Herculine Barbin Analysis

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Herculine Barbin is a memoir of an intersexed individual who struggles to gain acceptance from themselves and other people. They grow up as a woman and use feminine pronouns while living in an all-female space most of their life. Once Herculine hits puberty, they stand out from the other women, with the lack of menstruation and breasts and apparent facial hair. In Riki Wilchin’s Queer Theory, Gender Theory and Iain Moreland’s “What Can Queer Theory Do for Intersex?” both discuss how surgery negatively effects the intersex body, diminishing the genital’s erotic pleasure. Alexina’s body never faces the “surgical touch”, however, she faces repercussions similar to the erasure of erotic pleasure, and that is the removal of ties from her family …show more content…
Individuals fail to recognize the “in-between” feelings, but everyone feels them. For example, Riki Wilchins mentions her friend, Mariette, who tells her, “I know I am a woman, but a lot of the time, I don’t feel like a woman. I don’t feel particularly like anything at all. It’s only when I put on a dress or a man looks at me that I really become conscious of it” (Wilchins, 143). Alexina feels like an outsider compared to the women she lives with because she is always aware of her female roommates and constantly comparing herself to them. She lives as a spectator because she feels ashamed of her own body, but admires the bodies of the other women, who are, to her, “real women”, and represent true femininity, which are those who can menstruate, reproduce, and have scientifically feminine bodies. She regularly admires their beautiful physique, but is quick to eliminate herself. While she and her classmates take a trip to the beach, she watches from afar, never quite able to enjoy life in her own skin, no matter how content she claims she was before making the decision to call herself a man. Because Alexina does not embody what it means to be a real woman, at least in the eyes of society, doctors convince her that she needs to give up her current life in exchange for a completely new and foreign one. Living in a non-identifiable …show more content…
While there are still employers that block certain sexes/genders from being employed by them, there is more of an outrage against it. Here, it is just accepted. In addition, Alexina/Abel is not dealing with a post-surgical body, because that was not an available method during this time period. Doctors were still seeing intersex bodies for the first time, there was no way they would have been thinking about operating on them to make them different. Alexina/Abels pre-surgical body causes them shame, just as the post-surgical body also causes shame because it lacks tactility. Because they are unable to have an orgasm, intimacy becomes far more difficult. It is not impossible, as they can still penetrate or be penetrated, however, it would be one-sided as far as pleasure goes, and if the intersex person wants to act on their desire, they are unable to because their parents wanted to normalize

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