9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN23 Sexuality

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Sexuality in the Workplace Building I, 1E10

"Little things": Managing homo-eroticism in the work place

Gay and lesbian activism is a recent phenomenon in Portugal. Its actions have gained public prominence since the 1990's and have notoriously profited from the country's status as a full member of the European Union (E.U.). Despite the Portuguese legislator?s clear recalcitrance and the public opinion's obvious opposition to homo-erotic preference, the mandatory transposition of EU directives to national legislation, the country?s belonging to other international multi-State organisations, and the pressure of gay and lesbian organisations have led to the recent inclusion in the Constitution of a clause of non-discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation", with impacts namely on work law. Yet, discriminatory practices do not refer exclusively to formal actions, whether individual, collective or organisational. Pervasive hetero-normativism renders disclosure of homo-erotic preference hazardous and it may lead to diverse types of formal and informal discrimination. This communication focuses on an exploratory empirical research based on the life-stories of a group of women and it highlights their evaluations of such risk, as well as the multiple interaction strategies they resort to in order to reduce its impacts both to personal/ social image and in professional/ career terms. Results show that risk perceptions and interaction strategies are dependent on the type of contract, activity sector (namely, public or private), permanence on the work place and durability of co-worker relationships, and the type of work environment (to be precise, feminisation). Additionally, the personal impacts of disclosing, passing or actively hiding homo-erotic preference in the work place - and so, the decision on whether to do so - appear to depend also on personal ethos. The purpose of this communication is to highlight particularly the mechanisms of regulation of sexuality within the work place, pointing out the persistent and negative impacts of discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation" and the way social actors deal with both when they go about their daily lives.