This paper explores how some individuals' talk about sexual desire is rendered as incomprehensible when those desires are not easily talked about through categories of sexual identity. Using data from an 'alternative lifestyles' support group in New York City, I argue that paying attention to expressions of desire is vital for understanding what 'sexuality' has come to mean in contemporary theoretical accounts. Moreover, such an approach enables a critical view of both the political systems which underpin sexual identity as well as the relationships among language, gender, sexuality, and desire.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
My thanks to Nora, Miss Angel, Ben, and the other members of the Alternative Lifestyles group for allowing me to tape record and make use of their words in this paper. Thanks also to Don Kulick for his comments and suggestions on this paper. Finally, thanks are due to a core group of readers—Bambi Schieffelin, Henry Goldschmidt, and Ben Chesluk—whose comments are always supremely helpful. I am also indebted to Dr. Barbara Warren and Rosalyne Blumenstein for facilitating my research. The research upon which this paper is based was assisted by a fellowship from the Sexuality Research Fellowship Program from the Social Science Research Council with funds provided by the Ford Foundation.