My past years at Olaf have reaffirmed my belief that sexuality is always deeply political. Of course, we know that sexuality is central to the platforms of political agendas that define, legislate and control sexuality through laws and customs surrounding birth control, abortion, marriage, sex education and gender identity. We see sexual politics at work when college administrations lose allies over their installation of condom machines. They're present in the pages of the Manitou Messenger, as the newspaper and its columnists confront the anger of alumni for their explicit discussion of a communitys sexuality in a public forum. These heated battles over the control of sexuality are nothing new for St. Olaf or humanity in general.
It's fairly easy to notice these politics when they're on the front page. What I've only recently begun to see is that we also negotiate larger systems of power through our sexualities every day. And I'm not just talking about having an orgasm on a campus that still has inter-visitation policies on the books. Maybe writing this sex column and completing my English major have made me just over-analytical. I see sex and power in everything from church to Sanjaya. But sex and power are there. In big neon lights. And God, they're beautiful. They're in Happy Meal toys, in hemlines, in haircuts, in words and in silences. All of these have something to say about sex and power. What sex should and should not be. Who should have it. When. And how.
I may just be echoing the nauseatingly repetitive mantra of postmodern scholarship by writing a whole article about our bodies being situated in larger systems of power. But they are. At least I think thats the case. All of us are sexuated, as some delightful second wave feminists would say.
The exciting thing about finding our place in the food chain of sex and power is that we can use our knowledge to work the system(s). Whether we want to support or to question the various sexual ideals proposed by Christianity, sexual liberation, patriarchy, neo-liberalism, heterosexism or capitalism, we can use our own sexuality for and against these delicious little systems. I've always thought thats pretty sweet.
Perhaps not everyone is as obsessed as I am with sex and power. Of course, thats probably a good thing. Some of us should consider doing our homework and solving that whole global warming business. But the more I think about these things, the more Im convinced that we all should at least know what systems of thought have shaped our own ideas and performances of sexuality. Knowing why we think what we do about sexuality gives us power over our bodies and minds to adopt or change these ideas and make them our own. And who better to tell you what to do with your body than you? Well, maybe me. Or God herself.
Anyway, I'll shut up now. Good luck with finals and have a good summer. Go read yourself some Foucault or Butler. Have sex (or don't have sex) with safety, sanity and consent! Kisses!
A final word: According to a report recently released by the Minnesota Department of Health, new cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and HIV/AIDS have been rising in the state this past year. Please, please, please stay safe and informed in all your sexual choices!
Sex-related comments, questions or suggestions can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.