A political ideology derived from the encounter of two academic disciplines and applied practically.
For example ?
In my consultations I use testimony.
Because each individual’s personal experience is a formidable tool. With my expertise and skill I can frame and reframe, explain and focus, serve as a compass. But there is no replacement for lived experience. For profane wisdom.
A project born of my desire to create a free, active and activist space to which everyone and anyone can contribute their building block, even if that block is only a piece of testimony: because you need blocks to create a barricade. Now established as a non-profit organisation under French law, Polyvalence fights for the freedom of the body and of sexualities and against the direct violence committed by the compulsory norms of a hetero-patriarchal society, and their collateral damage.
I use various platforms – such as the Polyvalence website and social media – to issue regular appeals for testimony on a host of subjects (list of topics). I provide the educational framework and editorial management required to assemble the testimony received into collections or fanzines, a name chosen to echo the philosophy of DIY – Do it Yourself .
What are these fanzines for ?
Again, profane wisdom is essential – and may be rendered even more effective when illuminated by expertise. I believe I have a contribution to make because I am at once an anthropologist and a sexologist, an activist and the founder of an association that mingles these two disciplines, and which applies them to fieldwork as well as to publishing. Sexuality is my field of specialisiation. In theory and in practice. My particular expertise.
But I don’t know everything, I can’t do everything, and when I offer a consultation I want people to get answers to their questions, to be able to reflect on new ideas and consider comparable situations. I also want them to be able to read a text, to think about it, to return to it and share it with others when I’m not around.
Therapy is a multi-part experience, and doesn’t only take place face to face. I can’t invent solutions or make up stories and I am not particularly interested in reciting rote theories, so I insist on a regular supply of new instruments, practical resources that are accessible to everyone. This means that everyone can in turn create and disseminate information of their own, and thus become the authors of their own emancipation, no matter their particular circumstances. Fanzines, meanwhile, serve a whole range of functions in this endeavour.
And what are those functions ?
Anthropology/sociology: Social and cultural markers, fanzines constitute a database for sociological analysis. (Who writes what, and what does it teach us about a community’s – or a society’s – norms and values?)
Sexology/sex therapy: Fanzines can be used as therapeutic and pedagogical equipment for writers and readers alike.
Militantism/activism: Fanzines offer activists a series of tools, from their creation to their reception – they enable readers to participate in profane wisdom, and to disseminate it.
Do people contribute testimony and then receive a consultation, or are these two different groups ?
It depends. The testimony had already been accumulating before I began to offer my services. I had been receiving it in bits and pieces since I created Polyvalence four years ago. There are more than 500 individual texts online, but anyone who wants to can keep adding testimony indefinitely. Occasionally someone will respond to a call for testimony posted on social media and then contact me for a consultation. And then someone who has read the fanzines during or after a consultation may also express the desire to take part in the project themselves: to write, perhaps for their own sake, but also to help others.
It’s like serial solidarity.
Yes, and that’s why I am attached to the idea of DIY, to the militant and interactive spirit. For myself and for my association. We are inextricably linked. And that doesn’t only go for the fanzines. I created Polyvalence because I couldn’t find what I was looking for, and I developed a professional identity, anthropo-sexologist, because I wasn’t happy with what was commercially available. I think disciplines are too cleft, too rigid, insufficiently – well, polyvalent. I think that goes for a lot of people, and I have received fantastic support and assistance and encouragement. People have been keen to take part, but that’s another story for another place. Let me simply reiterate my most recent appeal, to give you an idea: an appeal for participation.