Edgar Bauer | DARWIN, HIRSCHFELD, WITTIG: On Sexual Taxonomies and the Ineffability of the Sexes.

Abstract

1.  Focusing on the work of Charles Darwin (1809-1882), Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) and Monique Wittig (1935-2003), the presentation outlines their contribution to the groundbreaking dissolution of the sexual binary and the resulting epistemic insights into the sexual unclassifiability of individuals according to finite schemes of sexual distribution.   
2.  From an entry in his Ornithological Notes, it is clear that by 1835 Charles Darwin had already begun thinking of the need to "undermine the stability of Species."  When twenty-four years later The Origin of Species was published, Darwin had unsettled not only the ground principles of zoological taxonomy, but also the premises on which the binomial scheme of sexual classification rests.  Although the evolutionary dismantlement of binary sexuality ensuing from the organizing theses of Origin has been mostly overlooked by Darwinian scholarship, it confirms and explicates Darwin's early awareness that "[e]very animal surely is hermaphrodite," and, more specifically, that "[e]very man & woman is hermaphrodite."
3.  Magnus Hirschefeld, arguably the greatest pre-World War II sexologist and foremost sexual minority rights activist in the twentieth century, contended that Charles Darwin became one of the first natural scientists in the nineteenth century to restore "the ur-idea of human double sexuality" that had laid buried under "the rubble of Hellas and Rome."  Drawing on Darwin's deconstructive insights, Hirschfeld regarded the male/female dichotomy as well as its supplementation through a third-sex alternative as mere "fictions," while underlining that the provisory postulation of the "third sex" fosters the dissolution of dichotomous sexuality by introducing a potentially infinite series of sexualities coextensive with the number of sexed individuals.  Thus, Hirschfeld's re-interpretation of the third sex as a "makeshift" serves to undergird the fundamental thesis of his sexuelle Zwischenstufenlehre that "all human beings are intersexual variants."  On these assumptions, Hirschfeld's universalization of sexual intermediariness leads to the re-inscription of sexual difference in an open-ended framework of natural continuity along the lines foreseen by the Darwinian "old canon" of natural history:  "Natura non facit saltum."
4.  Hirschfled's sexological deconstructions adumbrate the late modern critique of closed schemes of sexual subsumption propounded by French lesbian writer and theoretician Monique Wittig.  While underlining that "for the moment" lesbianism provides the only social form for a free existence beyond the categories of "man" and "woman," Wittig envisioned in her fictional work a futurity in which subjectivities have overcome not only the quandaries of binomial sexual difference, but even the struggle for its abolition.  Significantly, Wittig offered the most precise depiction of sexual subjectivities beyond alienation in her philosophical essay titled Paradigm, where she pregnantly declared: "For us there are, it seems, not one or two sexes, but many (cf. Guattari/Deleuze), as many sexes as there are individuals."  Since a lesbian utopia can only be one if it is for all, Wittig contended that its attainment presupposes acknowledging the evidence that the corporeality of all subjectivities bears the mark of a radically individualized and thus unclassifiable sexuality. 
5.  The final elaborations of the presentation concentrate on the new symbolic order of the sexual that the counterintuitive model of potentially infinite sexualities necessitates.