Trigger Warnings: Sexism, Ableism, Heterosexism. Murder of disabled person by parent+societal sympathy in later notes.
Sex and sexuality are complicated, and so are their interactions with society, with gender, class, race, and ability all interacting with narratives of sexuality. Gender works into expectations of sexuality in many ways, some of which are double standards and some of which tie into other identities. The attempted control by men of women's sexualities through many means (Lee and Shaw 163) has a lot to do with many of these sexualities, including the idea that a first sexual experience is a “loss” of virginity for a woman and makes her somehow “morally sullied” (Valenti 181.) Men are pressured to perform sexuality, while women are taught to express emotional needs instead of just looking for sexual connections (hooks 187-8) which they are often penalized for having with the sham of virginity (Blank qtd. in Valenti 182.) People notice the different standards, too: Cambridge University participated in the I Need Feminism campaign and individual participants noted that their sex ed talked about the penis but not the clitoris (#54,) and that women are portrayed as passive participants in relationships (#95.) The gendering of the terms for those who have a lot of sex or who have sex with many partners is also relevant to these scripts, noted in the text's learning activity “Speaking of Women and Men” (Lee and Shaw 110) and by a woman who needs feminism because she says she is a player, not a slut (#102.) In addition to the standards being different based on gender, they also become self-contradictory in the case of women, who risk being branded “whores” when they have sex and “frigid bitches” when they don't (#235)
That was just what can happen based on sexist standards alone- there are other identities thatcan and do interact with gender to affect society's scripts for sexuality. Heterosexism comes into play with one participant writing on their board: “I need feminism because... “I'm gay” is NOT an invitation for a threesome, to “watch” or to “convert” me, despite what certain straight men seem to think” (#94.) It stays in play when trying to figure out what virginity even means, as discussed in the cult of virginity. When a person assumes that a woman who acts or is a certain way can't get a man, it is also heterosexism coming into the picture of gendered sexual roles. Martin avoids this in her essay, but the internal voice she speaks of is almost certainly assuming both that the fat woman in question wants a partner (some people are aromantic and/or asexual, as I am!) and that said partner must be a man (lesbian and bisexual women exist!) bell hooks, though, does write about a man and a woman, not challenging heterosexism.
Ableism has its effect when disabled men are often considered to be predators who will have sex with anyone and disabled women are often assumed asexual (Thomas, Bryson, et al 2001,) unattractive, or unable to consent in the case of cognitive disability (Beckford; Dolak.) Ableism also relates in that people have often thought that people with disabilities should not have children and that those who will not have children should not have sex (Knoepfler 1982.) This would also be relevant to heterosexism, as it is typically assumed that people in same-gender relationships will not have children. Sizeism hits with the idea that fat women aren't attractive, with the reality that many of us have internal monologues in which we would not date one or assume they can't find love (Martin 268.) When people assume all women want to lose weight (#260,) this is sizeism, and it falls with heterosexism and gendered sex roles that have women as passive or as just trying to “get” a partner when it assumed that this is for a man. Sizeism and ableism get together since physical disability can lead to being fat.
These messages are definitely coming from media, culture, and family, and much of it is subliminal. People are getting it from somewhere, and the Cambridge Needs Feminism photographs show that people do know what's going on. It also shows that it's everywhere in society, because if it wasn't as pervasive as it is, people knowing about it would be able to make it change faster. Subliminal stuff is harder to detect, too, and that means that people can be taught much longer- subliminal teaching creates the internal monologues Martin talks about, not blatant statements. It also comes through even in some theoretically feminist things: Women are people too? That has men as the default. That is more androcentrism, more sexism. It's not healthy, seeing that “men are people” can just be stated but that “women are people” so often requires that “too” at the end, as if the humanity of women is an afterthought. The (a)sexuality of women is an afterthought. Being read as a woman means being an afterthought, and there's no way that could be healthy.
Beckford, Martin. "Autistic Woman Banned from Having Sex in Latest Court of Protection Case." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 03 Feb. 2012. Web. 24 May 2013.
This is an article about an autistic woman being banned from having sex, essentially because she couldn't demonstrate to the court that she knew she could say no. To enforce the ban, they require one on one supervision for her- by the group statistically most likely to sexually abuse her, caregivers.
Dolak, Kevin. "Mentally Disabled Couple's Legal Battle Ends with New Home." ABC News. ABC News Network, 23 May 2013. Web. 24 May 2013.
This is an article about the happy ending for a disabled couple who had a legal battle to be able to live together after their marriage. I find it interesting that it was the woman's home that insisted she could not consent, while the man's home believed him capable of consent.
Knoepfler, Peter T. "Sexuality and Psychiatric Disability." Sexuality and Disability 5.1 (1982): 14-27. Springer Link. Web. 1 Apr. 2013.
This one is also basically what it says on the tin. It talks about how people with psychiatric disabilities can and do still have sex drives and sexual relationships, and it also talks about how many people are uncomfortable with disabled people having sex. Barriers to relationships and sex get talked about too.
#54-305. 2013. Photographs. Cambridge Needs Feminism, Cambridge, England. CUSU Women's Campaign. Facebook, 23-24 Apr. 2013. Web. 13 June 2013.
These photographs are from the “I Need Feminism” set of campaigns in which people take pictures with signs that state why they need feminism. These give a good idea of what messages people in general are getting about gender and feminism (so could the comments, but I stayed away from those because the comments on anything feminist... generally justify feminism.)
Shaw, Susan M., and Janet Lee. "Sex, Power, and Intimacy" Women's Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings. 5th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2011. 163-180. Print.
Thompson, S. Anthony, Mary Bryson, and Suzanne De Castell. "Prospects for Identity Formation for Lesbian, Gay, or Bisexual Persons with Developmental Disabilities." International Journal of Disability, Development and Education 48.1 (2001): 53-65. Ilga-europe.org. Web. 30 Mar. 2013.
This is pretty much what it says on the tin- it's about things that allow or disallow people with developmental disabilities forming LGB identities. Some of the stuff is gendered.
I'm going to argue with the statement that sizeism is the only acceptable discrimination left in society (Martin 265.) An autistic 14 year old was stabbed multiple times in the chest by his mother this week, and there was a letter written in a support group “to” Alex (the kid's name) that ended with the statement that he should be thanking his mother for stabbing him because he wouldn't be autistic anymore in heaven. Facebook did take that one down, but tends not to take down disability or gender based hate-speech. People conflate feminism with hating men all the time. Murders of disabled people are regularly referred to as mercy killings. No. Sizeism is bad. It's not the only one that people think of as acceptable. Even sexism and racism still are- it's just limited to certain kinds that are acceptable now.
I mostly really like the “Cambridge Needs Feminism” series. Mostly. #305, though “... because a woman's IQ is more important than her BRA SIZE,” though- IQ is inherently ableist and choosing an ableist standard to judge women on isn't OK.
Valenti talks about how the ideal virgin is never disabled. ABLEISM BEING TALKED ABOUT YES.