Sexuality and democracy : the implications of sociological theories of sexuality for lesbian and gay political identities and strategies
This study is a sociological exploration of the difficulties of pursuing lesbian and gay agendas within democratic polities. Feminists have engaged with democratic theory and practice in an attempt to understand why gender inequalities have been resistant to democratic remedies. Yet, despite the connections between feminist and gay politics and theory, there has been no significant lesbian and gay intervention in this debate. This research is an attempt to address this omission, through a consideration of the implications of sociological theories of sexuality for lesbian and gay political identities and strategies. I engage in a critique of explanations of sexuality which range from Freud through interactionism to Foucault and Queer theory, arguing that these perspectives do not thoroughly challenge the naturalist ontology on which political identities and strategies are based. I argue that a structurally contextualised interactionist perspective on the formation of the sexual self allows us a better sociological understanding of the relationship between historically specific processes of identity formation and the stability of sexual identity exhibited by most individuals and used as the legitimisation for lesbian and gay identity politics. Specifically, I argue that we need to theorise naturalist understandings of sexuality as core and stable perceptions of sexual subjectivity which are necessary to rationalisations of past experience and future actions. This understanding can form the basis of a more effective politics which comprehensively displaces naturalist ideas about sexuality because the provision of alternative, sociological discourses of the sexual self broadens the legitimate arena of sexual politics from the current focus on rights allotted to `natural' individuals to the ways in which individuality is constructed through social processes and thus sexual inequalities are socially produced and sustained. In conclusion, I acknowledge that translating sociological perspectives into practical political identities and strategies is a difficult task. However, I explore the methods of group representation which are currently being discussed within radical democratic and feminist theory as one way of generating further debate on pragmatic and yet socially transformative strategies for lesbian and gay politics.