ABSTRACT

This chapter begins with an often told tale: Michel Foucault famously argues that contemporary Western discourses of sexuality are characterised by an always reinforced but actually false sense of repression, wherein people continually tell themselves that they can’t talk to each other about sex; they continually repeat that their sexual lives are never mentioned; and they constantly roll over muttering that “tomorrow, sex will be good again.”1 In the dominant form of this narrative, the modern Western subject is said to be repressed sexually because of a Victorian heritage, a repression that needs to be overcome. In Foucault’s version, sexual discourse, far from being characterised by repression, is actually characterised by the increase and codification of sexual identities, a process which is enabled by the very mechanisms of this so-called repression. Other theorists have made similar claims regarding gender, arguing that while seemingly bound by a restrictive binary, the number of and relations between genders have always been in flux, following the semiotic and SF model of identity outlined in the introduction. For J. Jack Halberstam, however, the very multiplicity of gender identifications leads to the ability of a generalised, and hierarchized, binary system of gender to take hold across the social spectrum, as a hegemonic form,2 an underlying tension discussed in relation to both gender and race in the previous chapter.