«By: Marianne Oenema Course: Challenges of Europe: the Quest for Citizenship Date: 31 May 2014 University: University of Utrecht Place: Utrecht, the ...»
A Needle in the Haystack
How to get to one clear idea on sexual citizenship in order to include non-heterosexuals into
the citizenship debate
By: Marianne Oenema
Course: Challenges of Europe: the Quest for Citizenship
Date: 31 May 2014
University: University of Utrecht
Place: Utrecht, the Netherlands
“I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared
to be out. My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered, and my relationships suffered.... we deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise” (Ellen Page (14-02-14) during the HRCF's Time to Thrive Conference) A few decades ago sexuality was not a concept what was discussed often in the public sphere. The presumption was that everyone was heterosexual and if you were not, there was something wrong with you. A lot has changed, since sexuality became much more relevant after the so called 'sexual revolution' in the sixties. First, this was mainly focussed on equality between the sexes. However, sexual minorities also got more attention, and then they started 'fighting' for equal status as heterosexuals, protection from discrimination, the right to be themselves in private and public life, and the right to have legal relationships between same sex partners. These rights can be regarded as citizenship rights, and that is how they were claimed. The combination of sexuality and citizenship led to the introduction of the concept 'sexual citizenship' in the nineties. This concept is used and researched increasingly in recent years. However, there are several ideas about what the concept 'sexual citizenship' entails. This leads to confusion and indistinctness. In this paper the different ideas about sexual citizenship will be discussed and then a proposition for one clear idea will be offered. The research question is: what does the concept sexual citizenship entail?
The paper will start with a theoretical framework. It is important to illustrate how the concept of sexual citizenship came into existence and on which other concepts it is based.
Therefore, the concepts of sexuality and citizenship, and the most important ideas there are about these concepts will be discussed. Then, the connection and contradictions between sexuality and citizenship will be mentioned. Furthermore, the concept of sexual citizenship will be dealt with and how this concept relates to sexual rights and sexual identity. In this part the proposition for one clear idea on sexual citizenship will be introduced. After the theoretical framework some empirical data from other studies will be stated to illustrate that this data focusses on the same issues as the proposed proposition for sexual citizenship does. Also, this data offers a brief glance ondifferent counties in Europe regarding the progress of sexual citizenship. The paper will end with a conclusion.
Sexuality Weeks describes sexuality as “bodily potentials, desires, practices, concepts and beliefs, identities, [and] institutional forms” (1998:35), which are linked to each other, and give a historically and culturally specific idea about a core characteristic of personhood. Sexuality indicates the sexual and romantic attraction of people, in which heterosexuals are attracted to the opposite sex, homosexuals to the same sex, and bisexuals to both sexes. It is gendered, changeable and mostly focussed on hegemonic patterns, in which people are included and excluded (Weeks, 1998). Sexuality and categorisation of different sexualities are a relative recent social invention from the late seventeenth / early eighteenth century in Europe (Richardson, 2000). However, homosexual practices existed already before the introduction of the homosexual identity.
Richardson (2000) argues that a shift in understanding and acceptance of homosexuality has occurred in the last three decades in the Western world. Intimate desires, pleasure and ways of being in the world are increasingly interpreted through a frame of sexuality. Moreover, sexual minorities started defining themselves (more openly) according to their sexual attributes, and make public claims for recognition, equal rights, and respect (Richardson, 2000; Weeks, 1998). Thus, sexuality moved more and more from the private to the public sphere. Giddens (1992) also claims a transformation in intimacy into 'pure relationships', because people now stay in a relationship until it is no longer mutually beneficial for their needs. This pure relationship is based on confluent love, equality and mutual trust. This happened because relationships are no longer arranged by parents and tradition, but through romantic attraction and sexual desire. Therefore, relationships come into existence through personal choice.
Furthermore, since the sixties a change in family norms has occurred in society with consequence for sexual minorities. The traditional nuclear family, a married heterosexual couple with children, is no longer the norm of social living arrangements (Richardson, 2000). There are more single mothers, and more people are living alone. Moreover, not only the context of raising children, but also options of (re)production changed. New reproductive technologies were introduced, giving heterosexuals the option to reproduce without having sex, which increasingly disrupts the reproductive model of sexuality (Richardson, 2000). These changes of family norms and option for reproduction led to new possibilities for non-heterosexuals to have children, and a family of choice.
3 Citizenship Marshall (1950) developed a classic model of citizenship in the Western world in which civil, political, and social rights and responsibilities accrue to individuals as a result of social membership of a shared, often national, community. Civil and political rights are concerned with equality under the law and with claims to equal political participation. Civil rights are institutionalised through the law and include, for example, freedom of speech, liberty of the person, and the right to justice.
Political rights are institutionalised in the parliamentary political systems and councils of local government and include the right to vote and participate in the exercise of political power (Richardson, 2000). Social rights emerged late in the nineteenth century, focussing on ending exclusion based on class and poverty, and creating a society where everyone's worth is recognized (Weeks, 1998). These rights include the right to a certain level of economic welfare and security as well as the right “to share to the full in the social heritage and to live the life of a civilised being according to the standards prevailing in the society” (Marshall in Richardson, 2000:71). This Marshallian notion of citizenship is broadly criticised by authors for being to simplistic, closed, gendered, and racialised (Donovan, Heaphy and Weeks, 1999; Plummer, 2001; Richardson, 2000;
Weeks, 1998). Other authors used Marshall's analysis as a starting point to develop other aspects of citizenship.
The traditional concept of citizenship is associated with institutionalisation of the heterosexual and male privilege, and the traditional family (Donovan et al., 1999; Richardson, 2000). Citizenship can also be defined as “that set of practices (juridical, political, economic and cultural) which define a person as a competent member of society, and which as a consequence shape the flow of resources to persons and social groups” (Turner, 1993:2). Definitions of citizenship give an idea of inclusion and exclusion. Different notions of the concept lead to different forms of exclusion.
Feminists criticise traditional ideas, such as Marshall's, about citizenship, because the persistence of gender inequality limits this model. Pateman argues, for example, that “[i]n societies based on market economies, paid employment has become the key to citizenship” (1989:71).
Therefore, citizenship is still based on the male breadwinner model in which the man work in the public sphere and the women works at home in the private sphere (Turner, 1993; Weeks, 1998), and are the consequences of the public / private divide systematically ignored (Richardson and Turner, 2001). Walby remarks: “The concept of citizenship depends upon the public sphere; the term has no significant meaning in the private” (1997:176). This would mean that the private sphere of women, and sexuality, is not relevant to understand citizenship (Richardson, 2000). However, the everyday practices, mentioned by Turner (1993) increasingly become important in debates about citizenship, 4 which means that the private sphere is getting more attention.
The growing importance of multiculturalism, globalisation and the development of mass communication has led to the introduction of cultural citizenship (Turner, 2000). According to Turner cultural citizenship can broadly be conceptualised as “the capacity to participate effectively, creatively and successfully within a national culture” (2000:12). Cultural rights would entail the right to participate and to be represented in the media and popular culture. Historically, nonheterosexual relationship have not been represented in the media and popular culture (Richardson, 2000). However, recently, there has been a substantial increase in the participation and (positive) representation of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals; in soaps from multiple countries, and programmes such as Modern Family, The L-Word, Skins, and Lost Girl. Lastly, the citizen as a consumer is also playing a larger role in the citizenship debate. Richardson writes that “the citizen as a consumer is related to the emphasis on individual choice and commercialism associated with the free market economy that has dominated governments policies” (2000:74).
Sexuality and citizenship Non-heterosexual movements are concerned with getting social and legal recognitions and validation of their intimate relationships (Donovan et al., 1999), which lead to the extension of the Marshallian model with sexual rights as a fourth dimension (Richardson and Turner, 2001). Sexual minorities “often feel excluded from the ability to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens openly, honestly and fully – for example, as parents, sexual partners, employees, consumers, [and] members of families of choice” (Donovan et al., 1999:692). Most of the focus in gaining recognition for non-heterosexuals lies in gaining legal recognition for couple relationships, for same-sex marriage, immigration rights and non-heterosexual parenting (Donovan et al., 1999).
The increasing attention towards sexuality has led to a connection of sexuality to citizenship in notions of sexual or intimate citizenship (Richardson, 2000). Discussion of sexuality and citizenship mainly focus on access to 'sexual rights', but there can also be debate about the basis upon which such access is granted or denied (Richardson, 2000). Non-heterosexuals can only partially be regarded as citizens in the Marshallian model of citizenship, because they are excluded from part of these rights, and a lack of protection in the law from discrimination or violence toward non-heterosexual is visible in civil citizenship (Richardson, 2000). Furthermore, Richardson (2000) states that non-heterosexual have a disadvantage in social rights, because their relationship are not always recognised, which can affect, for example, pension rights, parenting and employment.
Another point in this citizenship debate regards the, before-mentioned, distinction between public and private domain. Non-heterosexuals can be tolerated, but must than also assimilate. They 5 are granted rights as long as they stay in the boundaries of this tolerance, which are guarded by a heterosexist public / private divide, and these sexual minorities are expected to stay 'minorities'.
Sexual minorities are so to say made invisible from the public and placed into the private sphere (Richardson, 2000). However, when the family come into play, they might also be excluded in the private domain. In this case privacy is mainly a right of legally married heterosexuals (Richardson, 2000).
Until recently, citizenship was, and still is, mainly constituted in the public sphere (Marshall, 1950), while sexuality is regarded a personal and private matter (Giddens, 1992). This can be viewed as a contradiction (Richardson, 2000; Weeks, 1998). “Sexuality in terms of claims to citizenship may thus be seen as invalid on the grounds that social relations in the private sphere are considered to be of little or no relevance to understanding citizenship, which focuses on participation in the public” (Richardson, 2000:86). “The sexual citizen, therefore, is a hybrid being, breaching the public / private divide which Western culture has long held to be essential” (Weeks, 1998:36). And, even though sexuality can be excluded from citizenship on the basis of being private, 'the right to privacy' has often been the basis for the recognition of citizenship claims in relation to sexuality (Richardson, 2000; Weeks, 1998).
What is sexual citizenship Weeks (1998) argues that the concept of sexual citizenship has come into existence because of the focus that sexuality has gained in everyday life. In this sexual citizenship is “a useful metaphor, condensing a range of cultural and political practices that embrace a whole set of new challenges and possibilities” (Weeks, 1998:37). Donovan et al. (1999) state in the same light that discussions about sexual citizenship attempt to accommodate the growing numbers of people who either construct, or are allocating, their identities around sexuality and gender and who subsequently find themselves excluded from hegemonic understandings of citizenship.
However, there are different ideas about what sexual citizenship is and entails. Firstly, Evans (1993) sees sexual citizenship as the degrees of access to rights regarding sexual expression and consumption, and relating responsibilities and obligations. This is closely related to the citizen as consumer, because he argues that the sexual citizen is mostly concerned with leisure and lifestyle membership. Weeks (1998), on the other hand, sees sexual citizenship much broader, as a new form of belonging. He claims that citizenship is ultimately about belonging, and the new form of belonging as a sexual citizen constitutes a new self with multiple and divers possible identities.