America, trying to avoid the stereotypes
There is nothing like a relationship conference to get one seeing the world in an analytic, labelling way, observing body language and interactions, categorising and stereotyping people. Given I spend a lot of time advocating for NOT putting people in boxes I found this reaction quite disturbing. I see a young, bling-adorned black man driving a huge, shiny convertible, pumping out doof-doof, and my first thought was, drug dealer. My second thought, naughty! Stereotypes are bad!
Building on from this, I’ve started describing and categorising my own behaviour using sociology concepts. Things like, ‘I don’t follow that social script’; ‘I don’t subscribe to that gendered behaviour expectation’. My PhD study has me looking at things, individual ideas or behaviours, and reducing them to theoretical concepts – or is that expanding them? It is probably a useful approach for thesis writing, but must be very annoying for people whose head is not in that universe. Having said that, my use of these concepts is more in my thinking and private describing, not used in general conversation.
Heteronormativity and mononormativity
I was trying to work out how to describe the impact of the generally heteronormative, mononormative, long-term-heterosexual-dyad-as-gold-standard approach to relationship research design and evaluation, when I read Silverman (2007) who uses the term, ‘Explanatory Orthodoxy’ (p. 88). He describes this as social scientists viewing people as puppets of social structures, and what they do is defined by society. ‘In practice, this reduces to the level of explaining people’s behaviour as certain “face sheet” variables (like social class, gender or ethnicity). … social scientists do research to find explanations of given problems, e.g., why do individuals engage in unsafe sex? Inevitably, such research will find explanations based on one or more ‘face-sheet’ variables’ (p. 88). My speculation on this is that many of the presentations I saw were from study designs based on face sheet variables, most of which were quantitative, of course, That’s what made the ones that were different really stand out. Amy Moors spoke about her research into non-monogamy, and from that some contacts were made, and there was a coffee meeting I missed out on but an email group has been formed and people will keep in touch. I’m suggesting a symposium at the next IARR conference on non-monogamy, which would be an interesting contrast.
How sessions were put together and symposia timetabled, plus what was chosen to be included, could say something about the approach of the conference organisers – pure speculation here, no evidence, but the talk comparing the frequency and duration of sexual encounters people of different sexual orientations was lumped in with conjugal pairings of men and women in Brazilian prisons. Our casual sex symposium was at a very unfriendly time. Maybe I’m reading too much into this.
Is there any meaning to the fact that I have Placebo’s Sucker Love as an ear worm while writing this?