OK, I’ve been promising this through at least three posts now, and here it goes. Like many people I wonder why the religious right is so obsessed with promoting heterosexism. After all, same sex intercourse is not the only behavior prohibited in Leviticus and yet it seems to warrant an amazing amount of effort combating. What is it about this specific sin that generates so much fear and anger among the “traditional values” set?
I know I’m not covering any new ground here but ultimately I believe it all comes down to sexism. Specifically it comes down to sexual identity for men, not just their own but how they view women sexually as well. To a straight male in our culture a sexual partner is an object to be won. Sex is conquest, the result of a power struggle in which the male wants to be a victor, over both the woman and other males. The woman is the ultimate prize, valued only as a the means to a man’s own self worth.
When you inject gay men into this mix it turns the straight males’ view of themselves on its head. Suddenly they are the object to be won. The power dynamic is mixed up and being sought after as a means to gratification the way they seek women does not feel good. So powerful is this force in our cultures that even LGBTQ friendly straight men often feel uncomfortable in the presence of gay men.
Heterosexim against gay women can also be explained in this context, though by a different road. Heterosexist, or homophobic, men and women chafe at a woman rejecting her proper place as an object of conquest. To the straight male it is a direct challenge to his idea of what makes him a man and for too many straight women, indoctrinated in this power relationship from an early age, the lesbian unfairly escapes the role of trophy she is forced into.
This also explains the right’s weird love-hate relationship with the trans community. On the one hand the trans man seeks (in the view of the hetero/cis sexist) to usurp the position of a “real” man. This seems like a natural impulse, however, and the cis/hetero/sexist can appreciate the desire to join in the privileged position. Meanwhile the cis/hetero/sexist cannot understand the desire to give up one’s male sexual identity in the trans woman, but appreciates the introduction of another sex object.
Finally this helps to explain slut shaming, as described in brief in yesterday’s post. To the sexist a strong, sexually confident woman challenges the hunter/prey aspect of their view of human sexuality. A woman who denies her “rightful” position as a prize to be won challenges the male sexists’ right to win her.
I know there is a few thousand years worth of habit backing all this behavior up. You can see it when, as mentioned above, even enlightened, sexually egalitarian individuals fall so easily into these patterns without meaning to (hence many forward thinking, liberal males’ proclivity for philandering.) Still, I think we are more than capable of overcoming this, if we take a long hard look at ourselves and what we might be doing, in all our interactions, to perpetuate this mindset.