[PUBLIC] Why does rolequeer theory de-emphasize identity?

This thread is intended as an "archive" of a non-public discussion elsewhere that I wanted to make public. I'm creating a discussion page out of it in the event anyone in this group has more to add, but please note this page is marked "public" and thus is visible to everyone on the Internet.


I’m writing something and I’m trying to remember a term that you used someplace, so I’m sure you’ll remember it way faster than me: social ____? Like, social currency, social…clout money. Yeah, that term.


Social capitalist? Social climber? Social capital? If you can recall the context in which I used the phrase, or share the context of your piece, I might have better luck remembering it myself. :)


Pretty sure it was social capital actually! Yay!


Yay! What are you writing?


Oh I was just typing up a post on [REDACTED], explaining a bit about your criticisms about BDSM.

Truth be told, I’m having a tremendously hard time with your ideas, but in another year or two I’ll probably have adopted them completely lol.


Oh? Please do say more? You may also want to tag/follow/read some of fractalizingfoxtale@pod.orkz.net’s stuff. She’s been my main theoretic collaborator to date and honestly she’s more approachable than I am.



Well, basically the difficulty I have with the rolequeer concept is that it seems to completely deemphasize “being”, defining kink purely in terms of actions. FROM WHAT I’VE READ, I should add.

But I completely agree that BDSM as a culture and institution is stupid and basically irredeemable.


> Well, basically the difficulty I have with the rolequeer concept is that it seems to completely deemphasize “being”, defining kink purely in terms of actions.

Okay, well…

> FROM WHAT I’VE READ, I should add.

read more, I’d say. ;) I don’t know what you’ve read but if you haven’t yet read the foundational "thinking rolequeer" post, consider starting there.

The gist is, you’re right, rolequeer concepts do intentionally de-emphasize being and focus on doing (in the jargon: “rolequeer theory is a politic of action, not a politic of identity”), but it is also explicitly acknowledged that this emphasis is a response to what I view as a useless over-emphasis on identity at the explicit expense of action.

My argument is not that doing “is important” and being “is not important,” but rather that any politically meaningful act is a combination of both doing and being, and that there are specific frameworks we can use to better understand the influences of the one on the other. The result is a completely different understanding of the concept of self that is not solely rooted in being, because basing “who I am” solely on “my identity” and not on my action is the definition of content-free liberal faux-liberation. I view that kind of so-called “radical empowerment” (what I pejoratively call “liberadical” nonsense) as an inherently corrupt and corrupting process because of its necessary coupling with purity and respectability politics. By incorporating actions into identities, and incorporating identity into actions, we can free ourselves of the ridiculous binary of identity on the one hand and action on the other. That very binary is what abusive cultures (like capitalism) trains us to treat as The One True Truth, when it’s anything but.

A concrete example: in capitalism, you ARE what you DO; your job defines you, your major in school defines you, your hobbies define you, your “productive output” is all that matters and you need to prove your worth by continually producing “valuable” capital. But pop social justice (“white feminism”/social justice warrior slacktivism) doesn’t actually reject the premise of this binary at all. Worse, it embraces the binary wholly and uncritically, just with the poles reversed. In that cultural framework, you DO what you ARE: if you’re gay, everything you do is touched by the gayness of your identity, you dance gay, you walk gay, you Tumblr gay (or replace “gay” with your-pet-identity-label-here), and your value is equivalent to the value of your demographic. Or on the flip side, if you behave abusively to someone, that’s because “you are an abuser.”

This is a common pattern in history that can be briefly described as “thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis.”

Granted, the Internet’s pop social justice filter bubble is an important anti-thesis response to capitalism’s dominant thesis (its overbearing “job ethic”), but an anti-thesis is not actually any more sustainable than the original thesis it is rejecting. Synthesis is always needed. That’s why rolequeer theory is so resonant. It’s not just saying “this is wrong, and that’s wrong, too.” It’s saying, “Here’s something different that has none of the drawbacks of these other two options that you once believed were your only possible options.”

And the real kicker here is that this mixing of doing and being is not even new. It wasn’t my idea, I just ingested a bunch of other smart people’s works about this concept, generalized to power relations explicitly, applied it to the realm of eroticization, and out came new articulations of old ideas that I’m calling, in aggregate, rolequeer theory.

For some of that historical work, consider reading “Allies must be traitors”, which is my reinterpretation of Barnor Hesse’s (a Black anti-racist activist and university professor) work.

Phew! That was longer than I intended. Sorry for ranting. I hope that was helpful and not even more confusing.

> But I completely agree that BDSM as a culture and institution is stupid and basically irredeemable.

Great! :) That’s basically the only “requirement” (air-quotes on purpose) for beginning to seriously engage with rolequeer theory.