Dualism And You: Part Two

In a recent post, Dualism And You, I discussed what dualism means and how it impacts contemporary Western ideas about sex and gender. I’m sure nobody will be surprised that I have more to say on this topic, specifically about sexuality.

In that last post, I touched on ideas like mind-body dualism (which is super-inflected by gender) and the slut/stud dichotomy, which describes women’s and men’s sexual behavior in diametrically opposed terms. Yet there’s another huge way in which dualism impacts our ideas about sexuality: the very notion of heterosexuality vs. homosexuality.

Think about it. Mainstream Western culture operates on the assumption that everyone is straight. If, goodness forbid, you’re not straight, then you must be gay. The heterosexual/homosexual dichotomy used to be the prevailing paradigm, even in normally forward-thinking sex research (which is one reason the Kinsey scale is so interesting – it works on the assumption that there is a spectrum of sexuality, though the two poles, heterosexuality and homosexuality, are still the main terms of discussion).

This bias toward the gay/straight paradigm explains why bisexuality is often so invisible, not to mention how confused many people are by transgendered and transsexual people, who often step out of dualistic categories in multiple ways. In a world where we’re taught to think in terms of black and white, male and female, gay and straight, anything that upsets or confounds those categories can be, at best, difficult to understand, and at worst, seen as threatening the “normal” folks and provoking violence. So it’s worth thinking outside dualistic sexual categories not only as a fun intellectual exercise, but also because it can help understand how biases and stereotypes blind people into stigmatizing alternative sexualities.

Follow us on Twitter @mysexprofessor. Follow Jeana, the author of this post, @foxyfolklorist.

About Jeana


Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.

  • http://www.bloketoys.co.uk/ Mens Sex Toys

    I have completed a lot of on-line study relating to male sexuality and the “myth” of the gay/straight sexual divide. In one adult survey with over 1000 respondents I specifically focused on the subject of male masturbation and sexual stimuli after reading some previous research where the subject of shared masturbation was seemingly deliberately neglected from study.
    For instance, a large (and oft quoted) research study amongst male prison inmates completely ignored the subject of masturbation almost entirely. As this is the most common sexual act a person can engage in, it seems remarkable that they would discuss anal penetration but not masturbation with inmates taking part in the study!

    From my own research, the vast majority of heterosexual men admitted to enjoying images and footage of male masturbation. A large number had experienced mutual masturbation at some time, and many continued to share adult media and masturbation with other men beyond the previously assumed “teenage exploration”.

    The results of all the research led me to believe that men, regardless of sexual orientation, have a fetish for male masturbation, and that sharing it with others is seen as a masculine bonding experience.

    The majority also accept the Kinsey Scale as a good representation of male sexuality. They seem to believe that they are therefore inherently bisexual, but they refer to themselves as heterosexual because they only enjoy one sexual act with other men.
    But, interestingly, they think they are alone in this situation. Most of them think this about themselves, but the socially accepted model persuades them that they are somehow unique or different in their masturbation fetish.

    The Gay/Bi/Straight explanation of sexuality is, I believe, completely wrong. People cannot be categorized so easily. One little fetish for something other than your expected desires throws a person into turmoil and confusion, when that doesn’t need to be the case.

    Social beliefs regarding sexuality are incorrect, and they are perpetuated from all sides for no reason other than ignorance and lack of thought. I firmly believe that the best thing we could do is remove all three “clubs” from the social landscape and simply accept that adults can have all kinds of sexual relationships with other adults without it meaning anything at all about them or their position in life or society.

  • http://twitter.com/foxyfolklorist Jeana Jorgensen

    That was a really interesting response; thanks for sharing! I completely agree with you that sexuality tends to be WAY more complex than binaries, and that it can cause people a lot of cognitive dissonance when they try to figure out which of their desires/actions should fit them into which boxes. Just do away with the boxes entirely!