ilthit: (apples are red)
[personal profile] ilthit posting in [community profile] queering_holmes
This post is based on a suggestion in the discussion prompt gathering thread, which is still taking suggestions for new discussions if you have them.

Okay, here goes.

[personal profile] marshtide said:

Kind of following on from the general stuff about queer womanhood that's being discussed at the moment, I'd love some more specific discussion of Irene Adler as a possible bisexual character.

Some commenting re: sexual preference vs gender expression and "sex inversion" followed. The thread is here.

I'm better at making associations and connections than conclusions, but here are some subjects I'd love to see discussed:

1) If Victorian sexologists conflated of sexuality and gender, i.e., a woman who wants women is like a man, would that also work as a woman who is like a man necessarily wanting women? There were popular stories of women dressing up as boys for practical reasons or to follow their male lovers, like Viola in Twelfth Night, Fidelio and Sweet Polly Oliver, but on the other hand people would also be aware of the legend of the bisexual La Maupin for example. Also see point #3. 

2) Do you think Irene Adler may have been inspired by scandalous 19th century crossdressing women? I'm thinking of George Sand. 

3) Have some caricatures of women's rights activists wearing trousers and "reducing" their husbands to the role of the wife. 

4) Pornographers were certainly aware of woman-on-woman sex acts, and I vaguely remember (sorry, I have not prepared this post) reading an excerpt of a courtesan advising a recruit to playfully put on a man's jacket and hat to arouse her client. I've also seen an erotic drawing of a woman in trousers with her excited male lover saying "Miss, may I help you with your trousers?" and the cover of a turn of the century magazine where a beaming man is surrounded by a crowd of women in jackets and trousers, boasting "bifurcated girls". That was in The History of Girly Magazines, and the text claimed that women in trousers were quite naughty because it clearly showed that women had legs. Hum. So, does anyone know if there was a lesbian subculture that engaged in crossdressing or if this would have been more of a game for male-servicing brothels? What do you think Doyle was referencing with the character? 

5) Could Irene or her fellow female (real and imagined) gender rebels from the era compare to modern genderqueer identities? There's no way of knowing which of the many "women" caught "dressing like a man" throughout the history would now be identified as trans men, and how many were in it for the benefits, or could fall into some other category of trans. 

In other words, do you think her crossdressing closer related to "sex inversion" and lesbianism, female liberation, gender rebellion or straight titillation - or other, or all of the above? 

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