The Ecosexuality of Everyday Life

Transcript of a talk delivered by Joshua (Sha) LaBare via Skype, 18 June 2011 Ecosex Symposium II ( So you got the introduction: my current project is loosely called the ecology of everyday life, so I'll be thinking through some of what coming out as an ecosexual means for my specific project. I recently completed a dissertation and I work on science fiction as a way of thinking about and being in the world, and specifically I've been very interested in the connection with ecological ethics, with radical ecological ethics, with thinking really really differently about ecologies in general and about the place of humans and the rest of us on this Earth. So, science fiction really brings a lot of interesting things to thinking about ecology. Science fiction now has a long tradition of thinking about strange time frames, of thinking far into the future and far into the past, of thinking about the invisible connections and the evolutions that could happen, and as well science fiction is used to thinking about other creatures and the way they might act, the way agents who are different from humans might behave or the way they might organize socially. Specifically for this talk today, I would like to talk about first contact. Science fiction tells a lot of tales of first contact. Typically these are aliens, they're out there in space, we've been looking for them with our radio astronomy and our enormous telescopes et cetera et cetera, and we hope to make first contact with them. They're-- they're like us so presumably they can talk and maybe they have mathematics or something cool like that, and they have technologies obviously, so that we can communicate with them and make first contact with them. But the ecology of everyday life or the ecosexuality of everyday life involves a kind of first contact that I call invisitation. A visitation is when the aliens come down or the angels come down, right, and they visit you, whereas an invisitation is... when they were already here, when they're all around us already, the aliens are already here but they're invisible to us and suddenly they occur, they appear. So I'm going to start by relating the epiphany that set me on this path. This happened about ten years ago in Santa Cruz, I'd just started my disseration work, and I was living with a bunch of people and I was sitting on the couch - not unlike this one - and I had been cat-sitting for a week for my housemates. Now this cat Mildred was very old and ornery and really just didn't have that much use for me, except that because I was a cat-person I was the person who took care of Mildred. So for an entire week - they're coming back on Sunday, it's Sunday evening - but for the entire week I've been feeding Mildred, I've been giving Mildred water, I let Mildred in, I let Mildred out, I wake up at 6 a.m. because Mildred is crying at my door because something needs to be done, but Mildred will not let me touch her, or pet her. She will not cuddle with me, she will not sit on my lap. And about an hour before my housemates' return, at which point I know she will return to completely ignoring me, Mildred comes on the couch and gives me that lovey face, and starts purring and slobbering and I start petting Mildred, and I'm like Mildred, you are a bitch. [Laughter.] You ignore me - you ignore me all week, I wanted nothing but to cuddle you, and now I know, you know, it's a countdown, they're coming and you are going to start ignoring me again, but it was in that moment that I realized that Mildred was a bitch that I realized that Mildred was a person. And I actually recognized Mildred, I recognized a cat for the first time as a person. I had lived with cats - and dogs - my entire life. I had always loved them. But I had never really thought of Mildred as a person before. As soon as I realized that I obviously applied science-fictional thinking to it and I was like, well, if Mildred is a person - wait, actually I was reading a book about fascism, so this connects to what Jennifer was saying just a moment ago - if Mildred's a person and we humans have been holding up a flag of just human, human, human, you gotta look like this to be a person, if Mildred is a person we have an anthropocentric or human exceptionalist, fascistic kind of organization such that Mildred

doesn't get to count as people. And we've done this of course to other humans, there are humans who get to count more or less as people, we have enslaved them, the history of gender relations et cetera has been based on this kind of exclusion, but if Mildred is a person then who else is getting excluded?, so I was like, well, wait, does that mean we can just eat plants because we can recognize Mildred as a person but we can't recognize lettuce as a person? What I was doing was looking for an ethical unit, who gets to count, who really gets to count when it really comes down to it? And so here I was stuck with a person as an ethical unit and this is where my advisor Donna Haraway and something that she said really allowed me to think through this, and so if there's one sort of concept that I would like to offer you today it's this -- I take it as an axiom -- it is Relation is the smallest unit. So if we're looking for a unit of ethics, of ecological ethics, then we actually need to be looking at relation. What relation is the smallest unit means is that - I mean, it's basically a way of talking about reductionism. Reductionism suggests that you can take a system and you can break it down into smaller and smaller parts and if you could get to the fundamental parts then you can reconstruct it, right, and you have power over that system, you have control over that system, you can understand that system. Holism tries to reverse the thing and basically make the whole the basic unit, but relation is the smallest unit actually says that no, it's in between all of the parts, so if you wanna know something you have to be looking at the relations between the parts, in fact, the parts themselves, the units are constituted by their relations, they do not pre-exist the relations, it's not like a relationship between two things, it's instead each thing is constituted by their relations. So, in terms of ecosexuality, the ecosexual movement, and the ecosex manifesto what this brings me to is this very progressive and powerful move that we've had basically for a while, and it's a reinvention of goddess spirituality, of Gaia and et cetera, partially inspired by the view of Earth from outer space, right, that famous picture of the globe where we finally get to see the Earth and we get to see the Earth as a unit, instead of just something we're part of, but we see it as part of something else, and that the Earth, thinking the Earth as a person returns us to that quest for an ethical unit. Who gets to count? What gets to count? And so the invitation to join you today - and unfortunately I missed it all, it sounds so fun to be there - has made me rethink my epiphany. In terms of Mildred, Mildred coming to me on the couch, it was posed as an encounter with another person at first, that's the way I saw it... but we could also pose it, and I think it's more profoundly ecological and more profoundly ecosexual to look instead at the relation, to look instead at the shared pleasure, in fact, that what was happening there in that moment, that ecosexual encounter, this invisitation, was the emergence of shared pleasure that actually made Mildred and I, that makes Mildred and I who I am, who we are, and that shared pleasure is what I am bringing now to the ecology of everyday life in terms of the ecosexuality of everyday life, the ecosensuality of everyday life. So I thank you, and I thank Beth and Annie for allowing me to see that as I go around making first contact with other animals, with critters, with widgets, with things, with plants, with myself, with the microbes, with the 90% of my body that is nonhuman DNA, with other humans, that I can embrace this shared pleasure as one of the fundamental expressions of the ecosexuality of everyday life. Thank you.

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