Your Source for Feminist Discourse

Assuming Sexuality

Today I want to tell you the story about two individuals who started out as really good friends but ended up hating each other because of miscommunication and societal assumptions.

Let me set the scene for you….

Will this be a happy ending?

Jade is the captain of her softball team.  She also plays rugby in her free time.  She’s never missed watching a Redskins game, though depressing they may be, and for the past two years has been the champion of the fantasy football league she has with a much of her male coworkers.  She is not the type of girl to giggle or do that peculiar high pitch scream.  While she’ll wear make-up on occasion it is not part of her everyday routine, and she’d rather wear sweatpants or when it’s warm basketball shorts.  Jade is want many would call a “tomboy”.

Now meet Kyle he is just one of your run of the mill average guys.  He also depressingly watches his Redskins every week and has won two separate fantasy football leagues.   He enjoys going out with friends, hanging at the bar, and playing video games.

Imagine these two meet in one of their sports marketing classes.  They are both passionate about the subject and quickly develop that classroom friendship, you know the one I’m talking about–you pair up together in class, you talk before and after class, you ask each other about the assignments, but you’ve never hung out outside of the classroom.  They talk about football stats, the new Thor movie, and about each of them waiting all night to get the new Batman Arkham Origins.

One day after a heated debate about RG3’s career Kyle asks Jade to go to lunch.  She happily agrees and they make their way to Market One on campus.  The great conversation continues and they exchange numbers.  They text back and forth easily and for the next couple of weeks spend more time together going to lunch, dinner, and even catching a movie.  One night Kyle’s friend is having a birthday party and he texts Jade that she should come.  Jade gets dressed, make-up and all, and heads over to the party.  The music is bumping and the alcohol is flowing and both Kyle and Jade indulge, perhaps a little too much.  As the night progresses they both get a little touchy feely, cuddling, holding hands, and at one point even a small kiss was shared.

Jade goes home that night thinking that Kyle is really interested in her which is great because she really likes him.  Kyle goes home thinking about how cool it is to have a girl he can just hang out without any expectations because he knows that she’s not interested in guys.  Uh-oh, we know this isn’t going to end well.  After a flurry of texts back and forth each feel justified in their anger at the other and thinks that it wasn’t their fault that the other came to the wrong conclusion.  So, what happened?

We live in a hetero-normative society, meaning that the norms of society are based around heterosexuality, this also means that when we meet another individual we often assume that they are heterosexual because that is the norm.   Within this type of society the discussion of sexuality is limited and often because of the negative associations involved is not a topic that people are willing to bring up easily whether it’s about their own sexuality or not.  Another hallmark of this type of society is that we link sexuality with gender presentation which can often lead to disastrous results.  Although, we often assume that the person we meet is heterosexual when we are confronted with a gender presentation that is abnormal for a specific sex we then assume the opposite, i.e. if we see a woman who does not fit into our expected gender presentation of femininity we then assume that their sexuality does not fit into the expected sexuality either.

So, how does this apply to the poor story of Jade and Kyle?  Well, first Kyle made the assumption that Jade’s gender presentation indicated her sexuality, he saw he gender choices–not wearing make-up, her interests, etc.–as indicators of her sexual preferences.  In layman’s terms, he thought that her interests and personal choices were a result of her being homosexual not just her being an individual.  On the reverse side, Jade made the assumption that Kyle would know her own sexuality and did not actively communicate about her own desires toward Kyle.  What Jade saw as dates, Kyle saw as hanging out with a friend.  The assumptions and miscommunications on both part of Jade and Kyle took what could have been a really great friendship and turned it into something where each individual party became bitter.

When we don’t communicate about our desires and sexuality we require others to make assumptions on our behave which may lead them to conclusions that we would not find fitting.  On the other hand when we assume about others then we are then placing them within boxes that they may not fit.  Until we can make sexuality and desires and open and honest conversation there will continue to these sort so miscommunications.  So, readers have you experienced things like this?  Let me know in the comments!

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