Growing up in a heternormative society, it was expected that an individual’s sexuality is heterosexual and that a man and woman must conform to the societal expectations of their gender identity. Yet, conversing about sex is a taboo subject, especially for women to talk about. Besides, many do not see sex as a political agent or how it has affected our identity to a large extent.
Gayle Rubin’s “Thinking Sex” Rubin articulates how sex is used as a political agent that implements repression, has its own sets of complications, and creates dominance in Western society. Rubin looks into how our modern-day culture views sexuality and that sexuality needs to be addressed. In the late 19th century, social movements in England and the United States tried to eliminate sexual activity and made people believe that any sexual activity was labeled unhealthy. Thus, conflicts of interest with sexuality make it a political issue.
Sexuality has been influenced by our media, law, and our opinion of people. It has been organized into a different power system, such as certain people are allowed to enjoy it while others are being punished. Rubin argues that it is important to acknowledge and re-evaluate some of our preconceived ideas on sexuality as certain institutions have definitely shaped it. However, as our society is a bit more progressive than in previous decades, many individuals are open-minded and accept a person’s sexual choice. But to this day, sexuality remains a political issue.
Rubin’s second section of this text, “Sex Thoughts,” Rubin begins to look at common ideas to theorize our understanding of historical sex panics. Rubin wants to find a theory that will help identify and describe the “erotic injustice and sexual oppression.” Thus the concept of sexual essentialism came to be. This term aims to understand further that sex is natural, constructed, and independent of social and historical institutions. It is a system of ideas that influences how we think about sexuality. Rubin then analyzes five concepts that make us surveilled and police our sexuality; sexual negativity, the fallacy of misplaced scale, hierarchical system of sexual value, and the concept of benign sexual variation.
After reading Rubin’s work, I can see how these ideas have shaped and viewed my own sexuality and sexuality in general. Growing up in Vietnam, talking about sex is an extremely taboo subject. It was deemed as bad and dangerous. The sexual acts that were deemed good or normal were implied for only heterosexuals, and those who do not conform to heterosexual sex are seen as abnormal and unnatural. However, once I moved out to Los Angeles, it was more an open country where individuals can express their sexual identity without the fear of high authority (in some certain states). With that in my mind, I started exploring my sexual identity out here. Being here has allowed me to fully experience my queerness without feeling judged or afraid of the consequences. I feel that now in Vietnam, people are recognizing and accepting, to some extent of homosexuals and same-sex marriage. No law in Vietnam criminalizes same-sex sexual acts. Additionally, sex education in Vietnam is still not talked about. It is based on abstinence and remains a sensitive issue. However, I believe that our new generation's current rise will definitely make a change to implement sexual discourse in mainstream attention.