Conference 'Past and Present of Radical Sexual Politics', fifth meeting in the series "Socialism and Sexuality"
Organized by the Mosse Foundation, Gay and Lesbian Studies and the Master Club Gender, Sexuality and Culture
With financial support of the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek NWO, Maison Descartes (the French Cultural Institute), the School for International Training (SIT/Amsterdam) and the Mosse Foundation.
The Socialism and Sexuality workshops were initiated by AMSAB (Ghent), IISH (Amsterdam), IHC-UMR 5605 (Dijon), Center for Millennial Studies (Boston), University of Amsterdam
In the past, radical sexual politics have most often been closely connected to leftist movements: from utopian socialism and anarchism to marxist feminism. And most movements for sex reform, homosexual rights or birth control were closely linked to progressive ideologies. Notwithstanding major changes in the field of sexuality, many of them engineered by socialist governments, the seduction of the left for sexual politics has disappeared. The radical left has become marginalized while the successes of sex reform and gay and lesbian emancipation have loosened the links between their demands and particular political currents. New social movements against global capitalism have not included sexual issues in their platform. The change from the old to the 'New Left' did not mean a breakthrough because the New Left is reluctant to deal with controversial issues like child sexuality, public expressions of sexual pleasure, sexual citizenship, new reproductive technologies or societal heterosexism, or is even reviving old moralistic discourses for example on prostitution. The conference dealt with the histories of radical sexual ideals, their survival and their renewal in contemporary culture.
Papers and Summaries
David Berry (Loughborough University, UK), '"For a dialectic of homosexuality and revolution". Daniel Guérin's engagement with "sexology" from the 1950's and his contribution to the theorization of sexuality and gender from a historical materialist perspective' (MS Word file, 28 pp., 109 Kb, attached)
Guérin is now most famous for his histories of the left, but he was actively engaged in sexual politics from a socialist perspective and wanted to combine the various struggles for social, racial and sexual equality.
Mark Blasius (City University of New York), 'Emerging Sexual Ethics and the Politics of Sexuality' (MS Word file, 15 pp., 55 Kb, attached)
This paper explores ethical agency through sex, gender, and sexuality, when ethics is conceived as an art of living. It draws upon examples from contemporary metropolitan sexualities, transgender life narratives, and developments in kinship. The paper concludes by inquiring into the political implications of sexuality conceived as an art of living rather than as a biological drive or as a search for intimacy.
Daniel Borrillo (Paris), 'Le Pacs, la gauche et les homosexuels' (Paper outline, MS Word file, 1 p., 20,5 Kb, attached)
Le pacte civil de solidarité (pacs) est partout présenté en France comme l'une des grandes réformes sociales de la gauche. La loi du 15 novembre 1999 a été adoptée à l'arraché après beaucoup d'incertitudes gouvernementales, de guerres d'experts, de mobilisations sociales et après un marathon parlementaire très conflictuel. Avec trois ans de recul, la victoire finale est-elle aussi éclatante? L'un des enjeux fondamentaux était la place que la société accorde à l'homosexualité. Certes depuis vingt ans nous sommes entrés dans l'ère de la tolérance que l'épidémie du sida a mélée de compasion solidarie. Mais dès qu'il s'agit d'aller au delà et de raisonner en termes d'égalité des droits force est de constater que l'homosexualité retrouve une partie de sa marginalité. L'histoire politique du pacs montre que la gauche française (en particulier les socialistes) a contourné l'une de ses valeurs cardinales, l'égalité : si la droite assume souvent une homophobie explicite, la gauche socialiste, est hétérosexiste par sa croyance dans une hiérarchie des sexualités qui met l'homosexualité dans une place subordonnée.
J. Edgar Bauer (Heidelberg), 'Magnus Hirschfeld's Doctrine of Sexual Intermediaries and the Transgender Politics of (No-)identity' (MS Word file, 22 pp., 91 Kb, attached)
The paper focuses on Hirschfeld's Zwischenstufenlehre as a new way of conceptualizing sexual difference that offers an adequate groundwork for the political agendas forwarded by two of the most articulate voices in the area of queer studies: the female-to-male transgenderist Leslie Feinberg and the male-to-female transgenderist Kate Bornstein.
Judy Greenway (University of East London), '"Together we will make a new world": Sexual and Political Utopianism' (MS Word file, 10 pp., 51 Kb, attached)
This paper starts by looking at changing concepts of free love and sexual liberation among anarchists and libertarians in England from the 1880s to the 1970s. What did these ideas mean in the past, and what relevance do they have now, in an age of neo-liberalism and globalisation? To understand what is meant by sexual freedom, we need to examine the notions of unfreedom with which it is contrasted. Can sexual liberation still be seen as central to the vision of a transformed society?
Dan Healey (Swansea), 'Bolshevik Medicine and Russia's Sexual Revolution' (MS Word file, 19 pp., 61,5 Kb, attached)
The paper will look at the ways in which Bolshevik ideas of sexual politics overlapped and interacted with the Bolshevik's faith in science to deliver solutions to human problems.
Jamie Heckert (University of Edinburgh), 'Towards Consenting Relations: Anarchism and Sexuality' (MS Word file, 10 pp., 84,5 Kb, attached)
In this paper I suggest that anarchism and the politics of sexuality share a great deal of common ground. Popular ideals of sexual relationships include consent and mutual pleasure. Anarchism suggests that such values should be the basis of all relationships. Increasingly, sociological research in general and queer/feminist studies in particular recognize the interdependence of hierarchical social divisions (e.g. 'race', class, gender and sexuality). Bringing an anarchist critique of all forms of hierarchy to theories and politics of sexuality takes these theories to their logical conclusion. The paper incorporates an empirical elements, examining the relationships people have with the hetero-homo binary. In doing so, I hope to develop a better understanding of how people construct, transgress and resist binary division, which provides a basis for all forms of hierarchy.
Gert Hekma (University of Amsterdam), 'The disappearance of sexual radicalism in The Netherlands' (MS Word file, 6 pp., 54,5 Kb, attached).
This paper will discuss the stagnation of sexual politics in The Netherlands since the sexual revolution of the 1960's and 1970's. Because there was no fundamental change in the sexual ideology, sexual practices of the Dutch have largely remained stuck in monogamy and heterosexuality while sex is still considered to be the result of a natural upsurge, a private business and different for men and women.
Gottfried Heuer (University of Essex), 'The Devil Underneath the Couch: The Secret Story of Jung's Twin Brother' (MS Word file, 26 pp., 102 Kb attached).
The German-Austrian sexologist Otto Gross coined the term "sexual revolution" in the early twentieth century and, far before Wilhelm Reich, wanted to politicise the Freudian movement, but without much success.
Maria Kyriakidou (American College of Thessaloniki), 'Female bodies, sexuality and leftist feminism: the "personal as political" in inter-war Greece' (MS Word file, 16 pp., 99 Kb attached).
Female sexuality transcends both the private and the public domain as it is associated with power and hierarchy. A case in point is the exploitation of female body in the form of prostitution. In my paper I will present collective stereotypes about female sexuality, notions of femininity and views of prostitution as presented by politically radical individuals such as marxist feminists (socialists and communists alike). My study will take into account both historical evidence and social reality as well as the imagined world of literature created by radical female authors.
Lena Lennerhed (Södertörn University College, Sweden), 'The Pursuit of Pleasure. Sexliberalism in Sweden in the 1960's' (MS Word file, 9 pp., 37 Kb atached).
Monika Pisankaneva (Sofia), 'The Forbidden Fruit: Sexuality in Communist Bulgaria' (MS Word file, 25 pp., 71,5 Kb attached).
The paper will analyse the transgression of the Marxist ideas into the reality of the communist state with respect to sexual freedom. Reproductive heterosexuality was a civic duty, and sexual feedom a threat to the uniform identity of the communist citizen. Lack of visible sexual subcultures until the 1990s and the difficult legacy that today's sexual movements have to deal with.
Saskia Poldervaart (University of Amsterdam, Gender Studies), 'Utopianism and Sexual Politics in Dutch Social Movement (1830-2003)' (MS Word file, 9 pp., 64 Kb).
A lecture on the history of the communal movement in the Netherlands, and its sexual politics and practices at the time of the sexual revolution.
Paul Reynolds (Edge Hill College), 'Marxism and the Politics of Sexuality: Critical Engagements' (MS Word file, 11 pp., 65 Kb).
This paper seeks to develop a Marxist political critique that both rebuts contemporary sexual politics - particularly social constructionist and queer - and begins to develop a materialist conceptual agenda upon which Marxists can develop a politics of sexuality. Four criteria are particularly critical - sexual identities and space as constructed within culture, consumption, commodification and class; the materiality of desire and the body, particularly in the construction of sensuousness in the context of property, ownership, power and labour; the discursive construction of sexuality and critical conceptions of sexual aesthetics and discourse ethics in reconstructing sexual subjects in social context; and the hegemonic construction of sexual oppression, liberation and transformation. This paper will begin to flesh out these areas for consideration.
Lucy Robinson (Sussex), 'Carnival of the Oppressed: The Angry Brigade and the Gay Liberation Front' (MS Word file, 15 pp., 72,5 Kb attached).
The relationship between the Left in Britain and the development of a gay political identity has been fraught with tensions. The subjective basis of identification according to sexuality has been read as the antithesis to class-based objectivity. Yet these two movements have greatly informed each other. The international context of the British Left was to dictate the extent to which homosexuality was to be viewed as a bourgeois deviation, a diversion from class-based politics or a suitable recruitment ground. The organisational impacts of the relationship between sexuality and the Left are explored through the example of the links between the Gay Liberation Front and the Angry Brigade in London from 1970-1973.
Rene Scherer (Paris), 'Ralliements d'amour chez Fourier' (MS Word file, 5 pp., 41 Kb); English version: 'Fourier's Rally of Love' (MS Word file, 5 pp., 38,5 Kb attached).
José Fernando Serrano Amaya (Universidad Central, Bogotá and University of Bradford,UK): 'Body and conflict in Colombia: reflections on a political practice' (MS Word file, 8 pp., 165 Kb attached).
Based in my experience in the Project 'Planeta Paz-Peace Planet' developed in Colombia in the last three years, this paper will present some of the achievements, contradictions and dilemmas of contemporary LBGT movements in Colombia. Four ideas will be developed: (1) the problems about creating a notion of LGBT 'community' for political recognition; (2) the tensions between traditional and modern sexual identities and the way they become political identities in the context of Colombian conflict; (3) difficulties around representation; (4) the peace proposal 'Body as a territory of peace'.
Judit Takacs (Budapest), 'The Double Life of Kertbeny'.
Kertbeny, the man who invented the word homosexual, was not 'enough Hungarian', was not 'enough literary' and most probably was not 'enough normalsexual'. In my paper I would like to focus on the not very well known aspects of Karoly Kertbeny's life. In the light of archive research it turned out the he acted for a short period as a (very unsuccessful) spy, he was also wanted by the police (for minor crimes like cheating). On the basis of his private diaries we can assert that he was sensitive to male beauty and his life can be interpreted as that of a 19th-century closeted gay.