Queerness, while not reducible to sexual experiences, nonetheless has much to do with sex and sexuality. As a result, many elements of queer culture historically have incorporated sexuality into their expressions. It is no coincidence, after all, that the sexual liberation of the 70s occurred alongside queer liberation movements of the same time period. Part of queer history has in many ways often been about finding new ways of defining sex and sexual relationships and this means incorporating conversations about sex into everyday discussions with friends, “family,” and other people. Sex, and in particular a more nuanced public expression of our own sexualities, then, seems to populate our day-to-days lives in a much more visible way.
But, when these same queer people are then expected to also hold jobs and perform roles in a society with clearly delineated definitions of professionalism – professionalism premised upon hiding and covering up one’s sexual expressions. Some clear examples of this range from the discouragement of people talking about sexual experiences, but it also includes calling into question certain forms of dress as being too sexual. This, of course, is complicated and really depends on your career field, among other things.
But, for example, is it unprofessional to post shirtless thirst trap pictures on Instagram? Does the fact that much of my writing talks about sex and discusses my own sexual experiences reflect poorly on other elements of my professional life? How should queer people reconcile the making public of their sexualities alongside the demands of their professional lives?
Take, for example, my experiences working on my PhD in an academic philosophy department. Philosophy is a notoriously misogynistic field of study, and alongside this comes much homophobia and heteronormative behavior. For many, though, it would come as a surprise that a field that gave birth to such queer theorists as Judith Butler and Michel Foucault could also be so notoriously repressed – but in fact this is just the case. In many situations, I find myself covering up or hiding the sexual elements of my own sexuality in order to have my academic research taken seriously.
Many of my colleagues who are quite supportive of queer people balk at the idea of queer people talking about queer experiences – experiences that are often times sexual in nature. This means philosophy, a discipline that ought to be rooted deeply in the questioning of one’s own experiences, rejects the possibility of queer people philosophizing about themselves – or, at the very least, those philosophers who do wish to speak openly about sexuality and sex risk the marginalization of their own work.
My question this week, then, is this: what does it mean to be a thoughtful thot? How can we talk openly about our sexuality and sexual experiences and still have our work taken seriously? Where does the line lie between professionalism and self-exploration? And is their room in your own professional life for some sort of expression of your own sexuality beyond the basic elements of coming out? What does it mean to be a thoughtful thot?