Amy Wilkins’ 2004 study of sexuality and gender in the Goth scene is in part an examination of how a subculture can create an insulated community, where social norms may be defied, and alternatives tested. The author focuses her research on a Goth hangout called “Haven”. The sexual dynamics of the Goth community within the club are evaluated with an interest on the views and self-perceptions of women within this particular social scene as they relate to gender inequalities. It is eventually determined by the author that, although women in the Goth scene may achieve some sexual independence, the terms by which this is accomplished actually undermine the larger goal of gender equality.
One aspect that was examined is the neofeminist tendency of Goth culture. Many women and some men promote the concepts of female choice, and they tend to openly shun attitudes that objectify females. Ironically, most women within this community choose to “empower” themselves by wearing sexually revealing clothing and by being actively sexual. Participants in the Goth lifestyle argue that by choosing to be sexual, instead of caving to the demand to be so, females regain a measure of control that brings them closer to gender equality. The author adds that this approach may be counter-productive by taking the form of a welcomed sight in a masculinity-dominated society: highly sexual females.
A similar conundrum is elucidated in the usage of bisexuality as an equalizer for women. Some Goths argued that their expanded sexual palate gives them more choice and thus more power in their quest for gender egalitarianism. A major problem with this approach is the fact that female bisexuality is highly sought after in masculine society, and male bisexuality is rare even in Goth circles. As with dressing provocatively, bisexuality by females in the Goth scene has a tendency to worsen the objectivity of women, regardless of the perspective from which the participants view themselves.
The constructs of romance and sexuality are contributors in the imbalance of power between genders. Self-reporting by female Goths would have us believe that sexuality and romance are separated in their society. Polyamory is promoted as a reality, with multiple loving relationships being possible while mixing with non-romantic sexual encounters. In reality, evidence seems to reveal that these relationships deteriorate quickly as a result of male jealousy, and lack of interest by females in the prospect of a romantic relationship with another female. Again, the means by which this culture seeks gender equality seem to backfire, as the ideology of polyamory us ultimately reduced to the typical male-female power imbalance due to the remaining role of the woman as the romance seeker and the male as the sex seeker.
While the interviewees raised some valid points regarding the legitimacy of sexual independence in Goth culture, I must ultimately agree with the author’s assessment of gender and sexuality in this Goth society. It certainly doesn’t appear that these women realize that they may be harming their supposed cause, but the fact remains that for every effort they discussed in this article, there was a counterpoint that revealed the damaging aspects of their collective behavior. I would add that the voluntarily isolated community is a poor example of equality under any circumstances. Groups like these can too easily become based on exclusion, rather than the acceptance that they commonly tout. In my opinion, the integrity of that group is damaged any time that status is determined by some sort of social requirement (or the requirement that certain social aspects be shunned). The true purpose of such a community may be to shield its members from criticism regarding their perceived deviance, rather than the desire to seek equality and challenge social norms.