A Culture of "Hook-Ups": Rethinking our Sexual Encounters on a More Positive Note

Here’s your fun weekend reading, y’all:

In their article and fraternities and rape culture, Boswell and Spade discuss the term “hooking up,” which may seem exciting and freeing for some students, though many interviewed grew tired of it rather quickly. But are these the only alternatives for sexual relationship: casual hook-ups with someone we may or may not care about or even know vs. committed relationships with a boyfriend or girlfriend? Maybe not.

This article on good sex from the Crunk Feminist Collective blog (despite its title, it has nothing to do with sex on your birthday) provides an interesting new perspective on sexual encounters based on an ethic of care that’s not always long-term, committed love.

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Race on Purdue's Campus: Equal Education?

So this article from the Exponent ties in with our discussions this week in a very unfortunate way. This is the second act of hate speech committed in the Krannert School of Management this year. The last incident took place in the spring, when a portrait of a noted African-American Purdue alum and retired professor hanging in Krannert was defaced with the same word.

Read the full article here: “Racist Writing Sparks Talk by Student Leaders on Campus.”

Which raises the question: can equal education exist when some students are intimidated and/or slandered, acts which create a climate of tension and fear absolutely not conducive to learning?

 

"I'm Not a Boy": Transgender and Transexual Identities

In the excerpt from her article “Two Sexes Are Not Enough,” Anne Fausto-Sterling argues that western culture should recognize at least five sexes, at the very least because human biology produces more than two sexes. In addition, she argues that medical practitioners should change how they handle the births of intersex babies. Cheryl Chase, born intersexed herself, also argues that we need to change such practices, which, in her own personal experience, cause more harm than good, both physically and psychologically.

VOCABULARY

Let’s review some terms from the reading: gender, sex, transgender, transsexual, transvestite, intersex. The following definitions were taken from the LGBTQIA glossary:

Gender: refers to the social attributes and characteristics, or identity, generally associated with being male and female in a culture.

Sex: refers to someone’s biological category (e.g., having male, female, or intersex genitalia). Gender does not always follow from one’s sex (i.e., one may be biologically male but gender-identify as feminine).

Intersex: describes people who naturally (that is, without any medical interventions) develop primary and/or secondary sex characteristics that do not fit neatly into society’s definitions of male or female; these individuals may or may not have both male and female genitalia (or parts of both) at birth. Has replaced “hermaphrodite,” which is inaccurate and generally offensive, since it means “having both sexes” and this is not necessarily true, as there are at least 16 different ways to be intersex.

Transgender: an umbrella term, that describes a wide range of identities of people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from conventional expectations based on their assigned biological birth sex. Some commonly held definitions:

  1. Someone whose behavior or expression does not “match” their assigned sex according to society.
  2. A gender outside of the man/woman binary.
  3. Having no gender or multiple genders.
  4. Some definitions also include people who perform gender or play with it.
  5. Historically, the term was coined to designate a transperson who was not undergoing medical transition (surgery or hormones).

Transsexual: A person who perceives themselves as a member of a gender that does not “match” the sex they were assigned at birth. Many pursue hormones and/or surgery. Sometimes used to specifically refer to trans* people pursuing gender or sex reassignment.

Crossdresser (formerly Transvestite): describes a person who dresses, at least partially or part of the time, and for any number of reasons, in clothing associated with another gender within a particular society. Carries no implications of “usual” gender appearance, or sexual orientation (i.e., a straight man may crossdress as a woman but not be gay). Has replaced “transvestite,”  since it was historically used to diagnose medical/mental health disorders.

Note: There are additional more specific terms that people who identify as “queer” use to identify themselves and members of the queer community. These paint a picture of just how complex human sexual identity can be. See the glossary for more!

“I’M NOT A BOY” – JULIE JOYCE

The following short documentary was created by Julie Joyce, a transgendered teen, and won the Empowerment Award at the Media That Matters Film Festival:

A Contemporary "Child X" Experiment: Toronto Parents Decide Not to Reveal the Sex of Their Baby, Despite Criticism

Baby Storm and another sibling. Storm’s parents faced criticism of their parenting of all their children when they decided to raise Storm genderless.

Many if you were interested, or surprised about Lorber’s reference to a 1972 article in Ms. Magazine that discussed the possibility of raising a genderless child, a child who would grow up free from the gendered messages and pigeonholing that takes place from the moment we’re born. While that article was a fantasy in 1972, it might be a reality for a pair of parents in Toronto.

Last year (2011), Storm’s parents decided not to reveal Storm’s sex. The only people who know are Storm’s siblings and the two midwives who oversaw Storm’s birth. While some were supportive, the couple faced criticism, not just from neighbors but from the right-wing news media.

Over the weekend, read the full article about Storm and Storm’s parents here.

QUESTIONS

Be prepared to discuss the following questions in class on Monday:

  1. How does criticism of Storm’s parents’ decision reveal what Lorber says about the importance we ascribe to a two-gender system in Western culture?
  2. What kind of gendering messages do you remember receiving as a child (e.g., about “proper” behavior or speech, dress, your looks, etc.)? At the time, how did you respond to these messages? What do you think of them now?
  3. How do you think this two-gender system shapes our understanding of “compulsory heterosexuality” (Rich’s term) and therefore homosexuality in our culture?
  4. How can other aspects of our identities – e.g., race and class – complicate our sexual identity? Think of Lorde’s essay “Age, Race, Class, and Sex.”