Heteronormativity Made Me Lesbian: Femme, butch and the production of sexual embodiment projects

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Autoethnography, Dorothy Smith, femme/butch, feminism, queer theory

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Queer theory argues that ruling heteronormative discourses are productive of sexualities. How then does heteronormativity produce lesbians? We theorize femme and butch as sexual embodiment projects—processual, relational responses to patriarchal heteronormativity incessantly textually threaded throughout our lives. Drawing on radical feminisms updated with Foucault and Dorothy Smith, we offer autoethnographic accounts of our sexual embodiments of butch and femme, arguing not that rape experiences, but the constant threat of rape in everyday life can produce lesbian desire and embodiment. Ultimately, we understand sexual embodiment as not based on a fixed ontological ground but always in the relational, everyday doings of people and, hence, malleable within the social context, discursive moment, and individual intersections of one’s life within relations of power (gender, race, class, religiosity, nationality, and so on).

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Sexualities, v. 21, issues 1-2, p. 156-173