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Tashweesh festival
Kathy Acker: Writing and the Feminist Sex Wars


Kathy Acker: Writing and the Feminist Sex Wars

SA 08.10.2022 15:00

met Tessel Veneboer

in het Engels

(vertaling binnenkort beschikbaar)

The author Kathy Acker (1947-1997) worked as a stripper in San Diego, performed in short porn films and wrote scripts for a live sex show she performed on 42nd street in New York.[2] Throughout her oeuvre Acker returns to these experiences and merges them with her infamous appropriation of the male canon, copying from a wide range of writers and philosophers like Charles Dickens, Marquis de Sade, Georges Bataille and Arthur Rimbaud. 

In this reading group we will look at two short texts in which Acker combines her plagiaristic writing strategy with autobiographical material: “Stripper disintegration” (1973)[3] and “Politics” (1972). In these years Acker assigned herself to write every day while doing sex work. Acker wrote “fake autobiography” copying not only from other texts but also from conversations she overheard among her colleagues.

Acker’s interest in decentralizing the “I” is always a question of copying, taking from others: “I do not see, for there is no I to see” (Acker 1997, 159). Instead, “to see was to be an eye, not an I. In her work Acker often puts everything she copies in the first person but she did not only steal from other texts, she also stole from her own life. 

We will also discuss the position of Acker’s work within the feminist “sex wars” from the 1980s up to today. Acker’s literary work has been typically labelled sex-positive because of her experimentation with masturbatory writing, her depiction of graphic sex scenes and interest in BDSM. At the same time her work is extremely pessimistic and anti-utopic because for Acker there is no such thing as a “sexual liberation.” Nevertheless, sexuality forms the crux of Acker’s feminist and literary politics. 


Tessel Veneboer is doctoraatsonderzoeker aan de vakgroep Engels van de Universiteit Gent. Daar houdt ze zich bezig met queer theorie en onderzoekt seksualiteit in experimentele literatuur. Haar literatuurkritiek en korte verhalen zijn onder andere verschenen bij De Nederlandse Boekengids, deBuren en nY.

foto: Steve Pyke / Getty Images