Are the Lips a Grave?

Are the Lips a Grave?: A Queer Feminist on the Ethics of Sex

Lynne Huffer
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/huff16416
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  • Book Info
    Are the Lips a Grave?
    Book Description:

    Lynne Huffer's ambitious inquiry redresses the rift between feminist and queer theory, traversing the space of a new, post-moral sexual ethics that includes pleasure, desire, connection, and betrayal. She begins by balancing queer theorists' politics of sexual freedoms with a moralizing feminist politics that views sexuality as harm. Drawing on the best insights from both traditions, she builds an ethics centered on eros, following Michel Foucault's ethics as a practice of freedom and Luce Irigaray's lyrical articulation of an ethics of sexual difference.

    Through this theoretical lens, Huffer examines everyday experiences of ethical connection and failure connected to sex, including queer sexual practices, sodomy laws, interracial love, pornography, and work-life balance. Her approach complicates sexual identities while challenging the epistemological foundations of subjectivity. She rethinks ethics "beyond good and evil" without underestimating, as some queer theorists have done, the persistence of what Foucault calls the "catastrophe" of morality. Elaborating a thinking-feeling ethics of the other, Huffer encourages contemporary intellectuals to reshape sexual morality from within, defining an ethical space that is both poetically suggestive and politically relevant, both conceptually daring and grounded in common sexual experience.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53577-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Philosophy, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction: Claiming a Queer Feminism
    (pp. 1-26)

    This book is a weave of voices: a crazy cat’s cradle, some might say, of my own decades-old thinking about sex. Each of its chapters tells a different story about contemporary sexual lives that unfold in a variety of spaces: in classrooms and academic journals; at political rallies; in deserts, courtrooms, and grocery stores; in archives, sex clubs, and bedrooms. Taken together, the chapters trace the shifting trajectory not only of my thinking but also of an intellectual field. The result is a journey—sometimes zigzagging, sometimes twisted—through a land I call queer feminism.

    On the most basic level,...

  5. 1 Are the Lips a Grave?
    (pp. 27-49)

    Are the lips a grave? It’s a funny question, or maybe a scary one, but, funny or scary, it’s a question I keep asking. With my feminist twist on Leo Bersani’s queer title—“Is the Rectum a Grave?” (1987)—I want to begin my exploration of antifoundational queer feminism by opening a space for rethinking the place of Luce Irigaray in the world of queer theory.¹ For if queer theory has made a place for the rectum as a respectable topic of scholarly discussion (scarcely imaginable before the mid-1980s), such is not the case for the feminist lips made famous...

  6. 2 There Is No Gomorrah: Narrative Ethics in Feminist and Queer Theory
    (pp. 50-72)

    In her 1941 work The Pure and the Impure, the twentieth-century French writer Colette offers a series of oblique reflections on gender, sexuality, artistic creation, and the ethical questions that link individual expression to a social context of evaluation, judgment, history, and culture. She does this through an exploration of pleasure—the realm of the sexual and the aesthetic—in a kind of guided tour of the Parisian artistic underworld of the early twentieth century. Colette’s portrayal of a French modernist version of Sodom and Gomorrah highlights the all-too-familiar tension that characterizes the queer feminist split, the opposition between rigid...

  7. 3 Foucault’s Fist
    (pp. 73-90)

    Much has been made of Foucault’s promise, in the penultimate sentence of The History of Sexuality, volume 1, that “one day, perhaps,” we will find ourselves “in a different economy of bodies and pleasures.”¹ Queer theorists in particular have hailed Foucault as a prophet of corporeal and subjective freedom, the harbinger of a postsexual utopian future brought into being through strategic acts involving “strange parts of [our] bodies.”² As Annamarie Jagose points out, the “bodies and pleasures” passage in History of Sexuality, volume 1 has been received by scholars as an “oracular invocation . . . at once momentous and...

  8. 4 Queer Victory, Feminist Defeat? Sodomy and Rape in Lawrence v. Texas
    (pp. 91-117)

    In Houston, Texas, officers of the Harris County Police Department were dispatched to a private residence in response to a reported weapons disturbance. They entered an apartment where one of the petitioners, John Geddes Lawrence, resided. The right of the police to enter does not seem to have been questioned. The officers observed Lawrence and another man, Tyrone Garner, engaging in a sexual act. The two petitioners were arrested, held in custody overnight, and charged and convicted before a Justice of the Peace.¹

    Anthony San Juan Powell was charged in an indictment with rape and aggravated sodomy in connection with...

  9. 5 One-Handed Reading
    (pp. 118-130)

    These last four chapters explore the possibility of an erotic queer feminism by bringing the term lesbian back into the picture. Although lesbian feminism played a constitutive role in the development of feminist theory and politics in the 1970s, it was largely occluded with the rise of the anti-identitarian politics and thinking that characterized the queer over the course of the 1990s and early 2000s. This chapter and the next three revisit that history in order to challenge an identitarian conception of lesbian with an alternative ethical account that redefines lesbian as an event of marginalization that is erotically charged....

  10. 6 Queer Lesbian Silence: Colette Reads Proust
    (pp. 131-141)

    In considering how to situate the topic of this chapter—“Queer Lesbian Silence”—I keep thinking back to a poster I used to have hanging on my office door, year after year, to commemorate LGBT people with a “Day of Silence.” The poster encouraged us to promote awareness of the silence imposed on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people by refusing to speak for an entire day. “Why do you use silence to end silence?” the poster asked. It went on to deplore the silencing that homophobia and heterosexism create in our society, arguing for the increased voice and visibility...

  11. 7 What If Hagar and Sarah Were Lovers?
    (pp. 142-160)

    Several years ago, my partner Tamara and I were babysitting our then one-year-old godchild, Charis, when we decided to run to the grocery store to pick up some things for dinner. As we approached the checkout line, the white teenage clerk looked up, smiled, and commented on how cute Charis was with her wispy blond hair and big blue eyes. Then, addressing me, she said with conviction: “She looks just like you.”

    “Actually, she isn’t mine,” I replied.

    “Oh,” said the clerk, scanning my pale skin, blue eyes, and straw-colored hair. “I assumed you were the mother.” She glanced over...

  12. 8 After Sex
    (pp. 161-176)

    Although generally unknown in the U.S., the contemporary French novelist and filmmaker Virginie Despentes became something of a celebrity during the early 2000s after the appearance of her controversial film, Baise-moi.¹ The film tells the story of prostitute Nadine (played by Karen Bach) and sex actress Manu (played by Raffaëlla Anderson), who meet by chance after arguments with their boyfriends and the violent rape of Manu on the banks of the Seine outside Paris. In a plot that Linda Williams sums up as “a bloody buddy/road movie” that could be titled Thelma and Louise Get Laid,² their encounter leads to...

  13. Afterword: Queer Lives in the Balance
    (pp. 177-184)

    I know the title of my afterword sounds dire: queer lives in the balance. To be “in the balance” is to be in an undetermined, even critical position, and the idiom of my title—queer lives in the balance—delivers the punch of a life-and-death situation in the mode of Al Gore’s book, Earth in the Balance. Yet I want to end here with an everyday problem, one I face even now as I’m writing: our relentless failure to achieve work-life balance. My title might appear to make the stakes of such a problem seem relatively minor: a high-class concern...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 185-214)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 215-234)
  16. Index
    (pp. 235-246)