Sunday, December 26, 2010


Kindred to "family" as vivisected below, anything other than a cursory look at so called "sexual identity" reveals a similarly troubled coherence. Sedgwick, again:

[T]hink of all the elements that are condensed in the notion of sexual identity, something that the common sense of our time presents as a unitary [and universal!] category. Yet, exerting any pressure at all on "sexual identity," you see that its elements include

your biological (e.g., chromosomal) sex, male or female;

your self-perceived gender assignment, male or female (supposed to be the same as your biological sex);

the preponderance of your traits of personality and appearance, masculine or feminine (supposed to correspond to your sex and gender);

the biological sex of your preferred partner;

the gender assignment of your preferred partner (supposed to be the same as her/his biological sex);

the masculinity or femininity of your preferred partner (supposed to be the opposite of your own);

your self-perception as gay or straight (supposed to correspond to whether your preferred partner is your sex or the opposite);

your preferred partner's self-perception as gay or straight (supposed to be the same as yours);

your procreative choice (supposed to be yes if straight, no if gay);

your preferred sexual act(s) (supposed to be insertive if you are male or masculine, receptive if you are female or feminine);

your most eroticized sexual organs (supposed to correspond to the procreative capabilities of your sex, and to your insertive/receptive assignment);

your sexual fantasies (supposed to be highly congruent with your sexual practice, but stronger in intensity);

your main locus of emotional bonds (supposed to reside in your preferred sexual partner);

your enjoyment of power in sexual relations (supposed to be low if you are female or feminine, high if male or masculine);

the people from whom you learn about your own gender and sex (supposed to correspond to yourself in both respects);

your community of cultural and political identification (supposed to correspond to your own identity);

and—again—many more. Even this list is remarkable for the silent presumptions it has to make about a given person's sexuality, presumptions that are true only to varying degrees, and for many people not true at all: that everyone "has a sexuality," for instance, and that it is implicated with each person's sense of overall identity in similar ways; that each person's most characteristic erotic expression will be oriented toward another person and not autoerotic; that if it is alloerotic, it will be oriented toward a single partner or kind of partner at a time; that its orientation will not change over time. Normatively, as the parenthetical prescriptions in the list above suggest, it should be possible to deduce anybody's entire set of specs from the initial datum of biological sex alone—if one adds only the normative assumption that 'the biological sex of your preferred partner' will be the opposite of one's own. With or without that heterosexist assumption, though, what's striking is the number and difference of the dimensions that 'sexual identity' is supposed to organize into a seamless and univocal whole.

from Tendencies, pp. 7-8

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