1. Read: Account: Sexual Promiscuity? pg. 78-81.
Answer the following questions:
1) Which theory/theories in Chapter 3 and/or Chapter 2 best accounts for the author’s (Aisha’s) behavior? Use examples from the reading to explain your choice of theories.
2) Do you consider the author’s (Aisha’s) behavior to be deviant and why or why not?
3) Would the authors behavior be regarded as deviant everywhere, or would the author’s behavior be acceptable or tolerated in some social circles, groups or societies?Explain each part of your answer using examples from the reading.
Account: Sexual Promiscuity?
At the time of writing this account, Aisha, the author of this account, was twenty-two years old and an undergraduate at a major state university. How should the observer conceptualize or “construct” the behavior described in Aisha’s account? What about the actor herself—that is, Aisha? What social and conceptual category would you put her behavior into, as well as the actor herself ? How do you feel about her self-presentation? Is she convincing regarding how she thinks about herself and her behavior? Is her behavior a legitimate subject of sociological study? Or is she more along the lines of a psychological case study? Do you feel that Aisha’s account should even be placed in a deviance textbook? Or is it too frank and revealing to be presented in an academic context?
I was 11 or 12 when I had my first sexual encounter. I was too young to stay at home by myself, so I used to stay with my aunt. I would sleep in the same room with my cousin, who was a teenager. He kind of pressured me into giving him oral sex. He said that if I ever told my mother or aunt, I’d get into trouble. Anyway, they probably wouldn’t have believed me. Since I was naïve, I believed him and continued doing it. A couple of times, he tried to perform anal sex on me, but I yelled too loudly and he stopped. I didn’t know it then, but being used like this set me in motion for a life of both using men sexually and being used and victimized by them. I do not consider myself a deviant, but some of the acts I’ve engaged in, as well as the acts that were perpetrated on me, are deviant. Several of my closest friends have encouraged me to write this statement and so, this is what I have to say.
My next sexual experience took place when I was almost 13 years old. I was with a guy who was called Jo-Jo, somebody I figured I’d be with for a long time, but again, I was very naïve. Maybe it was his size, but when I had intercourse with him, I bled, and I cried like holy hell. I recall thinking, why in hell would I ever want to endure this much pain? It happened in my mother’s bed, so I had to wash the sheets and make sure they were dry before she got home from work.
It dawned on me that maybe having sex at such an early age was not the best thing for me. Sex was supposed to be such a glorious event which both the male and the female enjoy, yet, so far, all that entered my head was that I regretted doing it so early in life; I still do today. The next guy, Shad, was three years older than I was, and I thought I was hot stuff because I had an older man in my life. I was in love with him. I had sex with him a few times. He introduced me to cunnilingus. I thought, “Whoa! I like this!” We were together about six months. After Shad, there was Owen, who was also three years older than me; I was 14, he was 17. My mother didn’t like it that we were seeing one another, and so we had to sneak around over at his house. We were together for two years. I was in love with him and very comfortable with him.
During my sophomore year of high school, I was raped. In my mind, Owen and I were still dating, but he was away, in college, and I was, as I said, naïve enough to assume we were still a couple. I was at home with Mark, someone I thought was a good friend. We were sitting on a sofa and he began kissing me. I figured there was no problem; he was older, supposedly a friend, and we were attracted to one another, so I figured it was all mutual. He began tugging my shorts and my underwear down and entered me. I said, “No, no, no, stop,” and I even hit him, and he stopped and apologized. He began crying and tried to make me feel sorry for him. He said he thought it was something I wanted. How could he have thought that? He was forcing me to do something! I was telling him to stop! No means no! Just because I allowed him to kiss me doesn’t mean I want to fuck him. I made him get out of my house and told him I didn’t want to talk to him; I had nothing to say to him. As he was leaving, he said he was sorry, he hoped we could still be friends. Yeah, right! Bullshit! I told my two best friends about what had happened and they encouraged me to tell someone in authority, but I didn’t. I figured he’d get what was coming to him, if not tomorrow, then in the near future.
This didn’t discourage me from dating guys, though. I began going out with Spencer. We were together for four years—they were the happiest years of my life. We began dating when I was 16 years old. When we started, I began doing some arithmetic. By this time, I had had sex with twelve different guys. In my junior year of high school, I decided I wasn’t going to be taken advantage of any longer. It was time to assert myself. I’m going to begin doing to them what they’ve done to me. While I was dating Spencer, I had sex with other guys; still, I knew who had my heart. Maybe it seems strange to be in love with one person and still have sex with others. Maybe I was abusing men the way they had abused me. It was then that I realized that I was not the typical female. I’d meet a guy, have sex with him, he’d call me, and I wouldn’t talk to him. I figured I’d beat men at their own game.
I had imagined that being with Spencer would protect me from harm. It didn’t quite work that way; before long, we began having our differences, and our relationship began to disintegrate. We got into a fight, and he hit me a few times, so—I’ll put this in as vague a way as possible—I sent him to the hospital with second-degree burns. My mother and my friends encouraged me to press charges against him, but I was in love and still naïve. But, to turn things around, the police encouraged him to press charges against me, but he didn’t, either. To this day, we’re not close friends, but we are friendly with one another. To tell the truth, we both knew that we did something wrong to the other person.
Since Spencer and I broke up, I have not had another real relationship with a guy, but I have had plenty of sex with men. I’ve had two threesomes with different guys. One guy I thought I was in love with turned out to be married. Somehow, that seemed to start a series of liaisons with married men. Rob was tall, muscular, and gorgeous—and, naturally, married. What began as a one-time fuck turned out to be a once-a-week affair. His mother lived in the vicinity, and so he told his wife that he was visiting his mother. But I got bored with him and eventually stopped taking his calls. One married man called me maybe 15 times a day. We never had sex, but I got bored with him, too, and stopped talking to him.
I am currently 22 years old; I was raped twice and have had sex with 35 men. Before you judge me as a deviant, consider the fact that men have committed heinous acts against me; they are the true deviants. I think it’s time for my little game, my sexual spree, to end. It is time for me to find the man of my dreams. I won’t apologize for anything I’ve done. In my eyes, I’ve done no wrong; I’m not sorry about anything. Others may judge me—and they have—but I don’t care. I’m comfortable within my own skin, and don’t feel bad about the things that have happened. I have endured; whatever I’ve gone through has made me a stronger person.
Maybe some people would look down upon me for having had sex with so many men. Men have abused women for a long time, used them as sex symbols; I don’t want to appear to be justifying anything that other men and women do—I’m simply accounting for myself and my behavior. I have done some things in my young life that some others might feel are outrageous. Some people would label me as a deviant, according to their own perspective. Mostly, I’ve chosen to do what I wanted; if I was forced to do something, I adapted to the circumstances I faced. I don’t worry a great deal about people’s judgements about me or what I do. Perhaps that seems selfish, but we live in a world where people stigmatize others and they make judgements about whether certain behaviors are deviant. But try to imagine what life would be like if there were no stigma or no deviance. Where would we be now?
Taking Aisha’s question seriously, what would life be like if there were no stigma or judgments of deviance? Is she right to invoke the specter of Hobbes’s formulation of “war of all against all”? But if members of society do stigmatize supposed wrongdoers, where do we draw the line—where and about what behaviors should we make judgements about wrongdoing? And who gets to judge? Is Aisha’s own term for her behavior—“promiscuity”—biased and misleading? To shift gears a bit, which of the multiple theories and explanations in the previous chapter help explain what she did?
Do any of these theories give us much leverage in understanding her behavior? If not, what sociological theory would? A more psychologically oriented approach perhaps? Is it possible that an approach that incorporates the notion of the social construction of reality adopts a more viable approach in attempting to account for “soft” deviance such as sexual non-normativeness? Years ago, a critic of the sociology of deviance derisively referred to the field of deviance as the study of “nuts and sluts.” Does Aisha’s account fit that label? Or does she shed light on deviance in general?