“There seems to be a remarkably widespread belief that we are living through a period of collapsing moral values”

Posted: February 23, 2012 by chelsiehinck in Uncategorized

The social construction of the ideas of “normalcy” and the hierarchy of white male dominance manifests itself in every facet of our globalized world. Arguably hit the hardest by the pressure to be “normal” is the realm dealing with sex and sexualities. How much should you like sex? What sex practices are considered normal? Who should be having sex? These questions become a part of the daily struggle inside a globally sexual world.

Sprung from this push for “normalcy” comes the creation of the “Other.”

The Other refers to any sexual identity or practice that divulges from what a patriarchal white male dominated society (cough America… cough) deems as normal. Dennis Altman hits on this subject many times throughout his book Global Sex, paying special consideration to draw attention to the times in which Othering happens.

To me, this is a double edge sword of globalization. On one hand, as Altman suggests, the result of globalization has been to bring different cultures and areas of the world together—resulting in a growth of shared interests and sexual identities, practices, etc. What also ends up happening is a sort of shift to “inevitably mirror the dominant ideological strength of rich countries,” (Altman, 63-4) further reinforcing the idea that the “Other” is sub standard.

An interesting take Altman explored on this subject was in chapter 9 of his book—Squaring the Circle: The Battle for “Traditional” Morality. This chapter reflects on major extremes cultures have gone to in order to maintain a traditional approach to the subject of sex and sexuality in a modern world.

There seems to be a remarkably widespread belief that we are living through a period of collapsing moral values (Ibid. 140).

This belief stemmed in part from the necessity of open conversation about sex practices to accommodate a rapidly globalizing world. To understand how and why certain diseases were transmitted from person to person and to treat said illnesses as touched on in chapter 5.

As a way of dealing with the painful realization that: SHOCKER! People have sex! Some people even have sex in their sleep!(validity pending). Some people don’t have sex at all, and some never want to! & That is perfectly okay.

Some traditionalist members of societies around the world react to this in harmful ways.

For Altman, writing in 1998-2001 this manifested in “redneck” reactions to hippies, Klu Klux Klan admittedly racist and sexist policies and the stereotyping of AIDS as a “foreign disease,” to name a few.

This unfortunate reaction is still very much a reality today. Take for example the practice of corrective rape of lesbians living in South Africa.

This practice is a horrific attempt by men in certain cities and villages to control what they see as a threat to their traditional way of life. Corrective Rape is a criminal practice where men rape lesbians as a means of “curing” the woman of her sexual orientation.

The most publicized instance of corrective rape in South Africa was in 2009 when Eudy Simelane, the former star of South Africa’s acclaimed Banyana Banyana national female football squad was found dead in a creek outside of Johannesburg. She had been “…gang-raped and brutally beaten before being stabbed 25 times in the face, chest and legs.” She was the target of this crime for being openly gay and an activist for equal rights in Kwa-Thema, a black township outside of Johannesburg. This case was ruled as an act of “corrective rape” in an attempt for men to “cure” her of her sexual orientation (source).

*The following video is graphic, watch with viewer discretion*

This same sentiment has been relevant in the United States with remarks following the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

On a conservative news site called The Daily Caller, Joe Rehyansky–a Tennessee Judge, advocated for corrective rape to be used in the Military. His exact quote is as follows:

Lesbians should be allowed to serve [because] it would get the distaff part of our homosexual population off our collective ‘Broke Back,’ thus giving straight male GIs a fair shot at converting lesbians and bringing them into the mainstream

This man is so threatened by… well… let’s go with a “threat to his traditional approaches” that he feels it is necessary to advocate rape. ADVOCATE RAPE. All while perched from his white male dominant spot as a part of the American legal system.

In every instance cited throughout chapter 9 those that took a stand or were on the opposing end of the politics involved in sexual regulation were flagged as “Others” or outsiders to the culture and marred.

While it is easier to focus on the injustices presented in a global world with the use of “Othering” and traditional pushes towards submission, it is important to also understand the shift in the norm that has been a result of global movements, making a return to what some would view as “tradition” intangible.

Altman summarizes this point:

..it is gradually becoming apparent that international capitalism is both capable of unsettling almost all areas of life and of generating huge movements of resistance, the most potent of which are likely to appeal to a yearning to return to an imagine past in which the ‘traditional’ sex/gender order symbolized a society in which the social order was widely understood and slow to change (Ibid. 138).

The threat of the “Other” on traditional approaches to sex and sexuality can fuel incredibly hateful attacks on human rights and historically have done just that. Opening the dialogue of sex and sexuality to a global scale is a before-mentioned double edged sword. It can create an atmosphere of community and acceptance transnationally yet can also contribute to ethnocentrism and greater fear of the “Other.”

So, my question for you readers is this–why is sexuality so damn threatening? What is it about sexual practices and identities that makes for such uneasy feelings? It seems if a person doesn’t fit within the cookie cutter mold of “ideal” (white, male, dominant) practice they are marked as “Other” and therefore carry all of the negative connotation that comes with being considered outside of a culture. What do you think?

Thanks for reading,


  1. sarahspa says:

    I found this blog post really helpful. the format made it especially easy to follow. i really enjoyed the overall concept about normalcy because i feel like no one ever feels completely normal.

  2. This one was hard to read. Not in format or style, you wrote really well, but the words “corrective rape of lesbians” made my whole body clench up. I planned to provide a more useful response, but I honestly can’t get past that. So upsetting.

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