Bad girls and dirty bodies: performative histories and transformative styles

Gemma Commane

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter will argue that the absence of visual and academic representations of agency in bisexual, femme or “kinky” women is damaging new knowledge’s of the body by the academic community by ignoring individual interpretations of sexuality through the mix of neo-burlesque, the freak show, queer and body mutation style on stage in fetish club cultures. The female bodies seen in body art, fetish and burlesque club cultures are highly significant and contradict the idea that they are agentless, excessive or damaged goods. Modified and mutated bodies show and already established knowledge of the body that is transformative. In effect this shows a lack in wider cultural, queer and sociological understandings of gender and sexuality but significantly a deficiency in how the body and desire are understood. In consequence this chapter will suggest that a new direction must be taken by the queer community in particular, to critically address and to watch, through careful ethnographic fieldwork, the emergence and transformations of these already established and transformative body styles. Significantly the queer community should pay attention to the particular styles and body knowledge’s in context and within the fetish and neo-burlesque club cultures; to see how this can be translated to transform heteronormative and homonormative structures in their entirety. The themes in this chapter are related to my current PhD research which involves an ethnographic study into this cultural form. The descriptions, meanings and truths derived from the sites of lived experiences, have organically revealed the significance of transformative bodies through ethnographic “insider” knowledge, performance art, evolution and biography.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationQueering Paradigms
EditorsBurkhard Scherer
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherPeter Lang
ISBN (Print)9783039119707
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

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  • queer studies
  • fetish
  • burlesque
  • gender
  • sexuality


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