Straight with a twist”: reflections on heterosexuality beyond the heteronormal

Having been arguing for years that (non-a)sexuality remains weirdly undefined, it’s easy for me to see the interest in the study of heterosexuality. On the other hand, it’s hard not to wince at phrases like “queer heterosexualities”, “straight queer subjectivities” and “queer aspiring straight” even though I entirely see what they’re getting at and it’s a conversation I find extremely interesting.

heterosexuality beyond the heteronormal

Call for Papers on the 3rd European Geographies of Sexualities Conference, Rome, 16-18 September 2015

Session organizers:
Valerie De Craene and Maarten Loopmans, University of Leuven, Belgium

In recent years, geographers have paid increasing attention to heterosexuality, underlining the multiplicity of heterosexual identities and performances. Normative heterosexuality has been described as “a highly unstable, default characterization for people who have not marked themselves or been marked by others as homosexual. (…) The resulting class of heterosexuals is a default class, home to those who have not fallen out of it” (Halley, 1993, p 83, 85).

This session aims to critically reflect on and explore possibilities for a queer analysis of heterosexuality. We follow the line of argument that queer should not be reduced to sexual preference (cfr. “Queer is more than short hand for LGBT” (Browne, 2006, p. 886); Thomas, 2000), nor should it (only) imply an expression of “an affiliation with antihomophobic politics” (Butler, 1993, p. 230). If we understand queer as resistance to regimes of the normal (Warner, 1993), we can critically engage with heterosexuality within and beyond the heteronormal through a queer lens. It offers possibilities for a queer analysis of processes of inclusion and exclusion, of deconstruction and (re)production of heterosexual desire, behavior, identities, practices.

Such straight queer aspiration has a clear political ambition. As Thomas (2000) puts it, straight disloyalty to straight identity is “to assist in working the weaknesses in the heterosexual norm, to inhabit the practice of heterosexuality’s rearticulation and inhibit its hegemonic dominance” (p. 31). Indeed, the repeated subverting, parodying and challenging of heteronormativities, might actually help to change dominant ‘scripts’ (Butler, 2000). Taking a position of a queer aspiring straight should always be handled with care, bearing in mind the privileged position one speaks from, and therefore always requires a complicated negotiation of a straight critic’s subject position (Schlichter, 2004).

As such, recent geographic research on non-heteronormative heterosexualities has emphasized the biopolitical regulatory urge which has set aside non-heteronormative heterosexualities as a discursive and spatial antipode for the construction of heteronormality. In such discourse, a moral geography is constructed segregating certain performances of heterosexuality as “incompatible with family occupation” (Hubbard and Prior 2013, p. 145). The policing and control of heterosexualities outside the norm, such as adult entertainment, is exposed as functional to the biopolitical regulation of the wider population (Howell, 2004; Brown & Knopp, 2010; Evered & Evered, 2013).

Simultaneously, micro-spatial studies have emphasized everyday spatial performativities (Gregson and Rose, 2000) to demonstrate how heteronormativity is at the same time challenged and reproduced through the repeated construction and performance of also straight queer subjectivities (Faier, 2014; Silvey, 2010). Moreover, geographers have emphasized how performances and places are mutually constitutive and intrinsically related; performances take and make place simultaneously and both are constitutive to sexual identities. Performances in one place and time cannot be understood in isolation from experiences and performances in other places and times.

The overall aim of this session is to develop a better theoretical understanding of heterosexuality beyond the heteronormal and to explore its various guises empirically and theoretically. We encourage a wide variety of contributions, on topics such as (but not limited to):
–          How do new media and digital social networks favour the expression of different forms of heterosexuality?
–          Queer spatial performances of heterosexuality
–          Exploring heterotopia from where to challenge heteronormativities
–          Queering heterosexuality from the rural to the urban
–          Spaces of queer heterosexualities from transactional sex to Durex Play

Proposals (max. 250 words) can be submitted by email until April 28, 2015 to:
Valerie.Decraene@ees.kuleuven.be and Maarten.Loopmans@ees.kuleuven.be.

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