Sex is defined in most major dictionaries as the physical union of the male and female genitalia, or the act in which a man puts his penis into the vagina of a woman. The idea that sex is simply the penis popping in and out of the vagina is quite ridiculous and considering the decriminalisation of same-sex sexual activity last week by the Indian Supreme Court, it is quite ‘unnatural’ (pun intended) for us to still have such a limited idea of what sex is.
Expanding this definition would require infinite unlearning of norms set by forces of patriarchy, homophobia, and colonialism. The decriminalisation of what was considered ‘unnatural’ is a first step in this long quest.
Heteronormativity In Porn
Most of us, not having had any formal sex education, learnt about this phenomena mostly through illicit, late night exploration of porn websites. The presence of toxic patriarchy and misogyny in pornography is already part of a wide discussion. It is then no surprise that most pornographic websites dominantly depict heterosexual erotica. The idea that only men watch porn (or only men as having any sexual desire) is so deeply embedded in our psyche that in most porn sites, even their ‘lesbian’ section is designed to cater to the male gaze.
The idea that only men watch porn is so deeply embedded in our psyche that in most porn sites, even their ‘lesbian’ section is designed to cater to the male gaze.
Almost all the porn on major pornographic websites are heterosexual. In fact, only about 5-15% of the online porn is homosexual and these mostly only exist in niche or gay-specific websites. Though gay porn has never truly been subjected to heteronormativity and has been normalised at least on the internet, mainstream lesbian porn aimed at an audience of lesbians rather than straight men is incredibly difficult to find.
Taking the example of transgender pornography, the majority of the genre is dominated by trans women with comparatively very little representation of trans men. The few trans people that are employed in the porn industry are mostly dominant in feminist porn, not the mainstream industry.
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Such a one-dimensional production and marketing of the porn industry has contributed to creating a perception of sex that is entirely male-centric. In fact, even from the heterosexual perspective, a woman’s orgasm is rarely considered a significant part of sex, whereas a man’s orgasm is the ultimate climax which often signifies the end of the activity.
Colonial Invalidation Of ‘Unnatural’ Sex
This has its roots in the Judeo-Christian condemnation of non-procreative sex. Shaming all non-procreative sexual activity has been a vital tool in upholding the heteronormative patriarchy. Excluding such sex as ‘not sex’ can also be seen in the idea of virginity, which associates bleeding during sex as a sign of purity (This quite hilariously undermines the requirements of a ‘pure virgin’ girl allowing her to indulge in all sexual activity except the peno-vaginal and still maintain her ‘purity’).
Non-heteronormative sex is invisible unless you seek it out.
As the judgement of 6th September said, in understanding the prejudice against non-heterosexual sexual activities in today’s society it is important to be aware of the long-standing Judaeo-Christian tradition of severely punishing what it considered ‘unnatural’ sex. This prejudice has been deeply imbibed in almost all cultures that are victims of colonialism.
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A vital component of criticising non-procreational sex was the erasure of the female sex drive. In fact, Jesus himself sources his ‘godliness’ from the fact that he was the result of a virgin birth. The result of this suppression is still incredibly visible. For example, even in the reporting of the decriminalisation of homosexuality and in almost all literature and sources relating or informative about it there is always a very strong bias towards gay men.
Representation of lesbians is extremely rare. In fact famous pro LGBTQIA+ movies such as Pride (2014) seem to see lesbians bringing up women empowerment as part of the LGBTQIA+ movement as overbearing inconveniences.
Expanded Definition Of Sex
Now the question falls to what is then the definition of sex. Well, according to The Journal of Sex Research, there has already emerged a ‘gold standard‘ of sex among the gay community, wherein 90% of men considered anal penetration as sex. Now the question only remains as to non-men and their definition of sex. Studies have concluded that there is not really a single intimate act which constitutes as real sex to all people. However, gay and bisexual men have much narrower view of sex than women.
A far more realistic definition of sex would emerge if sex is differentiated from male ejaculation and focused more towards the pleasure and satisfaction of all participants involved. However this would require an incredible path of unlearning and re-learning what we have learnt of sex.
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