Merleau-Ponty and the Sense of Sexual Difference

Angelaki 16 (2):19 - 33 (2011)
While Merleau-Ponty does not theorize sexual difference at any great length, his concepts of the flesh and the institution of a sense suggest hitherto undeveloped possibilities for articulating sexual difference beyond the male?female binary. For Merleau-Ponty, flesh is a ?pregnancy of possibilities? which gives rise to masculine and feminine forms through a process of mutual divergence and encroachment. Both sexes bear ?the possible of the other,? and neither represents the first or generic form of the human; each sex bears the possibility of the other. By approaching sexual difference in terms of intersubjectively distributed possibilities rather than interlocking forms or types, we may grasp sexual difference in terms of both a developmental process in which bodies become sexed (and sometimes re-sexed) over time, and in terms of a social-historical process in which patterns of relation and exchange between sexed bodies shift over time, altering the very sense of sexual difference
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