Adrienne Rich argues that heterosexuality is compulsory upon women – an idea that women are conditioned to be heterosexual so that masculine forces can maintain control. However, this concept does probe some issues. First, we (and science) are not sure what even causes sexuality. Pure genetics nor pure environmental factors show any evidence for preference of which sex on is attracted to. Today it is widely known that homosexuality to heterosexuality, or man to women, are a on a continuum. It is understood much more so that sexuality is not a binary nor static.
So a notion of compulsory heterosexuality is in correct under such complex and unsettled evidence. However, it is correct that heterosexuality is often assumed and deemed to be the normalized relationship of human society. This is due to socialization to fit different functions. Anthropologist suggest that the women and men had the initial division of labor due to biological chances. Women were pregnant for substantial amounts of time and were ready to lactate the neonate. This left men to seek materials need for sustenance. This type of relationship was not grounded in inequality – it certainly had the beginnings of sex and gendered inequality.
It seems that the notion of compulsory sexuality helps to explain the fear of lesbianism in the sexual continuum. The caricature of the feminist is often portrayed as a bra burning lesbian. This is meant for women conform to patriarchy ideals of womanhood and femininity instead of seeking equality amongst men. Heterosexuality amongst women is also promoted through beauty normative sexual acts and behavior.
While no sexual act is too normal or too deviant, socialized acceptance of certain sexual acts promoted the narrative man-woman sex. From magazines, to Kama Sutra, to high school sex education class – the discussion centers around heterosexual act. Homosexual sex acts are often ignored or briefly mentioned as an apology acknowledgment.
The conversation is exponentially centered around what will please him. Even the tools, a condom, is what is a prevalent image in sexual health. Only once did I hear of female condoms, and they too were deemed for spermicide usage.
Men do not necessarily have more freedom of sexual expression under this system. Professor Richardson defined “patriarchy” in the most perfect definition I have heard yet: the system of masculinity, not man himself. The man is not free to explore the sexual continuum because he must uphold the notions of masculinity as well. Males in our culture constantly policing themselves to fit the category of heterosexual maleness. If anything, gay men are much more accepted than lesbian women in USA society.
The sexualized images of women in macabre scene is very much present. The fashion industry often show cases women in gang rape, postmortem, and disinterment of the female body. The fame body is used for display to enact a sexual, but repulsively attracted shot. It is no longer breathing flesh, but a show piece for our desire to see the appalling and forbidden.
The internet has made access to all forms of media much easier. The pornography industry is always in the center of technological advancement – in fact it drives technology! Along with a few others, the porno people have gotten only richer since the internet has started out. The porn industry has plenty of violent and objectifying content of women. The display of femaleness on the internet also has consequences. In the gaming world, female gamers often report harassment online.
As Caputi writes, “it is only through an extraordinary numbing that reality can be denied” (439) – we must remain conscious of the content our eyes see, careful not to internalize this violence and normalization.