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.