☆☆☆ "Appropriate & subvert the patriarchal semiotic hegemony of the hetero-normative dyad!" ☆☆☆

Sunday, June 11, 2017

"Sans Sexual / Sans Gendered" Continued --

Let's assume, since you're reading this, that you appreciate the theoretical distinction between "sex" and "gender."

Inevitably it seems theory directed discussions of gender turn to considerations of sexual practice, partners, behaviors, identities, etc. Seemingly gender presentation is intrinsically linked to sexual orientation.

Jack (Judith) Halberstam in Female Masculinity notes rather extensively that presentation of female masculinity is a codified paradigm of lesbian sexual orientation/behavior. Reductively stated female masculinity presents a codified sexual vernacular relating to sexual behavior/preference. Reductively stated, female masculinity is a codified presentation about which sexual partner in a lesbian relationship assumes a "dominant" role.

Think about this for a second -- Essentially "female masculinity" is asserting that there is a "masculine" sexuality and that cis-F "gender inverts" (trans whatever) present as "butch" as a semiotic code for a certain sex-role stereotype:  This  "masculine" presentation/orientation is dominant and  the "lipstick lesbian" is submissive. This seems as sexist as it appears.

Similarly -- and this is an admittedly over-simplified generalization -- M to F cis-M often "transition" in order to present as "female" and accordingly adopt the "passive" participant role in gay male sex acts. This too seems as sexist as it appears.

Is there something teleological about testosterone and behavior? Sexual behavior appears "hard wired" in other species: horses, roosters, cattle, canines, all sorts of felines, spawning salmon . . .

This concept of "hard wired" sexual behavior is part of the "essentialist" paradigm, that there are traits and behaviors intrinsic to sex: "Girls play with dolls. Boys prefer trucks."  And of course the radical feminist Weltanschauung rejects these essentialist presumptions. My sister drives trucks, long-haul, semi triple-trailers interstate transport; she owns and rides motorcycles. Allison here is cis-M. I like flowers, jewelry making, baking, floral prints with lace trim . . . For the record, my sister likes flowers, jewelry, lace trim. I own three Harley-Davidson, and more firearms than I can count.

Sexual essentialism may function rigidly for other animal species, but humans as social and linguistic beings manage to deconstruct and problematize the essentialism of the hetero-normative dyad. Post Modern writers like Rita Felski "Fin de Siecle, Fin du Sexe" (1996 in Transgender Studies Reader) argue the post-modern ahistorical view of sex/gender, noting that media images (semiotics/iconography) is both iterative and pervasive, that our epistemological Weltanschauung is always already a recapitulation of previous experience. Felski compares Baudrillard and Donna Haraway as regards the deconstruction and problematizing of gender semes, gender signifiers (referents). Like the [apocryphal] Chinese symbol for "crisis" that is comprised of two signs, "danger" and "opportunity," Felski reads Baudrillard's post modern point of view as danger, chaos, deterioration of meaning. Haraway views these deconstructions as opportunities for new narratives.

For the sake of presumption, sex  and sexual orientation are "hard wired" in an individual.  Gender presentation may be dynamic, fluid, ambiguous, "unintelligible" but sexual behavior and orientation seem fundamentally stable, biologically determined, fixed. Nonetheless, just because sexuality is seemingly "fixed" does not at all infer that it is structured around the "hetero-normative dyad." The hetero-normative dyad may well be the predominate sexual paradigm, but predomination does not confer privileged status. Linguistically, the hetero-normative dyad is the "received prestige dialect" of the Western culture the masculinist hetero-normative dyad. Other sexual orientations are linguistically akin to idiolects, pidgin, socio-cultural variation. "Gay cultures" have their own socio-cultural idiolects. Gay cultures often refer to these idiolects as "gay-dar" -- like radar that signifies culturally coded meaning in presentations that those not "speaking" the idiolect do not readily "read."

Let's suggest here, for the sake of discourse, that "gay" sexuality is a socio-cultural idiolect that conveys (signifies, communicates) sexual orientation and status. I know "stone butch" when I see them. Liberace is an easier "read" than some. Gay men share their own distinct ideolect.

Judith Butler speculates about "recasting the referent as the signified." The lexicon of referents we have for signifying sex/gender orientation, sex/gender ontological identity needs to become (transmogrify) that signified objective discourse which we recast as a dialectical narrative. Hence the lexicon of referents become a sort of Kantian "ding an sich."  This recasting of referents is the linguistic task of the interpretive community.

The current prestige dialect in our gendered interpretive community is masculinist hetero-fascist, and dyadically dogmatic. Foucault and a litany of other gender theorists note that "sexual inverts" are a recent referential development. "Homosexual" was coined from statistical studies of Kinsey and others. Because "sex/gender inversion" is a statistical anomaly, it has been signified by-and-large as "deviant" and "pathological."

By-and-large the hetero-normative dyad is not so much defined according to what it is, but rather according to what it is not. This narrative dyad is linguistically mediational: We have strict gender dyad presentation referents, enforced by the interpretive community as socially prescribed and rigidly determinative of a linguistic "ideolect" of sexuality which is comprehensible.  The hetero-normative dyad is seemingly the received dialect. Deviant sexuality, deviant gender presentation is semiotically anomalous. Arguably anomalous sexuality is referenced with the [deviant] pathos of the "not" function, typically socio/culturally proscribed, often unlawful, and quite possibly "unintelligible."

--- in process -----


  1. Why do "we have strict gender dyad presentation referents?" Why is it "enforced?" I try to think sometimes when and where such definitions for what is female and male and the role-rules came into being. I know it has been a long road of development, but was there ever a time that one can point to that disregarded gender? I know in ancient Greece, if a man wanted a child, he approached a woman, but if either gender wanted companionship, there was no hang up on which gender they would go to for it.

    As a Cis-F, I can't in all honesty, understand what makes a man believe/feel/think that being female is desirable. I have never found anything attractive about living in a female body and in the "female role." Either I am fighting the betrayal and messiness that is the female body or I am struggling with society to make my way as I see fit. I say, a man who desires this, is using the feminine mask to give him the psychological freedom to behave in ways that do not fall into that socially defined "masculine category." Having breasts, less and/or more hair, wearing "feminine" clothes and make-up, taking hormones to reduce those that are dominant in the male sex does not a "female" make. Affecting mannerisms, does not a woman make. Why? because no one can define what it is to be a woman, for each woman is unique unto themselves, as is each man. Be what makes you feel good, I would say to all those who feel the need to "transition," Take the sex out of the gender equation and be who you feel you need to be. In this day and age, connecting with someone isn't all about procreation, its about sensuality, feeling good and making others feel good, finding love and being loved. Baby-making doesn't even enter into a great many heterosexual relationships. I would say that society needs to stop trying to put labels on everything. Accept a person as a friend or lover, a neighbor, an acquaintance, a co-worker, a family member as they that person's actions towards you dictate. As long as a person does no harm to others, what they want to wear, how they want to perform, shouldn't matter at all.

    Yeah, I know that is dreaming for an ideal world, but it gets exhausting hearing criticism and condemnation of certain people because they don't fit an expected mold.

  2. Precisely!!!

    Thanks for that!