Lesbian is the only concept I know of which is beyond categories of sex because the designated subject is not a woman, either economically, politically or ideologically (…) We are escapees from our class as runaway slaves (Monique Wittig, One is not born a woman, 1981)
Until the 1970s feminism had been confined to a more or less homogeneous territory of political struggle for gender equality, but in the 1980s there were movements, artists and thinkers who questioned the very notion of gender.
Simone de Beauvoir led the way with her analysis of the second sex as a mere social construction, culminating with the gender trouble of Judith Butler, for who the performative structure of the genres (masculinity or femininity as pure staging) can be used subversively. Hence that she envisioned a revolutionary potential in the histrionics of the drag queens or in the lesbian role-plays, because they denatured the gender polarities using parody.
In fact, lesbian feminism played a prominent role in the deconstruction of false essentialisms, with Monique Wittig as the helmswoman of a Sapphic ship that throw all the previous lesbianism (seen as soft and victimizing) away. She proposed breaking the heterosexual contract through writing, outlining other ways of inhabiting the bodies.
In the eighties the lesbofeminism suffered in its own ranks fierce clashes. Krista Bernstein‘s obscene women (Obszöne Frauen, Vienna, 1986) claimed their place in feminist bookstores, with their photographic gallery of power staging performed by lesbians with phallic prostheses, leather garments, straps and other BDSM paraphernalia. Monika Treut’s cruel woman (Seduction: the cruel woman, 1985) ends up putting a fox in the henhouse with her film version of Sacher-Masoch’s muse (Wanda) that finnaly is more a victim than a dominatrix, mortified by the jealousy of an affected Justine (Sade).
Beinstein and Treut, like the peer American group Samois (pro-sex lesbian movement that took its name from the estate of Histoire d’O), opted to dissolve the prudish boundaries between art and pornography, opposing to the sexism of the conventional porn cinema a diffuseand polymorph sexuality extracted from their own fantasies.
Productions and performances made for own consumption that much of the feminist movements interpreted as an affront to their struggles, as a replica of the heterosexual yoke, to its binarism of victim and executioner, emphasizing the fetishisation of body.
Obscene women integrate the phallic principle into female sexuality, Treut wrote about Beinstein’s photographs. They liberate the passionate violence of any fascistoid attitude, ritualizing the anarchic component of the androgynous ideal.
Enfant terrible of erotic photography and pioneer of pro-sex feminism, thus is described Krista Beinstein in the press release of Berlin’s Schwules Museum retrospective, an exhaustive review of her last thirty years of radical sabotage of the standard forms of feminine from the feminine.
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Exhibition Krista Beinstein: bio porno photo grahies
in Schwules Museum, Berlin
until 16 January 2017