Smashing the Binary – A Dissection of Sex Denial

So, in honour of the High Priestess of Genderology being dispatched to remind the great and the good that those uppity witches are all fascists and most definitely *should not be listened to* (nothing remotely normative or disciplinary going on here honest innit), here is the first draft of the piece I finished last week on why sex denial is a pile of conceptual bullshit. The argument works, in fact, by playing Butler at her own game, and demonstrating that actually, it is her who is committed to absolutist and determinist ideas about sex, which is what leads her to the catastrophic and idiotic conclusion we need to all play a massive international round of ‘let’s pretend’ enforced by women losing their jobs, being threatened and punched, and occasionally patronised by a famed ‘feminist’ academic who transparently hasn’t got a damn clue what is actually happening.

But of course, I have “never actually read any works in gender studies.” Indeed, I managed to write this 15,000 word take down of Butler based on the recipe I found on the back of a packet of Uncle Ben’s while snorting the hate being spread by those jihadists over at Mumsnet. “Quick and fearful conclusions take the place of considered judgments,” do they Judy? Well, let’s see shall we…

Read or download here:


  1. I saw you asking on twitter for advice on academic journals. I think there are two main obstacles to getting it published in its current form (well, if you have some standards re which journal anyway).
    1) There’s nothing obviously “novel” about it screaming “the latest in theory”. Most of your sources are ca 30 years old and similar critiques of Butler have been made by Moi etc. Is there a way to tie it to some more recent “seminal text” in transgender studies or something (to make it a response to the Hines piece would be too dull for me…)? Or even to current events or debates showing the effects of “sex denial”? Even tying it to the piece being deleted from the Guardian interview might work? Alternately, to keep it drier and more inside academia, really bang the drum for your rad new concept “sex denial” and what it can do in terms of feminist critique?
    2) Too much text in footnotes! I’d suggest something along the lines of shortening the intro, jumping more directly into the “smashing the binary” section (this is after all the central point, the misconception of sex dimorphism as a “binary”), move some of the footnotes (the most important theoretical ones) into the main text and otherwise kill your darlings (save them for separate texts).
    If you can clean it up and repackage it as this shiny brand new thing cutting straight into current debates, I’d aim high and throw it at the obvious feminist theory and women’s studies journals first. Can’t hurt to try!

  2. I’m excited by your essay, as I was before by your ‘Judith Butler: How to disappear Patriarchy in 3 easy steps’. You have again drawn attention to, and questioned, Butler’s asserted ‘obligation to draw a line’ between what is constructed and what is not (from ‘Bodies that Matter’). Your question has tremendous critical leverage! Good luck! I am pleased to have read your earlier essay so I could bring your idea into a lengthy dialogue I had with a US Intersectional Feminist, before I quit Twitter. I transcribed the whole thing – including my quote from your essay, here, in case it is of any interest:

    Thank you for your writing.

  3. (Responding some time after reading the article, not a philosopher, not a native English-speaker)
    What this article helped me clarified in my mind is how people mistakenly (and purposefully?) mix two sorts of theoretical organization. To me this looks like, thinking a system that aims to understand and rationalize what pre-exists, what is commonly described as “natural / natural phenomenons” and abstract systems that aims to reduce stuff into manageable bits (what I think maths is) are similar in goals and ways.
    In the second one, in a defined system or sub-system, you need for things to work in absolute terms, otherwise, there’s not even a point for such an abstract system to exist and be worthwhile. In a Euclidean system, you cannot afford for parallel lines to cross from time to time: the defining principle of this system is that they never do. This absolutism is acceptable and possible because the Euclidean system is an abstraction, an axiomatic system that isn’t supposed to “work” in the observable material world but on a table.
    This level of absolutism cannot be applied to things that goes outside of man-made theoretical constructs. That’s why stuff like physics, biology (without going for the harder stuff like social sciences) are trying to have models that represent best their objects knowing this is an evergoing process and that you never settle for permanent explanations, this has even become a defining trait of western science.
    And the thing is, having trying to discussed with people who insist with absolutist definitions applied to the real world (all into computers and maths incidentally), there’s no discussion happening because indeed, absolutism for a start, but you don’t operate on the same understanding of reality basically. Which is frustrating and somehow useless…
    I’ve just read some books of Byung Chul Han and though it isn’t exactly his subject, I definitely thought about it when he talked about positivity / negativity, the petty and destructive will to understand and take under your terms relationships and understanding of them, etc.
    I’m reading a beauvoirist right now and it got me thinking into how maybe this trans hating of radical feminism goes with the fact that somehow, feminists are now the one “othering” transwomen in particular, but this more has a defensive, “negative” (it defines not-stuff) mechanism I would say.
    Anyway, thanks for your work.

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