Dating scripts of gay men and lesbians
This study was initially conceived in response to a gap in the literature, more specifically how the transmission of heteronormative sexual scripts inform individual conceptualization of relationships not marked by a heterosexual partnership. Such an inquiry provides a means from which to examine how individual-level sexual scripts are formed and applied to a sexual scenario outside of a heteronormative framework. Further, asking participants to describe sex between two women removes the male body from the equation, providing further insight into heteronormativity as a gendered construction.
Of course, this neither does assume a monolithic understanding of what heterosexual sex is like nor of what lesbian sex is like. Thus, asking individuals to describe sex between two women, an act which the majority of the participants had not participated in, becomes a means from which to theorize about how sex is understood as a physical experience and how the development of individual sexual scripts informed by both cultural sexual messages and personal experience structures this understanding.
That these participants referenced and applied a penis-in-vagina model of sex to a scenario involving two women suggests limits to this understanding — that is, these individual-level conceptualizations of sex heterosexual and otherwise reflect the enduring effects of heteronormativity for drawing boundaries around what constitutes sex in the physical sense. In particular, the means by which gender and heterosexuality sustain themselves as both structural concepts and individually lived identities Jackson, was evident in the orientation and description of lesbian sex within a heterosexual, male-dominant model of sexual relationships.
The overarching heteronormative model of sex as a cultural frame from which to understand sexual partnerships not marked by a male and a female was most evident in the almost unanimous mention of dildos, strap-ons, or otherwise phallic representatives within lesbian sexual relationships. While all participants agreed that lesbian sex could be just as pleasurable as heterosexual sex, remarks about adding a penetrating phallic representative to the scenario suggests the view that sexual pleasure can only be heightened from the presence of the male penis, manufactured or otherwise.
Dating scripts of gay men and lesbians.
The emergence of this theme supports the privileging of the male body and male sexual pleasure, even in instances where a cisgendered male body is missing. Despite evidence that lesbian women prefer the fingers and tongues of their partners to the use of a dildo to achieve orgasm Coleman et al. Further, participant mention of the clitoris as a localized site of female sexual pleasure whether heterosexual or lesbian was almost non-existent and illustrates the effects of sexual socialization and experiences grounded in a gendered heteronormativity.
Also telling is what else was not mentioned by these young men and women, most notably the articulation of gendered sexual roles as they applied to lesbian relationships. The introduction of a sexual scenario between two women thus signaled the absence of a dominating, penetrating body, an absence that was consequently rectified via the introduction of penetrative sex toys to the scenario. In this way, lesbianism is understood within a dominant heteronormative framework, which views them as for the male gaze, provided they exude a hegemonic read, heterosexually constructed femininity.
By adding the penis into a lesbian sexual relationship, the complementarity of the heterosexual pairing is thus restored. Participant mention of the penis, or a penis-like substitute, as part of lesbian sex seems to support this notion of heteroflexible lesbianism, such that sex with a woman is possible so long as the situation retains some modicum of the standard heterosexual arrangement. To be sure, script theory affirms the flexibility and adaptability of the standard heterosexual arrangement at the individual level, as participants in this study detailed revisions to their interpersonal scripts in light of their own experiences and sexual encounters Simon and Gagnon, While the insights of these four men certainly add to our understanding of the relationship of heteronormativity to the application of individual scripts to a sexual scenario involving two women, they preclude an analysis of the influence of gender on this application.
That participants in this study were drawn from a predominantly White institution also precludes a racial analysis of the findings, though the insights of this initial study provide a framework for further examination of this topic in ways that account for racial and gendered differences, both within and outside of the collegiate population.
Overrepresentation of this population was sought for this study to advance understanding of how the heterosexually identified define sex in a situation where a male—female partnership is not implied; however, further research is needed to determine if these definitions, and the scripting processes that inform them, differ considerably from that of non-heterosexually identified individuals. This exploratory research, focused on the individual-level constructions and perceptions of lesbian sex as a physical practice by a sample of college undergraduates, suggests the overarching effects of the heteronormative, male-dominant cultural model of sexual behavior for understanding alternative sexual partnerships, specifically between women.
While this study utilized lesbian sex as a scenario from which to examine how individuals conceive of sexual relationships outside of the male—female realm, further research is needed to determine what parts of these conceptions, if any, are specific to lesbian relationships versus other sexual arrangements. Stated another way, how do individuals conceive of sex beyond the male—female dyad, and how are these conceptions shaped by the gender, age, implied sexual practices, etc.
Sexual scenarios in which penile-vaginal penetration between a cisgender male and cisgender female are not possible challenge the dominant cultural repertoire of sex as a physical act, providing an avenue from which to explore individual understanding of these alternatives. The findings from this study suggest the pervasiveness of the heteronormative, male-centric model of sex for understanding sex between two women.
However, the implications of these findings may suggest limitations for the boundaries of sexual exploration, or at least the boundaries of what constitutes sex. While the results of this study are not generalizable to the college population, they nevertheless open possibilities for further exploration into the enduring effects of heteronormativity for the sexual lives of individuals, to include how sexual subcultures are understood in relationship to the culturally celebrated male—female dyad.
By asking individuals to reflect on sexual arrangements that they themselves have not experienced, we can better understand how heteronormativity shapes and conditions the limits of individual sexual experience and desire. The author JP confirms being the sole author of this manuscript. The author also collected and contributed all data utilized to write this manuscript and agrees to be accountable for the contents of this work. The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
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