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Heterosexuality is under fire as a patriarchal construct in a recent NBC News article that frames the emergence of celebrity LGBTQ revelations against a backdrop of the latest tumultuous sex scandals. Women just don’t need men, the article posits, and because they don’t, they’re ditching them. The only thing is, that’s not really how sexuality works. Attraction is hard to control, and it’s rarely convenient.
In the article, Marcie Biano states: “Over the past week, an assortment of trending stories,” begins the article, “from Jeffrey Epstein to the Dayton and El Paso mass shooters, to Miley Cyrus’s separation and Julianne Hough’s declaration that she’s “not straight”—together have laid bare the strictures of an American patriarchy on the edge of a nervous breakdown. As the status quo, heterosexuality is just not working.”
Heterosexuality doesn’t exist to uphold the patriarchy, it exists because people are sexually attracted to the opposite sex. Heterosexuality is a legit sexual orientation, and for people who are wired that way, it’s not really like an option. We might have thought it was, but the gay rights movement taught us that sexuality isn’t a choice; people are just born that way.
Opposite sex attraction is also essential for the furtherance of the species. Until artificial reproduction is fully perfected, and we can dispense with sex, attraction, and mammalian enterprises altogether, it’s actually useful for men and women to want to have sex with one another.
It’s sort of surprising to see anyone taking this ludicrous hot take seriously, but people have jumped on board.
Others find it completely laughable.
Bianco has a different take: “Men need heterosexuality to maintain their societal dominance over women. Women, on the other hand, are increasingly realizing not only that they don’t need heterosexuality, but that it also is often the bedrock of their global oppression.”
In the recent, stupid, past, there have been discussions about how heterosexuality and heteronormativity—that concept where society believes that which stems from opposite sex attraction is normal and that which doesn’t, isn’t– upholds the patriarchy.
One concern is that it facilitates the gender binary. But if there’s anything 2019 has shown us, it’s that even when the gender binary is reimagined as the gender spectrum, men and women are still men and women, and they still like to get it on. A quick google search for The Bachelorette and “windmills” will give you the idea.
Heterosexuality has been considered a problem because it keeps patriarchal gender roles intact. The problem with taking these gender roles out of the conversation entirely is that their removal enforces the opposite, and no one should be forced to live according to another’s dictates. There is one simple reason that, traditionally, heterosexuality has allowed men to have dominance over women, and it’s the vulnerability that comes with pregnancy and child-rearing. We are mammals, we birth live young, we nurture them. Being pregnant and taking care of young puts a woman in a vulnerable position. It’s good to have someone look out for mother and child. This is not oppression.
It’s also been said that heteronormativity is bad because it reinforces monogamy and… wait for it… white supremacy. This is part of a push to align sexuality and morality, which is not new, but this perspective of what constitutes morality is. Sexual attraction between consenting adults doesn’t really have a moral value. We learned this from the fight for gay rights.
Homosexuality was shunned, shamed, and punished by a straight leaning public, and it wasn’t until the gay rights movement, post AIDS crisis, that the straight community got their shit together to stop, for the most part, being biased. Society opened up, and one of the biggest factors in that was gay marriage.
In the acceptance of gay marriage, the straight folks got to open their minds to the fact that sexual orientation did not negate a want for marriage, family, social acceptance. As the envelope continued to be pushed, and acceptance of non-straight sexualities became more common, the public at large got more comfortable with LGBTQ individuals, relationships, and representations. The feeling that it was immoral largely dissipated from public life. Good.
The point of the gay rights movement was to secure equal rights under the law. This is necessary, and equal rights should obviously be applied to all people, or else they are not equal. But instead of an acknowledgement of the work made toward even footing, there is a push back against the sexuality that used to be considered the norm, and statistically still is prevalent.
Bianco continues: “Patriarchy is at its most potent when oppression doesn’t feel like oppression, or when it is packaged in terms of biology, religion or basic social needs like security comfort, acceptance and success. Heterosexuality offers women all these things as selling points to their consensual subjection.”
What is totally being missed here is that biology isn’t subjectively packaged, it simply exists. The meeting of basic social needs is essential for a functioning society, no matter who is leading that society. Women do not practice heterosexuality on an exchange basis. That Miley Cyrus and other women can go from partnering with a man to partnering with a woman speaks to their personal sexual orientation, not the general flexibility of all women’s sexual orientations.
For LGBTQ attraction to be legitimized does not require heterosexuality to be delegitimized. Before the push for gay rights, there was a push for women’s rights. Feminists know that they can dig men and still be down for equality. They know that motherhood and heterosexuality are not limiting factors to their feminism, but may be part of their lifestyle, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
How did we get from advocating for equal rights for women and LGBTQ folks to fully deriding that which came before? Are we so sure that there is only one right way to fuck that to make room for the social acceptance of new ways we have to chuck the old? Because the old ways aren’t going anywhere, they’re here to stay. Regardless of the relative wokeness of heteronormativity, men and women will continue to be attracted to one another. It’s not really something a person can talk themselves out of.
Sexual orientation may have been politicized, but sexual attraction is not a political act. Attraction is not like Doc Martens or hair color, it’s just who you’re into. It is completely anathema to our cultural push to be more open and more accepting for us to reverse the binary morality to say that one kind of sexual attraction contains within it innate morality, and another one is immoral. If the gay rights movement taught us anything, it’s that love is love. Let’s get down with that.