Sexual Identity equals sexual conformity Part 1
I recently discussed with a friend some of the issues she was facing in a community predominantly including many lesbian identified women identified people. She has to follow rules to be included in the Lesbian community. These rules aren’t in a handbook (perhaps they are?) but she wouldn’t follow them even if they were in a book. Identities have fought very hard to be visible, and we’re talking about a myriad of identities. Identities sometimes just become only more labels to choose from. And sometimes those labels are really depressing because they ask one to conform, to fit in…even if they were once on the outside. Thus the beauty of a ‘democracy is born’. Zizek, that sweating Elvis of theory, spoke about the ability of democracy to re-absorb those signs, those outside dissidents, back into it’s ever expanding smotherly arms. He spoke about this in the documentary ‘Zizek!’, which is amusing to watch. Where is the room to move in these constraints? Where is the room for my friend to make her own mythologies, to push the boundaries of ‘lesbianism’, when they blank her on the street. They are like men in suits. At this point it is advisable to read that retro classic, The Female Man, by Joanna Russ.
We’ve got identity of ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and sexual orientation. Yes you may identify as a straight ‘white male, but identity is not an isolated bubble. Your sexual orientation might include sleeping with people identified as men, and when you are walking down the street perhaps someone recognises the ‘ethnicity’ of your skin. What a funny concept. Ethnic.
I tried to explain to a male friend who has a thing for ‘black ladies’ that black is a racial construct. It is phenotype that he’s interested in, not genotype. His desire is an illusionary manifestation of social constructions. Oh you like black skin? How black? Give me a gradation. Black like the Irish? Or dark chocolate pigmentation of the skin? We are still dealing in phenotypical traits. Genotypes refer to your hereditary make-up, your phenotype refers to your physical characteristics that are manifested. Brazil is a model of a society where people can move between racial classifications, unlike Australia and especially America and Britain. Race is conferred upon us. According to Kottak in Anthropology: The Exploration of Human Diversity, Brazil has over 500 racial labels with recognition of the variety of physical variation that exists. The US recognises approx 4 races. Sexual identity politics might take some tips from Brazil’s racial classification model. No bed would be boring again, even in the most boring of all situations–the middle class suburban nuclear family.
Maybe sexuality could be understood better as phenotypes. This is not to discount in any way the very strong evidence that one might be born ‘gay, straight, bi’. Yes it might be in the genes. However, we are a world of words that construct, legitimise, delimit, and help us navigate through the ultimate chaos of sexuality.
Sexuality is chaotic. It has order and beauty and mathematics in its slippery flowers and humming bees. It has lines of pleasure that flower into infinite variety. That’s what’s never discussed.
If we live on a binary planet, with black/white, no/yes, girl/boy, you/other, then it doesn’t mean I’m not going to talk about other planets. It seems probable that we have constructed, through an entire orchestra of discourses, including medical, environmental, political, sexual and historical a very straight lens to view the world and the binary experience. The binary experience of the world is like a world where no-one is paying attention to what is really going on. We are apes waiting for our next meal. We are apes looking at a plan and working towards a finished product. We have constructed our suits and clothes, not out of fabric, but of words. Our labels are not Gucci, or McQueen, they are ‘bi’, ‘straight’, ‘woman’, ‘man’.
Judith Butler, I know she’s so ‘old hat’, but she is right. Old hats are very good sometimes. Gender is…come on..let’s say it together….a performance. Ok so we’ve got that far. But what if sexuality is just as performative, and just as fluid. Sometimes I dream of the way earthworms have sex with themselves. Or the way those glorious seahorse ‘males’ carry around their babies in their pouches, how the shrimp changes from male to female as it ages.
I”m talking ‘GREEN PORNO” with the wonderful Isabella Rossellini. You have to see these clips. You tube it. Sex never seemed so fresh and exciting. Sometimes civilisation can bore us to death if we don’t start re-inventing ourselves. I am an electric primitive.