Monthly Archives: December 2013

Trans of Color Mini Course Syllabus

Trans of Color Critique

Four-Week Advanced Undergraduate Course

(Background in Queer Theory recommended)

Proposed by Carolina M.

Course description:

This four-module mini-course will act as a targeted entry into the still burgeoning field of Queer of Color Critique. We will consider different approaches and debates surrounding the concomitant and simultaneous study of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Not limited to points at which these categories meet, we will investigate: How is gender racialized? How can we queer ethnic studies? How should we articulate coalition building? Specifically, transgender, transsexual, and transvestite people of color will be the main subjects in this module since their disassociation with embodiment and their complication of gender expectations and desires shapes contemporary debate and controversy around Queer of Color Critique.


  1. Two (2) reading responses that offer a thoughtful reflection on the relationship between the theoretical and the fictional texts assigned for the week. (Due online the night before class meets).
  2. One (1) final essay proposal that traces a larger topic of your interest within the trans of color debate. The objective of this proposal is to provide you with a well-researched and planned outline that you could later on draft as a full essay. You should include a detailed argument, rationale, a list of sources with a short summary and description of relevance to the topic, and a bibliography.

Course Summary:

I.  Introduction: Black Queens and the Disciplinary Tensions in the Trans of Color Debate

This module will serve as a quick immersion into trans theory and its historical place within Queer Theory as a whole. More specifically, both our primary and theoretical texts will examine the racial marginalization and invisibility—implicit and explicit—present within the queer and trans communities. As we read these texts, we will problematize the representation of trans people of color; that is, we will actively interrogate the gaze of the author in relation to its influence upon our gaze as spectators. Moreover, we will consider the political implications of the transparency of the intellectual. Some relevant questions might be: How does the concept of “the house” in Paris is Burning build a homeliness that is particularly queer and black? How does embodiment contribute (or not) to this sense of belonging? What are the politics of “voguing” and “passing”? Or we might attempt to answer Roen’s own question: How can transgender theorizing be critical of its own racialised politics?

a.     Film:

Paris Is Burning. Dir. Jennie Livingston. Perf. Dorian Corey, Pepper Labeija, Venus Xtravaganza, Octavia St. Laurent, Willi Ninja. Miramax Films, 1990. DVD.

b.     Theory:

Roen, K. “Transgender Theory and Embodiment: The Risk of Racial Marginalisation.” Journal of Gender Studies, 10(3), 2002. 253-63. Print.

c.   Background:

Stryker, Susan. Transgender History. Berkeley, CA: Seal, 2008. (Chapter 1)

d.  Optional:

 hooks, bell. “Is Paris Burning?” Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston, MA: South End, 1992. 145-56. Print.

II. Transnational Transnarratives

This module will engage with more expansive modes of connections between trans subjects. We will encounter stories of migration and exile—of people moving through different spaces and of spaces being shifted from under people’s feet. As global modes of connections multiply, speed up, and permeate spaces at new and unexpected rates, we feel the need to theorize how we want to connect with others. How do we cross borders while undoing them? And aren’t new borders always on the rise? How do we build coalition vis-à-vis essentialisms? What is at stake when we globalize? What could we gain?

a.   Film:

Paper Dolls/Bubot Niyar. Dir. Tomer Heymann. 2006. 80 min. Film.

b.     Theory:

Puar, Jasbir K. Terrorist Assemblages:  Homonationalism in Queer Times.  Durham: Duke University Press, 2007. Print.

Available here:

c.     Theory:

Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands, La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San

Francisco: Aunt Lute Books; 1987. 77-98. Print.

d.     Optional:

Manalansan, Martin F. “Introduction: Points of Departure.” Global Divas:Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003. 1-20, 194-196. Print.

III.  Queer Diasporas

This module continues our debate on trans migration and exile—with a particular focus on the search and construction of spaces in which the trans of color subject can speak—that is, communicate and make community. Spivak’s text, though focused on a different subject position, may help us understand the politics of speaking from a space estranged from hegemony, and with no paths leading to it. José Muñoz proposes a narrative project that disperses queerness from the periphery into the center. How does this theory respond to Cortez’s project? How can we conceptualize shifting the site of trans enunciation within diaspora?

a. Graphic Novel:

Cortez, Jaime, and Patrick Hebert. Sexile = Sexilio. Los Angeles, CA: Institute for Gay Men’s Health, 2004. Print.

Available here:

b. Theory:

Hames-Garcia, Michael and Martínez, Ernesto Javier. “Shifting the Site of Queer Enunciation.” Gay Latino Studies: A Critical Reader. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2011. Print.

Spivak, Gayatri. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Ed. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1988. 271-313. Print.

c. Optional:

Richardson, Diane, and Seidman, Steven. “Queer Diaspora.” Handbook of Lesbian and Gay Studies. London: SAGE, 2002. Print.

IV. Two Spirits: Indigenizing Queer Theory, Queering Native Studies

Native Studies and Queer Theory have yet to reach a point of satisfactory productive collaboration. Andrea Smith proposes moving beyond the study of ethnic queer cultures and into a native queer study that is more transdisciplinary while it interrogates the normalizing logic of settler colonialism. After reading theory focusing on disciplinary reform through inclusion and the redistribution of agency, we will discuss Muñoz’s strategies for the survival of minoritarian subjects within the mainstream. How, then, can we reconcile the disciplinary inclusion and the individual disidentification of the native queer subject? We will consider the relationship between the film and theoretical texts along this vein.

 a.    Film:

Two Spirits. Dir. Lydia Nibley. Say Yes Quickly Productions, 2009. Film.

 b.     Theory:

Smith, Andrea. “Queer Theory and Native Studies: The Heteronormativity of Settler Colonialism.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. 16.1. 2010. 42-68. Print.

Muñoz, José Esteban. “Performing Disidentifications.” Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1999. Print.

Recommended/Related texts:

Brincando el charco. Dir. Frances Negrón-Muntaner.  1994. 55 min.

Haraway, Donna Jeanne. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The

Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991. Print.

Namaste, Ki. “’Tragic Misreadings’: Queer Theory’s Erasure of Transgender.” Queer Studies: A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Anthology.  Ed. Brett Beemyn and Mickey Eliason.  New York: NYU Press, 1996. 183-203. Print.

Koyama, Emi. Whose Feminism Is It Anyway? Portland, OR: Emi Koyama, 2000. Print.

Lorde, Audre: “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference“, in: Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, Berkeley, 1984. 114–123. Print.

Puar, Jasbir K. Terrorist Assemblages:  Homonationalism in Queer Times.  Durham: Duke University Press, 2007. Print.

Quiroga, José. Tropics of Desire: Interventions from Queer Latino America.  New York: NYU Press, 2000. Print.

Rodríguez, Juana María. “Activism and Identity in the Ruins of Representation.” Queer Latinidad: Identity Practices, Discursive Spaces. New York: NYU Press, 2003.  37-83. Print.

Salamon, Gayle. Assuming a Body: Transgender and Rhetorics of Materiality. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. Print.

Santos-Febres, Mayra, and Stephen A. Lytle. Sirena Selena. New York: Picador USA, 2000. Print.

Schueller, Malini Johar: “Analogy and (White) Feminist Theory: Thinking Race and the Color of the Cyborg Body.“ Signs: Journal of Women and Society, 2005, No. 1, pp. 63–92.

Screaming Queens:  The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria.  Dir. Victor Silverman and Susan Stryker. 2005. 57 min.

Stryker, Susan, and Stephen Whittle. “The “Empire” Strikes Back: A Posttransexual Manifesto.” The Transgender Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.

Yarbro-Bejarano,Yvonne. Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La frontera: Cultural Studies, “Difference,” and the Non-Unitary Subject. Cultural Critique , No. 28 (Autumn, 1994), pp. 5-28

Youtube Fun and Inspiration:

“Decoupage” a talk show starring Vaginal Creme Davis and Summer Caprice

Adelina Anthony performs and talks about her performance “Angry Xicana”

Angry Xicana

Laverne Cox has many youtube interviews and clips as a spokesperson and activist. In this clip, Laverne talks about her childhood as a transgender person of color.

Wu Tsang talks about the film “Wildness” and its portrayal of an immigrant LA queer bar and its surrounding community.

StormMiguel Florez performs “White Man’s Burden.”

Titica sings and dances “kuduro” song “Ablua.”

“TransGeneration” is a docuseries following transgender adolescents in college.


Pedagogical Rationale:

Trans theory of color is not an uncommon topic to encounter once you have explored a few texts in queer of color critique. Unfortunately, I believe mainstream media has not caught up with this theoretical surge, and the gap between what we theorize and the representations we find is quite evident. We understand the literature and film in this mini-course as representations of particular subject positions; the theory and fiction here will question, supplement, and problematize each other.

My target audience would be university students, preferably with some knowledge of Queer Studies, though not necessarily (it would certainly help due to the relative specificity and complexity of the topic) and especially others outside the university with a background and interest in the topic.

I selected texts that responded in some way to the themes chosen for each module. It was important to me to achieve some balance between a transnational breadth (within a global register of postnational connections) and a more rigorous study of cultural and historical specificity.

The two assignments are designed to be a light load to allow students to focus on reading the texts closely. The first assignment is made up of two reading responses. These are meant to deepen the connection between the theory and fiction as well as to allow students to shape their learning through their own themes and perspectives. The assignments should be read by all class members before coming to class. They should be a maximum of one page. The second and final assignment is a paper proposal. Since it is a mini-course, a full paper would probably be an overwhelming task. Instead, students will make a proposal that should include all the elements they would need to later draft their proposed paper. It will offer a chance for students to bring in new material (they will do some bibliographical research) and think about the connections between texts across modules.

The first module hopes to offer a background in transgender history via Stryker while pointing out the erasure of ethnic studies within the discipline and the marginalization of people of color in queer literature and theory. Paris is Burning is an interesting text to explore here because of its near-canonical status and widespread reception, which clashes with its often less than enthusiastic reception from queer theorists. This discrepancy offers a chance to investigate the role of the intellectual in the representation of trans people of color and a moment to ask: What is at stake when the presenter’s gaze attempts transparency?

The second module recognizes the ubiquity of migration and the predominance of more globalized communities. To feel a sense of belonging and homeliness among exile and migration, and among people that are often denied access to societal rights and benefits, a strategy for coalition must be drafted. Since intersectionality was assumed as the strategy for coalition in queer of color critique for a while, I wanted to include a piece that confronts this assumption. Anzaldúa is listed here to remind us of the relationship between race, gender, and colonialism and imperialism.

The third module has more to do with speaking possibilities and the politics of communication—of effectively engaging with the other and building a space of commonality and understanding. I chose Sexile/Sexilio as the fictional text because of its strong use of (political, social, racial, and gendered) censorship as a narrative trope.

Finally, the fourth module presents the possibility of further transdisciplinary work and mutual collaboration between queer and ethnic studies. I chose Muñoz’s piece as a reminder of individual struggles that run counter to some more optimistic theoretical elucidations but that are grounded on specific material and historical realities.

The handouts are designed to supplement class discussion, while the youtube links are meant to offer a tiny sample of trans of color people in popular culture. I decided to include handouts to encourage discussion of and provide background information on the more dense texts. Sandy Stone, for example, is writing a very targeted reaction against theorists that preceded her, so a lot can be gained from reading such theorists. Although we are not reading Haraway during the course, the Stanford essay on cyborgs and mestizas helps establish a more visible link between cyborg politics, transgender theory, and queer of color critique. It will also be helpful in understanding Puar’s article. The Stryker quote in the Paper Dolls handout is meant specifically to open up a conversation regarding the relationship between the private and the political. Since Manansalan writes directly on Paper Dolls and will not be read in class, it will probably be helpful to discuss excerpts of the article in class. Finally, the handouts for Spivak and Anzaldúa are there to provide focus in otherwise very hard to approach texts. I also wanted to make sure that Spivak was not left alone in the zone of dense theory and was used to rethink other authors. This is in part the reason I paired the two feminist theorists in my reading questions. Hopefully, the recommended texts will be used to fill some of the gaps that will inevitably rise in such a short and packed course.


I. Background for understanding Sandy Stone’s manifesto

1. Janice Raymond’s The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male (1979):

All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves. However, the transsexually constructed lesbian-feminist violates women’s sexuality and spirit, as well. Rape, although it is usually done by force, can also be accomplished by deception. (104)

2. “Does a Black person who wants to be white suffer from the ‘disease’ of being a ‘transracial?’” and then observes that “there is no demand for transracial medical intervention precisely because most Blacks recognize that it is their society, not their skin, that needs changing” [Raymond 1994, xvi].

3. The Transsexual Phenomenon:

(We will consider the chart on page 19)

II. On cyborgs and mestizas

Stone’s manifesto relies on an account of oppression/resistance that breaks sharply from the utopian vision found in Raymond’s work. Instead, it draws largely on the ideas of Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto” (1983, 1991) and Gloria Anzaldúa’s theory of the mestiza (1987). It will be worth discussing these views briefly to draw out the nature of Stone’s theoretical departure from Raymond.

Haraway’s postmodern image of the cyborg (explained below) is intended to raise worries, derived largely from writings of women of color, about single, monolithic (identity-based) accounts of oppression/liberation. Haraway worries about political accounts which postulate an original state of innocence and subsequent fall from grace and which then envision a utopian future which promises a return to innocence.

According to Haraway, the difficulty with such theories is that they are partial in their account of the world (while assuming universality) and so end up ignoring (and even promoting) certain forms of oppression (1991, 156). For example, a feminist vision which posits a shared experience of oppression among women and recommends lesbian-separatism as its solution, as formulated, leaves out the experience of racial oppression among women of color (Combahee River Collective 1981). Why should women of color be expected to forego solidarity with progressive men of color?

The cyborg, then, is a collection of disparate, incongruent parts: Each individual contains multiple elements of oppressor and oppressed. As a metaphor, it is intended to refuse postulations of original innocence and utopian future (1991, 151). Instead, resistance for Haraway is possible due only to the possibility of the cyborg’s turning against the intentions of its maker in a dystopian environment (151). This idea is notably taken up by Susan Stryker (1994), who uses the metaphor of Frankenstein’s monster, in her reply to Mary Daly’s (1978) representation of transsexuals as monstrous boundary violators.

This notion of mixture is also central in the work of Anzaldúa, who speaks against an emphasis on purity and in favor of the notion of mixed race (una raza mestiza) (1987, 99). She recognizes herself as a border dweller, torn between the demands of conflicting cultures (for example, anglo and Mexican) (1987, 100). The experience of being caught in the confluence of multiple cultures leads to a kind of multiplicity or fragmentation of self. For example, one might be represented in a racist manner in dominant white forms of feminism and in a sexist manner in dominant forms of racial resistance. This tension between conflicting cultural perspectives yields the possibility of “double” or “Mestiza” consciousness which involves the capacity to see oneself in accordance with the dominant ways in which one is oppressively represented and constrained in different, and often conflicting ways (101–2).

It is precisely the capacity to be conscious of this plurality of the self, in Anzaldúa’s view, that allows for resistance, since there is an awareness which outstrips the multiple forms of oppression by viewing them together, as well as in conflict (1987, 102). Such a consciousness also allows for the possibility of “linguistic terrorism”—the creative blending of disparate languages and cultures in ways that work against the monolithic character of each (1987, 75–86). For example, Chicano Texas Spanish and Tex-Mex involve such a linguistic blending. Anzaldúa writes, “Until I am free to write bilingually and to switch codes without having always to translate … my tongue will be illegitimate” (81). And: “We are your linguistic nightmare, your linguistic aberration, your linguistic mestizaje …” (80).

While neither Haraway nor Anzaldúa explicitly discuss Raymond, it is clear that the position articulated in the The Transsexual Empire is vulnerable to their concerns. Raymond’s vision provides both an origin account as well as the promise of salvation: The original imposition of sex roles and the final achievement of integrity through freedom from them (1979, 164). And Raymond’s dismissal of integration (the mish-mash of incongruent parts) is precisely celebrated by Haraway and Anzaldúa, who have no patience for the alleged “innocence” and “purity” of integrity. Significantly, Anzaldúa identifies a state between man and woman as a site for creative resistance:

There is something compelling about being both male and female, about having an entry into both worlds. Contrary to some psychiatric tenets, half and halfs are not suffering from a confusion of sexual identity, or even from a confusion of gender. What we are suffering from is an absolute despot duality that says we are able to be only one or the other (1987, 41).

Although Stone does not explicitly use the expression “double consciousness”, it is evidently at work in her suggestion that transsexuals have learned to adopt the discourse of medicalization while doing so within a subaltern transsexual culture which fails to accurately correspond to the official account. Certainly her suggestion that transsexuals speak beyond the gender binary is anticipated in Anzaldúa’s work, as is her call to mix-and-match genres.

The differences between a vision of the self as a site for potential gender colonization /decolonization (as presupposed by Raymond) and a vision which emphasizes “mestiza consciousness” are significant. María Lugones (1990), for example, argues that the former type of vision, as articulated by philosophers such as Frye (1983), simply cannot succeed as a theory of resistance. The difficulty, in part, is that the former seems to postulate a self underlying the cultural work of oppression or at least the possibility of a self that has been or could be freed entirely from culture (or at least gender). Yet, if such a possibility is not realistic, as it seems not to be, it is hard to see how any form of resistance to oppression can get a foot-hold. How can the colonized mind be open to transformation and resistance given that it is already colonized? It is precisely this possibility of “double consciousness”, argues Lugones (1990), which makes resistance possible at all.


 III.  Quotes to supplement Paper Dolls

“Transgender people, whether academically trained or not, have of their own embodied experience, and of their relationships to the discourses and institutions that act upon and through them.  Such knowledge may be articulated from direct experience, or it may be witnessed and represented by others in an ethical fashion.”  Either way, it is “absolutely essential to contemporary critical inquiry” (p.13) Stryker

Susan Stryker, “(De)Subjugated Knowledges: An Introduction to Transgender Studies.”

The Transgender Studies Reader.  Ed. Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle. New York: Routledge, 2006.  1-17.

“Within this framework queer globalization is primarily a privileged form of ‘optic’—or a vantage point that allows a certain kind of ownership of global gayness […] and thus enables the right to claim queer spaces everywhere as ‘home’” (p.6).  Manansalan

IV.  Reading Questions: “Can the Subaltern Speak?”

  1. What are the differences between the oppressed and the subaltern? How can we apply either category to our trans of color debate?
  2. How do we relate postcolonial theory with trans of color critique?
  3. How does Muñoz’s “shifting the site” relate to subaltern speech, communication, and incorporation into hegemony as Spivak sees it? What are the politics of representation (darstellen and vertreten) in Muñoz?

Rosalind Morris’s introduction to “Can the Subaltern Speak?”

V.  On Borderlands/La Frontera

  1. How does the form in Borderlands/La Frontera inform our discussion on the shape of the discipline? What does it contribute to debates on representation, subject formation, and intersectionality?
  2. On the unity of the subject: Spivak dismisses Foucault and Deleuze’s claims on a unitary subject that is non-contradictory and known by the intellectual through which s/he speaks. Anzaldúa’s subject is self-constituted, possibly contradictory, and historically broken. Should we embrace brokenness as Anzaldúa does given the ties we can trace between the subaltern and the broken inhabitant of Aztlán?

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A Short Course on Bisexuality

Pedagogical Rationale

I have chosen to develop a two week mini-course focused on bisexuality. My own experiences with queer-centric classes have often not devoted a significant amount of time to bisexuality. There is not a comparable amount of academic study or even less formal serious discussion of bisexuality compared to gay, lesbian, or transgender studies.

The study of bisexuality is significant and beneficial to a wide range of audiences. But in producing this mini-course I have attempted to choose texts and create secondary materials that will benefit students beginning their undergraduate careers (ideally freshman and sophomores). The course may be of particular interests to bisexually identified students but there is no expectation of any specific sexual identity in producing this course. The mini-course similarly does not assume previous study in sexuality or queer theory, yet I believe the focus on bisexuality in particular would make this an attractive option to students whom have taken introduction classes in those fields wishing to learn more about bisexuality.

This topic should be of interest to students since it will allow them to learn more about an identity experienced by a large number of people. Furthermore I think this would be especially timely for entering college students especially as a time in which people are still unraveling their identities, and possibly meeting out bisexuals for the first time. Outside of a classroom setting this may be a useful course for a student gay straight alliance or a program similar to Stanford CASA, since even within the queer community bisexuality is often not afforded significant time.

There are several learning goals for students in this 2 week mini-course. The first is simply looking critically at the bisexual identity and particular issues facing the bisexual community. There will also be attention on the historical construction of bisexuality and an attempt to link some of the different historical views into a sort of bisexual genealogy. Finally students will learn the overarching premise of various foundations of queer theory and the intersections of queer theory and bisexuality. These frameworks will allow students to examine the courses primary works.

The texts described in the course sequence were chosen in support of the goals for the course listed above. I tried to find articles that presented queer theory’s relationship to bisexuality in a way that would be accessible to students. I especially like ‘Playing with Butler and Foucault…’ for providing an introduction to the queer works and gently working in bisexuality. Orlando by Virginia Woolf was included to both allow discussion of Woolf’s personal background and as an interesting treatment of sexuality. Imagine me and You was chosen as a modern representation of bisexuality in film.

In creating the materials included in the mini-course I aimed to provide handouts that would help students to provoke student engagement with the materials. The bisexual stereotyping activity was chosen to make students examine the ways in which bisexuality is currently being discussed; I thought it would be a helpful springboard for thinking more critically about bi portrayals. Similarly the reading questions for Orlando and Imagine Me and You are not the only things worth discussing in the film, but rather they made for interesting points of focus that could be taken in several different directions.

Course Sequence

Day One:

What Lesbians Think about Bisexuals YouTube –

What Gay Men Think about Bisexuals YouTube-

The Bizarre World of the Bisexual YouTube –

‘Queering Queer Theory, or Why Bisexuality Matters’

‘Playing with Butler and Foucault: Bisexuality and Queer Theory’

Day Two and Day Three:


“Passionate Debates on “Odious Subjects”: Bisexuality and Woolf’s Opposition to Theories of Androgyny and Sexual Identity”


Mrs. Dalloway

“The Sane Woman in the Attic: Sexuality and Self-Authorship in Mrs. Dalloway”

Day Four:

Imagine Me and You

Vice Versa Ch.18 Erotic Triangles

Ch. 20 The Bisexual Plot


The Hours (film)

Additional Links: 

Imagine Me And You-

Trailer :

Commentary :

Comparison with Blue is the Warmest Color:


Lesbians React to Sex Scenes :


The Hours Trailer :


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A Literary History of Feminist Sex: Packet


A Literary History of Feminist Sex

A ten-week college-level course

Designed by Annie Atura in consultation with Petra Dierkes-Thrun

December 2013


  Hustler cover, June 1978. Larry Flynt, famed Hustler editor (against whom a famous case was brought in Hustler vs. Falwell), claimed his magazine’s goal was to expose the hypocrisy of political correctness.








Course Design:

Syllabus, p. 3

Course rationale, p. 5


Sample class materials, “Pornography and the Sex Wars” unit:

Take-home research assignment, p. 8

Example for Close Reading: Legal Research on Obscenity Law in Massachusetts, p. 9

In-class activity, p. 11

Accompanying worksheet, p. 12

Handout: historical background and questions, p. 13

Bibliography, p. 19




A Literary History of Feminist Sex


This course endeavors to consider feminism’s slippery relationship to the body through texts that extol, scorn, or otherwise contend with sex’s sway over and integration with the female subject(/object). Through an eclectic mix of canonical and popular texts, we will explore how authors think through what happens to a body in the act of sex and how ways of living and being are built around conceptions of the sexual and/or chaste woman. Reading an array of work that spans from Sigmund Freud to Audre Lorde, from erotic literature to anti-pornographic polemic, we’ll earnestly seek to understand why authors over the past century have reached such disparate conclusions about the role sex should and does play in women’s emotional, political, physical, and spiritual self-expression. The course will provide a context for contemporary rhetorics of female “empowerment” and “sex-positive” feminisms, and students will be encouraged throughout the course to relate the historical narrative sketched by the texts to contemporary constructions of feminism, obscenity, and pop sexuality. The generically diverse works will be discussed in a way that draws out the theoretical in the literary and the literary in the theoretical. Students will grapple with questions concerning the nature of the explicit as a legal, philosophical, literary, and sexual category, and will explore the problems and potential of bringing female pleasures to public consciousness.

Assignments (outside of reading, participation, and small daily assignments) will consist of 1) three short (1-page) exploratory response papers to a text, to be submitted within a week of that text’s appearance in class; 2) daily questions, to be emailed an hour in advance of the course to the instructor; and 3) a final research paper that situates one of the literary texts in light of an appropriate historical or theoretical framework.



Week 1

Liberating Sex as a Concept

1. Sigmund Freud, “Dora” case study

Jane Gallup, Feminism and Psychoanalysis (excerpts)

2. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1 (excerpts)


Week 2

The New Woman

1. Kate Chopin, The Awakening

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (excerpts)

2. Kate Chopin, The Awakening (ctd.)


Week 3

Feminist Anti-Heroes

1. Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind (excerpts)

1. Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness (excerpts)


Week 4

Hysteria, Pathology, and Psychic Development

1. Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Phyllis Chesler, Women and Madness (excerpts)

2. Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (ctd.)

Elaine Showalter, Hystories (excerpts)


Week 5

Women’s Communities

1. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland

2. Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (excerpts)

Gilman, “Women and Economics” (excerpts)


Week 6

Explicit Female Sexuality

1. Audre Lorde, “On the Uses of the Erotic”

Erica Jong, Fear of Flying (excerpts)

2. Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic


Week 7

Pornography and the Sex Wars

1. Andrea Dworkin, Pornography: Men Possessing Women (excerpts)

2. Gayle Rubin, “Thinking Sex”

Linda Williams, Hard Core: Power, pleasure, and the “Frenzy of the Visible” (excerpts)


Week 8

Deconstructing the Body

1. Monique Wittig, The Lesbian Body (excerpts) and Wittig’s brief theoretical justification

Eve Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet (excerpts)

2. Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body


Week 9

S&M and its discontents

1. Pauline Réage, The Story of O with the original introduction by Jean Paulhan

2. E.L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey (excerpts)



Course Rationale:


The course I’ve designed has three interrelated goals: 1) to familiarize students with the evolving historical relationship of feminism to sex as manifest in both popular and theoretical texts, thereby educating them in both literary analysis and in history; 2) to unseat students’ notions of a hegemonic and/or consistent feminism by presenting feminism as a dynamic enterprise that is both historically situated and constantly challenging itself; and 3) to challenge processes of canonization and to think critically as feminists about the production of WGSS syllabi and their coincident dogmas. The course is designed for students mature enough to discuss sex and sexuality as important theoretical concepts and cultural constructs—that is, they must have reached something resembling college-level maturity. Though students must enter with a certain degree of comfort with talking about sex, however, the course also endeavors to equip students with the tools they need to articulate more clearly how sex functions as an important legal, theoretical, and emotional battleground. It will soon become apparent that we aren’t reading about sex for “pleasure” as commonly construed (though it’s my hope that the pointedly popular and often whimsical reading list will attract students who would otherwise not consider themselves to be literary scholars).

Students are intended to leave the course with a sense of how the struggle over what sex means offers an inroad into exploring and ultimately understanding any number of contemporary issues facing women and feminism. Whether or not the personal is political, the question of whether or not the personal is political is certainly political. It is ultimately the question of whether we can divorce sex from meaning or fantasy from reality, and whether we would want to if we could, that I would like students of the course to consider. Indeed, the class will challenge students to consider whether the two poles (political vs. apolitical personal praxis) really exist at all, or whether the fact that one must wrestle with the question of whether sex is political means that sex will always be political, that it must always symbolize something other than itself—even in cases in which it symbolizes precisely the explicit and un-symbolic and seeks to resist identification with politics altogether.

The arc of the reading assignments endeavors to prepare students to deal with increasingly knotty dilemmas for the feminist writer and consumer. The course begins with a basic background in the psychologization of female sex—via the Freud case study—and in the psychologization of that psychologization—via Foucault. I hope that this difficult pair of theoretical texts (together with the Gallup, which valiantly attempts to recuperate Freud for feminists) will provide a useful framework for both reading into sexuality and for being skeptical of our desire to read into it. Each of the scholars is attempting to grapple with what sex means even as they produce a kind of literary pornography themselves; each graphically depicts sex and violence (especially in fantasy) and emphasizes the psychic import of making fantasy explicit.

The Awakening, a classic in the feminist canon, will follow on the heels of the theory to ease students into a discussion of how sexuality has been historically understood as both a liberating force for women and one that leads inexorably to their dissolution and demise. (The Awakening, the reader will recall, is the story of a housewife and mother who discovers sexuality but effectively abandons her children and finally walks into and drowns in the very sea that symbolizes her desire.) In conjunction with A Room of One’s Own, The Awakening will also help to articulate how and why space is such an important concept in thinking through questions of how sexuality is enabled and performed.

Gone with the Wind and The Well of Loneliness will both present alternatives to the liberated Edna of Chopin’s imagination: these women, though also sexually “liberated,” express that liberation not only by acting like men but also by adopting many vices and blind spots that are coded masculine. These texts, which feature feminist anti-heroes, express ambivalence about the mayhem that springs from sexual awakening (as the Chopin does), and their tendency toward romance and melodrama will be an interesting entrée into the importance of genre in texts by and for women about women’s relationship to sex (a theme that will be most pointedly recapitulated in the Williams text, which focuses on the nature and meaning of genre).

The Bell Jar and Woman and Madness will continue the theme of dissolution accompanying the recognition of injustice in sex, but it will be the first text we read to obsess over the injustice of women’s forced identification with sex as meaning. That is, in Plath, sexuality is meaningful in explaining hysteria precisely because it means for women and does not mean for men; in Plath, men have sex because sex is understood to be a natural need, but women’s very identity and development are culturally cathected with their sexual experience or lack thereof. The Showalter will help to trace and stretch the historical roots of hysteria and its relationship to the feminine and to sex. (After all, it would be doing students something of a disservice not to have a section on hysteria in a class about female sexuality, and I don’t want to assume that students will enter with a fully formed concept of what hysteria has historically signified and why it’s an important concept in unfolding the canon of mad heroines.)

Herland and The Feminine Mystique will be something of a break for the students; they’re both sublimely readable and upbeat texts whose basic stance towards sexuality will likely feel familiar to the class. Both present the emancipated woman as a citizen who wants much more than sex, and who yearns for concrete triumphs outside the home and for connections with other women (this is a simplification, of course, but a useful one). Plath’s gripping story of self-destruction and alienation in the face of a blatantly inhospitable world presents the feminist relationship to sex as one of loathing, resentment, and disgust, and the Gilman and Friedan texts largely share that attitude; but where Plath’s work presents a dystopic reality the Friedan and Gilman offer a utopic fantasy. These two fiction-heavy weeks will present something of an idea of how and why some feminists approach sex as a threat to their well-being and to that of their society. These texts also juxtapose the isolated female against the community-oriented, social female, and point up the importance of the literary project itself in fomenting feminist community.

Having established basic fictional background in feminism’s relationship to sexuality writ large, the class will move into exploring what sex as an act comes to signify in literature. The next segment will weave “On the Uses of the Erotic” and Fear of Flying together to introduce explicit female sexuality and consider why making female sexuality explicit was a transgressive and historically meaningful act. Fun Home will extend this idea to homosexual sex—we will explore why Bechdel’s confessional style and open homosexuality are important thematically—but the graphic novel will also complicate the idea that ascribing meaning to sexuality is necessarily healthy. (After all, as we discussed as a class, the book suggests that Bechdel’s meaning-making is, to a certain extent, symptomatic of her neuroses and insecurities.)

I chose the subsequent section on Pornography and the Sex Wars to unpack in my sample class materials because it demands historical grounding more than some of the other syllabus categories do—not only because it inhabited a very specific potent (and entertaining!) historical moment in the 70s and 80s, but also because without careful historical contextualization on the part of the professor the assigned sources about pornography might overwhelm students unaccustomed to thinking about obscenity and pornography against the cultural grain, i.e., through the lens of the social critic rather than that of the consumer. The texts—by Dworkin, Rubin, and Williams—all contend with the boundaries (or lack thereof) between fantasy and reality, and they take pains to close-read texts even as they incorporate rigorous historical research. The methodological montage within each of these texts (which are otherwise quite different) will be a fruitful jumping-off point for the class to consider what it means to produce feminist research and what it means to read with a feminist eye on the lived experience of women’s sexual practices.

The section on “Deconstructing the Body” offers a cerebral step back from pornography into the realm of the body as a purely discursive construct. The theme of all three texts—Wittig, Winterson, and Sedgwick—is how language becomes embodied, and how feminists can intervene in language to deconstruct and reconstruct the body in accordance with their own ideologies. It’s my hope that this rather heady work will make more sense after the assault on the senses of the pornography week. These works, too, are concerned with how and what the body means, but they all but entirely erase the pornographic sense (or fiction) of a whole and intelligible body.

The final week, “S&M and its Discontents,” offers two strange, fun, and unapologetically salacious texts—both runaway commercial successes—that make no outward claims to feminism, and yet whose raison d’être is to explore how and whether women can reclaim agency through surrendering it. One book considered high-brow and the other low-brow, both are extremely intense love stories between a single man and a single woman, and both are told from the point of view of a woman who is effectively seduced into masochistic role-play (if “role-play” can be said to extend to an entire lifestyle). It’s my hope that by closing on this note students will be able to flex their newly developed critical muscles to come to their own conclusion about the role of feminism in popular erotic literature in their own cultural milieu.

The assignments I have devised grew from my desire to bring the questions raised by the course to life, to force students to inhabit them and to consider them seriously in the context of history and of their own personal/political/personal-political lives. It’s important to me that the course constantly challenge the students to examine their own beliefs and to consider what these issues’ very intimate ideological demands say about them as issues. Therefore, in addition to providing handouts that paint a general historical background with which to understand both the texts and the evolution of the feminist movement in the U.S., I will ask students to do research into how these issues have actually been interpreted legally, socially, and scientifically. The options listed in the take-home assignment are designed to afford students an opportunity to approach pornography from a disciplinary angle that they’re comfortable with or otherwise invested in. Hopefully, the research will complicate the ways the students think about defining and controlling pornography, and will force them to consider the real-world implications of theorizing pornography as well as the potential illogic of theorizing pornography.

The second activity I provide, an in-class activity, requires group metacognition about how these texts are conveyed and metabolized. It’s my hope that the group work will spark productive disagreement about how fictional texts could be construed to advance or detract from the causes of anti-pornographic and anti-censorship feminism, and that the worksheet/checklist will bring out interesting patterns in which aspects of pornography (particularly as identified by Dworkin) are to be found in texts that contend to be anti-pornographic. Assigning students to a side of the debate will, I hope, encourage students to suspend their personal biases in the interest of exploring both systems of thought and collaborating with peers who potentially hold conflicting values with an open mind.

The overall aim of the course—an ambitious one, admittedly—is to make students more reflective, motivated, historically grounded, and disciplinarily flexible feminist thinkers. It aspires to give them a better theoretical toolkit with which to make personal and political readings and decisions of their own. I hope these materials will be of use to teachers and students who might use them to inspire their own courses and private investigations.




Take-Home Investigation:


In preparation for the first class of the “Pornography and the Sex Wars” unit, choose a take-home research assignment from the following. The information you’re looking for may be in the public domain and available through simple Googling, but it may require recourse to databases to which the university subscribes. For example, you will probably want to look in scholarly databases for psychology, sociology, and/or anthropology if you choose 3-4, and you may need to consult legal databases for more esoteric responses to 1 or 2. Keep in mind that a librarian will be well equipped to help you with your research, should you find yourself stuck; they can be very beneficial in getting the hang of navigating scholastic sources. Do not just search on the web and come to class with sources of dubious historical and/or scientific accuracy.


The options are:


  1. Uncover and compare three legal definitions of “pornography” since the turn of the twentieth century. What strikes you about these definitions? Does their evolution follow a clear narrative/historical arc? If you’re interested: how are these definitions practically applied in contemporaneous court cases?
  2. Disinter at least two sets of contemporaneous definitions of “pornography” and “obscenity.” How are they distinguished? How does that distinction evolve?
  3. Consider at least two studies of the effects of pornography on the brain (i.e., physiological, not social) published in peer-reviewed journals within the last ten years. Do they affirm or contradict the cultural criticism we’ve read?
  4. Compare at least two studies of the social (i.e., not physiological) effects of pornography published in peer-reviewed journals within the last ten years. What are the conclusions of these studies, and what are their assumptions?


Bring copies of the pertinent materials to class and be prepared to discuss your findings. We will be close reading the texts as a group with an eye on the following questions:

  1. Where do your sources differ and where do they agree?
  2. Is there language that suggests value judgment? Is there language that’s unusual, provocative, jarring, or otherwise of interest?
  3. How clear or ambiguous are the definitions and/or assertions of the sources, and what do you think is the rhetorical use of that clarity or ambiguity?


Please consider the next pages for an example of research on obscenity and pornography law in Massachusetts.



Example: Obscenity definition


The following information is drawn from official government documentation available at


Contemporary legal definitions pertinent to pornography law in Massachusetts:

Section 31. As used in sections twenty-eight, twenty-eight C, twenty-eight D, twenty-eight E, twenty-nine, twenty-nine A, twenty-nine B, thirty and thirty D, the following words shall, unless the context requires otherwise, have the following meanings:—

“Disseminate”, to import, publish, produce, print, manufacture, distribute, sell, lease, exhibit or display.

“Harmful to minors”, matter is harmful to minors if it is obscene or, if taken as a whole, it (1) describes or represents nudity, sexual conduct or sexual excitement, so as to appeal predominantly to the prurient interest of minors; (2) is patently contrary to prevailing standards of adults in the county where the offense was committed as to suitable material for such minors; and (3) lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.

“Knowing”, a general awareness of the character of the matter.

“Lascivious intent”, a state of mind in which the sexual gratification or arousal of any person is an objective. For the purposes of prosecution under this chapter, proof of lascivious intent may include, but shall not be limited to, the following:

(1) whether the circumstances include sexual behavior, sexual relations, infamous conduct of a lustful or obscene nature, deviation from accepted customs and manners, or sexually oriented displays;

(2) whether the focal point of a visual depiction is the child’s genitalia, pubic area, or breast area of a female child;

(3) whether the setting or pose of a visual depiction is generally associated with sexual activity;

(4) whether the child is depicted in an unnatural pose or inappropriate attire, considering the child’s age;

(5) whether the depiction denotes sexual suggestiveness or a willingness to engage in sexual activity;

(6) whether the depiction is of a child engaging in or being engaged in sexual conduct, including, but not limited to, sexual intercourse, unnatural sexual intercourse, bestiality, masturbation, sado-masochistic behavior, or lewd exhibition of the genitals.

“Minor”, a person under eighteen years of age.

“Nudity”, uncovered or less than opaquely covered human genitals, pubic areas, the human female breast below a point immediately above the top of the areola, or the covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state. For purposes of this definition, a female breast is considered uncovered if the nipple or areola only are covered.

“Matter”, any handwritten or printed material, visual representation, live performance or sound recording including, but not limited to, books, magazines, motion picture films, pamphlets, phonographic records, pictures, photographs, figures, statues, plays, dances, or any electronic communication including, but not limited to, electronic mail, instant messages, text messages, and any other communication created by means of use of the Internet or wireless network, whether by computer, telephone, or any other device or by any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photo-electronic or photo-optical system.

“Performance”, any play, dance, exhibit, or such similar activity performed before one or more persons.

“Obscene”, matter is obscene if taken as a whole it

(1) appeals to the prurient interest of the average person applying the contemporary standards of the county where the offense was committed;

(2) depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way; and

(3) lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

“Sexual conduct”, human masturbation, sexual intercourse, actual or simulated, normal or perverted, any lewd exhibitions of the genitals, flagellation or torture in the context of a sexual relationship, any lewd touching of the genitals, pubic areas, or buttocks of the human male or female, or the breasts of the female, whether alone or between members of the same or opposite sex or between humans and animals, and any depiction or representation of excretory functions in the context of a sexual relationship. Sexual intercourse is simulated when it depicts explicit sexual intercourse which gives the appearance of the consummation of sexual intercourse, normal or perverted.

“Sexual excitement”, the condition of human male or female genitals or the breasts of the female while in a state of sexual stimulation or the sensual experiences of humans engaging in or witnessing sexual conduct or nudity.

“Visual material”, any motion picture film, picture, photograph, videotape, book, magazine, pamphlet that contains pictures, photographs or similar visual representations or reproductions, or depiction by computer, telephone or any other device capable of electronic data storage or transmission. Undeveloped photographs, pictures, motion picture films, videotapes and similar visual representations or reproductions may be visual materials notwithstanding that processing, development or similar acts may be required to make the contents thereof apparent.


Contemporary Massachusetts law concerning “obscene books”:

Section 28C. Whenever there is reasonable cause to believe that a book which is being disseminated, or is in the possession of any person who intends to disseminate the same, is obscene, the attorney general, or any district attorney within his district, shall bring an information or petition in equity in the superior court directed against said book by name. Upon the filing of such information or petition in equity, a justice of the superior court shall, if, upon a summary examination of the book, he is of opinion that there is reasonable cause to believe that such book is obscene, issue an order of notice, returnable in or within thirty days, directed against such book by name and addressed to all persons interested in the dissemination thereof, to show cause why said book should not be judicially determined to be obscene. Notice of such order shall be given by publication once each week for two successive weeks in a daily newspaper published in the city of Boston and, if such information or petition be filed in any county other than Suffolk county, then by publication also in a daily newspaper published in such other county. A copy of such order of notice shall be sent by registered mail to the publisher of said book, to the person holding the copyrights, and to the author, in case the names of any such persons appear upon said book, fourteen days at least before the return day of such order of notice. After the issuance of an order of notice under the provisions of this section, the court shall, on motion of the attorney general or district attorney, make an interlocutory finding and adjudication that said book is obscene, which finding and adjudication shall be of the same force and effect as the final finding and adjudication provided in section twenty-eight E or section twenty-eight F, but only until such final finding and adjudication is made or until further order of the court. It shall be an affirmative defense under this section if the evidence proves that the defendant was a bona fide school, museum or library, or was acting in the course of his employment as an employee of such organization or of a retail outlet affiliated with and serving the educational purpose of such organization.






In-Class Activity:

Taking Sides


Imagine you’re either an anti-censorship or an anti-pornography feminist in the tradition of the texts we have read this week. (We’ll assign “teams” in class.) Brainstorm with your group about how your kind of feminist might interpret the texts we have read together thus far. Which texts would they want to include on their own syllabi, and how would they teach them? (Assume that you don’t have time to teach them all; you must prioritize.) Can you think of other materials you might include? Books you’ve read? Movies you’ve watched? Primary materials—visual, audial, and ephemeral, as well as written?


In the last twenty minutes of class, each group will present their envisioned syllabus and articulate the rationale behind assembling it.


To help you fully consider which texts to include and how to support including them, please complete the attached table with your group. Which aspects of potentially problematic pornography does each text include, and how does it mobilize those aspects? A few spaces are left blank for you to enter and analyze texts of your own choosing.


Laying Claim: Texts as Anti-Porn or Anti-Censorship


Which texts include which aspects? What do those aspects signify in their respective contexts?


  Non-normative sexuality Explicit sexuality Violence against women Association of men or masculinity with power Glorification of pain Association of sex with freedom
Freud, “Dora” case            
Gallup, Psychoanalysis            
Foucault, History            
Gilman, Herland            
Friedan, Feminine            

The Bell Jar

Chesler, Madness            
Chopin, Awakening            

A Room

Mitchell, GWTW            
Hall, Well of Loneliness            
Dworkin, Pornography            
Rubin, Thinking Sex            
Williams, Hard Core            












Pornography and the Sex Wars!

A historical background


The basics:

The so-called “Sex Wars” (also “Feminist Sex Wars” or “Porn Wars”) marked a period of sharp internal disagreement in the feminist movement. In the simplest terms, it pitted two camps of feminists against one another. One camp sought to protect women from the perceived violence of sex and sexuality in contemporary culture by banning pornography and hypersexualization in the media and by combatting demeaning sexual practices; the other camp sought to empower women by defending and promoting sexual freedom in many forms, including but not limited to deviant sexual practices and gender identities, public sexuality, pornography, and sex work. Sexuality has always been a knotty issue in the feminist movement (as we have seen), but the Sex Wars focused public attention on the issue, and resulted in intense factionalization of the women’s movement—specifically along lines of sexual identification, as trans- and lesbian women, together with women who participated in sadomasochism and/or sex work, were alienated from the sometimes heteronormative anti-porn movement. The feminist movements surrounding pornography erupted into public consciousness around the mid-seventies; the hot-button issue’s rise to prominence is linked to the founding of Women Against Violence Against Women in 1976. In 1984, Andrea Dworkin (see below) and Catharine MacKinnon succeeded in passing the law they coauthored that censored pornography and defined it as a violation of the civil rights of women and children. In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled that the Dworkin/MacKinnon law was unconstitutional. Subsequently, the Sex Wars died down and were no longer the focus of the public eye; media attention shifted instead to the AIDS epidemic and the concomitant dispute over teaching and practicing safe sex. The end of the Sex Wars is sometimes cited as marking the fall of second-wave feminism.



The following timeline is adapted from Sex Wars: Sexual Dissent and Political Culture by Lisa Duggan and Nan Hunter.

  • 1966: The National Organization for Women (NOW) is formed; part of its mission is to remedy and correct false representations of women in the media.
  • The Masters and Johnson research team publishes findings that women are multi-orgasmic and experience both vaginal and clitoral orgasm.
  • 1968: Radical women in NYC protest the Miss America pageant by crowning a sheep and encouraging women to burn “bras, girdles, curlers, false eyelashes, wigs and representative issues of Cosmopolitan, Ladies’ Home Journal, Family Circle, etc” in a “freedom trashcan” (thus spawning the myth of bra-burning feminists). The feminists who run the protest connect the pageant to pornography: “Miss America and Playboy’s centerfold are sisters over the skin. To win approval, we must be both sexy and wholesome.”
  • 1969: The Stonewall Riots, commonly recognized as the beginning of the gay rights movement, erupt.
  • Women hold demonstrations against Playboy Clubs across the country; students at Grinnell College stage a “nude-in” in response to a Playboy representative’s talk on “Playboy philosophy” (the rep is asked by the protestors to disrobe and flees in response).
  • 1970: The President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography recommends the repeal of all laws blocking the distribution of sexually explicit material to consenting adults and also recommends the implementation of institutionalized sex education. Congress begins funding family planning services.
  • The Dialectic of Sex by Shulamith Firestone and Sisterhood is Powerful edited by Robin Morgan are published. Both are cited by Dworkin as inspirations for her anti-pornographic polemic.
  • off our backs begins publication in Washington, D.C.
  • 1971: Discord strikes the Women’s National Abortion Conference; delegates demand the repeal of all abortion laws and the elimination of forced sterilizations, but they are divided about whether to demand “freedom of sexual expression;” the demand is ultimately voted down and many women delegates walk out in protest.
  • Extant women’s groups experience a mass exodus of lesbians who feel unwelcome or inadequately represented. For example: the lesbian constituents of off our backs form The Furies.
  • Rape crisis centers open around the country.
  • NOW creates the NOW Media Task Force to monitor the role and images of women in media.
  • 1972: Supreme Court rules that unmarried persons have the same right to contraceptives as married persons.
  • Congress passes the Equal Rights Amendment.
  • 1973: Roe v. Wade legalizes abortion.
  • Miller v. California redefines obscenity and makes it easier to prosecute. The new precedent defines obscenity as that which lacks “serious” artistic or social value rather than as that which is “utterly without redeeming social value.”
  • The National Black Feminist Organization is created.
  • COYOTE (Call Off Your Tired Old Ethics) is formed to advocate for the legalization of sex work.
  • 1974: Battered women’s movement first stirs; the first shelter for battered women opens in St. Paul.
  • Betty Dodson self-publishes Liberating Masturbation after five thousand women respond to a notice in Ms. Magazine offering a booklet on women and masturbation.
  • 1975: Against Our Will by Susan Brownmiller proves an influential feminist study of rape, but is criticized for race and class bias.
  • 1976: Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW) is founded in Los Angeles.
  • Women Against Violence in Pornography and the Media (WAVPM) is founded in San Francisco.
  • 1978: Lesbians and gays in California successfully advocate for the defeat the Briggs Initiative, a ballot proposal that would require the state to fire any employee, gay or straight, who advocated for gay rights.
  • WAVPM organizes the conference “Feminist Perspectives on Pornography,” culminating in a march of women 5,000 strong supporting the outlawing of pornography.
  • 1979: Samois, the lesbian S/M group of which Gayle Rubin was a part, holds its first public forum and denounces the equation of consensual sadomasochism with violence.
  • Women Against Pornography (WAP) forms in New York; it leads tours through 42nd street and disavows censorship.
  • Pornography: Men Possessing Women by Dworkin is published.
  • 1980: Take Back the Night, an anthology of anti-pornography writing, is published.
  • WAVPM sponsors a forum on S/M at Berkeley that isn’t friendly to the practice; Samois pickets.
  • NOW passes a resolution condemning pornography and S/M as exploitation and violence.
  • 1981: Coming to Power, an anthology of essays and fiction concerning lesbian S/M, is published by Samois.
  • This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color is published.
  • “GRID,” gay-related immune deficiency, makes its appearance in New York and Los Angeles.
  • 1982: A conference at Barnard takes “pleasure and danger” as its theme, and ends up provoking WAP protests it had sought to avoid. (WAP t-shirts read “Against S/M”.)
  • The deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment passes.
  • 1983: Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin draft an ordinance to ban pornography in Minneapolis.
  • The CDC recommends avoiding sexual contact with persons “known or suspected” to have AIDS.
  • 1984: The Minneapolis ordinance passes City Council but is vetoed by the mayor; a revised version is signed into law in Indianapolis but a court order declares it unconstitutional.
  • FACT (Feminist Anti-Censorship Taskforce) opposes the Dworkin/MacKinnon legislation on feminist grounds.
  • Lesbian sex magazines, including Bad Attitude and On Our Backs, begin publishing.
  • 1985: Attorney General Edwin Meese forms a commission “to address the serious national problem of pornography.”
  • Over 12,000 Americans, including Rock Hudson, have AIDS.
  • 1986: The US Supreme Court rules that the Indianapolis ordinance is unconstitutional.
  • The Meese Commission’s final report condemns “violent” pornography (including S/M pornography) but comes to no consensus about whether to outlaw explicit depictions of sex outside of marriage.
  • Bowers v. Hardwick rules that the right to privacy does not protect homosexual sex.
  • 1986: 36,000 Americans have AIDS and Reagan speaks on the issue for the first time, demanding that all immigrants and prisoners are screened for the disease.
  • 1988: Reagan’s “gag rule” prevents federally funded family planning clinics from informing clients of abortion options.



About the authors we read this week:

Andrea Dworkin (1946-2005) produced ten books on radical feminism (of which Pornography and Intercourse are most widely cited), wrote fiction, and worked as an activist. She became an outspoken leader of the antipornography movement, arguing that pornography is intimately connected to rape and violence against women. A Jew originally from New Jersey whose parents spoke often of the Holocaust (a theme that frequently appears in her writing), Dworkin was molested in a movie theater at the age of nine. In college she spent time in prison for protesting the war and claimed she was abused by the guards, who gave her an internal examination that she said resulted in her bleeding for weeks. Her testimony concerning her treatment in prison gained national attention, and a few years later the prison was closed. After getting her degree in literature from Bennington, Dworkin moved to the Netherlands and married an anarchist she met there. He was physically abusive and continued to pursue and harass her even after she divorced him. She worked as a prostitute for a period and saved up money to get back to the United States. While in the Netherlands, Dworkin worked on fragments of radical feminist writing with Ricki Abrams, a fellow expat radical feminist, and when Dworkin returned to the United States 1972 she published Woman Hating. In New York, she became a prominent activist and speaker for lesbian rights and against war and violence against women. Dworkin spoke at the first Take Back the Night march through the Red Light district of San Francisco. In 1980, Linda Boreman made public, with Dworkin’s support, that she had been coerced into making Deep Throat and other pornography by her ex-husband; in the end, Boreman did not press charges, but Dworkin referred to the incident repeatedly in her writing. After a brief stint as a professor, the Minneapolis city government hired Dworkin along with the constitutional lawyer Catharine MacKinnon to draft a city ordinance banning pornography. The resulting piece was passed twice by city council but vetoed by the mayor. Dworkin continued to fight for the legislation and for a decade promoted similar bills around the country through a variety of voter initiatives. Dworkin’s testimony before the Attorney General led to the Meese Commission’s ban of magazines like Playboy and Penthouse from convenience stores; the Supreme Court ruled the Meese Commission initiatives unconstitutional under the First Amendment in Meese v. Playboy. Dworkin eventually married her life partner, fellow feminist John Stoltenberg, but Dworkin continued to identify as a lesbian and Stoltenberg continued to identify as gay.

Gayle Rubin (1949- ) is a Professor of Anthropology and a practicing cultural anthropologist whose work focuses on urban sexual subcultures, feminism, and deviance. In 1975 she was made famous by her article “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex,” which argues, among other things, for the differentiation of sex and gender. She moved to San Francisco in 1978 to study gay men’s leather culture and was one of the founders of Samois, the first known lesbian S&M group. Rubin became active in the sex wars as a sex-positive feminist. She has been a part of a number of public historical projects, including the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project and the Leather Archive and Museum; she advocates for publicizing and honoring sexual minorities to counteract society’s dangerous ignorance and/or refusal of benign sexual variation.

Linda Williams (1946- ) is a film scholar and feminist. She famously theorizes what she calls “body genres,” namely pornography, horror, and melodrama; she claims that all three are characterized by their emphasis on producing corporeal responses in their viewers, and all three encourage the viewer to physically mimic the physical reactions they see on screen (ejaculating, screaming, crying). She employs a wide range of theoretical approaches, including but not limited to Marxism, New Historicism, and Lacanian psychoanalysis. She also takes a special interest in the intersection of race with feminist issues of representation.




“Pornography is the theory; rape is the practice.” –Robin Morgan


Defining “hard-core pornography:” “I know it when I see it.” –Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart
“Men are visually aroused by women’s bodies and less sensitive to their arousal by women’s personalities because they are trained early into that response, while women are less visually aroused and more emotionally aroused because that is their training. This asymmetry in sexual education maintains men’s power in the myth: They look at women’s bodies, evaluate, move on; their own bodies are not looked at, evaluated, and taken or passed over. But there is no ‘rock called gender’ responsible for that; it can change so that real mutuality–an equal gaze, equal vulnerability, equal desire–brings heterosexual men and women together.” –Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women


“One man’s pornography is another man’s theology.” –Clive Barker


“I don’t know what the definition of pornography is and nobody else does either. Pornography is somebody else’s erotica that you don’t like. People are interested in their own sexuality and they’ve always reflected it in their art. End of story.” –Erica Jong


“Another unary photograph is the pornographic photograph (I am not saying the erotic photograph: the erotic is a pornographic that has been disturbed, fissured). Nothing more homogeneous than a pornographic photograph. It is always a naive photograph, without intention and without calculation. Like a shop window which shows only one illuminated piece of jewelry, it is completely constituted by the presentation of only one thing: sex: no secondary, untimely object ever manages to half conceal, delay, or distract… A proof a contrario: Mapplethorpe shifts his close-ups of genitalia from the pornographic to the erotic by photographing the fabric of underwear at very close range: the photograph is no longer unary, since I am interested in the texture of the material.
The presence (the dynamics) of this blind field is, I believe, what distinguishes the erotic photograph from the pornographic photograph. Pornography ordinarily represents the sexual organs, making them into a motionless object (a fetish), flattered like an idol that does not leave its niche; for me, there is no punctum in the pornographic image; at most it amuses me (and even then, boredom follows quickly). The erotic photograph, on the contrary (and this is its very condition), does not make the sexual organs into a central object; it may very well not show them at all; it takes the spectator outside its frame, and it is there that I animate this photograph and that it animates me.” –Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography


“Prostitution, perversion, and pornography are intertwined with independence and radical politics in the history of outstanding women. Radclyffe Hall, Colette, Anaïs Nin, Kate Millett, Erica Jong–all of these women used the money they made from writing about sexuality to make it possible for them to live as rebels, dykes, feminists, artists, or whatever deviant and defiant identities they assumed.” –Pat Califia, Some Women


“Any violation of a woman’s body can become sex for men; this is the essential truth of pornography.” –Andrea Dworkin


“Machines were the ideal metaphor for the central pornographic fantasy of the nineteenth century, rape followed by gratitude.” –Robert Hughes, The Shock of the New


“The most pernicious message relayed by pornography is that women are natural sexual prey to men and love it; that sexuality and violence are congruent; and that for women sex is essentially masochistic, humiliation pleasurable, physical abuse erotic. But along with this message comes another, not always recognized: that enforced submission and the use of cruelty, if played out in heterosexual pairing, is sexually “normal,” while sensuality between women, including erotic mutuality and respect, is “queer,” “sick,” and either pornographic in itself or not very exciting compared with the sexuality of whips and bondage. Pornography does not simply create a climate in which sex and violence are interchangeable; it widens the range of behavior considered
acceptable from men in heterosexual intercourse-behavior which reiteratively strips women of their autonomy, dignity, and sexual potential, including the potential of loving and being loved by women in mutuality and integrity.” –Adrienne Rich, Compulsory Heterosexuaity and Lesbian Existence




How do the authors we read today distinguish fantasy from reality, if at all? What can this distinction teach us about how the authors intend for us to consume literature writ large? Consider how the authors use stories in their arguments as well as talk about stories as objects of study.


Think about the role of history in the arguments made by all three authors. How is history knit together with theory? What do you notice about the concrete versus the abstract in the form as well as the content of the authors’ work?


How do the authors’ personal stories and subject positions figure into their work? Why might that relationship be important to them, to their argument, and to their reception?


Describe the language used by the authors. How would you characterize their rhetoric? To whom does it appeal? What does it evoke? What’s the role of the poetic or the literary?


How does each thinker approach defining pornography, obscenity, feminism, and sex? What components unite their definitions, and what components distinguish them?




Bibliography: Further Resources for Reference and Research


Boyle, Karen. Everyday Pornography. London: Routledge, 2010.

Bronstein, Carolyn. Battling Pornography : the American Feminist Anti-pornography Movement, 1976-1986. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Caught Looking : Feminism, Pornography & Censorship. 2nd ed. Seattle: Real Comet Press, 1988.

Cornell, Drucilla. Feminism and Pornography. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Cornell, Drucilla. The Imaginary Domain : Abortion, Pornography and Sexual Harassment. New York: Routledge, 1995.

Corrêa, Sonia, Rosalind P Petchesky, and Richard Parker. Sexuality, Health and Human Rights. London: Routledge, 2008.

Dines, Gail. Pornland : How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, 2010.

Donnerstein, Edward I, Daniel Linz, and Steven Penrod. The Question of Pornography : Research Findings and Policy Implications. New York: Free Press , 1987.

Duggan, Lisa, and Nan D Hunter. Sex Wars : Sexual Dissent and Political Culture. New York: Routledge, 1995.

Dworkin, Andrea. Pornography. New York: Putnam, 1981.

Faust, Beatrice. Women, Sex, and Pornography : a Controversial and Unique Study. 1st American ed. New York: Macmillan, 1980.

Gibson, Pamela Church, and Roma Gibson. Dirty Looks : Women, Pornography, Power. London: BFI Publishing, 1993.

Henry, Astrid. “The Third Wave Does the Sex Wars.” Not My Mother’s Sister : Generational Conflict and Third-wave Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004.

Hines, Claire, and Darren Kerr. Hard to Swallow : Hard-core Pornography On Screen. London: Wallflower Press, 2012.

Johnson, Merri Lisa. Third Wave Feminism and Television : Jane Puts it In a Box. London: I.B. Tauris, 2007.

Kuo, Lenore. Prostitution Policy : Revolutionizing Practice Through a Gendered Perspective. New York: New York University Press, 2002.

Martindale, Kathleen. Un/popular Culture : Lesbian Writing After the Sex Wars. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1997.

Nagel, Joane. Race, Ethnicity, and Sexuality : Intimate Intersections, Forbidden Frontiers. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Piette, Adam. “Cold War, Sex War, or the Other Being Inside.” The Literary Cold War, 1945 to Vietnam. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009.

Piontek, Thomas. “Queering the Rhetoric of the Gay Male Sex Wars.” Queering Gay and Lesbian Studies. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006.

Rich, B. Ruby. Chick Flicks : Theories and Memories of the Feminist Film Movement. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1998.

Rubin, Gayle. Deviations : a Gayle Rubin Reader. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.

Taormino, Tristan. The Feminist Porn Book : the Politics of Producing Pleasure. New York City: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 2013.

Wheeler, Leigh Ann. Against Obscenity : Reform and the Politics of Womanhood In America, 1873-1935. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.

Williams, Linda. Hard Core : Power, Pleasure, and the “frenzy of the Visible”. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.

Williams, Linda. Porn Studies. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.

Williams, Linda. Screening Sex. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008.

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Heteronormativity and Queer Identity

Audience and Goals

The target audience for this mini-course is high school students involved in a voluntary and relatively small Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) or similar program. Students would imaginably have some knowledge of the modern gay rights movement (especially the gay marriage debate), but little to no knowledge of anti-assimilationist queer movements. They will not be expected to have dealt with the idea of heteronormativity. The goal of this course is to define and raise questions about heteronormativity, its institutions (especially the couple) and its effect on queer individuals and identities.

Lesson Plan

Day One:

Because students are not expected to have experience with the ideas of heteronormativity, the first two lessons will be designed to give them an introduction to anti-assimilationist queer arguments and the stakes of resisting heteronormativity. Before the first class, students will read the Queer Nation Manifesto. During the first class, we will discuss the frustrations with heteronormativity presented in the Manifesto. The main topic to be explored here is that of straight privilege and the ways it manifests and supports itself in heteronormative media, AIDS-related medical care, common religion and morality, and in the “stroking” of (suspiciously) sympathetic heterosexuals by “angry queers” in this “arrogant, heterosexist world.” Reception of these ideas will likely be widely varied; however, the goal of the first session is to establish these ideas. In the next session, there will be a mock debate designed to disconnect students from their personal views. For the rest of the first session, students will construct a mind-map (described below) of “the couple.” These are some traits that students would imaginably give: monogamy, marriage, love, completion, happiness, children, tax breaks. Alternatively, students could brainstorm famous contemporary and historical couples and describe the traits they associate with these examples. This list will be kept, revisited and added to after finishing other works.


Queer Nation Manifesto. History is a Weapon. Web. 8 May 2013, <> (accessed December 12, 2013).

Day Two:

At the end of the first day, students will be assigned the Polikoff and Marx readings. They will also be given teams for the mock debate activity (described below), which will take up most of the second session. After the debate, students will ideally have a better idea of the arguments against heteronormativity via Polikoff, Marx and the Queer Nation Manifesto. Before the session ends, students will return to the mind map that was started the day before in order to add new insights to their definition of “the couple.”


  • Polikoff, Nancy. “Ending Marriage As We Know It.” Hofstra Law Review 32.201 (2004): 201-232. Print.
  • Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. by Robert C. Tucker, New York, NY: Norton, 1978, pp. 734-751.  Print.

Days Three and Four:

Days three and four will be used to discuss Giovanni’s Room. (Reading questions to be given to the students can be found below.) The goal of including this text is to give an example of the effects a heteronormative culture can have on the psychologies and identities of queer individuals. The book will be spread across both days with reading questions for both sessions. At the end of each session, the students will return again to the idea of “the couple,” supplying and discussing new understandings of the terms from the earlier sessions and including newly discovered aspects of the couple.


Baldwin, James. Giovanni’s Room. New York, NY: Delta, 2000. Print.

Description of Readings

Queer Nation Manifesto: Students will read the Queer Nation Manifesto before the first session. The goal of this text is to expose students to a particularly radical queer argument against assimilation into heteromormative society. It is expected that students will not have encountered these ideas before. Students may be resistant to the Manifesto and its anti-assimilationist argument, but the mock trial assignment will (hopefully) allow them to understand its arguments more clearly by helping them remove their personal beliefs from analysis of the queer argument.           

Polikoff, “The End of Marriage As We Know It”: Polikoff’s argument shows that marriage and coupledom are supported not only by heteronormative society, but also by American government. It shows the legal and economic privilege given to heteronormative couples and argues that free people shouldn’t be taxed for choosing not to enter into certain state-approved formations of relationships. Presented with the Marx reading, this text will add to the idea that “the couple” is not something that decidedly needs to be state-supported, and, in fact, if state sanctioning leads to inequalities, the legal institutions surrounding it should be amended.

Karl Marx, excerpts on marriage: This text will give an interesting historical analysis of the institution of marriage and its relationship to property rights. It’s useful in that it denies normative claims that would see marriage and coupledom as not only traditional, but also natural.

Giovanni’s Room: The second week will be given entirely to Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, as this text gives an incredible psychological case study of the effect existing in heteronormative culture can have on a queer individual. With this work, I hope to emphasize the potentially dangerous effect of normative culture on its deviants, especially in terms of individual and communal humiliations. David’s helplessness throughout the novel will help reveal the difficulty of existing outside of social norms. I intend to use this novel in discussing modern normativity and its acceptance of a certain kind of monogamous and heteronormative homosexuality.

Additional introductory videos:

Assignments and Activities

Mind-map: The mind map exercise is an ongoing exercise used to track the class’ understanding of the couple. On the first day, students will give an initial list of the traits they associate with “the couple.” Alternatively, students can list famous contemporary and historical couples and list the traits that they associate with them. This list will likely reflect traditional, heteronormative traits. On the second day, having read the Queer Nation Manifesto, excerpts from Marx, and Polikoff’s review of same-sex marriage, students will reassess the terms they provided on the first day and give additional terms. On the third and fourth days, students will continue to assess their initial reactions, judging them now with respect to Baldwin’s characters.

Mock debate: The mock debate is an especially important assignment in this course, as it will ideally allow students to remove their own beliefs from their analysis of both LGBT arguments for homosexual integration into heteronormative society and counter-normative, queer arguments. The expectation is that students will be resistant to the latter, as they have less experience with it. If this is not the case, it will still be beneficial to lay out specifically the arguments for either side and practice pitting these ideas against each other. To prepare for this activity, students on both teams will prepare arguments for or against gay marriage, specifically, drawing on their readings, former knowledge and potentially their (minimal) independent research.

Reading questions for Giovanni’s Room: These reading questions are designed to lead students as they read Giovanni’s Room. They will ideally lead students away from accepting uncritically Baldwin’s apparent cynicism towards the possibility of a successful queer community. Discussing these questions will also underscore David’s humiliation and show it as potentially a wider condition of queer communities existing in heteronormative societies.

Giovanni’s Room Reading Questions

  • Read the passage about Joey and David’s first and only sexual encounter (p7-9), noting Joey’s transformation in David’s mind from “beautiful creation” (8) to “the black opening of a cavern” (9). Using specific examples, which thoughts contribute to David’s crisis? How do these thoughts inform David’s other identity crises in the rest of the novel?
  • On page 25, Jacques claims that “Nobody can stay in the garden of Eden” (25), a sentiment that David goes on to mentally agree with. How does the use of the use of this image to describe a time of innocent happiness for queer individuals reevaluate the traditional associations with this heteronormative and couple-oriented creation myth?
  • David’s observations of les folles (p26-7) and the “flaming princess” (38-40) seem unapologetically homophobic. How does David understand himself in relation to les folles and the princess? How does David see himself in relation to other characters (i.e., Guillaume, Jacques, Giovanni, Hella)? By the end of the work, do you think David’s observations would be different?
  • One of the earliest uses of water imagery in the novel was in David and Giovanni’s first conversation about choice. How does this example relate to other uses of water imagery in the novel?
  • The title of the novel emphasizes the importance of Giovanni’s room. In a story describing David and Giovanni’s relationship, why this emphasis? What other rooms are described in the novel, and how do they relate to Giovanni’s?
  • Think back to the (highly heteronormative) image of the man and woman hemmed in by roses on the wall of Giovanni’s room. How does this image relate to David and Giovanni’s relationship, or rather how does this image relate to David’s perception of their relationship?
  • At a few points in the novel, Hella expresses her desire “to be a woman,” and, towards the end, she asks David directly to “let her” be a woman. What does she mean by “woman,” and what is David doing that is preventing her from achieving this goal? Does David seem to similarly want “to be” a man? What about Giovanni, Jacques, Guillaume or Sue?
  • During a fight between David and Giovanni, Giovanni accuses David of “never [having] loved anyone,” of “[loving his] mirror” and being “just like a little virgin” (141). What exactly is Giovanni accusing David of with these insults, in terms of their relationship? Do these insults accurately represent David?
  • What do you think of the ending of this book? What lessons do you think readers might take away from it, if any?


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Supplementary online materials for “A Literary History of Feminist Sex”

DORA, or “An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria”:

Full text, beginning on page 1350:

A BBC radio piece on the feminist reclamation of Dora:

Foucault, History of Sexuality

Foucault speaking about the nature of power in Discipline and Punish:

Funny song explaining Foucault’s thesis:

The Awakening:

Full text:

“Emancipation: A Life Fable” by Kate Chopin (thematically related):

A Room of One’s Own

Full text:

Audre Lorde’s critique (which makes reference to Woolf’s language), the essay “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference,” to be found starting on page 114 of Sister Outsider:

Gone With the Wind

Full text:

Pertinent clips from the (very famous and very entertaining) movie:

The Well of Loneliness

Full text:

National archives documents regarding the seizure of The Well:

Contemporaneous newspaper article about the obscenity trial:

“The Mythic Mannish Lesbian” by Esther Newton:

The Bell Jar

Poetry Foundation biography of Sylvia Plath:

“Daddy” (pertinent poem):

“Lady Lazarus” (pertinent poem):

“Sylvia Plath, Hunger Artist” by David Fromm

(There are a number of fascinating biographies of Plath available in print form. For an overview of many of their claims and an articulation of their differences, see: “The Problem with Plath,” review,


“Women and Hysteria in the History of Mental Health” from the US National Library of Medicine:

Slideshow of Charcot’s iconic images of hysteria:

NYT article reviewing the book Medical Muses (also a great resource):


Full text:

“Three Men in Herland: Why they Enter the Text” by Georgia Johnston

“Systems, Not Men: Producing People in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland” by Katherine Fusco:

“The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman’s famous and provocative short story:

The Feminine Mystique

NYT video debate concerning “The Feminine Mystique, 50 years later”

The Feminine Mistake by Leslie Bennetts (a contemporary response text) reviews:

“Women and Economics”

Full text:

The Lesbian Body

Resources on Deconstruction:

Feminism and Deconstruction: Ms. En Abyme by Diane Elam:

Strategies of Deconstruction by Jacques Claude Evans:

Deconstruction and the Postcolonial: At the Limits of Theory

Identity Politics in Deconstruction by Carolyn D’Cruz

Bedford St. Martins definition:

Written on the Body

Jeanette Winterson biographical interview with the Paris Review:

Jeanette Winterson interview with Bill Moyers on faith:

Audre Lorde, “On the Uses of the Erotic”

Full text (also in Sister Outsider):

Check out “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” one of Lorde’s best-known critiques of the state of feminism. (Also in the compilation volume.)

Audre Lorde biography from The Poetry Foundation:

“The Black Unicorn,” a poem by Lorde from her eponymous poetry volume:

Alison Bechdel

Dykes to Watch Out For (her comic):

A short video in which Bechdel explains how she created Fun Home:

Pornography texts:

Hard Core full text:;cc=acls;idno=heb08072.0001.001;node=heb08072.0001.001%3A5;view=toc

“Thinking Sex” full text:

Chick Flicks: Theories and Memories of the Feminist Film Movement full text:;idno=heb08224

Clips from The People vs. Larry Flynt, a Hollywood movie based on the historic case:

Legal resources

California v. Freeman protecting Adult Film:

Miller v. California defining unprotected obscenity:

The definition of “extreme pornography” in the UK:

Andrea Dworkin’s testimony to the Attorney General:

Dworkin/MacKinnon bill introduced to Massachusetts in 1992:

The Dost and Knox Tests for delineating child pornography:

The Story of O

Dworkin on The Story of O in Woman Hating:

Brief BBC publication history

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QUEERS READ THIS (The Queer Nation Manifesto)

The Queer Nation Manifesto can be assigned in a teaching module on Heteronormativity and Queer Identity, which has been developed by one of the students in this course for a high school GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance).


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Andrea Dworkin testifying to the Attorney General

Some supplementary material for Annie’s teaching unit on the sex wars.

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December 3, 2013 · 10:44 pm