SEXUALITY AND THE LAW
PROFESSOR CULP: We are here to talk about "The Dennis Rodman Elixir." You have read the article and Janet Halley and William Eskridge’s articles on how sexual orientation and the law function. What do you think?
FIRST STUDENT: If I may say so, Professor Culp, your article misses the point. Professor Halley raised the question in her article about whether those attempting to end sexual orientation oppression ought to rely on a genetic basis for same-sex affectional relations. Her point is that both sides of the debate use essentialist (immutability) claims and constructivist (anti-essentialist) claims to make their point.
SECOND STUDENT: Indeed, your Michael Jackson article on race was on exactly that kind of immutable characteristic—the person who took a Michael Jackson Pill’s outward appearance and name change so as to obscure the immutable characteristics normally associated with race.
FIRST STUDENT: The right question would have focused on the creation by someone like Professor Jerry Falwell of an antisexual orientation pill. This pill would alter the sexual orientation of anyone who takes it. A straight person who took the pill would become gay or lesbian, and a gay or lesbian person who took the pill would become heterosexual.
THIRD STUDENT: That pill would not work because it assumes that sexual orientation is one or the other. What would this pill do for a person who was bisexual?
PROFESSOR CULP: I take it that it would leave the bisexual still a bisexual.
FOURTH STUDENT: Why wouldn’t such a pill make a bisexual asexual instead of bisexual?
PROFESSOR CULP: You are treating the bisexual as if they are omnisexual (wanting sex all the time with everyone). I take it that this pill does not require anyone to want everyone. These pills do not implicate desire or attractiveness. Those concerns still influence who people want to have sex with.
THIRD STUDENT: When I read your story about the Dennis Rodman Elixir, you seem to be concerned about desire. Why is desire an important legal issue? I understand why it is an important social issue and an important personal issue, but why is it important to determining the appropriate legal rule?
PROFESSOR CULP: Desire is the reason sexuality is important and difficult to regulate. The point I was trying to make about desire was that it obscures much of the legal efforts to limit sexuality, and our failure to admit that this desire is connected to the construction of race and sexual orientation leads to confusion.
SIXTH STUDENT: Your story seems to assume that race and sexuality intersect only with respect to people of color. Doesn’t this intersection influence how white women and men are constructed by society? For example, there are people of color who are interested only in white people in both the gay and lesbian communities and black heterosexuals who are interested only in white heterosexuals.
PROFESSOR CULP: Spike Lee called this jungle fever. That does exist, and you’re right that it exists in both directions, but as you construct your example, it assumes a kind of essentiality about people of the other race. Why is it that many of our public sexual fantasies are sexed and raced?
FIFTH STUDENT: Excuse me, but if Professor Falwell invents such a pill, the whole purpose would be to have the bisexual become "normal." This pill would have to take all the sexual abnormalities out of the discourse. I assume that the transvestite would stop wanting to wear the "other" gender’s clothing, and transsexuals would be realigned with their biology. This would really have to be a straight pill.
PROFESSOR CULP: But, to really make Falwell happy, I assume that we would have to adopt a version of sexuality that says sex is just for procreation and not any form of joy, so that sex would not be wanted unless procreation were possible and a man and a woman were in the missionary position. Reverse missionaries are not allowed with this pill.
FIRST STUDENT: This Falwell pill would be required medicine for all sexual deviants in society, from Dennis Rodman to Sandra Bernhardt, and it would make us all as sexually interesting as Professor Falwell.
PROFESSOR CULP: I suspect that many people who are as religiously connected as Professor Falwell have good sexual lives. Just because it is not the life you have chosen doesn’t mean that it can’t be fulfilling.
SECOND STUDENT: It is not just me. I do not want to speak about my sex life or absence thereof, but most people in the country are engaging in acts that in many states would still be considered sodomy. Even in North Carolina sexual fantasy is alive and well. People are doing and thinking about doing lots of things that Professor Falwell wants to remove from the country.
PROFESSOR CULP: If he were here, wouldn’t he argue that all of this deviance is a hindrance to the good society? That is certainly what the English believed after World War II, and it is still prevalent in much of their reaction to gays today.
FIFTH STUDENT: Don’t we already have this kind of pill in the law already? As we have seen, many of the plaintiffs in the gay and lesbian cases in the military are people who have taken the public version of this kind of Falwell pill. They do not have any apparent deviant sexual attitude and apparently no sex lives in the military. They are public sexual neuters exactly like the Elmo Dolls from your Dennis Rodman Elixir story. They not only don’t have sex, they never even think of having sex.
SIXTH STUDENT: Doesn’t that make them the perfect plaintiffs? Devoid of all sexual presence, they are canvasses upon which heterosexual desire can be written.
PROFESSOR CULP: They are perfect canvasses if the issue for the law is how to make people who are not sexually "normal" like all those "normal" heterosexuals. Desire and sexual deviance have to be eliminated or controlled in that scenario.
SEVENTH STUDENT: What is the answer to the question you posed at the beginning of this class? Will this pill control the question of sexual orientation?
PROFESSOR CULP: The answer depends very much on the nature of control and what the problem is. Can society deal with difference, or are those who do not fit into the appropriate sexual or racial guppyhole to alter their existence?
EIGHTH STUDENT: Isn’t that always the question? How much of the questioning of normalcy by people as diverse as Madonna and as "normal" as Dennis Rodman are we going to tolerate?
NINTH STUDENT: This sounds too pat. I take it if we acknowledge difference, all of us will simply be able to get along. Difference needs to be acknowledged, but such acknowledgment will neither solve all of the problems of gay and lesbian people or make the rest of society comfortable with them. We are in a war for existence and for legal status, but our problems will not simply die with one pill whether it is Falwell’s or Culp’s. Difference is both too important and too difficult.
FIFTEENTH STUDENT: I don’t quite understand the point of your Dennis Rodman Elixir. If the purpose was to show us how race, sexual orientation, and gender intersect, you failed. Is Dennis Rodman implicating sexual orientation if he has, as he has suggested, not had sex with another man? I know he wears dresses and makeup and does other gender bending but he is not involved in sexual orientation bending.
FOURTH STUDENT: I want to have sex with Tom Cruise; does that make me his husband, partner, lover? Aren’t you suggesting that to be a gay or lesbian one is defined by the sex they are having? I thought we all agreed that sexual orientation is not about sexual conduct alone.
PROFESSOR CULP: You have made part of the point I tried to raise in the Dennis Rodman Elixir. Desire matters as part of the definition of that part of our identity. It matters in how we respond to Michael Jackson and Dennis Rodman’s interrogation of race, gender, and sexual orientation. It is part of our construction of racial and gender categories for ourselves and how we interpret other people.
FIFTEENTH STUDENT: Why not try another pill like the one suggested in some science fiction and lesbian writing? What if our sexuality and gender changed all the time so that they were not fixed? It would not be possible to imprison us in our identities.
PROFESSOR CULP: Do the identities change at random or do they change according to individual will? If it is the former, then it will not be possible to force a particular gender or sexual orientation on anyone, but if it is the latter, I am sure Jerry Falwell knows the choice he wants you to adopt.