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Sexuality

Questioning The Concept Of Sexuality

In the first place, we need to question the concept of sexuality. We can no longer easily see sexuality as a given and constant nexus of instincts, drives, and desires with automatic effects on individual and social lives. Rather, we need to see the erotic as always and necessarily given meaning only through the social. That means inevitably that to find the sexual, we always need to look for its specific local manifestations and the forces that structure it. Instead of seeking the laws of nature that would explain sexuality as a universal phenomenon, we need to understand the social organizations of sexualities in all their diverse forms. We therefore need to speak not of sexuality but of sexualities, not of sex and society but of sexual cultures. To understand sexual cultures we need to understand the diverse contexts in which meanings are attributed to intimacy and eroticism, and the complex social interactions that shape the erotic cultures of different societies.

It is important, further, to recognize that sexualities are hierarchically organized—that is, some forms are dominant while others have been made subordinate and marginalized—and are shaped by complex relations of power. The most familiar of these relate to gender, class, age, race, and ethnicity. There has also been an increasing recognition that sexualities in the West at least have been organized into institutionalized forms of heterosexuality, leading to critiques of "compulsory heterosexuality," "heterosexism," the "heterosexual panorama," the "heterosexual assumption," and "heteronormativity"—the phrases vary, but the effort put into these concepts underlines the importance many people give to questioning our assumptions.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Semiotics to SmeltingSexuality - Conceptualizing Sexuality, Questioning The Concept Of Sexuality, Gendering Sexualities, New Subjectivities, Globalization, Conflict Of Values