McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
autoethnography, Greece, intimacy, queer theory, sexology, sexual desire
Sexual desire has traditionally been approached and investigated through reductionist lenses that have usually overlooked its complexity. In the past 150 years, it has mainly appeared articulated within medical and sexological discourses that have actively attempted to demarcate, categorize, and medicalize it. As a result, “healthy” and “pathological” forms of sexual desire have been constructed, whereas the social, cultural, political, and ideological forces that structure and shape it have been largely ignored. Furthermore, the conceptualization of distinct forms of sexual desire has given rise to the construction of equally distinct, ostensibly fixed, “healthy” as well as “pathological,” sexual identities.
This dissertation represents an attempt to resist the aforementioned hegemonic discourses of sexual desire. Far from articulating a coherent theory, it aspires to challenge fixed notions of sexual desire; historicize it and highlight its contingent, time- and context-dependent nature; pose ethical questions as to how we sexually desire and what this means for our relationships to others; encourage others to engage into similar, ethical explorations; and ascertain whether such explorations can promise less violence to one another on the grounds of how we sexually desire and use our bodies. To these ends, its guiding research questions explore the cultural/social/political forces that shape our psychological and corporeal experience of sexual desire as well as our ability to feel sexually intimate with our lovers.
In an effort to better serve the purposes of this dissertation, the author draws on a wide variety of ideas and theoretical perspectives (Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, Queer theory as loosely represented by Michel Foucault, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Judith Butler, Irigaray’s feminist theory of sexual difference, and Lacanian psychoanalysis) and uses an autoethnographic method. Autoethnography allows the author to delve deeply into his personal history and provide detailed, critically examined, vulnerable narratives of social exclusion, psychological violence, stigmatization, and isolation. The author’s autoethnographic stories explore the constitution of his sexual desire within the context of the Greek culture and describe his efforts to overcome his sense of dehumanization and pursue sexual intimacy. They also emphasize the importance of experiencing our emotions, exploring the materiality of our bodies, openly acknowledging and grappling with our internalized violence, and critically engaging with the idea that the personal is almost always social, cultural, and political. Finally, and most importantly, the author’s stories invite the readers to temporarily forget about generalizability and, instead, focus on the elements that render their sexual desires unique, fluid, and porous.
Kiskiras, N. (2016). Sexual Desire(s) and the Desire for Intimacy: An Autoethnographic Exploration (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/99