The social construction of sexuality

The Wrocław museum for contemporary art has very interesting events, and yesterday I attended one entitled “The social construction of sexuality” which was to mark the publication of the Polish translation of the book with the same name as the title of the evening  by Steven Seidman (Polish “Społeczne tworzenie seksualności“) with forward by Jacek Kochanowski, who gave the lecture last evening.


During the talk Jacek Kochanowski spoke of how sexuality as is considered to be in Poland does not reflect the reality of the different sexualities in Poland.  As he said, it is a fact that there is a great diversity, which can involve not only sex only involving men or women but also fetishisation and heterosexual darkrooms (a migrant cultural element from gay culture).

I was attracted to this event as I am interested in the issue of normality (my last article was on the sexist nature of normality in Poland).  Kochanowski spoke of how the clear model in Poland which is expected of sex is that not only does it only involve a male and a female, but also it must involve an orgasm (largely involving the male) in order for it to be called sex.  Furthermore, this sex is not for pleasure but for procreation.  Such a sex requires a dominant person and a passive person.  Anything outside of this is outside of the “norm” and is therefore viewed with suspicion, this then being one of the reasons behind homophobia in Poland.  Of course, this view is largely influenced by the official policy of the Roman Catholic church (even if not always followed by its members).  This has of course obvious consequences for women, reduced to orgasm- free sex and being child-bearers.

Of course, this isn’t restricted to Poland.  I’ve heard such stuff before in GB and in my church some conservative evangelicals will focus on the “man and woman having sex” norm, though less so with regards to procreation but more with regards to “being one” in a marital relationship.  But anyway, I found it a useful contribution to the nature of normality in that morals get attached to the norm.  What is normal is moral, what is “abnormal” (even if involving consenting adults) is immoral.

I believe it to be useful to focus not just on the issue of rights, saying that “this and that” should happen, but also on focussing on the social construction of normality.  To add to what Kochanowski said, it is simply not true that all people born in Poland are things like Roman Catholics (I know plenty Orthodox and some Protestants, as well as atheists) or meat-eaters (I hardly know any meat-eaters).  That one particular norm is considered to be representative of all people in Poland says a lot about power and domination (ironically enough, giving the subject).

Another aspect that interested me about the lecture and then talk is the nature of auto-aggression by the gay male in Poland.  In that the norm is to be heterosexual, dominant and macho, being gay is tied up with not being male.  This is somewhat new for me.  Part of gay culture as I know it does involve macho-men, not men seeming to reject their male nature.  Hence the use of things like leather, things that accentuate the male body.

Of course, I am speaking from the position of dominance.  I am heterosexual and married.  People like me are seen on advertising and films.  Bearing that in mind, I have the following contribution: I once attended a workshop on homosexuality led by a gay friend who informed us of the different parts of identity, being the biological sex (if it is clear which one one has), the gender role in society, the clothes one wears, the biological sex(es) that one is sexually attracted to, ones sexuality (meaning how I express ones biological sex or ones desire for sex, such as through the clothes one wears, body posture and the contact that one seeks for, such as men playing football together).  A man can wear women’s clothes and be heterosexual.  A woman can be a manager.  A man can be gay and be macho.  A heterosexual man can like the physical touch of other men (even if it takes a few drinks to get to that state)*.

Perhaps I have the wrong impression.  That being LGBT is even further from being the “norm” in Poland than in other countries I have lived in means that I have a very small relation to LGBT culture.

In any case, I recommend the Wrocław museum of contemporary art.  (Hence my last review of an event there.)

I plan to return to the theme of “normality” in the future.

* Later my wife told me of a documentary she saw of interviews wth female sex-workers, who said that often men wanted someone to happen in the way of anal stimulation (i.e. happening to them).  This was something they were ashamed about and therefore were asking sex-workers for this, rather than their wives.  A men having pleasure on or in his arse is seen as being gay, and therefore the men in question didn’t also want themselves to be thought of being gay.  Certainly, I’ve heard before about heterosexual men liking not only being stroked on their arse, but also being anally penetrated by women one way or another.  This offers of course another way in which women can rape men.

This offers an interesting light on the nature of men and women relations, in that part of male homophobia is born out of the fear of being raped.  Here I’ll admit something.  As a child I was brought up in a homophobic culture and “queer” was a term of insult.  I remember rumours of people being gay and feeling a fear, a fear that I now realised was out of a fear of being raped.  “Backs to the walls, lads” we said.  I remember years later seeing Julian Clary on a TV show where an older man said “I’ve got no problem with you being gay, just don’t try anything with me”, to which Julian Clary replied “You should be so lucky!”  Here there is an assumption that all gay men want sex with all men (said for example about gay footballers, “surely you can’t shower with them”.  Here of course nakedness is mixed up with sex.  Like Kochanowski, I’m a fan of naturist areas.  Eastern Germany’s good with that).

I wonder whether this fear that all gay men want sex with all men is a projection.  My wife told me anyway that in this sense men are confronted with how it is possible for women to feel, in that any man can be a rapist.  (Of course, as I just demonstrated, it goes for women as well).


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