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Week 12 Lem

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Final Paper Elders

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Victoria Kline
March 23, 2005
Seminar in Ethnology
Dr. Pérez

Framing the Sexual Subject: Week 9

Introduction by the editors

The introduction to the whole volume starts here. The essays were originally presented at a conference on gender and sexuality in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Each paper delves into an area that relates to problems of sexual identity, sexuality, marginalization (by gender or sexuality), risk taking behavior, sexual rights, or some other viewpoint on gender or sexuality. The second half of the introduction is a paragraph or so preview of each of the chapters in the volume.

Discussion Question: Why is feminism always grouped with gay, lesbian, or queer theory?

Part One: Bodies, Cultures, and Identites

Chapter 1: Body Play: Corporeality in a Discursive Silence by Gary W. Dowsett

Gosh this guy is a good writer, the subject matter and his presentation are somewhat startling at times; like a slap in the face. Dowsett talks about the availability of places for men to meet and have sexual relationships in Australia where he gives erotic accounts of two men’s homosexual activities. Harry began a life as a heterosexual (in the open) married with children. Secretly he roamed the “beats” where men could find other men to engage in sexual activities, always in a most distant and non-committed way. Until he met someone that he had feelings for, and then he came out in the open and the two men hooked up as a couple, and it is within this relationship that the author met him.

The other man, John, knew he was gay or homosexual from the beginning, having had an intimate relationship with a childhood friend that turned sexual around the age of 15. This was a relationship that lasted all their adult lives until they both died of AIDS. The two were committed to each other but other men were always allowed into their bedroom. Had they not engaged in sex with partners outside their union, they would not have become infected with the AIDS virus.

Discussion Question: This essay makes it sound so sleazy, like these men do nothing but look for sexual relations that they do not have any commitment to. Like they just make rounds, find others with the same desires and then just go for it. AIDS put the brakes on heterosexual sex, why not same gender sex?

Discussion Question: This essay makes it sound like the adults are luring in young boys. As a parent I would not want my children to be exposed to this sort of behavior. Young people are extremely vulnerable and need protection from errant or deviant behavior as they are susceptible to persuasion, wanting to be loved, wanted, older, or whatever. They don’t really know what they want at that age and parents should parent them. When older, then they are consenting adults. This behavior that they indulge in seems to be overindulgent or hedonistic. Come on, there are other things to do besides have sex. No work gets done if everyone just engages in sexual activity all the time. There is such a thing as self-control.

Discussion Question: Do you think it is OK for a female camp councilor to tell a bunch of 12-year-old girls that if they haven’t already made out or done it with a girl that it won’t be long before it happens? That happened at a girls camp, heard it on the news. In my opinion, no, this should never have happened. To put a thought like that into a young girls head, is not healthy. The councilors statement was also untrue. Not all girls are attracted that way to other girls. Twelve year olds should not be exposed. Children act out what they hear sometimes.

Chapter 2: Masculinity in Indonesia: Genders, Sexualities, and Identities in a Changing Society by Dede Oetomo

Oetomo discusses the construction of masculinity by women, waria, and heterosexual and homosexual men. He also sorts out the differences between banci and waria, Indonesian terms applying to a third gender. The translation seems to be that a waria is a transvestite that is also homosexual, and can lure in men with her feminine appearance. The banci is someone that is gender neutral in appearance. Children are called banci if for instance the young boy plays with dolls, or the girl plays in the dirt with trucks or likes to climb trees.

They would be called effeminate and tomboy respectively here. The two words seem to be used synonymously in this reading. You definitely get the idea that certain gendered behaviors are not thought to be normal and parents attempt to teach their children not to act in opposite ways to the norms.

Discussion Question: Do you think that a boy that plays with dolls is going to grow up to be gay? Or a girl who is rough and tumble, plays with trucks and does not like pink will grow up to be a dike? I do not think that the activities that children engage in have anything to do with sexual preference later in life. I think a girl can be heterosexual and be an auto mechanic, fix her own washing machine, and never wear feminine clothing.  

It sounds like in Indonesia they enjoy entertainment by cross dressers as much as we do here. It makes me think of Ru Paul (sp?) and how he is a better woman than I am!

Discussion: Here is one passage that got to me. “For Muslim men…sex with women outside marriage is considered zinah (adulterous), but this is not necessarily true of sex with waria” (49). If we are going to have equality on this issue, please, sex with anybody should be adulterous. 

Chapter 3: Male Homosexuality and Seropositivity: The Construction of Social Identities in Brazil by Veriano Terto Jr.

This chapter is about the AIDS epidemic and how it is affecting the homosexual population in Brazil. Beginning in 1981 AIDS had made its way to Brazil. Just a fact that Terto states “In most Latin American countries, homosexual transmission remains responsible for up to fifty percent of AIDS cases” (60).

Discussion: If AIDS were a disease of homosexuals you would expect that transmission of AIDS by homosexual activity to be much higher than fifty percent of cases.

As in the chapter one, before AIDS arrived in Brazil, in the larger cities “there was a rapid proliferation of commercial gay meeting places, such as bars, saunas, and discos, superimposed over the more clandestine, or underground, circuits…” (63). A similar construction of meeting and socializing as in the Australian story. 

Part Two: Sex, Gender, and Power

Chapter 4: Sexual Rights: Inventing a Concept, Mapping an International Practice by Rosalind P. Petchsky

Arguing that women have the right to sexual pleasure not just sexual rights that are documented as human rights in some international forums voted on through committees. Shesh, I don’t think this is going to get far except in the countries that use the female genital mutilation as a way to keep women in line, non-receptive to pleasure in that way so they won’t stray out of a marriage. In those countries it is sure that women’s rights to sexual pleasure are being violated. In fact they are being physically violated period. The weird thing is that women are part of the problem. If the women in the society practicing female genital mutilation believe that this mutilation is something that should be done in order to keep order within the community, they promote the process to the next generation! Why don’t we cut off men’s balls so they don’t stray out of the marriage? We [women] can always artificially inseminate for procreation.

We can just buy a vibrator for a husband and therefore protect our right to sexual pleasure. I don’t see how a person has a right to sexual pleasure. I can’t see how a person would have a right to health care for that matter. Rights are funny things, not to be counted on especially when one is demanding something that is so individual or self-absorbed as sexual pleasure.

Chapter 5: Cross-National Perspectives on Gender and Power by Purnima Mane and Peter Aggleton

A study on the introduction and use of the female condom in three countries: Senegal, Indonesia, and Mexico. The study used two groups of females in each country: one group of women had husbands or steady sexual partners, the other were female sexual workers and thus had multiple sexual partners. This is a really good example of research questions leading to good qualitative data collection methods, and how to analyze that data. This is my favorite of the chapters - maybe because it is straightforward and repeatable, I can see deliberate method to it, I can follow the lines of reasoning. The authors are looking for ways to prevent STDs including AIDS, and testing to see if the female condom is a viable option for education and training the public in prevention methods.

Discussion Question: Who has heard of the female condom? I only ask this because I had heard of it before but have never actually seen one or known anyone that used one. George says he had never heard of the female condom before. However, that situation may be because of gendered differential filtering of information.  

Chapter 6: Gender Stereotypes and Power Relations: Unacknowledged Risks for STDs in Argentina by Monica Gogna and Silvina Ramos

A scientific study using qualitative data accessing information from women and men as to their knowledge of existence of sexually transmitted diseases, how they affect the individual, how they manifest in the body, what the source of infection was, how treatment was sought or not, and gender differences in seeking prevention measures that would or would not be acceptable and to which partners. This study brought home once again what I see is female submission that need not be. The problem is that the majority of women do not think they can live without a man to take care of them. That was so in this country not too long ago. Fifty years ago few women in the US worked to support themselves in a well off way, the goal, it seems, was to get married. Back then many American men did not remain faithful to their wives either, although I am sure that some did. Lack of fidelity in a man is a sign of disrespect in our culture now. That had to be fought for, and still is not always the way a marriage goes. Men are still allowed that double standard, if they cheat, it is sort of bad but acceptable. If the woman cheats she is loose or bad or whorish.

However, I think women here in the US are much more able to compete in the work force, and therefore have some autonomy from men or a way of equalizing themselves with men. Women do not have to get married and have children to have a good life here. Women are also able to get married and make their own demands within the marriage.

Discussion: Life is bad for women some places. I do not like the answers these Argentine women were giving to the STD questions and the way they were unable to count on a man’s fidelity as it is in men’s nature to desire multiple sexual partners. Just an excuse not to risk being thrown out of the house, if they were self supporting they wouldn’t need to fear this as much. Would raising autonomy of women alleviate some of the problem of women being exposed to STDs and AIDS within their own marriage?


Parker, R, R. M. Barbosa and P. Aggleton eds
2000  Framing the Sexual Subject: The Politics of Gender, Sexuality, and Power. Los Angeles: University of California Press. 

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