Sexualized Minorities, “sexual otherness” & heterosexism in the media

February 24, 2009 at 6:59 PM (Gender Norms and Expectations, Homosexuality, Queer Theory)


Sexualized minorities are considered not of the socially constructed “norm.” This polarizes individuals and puts them in categories. The norm is considered anyone who is non-heterosexual or transgendered. Heterosexism is another word for homophobia. Unfortunately there are is still heterosexism on television, in film, and in TV advertisements. There is also the lesbian-chic/pseudo lesbian phenomenon thanks to the adult film industry’s influence on mass media, and men. The male “turn-on” of seeing women make out on screen is almost a must in most teenage drama TV shows and in teen movies. Although some of these shows try to present real lesbians (refer to the “OC” clip above), they are all seen through the male gaze. The “OC” presented a relationship between a main character Marissa and a new character, Alex, a female. The relationship was the first lesbian interaction for Marissa. Whenever the two male main characters spoke about it, they laughed, and mentioned trying to visualize. Without this commentary, or without the facial expressions from Seth in the scene provided in this week’s blog, the relationship would have been validated. Instead it falls into pseudo-lesbian chic category, thus remaining only for the male’s gaze, and leaving little room for lesbian viewers to see it as a legitimate relationship and experience it through their gazes.

“Friends” gives us an accurate example of same sex desire. While Joey and Ross are both portrayed as heterosexual couples throughout the series, this episode focuses on a nap they take together and are both ashamed of the position they fall asleep in. In the end of the episode Joey wants to reenact the nap with Ross and suggest they leave the café to cuddle. Initially Ross resists the idea, but seconds later he gives in and chases Joey upstairs to the apartment. Author Dennis writes “tradition to present homosexual desire as only possibility has traditionally made characters appear asexual.” This is seen in this episode, along with many cartoons in which Dennis researched. It is interesting because both men show signs of homophobia, initially rejecting each other after they wake up. What we find is that this is actually only a façade from their same sex desire. The end of the episode leaves us wondering what happens between the two. “The Real World” every season tries to have at least one gay or lesbian character on its show. It is important to understand that although they might be set in the “real world” they are characters cast by specialists. These specialists are looking for specific personality traits before they meet the individuals. It is like they all ready have the characters drawn out and molded, they just need faces and bodies to fill those positions. In the scene provided we see Ryan, a small town Iraq veteran, calling the transgendered character an “it.” Not only does he call her an “it,” he claims ignorance as if ignorance justifies his language. The casting specialists specifically looked for this small town ignorance for a character who they knew would offend housemates. Although he seeks out Kaitin, the transgendered woman, for answers, his behavior leading up to it polarizes her individually. The Nike advertisement was banned for its homophobia. The face in the crotch while getting dunked on, and the text reading “that ain’t right” did not sit well with the gay community. Nike quickly apologized and released a statement that they have a strict policy prohibiting homophobia, racism, sexism, etc.  Apologies are often made after mistakes are made which is a responsibility of any business. However, Nike is one of the world’s leaders in advertisements. This was simply sloppy design and should have never occurred. The clip from “My Best Friend’s Wedding” supports the claim that heterosexual women in film and TV define the gay man’s role and character. According to Shugart, the gay man/straight woman configuration can be seen in this movie and Will and Grace. The women’s roles are consistently written as being weak, needy women who always rely on men; gay or straight. When these women are seeking hetero relationships they lean on their gay male friends for help. When the women are single, they rely on the gay male to shop with them, sleep with them (in bed, not sexually), live with them, and kiss them on the lips both hello and goodbye. When the female does meet a male counterpart, he waltzes on the screen looking more masculine because of her gay friend. This dynamic further polarizes and stereotypes gay men. In this scene we see Jules waking up after drinking tons of bottles from the mini-bar in her hotel room (a sign of weakness) because of her broken heart and stress. Her gay friend, George, surprises her early in the morning and one of the first things out of his mouth is how ugly the hotel room is. The notion that gay men are there to fix things, accessorize, have high knowledge of fashion and interior design is a notion created by these stereotypical roles in film and TV.


Permalink Leave a Comment

Mediums of femininity: mediated examples of femininity as specificially sexualized

February 18, 2009 at 11:49 PM (Feminist Theory, Objectification, Pornography, Sexism)


“It’s So Not Okay To…

Our panel of experts tells you how to avoid these lipstick crimes”

Picture from from the beauty and style section, retrieved 02-17-09.






Last week I discussed the mediums of masculinity, but this week it is all about the girls, girls, girls! What in the media shows society what femininity is today? We have many social artifacts to examine, such as advertisements, TV, film, websites, and magazines. If one were to study these artifacts and analyze them down to only a few elements of what represents femininity in American culture, one might find it differs slightly with age. However, one would also found that over all the ages the end means of expressing femininity through sexuality is the same for all American women. Advertising tells women to express themselves sexually through consumerism, pseudo-lesbianism, and marketing oneself. Consumerism is covered by the Lip Shine Seduction video via from the Maybelline, and Victoria’s Secret in this week’s blog. Here we have a lip enhancer commercial where the narrator’s voice is deep and seductive sounding, with pouting glossy lips on the Victoria’s Secret model (cross over promotion, selling sex and lipstick) and the word seduction right in the name of the product.  Watch the video on mute, does it not look like it is geared for men? What about this product would actually turn a woman on? The commercial was obviously designed by a man not because of its sexuality, but the fact that there is instruction in the advertisement. When the narrator tells the viewer that it is easy to use with “just one click” and a demonstration, what does this say about what men think of women? Not only does the advertisement sell men sex, it assumes women need instructions on how to use lip gloss as if has not been around for over 50 years, but it tells women that make up products are what make women feminine. Ultimately the consumer will seduce someone with this lip gloss, and have sex, and then hopefully live happily ever after. Hopefully that woman will understand it just takes “one click!” The Victoria’s Secret picture shows all of its popular models in sexual poses with either nothing on, or just underwear. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that these are some of the most beautiful women in the world. But with only seven percent of the world’s women having these body types, doesn’t it set unrealistic goals for women? And to me, all of these women sort of look the same. Sure they are German, African-American, American, and Brazilian, but they all have the same body, same tan, same pouty lip, and all have long after-sex looking hair. This is the picture of American’s largest grossing lingerie company, so how many women are really analyzing this and saying “I cannot look like that?” Not many. Instead, it becomes a medium of femininity specifically sexualized. Meaning, if men like this look and it turns them on, women must buy everything they can to look like these models.  As Markle explained in this week’s reading about Sex and the City, just like the women on the show are celebrating post feminism (as in now we are all equal to men. Except we still get paid less) through expressing their sexuality through sleeping with many hot powerful men and buying $700 designer shoes, so are “real” women. Real women are forced to consume almost to be considered sexy.  But the media still tells women through hundreds of diamond advertisements in the “Sex and Love” sections of major magazines, that one can have sex now with hot men (and experiment with women), but one should make it a goal to end up monogamous with a man and married.  This is what I mean by the ends mean is the same for all women. When you’re a teen or “tween” you look at make up products, start picking out your own clothes, etc. Where are these girls getting their advice from? Teen magazines yes, but there is no age limit on mass media. Gossip Girl, Hannah Montana, and the new 90210 unfortunately set teen standards for consumerism. The stars of the show are featured in teen magazines in the “style” section with headlines claiming you can look as good as ____ from Gossip Girl! From a young age girls are taught to consume products to sell themselves to men.  Katy Perry pretty much sums up pseudo-lesbianism because we know she is heterosexual, and we also know we have never actually seen her kiss a girl. But she sure put 16-year-old girls at Homecoming in an awkward spot didn’t she? Imagine high school students at a dance and the song comes on. Everyone screams, everyone sings and jumps up and down, and then the “exhibitionists” decide it will be “hot” to make out for their boyfriends. Always for the males gaze and fantasy, never for true lesbianism. That is all that really needs to be said about dear Katy Perry. And lastly, the Cougar. The Cougar is not a MILF (Mom I’d Like to F#$! For all of you who just don’t pay attention to pop culture). While the MILF is still a mom and probably married, the cougar is actually on the prowl. This is an older women, her kids are probably in college or all grown up with kids of their own, and she is just a lonely, rich, hypersexual female looking for a young man to again, F%&!. Gossip Girl is about teenagers. The boy (actually played by a 23-year-old man) in the clip has been pursued by a girl at school’s mother who screws him in her and her husband’s bed then throws him out in his underwear for the whole neighborhood to see. She has used him and humiliated him. But she is in power here, so this would be a sign of mediated femininity as specifically sexualized. Because she is the one with the upper hand, and sexual experience, she is seen as a sexy character, instead of the child molester that she is (remember he is a teenage boy).  What does this tell women? It tells middle-aged single, very lonely women, that as long as it is consensual banging the boy at your daughter’s high school is sexy. This character walks a thin line between MILF and Cougar, but I decided she was a cougar because her husband is always gone and she is actually acting out the fantasy. Unlike a MILF who is just given the title by horny teenage boys (thank you American Pie). The whole cougar notions play into the women who market/package themselves. They have the spray tans, the fake D cup, tiny wastes, work out all the time but somehow still meet their other rich cougar friends for Starbuck’s Frappachino’s on a daily basis, and are the queens of consumerism. They have created a package of what is hot to other men, and now they want to act upon what they have created.  To wrap it up, women are told to express femininity through consumerism (buy junk you’ll look hot, but not junk food, that is not hot), pseudo-lesbianism (make out to Katy Perry at the next college bar you go to and you’ll probably have sex that  night. But keep your fingers crossed for a boyfriend/fiancé/husband! Oh the possibilities! Thank you Katy Perry!), and marketing oneself (whether it is now or when you’re 55, if you have the whole package and sell it sexually, you’ll have lots of sex. So buy some lube you Cougars out there!)

The picture with the woman with the lip stick lines and pencil in her mouth just sort of wrapped up femininity as it is sexualized through the media for me. This photo is from Women’s Health Magazine (when is the last time you saw a man but one of these) and is completely a one shot of American culture where consumerism and sexuality are tied together with the lipstick and phallic symbol (pencil).

Permalink Leave a Comment

The Mediums of Masculinity

February 11, 2009 at 8:21 PM (Uncategorized)


“Phrases to Get Her into Bed Tonight

By: Nicole Beland

These simple linguistic cues tell her you’re the right man for this evening.
Whether you blabbed a good friend’s secret or ran over the neighbor’s limited-edition bike, admit it. Confessing an error in judgment leaves you exposed and vulnerable, which makes a woman want to wrap you in her arms. Telling her about it wins her over even more—you’re showing that you value her opinion. The resulting combo of compassion and confidence will inspire her to make everything all better—or at least distract you.

1. “I screwed up, and want to hear your thoughts.”

2. “Did you know you have a heart-shaped freckle on the back of your left thigh?”
After the first few months of sex, inch-by-inch body exploration yields to cut-to-the-chase carnality. That’s a shame, because having her body mapped puts a woman in the mood for luxurious sex. Pull aside the blankets on a weekend morning and run your eyes and fingertips from her toes to her earlobes, making admiring comments along the way. You won’t get past her elbows before she pulls you in for a deep, wet kiss.

3. “I’m organizing a team of volunteers for Summit for Someone.”
Whether it’s climbing mountains with inner-city kids or carrying the neighbor’s groceries, helping others boosts your sexy factor for two reasons. First, altruism shows her that you can put your own needs aside, which inspires her to take care of them for you. Second, your good deeds make her feel as if she’s dating up, because clearly you’re a better person than she is. She’ll want to join forces with you on your life’s quest.

4. “You must be exhausted. Let’s take a hot shower and I’ll scrub your back.”
The number-one reason your partner turns down sex is because she’s stressed. And while she knows there’s no better cure for wound-up nerves than a spring-release orgasm, it can be hard to shake off the day’s distractions. By blasting the hot water and lighting candles, you’ll offer a tension-melting solution she can’t refuse. Once the hot water and your soapy hands chase the stress away, she’ll finally feel sexy again.

5. “I want to accomplish a few key things in the next 5 years.”
When a woman hears a man talk about the future with a “whatever” attitude, her level of respect for him drops and her thighs snap shut. She was surrounded by way too many of those directionless dudes back in college, and she has learned that men who have clear goals and realistic plans for achieving them are rare. She’ll appreciate your farsightedness all the more. Making up your mind settles hers, as well.

6. “I’m taking the day off tomorrow to chaperone my niece’s field trip.”
While a woman is impressed by a man who’s driven to succeed, she’s even more tantalized by a striver who’s willing to put a family member first—extra points if that family member is under 12. She’ll instantly flash-forward to when you’re the sweet, caring father of her children, at which point her heart will go all gooey. Come back from your kiddie outing with a cute stuffed animal for her and she’ll practically drag you into bed.” [Men’s Health Magazine online:]


How is gender defined? What tells us how to act in only two gendered groups; male and female, both social constructs.  Berkowitz, the author of Consuming Eroticism, explains the concept of “doing gender” as where men and women are both told by mass media how to act as a gender, and then he or she performs that gender where socially acceptable. Many of my blogs have focused on women and how they are objectified, this blog’s primary focus is men and how men are told to be masculine. How do the above advertisements, along with millions of others, tell men how to be men, or at least perform as men?

                In the documentary, “Wrestling with Manhood” the WWE is examined as to how it affects men’s views on women, sexuality, dominance, and violence. The film asks an important question, “What are the effects from the WWE on boys and men in the real world?”  The trash talking in the WWE is seen and heard on the playground, so is the bully and the bullied. Homoeroticism is clear in the WWE as lesbians and gay men are insulted to by wrestlers/actors to police boundaries. Even the gay characters in the WWE are hated amongst fans who yell hate words from the crowd. But the head in the crotch and assumed sexual positions between the heterosexual wrestlers are deemed OK because of the insults that police the boundaries amongst the open homosexuals.  In the clip attached, the owner of the WWE, Vince McMahon makes actress/wrestler Trish Stratus strip down to her underwear and crawl around the rink barking like a dog. The scenario was that Stratus has somehow offended the company and McMahon was punishing her. Often in the WWE women are beat up by their boyfriends or husbands in the ring and the men justify it by saying “she had it coming” or “she deserved it for being a slut.” The second quote is often heard amongst men that commit rape when they try to justify their actions. This only further normalizes gender violence and tells men that belittle and punishing women makes them more masculine.

                Then we have the article from Men’s Health Magazine online, declaring “These Six moves will make any woman sleep with you right away.” Often sex advice columns in men’s magazines are teaching men how to hunt and gather sex as soon as possible, as much as possible. Many sex advice columns for men tell them, “Hey if you do just do these six things, you can get any woman you want.” There is no emotional advice about how to handle a break up, or rejection. Many “real” men feel very anxious about sex to begin with and often rejection only hurts them and furthers that anxiety. Because the media is telling them to have sex with a high number of women, but they are getting rejected in real life, their anxieties rise, thus hurting their sexual health.  Fraternity college brothers face initiations where they are forced to count how many female co-eds they have slept with, and the top winners are inducted into the fraternity. This notion of sex for recreation for numbers (not for sexual exploration, just numbers) can often hurt future relationships both physically (STDs) or emotionally. Since men compare their sexual experiences with other men (women as trophies) it is always a competition. Everything from basketball to sex is measured in success by numbers for men, and that defines masculinity.  


Permalink Leave a Comment

Socially constructed “appropriate” sex

February 4, 2009 at 9:36 PM (Uncategorized)


"75 crazy hot sex moves" Cosmopolitan Magazineaaralphlauren










            What is socially constructed “appropriate” sex? Think of the normative in American society. What does history tell us about American ideologies of sex, gender roles, and sexual activity? If we examine social artifacts (magazines, music, advertisements, movies, internet, books, etc) we come to understand that women are sexual objects, martial sex is portrayed less on television and film than pre-marital, models on women’s magazines are gazing at men (not women), normative sex occurs between a man and a women (striving for long term and monogamy), and that women’s pleasure in the bed is irrelevant. Artifacts tells us that women need to focus on pleasing their men and giving “good” sex, while men need to focus on finding sex and having explosive climaxes. These images and messages somehow transpire down to teenagers and tell them that oral sex is safer because it prevents pregnancy. If we consider sexual history and how it has been taught in the schools and religious institutions we come to find that the biggest message taught to teenagers is that sex is an act for reproduction only, and anything else is recreational and “inappropriate.”  

            In the article “Twenty one moves guaranteed to make his thighs go up in flames: Depictions of “great sex” in popular magazines” authors Menard and Kleinplatz write “women tend to be portrayed as sexual objects, whose goals should be to attract and please male partners, both sexually and otherwise. There is a strong emphasis on female readers being sexually active in the service of men” (p.3). The research tells us that there is no room for sexual exploration of a women’s own body, or that of another woman. Popular magazines also leave out the possibility of same sex male relations. Society today, even in 2009, still tells editors that masturbation and homosexuality is too taboo to have photos or editorial content. Unfortunately there is also a lack of racial and ethnic representations of sex and partners.

            If you look at the photo of the man and woman in the kitchen portraying sexual acts ( what do you see? Man, women, hetero, white, middle to upper class apartment or kitchen, wine, and some photo of a sexy women eating dessert hanging on the wall in the background. Oddly enough, food was mentioned in the Sex and Love (love coming second, of course) section of Cosmopolitan’s website under an article entitled “Seductive Meals.” As Professor Freeman has pointed out in lectures, The Food Network has drawn a thin line between the production elements of pornography and cooking shows. The way a female draws food in to her luscious lip glossed lips, and sucks on it for a moment before swallowing (suggesting fellatio), and the way food that normally takes three hours of preparation suddenly is “oh finished” (suggesting the “money-shot” in pornography). This photo on the website not only furthers the ideologies of “appropriate” sex, but it points out that sensual foods and wine can probably lead to male fantasy of food and sex in the kitchen (somehow this couple manages to awkwardly rub on each other without falling off the counter). Perhaps the latent messages are those that bridge the gap between the sex and food industries. I would say so.

            Other artifacts presented in this weeks blog include Cosmopolitan’s sex games book which as the title tells us is exclusive for hetero “lovers,” a diamond ad that tells us marriage is for monogamous hetero couples, a magazine model whose gaze is directed at men and not it’s female consumer, and a Ralph Lauren Romance perfume advertisement that reinforces romance as hetero, but look at her ring finger. The model for Romance is wearing a wedding ring. Is she married? Is this her fiancé? We are left with these two questions. She is either engaged and this is “pre-martial” or she is married to someone else because the male model is without the band claiming commitment (male fantasy).

            While the language and paradigms in popular culture is changing, still much is left without discussion in depth. We must consider that sex advice manuals in the eighteenth century referred to women as servants both sexually and domestically to their husbands. Magazines before the Great Depression often referred to pleasing husbands, or cooking for husbands. Today we still see heterosexual language, but almost never the mention of husband and wives. The major problems with this “appropriate” sex ideology are the under representation of sexual minorities and interracial sex, the effects on women’s understanding of their position in the bedroom, strange ideas about how sex is supposed to look (hey Hollywood, guess what, sometimes people fall off the bed) and the effects on young people during their sexual exploration stage. What do these images tell teenage girls? If they lay their eyes on women’s magazines they will come to believe that it is their duty to perform amazing oral sex on their peers to gain status and some sort of reputation. These images are conflicting with the information teenagers receive in the “abstinence only” teachings in sex education courses implemented by the Bush Administration. Not only did teenage pregnancies rise, but so did STDs thanks to this teaching philosophy. While the media (and yes, President Clinton) are telling young girls that fellatio is just foreplay and not sex (because it is not vaginal), health teachers are teaching that anything sex leads to pregnancy, diseases, and possibly death (teaching on fear). Health centers in high schools are not allowed to prescribe birth control, or hand out condoms because of the abstinence only teaching laws making for a lot of unsafe sex and unwanted pregnancies. Because sex is taboo among teenagers it becomes more appealing, giving them a sort of adult, free way to express themselves in a rebellious manner, only leading to unsafe practices. This is a world where sex still requires one servant (female) and sexual teachings only repress teenagers and do not assume that ‘Hey! Teenagers will have sex regardless!’ Shocking, I know. Oh they drink underage and do drugs too! Let’s teach them the harmful effects so they can make safe decisions instead of judging them and telling them they are burnouts that will either rot on the street or rot in jail.

Permalink Leave a Comment