I was surprised to see Adrienne Rich’s philosophy of lesbian continuum within her essay because she seems to see heterosexuality and male homosexuality as so opposed to lesbian existence. Rich seemed to come up with a plethora of examples for how women are obligated to be heterosexual, but she also seems to have as many ways that a woman could be on her lesbian spectrum. Given that there is a boundless notion of woman’s attraction to woman and that her sensuality is so multi-faceted, she draws harsh divisions between the heterosexual world and the lesbian world. She reminded me of Irigaray’s theories in that sense, with the complicated views of female sensuality, but a view of the masculine presence as threatening. However, Irigaray writes on a largely symbolic level, and Rich seems to have more complaints about societal binarisms she sees are true and dangerous.
I had a difficult time sorting through the two tensions of a unique lesbian existence and a lesbian continuum. I was especially confused based on how extraordinarily broad her definition of the lesbian continuum is:
” many more forms of primary intensity between and among women, including the sharing of a rich inner life, the bonding against male tyranny, the giving and receiving of practical and political support… marriage resistance,” (292)
This puzzled me because virtually every feminist would fall under this category. If you are a person who supports female freedom of expression and equality and who feels a strong kinship towards women, you are a lesbian, according to this definition.
I thought her definition of lesbian existence might make the lines between lesbianism and heterosexuality and highlight how lesbianism is a specific issue in the feminist community. However, I became more confused when she defines it as “breaking a taboo and the rejection of a compulsory way of life. It is also a direct or indirect attack on male right of access to women,” (292). If given this definition out of context, this could easily be identified as the definition for the feminist agenda.
This brings me confusion to a head. According to these definitions it seems that all feminists are automatically on the lesbian continuum. This does not personally bother me as a conclusion, but based on Rich’s assertion that lesbians have a very unique existence that needs to be celebrated, I feel that I should not be included. I wonder why Rich constructs much of her essay as a cry for rising up against an opponent, when by this very definition, it seems that a feminist man, who is attracted to men could even be a lesbian as well.
I hope to puzzle through this more during class, but I am at least pleased to find that the issues and confusion I am having are because of issues of blurred divisions between binaries. I found this argument to be a far more compelling aspect of the compulsory sexuality discussion than the Rich’s additions to Kathleen Gough’s descriptions of how men impair the sensual rights of women. It was intriguing and compelling because it was so difficult for me to reason through.