After the (Homo)sexual: Queer Readings of Anti-Sexuality in Sheri S. Tepper's The Gate to Women's Country
Science Fiction Studies
This article foregrounds the notion of subcultural readings while at the same time interrogating the possibilities of locating and producing "objective" readings, in particular those readings which depend on a demonstration of authorial "intent." Siting itself within current work in Queer Theory, the article problematizes readings of Sheri Tepper's "Gate to Women's Country" as a feminist utopia by looking at the ways in which the text can be read as anti-sexual. In identifying a climate within Women's Country which is both essentialist with regard to gender and highly conflicted with regard to the idea of women's sexuality, the article demonstrates the way in which female desire is diminished, controlled and normatized. The production of a heteronormative discourse both within and without Women's Country serves, in the end, only to focus the reader's attention on the contradictions inherent in the imposition of a highly regulated heterosexuality on the women in Women's Country. The elimination of choice parallels the elimination within the text of the homosexual as both a potential identity for characters and as an identity embodied within a single character. The article interrogates the text's anxiety around the vanished figure of the homosexual which is present within Stavia's story and is seen at its most glaring in the absence of the figure of Patroclus from the annual play about Achilles that structures and reinforces the central paradigms of Women's Country. Finally, the article asks whether it is possible in the age of AIDS to be wholly accepting of a text that uses the dominant discourses of homophobia to create a world after the homosexual, which is inevitably a world after the sexual.