Saturday, April 11, 2009

Culture and Sexuality

  This week's readings and the BLOG were a bit challenging for me in the sense, I had not thought of sexuality in this sense and understanding sexuality and relating it to the readings took me some time. Of course, culture and sexuality are related and intertwined. Culture is a meaning making enterprise and so is sexuality, the way we identify ourselves in relation to sex, gender. As a human being, your sexuality is a part of your physical, emotional, intellectual, and social self. It very much influences how we think of ourselves, how we relate to others and our meaning making process in the society. As all of us are different, there is no normative "sexuality but it is a product of the interaction of our gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, identity creation, values and persepectives (again leading towards epistemologies and the cosmology we access in the meaning making enterprise). This manifests in our expectations of how we think a man or woman should behave and these play a role in our sexuality. For example, My concept of a woman in India and in US are radically different, due to my beliefs, values, cultural dispositions and lived experience (again a result of my perceptions). The readings take these concepts to several new levels and dimensions.


Foucalt talks about power and its machinations to imprison, standardize sexuality. Amongst many examples, he talks of the architecture of the secondary schools. It was an 'aha' moment for me when I was reminded of the architecture of my school, its seating plan and the architecture of my hostel where there was a visible, tangible segregation both physical and self enforceed discipline of the living areas of the men and the women. While Foucalt is subject to intense criticism in many of his articulations, nevertheless his contention makes sense. 

The othering, the discipling becomes evident in many of the readings. In the direct and indirect sex work in Vietnam, I was taken back by the  capture-recapture method. The researchers approach the field with lots of paternalistic assumptions about the population and ignores the globalisation influences, the dynamics, the politics of sexuality. The authors are also naive when the profess that they are confident that they are able to map the hidden sex workers...a statement like this underlines lack of rigor, validity. Why use capture-recapture methods? The statement likening it to wild animals is probably the best reason!! Indeed, hidden sex workers are "wild animals". The methods leave lot to be desired and the interviews are more of surveys than really probing the issue. But methodology aside, it ignores the issues of sexuality, of expression, of relatedness, meaning making.

       The reading on crack cocaine made me very sad. I wondered how the black female crack users did really negotiate their life..family does play a larger role in it I guess!! And why is it always women who are at the receiving end. A question of sexuality? Then I researched a bit on the crack cocaine and Heroine phenomenon and was surprised that these were marketed and sold as legitimate drugs in the US by renowned companies. And how does it manifest in human lives...through the interstices of culture and sexuality and its overlaps and the way the dominant forces constitute them.

      The discourse on AIDS in the pieces are similar. AIDS means dehumanizing, stigmatizing and its the women, the "sexually deviant" who are on the receiving end...being blamed for the infection source, Racialized discourses, pathologizing discourses are rampant.  Schoepf, in describing these writes AIDS as an epidemic of signification. He quotes Reid (1992) who said that the international policmakers lacked epistemic responsibility in their neglect of gender inequality and their actions rooted in the hegemonic definitions and disciplining procedures of sexuality. As Schoepf further writes, the capture of the state by conservative forces seeking to conrol sex and pleasure. In a parallel vein Mehta writes eloquently about the distinctions and discourses situated in meanings of sexuality reifying the differences between the Musalmani (Katua) and Hindus. I remember me in college classifying whole communities as "Kuts" (diminiutive of Katua) without a reflexive thought. 

      I am looking forward to today's class to provide me more understanding and perspectives.

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