Monthly Archives: December 2012

Writing About Black Sexuality

A friend passed along this article by Stacey Patton from The Chronicle on Higher Education. It provides a helpful summary of the ever-growing history of the intersection between Black Studies and queer theory. This dialogue is a crucial one for my work on Samuel R. Delany, thus it is pleasing that others outside of the (very small) field are beginning to notice it.

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Reality Imitating Art

I went to the dentist this morning. As I was lying prone in the chair in pain, I thought of Frank Norris’s novel McTeague, in which the title character is a dentist whose grip is so strong that he is able to extract teeth with his bare hands. Later in the visit, I received a lecture that I’ve been given before about how I should really be using an electronic toothbrush rather than a manual one, and I thought about how the hygienist probably thinks of me as a “difficult” patient for not heeding her advice. This thought reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine gets labelled “difficult” by her doctor. When she complains, she gets blacklisted by all of the doctors in the area. As I grumpily made my way home after the appointment, the first line of Shel Silverstein’s poem “Hurk” surfaced out of my childhood memories: “I’d rather play tennis than go to the dentist.”

This experience struck me because I realized that I wasn’t using any original thoughts to analyze it, but simply relied on art to do the analysis for me, to tell me how to feel. It is important to see how art relates to real life (whatever that means; as David Shields writes in Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, “reality… is the one word that is meaningless without quotation marks” [4]), but it becomes dangerous when we let art (or, more broadly, the simulated reality of pop culture) mediate all of our experiences for us.

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Harvard Kink

An article on CNN.com reports that Harvard has just approved a student club for students who are interested in “kinky sex.” Kudos to both the students behind the club for organizing publicly and to the school for recognizing that non-vanilla sex (which does not just encompass BDSM, but also includes various fetishes such as watersports, podophilia [an attraction to feet], and so on) is not somehow “sick” or dangerous, and that it has no effect on those who choose not to participate. This kind of openness toward forms of uncommon sexual practices by consenting adults is necessary in order to eradicate systemic violences such as sexism and homophobia because any type of Othering of those who are not white male vanilla heterosexuals plays a part in these (and other) interrelated oppressions. American culture has a long way to go to become sexually healthy, but events such as this one show that there is hope for the future.

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