McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Dildo, Embodiment, Gender, Identity, Prosthetic, Sexuality
This dissertation takes a deep look at a first-person narrative from a man who develops complete impotence following androgen-deprivation treatment for prostate cancer. After feeling depressed for some time about what he imagined to be the permanent loss of his sexual life, the man, pseudonymously called Michael in this dissertation, tried using a strap-on dildo. Michael was surprised and pleased to find that using the dildo for sex brings him sexual satisfaction including orgasm. The dildo transforms "from object to organ" as Michael gradually comes to experience the dildo as a part of his own body. He also experiences a shift in his gendered and sexual identity, discovering that the dildo is neither a prosthetic penis nor a medical device, but a post-gendered object subject to playful interpretation. This dissertation aims to elaborate how the phenomenon presented in the case study narrative takes place, to discuss the implications this phenomenon has in a number of theoretical domains, and to apply these findings to clinical practice. It uses phenomenological elaboration and hermeneutic narrative analysis to explore the case study phenomenon. Then, the case study phenomenon is interrogated from various theoretical approaches in order to elaborate the implications of this phenomenon regarding the relationships between physical body morphology, lived embodied experience, and gender identity, the relationship between the body and sensorium-expanding technology, and the breadth and range of human sexuality. The case study narrative serves as a locus for dialogue between feminist phenomenological and feminist poststructural thought on the question of the relationship between the material body and identity, and also includes discussions of transsexuality and male lesbian identities in terms of how the case study phenomenon is related to the embodied experiences of people in these groups. The dissertation also explores how Michael's partner contributes to Michael's change in embodied experience and identity and contributes to the creation of an imaginative and playful space for sexuality to emerge, suggesting that sexuality is created in an interpersonal context rather than being located in a single person or having a particular aim or trajectory. Dissertation findings suggest that conceptual and technical playfulness, including the creation of an imaginative and playful space, may be beneficial in the clinical treatment of sexual "dysfunctions," persons with non-binary or flexible gender identities, transsexual persons, and for clinical conceptualization of sexuality and embodiment in general. Dissertation findings imply that there exists great complexity and variability in embodied experience, that the body is deeply significant for developing identity and that bodily changes may alter identity, and that sexuality is an event that emerges with others.
Taylor, A. (2012). Embodying Technology: A Hermeneutic Inquiry into Corporeality and Identity as Manifested in a Case of Strap-On Dildo Use (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/1269