EROSS PUBLIC WEBINAR SERIES - SEMESTER 2 - 2022/23
Wednesday January 25th, 2023
Decaying Dicks and Putrid Pussies: Zombie Sex Toys and Pleasure
Dr Caroline West, University of Galway (Ireland)
The zombie is generally asexual in mainstream depictions, with the rare exception of zombie porn. However, recently there has been a steady a rise in the popularity of zombie sex toys. These sex toys proclaim to resemble ‘realistic’ zombie genitalia and receive reviews such as this intriguing example: ‘for those of you out there with secret zombie sex fantasies, this is for you! Finally, a zombie cock that won’t rot and fall off’. This presentation will look at the phenomenon of these toys and how they fit into explorations of abject sexuality, where disgust is a turn on instead of a turn off. If decay is a selling point instead of a disgust elicitor, how does this impact our comprehension of sex and our understanding of necrophilia? When pustules and rotting testicles are the selling points of dildos, and grey, rotting flesh is used as the skin tone for vagina replicas, what does this say about the nature of taboo sex? This presentation will explore this intersection of horror and pleasure, and asks how the sexualised zombie can contribute to our understanding of zombiism, necrophilia, and desire.
Zombiism interrogates borders that are geo-political or economical, but we cannot build a complete theory of zombiism without looking at sexual borders and how the zombie sex toy challenges notions of sexual pleasure, masturbation, and fear. This presentation situates sex firmly within zombie semiotics and explore what this transgressive sexual activity means for zombie studies.
Dr. Caroline West is an outreach coordinator with Active* Consent, based at NUI Galway, Ireland. She completed her PhD at Dublin City University on the experiences of women working in the American pornography industry in 2020. This thesis also looked at fan interactions, stigma, violence, and feminist discourses on pornography. Additionally, she holds an MA in Sexuality Studies. Caroline is the host of the Glow West podcast which focuses on sexual wellness, and is a relationship columnist with the Irish Independent. She is also the sex and relationship expert for Bumble Ireland. Caroline has been a media commentator about consent, pornography, feminism, and sexual wellness since 2016.
Wednesday February 1st, 2023 *
Archives and the Afterlives of Citizenship: A Case Study
Aaron Benedetti, University of California, Davis (USA)
(* this event will take place at 15h00 Irish Time)
Diana Wakimoto defines grassroots counterarchives as recordkeeping organizations that are managed by the same groups whose histories these organizations seek to preserve. These counterarchives exist in contrast to institutional archives, which are managed by the state and its bureaucracies. In this talk, I consider the relationship of queer and trans counterarchives to those slippery, contestable, deeply inconsistent concepts of “community” and “citizenship” by way of a case study of the Lavender Library, Archives, and Cultural Exchange (LLACE) in Sacramento, California, USA. I draw on my experiences as a volunteer at LLACE since late 2019 and as organizer of an oral history project at LLACE since summer 2022. LLACE is an example of a grassroots counterarchive: it is volunteer-managed and donation-supported, and it provides and preserves textual and video materials for a primarily queer and trans population of local patrons. LLACE’s circulation materials include many texts that state-funded libraries would tag as obscene (for example, pornography) or too specialized for “general” circulation (for example, self-published writing by local queer/trans writers). In the neoliberal world of nonprofit fundraising, LLACE advertises itself as a local resource and supportive space for queer and trans people, especially for queer and trans people of color and Black and indigenous queer and trans people. In many ways, this is true, since LLACE is one of very few non-state-administered spaces through which people can move without the need for payment. But LLACE also relies on appeals to neoliberal notions of diversity and identity, some of which contribute to the marginalization and disenfranchisement of those very populations LLACE intends to serve. As such, the accessibility of LLACE’s resources is paradoxically conditioned on the organization’s capacity to reproduce parts of the political and economic logic that undermines American notions of citizenship and political community. LLACE’s capacity to frame itself as a “good” nonprofit organization allows the library to steal resources from an economy that is increasingly inhospitable to racialized queer and trans populations; simultaneously, LLACE’s reproduction of neoliberal rhetorics of identity also reshapes the library’s relation to its “own” community and constituents. I interpret my experiences as a volunteer in conjunction with certain oral history interviews to understand how donors, patrons, volunteers, and other locals narrate their relationship to the library, its materials, its history, and its activities “in the community.” What are the commitments and detachments that sustain or compel volunteers in their ongoing labor at LLACE? In what ways are patrons and donors committed to and detached from LLACE’s mission and materials? I argue that close attention to this grassroots counterarchive provides insight into American neoliberalisms, minoritized gender and sexual “community,” and the distinct constellation of attachments and detachments that mark, to borrow a phrase from Eva Cherniavsky, the afterlives of American citizenship.
Aaron Benedetti (he/him) is a doctoral candidate in cultural studies with an emphasis in feminist theory and research at the University of California, Davis (USA). His dissertation explores the political currency of archives in contemporary US queer communities by placing feminist information studies and critical archival studies in conversation with American studies, queer politics and history, and theories of temporality. At UC Davis, he works alternately as an instructor and teaching assistant in the Departments of English, American Studies, and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies.
Wednesday February 8th, 2023
Interview: My Name is Philippa (Mercier Press, 2021)
Philippa Ryder, author (Ireland)
This webinar will consist in an interview of Philippa Ryder on her debut memoir My Name is Philippa (Mercier Press, 2021). Philippa Ryder, a feminist, LGBTQ+ activist, career civil servant, COO of Under The Rainbow and inspiring Trans woman, has spent 20 plus years working in the field for the LGBTQ+ community, working with TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland) in their early days and acting as a committee member for TGEU (Transgender Europe).
Wednesday February 15th, 2023 *
Porn Panic Politics in Canada: The Return of the Sex Crisis
Dr Rebecca Sullivan, The University of Calgary (Canada)
(* this event will take place at 15h00 Irish Time)
In 1992, feminist activist and journalist Susan Cole released Pornography and the Sex Crisis in Canada. It charted a decade or so of hotly contested porn debates between competing feminist organizations across the country and related public policy responses. At the time, the focus was on sexually explicit media and the overbearing provincial censor boards that were powerful at the time. Commercialized sexual services remained largely criminalized, although closely linked in the public discourse. A Parliamentary Committee on Pornography and Prostitution was formulated in 1983 (The Fraser Committee), followed one year later by the Committee on Sexual Offences Against Children and Youth (The Badgley Committee).
Also during the eighties, police assaults on queer public spaces precipitated protests and a growing alliance between queer, trans, and sex worker populations. Feminist groups were largely (but certainly not completely) absent from this movement, more invested in what they considered the twinned issues of sexually explicit media and sexual violence against women. By the mid-nineties, the sex crisis sputtered to an end, as policing consensual sexual acts could no longer rely on moralizing sex panics to justify their abuses. However, the threat of resumption hung overhead the country as the legal and regulatory frameworks remained largely in place but unenforced.
By the 2010s, the storm clouds of sex panic gathered again. After a landmark Supreme Court ruling against all prostitution laws, the ruling Conservative government introduced even more draconian measures to prevent consensual adult sex work in 2014. In 2016, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health held hearings to promote the scientifically baseless claim that “online violent and degrading sexually explicit material” was a public health crisis. In the midst of the COVID pandemic the same MP who instigated these hearings now called for an investigation by the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics on “Ensuring the Protection of Privacy and Reputation on Platforms such as Pornhub.” He also introduced Bill C-302, “An Act to amend the Criminal Code (pornographic material)” to make acts that were already illegal even more illegal because porn.
Why are we back here in the throes of moralizing sex panics, consuming public resources to support political overreach which, as the Supreme Court has already ruled multiple times, violate the Charter rights of Canadians? How have alliances shifted over the decades to bring feminist activists into the fold of sexual rights activism, and advanced sex worker advocacy to the centre of the movement? Utilizing the responsibilization framework I developed for my analysis of Canada’s crisis approach to reproductive politics, I consider the return of the sex crisis through the lens of bodily autonomy, sexual citizenship, and the politicization of public health.
Dr. Rebecca Sullivan is a professor at the University of Calgary, specializing in feminist media and cultural studies. She is the (co-)author/editor of eight books including Becoming Biosubjects: Bodies. Systems. Technologies (2011); Bonnie Sherr Klein’s Not a Love Story: A Film About Pornography (2014); and Pornography: Stuctures, Agency and Performance (2015), and a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Porn Studies. Dr. Sullivan is past president of the Canadian Communication Association and past Chair of the Sexuality Studies Association. She is currently working on The Legacy of Studio D for Feminist Media Arts Activism, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant Program.
Wednesday February 22nd, 2023
'You know what it is? They never felt these fabrics before.': Black Masculinity, Hybridity
Dr Ashley Morgan, Cardiff Metropolitan University (UK)
This presentation explores hybrid dress and embodiment of SoundCloud Rappers. SoundCloud rappers wear clothes usually associated with hybrid masculinity, such as fluffy pink hoodies, silk scarves and frilly shirts. In contrast, rappers usually embody an idealized heteronormative masculinity, played out through manly affect, which is often expressed through baggy sports clothing and oversized gold jewellery. Despite black masculinity being historically defined through stylish, interesting and ostentatious clothes, these looks have been rejected by traditional rappers for fear of the feminization of the male body through hybrid masculinity. The transformation in cultural production through participatory culture, allowing for different male identities to be expressed, has had little impact on black masculinity in hip hop. Using the concept of the dandy, this article examines the ways in which certain SoundCloud rappers embraced ostentation and hybridity in clothing, despite a significant backlash from their peers. Arguably, SoundCloud rappers have pushed the boundaries of clothing for a new generation of queer Black rappers, such as Youngthug, and Lil Nas X, arguably, paving the way for looks which are ‘beyond belief’.
Dr Ashley Morgan is a senior lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University. She has published on male geek identity, sexual asceticism as a viable form of male sexual behaviour and the presence of mediated toxic masculinity. She is especially interested in the intersections between masculine identity and clothing and has published on hybrid masculinity, men in skirts and the relationship between hegemonic masculinity and men’s suits. Her forthcoming research includes depressed affect and men's clothing, Punk, Running and Ageing, Punk as a form of Collective Practice and qualitative research with Dr Mo Malik on Male Pattern Baldness. She is an award-winning running punk.
Wednesday March 8th, 2023
Mapping Transnormativity: Body Mapping as Method
Matt Kennedy, University College Dublin (Ireland)
Body mapping is an arts-based research method ideal for studying the intersections of contextual factors that influence experiences of embodiment and in the case of this research project visually depict lived experiences of transition. There is increased interest in knowledge generated through trans people’s embodied experience and its relevance to understanding stigma, discrimination and subjectivity as examined through qualitative methods, primarily interviews. Such complex experiences cannot be fully conveyed via textual data alone, and visual methodologies yield critical, engaging and reflexive media for researchers and participants to generate evidence that other methods cannot. This project on transnormativity and the everyday lifeworlds of young trans men in Ireland used body mapping to generate visual and textual data to capture trans men’s embodied experiences to understand transnormativity as an ideology alongside interviews and focus groups. The production of body maps in this project enabled participants to express and symbolise emotions and represent stories about their experiences of the world, their lives, and their bodies via visual representation, producing an image depicting embodied experience at the intersection of multiple forms of marginalisation. This presentation will bring members of the session through the planning, delivery and outcomes of the body mapping workshops in order to explore the contributions of body mapping as a method to this specific research project and its significance in visually capturing the nuances of transness and transition. In addition, this presentation will demonstrate the capacity for body maps to communicate research findings and the significance of arts-based methods in participatory research.
Matt Kennedy (he/him) is an Irish Research Council Scholar and doctoral candidate in the area of trans studies in the School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice at University College Dublin, a writer and a boxer. He is currently employed in Belong To, Ireland’s National LGBTQ+ youth organisation as the policy and research officer as well as completing his PhD on transnormativity. His research areas and interests include trans studies, queer studies, autoethnography, disciplinarity, abolition, feminist theory, gender studies, archival studies, youth studies, sport and masculinities. His writing can be found in The Bulletin of Applied Transgender Studies, Irish University Review and Fruit Journal.
Wednesday March 15th, 2023
The Queer Home on Celluloid: Greek Cinema and the Public/Private Boundary
Dr Phevos Kallitsis, University of Portsmouth (UK)
The paper aims to discuss through content analysis of the films that constitute the New Greek Queer cinema of the 90s the residential home as an important site for ‘queer politics’ of identity, based on the way it manages the public/private boundary. Taking inspiration from the rise of the New Queer cinema as defined by Rich (1992, 2013), a group of Greek auteurs, many of them after studying and working abroad, brought forward the queer subject in a rather conservative society, aiming simultaneously to move forward from the depressing cursed gay man, the dangerous margin and the historical perspective. In the mid-90s, Greek filmmakers deal with contemporary issues, raise issues of class, immigration and alternative identities, and make references to global trends, while, at the same time, placing their main characters in the contemporary Greek urban and rural space. National cinematic productions provide a reflection of social issues, regardless of the aims of the creators and this paper aims to focus on the development of a queer identity in a country, which always dreamed of belonging to the west, despite its clear geographical position within and cultural links to the east. The paper studies the way the private space of gay, lesbian and trans characters is presented and maps how these representations reveal the way the public/private boundary is managed and creates relationships with the world. These representations reveal stereotypes and cultural assumptions, while at the same time bring those subjects to the attentions of the public.
Dr Phevos Kallitsis is an architect (National Technical University of Athens) and Senior Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth. He teaches architecture and interior design. His research focuses on cinematic representation and urban spaces. His publications have explored horror films and the notion of safety in the city, gendered and queer approaches on urban space and the meaning of home for people with dementia. He has worked as an architect, cinema critic and set designer for theatre productions and TV.
Wednesday 22nd March 2023
“She is incapable of leaving” – Perceiving Consent, Vulnerability, and Strategy in ‘Battered’ and ‘Prostituted’ Women
Victoria Holt, University of Roehampton London, England
Over the years, understandings of domestic abuse and sex work have altered the words we call on to define it. The phrase ‘battered woman’ was premised on notions of learned helplessness, a psychological condition where women perceived their circumstances as unchangeable and therefore tolerated the abuse. But now we know that women in abusive or violent relationships do have agency and regularly show resistance – at times violent, but often not. Regardless of how resistance manifests, ultimately resistance is a survival strategy for those living with violence, and this includes, at times, strategic passivity and placation. For many women, leaving an abusive partner may increase their risk of femicide, meaning that it is often safest for them to stay: staying then, is an act of resistance to keep themselves alive. Battered woman as a term, is thus no longer appropriate. But why then, is the term prostituted woman acceptable to the same feminists who acknowledge the agency of abuse survivors? Their argument is that sex worker implies that having sex for money is a job, with freely given consent, and they argue that for those who are trafficked or pimped this term is inappropriate. Prostituted woman is far more apt because they are being prostituted. Staying in an abusive relationship may mean living with violence and degradation, but leaving comes with its own risks. It’s no different in the sex industry where continuing sex working is a reflection of limited livelihood options and scarce economic resources. Many of the participants in this paper utilised sex work as resistance against abuse, against poverty, and as a strategy against further risk of harm.
Using the term ‘prostituted woman’ to highlight harm being done undermines the agency that women show when they exercise self-determination, capacity and awareness of income generation for survival. This is especially the case for migrant or coerced sex workers as it forgets the whole social, economic and political context which renders someone vulnerable in the first place. Drawing on data from my PhD research, this presentation will show how agency, strategy, and resistance are present, even in cases of coercive, abusive or trafficked sex workers, if actually, they are strategically working in a way to minimize harm to themselves and others. Simply because they are not actively exiting does not mean that they are consenting to sex work any more than a woman is consenting to being abused simply because she is not moving out. Based on findings from qualitative interviews with sex workers who experienced domestic abuse, I show how, when dominant voices refer to women as prostituted, they are constructed as ‘vulnerable’, and this justifies a range of coercive consequences as shown in my analysis, such as others disciplining them, using stigmatising labelling or even intrusive and destabilising rescue missions.
Victoria Holt is a PhD scholar at the University of Roehampton, and a research assistant at the University of Sheffield, with experience working in frontline women’s services. Her thesis explores sex workers’ experiences of domestic and familial abuse, and she is especially interested in constructions of identity and vulnerability, maternal bonds and knowledge production, as well as abolitionist and community based interventions and support. As a research assistant she is working with Dr Laura Connelly on a project titled 'Equality and Inclusion: Promoting responsible academic engagement with sex workers.' This project aims to explore how academics can operate in a more ethical and responsible way with sex workers, from the perspective of sex workers. It is a project that is informed by a ‘scholar-activist’ approach: an approach orientated around how academics can best work in service to the communities in which they research. Her wider research is focused more broadly on queer intimate partner violence, family violence, the sex industry, feminism, carceralism and police perpetrated violence. She is co-convener of the British Sociological Association’s Violence Against Women and Girls Study Group and she sits on the board for the Sex Work Research Hub. Her work has been published in The Lancet, International Journal of Gender, Sexuality and Law as well as mainstream publications such as The Independent, The Quietus and Novara Media. Her interests are reflected in the activism work she does away from her thesis. She works closely with the Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM), Decrim Now and The English Collective of Prostitutes.
Wednesday March 29th, 2023
Subverting Space and Time in Queer Collage
Emilio Williams, Georgia State University (USA)
This research in progress positions gay collage as weapon to queer heteronormative notions of space and time. Since at least the 1920’s, North Atlantic men who loved other men juxtaposed images to represent and re-imagine queer locations and chronologies. Visuals from highly-gendered male and female magazines and ads leapfrogged from popular press to scrapbook collections to vernacular, pioneering forms of postmodernist/pop collage.
The survey ranges from the interwar period to the mid 50’s, including surviving relics from the Harlem Renaissance, never before published work by outsider artists, photograph by key gay photographers in American popular magazines, as well as examples from the private work of artists such Cecil Beaton and Jess. The presentation makes new connections between how queer collage, photography and photomontage cross-pollinated in motifs and composition in the aftermath of modernism. Riffing on theories of the ridiculous, by Stefan Brecht and Charles Ludlam, these queer works deploy a stance pregnant with humorous and critical connotations. They also toy with “queer goading,” a rebellious stance of doubling down in sexual and/or gender performative excesses. Some of the queer discourses deployed in these early vernacular collages endured the golden age of pop art, the AIDS crisis, and continue to live, well and fine, in the work of contemporary queer collage artists.
Emilio Williams is a bilingual (Spanish/English) award-winning writer and educator. His critically acclaimed plays have been produced in Argentina, Estonia, France, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. His experimental prose has appeared most recently in Brevity Magazine, Writing Disorder, Hinterland Magazine, Imagined Theatres, and the anthology Beyond Queer Words 2021. Emilio has lectured around the world, and taught at several U.S. universities, including DePaul University, Columbia College Chicago, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Georgia State University. He holds a BA in Film and Video and an MFA in Writing. His research interest involves how to queer the form in which new knowledge is developed and shared.
Wednesday April 5th, 2023 *
The Fiction of Power: Mobilized Dissident Identities Revealing Sexual Neoliberal Urban Fantasies in Quito - Ecuador and Beyond
Ignacio Espinosa, Universidad Internacional del Ecuador (Ecuador)
(* this event will take place at 12h00 pm Irish Time)
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted and reinforced existing urban inequities. Many of these inequities have been presented by local and national governments as “inevitable” realities, justified by “realistic” public policies that respond to urban imaginaries, including: 1) “the pedestrian” and his mobility; 2) the #StayAtHome imperative and single-family housing; and 3) cleanliness and health. At the same time, citizens’ demands for their collective rights have been catalogued as unrealistic fantasies and rejected by state, economic, and media powers. This text explores some of the urban imaginaries that the Quito municipal government and the national Ecuadorian government have presented as reality in order to apply their “realistic” measures during the quarantine and isolation. Thanks to the protests and resistance of sexual dissidents, many fantasies and fictions that shore up the current urban-economic model, presented to us as “rational” and “sensible,” have come to light.
During the quarantine, certain limitations of the municipal urban imaginary of “the pedestrian” were confirmed. Pedestrian crossing signs reflect that “the pedestrian” is imagined as “neutral”—a facile representation of a man on foot (Fig. 1), ignoring the differentiated mobilities of female or feminized pedestrians. Similarly, in an ableist (or disabling) urban model (Fernández, 2018) such as ours, depicting this imaginary “pedestrian” ignores the reality of pedestrian mobility with objects like wheelchairs or canes; it excludes mobility with objects related to jobs as caretakers and domestic workers, such as baby strollers or shopping bags from the supermarket (Jirón, 2018; Soto, 2018).
Whereas in Quito new measures called “peak and plate” were applied to restrict automobility in accordance with the vehicle’s license plate number, in Bogotá, “peak and gender” was enacted. It is useful to look at the cases of other nearby Andean capitals to deepen learning processes. “Peak and gender” (Alcaldía de Bogotá, 2020) was based on the fictitious imaginary that if pedestrians are not men, they must be women.
#StayAtHome and single-family housing
As with the concept of “the pedestrian,” the #StayAtHome imaginary promoted by local and national governments was also fictitiously conceptualized as being “universal,” clearly based on realities of cities in the Global North, where the COVID-19 pandemic arrived earlier. In the first place, “staying” at home is a fictitious assumption. Just as the ease, speed, and comfort of mobility are privileges not granted to everyone, depending on their economic class, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, immigration status or nationality, age, functional diversity, among others, the decision not to move/ go out is also a privilege (Crosswell, 2010).
A second myth of the city’s #StayAtHome measure relates to architectonic and urban typologies. Both the national and municipal governments positioned an urban imaginary of “home” (Figs. 2 and 3) based on a spacious suburban home located low-density population areas, with a lawn outside and all the basic services.
A third fiction of the city’s #StayAtHome measure is the urban imaginary of housing as being single-family and a unitary indicator of “the family” (Figs. 3 and 4).
Another urban imaginary promoted by the Municipality of Quito and the national government during the quarantine concerns cleanliness and health. The message was to wash your hands continuously to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus and protect your health (Figs. 5 and 6). Nevertheless, this message presented neutrally as obvious and rational is in reality fictitious in some neighborhoods, for example Rancho los Pinos in the south of Quito, which does not have an adequate potable water system (El Comercio, 2020). How do you take your HIV pill and wash our hands without water at home?
During the pandemic, another kind of cleanliness was intensified—social cleanliness. Urban sanitizing for the sake of tourism (Andrade, 2006) was in place before the pandemic, especially in areas like La Mariscal and Centro Histórico, where police frequently controls, chases down, and expels people catalogued as “unacceptable,” “suspicious,” or “pathologized.”
Several trans persons and sex workers organized themselves collectively through the Puente Solidario (Solidarity Bridge), an initiative of the Transgender Project (Almeida, 2020), to demand aid and support from the Pichincha Province government. They also successfully self-organized donations from citizens to be able to distribute food kits among their networks and neighborhoods. Some cis-heterosexual neighbors were able to see, with surprise, that through community organization it was possible to demand rights.
Ignacio Espinosa / Iggi, is a marica activist, artist and professor from Quito - Ecuador. He has a B.F.A. in Architecture from the Savannah College of Art and Design and a MSc in Urban Development Planning from The Bartlett - UCL. Ignacio has studied and worked on the issue of sexuality and the intersectional Right to the City. He is currently a professor in the architecture and urbanism faculty at Universidad Internacional del Ecuador, where he teaches an Urban Planning and Design Workshop, a posthumanist landscape course, and a class on Intersecting the Right to the City and Spatial Justice. The latter focuses on Marxist, decolonial, feminist, “queer” and posthumanist approaches to urbanism in Ecuadorian and South American urban spatial production. Ignacio militates in a local marica collective and co-founded SinVergüenza, a night-time marica space in Quito - Ecuador.