Tuesday, 20 February 2007

This is the beginning...

Of a piece I've been attemping to write on bisexuality. By attempting, I mean I've done some thinking, scribbled a bit on loose-leaf paper which was then predictably lost, and written a very bad start to an article. But it is a start, I suppose.

We think that we’ve reached the age of tolerance. We mock the non-cosmopolitan amongst us, the homophobic, the misogynist, yet we, supposedly, are the ones who have reached enlightenment: the acceptance of sexuality, the embrace of sex. Yet despite these claims of inclusiveness, we still maintain a tightly defined binary structure of sex. Slowly it’s been revealed that yes, we like sex, but really, with more than one, well, sex? One after the other of my liberal friends has revealed his or her big secret, whispered to me in phone conversations, through breathy apologies, with laughing self-deprecating dismissals: I’m sorry, they say, I just don’t believe in bisexuality. Their claims are rarely based on scientific studies [TALK ABOUT LAST YEAR’S STUDY HERE], so why do some on maintaining the sexuality binary and demand that you be either gay or straight. One friend, a straight female, told me, “I’m sorry, I don’t know why, I just don’t think it’s real. I just don’t think you get to have it both ways. Is that selfish?” Another, a gay male, when advising me about a bisexual friend coming out, claimed, “Well, I was bisexual for a while when I first came out. And look where I am now. Are you sure it’s not just a transition?” And most bizarrely of all, a bisexual woman once told me, “I just don’t believe there are male bisexuals. I know that sounds weird, but I think they must be kidding themselves.” None of these arguments are rational, and none could sustain an actual critique. All were liberally educated, and none had shown any indication of either homophobia or heterophobia before. Their responses were gut feelings, emotional reactions to the concept of a person who was actually, genuinely attracted to both males and females at the same time. Which begs the question, is the bisexual the next frontier for open sexuality? And if so, why hasn’t it yet been conquered?

It is particularly important for women to come to terms with the concept of bisexuality, particularly of male bisexuality, for its denial says much about the gender roles that are accepted and the norms which may not be transgressed. The old stereotype runs that any male would love to see two chicks go at it. Female bisexuality is accepted, and is often admired and sought after by male counterparts, because it is not seen as real. Instead it is just another sex act, an exhibition for male eyes, an attempt to please a male’s needs. Women may engage in this act and yet still fall within the norms of sexuality because to the male’s eyes, they haven’t actually stepped outside of them. This acceptance instead reveals the inner workings of society’s minds on the ‘essential’ female characteristics. Women are fickle, changeable, affectionate, and emotional. They can love each other and yet still prioritize men. Bisexuality may just be a phase, or a greater extension of women’s natural friendship and expressions of love.

To reject a concept of bisexual men is then to engage in a homophobia both detrimental to that man and to the status of women. Homophobia is automatically offensive to feminist goals as it is often reliant on stereotypes of the ‘effeminate’ man

By extension then, there is no acceptance of bisexuality but instead a stubborn determination to stay within a binary system which is harmful to women. While [] would argue that female subjugation originates in the sex act, and thus in order to overturn this subjugation the best way forward is lesbianism, this is clearly inapplicable for all women on an individual women. However, it is harmful both to reject homo- and bisexuality, as this maintains its own system of male-female relations dominated by the male. To reject the concept of bisexuality is the essentialize sex and thus gender, the very antithesis of the aims of the feminist movement. To refuse to date a bisexual solely because he has slept with other men is to express a homophobia founded in a concept of an essential man and an essential female. The essential man should not engage in sexual acts with other men; the essential female should not engage in sex acts with man who…and it continues on. In the end, this notion rests on the concept of the defeminization of women. To sleep with a bisexual man means that a woman has lost her standard counterpart in men. If the man is de-masculinized because he sleeps with other men, then the woman must in turn lose her ‘femininity’ because she is not sleeping with the stereotypical man who only wants to get laid with some chick.

Ok...I have other notes and this will be massively brushed up but I just wanted to get some bare groundings laid in this wonderful realm we call the internet.

Nietzsche and Our Historicism

Attended Geuss' lecture today on Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals and was struck once again by the way power has mangaed to operate throughout history. According to Nietzsche, nothing is set and everything is historically contingent. Thus, while everyone must consume: food, sex, etc., the way that one consumes is dependent on the culture in which one is. As he said: from using forks to chopsticks to gnawing a slab of raw bloody meat, what is not important is that we are eating, what is is the way in which we do so. And yet , as my friend Rachel pointed out, Nietzsche is himself attempting to create an ahistorical notion of history, which while contradictory, I think is well-placed within the philosophy of Nietzsche.

Nietzsche is fun. Nietzshce is fun because so many different sets of people: Nazis, Type-A people, elite Ivy Leaguers, feminists, can take from him and run with it. And the thing is, Nietzsche is playing a game with all of us. He claimed that all was historical, but what was powerful was to create a theory that gave the semblance of permanence to the merely temporary. He has done so with his will-to-power theories, with the striving toward the Uebermensch, with the positing of utopias which so many have done as a result. By positing the historically contingent, Nietzsche has tricked us into thinking that we can shape the future. Nietzsche is now sitting back in a place without God having an extremely large chuckle about the whole thing: we have taken on his theory and thus he has found his place within a historical discourse that places a supposedly universal philosophy (i.e. accessible to any who are aware of it) on the course of events. If we are sure of a past history, is history still contingent?

That is, if we are sure that there was a certain structure to history (from pre-moral, to moral, to Christian moral, to current bad conscience) can we go into the future without thinking that there is a set motion of events...being in this bad conscience, can we believe that this bad conscience will suddenly dissolve itself? In some ways, I think we are in the most ahistorical, or least conscious moment in history. Because of the steadiness of life, the natural flow in the western world from birth to death, the almost immortality of our life in that unexpected death comes much more rarely than in the past (i.e. 19C when every birth brought one closer to death), do we think anything can change. Our last great revolutionary moment was 1968, the Vietnam era and even that is what is acknowledged as a failed revolution; some even see it as a large dose of teen angst electrified by the events of race wars and imperial wars and generational wars and turning into a few bombings, shootings, and a good spout of protesting and free love.

In one sense everything is relativized because of the global age in which we live. Gaining greater access to other cultures, having them appear closer to us and thus understanding their differences, we are more sure of relativity and the possibility of different outcomes than ever before. At the same time, we seem sure that while there are different cultures, none of these will ever change. Thus radical Islam will remain the same. Thus Iraq will remain a chaotic war zone. Thus universal healthcare will only occur through the slow churnings of American bureaucracy. Thus we will grow up to have jobs and families as our parents grew up to have jobs and families. We will go through the life style, but an expected life style, a life style that seems to have been there for ages. Though really, has it?

As a woman, my potential life style is radically different from what it would have been 50 years ago. So why do I see it as such an ahistorical possibility?