Archives for posts with tag: Gayle Rubin

You’re sitting at home, munching on Doritos, watching shitty re-runs of CSI; it’s a Saturday night. You had plans with your best friend, but she has decided to hang out with her boyfriend of 3 months. Guess it happens? WAIT (the sound of screeching breaks)! What. The. Hell. The feeling that envelops your stomach is one, which is deep, yet fittingly placed as if it was a natural reaction. And this is what is problematic, that “naturalness”, that seeming “order of life”, because after all if she doesn’t hang out with her boyfriend, she may never get married, may never have kids, and will surely not fulfill this imposed “circle of life”. That reminds me; maybe I should watch The Lion King, instead of shitty, overplayed CSI re-runs….


This has all happened to us, and we are taught that this sort of behavior is excusable because of what’s at stake; we wouldn’t want to shake the heterosexual matrix or reproduction. However, it is never excusable to be late to class, to break an appointment, or not show up for work, so why is this behavior acceptable? The Fallacy of the Misplaced Scale as created and described by Gayle Rubin is to blame. We, as a society, put an over-emphasis on sex, but specifically heterosexual sex. This causes symptoms including, but not limited to, lonely Saturday nights, overeating, pregnancy, and even the loss of a friend.

I have always been mind boggled as to why this behavior was acceptable. My friend, who is a serial dater, has not been single for more than 6 months in the last 9 years… We are 22… Needless to say, her dating habits and boyfriends have always been problems within our friendship. However, when I learned about the fallacy of the misplaced scale in class, I began to feel sorry for her, our society, and myself. Love comes in all different forms and this misplaced scale undermines these relatonships. When one challenges the use of the misplaced scale, one is seen as overbearing, protective, jealous, and even accused of being a lesbian. Oh, no, not a lesbian. This scale is a complete outrage and completely under values same-sex friendship. It says to people, “You can only be in fulfilling friendships until you find a partner or until you can reproduce”. Say what? Personally, I think friendship is one of the most important parts of my life, and I think it is unjust that this scale has any power.

You can also see this scale in place when one is in the relationship for a while. An air of “I’m more important than you (and so is he) because I have a dick to latch onto” exudes from them. The power relations are then seen and in action. Their plans take precedence, their opinions matter most, and, you, the single, pathetic one are never to complain. You are forced to watch, CSI, no wait I decided on The Lion King, on a Saturday night; or worse, the couple overpowers the television and makes out during your movie until their lips are sore. The fallacy of the misplaced scale needs to be exposed for what it is; a heterosexual creation, which favors the reproduction of two human beings and gives them unearned privileges and an endless amount of “get out of jail free cards”. Mostly though, it needs to be exposed because I am running out of movies to rent and patience for those who participate and take advantage of this scale. I, for one, am sick and tired of being accused of being jealous, overprotective, displaying mother-like behavior, and of being a lesbian, when I do not describe nor think of myself in any of these ways; the scale needs to go, and behaviors need to be altered.

-Katie Schaffer

After reflecting on the “safe places” exercise (referencing Rubin) we did in class, it seems to me that we have the largest potential to experience the most comfort when we’re by ourselves. Perhaps this position sounds cynical, but look at it this way…

1: Society spends a good deal of time discouraging attitudes and behaviors that make sense and encouraging flawed and narrow logic. (See Butler)

2: Society discourages internal reflection and getting to oneself on an intimate level. (This happens in several ways, including objectifying women, tabooing masturbation, medicalizing EVERYTHING so we’re ignorant of our bodies, etc)

3. Social conventions and expectations permeate every facet of society, even if a group is deliberately rejecting those conventions.

4. So basically, if society tells us NOT to spend time alone and learning about ourselves, we should probably stop whatever we’re doing and do just that.

This, of course, is not to say that basic human interaction isn’t necessary and fulfilling, but regardless of with whom we’re spending out time, we are constantly shifting and shaping our identities, even if we’re unaware of doing so.

To illustrate this point, it is beneficial to examine some of the most obvious “safe places.” A few of these include: spending time in a group of like-minded/identified people, using anonymous avenues to express ourselves (i.e. Post Secret), and sharing things with family and close friends. While each of these provides innumerable benefits, each has its shortcomings as well.

It should be said that feminism’s internal critique is one of its greatest strengths in the “big picture,” but that very critical eye cane sometimes be turned on the individual. Thus, even if certain parts of one’s identity are in a “safe space,” other parts (or the ways in which one expresses them) are clearly not.

One of the best examples of this discomfort around the people with whom we’re closest is illustrated in this card sent to “Post Secret.” The postcard read, “She sent me this 3 weeks after she told me I couldn’t come to her wedding because I’m a lesbian and my family doesn’t want ‘to see me use their wedding as a giant “coming out” affair. Thanks sis, YOU save us the date.” The other side reads…

We’re supposed to be close and comfortable with our families,but obviously that’s not how it works for this woman.

I guess the point is that at the end of the day, the only person you have is you. So, ya better start defying those social conventions and deciding that you (whoever you are) are just fine.

-Mika Baugh

Upon reading the Rubin: “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality,” a common thread of belief was again introduced; this is the Domino Theory of Sexual Peril.  The belief states that if one type of “sexual deviance” is allowed, then it opens up a vast array of deviances that naturally have to be allowed for “fairness and equality.”

At first I just read this argument and immediately thought Reductio ad Absurdum – a logical fallacy.  This is to say that to allow same-sex marriage, one must automatically let people marry animals or paper towels.  While many people would consider this absurd, as the leap from same-sex marriage to bestiality is quite a large gap, we must remember that to some people homosexuality and bestiality is equality wrong.  To many people there isn’t so much as sex hierarchy but just what is right and what is wrong and to cross the line is to open up the field for all that is wrong.

While I may laugh at some of the ignorance (perhaps especially Rick Santorum who I can contribute paper towels), when looking back at history and some of the arguments to support same-sex marriage, their Reductio argument has a semblance of truth.

There were many marriage debates in the history of mankind on what is allowed in marriage and what is not.  Looking back to the Ancient Greeks, marriage was supposed to be between a man (usually in his 30s) and a young woman (probably in her early teens).  We may look at this now say this is a sexual deviance but this is “tradition.”  However, when Americans say tradition they usually mean Christian tradition so let’s go back to early Christians were women were property.  No, that’s too far back, we don’t believe in that tradition anymore.  Moving forward we see that mixing religions was not allowed, a Christian shouldn’t marry a Jew without someone converting or receiving a blessing from a clergyman.  I’m sure many people at that time argued against the sanctity of marriage and argued that allowing any deviance is against the natural order of things.  But this involves a voluntary choice of religion so let’s move forward to something more concrete.  Oh yes, race.  Along with not being able to mix religion in couples, you’re not supposed to mix the races.  While this could be more backlash from slavery where people of mixed races were actually marrying property, items not people, and that was wrong.  Well, slaves were freed and the stigma stuck.  It wasn’t until 1967 with Loving v. Virginia that the Court legalized interracial marriage in all states.

1967 wasn’t too long ago and some of the same people who were against interracial marriage are probably still alive today.  They have seen marriage redefined in their lives and are seeing it again today.  LGBT groups have not, and no doubt will continue to cite Loving v. Virginia in the case for same-sex couples to be wed without government intervention.  This is a very obvious case where allowing one deviance will lead to allowing another.  For many (hopefully a majority) of Americans that can see that a same-sex couple is not equivalent to bestiality, for the people who only can see deviance as right and wrong they have to believe that allowing any marriage deviance will lead to all the others.  In this case Reductio ad Absurdum holds up.

However, as a self-described intelligent individual, I can see same-sex couples as two consenting adults who’ve committed themselves to each other.  This is nothing unlike “normal” marriage.  Other such deviances such as bestiality or pedophilic marriages I can see as not meeting that condition and should thereby never be allowed.  Even extreme cross-generational marriages such as a couple made up of a 18-year-old and a 60-year-old is legal, which admittedly may make me cringe a bit, but I’m not about to argue that their love isn’t valid.  While arguers of Reductio ad Absurdum believe that the line has been crossed and the line can never be drawn again because it will continue to shift, I have faith that rational individuals can see where the line REALLY is and this will always hold up.

–Brian Falatko

For 9 years of my life I played competitive softball, of which the last four were in high school.  The stereotype of softball player stated that all softball players are lesbians. The softball team was also known as the “lesbian club” unfair as that may seem. Although I was the starting pitcher and the number 2 hitter in the lineup, I am not a lesbian. That stereotype is actually far from true, in both ways. Yes, it is far from true for people that are straight, but the point I am really trying to make, is what about those other players you automatically assume are lesbians? What about bisexual’s?

My catcher caught for me all of high school and not only was the top catcher in the state, but quite a person. Her name was Brit and she was known far and wide. Brit was the first lesbian in all of my high school to come out. She was also the main talk of the school as she openly dated another girl. When I say main talk, it was actually all positive as Brit was a great person, amazing athlete, and one that had life-changing beliefs when it came to gender and sexuality topics. The greatest thing about Brit, is before she was a lesbian she considered herself a bisexual.  She said she preferred to go both ways, and did not have a preference. Until, one day one something just clicked when she realized she was a lesbian.

I was lucky enough to share this conversation with her as we traveled to an away game an hour and a half away. She put it perfectly, sexuality is produced and declared as one lives, it is not a biological decision, the decision lies within yourself, and not only that, but once you think you may have decided that can also subject to change. Which is why, I relate most of this course to what Brit has told me and what she believed. In Gayle Rubin’s article, she quotes Michael Foucault as “ ‘He argues that desires are not pre-existing biological entities, but rather they are not constituted in the course of historically specific social practices.’ He emphasizes the generative aspects of the social organization of sex rather than its repressive elements by pointing out that new sexualities are constantly produced.”  This line reminds me exactly of Brit. From experiencing first hand, she believes , just as Rubin that biology is just the deciding factor of our bodies and appearances and it is not linked to preference or sexuality.  Having a mother who is also a lesbian, she said that it also opened her up to the possibility of choosing to follow in her footsteps which first brought her to experiment and find her true self. Rubin also touches on that as she points out “Sexuality is constituted in society and history.”

Brit shared many of her opinions and beliefs with me which really did change my views and what were actually taught in school. I decided to write about her because everything that we are learning Brit had previously taught me. The heterosexual matrix we also talked about in class was something she first had told me, aside from using the term heterosexual matrix obviously. She said that she is proud to break the stereotype of being a feminine female and that she considers herself masculine. She also said she has an appreciation for those who are proud enough to represent how they feel regardless of their gender. The second I walked off the bus I never just assumed that every girl that looked feminine is straight and every girl that had a masculine demeanor was a lesbian. Brit is a real life example of what we are currently learning in class.

-Christy Praljak

In our culture, sex, gender, and sexuality are wrongly conflated. The genital make up of a newborn baby classifies them as male or female. Along with this sex assignment comes an obvious gender of boy or girl, and form this still comes the crux of the newborn babies sexuality. Baby boys will grow up to sexually desire women and baby girl will grow up and sexually desire men.

Through this system, referred to by Butler as the “Heterosexual Matrix”, feminine, heterosexual females and masculine heterosexual males are normalized. Like in any sort of distinction there is a corollary creation: the creation of the abnormal. These abnormalities can be defined by a simple step outside of one’s given gendered role or a step into a sexual interaction that is not deemed “good sex”, as Gayle Rubin would put it. Because a specific gender and a specific sexuality are thought to be natural and normal attributes of the sexed body, any difference has become stigmatized.

In her article, “Thinking Sex”, Rubin explores some of the ways that the “Heterosexual Matrix” has influenced and effected sexuality throughout history. One thought challenged by Rubin is sexual essentialism, the idea that human sexuality is natural, innate, and constant throughout history. Working in a framework like essentialism makes challenging sexuality pointless, seeing that it is unchangeable.  Through this mindset individuals see their sexuality as being exactly the same as the sexuality experienced by cavemen, Victorian women, and ancient Greek philosophers. More and more evidence keeps piling up, and the results show that this is not the case. One doesn’t even need to look back into human history to see that the differences among human sexualities are bounteous; one only needs to look around. One such example of sexual diversity comes from observations of Lesotho women in Africa made by Jane Kendall. Kendall’s work uncovered a practice, common in Lesotho, in which women of all ages partook in physical relations with other women. These instances would without a doubt be viewed as sexual from the cultural stand point of the United States; however, these relationships where not thought of as sexual in any way due to the cultural understanding of sexual as requiring a penis. These women had husbands and families who were well aware and supportive of their relationship with another woman, and these relationships in no way challenged their heterosexual identities.

This example and many others are certainly enough to make me question the origins of my sexual desires and the ways that I think about and understand them. Rubin presents the idea of a “sex hierarchy” in the form of a “Charmed Circle” and “The Outer Limits” to explain further the effects of essentialism on sexuality. ( rubin_charmed_circle_841.gif ) The “Charmed Circle” represents sexual acts that are accepted and privileged while the “Outer Limits” represent bad sex that is viewed as abnormal and is often times pathologized. The most interesting thing about this image; however, is the permeable boundary that separates the god sex from the bad sex. As many of us would like to equate our desires with those of people from the past (maybe to make ourselves feel more normal/comfortable with our sexualities), the ever changing hierarchy of sexuality reminds us that this is not the case.  If you only consider the differences in sexual appropriateness between two generations, it is easy to see that changes in acceptability occur very quickly. Recently homosexuality has again become more normalized and accepted as good sex, especially in monogamous situations.

This progress toward acceptance from homosexuals is encouraging, but it should not be mistaken for something it is not. This progress still exists in a model that values some things while devaluing others. In any system where acceptability exists, unacceptable will also exist. Even as “break throughs” are being made in the battle for homosexual rights and visibility, the overall politics of sexuality has not changed. People will only have the freedom to fully explore and enjoy their sexualities when they exist in a realm without distinctions between normal and abnormal, and when sexuality is no longer viewed as a natural, innate aspect of a sexed body.


“Most people find it difficult to grasp that whatever they like to do sexually will be thoroughly repulsive to someone else, and that whatever repels them sexually will be the most treasured delight of someone, somewhere.” –Gayle S. Rubin, Thinking Sex

People will only have the freedom to get their freak on, without judgements, when we find a way to get rid of the “freak”

-Jennifer Peper

During this past weekend, I have given a lot of thought to our most recent lecture in class. When asked to describe the places, or environments, that we feel the most free, I immediately thought of my family and friends. When I’m around them, there are no expectations placed upon me, and I can act, as I want to act. Granted, in a reasonable manner. Although my family is a place where I can feel free, I realize that the family might be a place where individuals feel restricted. With this in mind, I watched two movies this weekend where this feeling of restriction by family members was quite apparent.

 Titanic and Dirty Dancing both carry plot lines where the main character seeks out places, other than their family, where they can be freer and have no restriction put upon them. Their desires to break away from their families and seek out other “familial” environments doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the women wanting to be more sexually exuberant, but throughout the movie we do notice a change in how both women present themselves (as opposed to when they are in the midst of their families). In my opinion, this opposition stems from a desire of wanting to disregard the expectations and restrictions put upon them by their families and to experience the world around them in different ways. Even though the families in both movies differ in reaction to their daughters’ decisions, I think it’s important to note that no matter what the situation, we, as individuals, will always be in search of places and people where we can feel the most free and unrestricted.

 Now, on to more important topics. I would like to discuss Gayle Rubin’s article, “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality. On page 150 of her article, Rubin briefly touches upon the idea of “sex negativity. This is solely the idea that sex is considered to be dangerous, destructive and a negative force. She goes on to state, “Virtually all erotic behavior is considered bad unless a specific reason to exempt it has been established” (Rubin, 150). These reasons can range from marriage, the purpose for reproduction, and, of course, love. But what if sex negativity were to be turned on its head? If there’s the notion that sex is negative in our society, there has got to be an idea out there that sex is positive. Right?

 Right. Indeed, there is something called the Sex-positive movement. This movement, in short, advocates sex acts, and aims to breakdown marriage as a social institution. Not only does the Sex-positive movement encourage human sexuality, but it also realizes that sex education and the practice of sex is essential to its campaign (yeah!). Along with sex positive movement, there is also the idea of Free Love, which also aims to reject marriage because it is seen as a social bondage, especially for women. Free love is not concerned with actual sex acts that can be performed between sexual partners, but wishes that any romantic relationship that a woman, or man, enters not be governed by law.

One last branch of the Sex-positive movement, and easily the most amusing, is a book written by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy titled, The Ethical Slut. The book teaches women how to be, well, an ethical slut. The authors take the word “slut” and give it a whole new meaning: someone who is okay with sexual pleasure, and someone who seeks it out. And if an individual so chooses to have multiple sex partners in a short amount of time, The Ethical Slut teaches you how to do so in an honest and non-complicated way.

 My whole point with bringing up the Sex-positive movement is to not critique Rubin’s article, but to offer another point of view to her discussion of sex negativity. When individuals see something as negative, it also is seen as positive by another set of individuals.

 -Aubrey Merrell