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Dating from the Margins: “She’s Kind of Insecure,” or the Catch-22 of Marginalization

October 14, 2011

This post is part of an informal series on dating as a marginalized queer identity. The focus will inevitably be shaped by my personal experience – being white, a trans woman, fat, poor, polyamorous, and a survivor of sexual violence and abuse – but I hope it will resonate to some degree with whose experiences aren’t similar to mine but who nonetheless feel marginalized by their communities. These posts arose from conversations with a number of people on various points of the continuum of queer cultural desire, and I am deeply grateful for those folks. They give me hope these conversations can happen more often, and on a much larger scale.

The first part of the series is available here: Dating from the Margins: Desexualizing and Cultural Abuse

On many occasions I have heard a friend or acquaintance dismissing a potential date because they’re “insecure,” “too needy,” or seem “more invested.” In polyamorous communities I have often noticed alarm if the person dates fewer people, or doesn’t seem to have much dating history. These value judgements are rarely if ever accompanied by any further analysis, though, and seem to be almost universally accepted as reasons to not date someone.

I have trouble accepting this conventional wisdom for many reasons. At its base this kind of thinking assumes a model of equal access to dating and desirability, which is demonstrably false. Further, it ignores any awareness of oppression models and privilege, and instead works to support those privileged by this model by making neutral these judgements which are nonetheless strongly informed by external cultural biases.

In my last post I presented the idea of systemic desexualizing as cultural abuse, and I stand by that. Especially if one identifies as a proponent of social justice, and of equality in the face of cultural prejudices regarding race, disability, queerness, body type, gender identity, etc., the understanding of the impact of desexualizing and denying desirability is of paramount importance to dismantle oppression. I cannot imagine describing the systemic denial of food, or sleep, or shelter to be dismissed as unchangeably innate and apart from oppression models, yet we do this with desirability all the time.

When I hear someone say their rationale for not dating someone is because of their “insecurity,” or some other easy pop psychology reasoning, I always hope they’ll have a flash of understanding and compassion, and say, “Though I imagine their insecurity might stem from a set of cultural oppressions which I can’t begin to imagine.” We cannot expect progressive social models to ever take hold if we accept the denial of an arbitrarily defined subset of people to the basic right to access love and sexual expression. This zero-sum thinking is the essence of capitalism, and encourages us to hold tight our own privileges while denying the exclusion of others.

When we stigmatize the symptoms of cultural abuse and marginalization (which is what most of the described “insecurity” is), especially in relationships where that same cultural abuse and marginalization privileges us, we are agents for that system of oppression. To identify ourselves as proponents of anti-oppression yet still engage in language and attitudes which apply negative value judgements to people without acknowledgement of the roots of those judgements undermines the very point of anti-oppression activism. It denies the impact of that abuse.

While we imagine ourselves capable of dismantling such oppressive systems as capitalism, sexism, racism, and classism, I find it deeply sad that we are unwilling to commit resources to the dismantling of desexualizing and exclusionary desirability. This is the truly revolutionary, and the truly radical.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2011 6:03 pm

    We cannot expect progressive social models to ever take hold if we accept the denial of an arbitrarily defined subset of people to the basic right to access love and sexual expression. This zero-sum thinking is the essence of capitalism, and encourages us to hold tight our own privileges while denying the exclusion of others.

    Yes, yes, a million times yes to this. Thank you for writing this series. I really hope it becomes the springboard for a larger conversation about desirability in social justice/queer spaces.

  2. inotowok permalink
    October 16, 2011 3:00 pm

    Thank you so much for your consciousness raising writing (and it’s just the beginning!)

    Are these conversations happening?
    If not, how can we start them?

  3. November 1, 2011 9:53 am

    Maybe part of the problem lies in our concept of “dating”.

  4. Harle permalink
    November 3, 2011 1:02 am

    gudbuytjane,

    I’ve read this and the previous article and there’s a question that is lingering in my mind: When, in your perspective, is it ok for someone to say “I’ve taken everything you’ve said into consideration and I have thought about it and I don’t want to have sex with you.”

  5. November 3, 2011 8:27 am

    @Harle: I’ve been meaning to write a follow-up post to address some of the questions people have had, though unfortunately my laptop stopped working recently, and I’ve been in a bit of a tight spot for having space to write.

    The short answer, though, is that it’s entirely OK for people to not be attracted to others. I do not believe one can or should police that. The point I am trying to make is that our attractions are influenced by many external factors, including many factors which are designed to further marginalize certain bodies and identities. I believe we are well-served by having as honest an awareness of our drives as we can, and if we want to envision ourselves as taking part in progressive movements we have to be honest with ourselves about the influence of culture on marginalizing others as undesirable.

  6. Harle permalink
    November 3, 2011 1:25 pm

    gudbuytjane,

    That sounds like quite the undertaking you have ahead of you. Figuring out an individual basis if a person’s preference for chocolate ice cream and dislike of vanilla ice cream is genuine or merely the product of cultural influence would require a sort of telepathy, I would think. It also has me wondering if you would be prepared that some of the reasons for lack of attraction or willingness to engage in sexual activity with someone can be entirely rooted in practicality and/or pragmatism and is independent of cultural influence.

  7. November 5, 2011 11:56 am

    @Harle: This isn’t about figuring out anyone’s preferences. The point of these articles is to engage people into being self-reflective about the motivations for their desires. Why would you wonder if I would be ‘prepared’ for reasons why someone isn’t attracted to someone else?

    Honestly, I don’t really understand what this means: “the reasons for lack of attraction or willingness to engage in sexual activity with someone can be entirely rooted in practicality and/or pragmatism and is independent of cultural influence.” Although you seem to feel otherwise, I’m not suggesting any sort of affirmative action for the heart. I am merely proposing we can be more aware of the external issues which influences our desires. Sure, it might be quite the undertaking, but any positive social change usually is.

  8. Pink Phoenix permalink
    March 12, 2012 9:39 am

    Exactly, how am I, or any other person who has consistently been told, by other lesbians, in a variety of ways, that I am not attractive, that I am not desirable, that I am not a good match because I have disabilities or illness…to feel. How exactly do I feel SECURE in a community where women say this to my face. Where I am a hot, sexy, intelligent woman, and then they see me with my cane or a picture of me in my wheelchair and all of a sudden, I am not even a woman or a lesbian anymore, just a big child who needs a caretaker that the woman should run away from as fast as possible. How exactly…Does one feel SECURE when other lesbians, so called feminists even, conduct themselves in that manner towards her over and over and over again. Of COURSE Queer Women of the Margins feel Insecure, that is one of the impacts of being told over and over and over again you are not good enough, you arent wanted, you are not welcome and you are not desirable. Duh.

Trackbacks

  1. Dating from the Margins: Desexualizing and Cultural Abuse « gudbuy t'jane
  2. Cotton Ceiling Experiences | Sable's Blog
  3. Cotton Ceiling Experiences « Women Born Transsexual
  4. Dating from the Margins: I don’t like sex « gudbuy t'jane
  5. communities built on exclusion — the essay and what happened at KinkForAll « a heinous butch
  6. Friday Links, 6/7/13 | Tutus And Tiny Hats

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