Mockery or Reverence: The Responsibilities of Drag

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By Kenneth Jarvis

Introduction

Drag has been creeping into mainstream consciousness since the release of Paris is Burning in 1991, the seminal documentary following the ball culture of the late 1980s. This familiarity has reached a new level with the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race, introducing a new generation to contemporary drag culture and its current top stars, including Alaska Thunderfuck, Willam Belli, Sharon Needles, Latrice Royale, as well as reintroducing RuPaul into American popular culture. While the show has mainly been shown in the United States, it has a worldwide fan base and has proven an influence on LGBT communities everywhere, representing a global drag culture.

While the growing influence of drag culture has received mostly positive reception, there is the question of what it means for men to dress as women for entertainment. For many drag queens, their performance is reverent to womanhood as well as challenging social gender constructions, but for some women drag is offensive mockery. There is also the question of whether drag queens as performers of womanhood should help advance the state of feminism, and the question where to put the boundaries between offensive and comedy. It is possible that because under the drag many of these queens are biologically men they are manipulating their male privilege in being able to use womanhood to comedic effect, but then cross back into their privileged position as men.

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Tinder Hearts: Navigating the Youth Dating Scene in Precarious Times

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By Taylor Casteen

Introduction

“So what do you think about Tinder? I’m interested, why are you doing this?” This is a question one of my respondents asked me at the end of our interview, and it’s a question I’ve had to ask myself several times over the course of my research. Why am I so interested in Tinder, a dating platform that, from most of my respondents’ standpoint and from my own, is only used for fun and as a cure for the tediousness of everyday life? But the real question in the end was not why I cared about Tinder, but why I cared about our generation’s relationship with dating as a whole. Continue reading

Body Love and Social Media: A Story of Feeling the Sunlight

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By Taina Quiñones

“Here,” Rose says, tossing her royal blue bikini in my direction, “Try it on.” I hesitate before picking it up from where it lands on her bed and holding it up to my body. It will definitely fit. Due to our larger body sizes, Rose is one of the few friends I can clothes-swap with – something we both relish in whenever we are lucky enough to be in the same place.

This is my third summer visiting Rose in her hometown of Glencoe, Illinois. We are both sophomores in college at this point, and with permission from her parents, Rose and I will be roadtripping up to Wisconsin to spend a week in her family’s lake house.  She tells me we have to go swimming, and for the first time since I was a small child, I am genuinely excited to. Continue reading

Buck Angel’s Activist Project: Reclaiming “Vagina” and “Pussy” in Sexing the Transman

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By Zoë Crabtree

Introduction

The words with which we describe our bodies are tools for self-construction. Words narrate our memories, dreams, and goals; they enable us to construct our realities; they liberate our nightmares and circumscribe our fantasies. Words are powerful discursive tools. They act and make change in the world. Harvard lecturer J.L. Austin recognizes this in his lectures collectively titled How to Do Things with Words. He argues that words are performative: their very utterance acts upon the world, given, of course, the appropriate circumstances (Austin, 1975: 6). He uses the example of wedding vows to demonstrate that the very act of saying “I do” during a wedding brings the marriage into being (Austin, 1975: 8). In other words, not only do words shape how we think and feel about the world, they also shape the world itself. How, then, might someone try to change the world with words? What might it mean to employ words to contradict the constructed realities they have helped to create?

Recognizing language’s potential as what Teresa de Lauretis terms “technologies of gender,” transgender porn star and self-described “Man with a Pussy” Buck Angel has taken up these questions in his activist work. Angel’s central project has been to reclaim the words “vagina” and “pussy” for transgender men’s use: Continue reading

Pride or Prejudice? Contradictions of the Gay Scenes in Los Angeles, Berlin, and Amsterdam

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By Sam Sciarra

Within the context of western democratic nations, unprecedented human rights advances have characterized the past fifty years for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Of course, we cannot deny that there is still a very long way to go—LGBT citizens of certain nations like the United States still face much discrimination and lack crucial freedoms (such as the right to get married, among others). However, it is still important to recognize that this increased societal acceptance of LGBT people has resulted in the creation of distinct yet similar gay youth subcultures throughout the cosmopolitan west. These gay ‘scenes,’ which primarily revolve around the nightclubs and various nighttime happenings of large urban centers, have become the preeminent space in which homosexual youth form their identities and engage in a decision making process concerning the type of gay person they want to become. This is most likely because, as Cattan and Vanolo (2013: 1166) suggest in their research on the emotional geographies of gay nightlife, “clubbing entails seeking people, places, relationships, and ways of being which provide physical and emotional security, which are often denied in the heterosexist world.” Continue reading

The elusive ideal body: Its construction and impacts on contemporary youth

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By Chu

Many studies have been conducted on the subject of youth’s body image, as well as the causes and potential impacts on young people’s behavior aiming to alter their body. Youth’s attempts to body modification are being constantly stigmatized and pathologized in the media. Youth, in many reports and researches, are infantilized and theoretically ripped off their agency. It is only by giving their voice back to youth that we can understand how the body is perceived by them, and in which ways the body is used as either a weapon for self-empowerment and resistance, or a tool to conform to social conventions. Therefore, in this paper, I have allowed more space for individuals’ subjective experiences, including those of myself, regarding the impacts of the ideal body image. Continue reading

The purity myth and queer women’s experiences of sexuality and sexual agency

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By Zoë Crabtree

Introduction

As a queer-identified woman, I was somewhat disappointed by Jessica Valenti’s (2010) book The purity myth: How America’s obsession with virginity is hurting young women. I appreciated her sharp critique and deep analysis of the abstinence movement in the United States, particularly because of my upbringing in a conservative rural town in central California where such discourse was prevalent. However, Valenti did not address how people other than straight women were affected by the purity myth. In this paper I fill this blank by interrogating discourses of virginity and sex from a queer perspective, and by examining how young, queer women themselves understand and experience their sexuality and sexual agency. Continue reading