(Before you read: this paper does not contain any potentially triggering mentions. It is a sociological paper about sexual abstinence, so the topic of sex is mentioned frequently but no actual descriptions are included. This paper is due tomorrow. I am looking for feedback on how I can improve it. I will include my grading rubric in the comments! Also, the actual version is formatted in proper paragraphs with indents and there is a citation page that I didn't include here. The basic format is, an introduction, an explanation of 2 theories, explain which theory is better, a conclusion, and then a sharing of personal experience. It is 4 full pages long.)
Violating Sexual Scripts and Men and Abstinence
It is obvious that people are having sex. If people were not, we would not see babies being born and we would not see growth in our population. According to the United Nations, about 385,000 babies are born each day (How many babies are born a day?). Reproduction is required to replenish our earth and sex is practiced by many people as an enjoyable activity. On the topic of sex, we may wonder, how exactly can it be defined. What does it mean to have sex? Sexual scripts are guidelines that we learn through our experiences. They allow us to express ourselves as well as teach us what is deemed normal sexual expression and desire in our society (Ryle, 165). A sexual script, that is common in US society, is that men play an instrumental, or initiative role, being sexual subjects (Ryle, 170) or those who are giving sex. As opposed to women, who are sexual objects, the receiver, or the person who is being acted upon. But what happens when men do not fill these scripts and choose to abstain from sexual activity? To be abstinent means to refrain from sexual activity for a variety of reasons, such as religious reasons, or birth control. Can a man really be seen as masculine if he does not have sex? From my studies, I believe the answer is yes, he definitely can. In this paper, I will discuss men and abstinence from sexual activity through the lens of the Doing Gender Theory, Hegemonic Masculinity as an approach, and the Sex Roles Theory, to explain how men who abstain from sexual activity are impacted by society as well as what they do in order to continue to be perceived as masculine individuals.
What are the consequences for men who choose to not engage in sexual activity? One way to examine this question is through analyzing it through the lens of the Doing Gender Theory. Doing Gender is a theory developed first by Candace West and Don Zimmerman. This theory teaches that gender is a performance that we put on for other people (Ryle, 33). As if we are actors on stage, constantly trying our best to please our audience and appear natural, or in character. To rephrase the question asked at the beginning of this paragraph, if men in our society are expected to be sexually active and involved with a partner, how does this affect their performance of being a man? The Doing Gender Theory teaches that even if a performance is not done well, it can still be categorized into our overall sex category, in this case, male, if our overall behaviours align with it. To explain this further, let's examine it with the specific example of a man abstaining from sex.
A man may behave in certain ways to appear masculine, specifically, he may act in ways that present ideal dominant male traits. Hegemonic Masculinity is a concept that refers to exploring the ideas of what it means to 'be a man' in any society (Ryle, 53). On this hierarchy of manliness, subordinated masculinity is placed at the bottom, reflecting men who possess feminine features, often homosexuals, or heterosexuals who are seen as 'sissies, yellowbellies, pushovers, or mother's boys' (Ryle, 54). Men who abstain from sexual behaviors may not necessarily be perceived as feminine, as long as they adhere to hegemonic traits. For example, a man who is skinny and without any muscles may still be viewed as masculine as long as he, as the Doing Gender Theory states, has behaviours that align with his sex category well enough. This man, following complicit masculinity, is still entitled to receive patriarchal benefits and receive advantage as a male. The Doing Gender Theory relates more to putting on a performance of our gender, while Hegemonic Masculinity speaks more of dominant ideas of masculinity, but both highlight how men act in ways that change the way other people perceive them. Gender is a performance for men who abstain from sexual activity. They want to be perceived as dominantly masculine, despite choosing to refrain from sex for religious reasons.
To examine this idea at an individual level, we can use the Sex Roles Theory to understand men and abstinence. To begin, let's explore this theory more closely. A social role is the expectations that are attached to a person's position in society, such as being a man or a woman. Therefore, a sex role is an expectation set to a person's sex category, in our case, male (Ryle, 30). There are countless examples of sex roles that are normal in US society, some of which are working a full-time job to support your family, being physically strong, not crying, and relating to the topic of this paper, being sexually active and regularly engaged with a partner. Again, we see the expectation for men to be instrumental, or task oriented. It seems as if there are countless expectations of men in our society, more of these examples include being fully financially stable, being the decision-maker and head of household, and being fully in control of emotions, in our case, not being emotional and displaying toughness or an authoritative personality. A man is expected to be dominantly powerful over other men who do not possess these qualities. From these observations, we see that men are expected to do and be many things. If a man abstains from sex, he can still fit his gender norms if he follows and adheres to other masculine behaviours.
Based on the sources explored in this paper, both theories can seek to explain the social impacts of how men are affected regarding sexual abstinence. The Doing Gender theory explains how we are constantly performing our genders. We act in ways that put on a show for others. Men who abstain from sex can still put on a show of being male, as long as the rest of their actions still reflect masculinity. Tying this into Hegemonic Masculinity, these men may not be viewed as perfectly masculinely dominant, but the other masculine features that they possess can still allow them to benefit from patriarchal advantages in society. The Sex Roles Theory explains how men are expected to behave in certain ways because of their sex. It may be expected of a male to be sexually active and not refrain from sexual behaviours with another person, so going against this norm may cause him to receive societal sanctions. From this information, it seems that the Doing Gender Theory best encapsulates the experience of men in this situation. This is because it emphasizes the active effort that men make to be seen as masculine members of society while practicing abstinence.
I chose to use these two theories in my paper because I felt that they were the most inclusive of expectations attached to a person's gender. In the case of this paper, that was male. For my project this term, I am focusing on violating sexual scripts. I settled on the topic of men and abstinence because, as I was going through the textbook, it stood out to me. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that marriage is reserved for a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully married. Therefore, young adults and single adults strive to abstain from all sexual activity, in order to remain morally pure. Following the Law of Chastity, as taught by church leaders, scriptures, and in the Temple, has brought endless blessings to my life. The Law of Chastity allows me to develop self-control and trust in God. I am so grateful for the instruction and commandments we have received, as members of the Church, because these teachings bring me so much joy and peace. In this paper, I sought to explore how society impacts men who abstain from sex, as well as what they do in order to remain seen as masculine figures.