‘Battery Operated Better’? Mediating phallocentric sexual pleasure and the constitution of the female subject in relation to third-wave vibrators
Kloe, L.A.C. de
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Two assumptions are recurrent in academic discourses surrounding contemporary vibrators. The first assumption is that vibrators are mere tools. They are instruments that women can use to achieve their goal of sexual pleasure. The second assumption is that third-wave vibrators have become feminist tools, which embody feminist values. In light of popular postfeminism, which assumes that feminist struggles have ended and that full equality for all women has been achieved, I will critically question the assumption that vibrators are feminist tools (Lazar 2006). I will do so by integrating the concept of mediation with feminist theory. The concept of mediation, in a postphenomenological understanding, draws attention to the way in which technologies actively coshape experiences. Furthermore, such an understanding shows how subject and object are relationally constituted, rather than pre-given categories (Verbeek 2005; Ihde 2009). In order to understand the way in which the experience of sexual pleasure comes into being and the way in which the female subject is constituted in the relations, I will integrate the concept of mediation with feminist theory. I will discuss the concepts of female sexuality and the female subject through the works of Luce Irigaray, Lynne Segal, and Helene Cixous. From these works, it becomes clear that female sexuality and the female subject in our western society are known from a phallocentric, and masculine position (Cixous and Clement 1986; Irigaray 1985). In this thesis, I will analyze relations with two, third-wave vibrators, namely, We-Vibe’s Nova vibrator and Picobong’s Transformer vibrator. Through analyzing those case studies as embodied, mediated relations, I will question whether the experience of sexual pleasure and the constituted female subject, can indeed be understood as ‘feminist.’ In the case studies, I will show how phallocentric experiences of sexual pleasure are technologically mediated and how the female subject is constituted as lacking. This thesis will be a starting point to envision a true alterative feminine sexual pleasure and feminine subject.