My Same-Sex Social Norm Violation by Caitlin Randall

For my Social Norm Violation, I wanted to do something a little more intense than usual, to really get a feel for the people I surround myself with. How would good ol’ Provo react to something they saw as crazy? So, with the help of two friends, we went to Macey’s grocery store, and I can honestly say even I was shocked by what happened there.

Basically, I decided to walk around holding hands with another girl, my friend Becky. This was a norm violation in that same-sex couples aren’t very plentiful around Provo, and certainly aren’t affectionate in public. We didn’t speak to other people or each other, didn’t make eye contact with anyone, stayed out of everyone’s way, etc. We just wanted to be a presence, not a nuisance, and see how people reacted to just the sight of us. Our other friend, Whitney, was a trooper and volunteered to walk about 20 feet behind us – looking like she was alone, and able to observe us without people noticing. Keep in mind, we were doing nothing besides walking with our hands joined. Here’s a list of what happened:

1. A boy and girl couple pointing at us, laughing, and the boy saying loudly “That’s disGUSting!”.

2. A girl busting out laughing at us (nervous laughter?) before ducking into a different row to avoid walking by us

3. 2 different groups of girls following us around, both whispering audibly about “the lesbians”.

4. General stares from 80% of the shoppers – they would look at us, then instantly look at the floor, as if looking at our “sin” was a sin in itself.

5. A few people would walk past us, and then approach our confederate Whitney, saying things like “Wow, can you believe that?” or “So gross, huh??”.

Oh – did I mention we were there for 5 minutes? I was definitely appalled, and felt so ashamed, worrying if I had ever treated anyone like that and made them feel so uncomfortable. I can truly say this was an amazing, eye-opening experience that gave me so much more appreciation for people’s differences and the braveness with which they display those.

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  1. #1 by kcalvarado1989 on June 4, 2012 - 8:32 PM

    Your social norm violation says a lot about our culture, not just in Provo but the United States as a whole. In China it is common for males to walk around holding hands. When I was in Beijing, two boys in our group did this as well. Even though it wasn’t a norm violation in China the boys were still extremely uncomfortable doing it. This shows just how much socialization plays a part in instructing us in correct behavior. -kim Alvarado

  2. #2 by Kelsey Lemmon on June 7, 2012 - 6:50 AM

    I agree with Kim. When I read this post I think it is interesting to think that social norms can differ by geographic location and culture values. If this were to happen in my hometown of Southern California, some people would stare, but it would not have been questioned in the least. I think that it is interesting to think about the reactions as well. In Provo, the reactions were harsh but pretty muted. In other places, those reactions might not have been as muted.

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