Issue No. 8 (July 2004) — Regions of Sexuality
Within the last fifteen years there has been nothing short of an explosion of cultural panic regarding issues of paedophilia. Indeed, according to both the Australian Federal Police and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, paedophiles and paedophile networks are a 'growing threat'. This paper is not concerned with adjudicating the question of whether the cultural incidence of paedophilia is increasing. Instead, it is aims to interrogate the conceptual ground upon which recent efforts to identify the 'paedophile' and paedophilic activity have pivoted. The hegemonic domain for the propagation of paedophilia research has been the field of abnormal psychology. The paper argues that this field has profoundly 'misrecognised' paedophilia. It proposes that the field of abnormal psychology must engage psychoanalytic, feminist, and deconstructive theories of sexuality and identity, and that it must resist the temptation to affix an ontological essence to the 'paedophile'. The paper concludes with the suggestion that only when research methodologies take seriously the question of the prevalence of intergenerational sexual desire in the general population can we even begin to understand paedophilia.
Keywords: paedophilia; sexuality; child sexual abuse; psychoanalysis; deconstruction; feminist theory.
This article submits the concept of 'sexual dysfunction', as it is used in sexological and psychiatric diagnostic manuals, to deconstructive reading using the insights of gender and queer theory (especially Michel Foucault and Judith Butler). It shows up the culturally and historically relative meanings of diagnoses of sexual disorders, by demonstrating how the institution of psychiatry has bowed to the changing face of political agency when classifying pathological sexualities (the case of homosexuality). The article then proceeds, by examining extreme models of sexual desire, such as sado-masochism and 'asphyxiophilia', to challenge both the logic of dys/functionality and the model of sexual agency offered by progressive discourses such as queer theory. It argues for a radical 'tarrying with the negative' as a foil to the persuasive lure of 'bio-politics' which delimits sexuality as either 'good' (life-driven) or 'bad' (death-dealing). The conclusion warns of the dangers both of classifying sexuality according to taxonomy and of privileging sexual 'fluidity' over 'fixity', because both strategies risk shoring up historically redundant meanings and generating the possibility of unforeseen societal interpretations.
Keywords: Sexual dysfunction, critique of; gender theory; queer theory; history of psychiatry; Foucault, Michel; paraphilia
Seeking to answer the question 'Where do intersexed persons fit in the world?' the essay examines anthropological knowledge production and debates about the existence and significance of so-called 'third' sexes and/or genders. Concern is given to problems of colonialist and masculinist conceptualisations of third sex/gender in a variety of socio-cultural contexts, and feminist critique of that material is launched. This paper is concerned with the limits of oppositional thinking about the construction of sexed subjects, and with the challenge of relaying knowledge about divergent sex/gender systems to readers who may never have the opportunity to see for themselves how different cultures operate. The paper argues that it is overly simplistic to see societies with more than two sex/gender categories as superior to those that divide the world into just two. To understand whether a system is more or less oppressive we have to understand how it treats its various members. Glossing over that information impoverishes the information to which scholars unable to (re)visit specific sociocultural locations have access
Keywords: Third sex; third gender; intersexuality; queer theory; identity politics
The aim of this paper is to challenge the logic of regional boundaries as it manifests itself in literary studies, sexuality studies and sexual practices, and humanist understandings of subjectivity and sociality. It achieves this aim by performatively evoking the sensuous exposure to the other that engenders and is engendered by reading, writing, being, and that exceeds the limits of ontological and conceptual boundaries even as it institutes what Derrida refers to as 'the limit'. Drawing on the writings of Jean-Luc Nancy and Jeannette Winterson-in particular three texts which touch me, which move me in powerful and yet inexplicable ways-I raise the question of how to respond without uncritically employing the codes and conventions associated with already established conceptual systems and/or fields of knowledge such as those listed above. My response, my paper, could be said to constitute both a critical ontology in the Foucauldian sense-it is not, 'a doctrine, nor a permanent body of knowledge that is accumulating … but an analysis of the limits that are imposed on us and an experiment with the possibility of going beyond them'-and a sensuous encounter, an exposure to the illimitable alterity of the other that (with any luck) repeats the call to respond.
Keywords: Touch; writing; limit; inter-subjectivity; textuality; Nancy, Jean-Luc; Winterson, Jeanette