Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The tyranny of queer theory

By Mary Harrington, The Unherd

Even if you’re gay, being monogamous is seen as reactionary — if not outright bigoted

With hindsight, it probably was bad manners to bring a male one-night stand back to the lesbian commune where I lived.

At the time, in Noughties London, I really believed that what I was doing was radical and creative: embracing fluidity, self-construction and impermanence, against the rigid constraints of a single-sex environment and the gender binary.

I blame some of this insufferability on queer theory, whose ideas I absorbed as an undergraduate. From (among others) Judith Butler I learned that the identity categories of sex and sexuality are imposed on us by oppressive outside forces, while (confusingly) also being open to constant individual reinvention.

In this worldview ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ aren’t stable categories, and neither are ‘man’ and ‘woman’, except inasmuch as they’re imposed by un-hip Forces of Bad: the oppressive ‘cisheteropatriarchal status quo’. And the only way to stick two fingers up at this dread hegemon is to mess about with the categories. Hence feeling so pleased with myself, 15 years ago, for doing something as ground-breakingly subversive as calling myself a lesbian, moving in with a bunch of lesbians and then hooking up with a man.


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