A kiss is not a kiss
Asexuality studies, talking abortion, and more
Does a romantic relationship have to be sexual? Does the question of life’s beginning really have a place in our national discourse? How do we confront sexual violence?
This week at Public Seminar, Cristina Rivera Garza shares an excerpt from her new book on seeking justice for her sister’s murder amidst a global epidemic of femicide. Hannah Tessler explores the emerging field of asexuality and aromanticism studies. And Helga Varden turns to Kantian philosophy to propose a path to putting aside highly personal debate about abortion so we can focus on implementing just and democratic legislation.
The idea that a person might not be sexually attracted to anyone (as demonstrated by Kinsey’s X group in his 1948 sexual attraction scale) has existed throughout history—as have people who preferentially choose to be single their whole lives. See, for instance, life as a bhikkhu, a male Buddhist monk, or queer analyses of Jane Austen’s Emma and Pride and Prejudice. Yet many people still dismiss the possibility that someone may not experience sexual and romantic attraction. Single individuals are questioned about how they know they are not attracted to anyone—or they are assured that they “just haven’t met the right person yet.” These responses undermine and erase the lived realities of people with asexual and aromantic identities.
Kant’s philosophy distinguishes a legal conception of personhood from a deeply personal (ethical, religious, metaphysical) conception of personhood. He therefore provides a basis for separating the legalities of abortion from our deeply personal beliefs. This distinction directs us away from the intractable disagreement over the beginning of a human life and instead towards a legal discussion we can solve together. It enables us to direct our attention toward a cluster of fetal activities that suggest the legal beginning of life, which may or may not correspond with one’s personal beliefs.
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Cristina Rivera Garza
There is only a slim chance of recovering the file, I clarify again, after all these years. Twenty-nine, I added, twenty-nine years and three months and two days. I am silent again. Things are so difficult sometimes. But they are supposed to have an answer for me today, I say.