The Normalisation of Heterosexuality: The Concepts Surrounding and the Impact of the Mainstream Heterosexual
Throughout history, the concept of diverse sexuality has sparked strong debate within our society. This essay aims to address the history and the societal constructs that have shaped the way we view, approach and accept diverse sexualities, specifically homosexuality, and the continuing impacts this has on individuals, their families and broader society. Moreover, this essay will explore the impacts and concept of heteronormativity, that is, how our society has been developed to normalize and accommodate primarily the heterosexual, and exclude and vilify anything that defies the norms of our culture. The main aspects of our society that will be discussed include the media and its influence, along with our health and education system and the structure of families and communities.
Homosexuality and its associated views, attitudes and beliefs, have developed throughout history for over many centuries. Powerful societal constructs have always influenced the way that individuals and thus society, view and approach certain concepts (Kite & Bryant-Lees 2016). Historically, powerful structures such as religion and the church provided strict moral codes for our society to live within. These codes defined homosexuality as a sin, indicating that it was a “deviant behavior” and therefore unacceptable within our mainstream society. Homosexuality being described as deviant and unacceptable reinforces the hegemony of heterosexuality and further enables such harmful social structures to continue to exist (Thorfinnsdottir & Jensen 2017). Through emerging modernity, the concept of the deviant homosexual continued to thrive. Beliefs surrounding sex were formed, suggesting that sex was solely for reproduction, and thus non-procreative sex was illegalized. This direct attack on the rights of homosexuals was seen as reasonable due to the power of the church at the time. This illegalization of non-procreative sex follows Marxism theory, which suggested that an individual’s primary purpose was to fulfil work standards and contribute to society in an efficient manner (Jefson, 2005, p. 185). State laws that incriminated “acts of indecency” between two men further shaped the mood and approach to homosexuality within society. These societal structures, attitudes and laws put in place at the time demonstrated heterosexuality as normal and expected, whereas homosexuality was perceived as deviant, unnatural and essentially, wrong. This painted homosexuality in a light which continues to have ramifications in society even today.
With these popular viewpoints forming within society at the time, the concept of homophobia and heteronormativity began to emerge. Heterosexuality became and still is within our society, the common or default sexuality. That is, it is expected, assumed and viewed as the norm. Walters (2014, p.66) highlights this concept in their quote, “Being...