Lesson 16: Homophobia and
Social Problems
Robert Wonser
Erotic Relations are Historical Relations
 Sexuality has changed and
evolved historically
 that it, is not universal and fixed
 This removes bodies from the
biological realm and places them
firmly in the social realm.
Did you know?
 Heterosexual and homosexual were invented in
the late nineteenth century by doctors and
scientists who created the science of sexology.
 Before that time people engaged in homosexual
and heterosexual acts but their acts did not
adhere to them as identities.
 Initially heterosexuals were defined as people only
interested in sex for pleasure. Term was used to
distinguish them from the time’s‘normals’ who
only engaged in sex for procreation.
 The socioeconomic organization of society—not
genes, not brains—created the conditions for
living heterosexual and gay or lesbian lives.
Gendered sexualities
 Like gender, sexualities are also expected
to be “opposite”, and gendered:
 Compulsory heterosexuality – the
dominance of heterosexual values, and
the fact that both hetero- and nonheterosexuality are shaped by dominant
social scripts
 Dichotomy between heterosexuality
and homosexuality only began in 19th
 When is there an exception to this?
Lesbian or Bisexual Chic
 Illustrates a mismatch between sexual
behavior and sexual identity
 Paula Rust defines this phenomenon as
“same-sex behavior engaged in by
essentially heterosexual individuals under
certain extenuating circumstances, in
keeping with the cultural belief that there are
only two true forms of sexuality”
 Behavior is most likely found “in a cultural
milieu favoring sexual experimentation.”
Lesbian or Bisexual Chic
 Is this cultural acceptance of“girl-on-girl”
 Or are the images marketed for heterosexual
male audiences and focused on using women to
pleasure men (Luscombe 2004)?
 Does this perpetuate the myth that bisexuality is
simply a phase and not a valid sexual identity?
 On the other hand, is it subversive in that it
challenges compulsory heterosexuality?
Problem with term “Homophobia”
 Problem with the term homophobia
because it literally means“fear of
homosexuals” – hatred, anger, and
aggression are stronger components than
 Not just a mislabel but helps excuse hostile
behavior as the (understandable) result of
inescapable fear (Logan 1996).
 Homophobia refers to individual beliefs and
behaviors, not institutionalized discrimination.
 Heterosexism is a system of attitudes, bias, and
discrimination in favor of opposite-sex sexuality
and relationships. It can include the
presumption that other people are
heterosexual or that opposite-sex attractions
and relationships are the only norm and
therefore superior.
 Similar to“white privilege”; we’re not
taught to see how racism puts some in
a position of privilege but rather view it
as something that puts racial ethnic
minorities at a disadvantage.
Examples of Heterosexual Privilege
 You can go wherever you want and know
that you will not be harassed, beaten, or
killed because of your sexuality
 You do not have to worry about being
mistreated by the police or victimized by
the criminal justice system because of your
 You can express affection (kissing,
hugging, and holding hands) in most social
situations and not expect hostile or violent
reactions from others
Heterosexual Privilege
 You are more likely to see sexually-
explicit images of people of your
sexuality without these images
provoking public consternation or
 You can discuss your relationships and
publicly acknowledge your partner
(such as by having a picture of your
lover on your desk) without fearing that
people will automatically disapprove or
think that you are being“blatant”
 You can legally marry the person whom
you love
 You can receive tax breaks, health
insurance coverage, and spousal legal
rights through being in a long-term
 You can express yourself sexually
without the fear of being prosecuted for
breaking the law
 Heteronormativity is the belief
that people fall into distinct
and complementary genders
(man and woman) with
natural roles in life.
 It asserts that heterosexuality is
the only sexual orientation or
only norm, and states that
sexual and marital relations
are most (or only) fitting
between people of opposite
 Consequently, a
"heteronormative" view is
one that involves
alignment of biological
sex, sexuality, gender
identity and gender roles.
 Heteronormativity is often
linked to heterosexism and