Session 2: How Far is NOT Far Enough?
Chair: Nick Rumens
Abstinence, Welfare, and Self-Control
Department of American Studies, Dortmund Universität, Germany
In this paper I wish to demonstrate how sexual-abstinence-only-before-marriage programs in contemporary United States are a tool in the promotion of a conservative vision of welfare. The goal of the first abstinence education programs in the early 1980s was to curb the alleged teen pregnancy epidemic which was thought to be occurring at the time. Discourses surrounding teen pregnancy, and its correlate illegitimacy, have in the past twenty-five years been central to debates on the US welfare system. Today, abstinence is staunchly promoted by the current administration with pregnancy and illegitimacy still in mind as well as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In spite of the fact that abstinence is advocated by the Bush administration and conservative think-tanks as first and foremost an issue of public health, part of what is at stake is still the conflict between different conceptions of welfare. My contention is that for the current administration, as well as for pro-abstinence think-tanks, abstinence is a tool in the promotion of a conservative vision of welfare. In their view, the major cause of poverty in America is not structural but moral. The poor are poor because they lack moral values and by helping them financially the current welfare system maintains them under a dependency which erodes their work-ethic and their morals. On the contrary, for conservatives, sexual-abstinence promotes morality, marriage and self-control. In direct line with American narratives of achievement through self-improvement and hard work they also claim that the self-discipline learnt from being sexually abstinent brings success in every area of life: in studies and work, health, marriage and even in one’s sex life. Yet, by promoting such a vision of welfare conservatives disturbingly equate sexual promiscuity, immorality and poverty thus stigmatizing the poor in general and poor women in particular since the sign of their “promiscuity” can literally be read in their pregnant bodies.
Transsexuals and Gay Marriage: Unraveling the Bias of the Courts and Offering a New Perspective on Personal Rights
Terryville, CT, USA
Proponents of gay marriage have missed a fundamental flaw in the logic that is used to discriminate against the queer community- the actual definition of “sex” offered by the state is at best incomplete and at worst inaccurate. Individuals making up the transgendered community transcend current notions of sex and gender, and their irregular legal treatment on the local, state, and national level indicates the depth of the ideological bias of government. This work argues that the key to illegitimating the opposition to gay marriage relies on a careful reading of Title VII, which not only criminalizes sexual harassment but also “sex stereotyping.” Reviewing several cases involving marriages of transsexuals who changed status both before and after their unions, this work lays out an argument against state-sponsored sex discrimination in legal contracts through a detailed analysis of several legal proceedings. By their very nature transsexuals defy categorization, and examination of their legal treatment reveals a pattern of inconsistency in our current dialogue that can be used to fight greater oppression in the whole of the queer community.
Recognition, Normalization, and Sexual Rights: The Intersexual Movement in USA and Europe
Department of Sociology & Anthropology, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA, USA
In this paper I provide an analysis of the political and justice claims of the contemporary intersexual movement in the United States and Europe. I will concentrate on the discourse of the ISNA, but will contrast it to dissenting voices within the U.S. context, but more notably to European organizations and discourses that are critical of and separate themselves from the political agenda of the ISNA. My main argument is that the political agenda and claims to specific rights, of the central and dominant discourse of this movement embodied in the ISNA, have a conservative rather than a destabilizing effect over current regimes of sexual assignment: instead of imploding the binary system of sexual identification, the political and discursive effect is to normatively reinforce it.