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The Lesbian Subjectivity in Contemporary Arabic Literature: ‘An Absent Presence’ Disciplined by the Gaze
The subject of lesbianism is rarely addressed in contemporary Arabic literature, without inciting prejudice, denial, or repetition of some preconceived ideas about the widely used term, “homosexuality”. Even after the emergence of Arab feminism, ‘lesbian subjectivity’ is totally silenced on the assumption that sexuality is not a ‘priority’ in a male-oriented world in which ‘women’ have more vital concerns to fight for than what is seen as ‘bodily rights’, or rights to ‘pleasure’. Some authors presume that there are no lesbians in Arab cultures. Others claim that some women ‘become’ lesbians due to negative experiences or imposed sexual segregation. Set within the limits of female bonding in heterosexual norms, most Arab writings about intimate same-sex relations among females tend to convey an implicit message that lesbians are women who can be heteronormalized once their circumstances change. All these assumptions and misconceptions regulate the public opinion and subdue any attempt to assert an independent lesbian subjectivity that has different priorities, ethics, rights, and politics.
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