In “A Tale of Three Coming Our Stories,” Roxane Gay discusses how society tends to place the responsibility of paving the way to a better future on the people who are suffering from current social conventions. She uses the examples of three prominent public figures coming out to emphasize the unfair burden that gets forced on them.
Gay discusses these stories in the context of privacy, which I think is a very interesting angle to approach it from. It’s true that we as a society tend to pry into the personal lives of public figures, and this has a greater effect on queer public figures than those who are heterosexual because it often forces them to unwillingly come out, or to share more information about their private lives than they actually want to. The way that people tend to justify this is by saying that the celebrities who come out now are making it better for queer people in the future. However, that’s a pretty unfair responsibility to push on them. Why is it only their duty to fix the world that hates them?
That being said, I personally don’t really see any kind of solution to this problem, as celebrities will always have to deal with the public prying into their private lives, and this will inevitably affect queer celebrities in a much different and more troubling way than it will for those who are heterosexual. While I completely agree with Gay in her assessment of how unfair it is, I unfortunately don’t have any kind of solution to offer.
In his opinion piece “The Supreme Court’s Lonely Hearts Club,” Michael Cobb responds to Justice Kennedy’s statements about marriage following the Obergefell v. Hodges case. Kennedy’s comments that marriage “embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family” (1) prompt an interesting response by Cobb, as he argues that love in all forms, not just in the form of marriage, should be given the same respect given to the institution of marriage.
Cobb argues that marital love is not essential for happiness, and that single people can still lead happy and fulfilled lives even though they are not in a romantic relationship that involves sex. Why is it that when we refer to love, we are usually talking about romantic or sexual love? There are other forms of intimate and loving relationships that do not involve sex, yet these are not recognized as legitimate in the same way that marriage is legitimate. Cobb’s example about Lindsay Graham, a South Carolina senator who is not married, is a very good example of this. When asked who his first lady would be if he were to run for president, Graham responded “well I’ve got a sister, she could play that role if necessary” (2). This is a very non conventional response on Graham’s part, but why? Cobb refutes the idea that sex must be involved in a relationship in order for it to be legitimized.
Furthermore, Cobb takes offense to Justice Kennedy’s comments about the “dignity” (3) of marriage. While it can’t really be denied that same-sex and opposite-sex couples are both equally dignified, Cobb points out that in saying this, it is implied that unmarried people lack this stated “dignity”. I think that this almost ties back to “Against Love,” where Laura Kipnis denounces our society’s unrealistic idealization of love. It’s a similar theme in Cobb’s piece, as once again the idealization of marriage becomes something that overtakes our lives and the way the world sees us.
In the chapter “We Other Victorians” from his book, Michel Foucault addresses the modern notion that sexuality is a repressed taboo. While this chapter is merely an introduction to the rest of the book, Foucault still manages to introduce several important points and questions. For example, he addresses the greater historical context behind this discussion, most specifically mentioning the Victorian era and how propriety and prudence were very highly valued. He then contrasts this era with the centuries prior to it, and emphasizes that the idea of repressing sexuality is fairly new, as it was not common practice before the seventeenth century.
Foucault also introduces the dynamic between sex and power. Rather than simply addressing modern day sexuality and sexual practices, he chooses to question the manner in which we view sex and ask why we talk about it the way that we do. Why do we look at ourselves as sexually repressed? Furthermore, how did things come to be this way? Foucault insinuates that in order to answer these questions, we must examine who is actually doing the talking. Who is given power over these things, how do they exert their power, and what effect does that have? These are all very preliminary questions and do not evoke answers on their own. However, by bringing up such questions, Foucault effectively challenges modern sexual conventions and opens up the door to greater critical discussion.
In her essay “Against Love,” Laura Kipnis takes a critical stance on today’s idealism and worship of love, and instead explores a more cynical perspective on society’s notions and practices of romantic relationships. Kipnis’ argument is that love costs more than it is worth, as the compromises that must be made in romantic relationships often take priority over one’s own self-fulfillment. In “Against Love,” humans are portrayed as freely complying subjects living beneath the all-powerful dictatorship of their romantic partner, and according to Kipnis this restrains people from the happiness that they could achieve on their own. Love means sacrificing things for another person and frequently prioritizing the other person’s needs over one’s own. Therefore, while a person may feel as though their love for another person is the thing that brings them the most happiness, Kipnis maintains that they are likely giving up more than they gain. It is this that communicates her main point that love, in essence, is synonymous with subjugation.
Kipnis’ argument has a great deal of truth in it, romantic relationships do in fact require sacrifice and hyperawareness of the other’s needs. However, I find that her apparent concept of a relationship is very singular and specific. Her idea of what a relationship is like seems to always involve a partner playing a dominant role that overtakes every minute aspect of the other’s life. Not to say that relationships like this don’t exist, however Kipnis’ description of what she perceives a normal relationship to be like actually appears to me to be a very unhealthy relationship. While there will be certain norms in any given relationship such as each partner sharing an even amount of chores and such, other things that Kipnis generalized to all relationships included things that are not necessarily expected in each relationship. For example, she says that when you have a significant other you can’t go out without them because it’s rude. This is not a concept that can really be applied to relationships in general. Different couples have different methods of communication and different things that they find acceptable and unacceptable, and in my opinion this is greatly overlooked in “Against Love.” Thus, it is incorrect to assume that all romantic couples are essentially the same, and with that it is also therefore incorrect to assume that love is always synonymous with subjugation.