Thursday, May 1, 2008

Jamieson and nonmonogamy

First and foremost Lynn Jamieson, author or Intimacy, Negotiated Nonmonogamy and the Limits of the Couple” seems to by put off by the hegemonic discourses surrounding “the couple.” She states that “‘living as a couple’ remains the ideal domestic state for most adults although some questions the security of this ideal” (35). Her study of nonmonogamous couples thus exemplifies a deconstruction and analysis of “coupledom” and similarly marriage, and allows for a critical approach to the notion of identity and autonomy in long-term relationships.

It is important to note that most of the studies Jamieson quotes here (and the interviews she compiled) are from the UK. Unfortunately, trends and beliefs are much different in the US. In the midst a neo-conservative movement, the US lags behind on things like accepting non married monogamous couples, the acceptability in general with homosexuality, and any nonmonogamous relationships. Perhaps some of the issues relevant to “progressive” views on relationships (such as premarital cohabitation) must be accepted before a deeper understanding of why nonmonogamy is underrepresented is available?

Jamieson interviewed four couples (two heterosexual and two homosexual) each had different experiences with nonmonogamy. All the nonmonogamy, however, was negotiated and consensual. Interestingly, Jamieson relates Giddens’ discussion on the “pure relationship” and “confluent love” to nonmonogamy in terms of “intimacy disclosure.” According to Jamieson, Giddens would seem to agree in saying that a healthy “pure relationship” is one that enables self-development while simultaneously sustains the relationship all the while continuing a dialogue. Jamieson points out that the majority of nonmonogamous relationships are done with deceit, lies, and secrets thus making it a point of contention automatically- (I must admit when I hear of nonmonogamy I automatically assume a cheating heterosexual, middle-aged man). It is the communication between the nonmonogamous couples that Jamieson interviews, however, that makes big difference.

Although I agree with Giddens on the importance of communication and egalitarian relations, I’m not sure he necessarily had in mind the variety of nonmonogamy Jamieson uncovers. The experiences of the interviewees show a more complex reality in which self-disclosure to build trust was not always the way it went. Some couples, for example decided to not share anything while others had open relationships with all lovers. Additionally, while the majority of nonmonogamous couples distinguished between “secondary” and “primary” relationships, other individuals treated two partners more or less the same (53). Does then the negotiated terms trump complete self-disclosure, trust, and honesty that Giddens seems to argue for? Or would these negotiated terms be included in his definition of a “pure relationship” even if the negotiated agreement included recognized-deceit?

Jamieson’s discussion of nonmonogamy and all its different manifestations, nonetheless returns to his intrigue of the notion of “being-a-couple.” He states about Gidden that “His [Giddens’] openness to the possibility of nonmonogamy does not envisage any challenge to being-a-couple as the most sought after type of relationship in adult life” (41). I am confused as to whether Jamieson thinks that seeking coupledom is wrong and that we are socialized to feel like that is the ultimate key to happiness (which I think to some extent is true) or whether our obsession with finding the one hinders our capacity for a number of sexual, emotional relationships (i.e nonmonogamy). Perhaps Jamieson thinks that monogamous obstructs personal growth and autonomy or sees nonmonogamy as a “badge of autonomy.” On page 42 she states, “the stability of the couple was typically given priority over individual autonomy and identity, particularly by women” (42).

Do people seek relations outside of a committed relationship to seek autonomy, though? I’m not convinced that that is the correct way to find autonomy. Instead, I think that having nonmonogamous relationships are perhaps a way to trick an individual into thinking they are autonomous. Where I don’t necessarily think that nonmonogamy is a bad thing, I’m afraid we may be missing the real reasons why people seek other relationships. Is it because they are unhappy with a relationship they are in? If so, maybe they should leave it. On the other hand, can any one person fulfill another’s every need? Maybe not- but isn’t that was friendships, coworkers, etc. are for? If a partner is not satisfied sexually shouldn’t a dialogue about sexual needs preclude an assumption of nonmonogamy as solving the problems (I think Jamieson would say yes to this one). Do people once having a stable relationship really develop “their identity through other sexual relationships” (53)? Additionally, why do we as humans have certain inclinations toward wanting to feel “special” or validated by others- or to have a “special relationship” with that special someone? Maybe that has larger societal implications as well.

In her conclusion Jamieson states “how people are ‘doing intimacy’ in the context of nonsecret negotiated nonmonogamy helps to clarify the range of theoretical possibilities of building trust and intimacy in sexual relationships, of sustaining couple relationships and of developing alternative sources of support for a sense of self to being-a-couple” (51-52). I think this is good way to think about the possibilities of relationships. Perhaps this means expanding our vision of what we deem appropriate forms of intimate expression and relationships (we even see a diversity of experiences with nonmonogamy in fairly similar social situations). I also think it emphasizes the importance of open communication and egalitarian discourses in relationships. Lastly, for me to be a “feminist heterosexual women” I don’t need a man to make me feel successful or worthwhile, but I also don’t need to single (or nonmonogamous) to feel independent, so perhaps Jamieson or society, for that matter, needs to expand what we consider autonomous and self-sufficient.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Transformation of Intimacy

Giddens believes intimate relationships in the United States are in the process of profound transformation. By transformation he means a kind of democratization of the interpersonal domain, in a manner fully compatible with democracy in the public sphere. No longer an oppressive demand for constant emotional closeness, this new kind of intimacy would represent a negotiated agreement between individuals of equal standing and autonomy. I enjoyed Gidden’s use of non-normative language (that we have seen in Connell and Butler) to describe the intimacy we should strive for (words like egalitarian, autonomous, self-reflexivity, democratization), but his conclusions are confusing and arguments sometimes hard to follow and based upon essentialist gender assumptions. Citing data gathered from therapeutic works and self-help manuals, Giddens characterizes this change and traces its development further in chapters 5-7. His analysis in these chapters further deconstructs the transformation relationships in relation to addiction, codependence, and personal turbulence.

Following the historian Michel Foucault, Giddens privileges sexuality as both the metaphor and focus of self-identity in late modern capitalist societies. But unlike Foucault, Giddens does not conceive sexuality as a locus of social control. Instead, he reclaims sexuality as the site of "an emerging reflexive project of self". In chapter 5 Love, Sex, and Other Addictions Giddens describes addictions as a hindrance to self-reflection and transformation. Now, more than ever, Giddens states that the individual is continually making lifestyle decisions and these decisions are “defining who the individual is” (75). Giddens then moves to the addiction of sex, “Addiction is behaviour counterposed to choice, in respect of the reflexive project of self” (77).

In Chapter 6 The Sociological Meaning of Codependence, Gidden’s moves forward with his discussion on addiction. He defines a codependent person as someone who “in order to sustain a sense of ontological security, requires another individual, or set of individuals, to define her (or his) wants; she or he cannon feel self-confident without being devoted to the needs of others” (89). He contrasts an addictive relationship to a “pure relationship” one that has self-reflection as well as confluent love (90). In fact, addictive relationships hinder autonomy and self-identity and healthy intimacy. These troubles, argues Giddens, often are from childhood and relationships with parents. Reflection and transformation of “toxic” relationships between parents and children, however, “ allows clear insight into the connections between the reflexive project of self, the pure relationship and the mergence of new ethical programmes for the restructuring of personal life” (108).

Chapter 7 Personal Turbulence, Sexual Troubles addresses the issues of male and female sexuality and the notion of their supposed complimentary natures. In spite of his insistence on the importance of social institutions in constructing these narratives, Giddens assigns causality above all to the increasing sophistication of contraceptive technologies and women's concomitant demands for their own rights and pleasures (in reading from Monday). As the institutional restraints on women's behavior come into conflict both with women's sense of self and her pursuit of sexual pleasure, increasing tension develops between men and women. Women's demands arouse male violence and anxiety because they expose the constraints on women. Using a wide array of self-help literature and psychoanalytic theory, Giddens argues that while women have been socialized to value emotional intimacy over "episodic"-uncommitted-sex, their ties to others often come at the expense of their autonomy. And while women lose their autonomy through connection, men achieve manhood by suppressing connections to others. From early infancy on, men conform to the cultural imperative of masculinity by differentiating from the mother and denying their fundamental need for her love.

Simply put, men's and women's common longing for love takes different psychic forms. Men express the lack they feel in "overt rage and violence" against women (p. 117), whereas women express their lack by trying to connect with a man (or woman). Both men and women become "sex addicts," but women's addiction manifests a pathological need for approval and men's manifests a denial of that same need. Men's refusal to acknowledge their hidden emotional dependence on women means that they are "unable to construct a narrative of self which allows them to come to terms with an increasingly democratized sphere of personal life" (p. 117).

As we talked about Monday, Giddens's effort to challenge both Foucault's pessimism and inattention to questions of gender is admirable. But where Foucault overestimated the supremacy of power, in my opinion, Giddens underestimates it. In spite of his own sensitivity to the systemic nature of oppression, he neglects the relationship between sexual subjectivity and the powerful institutions that both regulate and construct it. Giddens reads much of his evidence self-help manuals-literally rather than as culturally/socially constructed objects (that often speak to specific groups of people). In so doing, he relies on a model of development that presumes the construction of gender relations he wants to explain (ex: men's disconnection). This odd inattention to the structural origins of gender norms leads Giddens to a perhaps unwarranted optimism (take for example the statement "the aversion felt by many towards homosexuality no longer receives substantial support from the medical profession" (p. 14). How far have we truly come in transforming intimacy from patriarchical and plagued with addiction and other psychoanalytical ills to an egalitarian relationship? Also, has the transformation occurred in certain groups of people or societies (i.e. upper-middle class Americans?) or is it a universal transformation?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Gender and Biology

NIKK magazine’s focus is on gendering biology, a highly debated subject. The three articles we read for Monday are nicely summarized on p. 2 of the magazine. In this response I will talk mostly about the first two and how they relate to Butler’s post-structural theories concerning the construction of gender and the use of the body in performing gender and to Connell’s theories of masculinity, and specifically the “body-reflexive” practices.

In the first article about the Norwegian research project “Perceptions of gender, genes, and reproduction” talks about the troubling of gender in relation to new reproductive technologies. For instance, what was once seen as unnatural or a process of “de-naturalization” called “artificial reproductive technologies” has now shifted in name to “assisted reproductive technologies” (“re-naturalization”). This shift in linguistics, the author of the study states, dictates that the process of new medical technological interventions (like invitro) is seen as sustaining the natural state of the body rather than an unnatural means for reproduction. In this article the categories of what is seen as nature and as culture, in relation to reproduction, is changing. It is this change that signifies that in actuality “where we draw the line between nature and culture is a product of culture” and that culture (i.e. technologies, etc.) are ever-changing.

This relates to Butler’s point about the social construction of gender and how gender is performed or lived out with the body. Butler, I think, would agree that the distinctions between culture and nature have been influenced largely by cultural and social “norms” and thus should be labeled as social constructions. The shift in technologies, however, can also be related to Connell’s definition of body-reflexive practices and re-embodiment. Body-reflexive practices involve social relations and symbolism, “where bodies are addressed by social process and drawn into history” (27). The new technologies affect social relations and symbols that the affect the body. Connell would then argue that the body can be an agent as well as the object of these social processes. Attention to body-reflexive practices allows exploration of the physical sense of gender performatives. Women and men are using their bodies in different ways that skew the paradigms of reproduction (and this culture and nature). For instance, women are reproducing later or choosing to not carry a child at all and use a surrogate mother, etc.

In “Ghost Hunt” Thora Holmberg refers to a “third way” of understanding the constructedness and essentialness of gender and the body. Holmberg describes the conflict between Bulter-esque theories of construction and other more biologically-based arguments of essentialism. Gender theorist have tended to deconstruct “nature” and react somewhat skeptically to biological research and knowledge. The same is true for biologist. Thus comes the “third way” a balance between the two schools of though and practice. I couldn’t help but think the problems gender scholars have had with being considered credible in their work. With the scientific or empirical, often both masculinized and simultaneously more valued, a balance of science with cultural understandings seems ideal. Could this be considered ignoring the fact of science as socially constructed, or regardless is this "science" important to consider?

Butler has been criticized for ignoring the body and the scientific or biological/essential arguments. She perhaps fell into the trap of the “biological” slipping away like a ghost (11). Holmberg, however, believes that “still, it [the biological], appears to be haunting gender perspectives of the body.” Connell’s body-reflexive practice speaks to t his point, in which the body needs to be accounted for in gender identity and construction. Understanding the body as an agent for change or gender trouble (constructed) but also as an object of biology or essentialist (although perhaps constructed as well) allows for an alternative “extra-discursive” third way of understanding the body in relation to culture.

Gendering Animals shows how our anthropological gender stereotypes have carried over to the animal world. Looking at the "science" of animal biology and reproduction "provides dream artifacts for the gender hierarchy producing process" or in other words "troubles" gender. In this way some of the "essential" biology used deconstructs historically held notions about gender and sexuality. Similarly, the NY times article on human sexuality and sexual desire also uses empirical evidence that supports essential claims and a wide variance of experiences. In this article however, to what extent can we accept this type of research as completely valid? Perhaps only when it is coupled with other constructedness-type theories (third way)?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Self-Made Man- discussion questions

  1. Vincent finally writes out for us that men are victims of the patriarchy as well, she continues however by saying, “that women have been co determiners in the system, at times as invested and active as men themselves in making and keeping men in their role.” p. 272 Do you agree with this statement? In what ways would Vincent say that women are co-determining the system (examples from the chapter on dating?).
  2. Quotes Adrienne Rich “our [women’s] blight has been our sinecure” “being the second sex imprisoned us, but it came with at least one sizable benefit. We didn’t have to carry the world on our shoulders” p. 259. How do you respond to this quote?
  3. “White manhood in American isn’t the standard anymore by which women and all other minorities are being measured and found wanting…It’s just another set of marching orders, another stereotype to inhabit” (280). Do you agree with this statement? What about the standards of “masculinity” for women in politics?
  4. Is the work the men are doing in their “men’s movement” group “troubling gender” by Butler’s definition? (Look at pg. 273 “I passed in a man’s world not because my mask was so real, but because the world of men was a masked ball”).
  5. In the interview at the end of the book (question 6) Vincent suggests that, “gender roles are born at least in part- perhaps in large part- of natural inclinations.” How do you respond to this statement?
  6. Vincent says often that the male role is like a straitjacket and says “one that is no less constrictive than its feminine counterpart” (276). However, are the ways in which they are restricting more severe for women than men?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The commencement of a "man" in a "man's" world: Chapters 1-3 of "Self-Made Man"

Norah Vincent’s journalistic piece Self-Made Man raises plenty of questions surrounding gender. Despite her overwhelming appeal to emotions and her tendency to over-generalize, Vincent recognizes many of the ways gender is socially constructed that supports the idea of gender as a performance. Additionally, her experience as a “man” shows the oppressive nature of patriarchy, and its affects on women and men.

Chapter 1 “Getting Started” describes Norah’s transformation into Ned, the man she will perform for a year. Her interest in drag started through a friend and manifested itself in a night out in the East Village of New York as a man. In that single outing Norah remembers having an epiphany of sorts about the way men interact on a daily basis: The men she came across looked away immediately instead of holding a gaze. This was contrary to Norah’s experience as a female living in that same neighborhood. As a woman, Norah had to constantly try to ignore the male eyes that followed her down the street. While she was in drag, Norah recalls feeling “the respect they [the neighborhood men] showed me by not looking at me, by purposely not staring” (3). She confirms her experiential hypothesis through male friends and was astounded that what she had experienced was the norm. She had “learned such an important secret about the way males and females communicate with each other, and about the unspoken codes of male experience” in such a short period, what about if she passed as a man for much longer period of time (4). Couldn’t she “potentially observe much more about the social differences between the sexes”? From there Norah takes transforming to a man very seriously. She wanted to offer an analytical and introspective narrative on the “sociological implications of passing as the opposite sex” that was not found in mainstream media portrayals of gender bending. With the help of a few professionals- (makeup artist, personal weight-lifting trainer/dietician, and a voice coach) and new accessories-(glasses, clothes, etc.), Norah began her journey as a man, in a man’s world.

The end of chapter 1 commences a trend in Norah’s journalism; an appeal to emotions that at times perhaps skews other aspects (including the analytical and introspective) of the story. She disclaims that while she deceived and lied to many people in the writing of this piece she “can claim with relative surety that in the end [she] paid a higher emotional price for my circumstantial deceptions that an of my subjects did”

Ned joins a bowling league for his first attempt to enter the “male” world in Chapter 2: “Friendship.” Although his biggest challenge in this chapter was his lack of bowling skills, Ned learns many things about his male bowling companions- Jim, Bob, and Allen. These three men are stereotypical American bowlers- white, middle-aged, and working-class men, escaping their wives and families once a week at the local bowling ally. However, Norah’s initial judgment of the men proves wrong as they struggle with things that aren’t “typically male.” Jim’s wife, for example, is dying of cancer and while it is not appropriate to show too much emotion, Ned notices the subtle things that show Jim’s love for his wife. Additionally, Norah’s description of Alex’s (Bob’s son) presence at the bowling ally begins to unravel the complexities of the socialization of boys into men (rite of passage-esque).

What struck me the most about this chapter was the fleeting recognition of class in these men’s lives. Although Norah does mention these things her approach to her bowling friends lacks an analysis that understands the emphasis that class (and race) play in the shaping of these men’s masculinities. Further, I was completely surprise (and in some ways unconvinced) with the responses of Jim, Allen, and Bob of finding out that Ned was in fact a woman. Do you think Vincent could be altering some of the happenings, or have I (and in some ways society) misinterpreted and stereotyped these type of men?

Ned is introduced to the infamous “titty bar” in Chapter 3 “Sex.” This was the most revealing and interesting of chapters for me. Ned begins to understand the culture of these clubs and comes to extremely insightful conclusions. Vincent paints the pictures of the “titty bar” as a separate culture. It is a place where men go to express their sexuality in “appropriate” ways. These ways include wanting and liking to look at naked women that meet an unnatural standard of “beauty” one that largely resembles something fake – like a doll. Although the portrayal of these women and the men’s response to it is surely misogynistic, Vincent thinks part of it may be contrary to misogyny; “…the idea that you [heterosexual men] could only treat as an object something that resembled a real woman as little as possible, because only then could you bear to mistreat it and yourself enough to satisfy your instincts” (79). Toward the end of the chapter Vincent further concludes “In those places male sexuality felt like something you weren’t supposed to feel but did, like something heavy you were carrying around and had nowhere to unload except in the lap of some damaged stranger” (90). She continues to outline a larger theme in the book which I really agree with and like- that men are just as much victims in these types of situations as women- but in very different ways. Men’s “victim-hood” has differing levels of oppressive results and is hard to directly compare to women’s but nonetheless, no one comes out clean.

So far I have enjoyed reading Vincent’s journey as a Ned. Her experiences thus far, show that performing maleness has its unwarranted side-effects and in a patriarchical society where they are largely the oppressors being a man is not as liberating as we may initially think. How would you respond to the questions below?


  1. To what extent is Ned performing gender? Does Norah’s performance of Ned refute or support Butler’s ideas in Gender Trouble? (For example, in order to truly perform gender in the dichotomous system, do you have to truthfully identify with the gender you are performing?)
  2. Are there limitations to how much one can learn in just drag about the opposite biological sex?
  3. To what extent is Vincent ignoring class, race, and sexual orientation in her analysis of male culture?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Butler part II

In the second chapter of Gender Trouble, Butler takes up a commonplace of feminist theory, the patriarchy. She notes that many feminists have tried to produce and analyze the pre-patriarchal state of culture as a model upon which they can base a new, non-oppressive society. She cautions, however, this feminist recourse to pre-patriarchy to not “promote a politically problemative reification of women’s experience in the course of debunking the self-reifying claims of masculinist power” (p. 48). In other words, she doesn’t want new “stories of origins” to be created while we try to debunk the old. Essentially, Butler is describing the way in which feminist discourse has and needs to continue to, “locate moments or structures within history or culture that establish gender hierarchy” in order to, “repudiate those reactionary theories which would naturalize or universalize the subordination of women” (49). It is using this type of analysis Butler hopes we can understand the formation of gender and its origins.

I. Structuralism’s Critical Exchange

Structuralism is one of the French schools of thought Butler uses in her gender analysis. Butler describes Levi-Strauss’s, a famous structuralist, view of the “critical exchange”. The critical exchange is the exchange of females from different clans for marriage (otherwise known as exogamy). A structualist analysis of this exchange is what reveals the “incest taboo.” It starts with the ideas that women were exchanged, in reality, to bond the men together (homosocial). That bonding is what precedes the “incest taboo” or, in other words, the incest taboo necessitates a kinship structure governed by the exchange of women. Butler also claims that incest is a “pervasive cultural fantasy” that is perpetuated because it is taboo.

Butler ends this section with an interesting quote, “language is the residue and alternative accomplishment of dissatisfied desire, the variegated cultural reduction of a sublimination that never really satisfies” (58)- I think then what she is saying is that the “taboos” that have come about through a variety of historical contexts have also created a limited language to talk about alternative sex practices….Feel free to help me out with this.

II. Lacan, Riviere, and the Strategies of Masquerade

Butler addresses Lacan and Riviere’s theories on masquerade. She begins with an analysis of Lacan’s language (Symbolic) of to have (the phallus) and to be (the phallus). Men have the phallus and thus women strive “to be” the phallus. “To be” the phallus embodies and affirms the phallus. Lacan concludes that, this “‘appearing as being’ the Phallus that women are compelled to do is inevitably masquerade” (63). This claim brings up the idea that there is a “being” or “ontological specification of femininity prior to the masquerade…that might promise an eventual disruption and displacement of the phallogocentric signifying economy” (64).

Riviere’s psychoanalytic description of “womanliness as a masquerade” supposedly hides masculine identification and therefore also conceals a desire for female homosexuality. A mask is used to defend their feelings and protect individuals from societal disapproval (gay men mask in masculine heterosexuality and “masculine” women in femininity).

Is “masking” or “masquerading,” then, performing gender? If yes, then what is truly being masked?

III. Freud and the Melancholia of Gender

Freud’s psychoanalytic explanation of mourning and melancholia states that “loss” prompts the ego to incorporate attributes of the lost loved one itself. In other words “the ego is said to incorporate the other into the very structure of the ego” sustaining this “lost” one with “magical acts of imitation” (78). Furthering this theory, gender too can be internalized with the “imitation” of internalized taboos. “This process of internalizing lost loves becomes pertinent to gender formation…” (79).

Butler questions assumptions that are present in Freud’s arguments that seem to negate the view that gender is performed. She states that many of his theories and claims “disguise its own genealogy. In others words “dispositions” are traces of a history of enforced sexual prohibitions which is untold and prohibitions seek to render untellable” (87).

IV. Gender Complexity and the limits of identification and V. Reformulating prohibition as power

Butler, at the end states that, “an even more precise understanding is needed of how the juridical law of psychoanalysis, repression, produces and proliferates the genders it seeks to control” (97). She points again to the productivity of the incest taboo, a law which generates and also regulates approved heterosexuality and homosexuality as subversive and “before” or prior to the “law.”

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Feminst Porn (and dialogue) in a third-wave context, please?

Knowing that I hadn’t explored feminist porn to its full potential, I was skeptical and hesitant to learn more about it. I expected to be either turned-off or offended by the porn that claimed to be “feminist,” but my exploration into the area changed my mind. I enjoyed aspects of some of the clips and directors we viewed on Friday. My favorite was the Comstock film, I never thought porn could really capture the potential for emotional connection, but the Xana and Dax (along with a short preview of Comstock’s film Ashley and Kisha) proved me wrong.

The blogs assigned mainly centered on some of the debates surrounding the porn industry. Because of the amount of arguments made, and the complexity of many of them, I am going to avoid trying to summarize the readings and focus more on responding to how many of the arguments fit into third-wave feminism and our class.

Reading the blogs on the web was, at times, extremely irritating. The complexities of the porn industry are exhausting, especially when many of the feminist porn makers seem to have the same goals. Similarly, was the frustrating idea that many of our allies for sexual freedom and feminist ideals are often split on “little” things (with recognizable larger implications), like, for example, whether or not it is “feminist” to have a man come in a woman’s face….I know the intricacy’s of porn-making, especially in trying to produce a porn that is feminist and non-misogynistic, but to what extent can arguments, not unlike the ones we saw in CAKE versus Levy, distract us from the real goals of third-wave feminism?

First and second-wave feminism have been largely criticized for being racists, classists, and ethnocentric. I do not in any way refute these claims. Instead, I find it interesting to think about the porn-debate in the context of these waves. How much has the feminist- porn industry been criticized for being theses things? Not much discussion about class and race came up in the blogs. Comstock was the only one to speak to race and gender directly, and I am confused about my reaction to his response.

Ashley and Kisha, Comstock’s newest film, features two lesbian identified, black women. He seems to struggle sales of the movie at first, and wants to initially blame the lack of sales on some larger societal racial trend. Then he steps back for moment, and reflects:

I think there ways to depict sex that can transcend race, gender, or sexuality, and Jessica, Linda, JAG [people who’ve said generous things about A&K] and the others are helping to sustain me in my belief that by focusing on the subjective aspects of the sexual experience, I can reach across boundaries of race, or gender, or sexual taste.

The part I disagree with is the lack of acknowledgement of class. In my opinion, a dialogue surrounding who has access to feminist porn, who is making it, who is starring in it, etc. is lacking in Comstock’s analysis, and also in the current feminist-porn movement. Similarly, I don’t know how I feel about these comments, as well:

Of course our differences still matter… but those aren’t the only things that matter, and they’re not always the thing that matters the most. You don’t have to be African-American to be inspired by the story of the Tuskegee Airmen; you don’t have to be Jewish to feel the horror of The Holocaust; you don’t have to be young, black, or a lesbian to know when you’re watching Kisha ride Ashley’s face, you’re seeing something that’s as right as rain.

Do you think what unites as sexual beings is more important than our other differences?

Is there something in sex/sexuality that is inherent in human beings and can be understood on that level? Or does Comstock oversimplify the roles that “race, gender, or sexual taste” play in shaping us as sexual beings?

It is hard for me to respond to a concrete thing we have learned in our porn section. I would like to shape our knowledge of these new things, however, in a context that takes into account race, class, and gender.