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N.

The

POLITICS of Radical Relationships $2

S
e v o l t s

h e

Summer 2012

sherevolts.noblogs.org

Contents
Preface - We are our own medium of revolution Fulvia Serra Intimacy and Alienation Corina Dross And Love Flew Out The Window Fulvia Serra On Openness and Relationships Bronwyn Lepore p. 13 p. 5

p. 21

p. 37

Index of Illustrators
Corina Dross
TenBroeck Mandy Katz Corina Dross Jenna Peters-Golden TenBroeck Cover p. 4 p. 12 p. 20 p. 36 Back cover

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We are our own medium

Fulvia Serra 4

Preface

WordsInRevolt

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of revolution!
Revolt, as I understand itpsychic revolt, analytic revolt, artistic revoltrefers to a permanent state of questioning, of transformations, an endless probing of appearances.

e owe this quote to Bronwyn Lepore. It comes from a book containing a collection of articles by Julia Kristeva. 'Revolt, She said' is the title of the book and also the name of our collective. Choosing this name for ourselves creates a intersection between us and the legacy of Julia Kristeva.1 Italian feminists thinkers, like Carla Lonzi, coined for this kind of act between women the word riconoscimento.2 Riconoscimento is an act of recognition and, at the same time, gratitude, from one woman to another. Recognition between women takes place when another woman is able to find for the others parole significantiwords that are significative and significant, that possess a new meaning and, simultaneously, shed a new meaning. These words have the potential to break with the predominant male narrative and provide us with a interpretation finally able to describe our experience as women. Words like these have the power to take us out of the silence in which a male-made language has thrown us, giving us newfound tools to create different paths of understanding. Words that are, most importantly, capable of generating 5

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authentic, unmediated relationships among ourselves. It can have the characteristic of an epoch, this moment in which, through the words of another, we Re-mapping finally find a way to talk the modes of about ourselves. From there we start knowledge to weave, like a fabric, and words into narrative interpretation and, in the manner of the ancient yarn tales, we pass the thread from woman to woman and with it the stories. And from word to word, from story to story, from fabric to fabric, we develop intricate patterns, unseen designs, aware that the only way of doing it is together. Aware that ifin our rambling/writings/oratories/ crying/laughing/screaming/philosophizingwe are able to create even just one new significant word and pass it on to other women, we will have, at the same time, inaugurated a new political practice, and contributed to the re-creation of our own mythology. We will have contributed to the birthing of a new political and existential wisdom that is such an important part of this revolution. A central part of this process is the re-mapping of the modes of knowledge and interpretation in themselves. After years of feminist theory, it is no longer possible to 6

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conceive of thoughts as atomized entities, isolated in space. Atomistic thoughts create a conceptualization in which theoretical ideas, of the kind that we have inherited from male philosophy, assume the shape of a mutilated and perverted organism. As that, they are either ineffective or dangerous when translated into political practice. Ideas are, in fact, only part of a complex structure, a cluster formation, a constellation that includes, in close interrelation, just like in a close knit fabric: the feelings we associate with them; the story that originated those feelings and the bodily sensations, the pleasure and pain that are induced in us by its memory; the wisdom that was carried on by that experience; and finally the hopes, desires, fears, contradictions, doubts, movements and sounds that all together lay the foundation for an incarnated body of thought and from which we can start developing a true, embodied politic of desire.3 Our collective is composed entirely of female bodies. The interpretation, practice and sexuality in which those bodies are engaged is in a constant state on re-invention. In other words, our gender is not a defined paradigm, not for all of us, at least, and we generally, more or less, identify with the category of queerness, if not always or not consistently in a sexual way, surely in a political and conceptual way, as the act of positioning ourselves out of the norm/normative and out of the official narrative imposed upon ourselves. 7

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Our collective is open to all women bodies and functions, just like women bodies, in a state of constant fluctuation, changing shape, size and mood, coming back and forth between atmosphere and productivity; moving around like water, hormone fluxes or blood; pitching and falling like an orgasm, a laugh or a scream. In the last few months we started more and more often using the variation SheRevolts' to talk about ourselves and that allows us to keep the link between us and Julia Kristeva and, at the same time, to appropriate it, reinvent it and thus allow us to start a new, though rooted, story. We share the general awareness that, in the same way in which the anti-capitalist struggle, in which we all are directly involved, is going to be ineffective until it seriously takes into account the sphere of reproduction and includes in its analyses the important contribution of contemporary feminism, feminist thought is maimed and isolated if it does not incorporate in its political frame the paradigms of class and race. As a collective we are, in these terms, anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarians, as well as anti-patriarchal. We view patriarchy as system that oppresses women as well as men, even though in different ways, for different reasons and in different degrees: if it's true that patriarchy offers males the false retribution of privilege and power over females, in exchange for accepting to integrate and reproduce the system and as a reward for a fundamental 8

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lack of freedom and autonomy, it's also true than both men and women are, in this way, prevented from fully expressing themselves and from relating to each other in any authentic way. Men are our friends, lovers and comrades and we believe that our fight is currently weakened by the state of alienation in which men and women relate to each other. With our work we hope to do something to reduce that alienation, not worsen Our fight is it. currently We are not fighting weakened by against men. We fight against the ruling the state of classes and the control alienation in apparatus they set to which men control and enslave us, an apparatus that has and women capitalism, patriarchy and relate to representative democracy each other. as some of its central attributes. This zine is one of the steps we take in the process of being in communication with each other and with the political community we belong to, in an array of different manners, from private conversations, to meetings, letters, public workshops, digital diffusion and, at its peak, art. 9

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Many are the women who contributed in different ways to this zine. They include the ones who talked a the original workshop (Kristin Asher, Corina Dross, Jen King, Bronwyn Lepore and myself) and those who facilitated it, Jini Kades and Julianne Kornacki. Also the women who recorded and edited the audio for that talk, AnaMartina and Jade Walker, and the artists who illustrated this zine: Corina Dross, Jenna Peters-Golden, Mandy Katz, and TenBroeck.4 Corina Dross edited the text for this zine and did most of the coordinating work, while I took care of the layout. Many more women participated in our meetings, came to our talks, wrote us letters and visited our website. A special thanks goes to Scott, to whom I owe learning to use InDesign, infinite tips and useful suggestions for the layout of the zine, plus the patience and support he offered in dealing with my zine-crazies, while working together in our shared apartment in the middle of a hot Istanbul summer. Without even one of all these people, this little work of ours would probably not exist and certainly not be the same. With all of them I share the passion and the dedication for the infinite ways in which we are making this revolution happen. For those of you who will read this, whatever it is you may get from it, remember this is just the beginning. 10

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1

Julia Kristeva. Revolt, She Said. (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2002).

For the thery of the pratice of recognition, see: Maria Luisa Boccia. L in Io Rivolta. Sessualit e pensiero politico di Carla Lonzi (La Tartaruga, 1990).
2

The definition of politica del desiderio was originally used to describe the peculiar difference that characterizes feminist politics by Luisa Muraro and the collective Diotima.
3

The workshop had the same title of this zine, he Politics of Radical Relationships, T and was held in March 2012 at the Wooden Shoe. On our noblog, sherevolts. noblogs.org, we posted the audio for the workshop, as well as some of the articles also present in this zine, other relevant literature, by us or others and a list of sections describing in general terms some of our future projects. We also have a Facebook page that we update regularly with news about our projects and actions.
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Intimacy
T
he enterprise of radical relationships is to create a language that we havent yet learned, that can the language weve been given, as we struggle to analyze how the ALIENATION that permeates our world

Corina Dross

subvert

specifically functions in the details of our intimate lives.

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and Alienation
ntimacy is often considered outside the realm of political discourse; politics is what we do out there, not what happens in our homes, our friendships, and our romances. We know this is false, but that knowledge itself doesnt transform our lives. We still carry shame and fear about our private needs and Its desiresand we look to our important communities for clues about that this the appropriate ways to get these needs met. So when enterprise we mirror for each other the be public same policing and oppression and weve learned from the larger culture, were failing collective to demand a better world for ourselves and the people we love. The enterprise of radical relationships is to create a language that we havent yet learned, that can subvert the language weve been given, as we struggle to analyze how the alienation that permeates our world specifically functions in the details of our intimate lives. Its important that this enterprise be public and collective, to avoid the trap of buying into the self-help book mentalitywhich advises us to analyze our own deepest fears and worst habits alone or with a therapist, or with a partner or best 13

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friendbut as an individual project, without agitating for the world to better meet our collective needs. And our own worst habits are not merely ours; most likely, they arise in response to larger systems of oppression, which we all face, and which we internalize. There are multiple intersections of oppression in our lives, but lets focus here on capitalist processes of alienation. If we look at some specific ways capitalism creates sufferingand makes this suffering appear normal and invisiblewe may see parallels in our intimate lives and begin to formulate forms of resistance. There are many cultural side-effects of the capitalist project, worth discussing in future conversations, but for now lets start with the idea of artificial scarcity. If we agree that capitalism shapes our world through processes that consolidate wealth, power, and resources amongst very fewcreating scarcity and need for the rest of us, robbing us of time to pursue our own deepest desires and interests, time with friends and loved ones, access to healthy food and housing, access to medical care, and a thousand other necessary things, we can imagine how much pressure there is on our intimate relationships, which are supposedly outside of the public sphere, to be sites of abundance. Its somewhat fantastical that we could expect one person (or several, depending on how we arrange our love lives) to make up for all that lack. But popular narratives reinforce this: that love will fix all our problems; that a long-lasting romantic partnership should fill all that is empty in us; that we must give to our lovers 14

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all that the world cant. Im sure most of us have come face-to-face with our own inability to give our lovers what they need, despite our best effortsor have felt how inadequate our partners have been in caring for us and meeting our needs. o some T degree, our material scarcity prevents us We may see from having the time to parallels in devote to our loved ones. But deeper than that, our intimate internalized oppression lives and from capitalism (and of begin to other systems us violence) renders formulate not only damaged but forms of damaging; in this way resistance true expressions of care and intimacy can feel scarce. Because intimacy under capitalism not only promises a private space for transcendent, abundant freedom in which we can access our best selves (in opposition to the drudgery and anonymity of the marketplace), it also serves as a necessary release valve for our worst selves (where the consequences of our terrible behavior wont be as public). Id also argue that we cant fully divorce our sense of identity from the economic conditions of capitalism; even the language we use for relationships is conditioned by the marketplace. We speak of investing in a relationship, 15

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we try to measure love as though it can be numbered, or exchanged like money, with a tally of debts owed and paid. With this fear of scarcity, we become competitive and insecure. We see love as limited, conditional, and rare-something to be earned, and like any other commodity, something that can be lost or stolen. So how do we begin to resist the effects of the marketplace on our intimate lives, especially as we recognize that even in the privacy of our homes and beds and minds, we arent free of capitalist conditioning? There isnt one simple solution. But there are ways to begin. In Twelve Theses on Changing the World without Taking Power, John Holloway writes, If separation, alienation (etc) is understood as a process, then this implies that its course is not pre-determined, that the transformation of power...is always open, always at issue. Which is to say that transformation exists as a germ in our unvoiced experiences, in the moments we stray from the script. I began by saying that radical intimacy needs to create a language that we havent yet learned, to subvert the language weve been given. This process has already begun, to an extent, in feminist and queer communities. We owe a huge debt to the language of identity politics even as we need to push past its reductive habits. Oppression functions by making itself seem normal and invisiblewe partake in it everyday, until the day we stop and begin taking it apart. This requires vigilance toward normalizing forces even within our radical communities. 16

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Because even in these communities that strive to offer prefigurative or alternate sites of intimacy, outside the model of the couple as a site mythical abundance, we rarely succeed in uprooting these myths. Rather, we pride ourselves on being self-sufficient, on practicing selfcare, keeping our needs in check, and being productive activists who can keep fighting the good fight and require little from the world. We submit to the public discourse that legitimizes economic, rational models and disparages emotional experiences. Very few of us expect our friends, our casual sex partners, our political comrades, or our coworkers to actively care for usthat is, to provide us with sufficient emotional or material supportunless were facing some unusual crisis (if we can even swallow our pride and ask for help in those circumstances). If we have a romantic partner, we may or may not expect such care from that person. But care itself generally feels precarious, scarce, vaguely understood, and somewhat shameful to need. Think how much harder it is to describe whats missing from your emotional life than from your material world. Invisible and unspeakable, without a meaningful lexicon, is the world of care. No human could survive or thrive without touch, affection, nurturing, attention, compassion, validation, or empathyyet the need for these acts of care (which are often gendered as feminine, no matter who provides them) has been subsumed into necessary invisibility by a system that depends on depriving us of the means to tend to our own lives. I highly 17

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recommend a text on this topic by a militant feminist research group from Spain, called Precarias a la Deriva (the text is translated as A Caring Strike). They describe how capitalism has found ways to isolate and commodify certain acts of care; customer service workers, sex workers, teachers and childcare providers, even cooks and waiters, all provide fragmented aspects of the care we all need to survive. Yet even in the marketplace, we rarely recognize that what were purchasing is care. When I worked as a phone sex operator, few of my callers Without a recognized that they called meaningful to receive reassurance, lexicon, is compassion, and attention the world of as well as (or sometimes more than) sexual release. care By providing these forms of care under the table, as it were, hidden within the product they were buying, I met these mens emotional needs while allowing those needs to remain invisible to them. Precarias a la Deriva ask us to consider what a caring strike might look likeacts that could make public and visible such invisible and unspoken acts of care; ways to foreground a continuum of care as the basis of human life, outside of any market value, and outside of any transaction in which we earn care by being worthy of it, beyond our merely being human. So lets begin by finding words for whats still 18

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unspoken between us. Because acts of care, when they cant be commodified, often entirely disappear from consciousness and language. Gender often dictates who does the emotional support work in an intimate relationshipor any relationship. Yet because the act of caring is itself gendered, no matter who performs it, it is almost always rendered invisible or unimportant. What stories do we tell ourselves and each other that overwrite the care we are trying to give and receive? How does gender determine these narratives? What violence have we swallowed that becomes fixated on our lovers? What shame do we carry about needing support, and through what subterrenean fissures does this seep into our friendships? Its curious, too, that our basic human need for care has become an insultwhen we call someone too needy, for examplewhen by definition a human need can never be excessive; the lack is not in us, but in the artificial scarcity of the world that should nourish us.

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...And love flew

Fulvia Serra

here must be no aspect of our behavior, sexual desires, fantasies, or dreams that is not unveiled, analyzed, and then manipulated in a way that it conforms to the social norm. Its a war against our mystery, against our otherness, because that OTHERNESS, if understood as our essential freedom and unpredictability, is in itself subversive and must be smashed.

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out the window

et us start with a storyor better yet, let's imagine that we are, as they say, once upon a time and long agolistening to an old woman. The time is roughly around when the Earth was still inhabited by minor gods and spirits of all kinds. The woman is, of course, both very old and agelessexactly at that moment in life when the eyes are again those of a child, revealed through a constellation of wrinkles. She is talking to an uncommon man, uncommon even for those times. His name is Apuleius.1He writes stories, and maybe that's why she is telling him oneone that she heard from other women, perhaps, or more likely one that happened to herself, long ago when she was still showing off her butterfly wings (the same ones that she now keeps hidden under her cloak), when she possessed a different kind of beautya beauty that meant power and was therefore frightening, even to a goddess like Venus. They called her Psyche, which means soul in ancient Greek. All her life they had admired her and then they abandoned her, as so often happens to creatures who are too graceful, or maybe too light, for us to bear. She was alone on top of a mountain one night when Love came to her, the way they promise Love always will. His face was hidden by darkness, and with the ways Love has, or so they say, he wrapped her in his arms 21

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and comforted her. His name was Eros, which, of course means love and they became mates, as love and soul (if they really exist as separate entities, independent from our personal stories, joys, and miseries) should be. For a long time they loved each other in abundance and delight, but only by night, protected and hidden even from each other. He had made her promise, one of those A beauty sacred and alas fragile that meant promises that Love power and always extorts from us, was therefore to respect his secret and never try and see frightening his face. She must love him, but more than that, trust him in a way that we usually never trust each other, with a trust that has no end and no question. A trust that we, as mortals, have forgotten long ago. Psyche certainly never heard of it before. Though it was easy at the beginning, when passion made her malleable and open, the task became arduous and almost impossible as time went by. She blamed her sisters (and that's quite all right if we keep in mind all the meanings that, for a woman, are hidden in the word sister, including the other me). It was them, she said with a voice muffled by age and sorrow, who planted in her the suspicion, the idea that her mate, her lover, that graceful and generous being, was indeed a monsterthat he was 22

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lying to her, fattening up her heart with kisses only so he could eventually devour it. Psyche would spend her days in anguish, tormented by distrust, that essential distrust that we all know so well and whose refrain goes something like you can't be loved, and you can't love. Psyche had a plan; her sisters had suggested it in details. She would save herself. In order to do so she would destroy the love inside of her, break her promise, and, of course, kill her lover. She hid a lantern and a knife under the bed. Once Eros was asleep she lit the fire, branded the knife and looked at him. She didn't see a monster thoughonly her beautiful mate, the one her heart had known all along without ever seeing him, and she started kissing him, swept up by relief and desire. But the promise was broken, and naturally a drop of hot oil fell from the lantern onto his skin, burning like all broken promises do. And he woke up. He too had wings, as we all know Love must, and so he flew away, out the window, without even looking back. Yet don't worry, the story doesn't end here, it goes on and on, words flowing by the light of the fire for a long time. And believe it or not, this time it even ends well, with a Psyche strong enough to travel to the underworld probably the one inside of herself, if you ask meand a female child born and named, quite appropriately, Hedone, which means pleasure or desire. We can't linger 23

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here any longer though, there's another voice calling us, or maybe the same, at a different time, a time when gods had disappeared from Earth, leaving behind only spirits and witches. The voice is loud and young, maybe it has strong arms and a body used to bearing children and keeping them alive, and it is talking to other women, all gathered around the common village well, to gather buckets of water and wash, with soap made of ash and lard, clothes woven in colorful and tough fabrics. In this story Psyche is not a young girl anymore. She is still beautiful, with a beauty that means knowledge and self-possession. This woman, the same and another, knows magic and her name is Melusine.2This time, she is the one with the power to request promises, with the wisdom of secrets well kept, and she agrees to marry one Raymond, a mortal man. She leaves her woods and follows him to his castle, but only conditionally. Every night Melusine takes her bath beyond closed doors. She lies in the water for hours, a time that must seem endless to her lover, but the room is inaccessible to him. He has vowed to respect her solitude, to trust her word and never enter her secret space. That is, until those voices start again. Sisters another timemaybe brothers now, or courtiers, or counselors? They say she has a lover. They say behind those closed doors she entertains another man and Raymond's honor, something somehow more important than love and life, is at stake. That's how it happened that he spied her and that he saw her in her 24

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true element, her ties with earth and wilderness inscribed in a body not only human. Melusine, like many women who possessed an ancient form of magical wisdom, had a sacred connection with snakes. At night and in the water, the ancestor of all mermaids is half woman and half serpent. Quite naturally she has also wings that she uses to fly away into the night, leaving her desperate lover behind, never to see him again. Others, as If we look at unconceivable these two stories, like at to us variations on a theme, we'll notice that something fundamental changed, from one to the other, in the mythological pattern that we can identify. The keeper of the secret is, in the second myth, the woman. Most importantly, in the medieval version, the broken promise does indeed reveal the lover/other to be a monster, and maybe for this reason the relationship can't be repaired. Nevertheless, it's impressive how these two stories, despite a span of a thousand years and such different religious and cultural contexts, retain so much in common. There is a hard kernel, a literary trope that looks more like some kind of mythological teachingone that talks about mysteries and the importance of never 25

such, are

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unveiling them. Let's keep following the echoes of past voices and we'll arrive in 20th century France, where an old man this timeJacques Lacanbecause he is unable to tell stories, decides to give a seminar instead.3More than one, even. In Paris he decides to talk, for months on end, about the problem of us versus others. We won't stay here long. Just long enough to learn that Lacan believed that others, as such, are unconceivable to us; that we live in the cognitive impossibility of fully accepting or grasping the truth of otherness. This otherness B e f o r e describes him, another the ultimate old man in unpredictability of Germany had argued that this our beloveds same situation, the one where the I meets Another, originates a battle that ends only when one of the two entities is spiritually destroyed and reduced to a state of material or ideological slavery. He had the unfortunate name of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and, maybe because of it, he had a hard time telling stories, too.4 He actually had a very intricate and obscure way of talking, not at all easy to follow, but I'm sure his words resonate somewhere within all of you; for this is a 26

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hard and crucial dilemma for all of us. One that we often solve by ignoring it, by pretending that others are and should be us, or very much like ustheir thoughts and feelings just like our thoughts and feelings. Given that they are sane, of course, given they are not monsters. If we are not successful in the operation of reducing others to identicalyou are another me/I am another you, then we'll cast them out the window, outside of the walls, outside of the realm of what is normal, civilized, and sane. Outside of what it is us. In these terms, the two ancient myths are talking about the essential otherness of those around us, and especially of those we love and want to have an intimate relationship with. hey talk about it as an inherent freedom, T an illimitable array of possibilities. his otherness describes T the ultimate unpredictability of our beloveds and their behavior, desires, and intentions. Unpredictability and uncontrollability, I should say, that rely on the fact that the other will always be different from us and can never be reduced to coincide perfectly, in wants and actions, with us. Crucially, we cannot fully control those we love, no matter how hard we try. As the old woman tells us, it is exactly around this secretthe secret that others will always be for usand our ability to accept and respect it, that love revolves. Apparently, if we don't respect this mystery, if we don't learn how to deal with otherness and freedom, love flies out the window. 27

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Yet, what does all this have to do with resistance, with capitalism and the class system, you might askhow is all this relevant from the point of view of radical politics? My claim is that these ancient myths suggest an essentially subversive model of relationships, and that it is subversive because it defies a social and sexual discipline upon which capitalism relies for its very functioning. One of the themes that emerges from our stories, or most clearly from the myth of Melusine, the snakewoman, is the problem of sexual disciplinespecifically organized around the practice of monogamy. This allows me to open a digression, or, at least, an apparent one. Whatever we feel about it, it is important to keep in mind that as a practice of sexual discipline, monogamy has been imposed exclusively upon women until very recently. The male, the head of the household, has always been sexually free. The problem for sexual disciplinarians was that, contrary to common belief, women were not more monogamous than men by inclination. It was in fact not at all easy to impose restrictions on their sexuality. That's why such severe measures as the death penalty for adultery, chastity belts, clitoridectomy, torture, and burning at the stake had to be enforced so widely and for so many centuries in the Western world.5 In fact, every time that we face a powerful repression mechanism, we can consider it an indication of two things: first, that what is being enforced is of 28

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crucial importance; and second, that it is encountering a powerful resistancesince we know the ruling class has no interest in expending resources on unnecessary endeavors. Why female monogamy is crucial for the maintenance of capitalism is an old story, something I suspect youve heard over and overdivision of labor and relegation of women to the reproductive sphere being the refrain. To obtain this result it has been necessary for female sexuality to become increasingly situated as a service bought, rendered, or exchanged. Women's sexuality had to become a commodity. As Ive already said, it proved surprisingly hard for the ruling class to impose on women that social and sexual discipline that included, among other things, monogamy and the commodification of their sexual pleasure. It proved so hard, in fact, that they had to mount an enormous apparatus of repression and control that targeted both women and men. It was also necessary, for the whole ordeal to fully function, to launch a propagandistic campaign that had as one of its main goals the alienation of men from their female comrades, and that caused a long lasting internal fracture in the proletariat, weakening its fighting power. We know that this enormously ambitious, oppressive campaign, whose intention was to intimately transform the behavior of the working classthe way men and women interacted with their own body and with each otherproved very successful, and continued for about 29

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three centuries, starting from the late middle age and the beginning of the Renaissance all over Europe, at a time when probably both our myths had been long forgotten. It required a control mechanism powerful enough to investigate and manipulate the most remote recesses of people's minds and desires. A mechanism that, if we believe what Silvia Federici tells us in Caliban and the Witch,6was perfected in the torture chambers, where supposed witches were interrogated obsessivelyand that was later maintained first through the institution of religious confession and then through psychoanalysis.7 What strikes me about this is that an interrogation, the sacrament of confession, and a psychoanalytic session have an essential practice in commonso evident and yet mostly overlooked. In all three instances we are required to spill out our guts. There must be no aspect of our behavior, sexual desires, fantasies, or dreams that is not unveiled, analyzed, and then manipulated in a way that it conforms to the social norm. It's a war against our mystery, against our otherness, because that otherness, if understood as our essential freedom and unpredictability, is in itself subversive and must be smashed. This is what Foucault calls the panopticon model of social control or panopticism.8You might be familiar with what the panopticon is. In essence it is a prison built in such a way that every aspect of a convict's life is subject to a state of continuous observation. Continuous observation is one of the most powerful and oppressive forms of control, but is also hard and 30

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expensive for the ruling class to maintain. The control apparatus set against our consciousness and minds, as it looked during the Renaissance, was not only incredibly brutal, it also proved enormously expensiveboth in material resources and in the sacrifice of individual lives. It was, in that form, unsustainable. And yet it could not be completely dismantled, it was and still is necessary, because our resistance is thankfully always stronger and always lasts longer than any form of oppression. So then, what happened? With the introduction of capitalism and the nuclear family and the dismantling of rural communities, the responsibility for policing womens sexual behavior shifted away from the church or larger community and Its a war was entrusted to the against our man assigned as their mystery owner. The husband, the father, the brother, the son, the doctoreach spending a ridiculous amount of time ensuring that their women did not show any sign of betrayal, hysteria, or lasciviousnessor, in other words, no sign of creativity, pleasure, or freedom. Later, in turn, womenas wives, mothers, daughters and nursestook on a similar role towards their men, controlling their job performance and the state of their ambitiousness, making sure they would not be distracted by alcohol, drugs, politics, or extramarital sex. Monogamy, truthfulness, and regular and thorough confessions slowly but steadily 31

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became a paramount moral paradigm for men as well as women. This is one of the ways, maybe the most powerful, in which our bodies have been enclosed and transformed, from the body of pleasure that we were born with into the body machine, functioning almost exclusively for the purpose of success in the labor market. Our energy are thereby diverted from relationships, pleasure, communication, emotions, and sexuality and invested into social and economic performance.9 Nowadays, the relationship models that are offered to us, open or closed, polyamorous or monogamous, almost always have one thing in common: sharing. We are supposed to share with our partners our emotions and masturbations, everything we do, think about, desire, and dream of and we end up feeling guilty for everything we keep for ourselves, for our snake-tailand there is inevitably a lot we are going to keep for ourselves, in order to partially escape conformity and still be a little bit wild, if nowhere else, at least in our sexual fantasies. We are supposed, according to these models, to justify and account for our behavior, for our sins and failures, if not to the priest or the cops then to our partners. In conclusion, if we follow these models of relationships we end up doing the work of the ruling class. We are saving them a lot of money and time by being each other's confessors and guardians, private censors and constant psychoanalysts. The control apparatus has lifted off the shoulders of the ruling class and their army of inquisitors, 32

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to become our everyday burden. I want to end here with a question. What do you think would happen if we suddenly refused to police each other, if we stopped investing so much of our time and energy in the continuous observation of our partners and in the attempt to control and manipulate their behavior, if we ceased to be the foremost hindrance to their freedom and unpredictability and, most importantly, if we allowed ourselves the right to take back and defend our fundamental mystery? My supposition is that it would be less likely for love and passion to fly so easily out the window, and that we would have a ton of subversive energy to invest in our communities and with our comrades. Most importantly, we would not create relationship units that are functional to capitalism and the wage labor system. We would make space in our lives for the unexpectedand doing so, for resistance to the status quo. It would indeed be a revolutionary act.

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Apuleius, trans. Joel C. Relihan. The Golden Ass, or A Book of Changes. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2007). Apuleius was a writer, poet, philosopher and magician. He included the tale of Psyche and Cupid in his most important work, Metamorphosis or The Golden Ass. Metamorphosis is the only Latin novel that was preserved somewhat entirely. It was inspired by more
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ancient tales originating in the context of the Fabula Milesiaa literary genre that start in Greece around the II century B.C. And that is rooted in ancient oral traditions. Donald Maddox and Sara Sturm-Maddox. Melusine of Lusignan: Founding Fiction in Late Medieval France. (Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1996). We find the character of the wood or water-fairy Melusine in a tale that is part of what in the middle ages were called spinning yarns tales, or tales told by women orally and in group, usually while they where spinning or washing clothes. One of the first collections of these fables, in which the tale of Melusine is included, was compiled in France at the end of the XIV century and then translated first in German in the year 1416 and then in English in 1500.
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Jacques Lacan, Dun Autre lautre, Le Monde: Le Sminaire, Livre XVI, 1968-1969, (Paris: Editions du Seuil, Champ Freudien, 2006). Lacan exposes this problem first in his IV seminar, entitled The Ego and the Other held in Paris on February 3rd 1954 and then again in a cycle that will occupy the entire year of 1968-1969 under the title Dun Autre lautre or From One Other to the other.
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Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, trans. A. V. Miller. The Phonomenology of Spirit. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979). My favorite section of the otherwise obscure book The Phenomenology of Spirit, is called, The Dialectic Master/Slave in which Hegel expresses the theory I mention here, of course through the lenses of my limited understanding of it.
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I am not trying to claim here that the witch hunt and the phenomenal repression system set up against women was aimed essentially or exclusively at curtailing their sexual freedom. On the contrary, what was really at stake there was, I think, their role in the class struggle at the time. Controlling their sexuality was, nonetheless, not only one of the central tools of their oppression, it was so because a disciplined sexuality turned to be one of the foundation stones on which the all apparatus relied.
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Silvia Federici. Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation. (New York: Autonomedia, 2004). In Caliban and The Witch, Silvia Federici analyzes the witch-hunt from the point of view of its necessity for the
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establishment of a capitalistic economical system and, at the same time, as a sort of mass-scale laboratory for the perfecting of policing and repressive techniques. According to what Michel Foucault claims in the second volume of his History of Sexuality, The Use of Pleasures. Michel Foucault. History of Sexuality, Vol. II, The Use of Pleasure. (Vancouver, Wash.: Vintage Books, 1990).
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The panopticon is a power and control struscture designed by Jeremy Bentham in the XVIII century. Michel Foucault uses it as a Metaphor of our society in Discipline and Punish. Michel Foucault. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. (New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2012).
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For this theory view Silvia Federici, op. Cit

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On Openness
Bronwyn Lepore

H
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appiness comes from the ability to enact pleasure, as Gilligan puts it, which surely comes from a certain confidence, a belief in ones own right to pleasure as well anothers right to pleasurea mutuality.

SheRevolts

Bronwyn Lepore

and Relationships
A healthy human psyche is one that enacts rather than suppresses the pleasure and utility of interconnection. Carol Gilligan, The Birth of Pleasure Peace or harmony between the sexes and individuals does not necessarily depend on a superficial equalization of human beings; nor does it call for the elimination of individual traits and peculiarities.The problem...is how to be ones self and yet in oneness with others, to feel deeply with all human beings and still retain ones own characteristic qualities. Emma Goldman, The Tragedy of Womens Emancipation

hen this collective first considered a talk on open relationships we found that we had a healthy variety of views on, experiences with, and even definitions of the practice. It seemed we needed to more clearly define the term, but keep the definition open. While a mainstream, hierarchical culture typically imposes the tyranny of compulsory, monogamous heterosexuality, radical communities are sometimes guilty of imposing an oppositional tyranny of openness. These forms of openness may be transgressive, but arent necessarily socially or personally transformative (though they can be). Believing that a body, particularly a female body, should be open at all timesthat not to be open 37

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is to be closed, uptight, or traditionalmay even cause a great deal of sadness and torment. Several friends I spoke with who have not had positive experiences with open relationships, and whom I consider open-minded, decided against coming to our talk on the subject. They considered the topic full of cracks and perils, of attempts to be cool, or to avoid vulnerability. Personally, I love the idea and the sensuality of opennessof open summer windows full of street sounds and smells, of people and birdsof openness to adventure, to the new, to the old, to love and friendship, to experiencebut openness also creates risk, vulnerability, and anxiety. If the experiences aren't good, or reciprocal, or mutualif they cause not pleasure, but discomfort and a closing up of the body, the heart, and the mind windows are shut, curtains drawn. We live in an anxious culture; I think a lot of this has to do with values. When we ask ourselves, What am I valued for, and by whom? the answer often causes anxiety. Capitalist culture encourages us to ask: Am I good enough, rich enough, pretty enough, sexy enough; is my Facebook profile 2.0 enough? Whereas in radical cultures we sometimes ask: Am I different enough, quirky enough, poor enough, anti-establishment enough, really radical? Radical cultures, too, are notably transientpeople come in and out of collectives, spaces, lives, and bedswhich can also cause anxiety and instability. The beauty of humanity, writes historian Robin D. G. Kelley, is in its potential for transformation, in its ability 38

SheRevolts

Bronwyn Lepore

to transcend the categories that define and constrict us. So it's important to consider what blocks that potential and what encourages it. I have known and met long-term monogamous couples hom onsider o ave ery pen elationshipsa w Ic t h v o r roots and wings form of freedom, based on mutual respect.i These are not perfect relationships, but the partners are gladly intertwinedinter-assured of the mind, as the metaphysical poet John Donne wrote in a poem to his wife. Poet and I love the naturalist Diane Ackerman further describes the idea and the benefits of close, longsensuality term relationships: It's in loving relationships of all of openness sortspartners, children, close friendsthat brain and body really thrive, she writes in The Brain on Love. ii She reports how in brain scan studies long married couples displayed calm in sights associated with fear and anxiety. In her analysis, during idylls of safety, when your brain knows you're with someone you can trust, it needn't waste precious resources coping with stressors or menace. I don't think this phenomenon can be dismissed merely as capitalism's imposition of a monogamous culture. I feel less anxious when I'm with my dogsI know we care for and depend on each otherthere is a mutuality to our relationship. When my 39

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children were young (and even now sometimes) and they were elsewhere or I had to be away it was like missing a limb. When there is a rupture or distance from a lover whose physical presence and touch are normally close, our bodies ache, mourning the loss. The advantages of such stability, especially for activists, should be obvious. If our brains can relax in the arms of a stable relationship we can be more productive and feel less hopeless. Yet I hesitate to over-valorize such long-term love, which in my experience is actually rare in romantic relationships. We have all seen quite the oppositethe misery of a mismatch, the overbearing weight of religious belief and guilt, the oppression of domesticity. When the I always thought of my Scotch Presbyterian grandfather voice is as a pretty miserable man. He lost, the never laughed and went by window that unfortunate Protestant code that life is about work and shuts responsibilitypleasure is for the weak and dissolute. He and my grandmother, married 53 years, slept in separate beds and I never saw them touch, though I would say they cared for each other. But just recently, going through some of my father's things, I found a picture of my grandfather. In it he is young and shirtless, maybe 19, smiling at life's possibilities. And I wondered if maybe a window had been closed, if he had lived without the sensual pleasures of 40

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a mutual physical intimacy, and if maybe it was that that took the smile from his face. Just recently, I was reading Edmund White's The Flaneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris, which is in part a memoir of his life in Paris in the 1980s and 90s, it struck me that he noted that some of the happiest moments of his life had been the casual sexual encounters he'd had cruising the gay areas and parks of Pariswhat Erica Jong described as the zipless fuck. I wondered what brain studies might show about that. What stands out for me, in both Ackerman's findings of happiness in committed partnerships and White's transient joy in casual sex with strangers, is voice. In both cases, happiness comes from the ability to enact pleasure, as Gilligan puts it, which surely comes from a certain confidence, a belief in ones own right to pleasure as well anothers right to pleasurea mutuality. When the voice is lost, the window shuts. To paraphrase Frantz Fanon, we revolt when we can no longer breathe, and this is also true of personal relationships. When my mother was 36 she left my father and my brothers and me for an 18-year old she'd fallen in love with. It didn't work out, but I think she still counts this as one of the happiest times in her lifewhich was too hard for me to bear as a teenager. I only began to understand her better when I experienced a serious depression as a young, married mother; in the unhappiness of my relationship I had lost my sense of joy and possibilities. 41

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Bronwyn Lepore

I felt the weight of another (one who didnt want to recognize my voice or desires), rather than a lightness of being, or openness. When the voice of desire, the ability to trust pleasure and joy is gone, we lose any sense of openness. I tried to learn your language, but fell asleep half undressed, unrecognizable to myself. P Harvey, Broken Harp on White .J. Chalk When we live only for the pleasure of othersas so often throughout history, women have been encouraged to dowe don't see ourselves and we lose our voices. As Gilligan writes in The Birth of Pleasure: A New Map of Love (which I highly recommend), the pleasure of love is a common human denominator often repressed in a hierarchical culture. So a radical feminist politicsas Goldman, and Kelley, and Gilligan and bell hooks have all fought foris still the order of the day. Gilligan argues that reason and feeling are not (as so many patriarchal thinkers have encouraged) separate; that a radical politics which encourages voice merges the two. When we love and feel loved (whether this love is fleeting or long-term), when we have a voice and listen to others voices with love and openness, the brain can spend its lifeblood learning new things or fine-tuning the process of healing. Its doors of perception swing wide open. iii 42

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From the anonymous saying, There are but two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots, the other, wings.
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Diane Ackerman, The Brain on Love, NYTimes.com, March 24, 2012.

Ibid.

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