Sexuality – Culture and Identity

Lesson objectiveTo explore sexuality in relation to culture and identity.
Lesson outcomes• Compare sexuality to gender, ethnicity, nationality, disability and age.
• Assess to what extent sexuality is still relevant today.
• Explain characteristics of different sexualities in relation to culture and identity.


Sexual identities and behaviour are socially constructed. Over time in the United Kingdom, society’s view of sexuality has changed e.g. the case of Alan Turing.

The word sexuality itself is seen in society as a feminine word and is often linked to what Mulvey (2009) calls the “male gaze”. This is where the media focus on stereotyping women as ultra-feminine which often is to blame for setting the standard and the norms for female identities.

Is society changing?

Nowadays, the concept of sexuality is becoming less feminine and more equal. Evidence of this is the newly created term ‘metrosexual’. Even the “male gaze” could be argued to be an outdated theory with the rise of the media showcasing and more sexualised version of male identity (take a look at love island).

Stigmatised identities

Despite society changing, there, of course, remains certain stereotypes around sexuality. The media are still showcasing certain stereotypes which could be argued to reinforce current views. Alternatively, one could argue, equally, that their purpose is to ‘take the mick’ of these old fashioned stereotypes as society understands they are false. Take a look at the following video for comic relief – what are your thoughts? Goffman uses the term “impression management” to highlight that individuals who try to hide their true sexual identity do so because they are afraid of the stigmatisation that accompanies it.

Creating identities

In around 1994, the first-ever lesbian kiss and sex scene took place on live TV – Brookside. One key idea you need to remember is that sexuality is a relatively new identity in the United Kingdom. It only became legal in 1968 and only if you were 21 and older. This only became equal to heterosexual in 2000 and in 2014 the first-ever marriages could take place (still not in Northern island).

Further challenges

Most of this page has compared the progress of homosexuality to heterosexuality. We must not forget that many other types are emerging as identities. e.g. bisexuality. Postmodernists argue that individuals now have much more freedom to pick and mix their identities.

It is important to note that despite the laws changing to promote equality, there is still resistance from society on some level e.g. homophobia. In 2013, the Stonewall Report “Gay in Britain”, found that 55% of lesbian, gay and LGB people experience discrimination at school and homophobic language on a ‘regular basis’. More than half of individuals who say their identity is not heterosexual also claim that they feel they would face discrimination if they were to stand for public office.

The porn industry is a great influencer in shaping young people’s attitudes during the socialisation period (secondary). In 2007, the Sex Education Forum found that half of children using the internet were exposed to porn and that almost a third receive unwanted sexual comments via social media.


Whilst equality in sexuality has improved, we are still a long way from true equality. By far, it could be argued that the media hold the power the improve this rate, or slow it.

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