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Revealing Hidden Aspects of Divinity in the 'Queer' Face

Towards a Jewish 'Queer' (Liberation) Theology

Judith Rosen-Berry

Emerging in the 1980s and flourishing during the 1990s ‘queer’ politics arrived as a reaction to what ‘queer’ activists and theorists identified as the narrow identity politics, rigid categories and separate groupings that had become associated with the lesbian and gay movements. In contrast to these rigid categories ‘queer’ politics proclaimed that all identities – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, even some heterosexual identities – could merge into a general ‘queerness’. The term ‘queer’ was understood then by many ‘queer’ activists and theorists in a very broad sense: referring not only to homosexuality and lesbianism but to everything that diverges from the ‘norm’. It became a response to mainstream hetero- normative/straight thinking of all kinds; its oppositional approach probably being best summed up in the slogan: ‘We’re here, we’re queer - get used to it!’ As sociologist Joshua Gamson wrote: ‘“Queer” does not so much rebel against outsider status, it revels in it’.

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Ofra Or

This article deals with midlife heterosexual Israeli-Jewish women in living-apart-together (LAT) partnerships after a previous marriage. The main issue that this research seeks to explore is how Israeli women experience these living arrangements. The most prominent justification for this type of partnership is the need for autonomy. The drive to achieve autonomy and the ambivalence expressed toward independence and intimacy are examined in three areas of identity formation: personal, partnership, and familial. In comparison to LAT partnerships in Western Europe, in which decisions are more likely to be made without taking the future into account, most partners in Israel negotiate possible changes in their living arrangements. In familial Israel, LAT partners also involve the extended family in the relationship. As a result, in Israel, LAT partnerships engender more ambivalence toward autonomy and interdependence than in other Western countries.

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The Child's Worst Interests

Socio-legal Taboos on Same-Sex Parenting and Their Impact on Children's Well-Being

Zvi Triger

This article questions the way in which the 'child's best interests' test is applied by Israeli courts in cases of children of same-sex parents. It argues that the reluctance to recognize same-sex parenting indicates that the child's best interests is a politicized concept, which looks at heterosexual ideology rather than at the child's specific circumstances. This ideology views the opposite-sex parental model as the ideal model and thus is wary of recognizing same-sex parenting because it also entails recognition of same-sex relationships. I identify this prejudice against same-sex relationships and parenting as the product of what I term cultural and legal 'heterophilia'. To the extent that the objections of judges and social workers to same-sex parenting (pursuant to this ideology) are based on fears of actual harm caused to the children because of their parents' sexual orientation, they are the product of homophobia.

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Tom Boellstorff

It is remarkable how few Westerners know that Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation (after China, India, and the United States), or that Indonesia is home to more Muslims than any other country. These basic facts should be enough to establish Indonesia’s importance for current world affairs. In this essay, however, I argue for paying attention to the life-worlds of gay and lesbian Indonesians. While this might seem an unconventional topic, these Indonesians’ lives provide valuable clues to how being ‘Indonesian’ gets defined and to the workings of nation-states more generally. They teach us how heteronormativity—the assumption that heterosexuality is the only normal or proper sexuality—plays a fundamental role in forming nation-states as “imagined communities.” In Indonesia and elsewhere, nation-states are modeled on a particular archetype of the nuclear family (husband, wife, and children, with the nation’s president as parent). In line with this model, nation-states often portray themselves as made up not just of individual citizens but of families, which almost always are assumed to be nuclear families despite the staggering range of family forms found in the world’s cultures. Restricting the family model to the heterosexual couple has been a key means by which the idea of the Indonesian nation (and other nations) has been promulgated and sustained. Thus, rather than see the exclusion of homosexuality as a latter-day response to an encroaching global gay and lesbian movement, this exclusion is most accurately understood as a point of departure by which the idea of ‘Indonesia’ comes to exist in the first place.

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Revolting Men?

Sexual Fears and Fantasies in Writings by Old Men, 1880–1910

Ann Heilmann

‘Being a man,’ Norman Mailer once wrote, ‘is the continuing battle of one ’s life … [One] can hardly ever assume [one] has become a man’. At the turn of the nineteenth century, it was the unbecoming (collapse) of (English) manhood which was foremost in the minds of many male writers. The growing sense of a masculine collective self in crisis can be placed in direct correlation with the advances of the British women’s movement and its destabilization of patriarchal hegemonies. This article examines the way in which, in their endeavour to exorcize the threat of female cultural and sociopolitical agency, anti-feminist male writers pressed New Woman fiction into service as a medium for conservative propaganda. I shall be considering two textual configurations of the turn-of-the-century masculinity complex and its articulations of dread and desire, dystopia and the male free-love plot. Sexual fantasies of women’s reconfinement within the boundaries of male desire, these texts served to defuse, depoliticize and (hetero)sexualize the political and moral/social purist agendas of feminist activists and writers by transforming the New Woman – the agent of feminist rebellion in women’s fiction – into a Sexy Angel in the House.

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All the Boys Are Straight

Heteronormativity in Contemporary Books on Fathering and Raising Boys

Damien W. Riggs

Over the past decade a rapidly growing number of books have been published on fathering and raising boys. Whilst these books purport to simply describe boyhood, this article suggests that they are in fact actively engaged in constructing boyhood and in making available to boys particular gender and sexual identities. In an analysis of ten such books, the article demonstrates how they are informed by a range of heteronormative and homophobic assumptions about boys and masculinity. Particular focus is given to constructions of the “average boy,” the assumption that such boys are “naturally” attracted to girls, discourses of the “sissy” boy, and accounts of gay boys. The analysis provided suggests that constructions of the first two rely upon the negative constructions of the latter two. Implications for the ways in which we understand boys, fathering and families are drawn from the findings. Recommendations are made for research agendas that not only respect and include gay boys and their parents, but also celebrate the experiences of non-gender normative, non-heterosexual boys.

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Brian Bergen-Aurand

Consider two instances of screened bodies. The first comes from the article published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy where a group of urologists and radiologists attempted to “confirm that it is feasible to take images of the male and female genitals during coitus and to compare this present study with previous theories and recent radiological studies of the anatomy during sexual intercourse” (Faix et al. 2002: 63). In their well-illustrated study of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) screen shots—often simplified and clarified with keyed line drawings—they address the history of trying to imagine and depict heterosexual intercourse, the movement, shape, and position of engaged male and female genitalia, and the factors affecting arousal and orgasm. (The study can only suggest the possibility of two types of vaginal orgasm as the man climaxes once during the experiment while the woman does not. Clitoral stimulation is mentioned but not pursued in the study.) The researchers assert the parameters of “normal” private and sexual lives and echo “natural” expectations with regard to sex, gender, sexuality, and sexual positions and practices. They involve themselves in visual analyses of drawings, sketches, ultrasound displays, and MRI monitors—discussing the details and features of the various technologies and the advantages and drawbacks of the different experimental conditions. They make a special note of “the couple” not experiencing difficulty having intercourse during the four sessions and mention the man’s consumption of Viagra.

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Katie Macentee

In the call for articles for this special issue on girls’ health, we highlighted that “[g]irls’ health is an ongoing and evolving issue with ties that go beyond medical analyses to include a wide array of social, educational, political, and environmental discourses (among others!).” Th at a number of different perspectives might contribute to or strengthen the interdisciplinary focus of an issue as crucial as girls’ health was important to me as guest editor. Th is issue demonstrates that the relationship of girlhood to health—sexual health, in particular—is of critical concern to us all. It is an area full of challenges and barriers, most of them, as is evident in this issue, understood and often expressed by girls themselves. The articles presented here point to the many perspectives from which to approach this topic. Girls’ sexual health is linked to an array of intersecting issues including the pedagogical influences of popular romance literature; the ways in which girls use blogs to construct counter narratives about their sexual identity; how girls’ increased inclusion in citizenship discourses can increase their capacity to address sexual objectification; what girls do to negotiate power within their heterosexual relationships; how barriers to water access in Africa can lead to the awareness of the risks—which range from being perceived to be promiscuous to being raped—that young women face; as well as how the (mis)management of menstruation can affect girls’ education. This issue points to the global and local specifics of sexual health, and to health more generally. Th e concerns discussed here are geographically wide-ranging: Cameroon, Lesotho, Australia, the United States, and Canada provide the settings—some urban and others rural. Th e authors present a wide range of methodologies from which they explore girls’ health: literary analysis; autoethnography; and participatory methods such as digital storytelling, mediamaking, listening to what young people have to say in various research paradigms, blogging, and photovoice.