Gender and attraction

All of us, at some point, have felt an attraction towards another person. This is normal and very much a part of growing up.

Published: 22nd October 2013 11:03 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd October 2013 11:04 AM   |  A+A-


All of us, at some point, have felt an attraction towards another person. This is normal and very much a part of growing up. However, have you tried to analyse why you feel this emotion towards the other person? Part of it could be spontaneous and part of it is likely to be influenced by various factors — peer/social approval, current standards of beauty and messages from popular media. These factors keep changing with time and place but they do exist and their influence cannot be dismissed. But what happens if you are attracted to a person who will not draw approval from various quarters?

Commonly, in conventional romances in books and movies, the relationships that we encounter are quite predictable. It’s typical to see a masculine hero characterised by a tall, strong figure who is aggressive, dominant and performs the role of a protector. The heroine is an inversion of these characteristics — she is usually a woman of delicate build who is passive, subordinate, and performs the role of a nurturer. Occasionally, we come across a heroine who talks back to the hero but in the course of the story, she is ‘tamed’ by him and taught how to be a ‘proper’ woman. Likewise, if the hero starts off with being meek, some incident or experience in the story pushes him to becoming aggressive. Think about your favourite films and books in this genre — are there any that don’t fit this pattern?

Even if in real life we see examples of relationships in which things are different, these are not celebrated equally or considered romantic. When these transgressions do get represented, they mostly appear as comic or negative representations. It’s not uncommon to have a comedy sidetrack in a movie in which the comedians share a romantic relationship that inverts the norm — the wife is shown to be beating up the husband, the husband is shown washing vessels and so on.

The ‘humour’ is supposed to come from our recognition of the fact that this is not ‘romantic’ and goes against social expectations. Have you ever been to a wedding in which the bride is much taller than the groom? Our ideas of what an ‘ideal’ couple should be like come from what is celebrated around us.

Attraction can be heterosexual (male-female), homosexual (male-male or female-female), bisexual (male-male/female or female-male/female), among others. Transgenders are people who are born of a certain biological sex but have a different gender identity. Their sexual orientation could be any of the above or others not discussed here. These different types of sexual orientation exist not only in humans but across species. These are also not the result or product of any one culture, civilisation, or time period. However, these relationships are not often represented in popular media.

As we’ve seen in earlier articles in this series, sex and gender are not the same. Sex is biological whereas gender is sociocultural. What about sexual orientation? Many people identify themselves in one or the other category. But there are also others who believe their sexuality is ‘fluid’. Simply put, many factors can influence it to undergo changes. Sexuality is complex to understand, not in the least because we tend to be so closed about discussing it. A more accepting attitude can create an atmosphere in which it’s possible for different people to co-exist with equal rights and opportunities.

Have you ever felt attracted to someone but never confided in anybody about it? Think about why you reacted that way. Or if you did confide in someone, what was their response? How did it make you feel?

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