Foredrag: Language & Sexuality

Yet another interesting guest lecture at the linguistics department. Costas Canakis from University of the Aegean will give a talk titled Articulating male homoerotic desires and subjectivities on the internet.

The lecture will be held February 17th, from 14:00 til 15:30 in room 1453-116.

Abstract below:

This study focuses on the language employed for self- and other-representation in online personal ads posted on www.gay.gr, a popular Greek site meant as a forum for “gay, lesbian, bi, and trans”, with the intention of examining aspects of the indexical relation between language, gender, and sexuality (Ochs 1992) among men who pursue same sex relations (i.e. of men who generally identify as homosexual, gay, or using local labels such as pustiδes, aδerfes). Although these ads provide limited information, as they lack the interactive character and thick contextualization of viva voce discourse, they nevertheless allow for highly condensed snapshots of stances and conceptualizations of masculinity and sexuality. Recent research, drawing on some 200 randomly selected ads, has focused specifically on the articulation of desire (cf. Kulick 2000, Cameron & Kulick 2003, 2006) and documented that stereotypical predicates of masculinity, such as manliness, seriousness, discretion, etc., are eroticized and sought after in this particular context. Moreover, in interpreting these findings, it has been suggested that the stress placed on masculinity among the users may well be a reaction to the stereotypical representation of gay men as effeminate (still current to some extent in Greece); an instance of transgressive appropriation of a hegemonic masculinity typically denied them. This line of work has focused on the erotic and abstained from a discussion of “identity” issues in order to avoid the pitfalls of illicit groupings and essentialization. However, revisiting the same pool of data, it becomes apparent that questions of the users’ “identity”/subjectivity are closely intertwined with desire. Indeed, in describing themselves, users talk of their desires while imparting information about who they are in general; and in explaining what they look for in others they tend to eroticize identities rather than sexual acts alone (cf. Bucholtz & Hall 2004). Crucially, rather than shying away from overtly sexual talk in the interest of constructing politically advantageous identities (or attempting simplistic one-to-one alignments of identities and desires), I will attempt to show how the construction of desire and “idenity” appear to be co-present, often indexically related in the data, and, indeed how subjectivity is eroticized in the online personals of gay men in www.gay.gr.

Selected references

  • Bucholtz, M. & K. Hall. 2004. Theorizing idenity in language and sexuality research. Language in Society 33: 469-515.
  • Cameron, D. & D. Kulick. 2003. Language and Sexuality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Cameron, D. & D. Kulick (eds.). 2006. The Language and Sexuality Reader. London: Routledge.
  • Kulick, D. 2000. Gay and lesbian language. Annual Review of Anthropology 29: 243-285.
  • Ochs, E. 1992. Indexing gender. In A. Duranti & C. Goodwin (eds.), Rethinking Context: Language as an Interactive Phenomenon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 335-358.