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jlustick's picture

Fluid Sexuality

                In addition to questioning the scientific and cultural beliefs surrounding gender, Middlesex complicates the concept of sexuality. Through his various characters, Eugenides demonstrates that sexual desire is not as straightforward or consistent as most of society believes. Instead, we see that although characters may have certain sexual tendencies or exhibit specific patterns, nothing is definite or complete. In other words, it seems that Eugenides would resist classifying any individual as entirely homosexual or heterosexual; rather, each individual fits somewhere along a bisexual scale. This theme becomes apparent in each of young Callie’s relationship with other girls. For example, though Clementine is presented as a fairly feminine, heterosexual character, her desire to kiss Callie clarifies her additional possession of homosexual cravings. Though Clementine attempts to remove the sexuality from her actions by saying that she and Callie are simply practicing, the fact remains clear that she initiates the act and thus is not turned off or repulsed by the idea of kissing another female. Similarly, Cal describes the effect that she had on her peers and their desire to establish a physical intimacy with her. Though one could argue that such girls were subconsciously responding to Cal’s masculinity, it is more important to focus on the fact that these teenagers felt comfortable developing a physical intimacy with someone of the same sex. In addition, on page 327, Cal describes the emotional content of female-female relationships, remarking how closely it resembles heterosexual relationships.  In general, Eugenides seems to be highlighting the fact that people, women in particular, have desires to be physically intimate with both men and women.  The balance of these two desires and the level to which we act upon each depends upon the individual.  Being heterosexual may largely derive from our tendency to listen to our culture and establish normative relationships that reflect “appropriate” levels of intimacy with each gender. Another possibility is that in order for a woman, let’s say, to satisfy her desire for physical intimacy with both men and women, she must become heterosexual.  After all, it is appropriate for women to have limited physical relationships with other women while still being involved with men. (For example, female friends may kiss, hold hands, hug, sleep side by side, etc.) On the other hand, if a woman defines herself as homosexual, it is very difficult for her to have a physical relationship with men. In other words, physical intimacy is highly unusual in platonic male-female relationships. Finally, Eugenides propels what Paul Grobstein referred to as the story of sexuality; people frequently ignore some of their physical so as to create a coherent story about their sexual identity. Our human reluctance to deal with psychological inconsistencies may cause us to bury the truth and design a more consistent narrative.


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