The Power of Erotic Celibacy
In the newest volume in the Queering Theology Series Lisa Isherwood examines the significance that celibacy may hold in the new millennium.
She begins by considering the female body, how it has been used to underpin exploitative social systems, and how Christianity has tried to control the bodies of women through regulations about the female body. As part of this discussion she looks at the work of Douglas, Foucault, Synnott, Butler, Braidotti and others in the area of 'body politics'.
Isherwood argues that women have used celibacy to subvert the patriarchal system and create space in which to flourish. Through a consideration of the work of McNamara, Ruether, Schussler-Fiorenza, Kitch and others she shows how women from Shakers and Beguines to cloistered sisters and feisty housewives claimed the gospel of equality through celibacy and in so doing impacted on their world. She considers the possibilities of reframing celibacy in the light of queer theory and radical theology, before going on to ask the questions: How do queer theory and radical theology shape our understanding of celibacy in the new millennium? How do we develop a concept of erotic celibacy that is both personally sexually fulfilling and allows the bodies of women to be sites of resistance to patriarchy? How can such a way of living be called queer? Ultimately, Isherwood shows that being erotically celibate challenges patriarchal society and opens up new theological understanding.