Sexuality Critical Genogram

A major tool used in my counseling program is the genogram, which is basically a family tree. It is typically used during the first few sessions to diagram a client’s family (which could be an individual, couple, or family) back at least three generations. The point is to help clients see intergenerational patterns. They’re pretty cool.

In class this week, we talked about the critical genogram, which is a genogram that also depicts a client’s particular social location (related to gender, sexual orientation, class, race, ability, age, religion, etc.) and how larger systems (like patriarchy, racism, etc.),  have influenced the client’s experience of their social location and presenting problems.

So I decided to draw one depicting my perception of how larger systems of patriarchy, monogamy, and religion have influenced my experience of my relational orientation, gender identity, and sexual orientation. The main messages I have received from those larger systems include “Women are possessions, property, need to be owned, controlled, and contained,” “Sexuality is sinful, immoral, unhealthy, wrong, bad,” and “Female sexuality is especially sinful, immoral, unhealthy, wrong, bad.” While I have largely cut myself off from those larger systems, I am still influenced by them because of my relationships with my family, larger community, and the messages I receive from media. I experience relatively integrated relationships with my relational and sexual orientations (I feel really comfortable identifying as queer and having an open/poly relationship), but my relationship with my gender identity (woman) feels more complicated. Because I can’t completely separate stripping from patriarchy, my identity as a woman and my enjoyment and participation in the strip club culture feels complicated and richly complex.

I am excited thinking about constructing genograms with my future clients, especially sexuality genograms, which involves questions about sexual history, familial messages about sex and love, and experiences in current romantic relationships. I’m also really excited thinking about creating a way to construct and use a genogram for poly folks and families.

Here is my sexuality critical genogram :) I’m the pink circle.

Screen shot 2013-11-21 at 9.22.47 PM

3 thoughts on “Sexuality Critical Genogram

  1. Your strip club experience is mixed because the dynamic of a strip club is mixed, and as one of the performers you have several ways to engage with the experience.

    The conservative/patriarchal view is that you suffered some kind of trauma when you were young. You are attracted to a highly sexualized exploitive environment to reenact your earlier trauma, hoping this time around it will go better for you, but the inherently demeaning nature of the work traps you in a loop. Your only real release is to give up your agency and submit to a strong male who will guide you to a woman’s true place of honor in the ” home.” Your sexuality only has expression in relation to men’s sexual desires, whether it be at a “dirty slutty” club or as a subservient wife who knows how to look at the ceiling and think of god and country.

    Another view is that you are defining your own sexual and personal identity in what is reality a very safe yet highly sexualized environment. Being on “stage” and being well received, whether at a strip club or giving a corporate presentation helps build identity and self confidence. The strip club gives a young woman the chance to try on many ” hats ” with many different kinds of men without becoming to involved. At the end of your shift you walk away from all the different facets of yourself you choose to show. This is personal and inward looking and does not challenge or conform to the dominant patriarchal framework, if anything it is a fruit of the labors of earlier feminists and freedom thinkers.

    Another track is to look at the experience as pure performance art. Ballet, Vaudeville, modern dance are all variants of this with lessor or greater social acceptance. Art is art and effects the culture in many ways.

    Another tract, and the one it seems you are working towards is using your sexuality as a direct assault on the patriarchal structure. Denying women the power their sexuality has over men is one of the main pillars of patriarchy. A vibrant young woman is a universal good and many men especially older men resent the power this has over them, and that they never had nor will ever have vibrancy and appeal of a young woman. Hence monogamy and marriage. Mrry girls at 15 or 16 and put them in the house or the brothel where they can be controlled, kept out of site and not a challenge to male preening.

    Expressing your sexuality at the strip club, inviting men to enjoy your performance and possibly your mind if they are confident to engage with you creates a space where you can be the sexual you; your youthful sexuality to be enjoyed and engaged, but with no need of the men to dominate or to feel threatened. If men can enjoy and respect the beauty of a women as just that and nothing more, then the need for so many repressive social norms fades away.

    In this way working at the strip club is revolutionary. I expect your are mixed in your feeling about it because you are at the front of the wave of change. There is security in looking back and seeing how the strip club can reinforce patriarchy, but that is not where this wave is taking you. All artists struggle with this dynamic. The job of the artist being to ride the front of the wave and interpret what is coming for their generation, and your generation is so much more open, accepting and loving that those that have proceeded it, and this wave of your generation is a real threat to the patriarchal order. What do you think the Tea Baggers are all wound up about.

    The trick is not to get so far ahead that you fall off the wave.

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