Sex: The Real Anxiety
This paper addresses the topic of anxiety within the context of several key arguments in Alenka Zupančič’s What is Sex? Beginning with a discussion of the ontologically uncertain character of sex and sexuality, the paper draws from Lacan’s Seminar X to elaborate the affective dimension of this ontological uncertainty. The paper then considers the relation of sex to anxiety in order to address Zupančič’s critique of gender theory. By comparing Zupančič’s reading of Joan Riviere’s “Womanliness as Masquerade” to the reading of the same text by Judith Butler in Gender Trouble, this paper shows that the main difference between Zupančič’s approach to the question of sexuality and Butler’s theory of gender performativity is best understood in relation to their respective approaches to a “sheer ontological anxiety.” The paper concludes with an analogy between the anxiety of sex and the surprise of love.
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