I like to have the TV on for background noise when I’m on the computer. This morning, I watched about thirty seconds of a crapumentary called “Anatomy of Sex”, and in those precious seconds, I got material for a whole article here (and, I’m hoping, a whole whack of comments). Here is is:
(A young man hits on a woman he’s just met)
Female narrator (in a sexy cooing voice): Guys like Greg can’t help themselves. They’re just following the first rule of evolution: reproduce! You might say the only reason you’re alive is to have sex – the urge is that strong.
So: people with low sex drives are FREAKS. People who want gay sex are FREAKS. People who like oral sex which doesn’t make babies are FREAKS (though, somehow, I’m sure this documentary won’t make that connection, as long as they’re tonguing the other gender). People who choose to be celibate or find that’s their orientation are FREAKS. All of you who belong in one of these FREAK categories? Yeah, you should just kill yourselves now because, evolutionarily speaking, you’re a dead-end anyway.
Well, if you listen to your culture, anyway. I recommend the la la la i can’t hear you technique.
In an ironically heteronormative comment I made yesterday, I said that heteronormativity doesn’t just marginalize queer people and anyone not seeking the long-term monogamous relationship set-up. It also helps to reinforce the arbitrary gender roles society has assigned men and women, regardless of our individual strengths and weaknesses. It promises the easily frightened that unknown individuals will behave predictably, according to gender. When we don’t – when women stand up for themselves, or men turn down an opportunity to have sex with a woman, just for a couple of examples – we are breaking a promise someone made on our behalf. The people who thought they could rely on gender roles making the world of human interaction a less scary place feel betrayed. No wonder they so often get angry, or latch onto a label to brand you as a reject, not to be counted.
In reinforcing the idea that men and women exist to boink each other, heteronormativity strengthens every bullshit idea associated with that assumption. That men are aggressive and women passive. That for men, behaviors up to and including rape are natural, if unfortunate. And for women, being raped by men is natural, too.
For long-term monogamous heterosexuality to be the gold standard of relationships, you have to keep the vast majority of your populace believing that sort of relationship is what they want. To believe that, we have to believe we are the sort of men and women society tells us we are. A woman who discovers she doesn’t really need a boyfriend has betrayed the promise heteronormativity makes to conformists. A man who finds getting laid is not as interesting to him as making that next $1 billion has betrayed it too. No queerness is required, because the promise goes so far beyond assuring everyone that heterosexuality is normal. It’s a promise that women belong to men for the purposes of sex-having and the relief of frustration through abuse.