Heterosexuality in the modern world
In the past century, the term heterosexual was invented and it has seen a number of different uses. In the classic and academic sense, it refers to the erotic relationship between a male and a female. Such relationships may be sexually expressed or not, consensual or non-consensual, sentimental or commercial, and their legality will vary depending on local age of consent laws, sexual assault laws, and prohibitions on sexuality. The term can also be employed to mean the attraction of the male to the female, whether or not reciprocated.
Heterosexuals are those who are sexually attracted to the opposite sex. Heterosexuality is considered to be the norm by most people in most cultures, and has been throughout known history. The term arises from "hetero" (other, different) plus "sexual" (related to the two sexes or genders). Heterosexuality involves partners engaging in sexual and procreative activities with the opposite sex. It may be contrasted with homosexuality, bisexuality, and pederasty.
In modern anthropologic and sexologic parlance, "heterosexuality" is used as a generic term to describe the cultural phenomenon of erotic relations between men and women, whether chaste or of a sexual nature. However, dictionary definitions of the practice reduce it to vaginal intercourse, ranging from moralistic ones based on the Christian discourse on normal sexuality to ones focused on the mechanics of a sexual act. Definitions such as these have been criticized as "a homophobic hijacking of a word originally introduced artificially in the late 19th century to stigmatize homosexuals".
In sexology, anthropology and history, the term "heterosexual" has generally been used to describe relationships and desires that conform more to the modern understanding of the practice than to its classical interpretations.
The legal status of heterosexuals varies from country to country. In many countries they are allowed and included with other same-sex relations, with certain restrictions factoring the ages of the participants and their respective social roles. In other countries they are strictly regulated. In some cases this is due to laws regarding sexuality, in others it is due to an age of consent that excludes all or most of the teenage years.
Where legal, heterosexual relationships, just as other relationships, are restricted by law in that persons in authority are not permitted to establish intimate relations with those under their control, and relations with youths below a given age are forbidden, under often severe penalties.
Parental control of such relationship is rarely legislated. Some cultures accept parental control over the heterosexual behavior and mating habits of their children, while others do not.
In some jurisdictions, as part of human rights campaigns granting the same freedoms to same-sex relationships as to heterosexual ones, the age of consent for heterosexuals and homosexual relationships is being equalized at age 16.
Fragmentation by the gay liberation movement
The gay liberation movement has fractured the hegemony by heterosexuals, and heterosexuals are under great pressure to validate their practices.
Various cultures view heterosexuality in different ways. Some see it more as simply a method of procreating the species, maintaining the family names of males, and/or as a business arrangement and an efficient form of division of labor.
Advocacy of heterosexuality
The Catholic church, other religious groups, and right-wing Republicans are firm advocates of the normalization of heterosexuality, in opposition to more liberated groups who favor more free forms of sexuality.
Criticisms of heterosexuality
Heterosexuality is a controversial practice, and a number of different accusations are leveled against it. Religious sources continue to group it in the same alleged moral category of "normalcy" and label other practices as "unnatural" and "perverse". Self-described sexual abuse prevention organizations assert that it is impossible for adults to offer "informed consent" to sexual activity - arguing that "consent" assumes certain knowledge and life experiences that a person is unlikely to have. Many in the psychological community view heterosexual sexual relations as dangerous to the mental health of one or more of the partners. Finally, abusive illegal heterosexual relationships often are reported in the media, validating certain aspects of such accusations. Such relationships may raise issues of morality and functionality, agency for women and parental authority.
Accusation of abuse
Men in such heterosexual relationships are accused of being necessarily materialistic and manipulative. The claim is that the male's interest in the female is always purely for sexual gratification, and that beneath a guise of caring or loving, and a veneer of acceptability of endowing the female partner with "choice", these relationships are universally damaging to the female because they are based on mutual deception. The attention given by the male to the female is assailed as fundamentally self-interested, and the claim is made that the females are discarded once past the age of attraction.
Heterosexuals commit the vast majority of sexual crimes, including murders, rapes, kidnappings, tortures, and other predatory criminal offenses. The number of non-heterosexual crimes committed is miniscule compared to the number of heterosexual sex crimes. Homosexuals commit the next largest number of heinous sex crimes, while pederasts and pedophiles commit the smallest number, which is actually very tiny compared to the number of sex crimes heterosexuals commit.
While sexually expressed heterosexual activities can be lawful within certain legal boundaries in many jurisdictions, several types of laws are usually brought to bear on such relationships. Age of consent laws set a lower limit on the age at which youths are enfranchised to enter into a sexual relationship with another person. This limit varies from one jurisdiction to another, ranging from the early teens to the early twenties.
Other laws restrict heterosexuals who are in positions of authority over a youth from entering into a sexual relationship with that youth. However, no laws criminalize love relationships which are not sexually expressed. Relations between heterosexuals and youth are also subject to generally applicable laws against rape and kidnapping.
There have been a huge number of publicized cases of illegal heterosexual activity involving the internet and, more specifically, the use of webcams. Large numbers of predatory heterosexual sex fiend criminals have been known to groom their helpless and innocent female victims over the internet, later meeting with them to kidnap, rape, torture, and kill them.
Innumerable numbers of disappearances of females of all ages have been attributed to predatory heterosexual sexual criminals and abusers.
Heterosexual themes in advertising
Heterosexuality is used in all forms of advertising to sell more products, and has been proven highly successful in doing so.