Girls' germs: Sexuality, gender, health and metaphors of contagion

Plummer, David; McCann, Pol Dominic
February 2007
Health Sociology Review;Feb2007, Vol. 16 Issue 1, p43
Academic Journal
The twentieth century has witnessed an epidemic of metaphors in our attempt to make sense of sexuality and sexual health. This paper explores some of those constructs in order to gain insights into how we think, and ultimately how we practice. While many metaphors come from the wider culture, our health care institutions are a product of that same culture and we cannot help but be influenced by them and use the metaphors ourselves (Plummer 1995). In this paper, we will examine the use of notions of contamination, transmission and contagion to describe non-infectious social phenomena such as homosexuality and homophobia. Social constructionism discusses sexuality and gender, not as essential characteristics, but as socially produced, reproduced and transmitted, with the latter's symbolic similarity to infection transmission. However, while non-hegemonic expressions of gender and sexuality are viewed through these metaphors, the hegemonic variations remain unproblematised. As such, the unproblematised hegemonic representations are more likely to be viewed by the public as bearing essential qualities.


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