Re: Judith Butler

Malcolm writes:

>First. Hugh, I guess where you and I differ is that I see heterosexuality
>as nothing but a "socio-cultural practice", as you put it. You seem to
>conflate "reproduction" (which is, on one level, an act, on another, a
>process, and on yet another, a socially-regulated institution - another
>aspect of compulsory heterosexuality in this last respect) and
>"heterosexuality" (which is an identity - that is, the effect of an
>identification with a certain regime of sexuality, one which entails the
>adoption of certain preferences, gestures, privileges, limitations on
>desire, social relations, motives, etc., etc.). Now, I would reject such
>a conflation on the grounds that that it installs the latter as the
>consequence of the former. This is not at all to suggest that
>reproduction is "natural" while heterosexuality is not - but nor is it to
>suggest that reproduction is "unnatural" while hetoersexuality is not.
>Rather, heterosexuality entails a certain (culturally mediated)
>relationship to one's own body and to those of others. Vis-a-vis
>reproduction; well, it all depends on how you define it. Is it the ol'
>hetero-in-and-out? In which case: under what conditions and to whose
>advantage does this occur? (Even if we grant that all cultures do "it",
>we still need to ask how such an "experience" becomes a part of
>discourse, how it is implicated in a field of (compulsorily heterosexist
>and sexist) power, and what effects this has.) Also, in what modalities
>does this act come to exist as an "experience"? Is reproduction a
>process? How do we know about it? Does this not involve the scrutiny and
>invasive inspection of women's bodies ("all in the name of science, of
>course")? Is reproduction a social institution? Organized in whose
>interests? How is it arranged? Who does the work? etc. etc. Now, one
>would ask very different questions about heterosexuality (primarily
>because it is a completely different kind of thing). However one chooses
>to define reproduction (as an act, a process, an institution), it is in
>any case altogether separate from heterosexuality (an identity). But we
>can talk about this more, of course.

Well, this is all interesting Malcolm. I do find it a bit odd, though, that
because I criticized Rich for conflating reproduction with "heterosexuality"
as "socio-cultural practice" you now accuse me of making the same error.
Does it not strike you as unlikely that I would criticize Rich for doing
this if I held the same opinion? I also note that I labelled that part of
the argument as unprovable and ultimately not very interesting. You have no
comment to make, however about the part of my argument that I suggested was
far more urgent, respecting Rich's Rousseauism and the question of whether
or not we can have a "non-coercive" social form. I can't really accuse you
of strawmanning, I guess, since I offered the straw man to you myself, but I
did label him as such.

Hugh Roberts

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