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Sight Unseen: Gender and Race Through Blind Eyes

LOOKS ARE EVERYTHING
A picture held us captive.
And we could not get outside it,
for it lay in our language,
and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably.
--Ludwig Wittgenstein
Samantha is a sexy blind woman. She works at it. And I’m sure she would be
happy to hear me say so. She had many affairs and sexual trysts before marrying, and
she may be having them still when the opportunity presents itself. Which it does. I
first met her at a national conference as a colleague. She did an interesting
presentation about couples’ therapy and, speaking with her afterwards I learned that
she practiced in the area where I taught clinical psychology. We stayed in contact and,
some time later, I invited her to supervise one of my graduate students. She accepted
and after several months, I invited her to come speak to our seminar of therapists-in-
training about her practice of sex therapy (yes, she has made a career of it). She would
also talk about the early experiences that had led to her choosing this profession and
why she was so good at it. Samantha had an excellent reputation for getting results in
her work. Of course, the entire class was immediately fascinated and looked forward
to meeting her. Hers promised to be a unique perspective and everyone was eager to
hear about it. We were not to be disappointed. On the scheduled day and one full
hour after the scheduled time, Samantha swept dramatically into the classroom
alongside one bedraggled graduate student. Samantha had enlisted Lara’s aid in
helping her dress for the occasion and this turned out to be a long, involved process.
Thus the hour delay. Samantha was eager to make just the right impression and
announced flirtatiously to no one in particular that it was her prerogative as a woman
to be late.
Poor Lara, the graduate student in question, appeared completely unraveled
and on the verge of tears, knowing that the entire class had been kept waiting.
Samantha, on the other hand, was cool and in command. She immediately demanded
and got the attention of the entire room, and she began speaking without waiting to be
introduced by me or by Lara. We all struggled to regain our balance, although I’m not
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