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16 January 2007 @ 11:54 am
Performing and Queering Sadomasochism (Berlin, 8-11 February)

The conference's aim is to analyse the specific quality of the performance of power and control in sadomasochistic subculture, including its adaptations on the Internet, in art, literature, film and performance art. Relations of power and control are usually blinded out or disapproved in our culture. However, they acquire a special appeal and wish to be confronted with high intensity in sadomasochistic settings, thereby making it possibly to rework them. The possibility of dealing with contradictions and borderlines in a playful way thus closely connects [BD]SM with aesthetic practices. The objectives of the interdisciplinary perspective on [BD]SM are: analysing the different dimensions of [BD]SM (fetishism, bodily control, pain and submission), understanding and criticising the performativity of power, violence, gender, community, heteronormativity and the subject, as well as investigating the fascination with violence and authority as society's collective imaginary.
19 October 2006 @ 03:02 pm
I’m currently writing about the government response to HIV/AIDS in the Russian Federation, and I have a question concerning the male gay community. There are different terms referring to gay men: “gay men”, “homosexual men” and “men who have sex with men”. The latter, although it is somewhat elaborate, I can see the usefulness of the expression, since not all men who have sex with men may be/self-identify as gay (many are bisexual, and there is low community identification). However, since I am referring to this population fairly often, and I would like to keep the report readable, would it be ok to use the other terms – homosexual men/gay men at times?
Which terms would be more appropriate in an academic report? I think “gay” tends to be preferred colloquially?
Am I giving this too much thought?
09 October 2006 @ 11:40 am
Can anyone refer me to any materials and/or websites that will help me debunk Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's Axiomatic? I'm leading a discussion on her article tomorrow in class and will appreciate any materials that could assist me in better understanding her argument.

04 October 2006 @ 02:03 pm
I have been asked to do a presentation for the transgender resource center in my local area next month about queer theory. The presentation has been envisioned to be sort of an intro to queer theory including a brief historical timeline and some discussions about the application of queer theory outside of an academic context. I have asked to do this last week, and I began to start working on creating the presentation I want to make sure that I do a great job, and that I do a complete job. What are some things in the above categories that you think absolutely should be included in this sort of a presentation? I have about an hour with an additional 30-45 minutes for questions and discussion.

03 October 2006 @ 11:04 pm
Hey everyone. Last time I posted, I had offended a bunch, so I am going to try to tread lightly here. And I'm going to watch my back at every step. ;-)

Just a quick question, with a bit of backstory first. I'm into queer theory, obviously, and I've just finished reading the first volume of Foucault's History of Sexuality. Now, I know it's a bit outdated -- a professor I spoke with a few years ago claimed that either a) his understandings of society was flawed and his facts were dead-on or b) his facts were flawed and his understanding of society was dead-on but I can't remember which (I am leaning towards the latter) -- and I personally have huge issues with the idea of sexuality as nothing more than a "historical construct" that exists solely to form power relations. So, what I'm interested in is articles or books or theorists who have taken up Foucault directly, either to agree with him or to disagree. Obviously, I am particularly interested in seeing what about Foucault has become out-of-date and, of course, anything that addresses sexuality (and its deployment) as experienced by the individual rather than by the society. As everyone claims this is one of the keystones of queer theory, I imagine a lot has addressed Foucault: pick some of the best and most-direct ones, if you please.

I am not sure any of this makes sense. I wrote a lengthier review of the book, to which you can find a link in my personal journal, but you may not want to waste your life reading it. I tend to ramble. ;-) Mostly, it'll do nothing more than clarify (or possibly further confuse) my issues with Foucault. I am also relatively naive in the critical field, which is a my bad. I'm trying to fix it now, though.

I hope this post will receive a bit of a warmer welcome than my last one. I will never question compulsory heterosexuality and its effect on men rather than women again. ;-)

(Note to those who are easily offended: Winky faces, such as ;-), are an indication that I am being highly jocular and you should in no way be offended by anything that has come directly [or indirectly] before this punctuation. [Yes, smiley faces are punctuation in my world.])
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: Jennifer Lopez - Ain't It Funny (feat. Ja Rule)
02 July 2006 @ 04:24 pm
Hello all, this my first posting in this community. I came across you all in the postqueer community. I felt the following post is relevant to this forum and the postqueer one as well.

What kind and how much gender should we have?

The most common answer seems to fall into a dichotomy. And yes I am aware that this is a gross oversimplification, that in fact you can be one or all of these camps or even none. However, these are the dominant ones that I am aware of.

Some say "DOWN WITH GENDER". Its a system of hegemonic oppression, it hurts, it kills. And the only way to end oppression is to end the social operatus of gender. Junk it they say and instead let us have a utopian world in which we are not judged in anyway by our perceived genitalia. I call this ideology gender nihilism because it seeks the destruction of the system, without a desire or need to consider what would fill the place of the system that it is destroying. It is hardly surprising that some of the most common responses from this camp as to what alternatives they present in place of gender is nothing.

Others say,"Hey, gender isn't all bad. Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater." The problem isn't that there's to much, the problem is there is to little. This ideology forsees a utopia of genders, we just need to relax and chill dude. Its a form of relativism that is eager to see all genders treated with equal respect and affirmation.

I fall within neither camp, even though parts of me find both ideologies extremely appealing. I passionately agree that the current system of gender binaries is morally sick and profoundly oppressive, however I do not subscribe to such nihilism. Gender is the social signifcances we attach to bodies, its also the medium of communication between social creatures, it defines and regulates how and why we behave in relation to one another.

Nothing within those definitions necessitates a gender that is grounded in a person's genitalia. This wedding of gender to genitalia just happens to be something our culture chose to do. According to that forumulation then, gender isn't in principle oppressive but some manifestations are. Gender like power, is fundamentally amoral, it is integral part of our existence that can no more be fought or railed than our need to breathe or our inability to fly. Its what you do with it that makes it good or bad.

x-posted to postqueer

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02 July 2006 @ 08:35 pm
The other night I saw a political performance poet called Attila the Stockbroker doing a performance about, among other things, 'real women' who aren't complicit in their own objectification by the media - that is, who don't shave (as Crass put it, 'shaved women - collaborators!'), present as sexual objects etc.

Thing was, though, this was one of the most stereotypically 'masculine' performances I've ever seen - shouting aggressively into the mike, rhetoric about how 'I don't care what you think and even though I'm a man I can criticise women for this behaviour' etc.

So how does a 'man' (however defined) 'do' strong opposition to sexual and gender inequality, and also practice what they preach by not behaving like a stereotypical man in terms of aggression, domination, challenge etc?
On the one hand, rage is an important part of resistance to oppression. But on the other, traditionally, the expression of anger is an accepted male behaviour in a situation in which dominance is decided by strategies of verbal aggression. Is it any less oppressive for a 'man' to decide what a 'real woman' is, regardless of whether that's different from the stereotype? But we must accept that people who aren't speaking from personal experience have a valid viewpoint, inasmuch as any position is biased by the subject's experience.

In terms of sexuality, I'd say the question that follows is whether a man who doesn't present in this way and is therefore read as 'gay', whatever the gender of people he chooses to have sex with, can feel mutual solidarity with and receive support from those who do identify as gay?

Is it possible to be 'straight and queer' as, for example, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's work seems to suggest?

In a society in which, for the most part, sexuality is essentialised such that non-sexual behaviour is considered as demonstrative of sexuality, you don't need to be same-sex-attracted to experience homophobia and have that experience shape your identity. At the same time, though, despite utopian views on a rainbow of genders and sexualities, we as humans need categorisations in order to live our lives, and indeed without solidarity based on categorisaton there can be no organised resistance to oppression.

So I guess the question I'm asking is, how do we address these related (I hope) issues in an era in which binaries of sexuality and gender are simultaneously being destabilised and reified?

x-posted to postqueer
01 July 2006 @ 01:47 am
I'm curious if anyone has any critics/authors to recommend who write on 1940s/1950s film noir and the queer implications of these films for us now.

I'm aware of Robert Samuels's Hitchcock's Bi-Textuality: Lacan, Feminisms and Queer Theory and, of course, Lee Edelman's work on the film Laura (in Homographesis) and his radical queer reading of Hitchcock's The Birds in his recent book, No Future. I'm obviously also aware of D.A. Miller's famous 'Anal Rope' article and, in turn, I've read (and watched) The Celluloid Closet many times. It hasn't provided me with many contemporary sources, however!

This is not limited to Hitchcock at all; I'm just curious if there are any people out there who can refer me to sources/books on queer readings of Hollywood films of that era. This article from a fairly recent issue of GLQ, on queer readings of the film All About Eve, is also something of interest to me research-wise - so anything or any pointers are greatly appreciated.
22 June 2006 @ 12:50 pm
Guardian Debate - A New Sexual Manifesto

* Ariel Levy * Sam Roddick * Lynne Segal * Alok Jha * Zoe WIlliams

In her new book Female Chauvinist Pigs, the American writer Ariel Levy identifies a current "raunch culture" in which commercialised images of sex and sexuality are ubiquitous and where young women regard pole-dancing lessons and the Playboy bunny logo as symbols of liberation. How does this culture affect our sexual development? Are men and women any closer to developing an erotic language? How do we wrest back control of sex from the advertisers? To live the kind of sexual lives that are genuinely liberated, responsible and pleasurable, we're going to need a new manifesto. At a special reader's event, Madeline Bunting will chair a debate on the issues that surround rauch culture with a panel including Ariel Levy, Sam Roddick, Lynne Segal, Alok Jha and Zoe Williams.

Date: Monday 26 June 2006
Time: 7:00 PM (6:30 PM doors)
Venue: Oliver Thompson Lecture Theatre
City University
10 Northampton Square, London (nearest tube - Angel)
Cost: £5.00-£6.00
Contact: Phone 08700 600 100 or book online

P.S. - There's this article in yesterday's Guardian which may be of interest; an interview with Ariel Levy on 'raunch culture'. The event is mentioned near the bottom.
17 May 2006 @ 01:45 am
I've finally read Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. I was quite excited when the book came along, 'cause Levy was the first to comment, or at least the first whose comments were picked up, on a phenomenon which I'd been noticing for a while; women's complicity in their own objectification under the guise of 'sexual liberation'. I thought of this when, for example, I was momentarily taken aback when I discovered that a woman I was in the process of undressing was wearing Playboy underwear; when sexist advertising came back into vogue in a big way; or when pole-dancing and burlesque became the new black.

Levy's book is lightly written and aimed at a popular readership (I read it in two days); but what it has to say is serious indeed. Levy provides a potted history of the feminist movement from Betty Friedan onwards, and argues that the divergence of two strands of feminism, one which saw sex as political and one which saw it as liberatory, have, in combination with the sexual revolution of the Sixties and Seventies, produced a new 'raunch culture' in which women see sexual objectification as sexuality. Anti-porn feminists like Andrea Dworkin and Catherine McKinnon were decried for teaming up with the religious Right; and the 'transgression' represented by open sexuality was seen as a rebellion against establishment values. Over time, this rebellion has come to be typical of rebellions; that is, young women today no longer have direct experience of what they're rebelling against, and the rebellion has been co-opted and commercialised such that it's a necessary role for any young woman to play in order to be accepted.

One of Levy's most important points is that women's sexual pleasure has fallen by the wayside; sexuality is seen as the emulation of strippers and porn stars, that is, women who are paid to imitate sexual arousal, rather than who are in fact sexually aroused. Women want to have sex 'like a man', but the casual and/or predatory behaviour which this entails provides pleasure to the ego, not sexual gratification. Sexualisation is occurring at an earlier age, but girls and teenagers learn to have sex and to appear sexual as a way to gain attention and social status (amongst other females), rather than in order to explore sexuality as such; they are having and performing sex without being sexual. Finally, the style, advertising, and pornography industries are cashing in on a big way in a vicious cycle which encourages women toward the same goal. This is a female, rather than a straight womens', problem; Levy explores the lesbian 'boi' subculture in which women take on a 'bros before hos' attitude. Meanwhile, those who point to this problem are derided as politically correct or stuck in the past; the old 'humourless' insult which has been thrown at so many people campaigning for minority rights.

There's an inherent contradiction here: women want to 'be like a man', rather than 'prissy girly-girls'. But at the same time, the women men are ogling are girly-girls in lingerie with fake breasts and seductive pouts, so women need to pay attention to and emulate these figures. In the US, teenage girls are under pressure to appear as sexual as possible, while at the same time abstinence-only programs are enforced countrywide and the old madonna-whore complex is still in full swing.

Levy has a name for the new phenomenon: 'Tomming' (after Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom), conforming to someone more powerful's expectations of you in order to get ahead in some way, but simultaneously reifying the system that traps you. A certain amount of 'Tomming' is part of life, writes Levy, but while biologically essentialist ideas about race are now wildly offensive, no-one thinks twice about concepts like wanting 'to be like a man', or unlike a 'girly-girl'. Like which man, she asks?

While I found the book occasionally just a tad on the puritanical side, for the most part Levy's is an incisive analysis which asks, essentially, for the rejection of sexuality as a commodity (bringing women only the pleasure commodification brings; that is, status), and an approach to sexuality which explores the diversity and individuality of the pleasure of the individual. On my own part, I'd like to see a similar exploration of gay male culture and sexuality, which I think exhibits many of the symptoms Levy discusses.

Personally, while I admire figures like Andrea Dworkin, I disagree with censorship as a way to change what people think, and it's my opinion that, when performed in the right way, pushing the boundaries of sexuality, and open displays of sexuality, are not bad things, and can indeed be liberatory. Figures like Annie Sprinkle have done excellent and fascinating work around sex and its meanings. In my ideal world, pornography (that is, the depiction of sexual acts in writing, visual art, photography and film) would exist; but it would take a very different form to that in which it's currently found- and this is a result not only of gender relationships and power structures, but of capitalist practice. Maybe the Marxists are right, after all, and capitalism needs to be brought down before other inequalities can be addressed...