Remembering My Hat

24th April 2014

BSA 2014, Leeds (Part 3): Sexuality

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 19:29
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You know the form


Katy Pilcher, Aston

Subverting heteronormativity in a lesbian erotic dance venue?

Erotic dance is v contested area in feminist debate – classic sex positive v. sex negative case. But this binary is itself problematic

Can the heteronormative gaze be subverted?

Power is always still operating

Using Jackson and Scott’s defn that ‘what makes an act, a desire or a relationship sexual is a matter of social definition: the meanings invested in it’ (2010:84) so erotic dance is not inherently erotic, it’s the meanings people ascribe to it that make it so.

Club she studied (‘Lippy’) was a product of 1980s lesbian sex wars – predecesor version ‘The Cage’ was SM and seen by some participants as more radical and more queer than Lippy.

Founder of Lippy felt that The Cage had paved the way for the more moderate Lippy [classic discursive relationship between the more extreme and the more moderate]

Dancers dressed in quite traditional normative gendered ways, including one as 1950s housewife – the archetpe of trad gender!

But could say that they are displaying the performativity of gender (vide Butler) and making femme queer identities visible independently, not just when in contrast with a butch partner.

In one act, one dancer dresses as a man but with trad female lingerie underneath – not a drag king, something more complex than that.

Valued as a women’s space. But this is policed – fat and hairy/trans women not acceptable to all.

Massey – spaces as made and remade – so not inherently inclusive space because women-only, made so (or not).

One dancer couldn’t get work in straight clubs because too heavily tatood – suggests Lippy was a queerer space, because was acceptable here.

But women punters not taken seriously as customers by club employees, seen as sexually fairly passive and less sexual than men.

Dancers go up to punters and touch them, unlike in male strip clubs. Hugging – quite a reciprocal gesture.

Some evidence of punters taking up more hegemonic masculine subject-positions, like approaching dancers outside the club and asking for a kiss.


Stevi Jackson, York (and Sue Scott)

Towards a practice theoretic approach to sexuality

They have previously used sexual scripts theory. Gagnon and Simon’s levels of scripting – cultural scenarios (like discourses), interpersonal scripting (through interactions with others, sexual partners and also other) and intrapsychic scripting (reflexive stuff, conversations with yourself). All three inter-relate. Not deterministic. You improvise around the scripts.

But this can be seen as too cognitive. Based on active meaning making and reflexive practice. Jackson and Scott 2007 and 2010 trying to move beyond this by looking at embodied sexual conduct e.g. orgasm  – not just a physiological process but a social one

Drawing on Becker 1963 on learning to feel appropriately (becoming a marijuana user). Useful to think about in relation to sex – becoming a competent sexual actor. But doesn’t explain variety and complexity of sexual practices well [why not?]. Scripting solves this in part, because of way it look at agentic individuals, interactional situation and surrounding socioculral context. But not well theorised how this turns in to practices.

Turn to practice in Sociology since about 2000. Especially strong in sociology of consumption, building on Bordieu. Not much theorisation of practice in sexuality. Idea is used in sociology of families (Morgan, Finch, Jamieson) i.e. displaying family through practices.

Is sex a practice? It has defining features, although historically and culturally variable and although could be more than currently is. It is generally recognizable as an event – period of activity, involving sexual arousal [does this apply to all BDSM activities? I’m not sure it does. Although it could get quite circular about what you define as sexual arousal]. There are shared understandings, standards, advice on how to do it better.

Danger of defining sex as a practice could be that it seems to move away from the sociological, to focusing more on habits and routines. But these are rooted in biography and social context, so this isn’t really a problem.



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