University of Maryland Fatima Jamal and Caleb Luna Power and Desire Paper

This is a discussion forum, so it doesn’t need to be academic writing style. It is more like a casual writing, requiring us reflect on and synthesize the readings and answer the discussion question.

Here are the questions:

1. How do the selected readings use “intimacy” to challenge our ideas about private/public life?

2. How does Fatima Jamal and Caleb Luna prompt us to think about the relationship between power and desire?

Links of two readings below, I also attach other readings.

https://www.them.us/story/jamal-lewis-new-documentary-celebrates-being-fat-black-and-trans

https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/how-to-be-fat-caleb-luna-sub/

First, Please respond these two questions with at least 500 words in total

Second, please respond to these two answers belowfrom my classmates with comments, each comment with minimum 150 words.

Classmate A’s answer:

In Jafari Sinclaire Allen’s piece “Means of Desire’s Production: Male Sex Labor in Cuba, Identities” Allen discusses the sex work of mostly men. They say “…Cuba as the land of ‘women, rum, and Cuban cigars’… a ‘time warp’ of socialist politics, old cars, and dark virile ‘macho’ men.” This indicates the heavy pressure on Cuban tourism, which involves sex work, as a main means of producing money in Cuba. Although sex and sex work is typically thought of as a private thing, in this case, it becomes a public “issue” as much of the money made in Cuba is made through sex work. And in Cuba, sex work for men is not always seen as something bad or to be looked down upon. The “Pingueros” which is a distinguished term among the men who do sex work, take pride in their work, saying they provide much more than sex, while fueling the tourism industry that supports Cuba.

In “Fatima Jamal’s new Documentary Celebrates being Fat, Black, and Trans” the idea of desirability in everyday life is discussed. The author describes a scene in the documentary, “At New York’s 2017 Gay Pride parade, we see people standing outside barricades glare at Jamal, some whimsically excited to see her, others visually bothered by her presence.” And in “Treating My Friends Like Lovers: The Politics of Desirability” by Caleb Luna, the author describes a situation of how they were treated as a fat person by others, in the typical way “undesirable” people are treated. Both of these stories resonated with me, especially as someone who is considered fat. The idea that desire is what fuels how people are treated in this world is absolutely correct, and the fact is that we are taught to treat people accordingly to how much we want to have sex with them. We are also taught what kinds of people we are supposed to want to have sex with, those being white, cis, straight, able-bodied, not too thin and not too fat. Anyone who is outside of these boundaries, are treated as lesser people, even if we do desire them, because we are taught we are not supposed to desire them. These issues impact the people who are not within the boundaries in every aspect of life. Jamal describes the struggle with lack of funding for her documentary, which is linked to the probable lack of desire of people to want to see a Black, trans, fat woman’s documentary, for people like her. The reality is that desire and power are directly linked, and we should strive to treat everyone like someone we would desire, as Luna describes in their piece. If we treat people as we would those who we desire romantically and sexually, many people would be treated exceptionally better, and have better and equal opportunities as those people who we are taught to desire by society. Both Jamal and Luna describe this struggle between desire and power, and why we need to work to change things for the greater good of all people

Classmate B’s answer:

It was interesting to read about the concept of intimacy in the public and private spheres. Berlant makes great arguments and states that public and private intimacy come in hand together. We are not able to socialize and create networks in public without having prior intimacy in private spaces. Furthermore, Berlant argues that society is built on the public and private spaces of intimacy. A lot of people including me think that these spheres of intimacy are stable and that they include everyone. However, Berlant argues otherwise. He states that the public and private spheres of intimacy are unstable because they do not include other sexual identities, such as trans. They are only based on heteronormative standards, which is true. Trans, queer, and non-binary individuals do not fit into the standard of marriage and having kids. They are plenty who are partnered not in a traditional way. For example, we have throuples in society now and they don’t fit the traditional monogamous relationships.
What I also found interesting was Allen’s “Means of Desire’s Production: Male Sex Labor in Cuba” reading. It changed my perspective on intimacy. It demonstrated that individuals can use intimacy in the public sphere to join the global market and at the same time, use their private aspect of intimacy for their pleasure. For example, male sex workers in Cuba made the conscious decision to join the global market as sex workers. They use their bodies to make a living in their global sex economy while finding pleasure in the performance of playing the “mythologized Caribbean masculinity.”

Lastly, Hobbs, Owens, and Gerber’s study changed my perception of online dating apps. I used to think that online dating apps are mostly for hook-up culture and that romance in this period of time is dead. However, their study proved that most of these individuals in these apps are looking for romantic relationships. Online dating apps offer a wider range of romantic possibilities. It offers a network of intimacy. Unfortunately, these networks of intimacy seem to favor those who fit the conventional standards of beauty in western societies. But one question that was left unanswered for me is why single individuals on these online dating apps stay single for a period of time? Is it because they are aware that they have plenty of romantic possibilities so they don’t give into a relationship easily? Or are there more factors playing into that? I hope someone can answer this for me!
Fatima Jamal’s documentary portrays that there are people in our society who feel discomfort when seeing a “Black, fat, femme, trans” individual being confident and empowered. It tells us that society does not see these type of individuals as desirable since not only the gay community but also society as a whole is tainted by white supremacy and the idealization of bodies and behaviors. Lastly, Jamal is encouraging all these oppressed minorities to find desirability within themselves and to not seek approval from society. It is telling them to reclaim their bodies and have agency towards their image.
Caleb Luna demonstrates a connection between power and desirability. It shows that power can be constructed through our desires and beliefs of beauty and attraction, which are heavily influenced by society. Society tells us to only recognize bodies who are desirable and attractive. It tells us that those bodies are the only ones that matter. By doing so, we are secluding and dehumanizing people who are not part of the conventional standards of beauty that society imposes us, such as white, cis, straight, svelte, etc. Luna tells us to be aware of the powers that are influencing our desire as well as of how desire can be a form of power to oppress or encourage people.

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