To sum it comprehensively, Sexuality is the total expression of who you are as a human being. Sexuality is interplay between gender roles, sexual orientation, relationships, and love. As I had mentioned in my blog post, I was extremely confused by trying to draw a fine line between gender and sexuality. What I realized as I continued to read journals and watch documentaries throughout the week was that gender and sexuality don’t always align with each other. But this also means that sometimes they do cross paths to co-exist as social identities. While interviewing two women from entirely different cultures and backgrounds, I discovered that their expression of sexuality was highly influenced by their families, faith, beliefs, and culture. This played a powerful role in how they understood themselves in correlation with other individuals around them.
I began the first interview with Person A, who grew up in a small, rural town around the Yorktown, Virginia Beach area. She was raised by two working parents who spent little time at home because of their commitment to their professions. Nevertheless, she had a grandmother who was her primary caregiver. Her grandmother was also deeply religious and rooted her in Christianity at a young age. She went through the pledge of abstaining from sex until marriage when she received her purity ring at the age of 10. Her move to a highly liberal arts school for college broke that pledge. As Valenti emphasizes in “The Purity Myth,” one-third of U.S women, ages twenty to forty-four are single, and nine out of ten of them have had sex (Valenti, 24). But this statistic does not justify or explain her social behavior in breaking that pledge. Being away from home means young emerging adults are also freed from the critical scrutiny of their high school and neighborhood friends (Kalish & Kimmel, 4). Her towns demographic were predominantly 90% Caucasian though there was a community of African-Americans that lived on the other side of town in the less gentrified areas. However she was forbidden to cross over to see them because of her grandmother’s traditional and conservative views on other races. While the gay community was active during her time in high school, it was not acknowledged out loud.
Person B was born and raised in a small province in China until she moved to the United States to attend college at Virginia Tech. She was born in the same generation as Person A but culturally, her upbringing was very different. Both her parents were involved in her upbringing from the time she was a child to a high school graduate. There were strict dating rules established by them when she was in middle school that prohibited dating until college. Her father studied at Yale University for two years and observed societal trends within American culture. This created a catalyst for stereotypes to be born in her family regarding relationships and marriages in the U.S. Person B vehemently stood behind her view that U.S social media represents the reality of most American marriages as unstable and fragile. She also believes Americans have institutionalized “hooking up” which has thereby influenced the norms in Chinese culture. What is interesting to see here is that according to Jee Yeun Lee, Hollywood portrays skewed representations of Asian women and that U.S involvement in previous wars fought have helped to reinforce these American Orientalist constructions (Lee, 7). The prejudice and stereotypes are perpetuated from both Person A and Person B. Similarly to Person A, Person B went to a high school where gay people were acknowledged but were not given respect unless they belonged to a higher class of socioeconomic status. Although in Chinese culture, having sex before marriage brought shame to your family, having a higher status in class gave you flexibility and freedom. This same freedom was shown in a study where it was revealed that high status women in an American college operated within a discursive system allowing greater space for sexual experimentation and sexual privilege (Armstrong, 18).
Armstrong, E. A., L. T. Hamilton, E. M. Armstrong, and J. L. Seeley. “”Good Girls”: Gender, Social Class, and Slut Discourse on Campus.” Social Psychology Quarterly 77.2 (2014): 100-22.
Kalish, Rachel, and Michael Kimmel. “Hooking Up.” Australian Feminist Studies 26.67 (2011): 137-51.
Kaplan, C. “Book Review: Valenti J, The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women, Seal Press: Berkeley, CA, 2010, 263 Pp.: 9781580053143, USD16.95 (pbk).” Nursing Ethics 17.6 (2010): 793-94.
Lee, Jee Yeun. “Queer Studies: A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Anthology.” Why Suzie Wong Is Not a Lesbian: Asian and Asian American Lesbian and Bisexual Women and Femme/Butch/Gender Identities (1996): 1-20.