Secret(e) Sex: Secretions that Supplant Shame

O' Dwyer, Killian. 2023. 'Secret(e) Sex: Secretions that Supplant Shame'. In: 5th 'Memory, Guilt, Shame' International Interdisciplinary Conference. Online, Poland 26-27 October 2023. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

Returning to the conflation of sex with shame, which perseveres across space and time, asking ‘who’ or ‘what’ is critical, in both senses of the word. Questioning ‘who or what’ is a deliberate exercise in besmudging the binary tradition, of smearing any prerequisite for fixed categorization from the start. In “Eating Well,” Derrida emphases the need in asking ‘who or what comes before the subject’ as a means of not only foregrounding the subject’s irreducible relation to the other, but also to bring the ‘question of the meaning of Being’ into proximity with the threshold of ‘who’ is considered living and ‘what’ is cast non-living. As such, the ‘who or what’ is a grammatical couple that solicits the imposed difference between: ‘who’ takes the place of ‘the subject’ before law, history, morality and politics, and ‘what’ is considered proper to ‘man’ and denied of those considered his sexual opposites: queer folk, animals, women and racialised bodies.

Who or what becomes aroused in the feeling of sex? The lack of surety regarding ‘who or what becomes aroused’ introduces a sense of indeterminacy, mystery, or even an element of secrecy to the notion of sex itself. Secrecy and sex have long endured what is largely recognised as a pervasive and troubling cultural history of shame, whereby folk who befall colonial-patriarchal frameworks shirk public visibility for fear of deathly reprisals. However, by framing the question around a ‘who or what’, I mean to test the dual meaning behind the notion of sexes that secrete; sexes which can “produce”, “discharge” “ooze” and “omit” substances from cells, glands, organs and orifices, but sexes which at the same time can also “conceal”, “hide”, “withdraw”, “separate”, and “distinguish” themselves from others. By reflecting on Derrida’s shameless scene of observing secretions of a silkworm in ‘A Silkworm of One’s Own’, this paper retheorises secrecy as a motivation or power that not only conceals and protects the multiplicity of sexual living in the here and now, but also the future life of sexual autonomy and freedom in times to-come.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Panel)

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


27 October 2023Completed

Event Location:

Online, Poland

Date range:

26-27 October 2023

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Date Deposited:

23 Nov 2023 12:50

Last Modified:

23 Nov 2023 16:00


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