“Sexuality” Doesn’t Exist

May 14, 2011 § 2 Comments

Interesting conversations are happening in my living room right now.  They started with a discussion of the film Black Swan, which I won’t get into right now.  It morphed into an involved conversation about gay/queer identity, sexuality, femininity/masculinity, race, and religion.

I have become a strong believer in the idea that the concepts specifically of sexuality and race are completely empty.  They may have definitions, and they may be concepts used in worldwide society, but under scrutiny each term generalizes to the point of forfeiting their weight.

First take sexuality.  It has become the norm in Western society to consider sexuality as comprised of categories, although they can be organized in different ways; gay/straight, gay/bi/straight, and queer/straight are the most prevalent categorizations I’ve heard.  But stratifying society based on strict definitions involving sexual practice is impossible.  There’s the question of whether one thought or experience can change someone’s sexuality – an argument that not only gives the categories fuzzy edges, but makes them almost indiscernible.

Instead I offer that we consider humans holistically as a species.  On the whole, humans form relationships with each other.  These relationships are sometimes romantic or sexual.  Depending on individual preferences, these romantic/sexual relationships can be formed with members of the same sex, members of a different sex, or both interchangeably.  There are individuals who assume they are attracted to members of a certain sex but later become attracted to someone outside of their usual preference.  I don’t see why it is necessary for the society we live in to separate people based on who they form relationships with or who they engage in sexual acts with.  I don’t think any differently of a girl if I find out at a certain point that they date other girls.  They’re just like anybody else; the only difference to me is who they include in their dating pool.  And that doesn’t change my opinions or perceptions of them as a person.

I’m not even entirely comfortable using the term “sexuality”.  I just don’t see how it’s a relevant concept, since I don’t find it applicable to the world as it is.  Humans aren’t born categorized by such terms.  The idea of sexuality has no bearing on, nor does it reflect, anything about an individual’s personality, values system, or beliefs.  Although I understand that it has become something of an important tool in at least Western culture, I feel that is use is contrived and of little real use.

I don’t want it replaced by a more “appropriate” term; I want the idea to be gone as well.  People have romantic and sexual relationships with other people.  That’s all there is to it.


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§ 2 Responses to “Sexuality” Doesn’t Exist

  • Chance says:

    Hi Katharine,

    I agree with you that categorization is problematic and that is, in my mind, one of the basic components of [my] queer theory. Classification is socially constructed as as such, it problematizes the immense beauty and complexity of the world. Some queer theorists say, “the opposite of queerness is heterosexuality” but there are many of the flavor (I myself included) who say that “the opposite of queerness is normal.” This would include many visions of heterosexuality that are not considered normative by society because, and in this instance, I agree with you that “…stratifying society based on strict definitions involving sexual practice is impossible.”

    However I disagree with you when you say, “Humans aren’t born categorized by such terms. The idea of sexuality has no bearing on, nor does it reflect, anything about an individual’s personality, values system, or beliefs.” I agree that those terms are not natural, and that they are cultural productions and performances, if that is what you mean by humans not being born categorized. Nevertheless, we are categorized by birth.

    For me personally (as a gay man), sexuality does have bearing on my personality, values systems, practices, beliefs, my relationships with other people, etc. I cannot really speak for heterosexuals, but for many queers, terms such as gay, bisexual, pansexual, lesbian, transexual, genderfucking, intersexed, etc. have a lot of power and meaning to us. They might sometimes be labels greatly simplifying our sexual practices. But I think for a lot of us, those labels are actually empowering and also function as modes of resistance to heteronormative ideologies and communities. Moreover, that heterosexism is a systematic attitude espoused in our society will inevitably shape me and socialize me in certain ways, even if I a) had nothing to do with the creation of such attitudes to begin with and b) even if I am fighting against such attitudes, because they are pervasive and inevitably determine my choices of friendships, relationships, communities, practices, and decisions about institutions.

    Then again, I am of the thought that my queerness does mark me as being somehow different, and I am fine with that because there is no such thing as “normal.” Until one form of relationship isn’t privileged (certain heterosexual relationships), I cannot adopt the view that sexual identities simply don’t matter because we’re not only told who we’re supposed to find attractive but also what kind of bodies we find attractive (ie. we’re supposed to find fat bodies, for instance, grotesque and this is our culture telling us who we desire, not who we actually desire, many times). So, I guess for me, sexual identity even if it socially constructed and ever changing (ie I am an anti-essentialist), it still determines a lot of my practices and values.


  • claudia l says:

    Very thought-provoking and makes me wonder why we still put human beings into categories on any basis. We have attempted to do dismiss that generalization of humans in regard to race, gender and religion but we still define our images of “types of people” by certain definitions, i.e. sexual preference. What does it tell you about a
    person’s spirit if he/she is gay or bi?
    Curiosity, experimentation, freedom, courage to change and embrace other human beings’ Soul Epicenter is what teaches us and makes life interesting and worthwhile.

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