The content within this section may be utilized for any course related to Gender and Sexuality Studies. However, it was most recently shared in an upper-division Women’s Studies course, Theories of Love and Sex.
The course introduces and synthesizes theories from philosophy, psychology, sociology, history, religion, and literature about love and sex. The complexities of love and sex, including their fundamental meanings, contemporary understandings, identity implications as well as their historical constructions are explored. An important dimension of this exploration is the source and meaning of the moral valuation assigned various forms of sexual activity.
Course Learning Objectives
- Analyze major theories, empirical data, and contemporary experience regarding the topics of love and sex.*
- Critically examine socially normative categories of sexuality for their functions and limitations.
- Debate ethical implications and the significance of sexual identities.
- Delineate the connection between gender and sexuality, given how the terms are used among theorists.
- Critique contemporary and historic notions of love and sex as expressed in familial, romantic, fraternal, and humanitarian forms across cultures.*
* The Moroccan experience provided specifically focuses on these learning objectives
In her 2009 TedTalk on the “Danger of the Single Story,” feminist novelist Chimamada Ngozi Adichie speaks to the dangers of only hearing one story about a group of people. She explains, to create a single story, “show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.” Adiche shares her own experiences with the single story, claiming that historical accounts of Africans created by literary authors, philosophers, and ethnographers served to depict Africans as “savages” in need of European “saviors.” Specifically, she quotes philosopher John Locke as having referred to black Africans as “beasts who have no houses” and poet Rudyard Kipling as describing Sub-Saharan Africans as “half devil, half child.” Consequently, Adiche grew up writing her own stories rife with white characters who did not represent her own lived experiences, nor did they reflect her cultural reality. Rather, these single stories reinforced stereotypes, and according to Adiche, “the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” In her concluding remarks, Adiche posits a method for challenging both stereotypes and the single story. She states, “Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.” In this analysis of gender and sexuality, I present my story of Morocco. Theories of Love and Sex students may utilize this story as an example of how love and sex are read by an outsider from the United States.
Note on Situated Knowledge
Prior to sharing this story, it is important to note that all stories are shared from a specific perspective and background, or are grounded in situated knowledges. Situated knowledges are those that take into consideration the intersectionality of one’s identities and positionalities. According to Haraway (1988), a situated knowledge is equivalent to feminist objectivity whereby “we become answerable for what we learn how to see” (p. 583). In this sense, my own stories and history hold importance in how I interpret my surroundings; I have an active role in translating my embodied experience into meaningful dialogue about the gendered and sexed relations I perceived in Morocco as a Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad visitor. As an active consumer and creator of knowledge I must therefore recognize that the knowledge I create is incomplete, at best. At worst, I risk what Haraway describes as the “serious danger of romanticizing and/or appropriating the vision of the less powerful while claiming to see from their positions” (p. 584). I reiterate, then, that this story is one of the many stories told about gender and sexuality in Morocco, specifically, and among Muslim nations, more broadly. It is my story, told as an “outsider” in Morocco who has interests and knowledge in feminist critical thought and queer theories. This story of gender and sexuality in Morocco is presented within a critical queer framework which seeks to reimagine identities, behaviors, and positionalities that have been “rendered unthinkable by the dominant culture”; it should thus be considered with this in mind (Muñoz, 1999, p. 31).