Friday, October 27, 2006

Quote: Sexual Dissent

In representing our situation in public discourse, we need a less defensive, more politically self-assertive set of linguistic and conceptual tools to talk about sexual difference. ... We might begin to think about sexual difference, not in terms of naturalized identities, but as a form of dissent, understood not simply as speech, but as a constellation of noncomforming practices, expressions and beliefs. Here, again, I am drawing from the arena of religion. The right to religious dissent has been understood not solely as the right to belief, but as a right to practices expressive of those beliefs. Framing our differences in this way would be useful in several contexts. First, a notion of dissent would present our difference as oppositional, bringing into frame the illegitimacy of the social and political privilege accorded to heterosexuality. Second, this notion of dissent would join together our right to sexual conduct, both desire and expression, as well as our multiplicity of possible shifting identities, and our right to state a viewpoint and promote it, to express ourselves publically, political, and culturally. ...

Finally, the framework of "dissent" could help us think about a central paradox of sexual difference: it is both malleable -- historically, culturally and in many individual lives -- and yet highly resistant to coercive change. This paradox of malleability and resistance is built into the general understanding of how "dissent" works; people change their opinions and practices over time, yet will hold to them under torture. This is a paradox that neither notions of identity nor fluidity can quite capture.

-- Lisa Duggan

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