Assignment on Sexual Self

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Q3)Foucault believed that “we have no true sexual selves, repressed by morality andinstitutions.” Sex, gender and sexuality are manipulated to create normative identities – oneis often forced to conform to these identities, leaving one with “no true sexual selves”. Thisessay will seek to explain how our “sexual selves” are developed through the process ofsocialization, and governed by existing social institutions. Furthermore, this essay will alsoshow how this understanding can be applied to ethnicity.“Sexual self” is part of one’s identity, and how one perceives him/herself in terms of sex,gender and sexuality. This begins with one’s sex – a biological concept. It is determinedbased on the primary sex characteristics or the anatomical traits essential to reproduction(Ferrante, 2015). One is categorized into male or female based on the genitalia one is bornwith.However, it should be noted that one’s anatomy may not match his or her sexchromosomes. Yet, newborns are still categorized into male or female because of theapparent need to fulfil this dichotomous concept of sex that is created by society and thestate. An example is intersexed newborns, who have a mixture of male and femaleanatomy. A newborn who has male genitalia but female internal reproductive organs, willbe categorized as a male, because intersexed individuals are not legally recognised in moststates. Something seemingly as simple as sex, may actually be highly complicated. Yet,governments across the world still insist on only legally recognising two sexes – male andfemale. Evidently, one does not have a say in one’s own sex, as it is determined at birth by asuperficial assessment of genitalia. The fact that the state determines what sexes arerecognised exemplifies why one has “no true sexual self”, as they are simply chucked intothe socially recognised definitions of male and female sexes.Beyond being born with a given sex, individuals are also socialized to conform to genderexpectations. Gender is a social distinction based on culturally conceived and learned idealsabout males and females (Ferrante, 2015). These gender ideals exaggerate thecharacteristics that make someone a “perfect” male or female. For example, males areexpected to be masculine while females are expected to be feminine. These encompasstraits which are believed to be characteristic of the respective sexes (Ferrante, 2015). Boys
grow up playing sports and with action figures, while girls learn dance or music and playwith dolls.However, it is important to understand that these gender ideals are socially created andreinforced by agents of socialization that include the people and objects around us. Frombirth, babies are raised by their parents based on the sex given to them and children learnto behave in gendered ways. Most of the time, these children are brought up in waysdeemed appropriate by their parents. As a result, this produces individuals who aresocialized into gender norms and ideals that they believe to be appropriate. Additionally,these individuals also perpetuate gender expectations as it was the way that they wereraised and the only socially accepted behaviour they know of. This creates a constantreproduction of the cycle of socialization which is why gender stereotypes and norms evenexist in the first place. Due to the influence of socialization on every individual regardless ofsex, gender becomes a social construct that one has no control over. As a result, anindividual’s gender is determined based on their biological sex, and it is reinforced throughthe process of socialization. Thus, one has no choice but to conform to gender norms toavoid being socially excluded. Therefore, people have “no true sexual selves” as their genderis pre-determined by their sex.“Sexual self” also includes an individual’s sexuality. Sexuality encompasses all the wayspeople express themselves as sexual beings (Ferrante, 2015). In examining sexuality, onemust look at sexual behaviour and identity. Sexual behaviour refers to an individual’s sexualactivity and practices, while sexual identity is the sexual orientation one identifies with.Sexologist Alfred Kinsey distinguished sexual behaviour from sexual identity, which suggeststhat sexual behaviour might not match sexual identity. However, many still feel the need toconform to sexual scripts which were assigned to them. These include responses andbehaviours that people learn to guide them in sexual activities (Ferrante, 2015). Generally,sexual scripts that support heterosexuality and binary ideals are dominant in every society.As a result, individuals are unable to freely express themselves sexually and are constrainedby social norms and gender expectations.In his 1970 bookTearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places,Humphreys studied malehomosexual encounters in public toilets. He argues that the majority of the men whoengaged in these acts put on a “breastplate of righteousness” in order to conceal their
deviant behaviour. They were outwardly heterosexual and would “present themselves asrespectable members of society”, typically through a heterosexual marriage or right-wingsocial and political views (Ashford, 2016). They did not perceive themselves as homosexual,but were merely seeking sexual gratification. However, they had to upkeep theirheterosexual appearance to the outside world, for fear that being seen as a homosexualwould be damaging to their family lives. Additionally, homosexual acts were illegal at thattime. This shows that individuals are still restricted by socially accepted norms, so much sothat they have to conceal their deviant behaviour. Social norms and gender expectationsstill govern one’s behaviour and actions, limiting their sexual expression and by extension,their sexuality. This exemplifies why people have “no true sexual selves”, and that oursexual selves are repressed by the institutions that govern us.The same institutions that repress one’s “true sexual self” can also be applied in the contextof ethnicity and race. Ethnicity is a set of common traits or characteristics that an ethnicgroup believe they share with each other (Ferrante, 2015), while race is a set of groupings ofpeople believed to share common descent, based on perceived innate physical similarities(Morning, 2005). Race can be considered a subset of ethnicity as it is part of an individual’sidentity, but ethnicity may encompass other components (such as religion and language)that is differentiated from race. Individuals are categorised into races and ethnicities frombirth and are gradually socialized into ethnic and racial norms, which eventually limits theirracial and ethnic expression, similar to how social institutions restricts one’s sexualexpression.In Singapore, there are four racial categories – Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Others. The statedecides each individual’s race based on paternal lines of descent (Kathiravelu, 2017), andindividuals cannot self-identify with a particular race. This is especially problematic forindividuals with mixed parentage, as they may prefer to identify with their maternal parentinstead. The introduction of the “double-barrelled” race option has alleviated this problem,as it gives legal recognition to individuals of mixed parentage by allowing them to put boththeir parent’s races on their identification card. However, individuals still have to conform tostate-assigned racial categories. Using the same “double-barrelled” race option as anexample, how is an individual, who has parents that are also mixed races, categorised?There is no “quad-barrelled” race option to accommodate such an individual. This highlights
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