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

Lynne Huffer
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.


Reviewed: 2020-05-21
i don't want to be mean but this book was tedious to me. i guess it's helpful if you don't know the full story but it doesn't really offer anything earthshattering to this conversation. plus i'm pissed off extra because i'm constantly thinking about this. queer feminism. yes, it's the problem space where desire requires the object that ethics refuses. this person teaches at emory i'm guessing that they must have transgender people in their classes but this book is written with nothing to really offer the queer feminist conversation acknowledging how trans studies changes our archive of "sex" (whatever "sex" really is?). plus i've spent a long time organizing around this stuff with gay shame so there's nothing especially compelling here. as far as the sex question, yes foucault is probably not the most ultraly helpful with a lot of the problems that latch on to queerness or trans stuff in our moment. i'm there with foucault on the problem of representation, understanding that this is a nonplace perhaps although definitely far from the no-place of utopia and definitely far from an undercommons where sex actually transpires beyond discourse, much to the frustration of a purported feminist ethical project. this is the site of disproportionally seroconverting blackness, a neoliberal site of unspeakable abjection or what-have-you. i didn't find a lot of strategies here for that, and i feel like bersani's read on foucault offers nothing. the thing, huffer herself is not really convincing, since she and her partner have a domestic scene of mostly inter-racial dialogue, maybe a kid? i don't remember. so the state is always wanting deviance to speak, and it's an impasse, it's all carceral, blah. the most tedious part was about the law, i mean who cares about the law? why are we talking about it? why are we letting the law tell us what rape is? there is also this tension because a lot of organizing spaces i've been in actively try to prevent people from talking about intimate violence. and i'm sorry, if your close friend comes forward with a story about being assaulted there really isn't that much to theorize about. there are a lot of urgent ideas i feel that this text raises but nothing that i could dare define as an innovation nor especially new. queer feminists are going to have to still figure this out, which if you're a queer feminist you already knew that. still this book is one whole star better than bersani's piece of shit. ***oooh 'fore i forget, another part that irked me in the afterword was the parting thought "life is dangerous." i mean really? who was this book written for 'cause i know it wasn't me.
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