Session 4B: Pathologized Bodies: Sex, Embodiment, & Inequality

Session 4B

Pathologized Bodies: Sex, Embodiment, & Inequality
4.22.2017 | 9:30a-10:45a | Laurel Hall 107

Each of these works analyze how embodiment and positionality effect how bodies are treated on interpersonal, institutional, and structural levels. The racialized and gendered ideas of sexuality, along with societal constraints related to these topics will be discussed.

Moderator: Lauren Perez-Bonilla (Latina/o and Latin American Studies; UCONN)

Participant Abstracts:

Kara Stephens (English & Gender Studies; Brooklyn College)
(Mis)understanding the Clitoris:
Anatomical Myths and Misconceptions from the 1930s to Today

This paper will examine how the cultural erasure of the clitoris in the West (and specifically in the United States) has aided gender-, sex-, race-, and class-based inequalities in both sexual education and general discourse. While the history of the clitoris in Western writing and thought has always been misguided, discourse surrounding it reached a fever pitch with the publication of Sigmund Freud’s Sexuality and the Psychology of Love in 1931. One of the essays within this book, “Female Sexuality,” declares that women desiring clitoral stimulation were not only intellectually inferior to women desiring vaginal stimulation, but homosexual. By pathologizing women of all sexualities and creating a hierarchy of sexual pleasures, Freud shaped a narrow, exclusionary, and phallocentric narrative of sexual pleasure. From individual relationships to Gray’s Anatomy books, the discourse around female anatomy changed, at times entirely omitting the clitoris from discussion. In this paper, I will use an intersectional analysis to examine how marginalized groups have been historically impacted by these reimaginings of anatomies, pleasures, and desires. Specifically, I will study how women of color, and especially Black women, have suffered from this discourse because of racist ideologies as well as sexist ones; how intersex and trans people of all genders have been erased from such discussions because of the cultural collapse of sex and gender, the fetishization and pathologization of their bodies, and a widespread condemnation of their sexualities and pleasures; and how queer women have been forced to learn and relearn their sexualities and bodies through a patriarchal and heterosexist education system. The clitoris is a tiny part of the human body, but the history surrounding it touches upon inequality in all forms.

Michelle San Pedro (Anthropology; UCONN)
The Right to Motherhood by Choice: Child Pregnancy in Nicaragua

Scholars readily acknowledge that poverty and sexual violence contribute to Nicaragua’s highest rate of teen pregnancy in Latin America. However this statistic conceals the experiences of forced motherhood for girls ages 10 to 14.  During the total abortion ban in Nicaragua, the number pregnant girls in this age group rose by 48 percent in nine years. With narratives from adult parents, healthcare practitioners, and social welfare staff, this presentation discusses and analyzes the gender inequality girls endure as they bear and raise their children in a patriarchal society upheld by both men and women. Limited health, legal, and sociocultural protections are afforded to girls who become mothers through rape. Some suffer from a lack of familial and institutional support. They are rarely able to exercise their rights to education, health, protection, and adequate quality of life. This study adds a broader context to the study of maternal-newborn health.

Joe Baez (Political Science and Women & Gender Studies; Brooklyn College)
Beauty is in the Eye of the Oppressor: Hierarchies of Sexual Desire on Grindr

In 2009, Grindr was introduced as a revolutionary dating app for gay men. Today, it is used by 6 million users a month in over 192 countries. While Grindr bettered the lives of gay men in many ways by allowing them to connect, it reflects serious inequalities in society. Routinely, users filled their profile descriptions with discriminatory phrases such as “No Fats, No Femmes, No Blacks, and No Asians.” The movement behind the hash tag #NoFatsNoFemmes is a response to such treatment by men that are openly speaking of their experiences and pain. Inspired by Jamal Lewis’s current project “No Fats, No Femmes,” and my lived experiences as a gay, femme, fat, Latino man that uses Grindr, I am working on a research project titled “Beauty is in the Eye of the Oppressor: Hierarchies of Sexual Desire on Grindr.” The project utilizes an intersectional framework to look at fatness, race, and gender in order to identify which kinds of bodies are considered desirable. So far, I have completed a literature review on fatness, sexual racism, and femi-negativity. Next, I will begin a content analysis of Grindr profiles and will potentially arrange for interviews with users of the app. The objective of this project is to expose different forms of discrimination within Grindr, which has no signs of slowing down. To address hateful practices of fat shaming, femmephobia, and racism to Grindr is a call to action to assign accountability to those that are profiting from the app, and to those who use it. Finally, it is one specific way to address specific inequalities faced by different groups of gay and queer men. In my presentation for the Borderlands 2.0 symposium, I will specifically discuss key components to my literature review. This includes exploring the notion of sexual preference and desire as things that are fixed and inherent. Additionally, I will expand upon the intersections of fatness, race, and gender to illustrate that conversations about one cannot be had without the others. Lastly, I will discuss the progress I have made in my content analysis and interviews.