Erasing sexuality from the blackboard
This paper explores certain images and perceptions that British women teachers at the turn of the nineteenth century, used to position themselves discourses of sexuality. Starting from the assumption that sex matters in the construction of subjectivities, I have further suggested that sexuality has created an arena of conflicting and often contradictory discourses that have influenced past and contemporary perceptions related to the persona of the woman teacher. A point that has been highlighted in the discussion of this paper is that one of the most powerful images has been that of the asexual woman teacher. However the autobiographical writings of ‘real’ women teachers have spoken differently. They have revealed women who were deeply concerned with making sense of their sex, acknowledging their desires and making specific life choices. In doing so, they often found themselves entangled within the discursive restraints of wifehood and motherhood, the only recognisable female sexual roles of their era. Although they did not reject the social necessity of these roles, they resisted the gendered structure of power relations within them and sought to recreate them by finding some other spaces and different vocabularies through which to express their sexuality. I finally suggest that far from being the key to unlock the secret of her existence, sexuality has become a passage for the female self, to work upon herself.
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