This week I interviewed two individuals on sexuality and courtship norms. Chad, a 16-year-old male, was interviewed first. The day after interviewing Chad, I interviewed Chad’s mother Veronica. The answers and responses were very different, although I did notice some similarities and parallel thoughts and beliefs. I asked both respondents the same list of questions, which makes it easy to compare and contrast the responses.
As I began to interview Chad, I noticed his sense of honesty, sincerity, and hesitation when answering my questions. It was almost like he did not want to offend anybody, and he thought about his answers before just blurting them out. His shyness when answering questions was internally connected to his experiences with dating and sexuality. He never really let a girl know that he was into her, unless he knew 100% that she was into him first. This shows me his sense of insecurity and fear of rejection. In his most recent dating experience, he let the girl know he was into her by being very friendly, sitting next to her in class, and finally, asking her for her cell phone number. He says that he is “never aggressive” and always starts relationships by befriending the individual first. When asked about acceptable and unacceptable dating behaviors, Chad answered, “Sex before marriage is okay, expressing emotions is okay, holding hands or pecking in public is okay, but anything more than pecking in public is unacceptable.” He says that all relationships are acceptable if they revolve around love and respect. When asked about his friends and the community’s beliefs, he states, “I am different from a lot of my friends. Many of my friends still say, ‘That’s gay.’” Similar to that answer, when I asked Chad, “What does your community think of someone who broke the norms?” he answered, “Everybody judges. People tend to form opinions without knowing the whole story. They are just seeing the outside layer of situations.” Chad’s answers were very flexible suggesting his progressive and easygoing system of beliefs.
In comparison, Veronica answered the questions with self-assurance, confidence, and a bit of arrogance as if her answers were the only answers. As Chad’s mother, I assumed some of the answers would be similar as she probably taught Chad about dating norms. Although there were some similarities, most of her answers clashed with those of Chad. When asked about letting an individual know if she was into them and vice versa, she stated, “Always let the man initiate. I do not let myself fall for men that I know are out of my league.” This answer was similar and different to the answer Chad gave. It was different because, Chad does not believe he has to initiate anything; He wanted to let the girl initiate first! The answers were similar in the way that neither of them want to be rejected or vulnerable. They do not want others to know that they like anybody. Veronica also stated, “All of my previous boyfriends have pursued me. This is the trick to getting men. You have to look like you don’t care about anyone.” This answer kind of surprised me. How can she be the mom of this child with opposite answers (beliefs)?! When asked about what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, Veronica answers, “All types of relationships are okay, except like a 60-year-old dating a 20-year-old.” I could sense the disgust in her voice. I pried on asking, “What is wrong with a 60-year-old and 20-year-old dating, in your eyes?” She answered, “That is just gross! They are from two completely different generations, and I don’t understand how it would work. It just seems inappropriate!” All in all, Veronica’s answers exhibited her more rigid, inflexible beliefs about sexuality and dating norms. I think the differences in Chad and Veronica’s answers mostly stem from generational differences. I think that Veronica was taught to believe certain behaviors were unacceptable. Beliefs about sexuality are 100% socially constructed. Veronica may think a certain way due to what she has witnessed and experienced. For example, Chad was not alive to experience life when being gay in the Unite States meant you had a mental disorder. Since Veronica was around during that time, her beliefs are somewhat shaped by the exposure to such hate and intolerance. I think that age also plays a role in how confident the respondents answered my questions. With Veronica being in her late fifties, she acted as if she had to be right, since she was older, while Chad was more unsure and unconfident in his answers. I think that since adolescence is a time full of self-reflection, doubt, and confusion, Chad questions himself on a daily basis much more often than Veronica does. Since she is older, she thinks that she has already reached full capacity for learning (which is not true, since everything and everyone is always evolving). I liked this activity, because it shed light onto different beliefs from the same family, and I was able to learn about how sexuality is socially constructed.