Does Societal Attitude Inform One’s Sexual Identity and Behavior? Evaluating Cultural Attitudes Reflected in the Movie Kissing Jessica Stein

The plot of the 2001 romantic comedy movie, ‘Kissing Jessica Stein’, revolves around a shrewd, characteristically anxious twenty eight old Jessica Stein who works as a copy editor in New York City. Following numerous disgruntlements from blind dates with men, Jessica decides to answer a personal advertisement from a free-spirited, bi-sexual woman:Helen Cooper who is seeking friendship and probably intimate escapades from another woman (Elbert, 2002).

Although she considers herself a heterosexual, Jessica is moved to give it a trial out of curiosity. Helen, an assistant director with an art gallery, is portrayed as a liberal, adventurous and an attractive bisexual woman (Herman-Wurmfeld et al., 2002). While Jessica gets engrossed with Helen, she is considerably petrified with the thought that she might end up in a lesbian relationship. However, Helen succeeds in convincing her and the film build from their relationship and Jessica’s struggles with her sexual expedition with apprehension of how family and friends would respond to her relationship.

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While our sexuality is arguably a personal object, its practice has been a subject of traditional and cultural attitudes towards it. The cultural attitudes towards sexual desires, relationships and activities vary greatly over various cultural, geographical and historical settings (Murray, 2000). A society’s culture tends to define the tenets regarding appropriate as well as in appropriate sexual behaviors. This argument explicates the scene where Jessica is reluctant to express her affection in public and she almost walks out on her date with the fear that people might see her going out with another woman. Although some may look at Jessica as the ‘female Woody Allen’, the film accentuates a notion on sexuality where the societal attitudes seem to be at ease with gay women as opposed to same-sex relationship among men (Herrek, 1994).

The film interrogates the general notion of gender being the axis of types and refutes the strong elements of cultural attitudes towards our sexuality. Friends and family seem to have a weighty influence on the way Jessica views her sexuality. The film further draws a conflict on one’s sexual identity against sexual behavior. While  societal norms seems to push Jessica into considering herself heterosexual, exposure to different sexual environment seems to complicate the way she ought to behave sexually and she seems to adjust her behavior with time. The film underlines the fact that our sexual identity may be subject to the cultural attitudes that we associate with but our sexual behavior may be fueled by environmental modifiers and adventurous curiosity to challenge the traditional outlooks on sexuality.

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