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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Attractive Inconsistencies: Sex, Gender, Sexuality, and Relationships (2010)

from http://squee.anarchyplanet.org/2010/10/14/attractive-inconsistencies/

by Squee

The following analysis may be considered in the light of Gender or Queer Theory, but it does not support many of the common assumptions present in theories of Sex, Gender, Sexuality, and Relationships. The first assumption doubted is not controversial: human beings come in two sexes – male and female.  The second assumption, that there is a practically quantifiable series of genders is also only somewhat controversial. While the challenging and ultimate disproving of these two assumptions has lead to numerous theories of the relationship between Sex and Gender, the most commonly accepted of them (even by the LGBT community) is still inadequate: that there are more than two sexes and a variety of genders. It is here that I think I must begin to put forth my challenges, because the others are only more controversial.

That humans are not simply sexed male and female is undoubted: there are a whole host of circumstances in which human beings are neither (or both). There are various forms of hermaphroditic sexes and this itself destroys the myth of the reduction of sex to a mere two types. When it comes to some of the more popular notions of human gender, it is demonstratively true that there are not simply two genders either. Some believe that gender can be conceptualized as a spectrum with masculine traits at one end, and feminine traits at the other: that every individual is something of a mix of both. And some don’t even get that far. What I posit is that gender doesn’t really exist as anything but a quantification of character traits and that the specific character traits that fall into the realm of gendered traits is not only narrow, but that these traits aren’t even consistent.

It is funny that the solution to this problem has been to claim that some traits are simply “gender neutral” and therefor have no relevance to the dichotomy of masculine and feminine (and the spectrum such a dichotomy implies). What is the point of understanding character traits as gender-specific or gender-neutral at all when gender itself is already such a broken category? It is more accurate (and less convenient) to note that human beings seem to demonstrate an enormous quantity of identifiable traits than it is to go about splitting them up into categories of masculine and feminine, which are then theorized to be spectral anyways and inconsistent with ones sex. If genders are conceptions rooted in the specificity of whether a character trait is masculine or feminine, and in what relative alchemical mix an individual character possesses them then it would logically follow that those traits which are not captured by this spectrum must be done away with somehow. What this reduces to is a classification of character that is already inconsistent with sex, but also inconsistent in its own ability to posit the existence of consistent genders! It is much more consistent to abolish the category of gender and simply identify the traits themselves, therefor making it possible to understand the individual without such an inconsistent category mediating what gender is intended to help conceptualize: sexual attraction.

Before going further, and into my criticisms about the way we often think of sexual attraction; there is a further inconsistency about character traits themselves – people’s characters change. So not only are gendered traits inconsistent with sex, inconsistent in themselves (needing to posit gender-neutral traits to delineate the domain of gender), but they are also inconsistent with personal development. This developmental inconsistency of one’s characteristics (both gendered and gender-neutral, by the way) is a further defiance of the quantitative logic of gender. So to follow gendered logic to one of its conclusions: if one wants to accept the gender spectrum, they must admit that their gender changes throughout their life and is an inconsistent quality of their character. In short, admitting that their gender is a superfluous conception of themselves (and others).
Now if we accept the above arguments about the uselessness of gender as a category because of its inconsistencies, this also modifies our notions of sexuality. After accepting such an argument, one can not be Straight, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transsexual, etc. If gender is removed from the notion of human sexuality, the categories for sexualities burst open and unleash a rather vast series of potential sexualities that can no longer be practically quantifiable. Since they are not practically quantifiable, this means that human sexuality is much more specific to the individual than it is to a preconceived notion of gender (or what gender they are attracted to). The question is whether or not this is better or worse.

At this point, one can not call themselves Straight (or Gay, or Bi, etc.) because they cease to recognize gender, and thus cease to understand what they are attracted to through the specific categorization of traits that gender presumes. What becomes of this is that sexual attraction becomes much more nuanced and specific to the individual: they aren’t attracted to masculine-males, effeminate-males, etc. – they are attracted to specific character traits (physical, emotive, gestural, cultural, etc.). In the case of what was once thought of as Bisexuality, it may turn out to be a sexuality rooted more in the emotive, gestural, cultural, or gender-neutral physical traits of those one is attracted to than having anything at all to do with gender-categorized traits or physical sex. In the case of what was once thought of as Straight, it may turn out that the physicality of the opposite sex isn’t the sole root of their sexuality or just a more specific series of physical traits than those that tend to be sex-specific. As an example of what this means practically: an individual once thought to be a  Cis-Gendered Straight Male is no longer gendered at all, nor straight… and this particular one isn’t just attracted to Women …they are attracted to female-bodied individuals who are shorter than them with submissive character traits and foreign accents.

Even this wouldn’t be entirely accurate because of the developmental inconsistencies of character traits (both of the individual themselves and those whom that individual is attracted to sexually). The individual would lose their ability to statically define their sexuality. What they would gain is a conception of their sexual attractions at a given point in their life that doesn’t define them permanently, but does provide more insight into what they really are attracted to. In the big picture, this would mean that we all have a dynamic sexuality that can only define us momentarily as it is consistent with our attractions. As we grow, change, learn, develop, and mature (perhaps interchangeable terms), we would be able to recognize how our sexuality is also growing, changing, learning, developing, and maturing. What we found attractive yesterday, we would better understand why we no longer find attractive today …Because, we wouldn’t be peering through the fabricated quantitative categories of Gender – but peering into ourselves and into each other more deeply.

This may hurt capitalism (boo-hoo) because it defies the quantitative logic that makes it easy to segregate us as groups… instead needing to appeal to us individually and qualitatively. But, this would be a boon to our relationships with each other. We wouldn’t only understand our sexual attractions more (because we would grasp better the qualities of what we are attracted to and perhaps why), but we would understand our platonic attractions to each other more as well. What is ironic is that we seem to actually realize this with our platonic attractions already (friendships, coworkers, etc.). We usually know what qualities we look for in a friend outside the prisons of Gender and Sex. Also, because of this we tend to understand how our friendships (or other relationships) change as we change, grow apart or together as we grow, mature or fizzle out, come into conflict or find strong resonance. We are comfortable with the inconsistencies because we realize that these inconsistencies in our character are not a flaw, but a product of self-realization.
Perhaps there is quite a similar dynamic of reciprocal development that truly lies behind our sexual attractions as well…

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