Abusing Foucault: How Conservatives and Liberals Misunderstand “Social Construct” Sexuality

“If I believed Hannon was actually interested in dismantling what queer theorists call “compulsory heterosexuality,” I’d be the first to enlist in his campaign. As theorists of race and gender have long recognized, however, the dream of easily declaring ourselves “post”-anything often conceals a desire to sweep structural inequalities and long histories of violence under the rug. To say that sexuality doesn’t or shouldn’t matter is to deny many people the reality of their lived experience. It is also to ignore this important truth: that while society may construct these categories, these categories also construct us, and not only in negative ways. Identifying as queer isn’t simply a matter of swapping your straight hat for a feather boa. For most of us, it is a lifelong process of crafting bodies, relationships, and selves that can make our lives fuller, our art more vibrant, and the task of existing a little less destructive.”

To me, making space for that kind of work seems like a better use of our collective energy than spinning our wheels at the biology vs. culture impasse. Changing our ideas and institutions is possible: that’s what The History of Sexuality helps us see, by showing us that our categories are not set in stone. After all, we arrived here, and that must mean we can still go elsewhere—but in order to do that, we have to follow Foucault’s lead and start asking some different questions.