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Confessions of the Pillow Queen: Sexual Practices & Queer Fem-ininities

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Abstract:

Rarely does the term “Pillow Queen” refer admiringly to a mode of female or feminine lesbian sexual agency; most often it is used as a term of insult. If a good portion of feminist and queer studies works from a history and theory of the sexually abject then why is the Pillow Queen an improper historical sexual subject? Not only has the Pillow Queen been neglected by queer studies, she has been ridiculed and rejected by many forms of lesbian feminism within which the spectacle of seeming feminine passivity can evoke only horror and intimations of deep collusion with the forces of patriarchy.

What’s wrong, I ask, with being a Pillow Queen?

On www.About.com, which promises to be your online guide to lesbian life, PQ-dom is defined as:

A Pillow Queen is someone who likes to be on the receiving end of sex.
She likes to be pleasured and not reciprocate. Also known as: Bottom.

This definition of the PQ as someone who likes to receive, be non-reciprocal, and who can also be called a “bottom” indicates the troublesome sexual peculiarities of the PQ, who, as the spectacle of an idle female (feminine) bottom, receiving pleasure, demanding pleasure, luxuriating in pleasure but then, unbelievably, outrageously, refusing to “reciprocate” tells us all we need to know about the lesbian repudiation of the category. The PQ, here and elsewhere, has been classified as self-serving, as a sexual subject who seeks out pleasure but does not return it. However, if articulated from a feminist and queer theory of sexuality PQ-dom not only provides a model of sexual agency for both straight and queer femininities, it also offers us a complex rendering of the relations between passivity and pleasure, receptivity and subjectivity, sexual behavior and politics.
Of course, lesbian femininity is a curious topic within feminist and queer theories and has been much neglected when compared to the mountains of literature on gay male femininities and lesbian masculinities. A few studies by scholars have laid the foundations for an account of lesbian femininity as an excessive, hyperbolic, non-normative mode of desire. However, in part as a result of the PQ’s “outsider” lesbian status as too ‘naturally’ feminine queer theories haven’t granted her due appreciation as a potential model of transgressive bottoming. In fact, only a few queer theorists have written specifically about the desire to bottom or to be the receptive partner and none of them use the PQ as an example.

In this essay I argue that though the Pillow Queen is often viewed as an historical symbol of a straight-acting, lazy or self-involved, ethnic/racial/classed femininity, as a politically incorrect affront to lesbian feminism, and as marginal to radical queer theories, in my analysis, as she works the glorious fulfillment of countless fantasies of femininity, submission, and passivity the Pillow Queen must be celebrated and installed at the very heart of a queer feminist project situating femininity and sexual transgression
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MLA Citation:

Harris, Laura. "Confessions of the Pillow Queen: Sexual Practices & Queer Fem-ininities" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association, <Not Available>. 2013-12-16 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p114581_index.html>

APA Citation:

Harris, L. "Confessions of the Pillow Queen: Sexual Practices & Queer Fem-ininities" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association <Not Available>. 2013-12-16 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p114581_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: Rarely does the term “Pillow Queen” refer admiringly to a mode of female or feminine lesbian sexual agency; most often it is used as a term of insult. If a good portion of feminist and queer studies works from a history and theory of the sexually abject then why is the Pillow Queen an improper historical sexual subject? Not only has the Pillow Queen been neglected by queer studies, she has been ridiculed and rejected by many forms of lesbian feminism within which the spectacle of seeming feminine passivity can evoke only horror and intimations of deep collusion with the forces of patriarchy.

What’s wrong, I ask, with being a Pillow Queen?

On www.About.com, which promises to be your online guide to lesbian life, PQ-dom is defined as:

A Pillow Queen is someone who likes to be on the receiving end of sex.
She likes to be pleasured and not reciprocate. Also known as: Bottom.

This definition of the PQ as someone who likes to receive, be non-reciprocal, and who can also be called a “bottom” indicates the troublesome sexual peculiarities of the PQ, who, as the spectacle of an idle female (feminine) bottom, receiving pleasure, demanding pleasure, luxuriating in pleasure but then, unbelievably, outrageously, refusing to “reciprocate” tells us all we need to know about the lesbian repudiation of the category. The PQ, here and elsewhere, has been classified as self-serving, as a sexual subject who seeks out pleasure but does not return it. However, if articulated from a feminist and queer theory of sexuality PQ-dom not only provides a model of sexual agency for both straight and queer femininities, it also offers us a complex rendering of the relations between passivity and pleasure, receptivity and subjectivity, sexual behavior and politics.
Of course, lesbian femininity is a curious topic within feminist and queer theories and has been much neglected when compared to the mountains of literature on gay male femininities and lesbian masculinities. A few studies by scholars have laid the foundations for an account of lesbian femininity as an excessive, hyperbolic, non-normative mode of desire. However, in part as a result of the PQ’s “outsider” lesbian status as too ‘naturally’ feminine queer theories haven’t granted her due appreciation as a potential model of transgressive bottoming. In fact, only a few queer theorists have written specifically about the desire to bottom or to be the receptive partner and none of them use the PQ as an example.

In this essay I argue that though the Pillow Queen is often viewed as an historical symbol of a straight-acting, lazy or self-involved, ethnic/racial/classed femininity, as a politically incorrect affront to lesbian feminism, and as marginal to radical queer theories, in my analysis, as she works the glorious fulfillment of countless fantasies of femininity, submission, and passivity the Pillow Queen must be celebrated and installed at the very heart of a queer feminist project situating femininity and sexual transgression

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