Queer Ecological Imaginations: The Greenhouse in the Bathhouse

Houseplant purchases have increased exponentially in the Global North in recent years, driven in large part by social media aesthetics and the material realities of the so-called “Indoor Generation”: twenty- and thirtysomething “renters in urban areas with little or no access to yards” (Penelope Green). This generation is also notable for its relatively low, and late, rates of having children; not coincidentally, punny terms such as “Plant Parenthood” and “Plant Daddies” have sprung up around this generation’s proclivities.

So what are the specific effects of these trends on humans’ erotic and/or sexual lives? How do they affect how one designs one’s living space? And how might the two intersect?

Nicole Seymour, Associate Professor of English at California State University, Fullerton, will present some preliminary answers from a current project in progress, looking at primary texts including Pony Express’ art installation _Ecosexual Bathhouse_ (2016-), the “ecosexuality” episode of VICELAND TV’s sex documentary show _Slutever_ (2018), and home design Web sites such as ApartmentTherapy.com.

Photograph
NICOLE SEYMOUR

Drawing on approaches including affect studies, asexuality studies, and queer ecologies, Seymour identifies the houseplant as a site of contradictory erotics and economics: both a shelter from normative expectations of sexual reproduction and an increasingly eroticized body; a respite from late capitalistic expectations for domesticity as well as an avatar of what Cate Sandilands calls “the vegetariat”—in which “capitalist accumulation is not possible without the ever-intensifying exploitation of the surplus labor of plants.”

Nicole Seymour researches the roles that queer styles and affects play in environmental movements, as seen in recent publications such as _Bad Environmentalism: Irony and Irreverence in the Ecological Age_ (University of Minnesota Press, 2018). She is Associate Professor of English at California State University, Fullerton, where she also serves as the Graduate Advisor for the Environmental Studies Program.

She is a co-curator for NXTerra, an open-access repository of climate pedagogy materials developed by faculty across the University of California and California State University systems. Currently, Dr. Seymour is on sabbatical as an Alumni Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich, Germany, working on a book about glitter for Bloomsbury’s “Object Lessons” series.