Lecture # 9: Challenging Biological Fantasies
Freud advanced the idea of the polymorphous perverse, which suggests that infants
derive sexual pleasure from all surfaces of the body. For Freud it is only later that
sexuality gets socially organized, by first going through a bisexual phase and then
becoming genitally organized through the difficult psychical tasks of becoming boys and
girls, and later, men and women.
It is important to note that Freud did make an assumption that there were only biological
males and females, and it is through this assumption, that he advanced the idea of our
bisexuality. What we can take from this, is that Freud understood libidinal desire, at least
initially, not to be constrained by socially constructed mores. That we have desire for
pleasure with and from other bodies regardless of their sex, it is only later in our
development that we organize our desire to be for same-sex or opposite sex. And it is
only due to societal constraints that many of us remain fixed to a particular expression of
our sexuality. Indeed, as we have discussed, many people have desires, encounters, and
fantasies about sexual pleasure from a sex that they don’t consider to be expressive of
their sexual orientation. Societal ideas organize and shape how we desire, whom we have
sex with, what it means and so on. Our sexuality is much more fluid and changes over
the course of our individual lives.
Intersexuality is the state of a person whose sex chromosomes, genitalia and/or
secondary sex characteristics are determined to be neither exclusively male nor female as
these have been defined. A person with intersex may have biological characteristics of
both the male and female sexes.
When we accept that human beings are not only born male and/or female, but that there
are more than two sexes, we open possibilities for intersexed people as well as males and
females. Doing so challenges male/female binary and also challenges femininity and
masculinity in that it offers us more than two ways to be in the world, it allows us to
rethink the idea of a link between males/masculinity and females/femininity, it allows us
to rethink desires and sexual practices as not strictly genitally organized and not
organized in the ways that it is normatively imagined.
Reassignment surgery renders intersexed people as “freaks” and brutalizes them, initially
making those of us who are intersexed unacceptable and unintelligible the way we
are [this is a social construct, since all along there have been intersexed
individuals], and had we accepted from the beginning that there are indeed many
sexes, rather than pathologize those who are not male and female in way we have
come to define these sexes, m, those of us who are intersexed could live in the
world as we are, and open up for all of us more and different ways to look at,
imagine and live our sex and gender and sexualities.
Giving all of us no normative way to understand and live with these differences.
Force brutal sex reassignment surgery on those who are born intersexed.
1 Impose a taboo on intersexuality and impose a silence on that person’s identity
even within the family. Increasing the possibility of psychological distress on
those who are intersexed. [family secrets].
As a result of rendering intersexed people aberrant as they are, we miss the
opportunity to understand these differences, learn about pleasure, sexuality and
gender identity formation of people who are intersexed, and open up different
ways to live and imagine and accept our differences.
Deny intersexed individuals the possibility to really be in the world, accept
themselves and have others accept them, etc.
Surgery is rarely a one time event, intersexed people are often subjected to
surgeries throughout their lives.
The emerging recognition that people come in bewildering sexual varieties is testing
medical values and social norms