Intersectionality of Class Minorities: Review and Questions

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A framework sociologist use to examine social identities and how certain groups of people experience oppression and privilege through the interlocking axis of power (i.e., race, gender, socioeconomic class, etc.). Intersectionality is central to our social structures because hierarchies and institutions thrive on social norms, and when those axes intersect life is very different for people. Intersectionality looks at not just one experience but rather how they all interact, looking at things without said lens does not capture sufficiently the way in which people go about experiencing life and through this cumulative lens, we can see that race, gender, sex and other axes of life are complexly tied together.

Sexual essentialism:

The idea that men and women are primarily different for reasons that are unchangeable. Men and women act differently and have different options in life because of fundamental differences between the sexes.


The belief or assumption that all people are heterosexual or that heterosexuality is the default or 'normal' state of human being. Societies that thrive on heteronormativity make assumptions that being heterosexual and performing certain gender feature and characteristics as 'default or normal.”

The charmed circle

Created by Gale Rubin that refers to attitudes, beliefs, and practices related to sex that are considered “normal and good” in the dominant culture. Particular values of good and bad are attached to certain sexual behaviors. An example of good behavior would be monogamy, and bad behavior would be polyamory.

Administrative violence:

The idea that different power structures, like politics and laws, as well as society, enacts violence unto others, specifically transgender people by requiring a person to be one binary gender or another. An example would be how health care benefits are attached to legal marriage, but being that transgender marriage is difficult to obtain, it is limiting.


From the podcast we listened to in class, referring to Subaru marketing specifically to lesbians. Subaru was at a slump in sales; thus, they began to target their advertisements to lesbians because they found that lesbians purchase Subaru’s at a higher rate than other consumers. Research showed that the LGBTQ community is full of profit, yet companies would not market to them because of values, beliefs, religion, etc. This shows us the profound power of heteronormativity.

Why do some radical feminists argue that all sex may be considered rape under a social system of patriarchy? How have queer theorists critiqued this conceptualization?

Some radical feminists argue that all sex may be considered rape under a social system of patriarchy because of the power imbalance between men and women. Because women can never be equal to men in patriarchy, they are never able to consent fully. Even if women consent it is internalized oppression, thus agreeing to be lesser. This relates to Catherine Mackinnon- Pleasure under Patriarchy reading which argues that heterosexuality is oppressive to women, that heterosexuality reinforces the gender and sexual hierarchy in our society and specifically for female-identifying persons. The critique is that this idea is very gender binary, doesn’t address transgender people, and only addresses M/F. This implies bodies with penises are men and without are women. Overall it is limiting and doesn’t capture the whole picture/scope of things.

Judith Butler, a queer theorist, has argued that “sex is always already gender” – what does she mean by this? What is an example of empirical evidence for Butler’s argument?

From this, I feel as though Butler means that because gender is a performative act within our culture so is sex. Because people do not distinguish between sex and gender, sex, how it is discussed, thought of and acted out is all gendered. People feel as though they must do certain things do to gender norms. Thus, how we act not only affects how people see and think about us but also how people are placed into different gendered behaviors and thus expected to act in that way. These “actions” are enforced and maintained by heterosexuality and heteronormativity, and thus this hegemony is ever present and powerful.

Why doesn’t Jane Ward conceptualize the men she studied on Craigslist as simply “bisexual”?

Jane Ward does not conceptualize the men she studied on Craigslist as simply “bisexual” because of the way they adamantly deny their “gayness.” These men go great lengths to deny a process in which they continually engage in same-sex sex, even when women are available. These men work to authenticate their identity as heterosexual through continually “enduring, imposing and repudiating” same-sex sex. This reinforces as well as perpetuates heterosexuality, heteronormativity, masculinity, whiteness, and privilege. Understanding own desires for men as being straight, heterosexual culture reinforces this notion.

In this class, we have discussed several ways sociologists, and queer theorists have conceptualized “sexuality.” For each of these conceptualizations of sexuality – 1) name the conceptualization, 2) explain it using at least one example, and 3) discuss its analytic pros and cons.

Throughout the term, we have discussed several ways sociologists, and queer theorists have conceptualized “sexuality.” There are five ways in which sexuality has been conceptualized: drives, identities, practices, organization, and cultures. Each has its positives and negatives. From each of these, we gain a better understanding of what sexuality is and how it moves and works throughout society.

Drives have to do with biology and the “drive” to be attracted to a certain gender. The positive here is that people understand their sexuality as something they were born with. The negative is that this concept does not account for changes/variation over time/life stages. Thus, it may not be all-encompassing. An example of this concept from the term would be the D'Emilio article in which he states, “I want to argue that gay men and lesbians have not always existed. Instead, they are a product of history and have come into existence in a specific historical era” (pg. 468). This exemplifies the negative that this concept of the drive does not account for changes over time.

The second concept is identities. This has to do with choosing an identity and how it creates a focus solely on gender. The negative is that this concept confines a person and is limiting because they do not talk about other things that constitute sexual desire. An example to illustrate this idea is “born this way” narrative for the fight for equality. This shows how this concept is something people can fight for and be proud of. The third concept is practiced. Focusing more on what people are doing, not who they are. This concept allows us to have data of what people do but limits us because that data does not always line up with how people feel about their sexual identities and desires.

The fourth concept, organization, involves how sexuality is as an organizing structure of society. Sexuality structures who gets benefits, healthcare, etc. thus we see it where we may not expect it. This relates to David Spades administrative violence. We see sexuality playing out within our society because only people who conform to the binary benefit. Although seeing it in an unexpected place is nice, the negative is that often there is a heavy focus on thought and discourses, rather than remembering sex is something people are doing with their bodies.

Finally, there are cultures. Cultures play a significant role in societies. They are the groundwork for which people understand things, but of course at different times and places things are conceptualized differently. For example, like Jane Ward demonstrates that fraternity life is a vast culture on its own. Fraternities hazing tactics, like elephant walking, attempt to instill Greek culture onto pledges. This culture ultimately is an attempt to test a person’s manhood but is extremely dangerous at times. Overall each of these concepts is important in understanding sexuality. Drives, identities, practices, organization, and cultures each bring greater knowledge, and each has its benefits, but in general, they aid us in understanding a difficult concept to grasp and ultimately take us one step closer to fully conceptualizing an in-depth concept.

Your Choice Short Essay (15 points total)

Homosexuality is often a debated concept within society. Whether or not being gay is a choice is a familiar debate. Another common debate is whether or not gay people have always existed. Commonly, because people believe being gay is not a choice, the answer is that gay people have always existed. However, from the Somerville article, we get a different answer. Because of things like scientific racism we can argue that gay people have not always existed.

In the 19th century, scientists came up with medical evidence that people are heterosexual and homosexual based on their bodies. They thought as though they were discovering homosexuality through physical differences. For example, that lesbians have big clitorises or that lesbians were male in the brain and thus wanted women. These “abnormalities” reflect eugenic ideas. Thus, it is from the fear of “mixed bodies” that scientists invented homosexuality.

From these differences in physicality, scientists “discovered” homosexuality. It is important to be clear that this idea is not to say that same-sex sex has not always existed but rather it has existed and merely heterosexual, and homosexual (as terms) came about in the 19th century. From this, we can conclude that gay people have not always existed. Rather the terminology was invented in order to relate better and attempt to understand sexuality in society.

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Intersectionality of Class Minorities: Review and Questions. (2022, Oct 05). Retrieved September 23, 2023 , from

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