The Sexualization of Difference: A Comparison of Mixed-Race and Same-Gender Marriage

49 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2004

See all articles by Josephine Ross

Josephine Ross

Howard University School of Law

Date Written: February 2004


Understanding the sexualization of interracial relationships in the past illuminates the attitudes prevalent today towards same-sex couples and the continued opposition to same-sex marriage. This Article compares heterosexual mixed-race and same-sex unions (including both mixed-race and mono-race couples) in the context of history, both legal and cultural. The history of opposition to interracial marriage in this country is replete with sexual undertones. Mixed-race couples were viewed as sexually perverse, and the ban on marriage and sexual relationships in the States served to run these human connections underground, making them secret, closeted and sinful liaisons. In the courts, arguments were made to oppose the abolition of mixed-race sexuality and marriage that are similar to arguments currently brought forth to prevent same-sex marriage. In particular, opponents of mixed-race marriage - like current opponents of same-sex marriage - were concerned with biblical creed, natural law, and with the raising of future generations of Americans. This article also examines the real-life similarities between couples whose marriages break race taboos and couples whose marriages break gender taboos. Even recently, when mixed-race marriage has been legal for over three decades, many mixed-race couples encounter problems that should persuade skeptics that the analogy between same-sex love and mixed-race love is not just a glib legal argument. The sexualization of mixed-race couples served the same end it does for gay couples today, including making the deprivation of marriage rights seem fair. Due to sexual stereotyping, the "privilege" that allows only some couples to marry does not have to be understood as a "structured advantage;" instead it is seen as "deserved and fair."

Suggested Citation

Ross, Josephine, The Sexualization of Difference: A Comparison of Mixed-Race and Same-Gender Marriage (February 2004). Available at SSRN:

Josephine Ross (Contact Author)

Howard University School of Law ( email )

2900 Van Ness St., N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
United States

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