chapter  4
Take your partner by the hand: Dance music, gender and sexuality
Pages 27

What if music IS sex? Suzanne G.Cuisick1

I’m mair intae the touchin’ on E than the penetration. Lloyd, in Irvine Welsh, Ecstasy2

In Chapter 3 we considered the fact that despite being a self-consciously physical, raw, timbral music, conventional rock seems in many ways to comply with the deeper demands of metaphysical music discourse for meaning, truth and sincerity emanating from the unmediated voice. But there is a further aspect to the rock voice which makes it very much like the voice of classical philosophy. The rock voice is almost definitively masculine. Even on those rare occasions when women sing music which can be unproblematically defined as ‘rock’, the vocal style tends to take on the ‘masculine’ characteristics of traditional rock singing. When this doesn’t happen, such music is usually understood to be a compromise between ‘rock’ and other forms (usually folk or pop). It is not only in the rough aggression of its vocal conventions that rock can be seen to possess certain specifically masculine qualities, and certain critics have argued that rock and the classical tradition share more than just a commitment to authenticity and meaning. Critics and theorists drawing on feminist theory have argued that certain types of music can, at least in certain contexts, be characterized as masculine or feminine, and that both rock and the classical tradition tend to privilege masculine over feminine forms. In this chapter we will explore these ideas, and consider some of the implications of certain types of feminist and queer theory for a deeper examination of some of our key issues, and the impact that those ideas have had on certain types of music criticism. Crucial to our discussion is the observation that within western modernity, dance has tended to be an activity indissolubly associated with the feminine. Within post-war popular culture, dance cultures have been particularly associated

with young women and gay men on the one hand, and with the cultures of the African diaspora and of dispossessed working-class young men on the other. All of these groups for one reason or another have been denied access to full masculine subjectivity as conceived by the dominant discourses of western culture. We will consider in detail some of the reasons why this might be the case.