Boston Marriages and Learning to Live Together in spite of Patriarchy
A wonderful article by Pagan Kennedy explores the concept of the platonic
Boston marriage between two straight women who have committed to living with each other [Ms.]. It also begins to explore the features of the patriarchal world that make this kind of arrangement so hard for so many women. An interesting sidebar: the emergence and sensationalism of
lesbianism (we’ll call it pseudolesbian from here on out to distinguish it from actual women-loving-women) in male-dominated culture was emerging precisely at the same time as the most pitched part of the battle for suffrage, and women’s inclusion into the political sphere in general. Pseudolesbianism emerged again as a pornographic staple in the 1970s as the Second Wave entered its most pitched and giddiest phase. It seems like the pornographic sexualization of intimate relationships between women is the primordial Backlash, and is used as a bludgeon to help keep women isolated from one another in the same way that sexualization of intimacy is used to keep men and women from forming deep friendships and the same way that
faggot is used to abort any emotional or physical intimacy between men. In each of the cases the relationships formed are then shuttled off into some anonymous-ideal form of relating: through Femininity, through Heterosexuality, through Masculinity. Of course, the effect of each is very different: Masculinity is culturally conditioned to dominance, aggression, authoritarianism, instrumental reason; Femininity to submission, passivity, emotion; Heterosexuality is what you get when you put the two of them together. We need to begin the project that Kennedy evokes so beautifully, of learning to live together and be present to one another, imagining alternative ways without the bludgeon of a patriarchal sexuality invading that life. (Well, hell, you might argue: it’s not just this platonic stuff; we also need to relearn how to have sexual relationships without the bludgeon of a patriarchal sexuality invading that life. And you’d be right).