner, compared to young men relying on their own sexual satisfaction. They also do engage in active oral sex more often even if they do not really want to. ₁  To satisfy their partner. Of course there is the bigger picture about patriarchy, power and sociality but here we want to concentrate on the processes of naturalization. I do not want to deny that there are certain biological differences between the sexes, yet they are rather tiny compared to the social and psychological consequences resulting out of it. In turn, underlying pretended naturalizations encourage and legitimize differences which must not exist.

Considering sexuality, a certain correlation between the nature of sex and the psychological disposition is assumed. ₂ Women are seen to be the receiving part of the coitus. She is passive and does not have such a strong desire. She wants a child and her nature is meant for that. While men are giving subjects with a strong  drive to spread their sperm to reproduce their genes. I am quite surprised how common that idea still is. In articles about the question of who has more sex and why or simply when men try to justify why they cheat on their girlfriend (Yes, it is stupid but people still do so). That young women in America qualify good sex by the absences of pain while young men don´t, as Peggy Orenstein cites a big U.S. research, is worth discussing. ₃

Therefore, language should be considered in the first place. There is an urgent need to find appropriate words for sexual organs. In German there are very few words for our sexual organs or otherwise they are so deprecate that you don´t really want to use them while you have sex. Especially for Woman’s sexual organs this is a problem. I am constantly surprised how many women, even adult women cannot tell you the difference between Vagina and Vulva. But if you want to tell somebody what you would like them to do with you. You should be able to name it. Right?

 

 

References and further Information

₁  https://www.ted.com/talks/peggy_orenstein_what_young_women_believe_about_their_own_ sexual_pleasure#t-300836

₂ Wrede, B. (2000). Was ist Sexualität?

 

https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/neepb8/the-science-of-female-pleasure-still-needs-more-attention

Durex: Studie zum Sexleben der Deutschen (http://www.presseportal.de/pm/115990/3253390)

 

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Let´s talk about sex

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

 

Theoretical bisexual?

When I was in Germany and I had free time I usually watched my favourite Spanish tv program called “El Hormiguero”. Sometimes there is a collaborator called Mario Vaquerizo . Is a famous Spanish personality and singer at his 40s and husband from a famous singer called Alaska. He always wearing a gothic-punk style, with leather black trousers and black t-shirts and jackets, usually wears black-eyed shadows and has long black hair. What can be said to be a person from the gothic tribe. What its more famous about his marriage and career is his personality and the way he acts. He has an extrovert personality, a talkative person saying a lot of jokes and with an outburst of laughter. Is impossible not to laugh when he does it. But most characteristic is how he acted. That is when he is a subject of study for categorizing sex and sexuality. He walks very stylistic, near jumping, sometimes with boats with heels. He doesn’t walk like a man, as John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever”. Not only that. How he expresses and speaks can’t be considered properly as a man if we consider the gender stereotypes. He moves like a “woman” like shake his hair, talk about him as “her” and use Spanish vulgar adjectives like “cari” and “nena”, used by women. Is like a gothic woman with a man body.

By his aspects and features it can be said that he is a man, but how he acts and speaks its properly from a woman. It can be said that he is a stereotype of gay people, a man that acts as a woman. As information, he considered himself as bisexual, but not a normal bisexual, a “theoretical bisexual”. “I’ve always said that I’m a theoretical bisexual, because if I see a guy who seems handsome I say it without any problem. Being surrounded by homosexuals, the desire between men is part of my life, but I think not today I get the boys to go with some to bed. I cannot imagine having them in love and sexual situation, so I am in theory but not in practice. “

My ethnography case

When I was doing my Erasmus in Germany I attended a conference in Freie Universität Berlin about gender politics. Is my second day there. I’m a little tired of so many panels and the conference is going to end and I was sat listening to them when suddenly one of the assistants stand up and going outside. I guess to the toilet. This person is my object of study in my ethnography work because it calls me my attention. The first time I though it’s a girl. She has short-cut blond hair, what can be considered as a boys’ haircut. If you think about that, short hair nowadays doesn’t mean a completely masculine hair curt. This can be also a girls’ haircut, as the famous pixie cut that many famous people wear as Emma Watson and Michelle Williams. Then I’m moving to the face, It’s something …androgen. I was sure that it’s a woman, but it also has like masculine features, hard features and a blue-eyes glance that remembered me to a man. Then I passed to the clothes. She is wearing a white T-shirt with denim overalls. Looking at her overall, it seems at the first time she is a woman, but when I looked at her deeply, a man appears in my man. It’s like have two genders at the same time.

As conclusion, think that one has a gender caused the way it dresses or look or have the haircut, just have what is expected from your sex, doesn’t mean that you belong to that gender. Times changes and we pass from considerate trousers as masculine and from boys are now for girls too. We should take in mind that there are not things such as clothes or actions that are associated to one sex. Nowadays this can be for both and equality start by that.

Spanish homosexuals: 40 years of repression and activism drawing the rainbow

In the last four decades, the Spanish LGBT community has gone from hiding to recognition. In 1970, a group of activists led by Armand de Fluvià, Francesc Francino and later Amanda Klein, secretly founded the Spanish Homosexual Liberation Movement. Four decades later, the claims have evolved, but will remain until the collective reaches full equality in all areas of life. In any case, Jesus Generelo, president of the FELGTB, admits that “Spain has completely rolled back the tortilla: from a society that stigmatized sexual, gender or family diversity, we have come to the stigma has moved to those who discriminate. ” June 26, 1977, germ of Pride. Some 5,000 people went to the Ramblas in Barcelona to defend LGBT rights. They demanded an amnesty for those detained based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, who were not equated with other political prisoners.

-26 June 1977, germ of Pride. Some 5,000 people went to the Ramblas in Barcelona to defend LGBT rights. They demanded an amnesty for those detained based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, who were not equated with other political prisoners.

Just as in the Stonewall (New York) riots of June 28, 1969, the pride of the Pride, at the 77th demonstration, the trans women “stood in the front line, giving the face,” recalls Amanda Rodriguez, a member of the FELGTB.

-31 January 1979, Law of Danger. With the entry into force of the repeal of part of this Francoist law, the ‘homosexual acts’ ceased to be officially persecuted. But until 83, no other stigmatizing law was modified, which regulated the ‘public scandal’, which was used to repress homosexuality and transsexuality recurrently.

-June 30, 2005, marriage approval. With 187 votes in favor and 147 against, the Congress of Deputies gave the green light to the amendment of the Civil Code to open the marriage to same-sex couples. The now-defunct activist Pedro Zerolo was one of the great supporters – among others, like Marisa Castro – that the new legislation went ahead. Finally, on July 3 came into force and Spain became the third country in the world to legalize equal marriage, behind the Netherlands and Belgium and ahead of Canada, which would do so only a few days later. Just eight days after the entry into force of the law, Carlos Baturín and Emilio Menéndez were united in marriage in the Town Hall of Tres Cantos on July 11, 2005.

-March 5, 2007, gender identity. When this law was approved, many trans persons could access the name and sex change in the DNI without the obligation of surgical intervention. More than ten years after its entry into force – March 17, 2007 – the group claims to update legislation to recognize trans children or to include the so-called ‘free self-determination of gender’, without the need for medical diagnosis and treatment. Only a state law would ensure the equality of all trans people. Although different communities like Madrid have developed their own rules, only a state law would ensure the equality of all trans people, regardless of their place of residence.

-May 4, 2017, Equality Act. The FELGTB registered in the Congress of Deputies a bill against discrimination and in favour of social equality of LGBT people. The text includes measures in different areas such as health, education or work. Also in this case, different autonomous parliaments have taken the lead. For the same reason, a law of Spanish rank would eradicate territorial inequalities.

Hello and Sexuality today

Hi, my name is Paula and I had my Erasmus in Potsdam last semester. I study International Studies, and this subject is about organisations. But above all, is about sex and gender. And above all, is how we are categorizing them in international organizations.

Human rights are earned from the bottom up. Now, about LGTBI rights, there is a paradox that we do not find in other areas of human rights. It is difficult to think of another area related to rights and freedoms in which there is so much contrast between what the groups at the national level in some countries have achieved with their struggle and the situation in which LGBT people in other places. We live in a world where same-sex relationships can be punished even with the death penalty and where same-sex people can marry and have offspring and transsexuals can enrol the gender with which they identify.

This disparity is due in large part to the absence of international standards about discrimination based on the sexual orientation and gender identity of individuals. So far, the international bodies responsible for human rights have not sufficiently addressed the situation of LGBTI persons. Even the European Court of Human Rights itself continues to pronounce itself as timidly as it is questionable on such important issues as egalitarian marriage or the pathologizing of transsexuality. At the UN level, the only notable text that we find is the declaration of 12 United Nations entities to end violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people adopted in 2015 and that, if well implied a small advance in the positioning of these entities, its real impact has been very scarce.

In short, the international community has left the LGTBI collective to its fate, and its inactivity sometimes clashes with complicity with governments that repress and promote violence and discrimination. In this context, the appointment by the United Nations Human Rights Council of an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, which the reluctance of some African, Asian and Eastern European countries in November last year.

In addition, the Council specifically requested the independent expert to evaluate the implementation of international human rights instruments to overcome discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity, to raise public awareness of this problem, to dialogue with States and international agencies to advance this issue, to promote good practices in the implementation of measures that contribute to the protection of the collective, to identify multiple forms of violence and discrimination and to support counselling and technical assistance to promote initiatives to combat violence and discrimination.

Of course, many issues of vital importance for the group remain – I personally miss, as a matter of priority, a more determined defence of the right to family life without discrimination. However, this report should be welcomed as a first effort to advance the international recognition of LGTBI rights, and it is very important and necessary for civil society to follow up on the Expert’s work so that his work the greatest and best possible impact. In this regard, it is important to emphasize that the Expert calls on civil society groups and organizations to submit their contributions for their second report to the General Assembly through their email ie-sogi@ohchr.org.

Analysis

Throughout my observations, of which I did many more than I recorded here, I noticed that sexuality is not something I can simply sense. It is a judgement I make based on the gender-appropriate behaviour of a person. The observation was meant to look at how I “knew” what sexuality a person had, not at what gender. Observing sex and gender, to me, was too vague since I knew that people who had transitioned in their young age were almost unrecognisable.
I also believed that guessing a person’s sex/gender was simply impossible as I rejected heteronormative judgement of strangers – who am I to decide what gender a person is? Why would it make a difference anyway? Should I not just treat everyone the same way? If I cannot treat two sexes the same, how can I demand from myself to treat people out of the norm equally?
But through my observations of stranger’s sexualities, I realised that I was still judging the person’s performance of gender: if a person was identifiable as “male” or “female” and did not behave or dress accordingly, I did not conclude their “trans” or “inter” identity, but their “queer” sexuality.

When judging people on a scale of female to male, we look for culturally negotiated signs of femininity or masculinity. The conclusion of a person’s gender can either be heteronormative or not, meaning everything in between, every identity that does not strictly fit into either extreme. Important to note is that there is more tolerance towards a woman behaving less stereotypically feminine and less of a man not behaving stereotypically masculine. This is because the man’s role is the defining part of the binary. You can be a man, for which you need to fulfil the norm, or you are not a man. A woman has more room to play with her gender performativity before she is considered not a woman.

bild blog

A trans person, can also be either seen as heteronormative or not, as the transition is sometimes impossible to see from a stranger’s point of view. If it is possible to see, then the trans person is considered non-heteronormative, without the viewer having to have an understanding of the concept “trans”. The viewer simply sees that the person is somewhere outside of the norm.
With sexuality, the same process goes through my mind, even though I try to overcome this biased thinking. Without seeing a person kissing someone of the same sex, I can “see” his sexuality which is usually associated with a non-heteronormative looks or behaviour.

The persons I observed were usually out of the norm in one way or the other. Women with pixie-cut short hair and no makeup, men with a high voice and pink phones. The key thing here is the word “norm”. “Normal” is culturally constructed. For me, as someone coming from a middle European background, normal means something different to the normal of a Muslim man from the Middle East.
When looking at gender or sexuality, normal in both scenarios means cisheteronormative: a man who wears jeans or trousers, not skirts and definitely no makeup. But it depends on the lens one is looking through during their observation: while the sport sciences student from my first observation might have seemed “trans” to someone looking for gender-identity during their observation, for me it meant “gay” in my observation of sexualities. But for both of us, the culturally constructed “normal” is the guideline of how we judged people.

For the scale used above this means: heteronormative is normal is gender conforming, non-heteronormative is abnormal is non-conforming.
This fits into the binary opposition of concepts in the world according to Jaques Derrida.

Normal ↔ Abnormal

Cis ↔ Trans

Heterosexual ↔ Homosexual

 

Even though I did not aim to look at the gender of my subjects, I still used it as a tool to determine whether they fit into the cultural construct of “normal” or “abnormal”, meaning gay or straight.

 

This observation was an uncomfortable experience for me, as it showed me how biased my own thought process can be if I really focus on a stranger’s appearance to determine their sexuality. I aim to treat everyone the same and not judge people based on their norm-conformativity. But the observation made it clear that I still work with the cultural definitions of “normal” when it comes to gender performance and sexuality.
Maybe once the sexes and sexualities become both “normal” in our world, I will no longer categorise people or at least I will not feel bad for putting them into the category “homosexual” (which suggests that I subscribe to the construction of homosexual as “abnormal”).
But as I said in my first blog post, it’s important what I do with those judgements: if I still treat the person the right way and think no less of them, then maybe it’s not a sign of me being a horrible sexist but just someone who was raised in a heteronormative world trying to be a decent human being anyway.

 

Part III – The guy in the waiting room

I’m sitting in a dentist’s waiting room, reading a magazine that’s quite boring. In comes a man, mid-thirties, who looks like the stereotypical hippie. I think about my other observations: usually I associate out of the norm styles as an indicator for homosexuality (yes I know, how horrible, right?), but with him I am sure of his heterosexuality. I begin to wonder why.
He has mid length hair tied up in a bun with a side cut framing his face and a full long beard. His clothes look clean but much worn. His khaki shirt is too big for him, he wears outworn shoes with an ethno look as well as a really colourful, handwoven bag that looks like it was made in South America. He wears a leatherband around his arm and to top it all off, he has an old scruffy looking pigeon feather sticking out of his bun. He wears big headphones which seems to have the purpose of dissuading strangers from talking to him. Or he could just be listening to music. I notice how much I’m projecting onto others.

I feel like I’ve never seen such a perfect personification of the word hippie before. But he seems nice, he gives me a smile when he notices me staring at him (I’m pretending to be lost in thought) and takes his phone out to call someone. While he’s talking, he puts his ankle on the other leg’s knee, thereby doing the infamous “manspreading” everyone is talking about. Even though he has such a different style, I’m sure that he is more heterosexual. Maybe it is because I imagine gay men to be awfully concerned with their looks, but I immediately dismiss this thought. It’s a horrible bias.

Now that I think about it, I’ve never seen hippie men as effeminate or out of the heterosexist norms. Which is strange because in my other observation, I stated that I associated “different” life choices with an openness towards homosexual experiences or even full on homosexuality. Here is this man, clearly rejecting society’s norms of orderliness and capitalist consumerism but I would never have thought of him as being gay. Even though I know that back in the day, hippies were open to different sexual preferences, it just doesn’t seem to fit in his case.

Maybe it is the way he sits or the way he smiled at me which suggested a heterosexual man’s reaction to a young woman wearing a short dress. Which, again, is also a stereotype, because not everyone is attracted to everyone. The smile might just as well have been meant in a nice way.
In the end, I realise I really have no clue anymore of who has which sexuality.

Part II – The woman on the train

I’m on a train on my way back home from Berlin, somewhere between Potsdamer Platz and Südkreuz.
I notice a young woman, probably between 20 and 25, with a black mid-length bob haircut, black denim jacket, black jeans, really pale skin. Her legs are crossed, her posture is really good, her right arm draped over the handle of her suitcase, clasping it loosely. She wears a bit of makeup, cat-eye line, no lipstick or anything colourful. It seems like she is stressed or impatient. Maybe because she will get off the train soon: she has a big suitcase and will probably change trains in Südkreuz.
I don’t know why but she seems like she’s really cool, her style a mixture of grunge and chique. Somehow, the grunge makes her seem a bit different, out of the norm. Like she’s not walking the usual path in life, whatever that is. Her rebellious look makes me think she might not be straight, maybe gay but at least bi-curious. She keeps looking out of the window, tapping her left foot.
I can imagine her sitting at the table with her morning coffee, laughing with her girlfriend but not a boyfriend. It’s funny that an “edgy” style makes me think she might be outside of heteronormativity.
Actually, it seems like a horrible stereotype: gay people must look different, never normal like a baker or electrician. Maybe that stereotype comes from the media, where the homosexual friends are either camp or strange like a tropical bird or rebellious. Even in progressive shows like Sense8, the gay characters are associated with crazy pride parties, like Nomi and her girlfriend.
The girl on the train is pretty normal compared to those characters. I begin to feel bad watching her. It seems like she’s noticed me. I try to be more subtle and now she is getting up, walking to the next exit. She moves in a gender-neutral way, no sway of the hips or strut. She just looks professional, in a hurry. I feel strange watching her, intrusive and judging, something I’ve tried to stop myself from doing for years. In the end, I will not know her sexuality. I can only cling onto “straight” or “gay” coded accessoirs or clothes that I can add up to make her straight or gay in my mind. I wonder what my accessoirs tell about me.

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