Atelier Genre(s) et Sexualité(s) & Laboratoire d’Anthropologie des Mondes Contemporains
Université libre de Bruxelles
Mercredi 19 juin 2013
In 1984, Gayle Rubin (University of Michigan) published her famous essay “Thinking Sex : Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality”. First presented at a conference on sexual politics organised in 1982 at Barnard College (New York City), it rapidly became one of the most influential pieces in sexuality studies. In this text, Gayle Rubin examines the relations between gender and sexuality, and posits, unlike her 1975 “The Traffic in Women : On The ‘Political Economy’ of Sex”, that although they are closely linked gender and sexuality must be studied separately. Rubin also explores the oppressive dimensions of sexuality. Through notions such as the “charmed circle” and the “outer limits”, she describes sexual hierarchies in our societies, and interrogates what defines “good sexualities”. This leads her to order sexual practices and cultures according to their legitimacy. Finally, Rubin defends the need of empirical and descriptive studies, in particular through ethnography.
In the last thirty years, sexuality has changed. This period is often described by a weakening of sexual hierarchies and unprecedented sexual freedom. This vision has however been criticised, and several authors have unveiled the persistence as well as a reconfiguration of sexual hierarchies. A first goal of this workshop will be to assess the validity of Rubin’s Thinking Sex today. Rubin’s essay was also strongly influenced by American sex wars. It depicted more broadly forms of sexual exclusion, which were mostly based on Western sexual experiences. Therefore, this workshop will also attempt to go beyond the narrow frame of the United States and the West to explore sexual hierarchies in other contexts.
This workshop will gather papers by Belgian scholars discussing Rubin’s “Thinking Sex” from various disciplines. All will be discussed by Gayle Rubin, who will give a closing lecture.
Session 1 “Thinking Sex” in Belgium
Chair : Cathy Herbrand (King’s College London)
> 14h-14h20 : Wannes Dupont (Universiteit Antwerpen)
Modern times. Some questions about the course of sexual history
> 14h20-14h40 : David Paternotte (FNRS/Université libre de Bruxelles)
Belgium : Sexual hierarchies after same-sex marriage
14h40-15h20 : Discussion
15h20-15h50 : Coffee and Tea
Session 2 “Thinking Sex” Beyond Western Sexualities ?
Chair : Rostom Mesli (University of Michigan)
> 15h50-16h10 : David Berliner (Université libre de Bruxelles)
"Studying sexual subcultures in Laos, after Gayle Rubin"
> 16h10-16h30 : Chia Longman (Universiteit Gent)
“’Femme de la rue’ : sexism, multiculturalism and moral panic”
16h30-17h30 : Discussion
Chair : Joël Noret (Université libre de Bruxelles)
> Gayle Rubin (University of Michigan)
“Blood Under the Bridge. Reflections on Thinking Sex"
This talk reflects on the intellectual and political circumstances of the publication of Gayle Rubin’s 1984 essay “Thinking Sex : Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality.” In particular, it considers the context of the feminist “sex wars” of the late 1970s and early 1980s, offering a detailed account of several of the period’s key events, publications, and debates. It also reflects on the relation between this moment in the history of feminism and the history of GLBT and queer scholarship over the past several decades.
Gayle Rubin is an anthropologist, and a feminist, gay, and leather scholar and activist. Her work focuses on the history, theory, geographies, and
social organization of sexuality ; urban sexual populations ; the history of sexological theory ; feminist theory and politics ; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies.
She was a visiting fellow at the Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University (1993), the Norman Freehling Visiting Professor of
Humanities at the University of Michigan (2001) ; and has twice been a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at
Stanford University (2007, 2012). She has taught at University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the San
Francisco Art Institute. She is currently Associate Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan.
She is the author of Surveiller et Jouir : Anthropologie Politique du Sexe (EPEL, 2010), and Deviations : A Gayle Rubin Reader (Duke University Press, 2011). She is revising a book manuscript based on her pioneering and sustained ethnographic research in the gay male leather community and the South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco, and is doing research for a new project on the feminist sex wars.