In this lecture, we are discussing theories of sexuality or sexuality in theory. There is an extensive body of work dedicated to theorizing what we call sexuality. Most of the world is highly invested in the meaning of sex. We can see this through the endless amount of writing on sex and sexuality. Throughout this lecture, I will use the term discourse to refer to any written and spoken ideas about sexuality. Even further, I will frequently use terms like religious discourse, medical discourse, or popular discourse to refer to specific domains of discourse. This helps us to identify the different contexts of communication, which is key because context often determines how sex is framed. Is it a moral issue, or is it a social or medical issue? Even further, context also dramatically impacts how we receive information. As an example, you might believe that something you learn in the classroom or something you were told by a religious elder might have more truth or more value than something that you hear on TV or from a peer. Similarly, medical discourse is often read as reliable and consistent. However, a very brief history of shifting ideas about sexuality tells us that medical discourse often echoes religious and popular discourse. Most of us receive information on sex from a wide range of sources: school, parents, peers, religious communities, our doctors, and so on. Collectively, this discourse establishes the meaning and function of sexuality in our lives. Much like theories of gender and theories of other social categories like race and ethnicity, theories of sexuality have abandoned simplistic, essentialist theories of sexuality, theories that root difference in the body or nature. This is what we might call a born this way theory of sexuality. Biological essentialism assumes that people are born gay or straight. Typically, essentialism leaves very little variation outside of the binary. It also assumes that our sexuality will stay the same throughout our lives because of an innate biological fixed nature. Biological essentialism is just one of many theories of desire. It is also one of the more dominant theories. Many people believe that our sexual interests and sexual tastes are caused by our nature or our biological instincts. People who believe that our desires are inborn are referred to as essentialists. The earliest theorists of sexuality, who are known as sexologists, were predominantly essentialist. This field of study emerged in the late 19th and early 20th century. Some of the better-known names in this field are Richard von Krafft Ebing, Havelock Ellis, Magnus Hirschfeld, Alfred Kinsey, and Masters and Johnson. As noted, most sexologists believe that the sex instinct is both natural and naturally procreative, which means that we desire people sexually because of our inborn biological instinct to procreate, reproduce, and survive. A biological theory of desire also attempts to capture the complex processes of sexual desire via medical and scientific truths. The scientific study of sex has been beneficial in many ways. It opened up conversations about sensitive topics like sex. Many of these early doctors were, whether intentionally or not, instrumental in paving the way for public discourse on sex. The medicalization of sexuality was also central to the decriminalization of homosexual sex. Well, meaning doctors and sexologists advised against criminal punishment towards homosexual people through a medical model that described same-sex sex as pathological or abnormal, but not criminal. Obviously, a progressive theory of sex would not define homosexual sex as criminal or pathological, which is to say the medicalization of sexuality actually had both a positive and negative impact on LGBTQI people. Both legal and medical discourses have produced theories of sex that legitimize heterosexual marital sex. Both have also used essentialist theories of sexuality to validate the regulation of sexuality. By claiming that one kind of sexual intimacy is natural to the exclusion of all other forms of sexual contact, essentialist arguments create a hierarchy that privileges one kind of person over others. Another key element of this discussion,about the natural, is how woefully misguided it is. In the animal world, as an example, we see all kinds of variations of sexual patterns outside of basic reproduction. In nature, we actually see a wide range of variation, not a singular one-size-fits-all model. For a playful discussion of this, see Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno. As humans, we know we have a wide range of sexual habits and tastes, and we know that heterosexual marriage doesn't actually work that well for everyone. And yet, we continue to enforce a model of the natural heterosexual union that feels really unnatural to a good set of people who are forced to conform to it. The fields of psychology, anthropology, and sociology introduced the possibility that psychological, cultural, and social factors shape sexuality. Sigmund Freud, an early 20th century Austrian doctor whose ideas have dramatically shaped our thinking about sexuality, was central to this shift. Freud saw the sex drive as an essential component of human action and emotion. His theories of sexuality were deeply essentialist, and that he claimed that normal sexual development results in a consistent and routine interest in heterosexual intercourse, and heterosexual intercourse only. A primary desire or interest in sex outside of heterosexual intercourse was deemed abnormal or pathological. His belief is essentialist since it defines normal sex via the body and procreation. Normal sex, by Freud's terms, is procreative sex. But interestingly, Freud believed that we are born with a sex drive, and that sex drive is innately pleasure-seeking, not reproductive. We are born, to use Freud's terms, polymorphously perverse, and our psychosexual development goes through a set of stages, but the final stage being heterosexual monogamy. To fulfill this, by Freud's theories, we all have to suppress an original and innate perverse sex instinct. We are taught what normal sexuality is, and we are taught what we are to suppress, which are all of the instincts that are only natural at certain stages. They become abnormal if they persist into adulthood. There is a lot to say about Freud, but I'll try to keep this simple and straightforward. First, Freud, together with the sexologists, created an entire discourse around sexuality that was used to link sexuality to psychology. Second, this medical therapeutic language located difference in psychology instead of the body, which helped to form our current belief in the idea of sexual identities. We'll discuss this further in a lecture on the history of sexual identities. These theories were still deeply essentialist, which is evident in the linking of the natural with the normal and the heterosexual. At the time, theories of psychosexual development introduced the idea that this heterosexual outcome is not always a given. It is a complex process that requires institutions, education, and strict regulation. Just think of how much effort is put into maintaining heterosexuality. Government passes laws that punish homosexual sex. States pass laws that allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT people. Schools refuse to let LGBT student groups to form. Religious institutions continue to claim that LGBT people be punished for who they love. If heterosexuality were natural, we wouldn't need to regulate sex so vigilantly. In the late 20th century, sociologists and anthropologist introduced the idea that sexuality is a learned behavior. Cross-cultural and subcultural sexual practices showcase a wide range of different sexual patterns, interests, and ideas. These theories are called social constructionist theories, and they primarily focus on the social forces that produce our sexual tastes and interests. Other social theories, like Marxism and feminism, introduce the relationship between sexuality and society. Marxists look at the relationship between economic structures and patterns, arguing that the economy is a key factor in the development of sexual norms. Consider as an example, how technology and the commercialization of sex have changed today's sexual landscape. Pornography is not new, but its distribution has changed dramatically. The Internet has increased both access and profits. Technology, more broadly, has created a brand new sexual landscape. Sexting, a term to describe sex-related text messages, is a recent invention. The Internet allows access to a tremendous amount of information on sex. All of this has dramatically changed our relationship to sexuality. Some of us remember reading about sexual diversity in books, not online. Like Marxists, feminists explore social aspects of sexuality via the intersections of gender and sexuality. The link between gender and sexuality is key to explore since most sexual identities are actually deeply related to questions of gender, and much of the oppression women face is sexual in nature. More recently, gay, lesbian, and queer studies have introduced new theories of sexuality. Significantly, some gay theorists have relied on an essentialist view of sexuality, again, what we might call a born this way theory of sexuality. Like other identity-based social movements, including the feminist movement and the civil rights movement, the gay liberation movement has frequently relied on the idea of a natural homosexual, someone who is born different and someone who deserves rights based on this natural and thus, unavoidable difference. Gay historians have challenged this belief, arguing that the very idea of homosexuality is a relatively recent invention. We will explore this idea further in the lecture on the history of sexual identity. Queer theorists take a radical social constructionist approach to sexuality. They focus on the discursive construction of what counts as normal sexuality. Freud, as noted, is a central figure in the discursive construction of normal sex. By linking normal sex to heterosexual penetrative sex within marriage, Freud's theories define, via scientific language, the boundaries of the normal. There are all kinds of ways that people deviate from this so-called normal path, and queer broadly refers to the many variations of desire and sexual contact that fail to adhere to existing social and cultural norms. Queer theorists locate the regulation of sexuality in major structures, like the law and the family, and they argue that social forces dramatically impact sexuality. One of the largest claims about sexuality made by queer theorists is about the stability of identity itself. What does it mean to be gay, or to have a sexuality? By destabilizing categories and identities, queer theorists challenge the idea of a natural or normal order of things. With this brief history, we've explored some of the various different ways that sexuality has been a topic of discourse. A theory helps us to think more critically about the world we share, and it introduces us to some ways of thinking that might actually challenge what we've accepted as common sense. It should be noted that both essentialist and social constructionist theories of desire can have conservative or radical motives. It's also fairly common to believe that sexuality is caused by both nature, our biology, and nurture, our social, cultural, and historical environment. Above all, I think it's possible to have an open mind about difference without actually knowing what causes our differences. At the same time, it's important to be aware of the kinds of logic our theories of desire might intentionally or unintentionally support. Theories of natural versus unnatural or normal versus abnormal sex have directly participated in the unequal treatment of LGBTQIA people globally.