THE SIXTH GOD & SEXUALITY CONFERENCE
"RITUAL PRACTICE AND SEXUAL EXPRESSION"
April 8th, 9th & 10th 2006
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, New York City
The conference will provide a platform for the examination and experience of the place of ritual in the appropriation and contestation of sexual meanings. This, the sixth God & Sexuality Conference (GSC) continues its tradition of combining the student leadership, scholarly presentations and community participation to explore an arena of contested meanings and practices today: ritual and human sexuality. The conference will provide three tracks, from which participants will be able to select presentations, workshops and roundtables:
- Same-sex marriage
- Women and gender in ceremonial roles and rituals
- Sexual expression in ritual
Register for this year's
Ritual provides a site that many religious systems privilege and protect, because of the palpable access it affords to social beliefs and values. Understandings about the nature of the cosmos, including the places and proper behaviors of humankind within it, are among the kinds of fundamental beliefs and values expressed, reinforced and renewed in ritual. Sexuality finds expression through ritual, as well, directly, as in marriage rites, and indirectly, for example, through the gendered distribution of access to ritual and its performative role. Conversely, human expressions of sexuality, from the appropriation of gender to genital performance, are themselves ritual occasions, wherein bodies serve as sites for the appropriation and contestation of social norms.
Because of their status as privileged sites for the expression and maintenance of social norms, rituals also provide powerful loci for the expression of tensions within cultural, social and religious systems. Challenges to social norms are often registered and enacted through ritual.
Same-sex marriage and the assumption by women of traditionally male roles are examples of rituals as contested settings and vehicles of change within contemporary societies. In addition to efforts to establish social and legal recognition of the committed relationships of same-sex couples, many same-sex couples, even without such recognition, seek to solemnize their commitment by means of marriage rites. What does such an appropriation of marriage symbolism express about the nature of these rituals? How does it, in turn, impact that symbolism and the discourse and understandings of weddings? Similarly, when women take on ritual roles, particularly roles of headship traditionally reserved for men, what changes ensue in discourse? Finally, how does sexual practice ritually embody and express social norms, including their tensions and changes?