Secretary, Secrets, Sex

I thought Anne McClintock’s discussion of S/M and fetishism were so interesting. Sex is often labeled to be unworthy of academic discussion, which I think is a shame. Even in Gender Studies classes, I think that there is a frequent tendency to pull back from discussing sex acts–though maybe I’m misreading class atmospheres? Anyway, sex is a huge part of the human experience, though. And, it functions as one of the primary, most constant ways that people experience and embody power relations in their daily lives.

I think Secretary came out when I was in sixth grade. I’m not sure how I got ahold of it, but I watched it at some point in middle school, and I was so not ready to watch that movie. I mainly remember being confused and a little afraid–oh, and definitely the peeing scene. I for sure remember the scene where Maggie Gyllenhaal wets herself in her wedding dress.

Not that I want to fall into a sort of sex-negativity trap or start handing down pathologies, but where does one draw the line between good sex and bad sex? Let me say that I am also not trying to just start a simplistic good/bad argument here, or again reawaken the Porn Wars, but what should be our framework for thinking about sex? Or, perhaps more usefully, what sort of shifts should we be looking to make in how we structure the discourse–social, institutional, individual–on sex.

Secrecy is one of the most exciting parts of sex. Even if we consider ourselves to be, I don’t know, fairly progressive people, we can get off on playing out super-normative fantasies. And, that’s cool. If we identify as queer, we rely on the mainstream for building identity, as much as what is heteronormative depends on what is queer for its definition. But, as McClintock writes on page 202, “Fetishes”–and I think this may be extended to all sorts of sexual behaviors and desires–may not always be disruptive or transgressive and can be mobilized for a variety of political ends.” This awareness of the power of sex is a huge step from banishing sex from academic discussion into the realm of something that is only to be giggled at. But, where do we go from here? What action–especially large-scale action–can follow this awareness?;jsessionid=0C38C81463BBF5C32D0832078E08CEC9?movieId=Secretary

Lynn Beavin


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