Monday, January 23, 2012

Theory, Sexuality, Politics, etc (a much shorter post than you'd expect)

This is the only place I can think of engaging this issue, and I'll try to be brief in outlining what I see as a tension/dilemma which is rooted in theory/philosophy but which plays out in academic and popular debates. Super brief.

Cynthia Nelson, in a 2010 TESOL Quarterly article on gay students in language classrooms, writes: "The widespread collective ignorance about gay students may have many reasons, including...[a] tendency to view (homo)sexualities as a private matter involving physical sex, rather than a public matter involving community, identity, knowledge, and discourse..."

Aside from totally co-signing on her implication (sexuality as social -- that's some Wendell Berry stuff if ever I saw some), the other issue I thought of was "can this kind of theory 'go both ways,' as it were?" Not to crudely oppose gayness and straightness, or 'conservative' and 'liberal' ideology -- because I don't think that's necessary -- but I just wonder whether people on traditionally "opposing sides" whose political convictions demand of them (again, no intent to be simplistic here) certain orthodoxies  are both able to deploy the above bit of critical theory sincerely without pushback from the other. One rarely hears, for example, proponents of "traditional" sexuality using the language Nelson uses, yet it seems to me eminently usable by those who, like Gabriel Torretta, argue that "marriage is a mode of being." In fact, I suspect it might meet resistance from those who most often use critical theory. Am I wrong? This is relatively uncharted territory for me.

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