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Sexualism is the belief that one set of sexual behaviors is intrinsically superior to another set of sexual behaviors. The word also refers to behavior that discriminates against people with a different sexual preference based on that belief.
As with all discrimination, sexualist beliefs or attitudes may take the form of an aversion or dislike of those who are perceived to practice the 'inferior' sexual behaviors, it may include personal or societal persecution, or it may manifest, in extreme cases, as violence.
The term 'sexualism' is a neologism created to have a parallel construction with words like 'racism' and 'sexism'. Therefore, a "sexualist" would be someone who exhibits discriminatory attitudes or behaviors against people perceived to have sexual behaviors different than their own.
The word 'sexualism' has been proposed as a replacement for "homophobia", which many people consider to be a misleading or misused word.
As this term is used primarily in the context of describing discrimination against homosexuals, this term has all of the standard controversies associated with political/societal debates in this vein (in this case, pro-homosexuality vs. anti-homosexuality).
Some of these issues include:
- Discrimination defined as a purely negative action rather than the original definition of the word ("the ability or power to see or make fine distinctions; discernment - treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit; partiality").
- A claim that states that attempts to make homosexual rights an equivalent issue to racism or sexism is merely an attempt to "legitimize" homosexuality as an issue.
- Claims that homosexual persecution can not be logically compared to the (American) historical challenges of racial persecution (racism) or gender persecution (sexism).
- A preference by some involved for specific words to be used in the debate, e.g. "sexual orientation" instead of "sexual preference".