One of my favourite courses in Uni this year is Intro to Queer Theory.
It's taught by Amalia Ziv, which I've mentioned on this blog before in various contexts, mainly to fangrrl, because she's a queer academic icon [dykon].
One of the requirements of the class is to write and hand in commentary on at least three articles that we are reading throughout the Semester.
I took my time writing these commentaries, because I wasn't sure what to expect from the class and I wanted to see how I managed in the actual class discussions.
I do very well, by the way, if I may brag for just a second. I'm a participant, I always find myself saying something, or responding to something someone else has said.
Amalia knows my name and looks at me when there's a lull in a discussion.
It is quite awesome.
The article I wrote a commentary for is "Oral History and the Study of Sexuality in the Lesbian Community: Buffalo, New York, 1940-1960"
by Madeline Davis and Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy.
A large portion of the article is detailing the unique historiography of the pre-Gay Liberation Lesbian Community, especially the Bar Scene and the Butch-Femme dynamic within the community.
Butch-Femme relationships were the norm of that time and place and what's really great is that all the information comes straight from the women who were a part of that community - hence oral history.
What's really interesting is that the Butch-Femme dynamic (as presented in the article) is part of a working-class community. That the social norms formed the sexual practice of Butch/Femme sexuality.
I'm not sure what my own view on gender are, other than the fact that it is a socially constructed category and that there are many facets and ranges on the various gender expressions. So when I first encountered the idea of Butch/Femme, which is arguably the most known Lesbian stereotype found in various mainstream ideas about how Lesbians behave, I was sure what it was just that.
The realisation that I was mistaken came long before reading this article (well, not too long, but enough time to not be completely floored by what was written in the article), that Butch and Femme identities weren't just Lesbian women who took on specific roles that replicated Straight ones - I mean, that's such a reduction of the dynamics and relationships!
I'm a bit ashamed of myself for ever thinking that sort of thing.
I think what impressed me the most is the parallel development of this specific Lesbian community in the 1940's and 1950's with mainstream culture. I mean, it's well known that during WW2 women found themselves working and supporting themselves without men. It's really not too far fetched to imagine some of them making the most of this period of time to explore other avenues of sexuality. The War is not mentioned explicitly in the article, though I think it was certainly a factor.
In the 1950's the whole Domestic Goddess ideal and being supportive for the husband. Not to mention that it was probably the most sexually repressed time since the Victorians.
While Straight society was doing their best to have sex for reproductive purposes (this of course merely the ideal of what went on - Kinsey showed things to be quite different) the Lesbian community was all about experimenting with sexuality.
The Lesbian scene was actually an arena of openness and expression.
What really impressed me in the article was the sexual mentor role that Femmes played in the 1940's and how it expanded in the 1950's to older Butches teaching younger Butches proper sexual etiquette.
I think that's something that's really missing from our current modern society.
We're expected to get into bed with a partner and "know" them by virtue of being human - "let nature take its course" - but that that's such bullshit.
I mean, sex is something we have to learn, some part are intuitive, but certainly not all.
I mean, why is intercourse still considered the be all and end all of "proper" sex still, when for half the population (women), having a piece of flesh pressing inside them isn't the highlight.
I think if the conflation between love/sex were actually culturally separated it would be easier for people to find people to teach them how to gain pleasure from their bodies and create pleasure for another.
Basically, if the perception wasn't that people are for gaining sexual gratification, but rather than it is gratifying to be sexual with other people, maybe sex in Western culture wouldn't be so fucked up.
And Lesbian sex would actually be regarded as sex and not, you know, an empty space waiting for a cock.
That ended on a rant didn't it...
Still worth thinking about.
And have a...Happy Hannukah!
And may this long Solstice Night pass quickly and may the days be lengthy.
( Light My Candle )