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Deconstructing sexualities one series at a time

What do Sex Education, Machos Alfa, Eva Lasting and Valeria, have in common? Could we refer to the evolution of unspoken social rules through this series?

At school, the purpose of Sex education is to inform young people and teach them how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, avoid unwanted pregnancies, and, ultimately, maintain a healthy life. Though informative, Sex education classes in many cases do not go beyond the promotion of abstinence or fear, which can lead to even more doubts, guilt, and misconceptions.The “Sex Education” series plot feeds exactly on those gaps: a complicated mixture of hormones, teenage rivalries, questioning one's gender identity, dealing with body image insecurities, and much more. 


So imagine if the “basics” of sexual education are not covered, and in 2024 too many people around the world are not getting any sex education at all, not to mention that in some religious-based governments, people are shamed, targeted, mutilated, or worst, it is safe to say that most of young adults have to navigate that aspect of life on their own.


This is exactly the uniting thread to “Eva Lasting”, the Colombian series that takes place in 1976 and tells the story of a group of friends in middle high school, who witness the arrival of the first girl in their classroom - back then it was normative to have schools exclusively for girls. The directors Mateo Stivelberg and María Gamboa, very smoothly present Eva as the first girl in the institute, the first love for the group of friends, while knitting the story and covering homophobia, domestic violence, bullying, social stereotypes, Latin American literature, the changing political times and the rise of the Narco in Colombia.


Scene from Netflix "Eva Lasting"

Camilo and his friends, get their limited knowledge of sexuality from adult films and porn magazines. Plagued by insecurities, misconceptions, and the fear of not belonging,  they take their first wobbly steps toward their romantic interests. And specifically Camilo makes some extreme decisions to gain the attention, approval and love of Eva ,while putting at risk his friendships and the approval of his own family.


“Venga macho!”... “No seas machirulo”

Watching Spanish movies, and series like "Cuéntame cómo pasó", it is common to see guys call each other “Macho”, just like saying "Man" or their usual "tío". However, when somebody is called “Machirulo”, it is making a reference to male chauvinism, understood as an exaggerated of masculinity*.

In the book Hombres Y Machos: Masculinity And Latino Culture, by A. Mirande, “Machismo” involves "male physical aggressiveness, high risk taking, casual and uninvolved sexual relations with women, and elective penile insertion in other men. Machismo and conventional conceptions of masculinity and gender roles have typically been associated in the literature with backward rural Chicano/Latino culture".


In “Machos Alfa” , four friends in their forties, navigate life challenges while trying to save face in front of one and another. Rául, one of the main characters, attends several parties as a guest of his business associate, and is confronted by the sexual identity labels that he was not aware of. This escalates to the point that he misreads flirting from a heteroflexible stud, thinking that this man is only trying to be friends with him.  Raúl in his attempt to be less "squared", more empathic and to understand other sexualities, ends up in a sticky situation after which he is inevitably questioned, labeled and judged by his friends and girlfriend.

Meanwhile, other friend from the group is trying to escape the sexual innuendos and unwanted advances from his female boss, while the rest of the guys give him conflicting suggestions on how to deal with the harassment. 



Scene from Netflix "Machos Alfa"

Walking away from toxic roles...Finally! 

I enjoyed watching "Macho Alfa" and how it references to commonly used phrases that have a sexist connotation - that were normalized due to their frequent use- but then, hearing the characters confront each other for using such phrases and shedding light on the violence, and segregation behind them.



Scene from Netflix "Valeria"

In a more subtle way, in “Valeria”, we see Nerea and Lola portray strong women who struggle with the fear of commitment - which has been commonly presented as an exclusively male treat -  while in "Macho Alfa" we see Luis Bravo and Santi, as heterosexual men being completely comfortable with their feminine energy, and making a serious attempt to be better parents and better partners, regardless of their friend's derogative comments.


Due to different personal crisis experienced by the group of friends in "Machos Alfa", in which all of those traits commonly attributed to manhood are questioned and even crushed. The guys end up joining a curse to deconstruct manhood. Then after comparing their own lives and the antiquated definitions of what a man should do, and how they should behave, starts making less and less sense, as the consequences from their actions start to catch up.


How to go forward?

In a way, the mentioned series - all available in Netflix currently - capture that confusion on how to move forward regarding how sexuality preferences, pronouns, and practices are approached now, and that awkwardness that is a clear sign of evolution. We cannot carry on ignoring inequality, bulling or harassment, but there is no such thing as a book of new-sexualities-etiquette for navigating the dating scene, or the parent-children conversations about house rules, or how to successfully be inclusive in the workplace without “labelling” or “targeting” anybody who is not hetero.


I will sound dinosaur-old when I say this, but so much has changed since I was a teenager. Also to be quite honest I was not on the spectrum of the cool kids who claimed to be experienced in anything related to dating and early sexual discoveries. 

Though I grew up quite conscious about street harassment, catcalling, and inappropriate behaviors from male counterparts in public (you can read more about that here), and I always found those behaviors disgusting and beast-like, I also reckon how despective phrases were unconsciously embedded to my vocabulary, and it was up to me to question not only their meaning but their use as well. I still sometimes catch myself saying something out loud and then immediately regretting it, once I recognize the actual implication or degrading meaning of them. 


If the above rings a bell, and you often say popular sayings or use memes you are not quite sure where they originated from, or how offensive they are, take the time to do a quick search and find out more about them…Chances are that you are indeed using at least a couple of ill-intended sayings.

However, using the right pronouns, and expressing oneself correctly and without shaming others for their sexuality, is just the tip of the iceberg!  


The misrepresentation of non-binary sexualities, biphobia, homophobia, transphobia, and the criminalization of same-sex marriage and more... are clear signs that there is still a long road to travel to reach equal rights for LGBTQ people. But just as with any other challenge, the first step is to take conscience and to inform ourselves.


The Professor Rob Cover ** studied how the traditional masculine-femenine (or hetero-homo) identity labels are fast being repolaces with new identity labels (heteroflexible, bigender, non-binary, asexual, sapiosexual, demisexual, ciswoman and transcurious). Just like Cover highlights the evolution of how attraction, desires and relationships, are now being perceived, he also realizes the need for "institutional knowledge" on the evolution of gender and sexuality.


I see regular forms of entertainment are a good cultural thermometer, indicating what are the ideas, concerns, fears, wishes and aspirations of society. Considering this, it only makes sense to bring more and more to the conversation those topics that are long overdue.





 

References

  • Cover, Rob. (2018). Emergent Identities: New Sexualities, Genders and Relationships in a Digital Era. 10.4324/9781315104348.

  • Diccionario Fundamental del Español de México. https://dem.colmex.mx/ver/machismo

  • Mirande, A. (1997). Hombres Y Machos: Masculinity And Latino Culture (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429500008



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Comments (5)

Felicidades!! Muy lindo todo , gracias!!!🥰🤗❤️👏

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Guest
May 15

Muchas gracias!! Que bonito !!!😇🥰

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Guest
May 15

Felicidades!!!!🥳

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LuceBuona
LuceBuona
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Jul 27, 2023

I was in tears even before playing the video! Recently started watching Bluey and to be honest I am saviouring every episode, making sure not to rush through them. Luce as a kid would have love it too! Without all the sometimes extreme drama cartoons such as "Candy", "Peline" and the anime series called in Spanish "La Ranita Demetan" displayed. I also remember feeling sad and stressed after watching some of them...But Bluey is so not like that. I am sure this is appreciated by kids and parents equally. Cheers to all healthy, innocent and non invasive copying mechanisms! And thanks for sharing this one! 😍

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