During the 1980s, gay rights movements were continuing to take taking place in the United States. It was not common for someone to have a partner of the same gender to be with the same gender. Society made it so that men should be with women, and vice versa, and if this did not happen, there was something wrong with you. Society also set standards of they way how these men and women should act separately and in a relationship. If men werent masculine enough, they were gay; if women werent feminine enough, they were lesbian.
In John Updike's The Rumor, Frank Whittier becomes trapped in a false accusation that he left his wife to have an affair with another man. Sharon, his wife, tries to persist on finding out if this is true throughout the whole story. He uses the statement a straight as a die to convince her he is not a homosexual. The people around her starts pitying her for her situation. Although the rumor was false when it was first told, the truth eventually became a lie. Frank came to a realization that maybe this rumor sparked a new chapter in his life that changes his sexual orientation. In todays world this would not be much of a problem, but during the eighties, it was an issue. However, a persons preference in their partners gender is still linked to masculinity and femininity today. Sexual orientation affects ones role in society by having to conform to gender norms if one is heterosexual, and being treated differently if one is not.
People who do not follow these gender norms are considered to be homosexuals, less masculine, or less feminine. Frank likes to keep his hairs trimmed, his stomach flat, and he skipsped lunch if he gained a pound. Sharon began to compare his general attention to his own person to a woman. Women are supposed to be the ones who pay extra mind to their physical qualities. She sees his acts as a blow to his masculinity. Frank continues to fear that his deep interest in art led to some truth that he is homosexual. In this society, men are usually interested in sports and cars, not art and their grooming how groomed they are. He also thought that not responding to homosexual overtures with fear and terror had an effect on this deep inner truth. A normal man would not be scared of homosexuals, but maybe he was scared of becoming his true self.
In addition, Frank starts to consider his comfortness with his dad more than his mom. One would typically see this as just a higher admiration of one parent over the other, but to Frank, he saw this as a hint to his sexual orientation. It is likely that a boy would end up marrying a woman just like his mother, or a girl would marry a man like her father. In Franks case, he became attracted to men like his father, stoical men, taller than he and nursing an unexpressed sadness. However, he ended up marrying Sharon because he knew the way it supposed to work. Society comes with a standard of how a person is supposed to act, like, wear, and look if you are heterosexual. If someone does not meet these set of standards, they start to be questioned.
Heterosexual men are expected to perform their masculine duties by being sexually driven and emotionally distant to their partners. As Sharon confronts Frank on whether not he is having an affair, he claims We just made love two nights ago. This makes her think that his sexual performance was more of a chore. Still, he continues on performing his sexual duties even more after the rumor, in hope to prove to her he is not gay. Sharon also realizes Frank is distant. He refutes in saying he has always been, as if it was his job to be emotionally distant.
A persons point of view of someone will change if they find out that someone is homosexual. Both Frank and Sharon started receiving unsettling vibes from other people when they attended a party together. The thought of Frank being gay was unsettling to them. During the 1980s, it was not common for someone to be gay, let alone leave your wife for another man.
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