Sexuality- Froyum & Rupp et al

By Emma Houser

            Carissa Froyum’s article about sexuality among poor Black teens really reminded me of something that we discussed in one of my first sociology classes at Conn, that we can’t understand a phenomenon without looking at it from a larger sociological perspective. Without understanding that the feelings of inferiority that these UYN teens face as poorly educated, unemployed, impoverished Blacks it is very difficult to understand why the UYN girls and boys “police” sexuality so strongly. Throughout their lives these teens have been told that they are inferior to other, typically White, Americans who enjoy the power and status that their racial and economic positions provide. Without this luxury, UYN teens are forced to turn to other aspects of their lives, aspects that they have some control over, namely sexuality. Froyum states in her article that, “the resources heterosexuality provided were the resources that UYN girls and boys otherwise lacked.” That is, boys and girls practiced heterosexuality and anti-homosexuality to establish their morality, legitimacy, authority, competence, strength, etc., something their racial and economic status keeps them from doing in other areas of their life.

            It is sad that these teens are in a position where they are forced to reject the sexual wants and needs of close friends and family and even themselves as a result of the oppression they face in other aspects of their lives. LGBTQ individuals are gaining more rights, but heterosexuality is still very much seen as dominant and the norm in today’s society. Regardless of these kinds of changes, as long as heterosexuality and whiteness remain dominant then we will continue to see very few changes in the ideologies of groups such as the UYN teens. The boys will continue to sexually harass and impregnate teenage girls as a way to prove their dominance as heterosexual individuals. Similarly, the girls will continue to use sexual promiscuity and motherhood as a way to create power and meaning in their lives. So in order to change these aspects of the teens’ lives that are so apparent among this demographic we must first work to change the social oppression they face in other aspect of their lives that force them to seek acceptance and control through their sexuality.

            As we transition to the second article about queer women in today’s party scene we see that there are also aspects of our society that push women to experiment with same-sex relationships in a socially acceptable way. Whereas the UYN teens were in an environment where heterosexuality brought them power, many of today’s young adults participating in the mainstream party scene actually find power in same-sex sexual practices. I think many college students can say that they have been at a party or at least heard about an instance where two women were making out in the middle of a crowd of people. Obviously there is nothing wrong with this if this is what the two women want, but in my opinion these instances usually arise as a way for these women to get the attention of their male peers. Although this is definitely a way for women to gain some control in a hookup culture that is definitely dominated by the wants and needs of the men, I think in some ways it changes the meaning of relationships between women who are actually looking to be in a meaningful, romantic relationship with other women. Heterosexual couples are given the freedom to make out in the middle of a party without being bothered, but if two women who may or may not be in a committed relationship do the same thing they will have men watching and asking them to participate in a threesome.

            This aspect of today’s hookup scene is definitely problematic for women in some ways, but it also gives them the opportunity to experiment in a socially acceptable way, as luxury that men don’t have. There is definitely a double standard when it comes to same-sex sexual interactions. Whereas same-sex interactions between women are seen as “hot”, same-sex interactions between men is almost always seen as gross and wrong. This is definitely something that is very easy to see in today’s society. I know that there are a number of female students at Conn who describe their sexual orientation as bisexual and I think that this is very widely accepted, but I can think of far fewer male students who have openly been bisexual and accepted. In a hookup scene overwhelmingly dominated by men, this is one of the few aspects where women are actually given the advantage. It’s unfortunate that men aren’t given as much freedom as women to experiment with same-sex relationships as women are though. As the article describes, many of the women who were just “experimenting” actually found themselves to be very happy in same-sex relationships and I think that men should be able to have the same opportunities.

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9 thoughts on “Sexuality- Froyum & Rupp et al

  1. I like your point about how heterosexuality gives people the sort of keys that allow them to function within society. I think that this is most visible when people start to be more “fluid” with their sexualities, as many of the women in Rupp et al. were. These “keys” get taken away from them and they are restricted from certain social interactions once they show any signs of breaking the norm of heterosexuality. I think the repercussions of fluidity are most severe for men who show sexual fluidity. I once was at a party at another school with my Ultimate Frisbee team and I kissed a guy from another school there, you know, just for a second. I wasn’t making out with him on the dance floor. But just a peck on the lips was enough to convince multiple people on my team that I was gay and several interactions with teammates were awkward because they thought I was gay and I had to convince them I was not. Anyway, I don’t mind being fluid with my sexuality to a certain extent but it’s difficult to explain these types of actions to people who expect a very strict sexual binarism, so it’s easier just to stick to heterosexuality. I’m not saying that’s how it should be, but I am saying that’s how it is at Conn.

    Patrick Gallagher Landes

  2. Brittany Juliano

    Emma, I am torn between agreeing with you, and disagreeing. On the one hand, women do have some advantage over men because they have the opportunity to explore their sexuality within the dimensions of the male dominated hook-up culture, an opportunity closed to men. But, I wonder if this is a positive opportunity or not. Yes, women are able to explore, but they do so under the guise of being straight. Surely some girls do make-out for male attention, but for those girls who are enjoying themselves, it seems unfair that they have to do so within the realm of heterosexuality rather than a queer setting. Another point from the article by Rupp et al, was that many women who experimented with their sexuality felt pressure to then identify as lesbian. What frustrates me the most about the way our culture perceives queer individuals is the label that they feel obligated to put them, even from other members of a queer community.

  3. Sophie Sharps

    I agree that Froyum’s article really emphasized the idea that we need to look at issues from a larger sociological perspective. Especially in regards to teen pregnancy, Froyum’s reasons for why it occurs is such an interesting analysis that was very new to me. While many scholars critique the sexual education curriculum, lack of accessibility to contraceptives and the lack of social welfare programs provided in the US, Froyum mentions teen pregnancy as a way for men to maintain their status of masculinity and heterosexual dominance, and for women to prove their power, control and maturity and to gain meaning in their lives. While I have never heard this angle before, it is not surprising why; culturally and socially, we hesitate to discuss issues of masculinity and the detriments and consequences this rhetoric has on both men and women.

  4. Sarah Wills

    Just as Emma stated, we do need to look at the bigger picture when it comes to understanding why UYN students police sexuality more strongly. We must be aware of the fact that these kids are coming from a place of inferiority to the white male, therefore they use their sexuality to assert and maintain their masculinity. Since they are coming from a position of inferiority, they have a stronger need to prove themselves as men which has severely negative consequences. Also, in regards to the other article, I agree with Emma that when girls make out with other girls at a party it is most likely to attract attention. I feel like the majority of drunk girls at a party would not make out with other girls if they were in the privacy of their own rooms. They just do it in the presence of guys to try and impress them.

  5. Gina Pol

    I think you make a very great point about the UYN students policing sexuality so strongly due to the circumstances that they are in. They are in a neighborhood where they are considered inferior, poor, uneducated, and non-White. And in circumstances like these, one of the few dominant identities that they can hold is being heterosexual. In these situations, they express their heterosexuality in a way that puts down homosexuality even to those who they consider their friends and family. The article also states that, “the body is the resource most readily available for low-status boys” emphasizing that one of the few source of power of power that low-income Black males have is their physical capabilities which exemplifies their masculinity. These UYN hold on so tightly to their heterosexual identity that they refuse to accept homosexuality.

  6. Bianca Scofield

    I really enjoyed reading your post, I think you brought up a lot of interesting points. A lot of those children are criticize for everything that they are. They have never little privilege as a poor African American child. Whereas a white wealthy homosexual child may be criticized and judged they do have a degree of privilege and power that the African American children do not. So the poor African American children use the one “card”, if you will, that they have to play to gain some sort of power and control. That is truly the only card they have left to play, I believe this is why homophobia is so pervasive in African American culture.

  7. Jihmmy N. Sanchez

    Your article post cleared up a lot of the ideas that were in the readings. How these youth who are confined within their town and can only escape it at the UYN. The article mentions how there was no where else but the UYN center where the youth could gather freely without arousing trouble. Even the neighbors that lived next to the UYN complained about their presence. There only outlet to this confinement was to police and control something, that being mostly sexuality. This article shows many readers what the bigger picture is in this situation. How society has to change because at this moment and for these youth it has only caused them to police the only thing that is within their control. there should be outlets available for them, whether that be after school programs or community centers, it would allow the youth to interact with the community so that there is no resentment between the teo groups.

  8. Gracie Hall

    I agree very much with your comment about how policing sexuality can be seen as a form of power for those who are otherwise marginalized by their race or class. What I thought was so interesting about this article, though, was when students would move outside this pattern of policing sexuality and rampant homophobia and instead looked at their gay and lesbian loved ones through social constructionism, or individualism. I thought that this approach was interesting in that it still blamed and policed other students, but it also made room for students to make exceptions while “all the while still asserting their heterosexual superiority”. In this way it seems that adopting a social constructionist or individualistic approach can be seen as yet another way to still police, but to police in a way without so much hate.

  9. Zoe Halpert

    I find it kind of sad that the only way that girls can explore a different sexuality is through the perception that it is for the male gaze. How odd that it is more socially acceptable to have a threesome than to simply have sex with another girl. I think that this also has something to do with the perception that lesbian sex isn’t “real” sex. But of course, who decided what real sex is? Isn’t the act of sex and how we define it a social construction as well?
    It’s also sad that men don’t have this excuse at all; when men do anything that suggests attraction to the same sex, they are instantly labeled gay.
    This article also addresses the fluidity of sexuality. There isn’t a gay/straight binary; there’s a lot of gray area.

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