Category A Very Short Introduction

Liquid sex

Modern individuals can in principle adopt sexual identities at will, but they do not do so in conditions of their own choosing. The social and political context of modernity sets the stage for sexual possibilities. For example, new communication technologies such as the Internet provide new sexual options, including the adoption of ‘virtual’ identities in cyberspace as well as greater access to potential partners. The modern world, as the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman argues in his book Liquid Love, is characterized by fluidity in social relations generally, encouraging a reluctance towards long-term commitments since a ‘better product’ might be just around the corner. The fragmentation of sexual subcultures is mirrored in the specialization of the commodities on offer.

Gay men’s dating websites such as Gaydar have become global phenomena, with users including men from countries such as Algeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or the Democratic Republic of Congo. More specialized dating agencies cater for ‘heterosexual, gentile (non-Jewish), whites only’, ‘gay black females’, or the ‘unhappily married/attached’, while the now defunct Safe Love International, which included prominent sexologists such as

Theresa Crenshaw on its advisory council, promised that its members were ‘Aids-free’.

Citizens of the modern sexual world make sense of their personal identities and problems in new ways, as reflected in a recent dilemma submitted to the popular internationally syndicated Internet relationship and sex advice column ‘Savage Love’, run by American gay author of Skipping Towards Gomorrah (2002) Dan Savage:

For the past 15 years, I’ve identified as bisexual: I’ve been in monogamous relationships with men and women. I married a wonderful guy a few years ago. However, I recently realised that I identify as gay. I’ve talked to my husband about this, and he’s okay with it. I decided to stay with him and remain monogamous.

Подпись: SexualityWe have a great relationship – and great sex. We left open the possibility of me taking a female lover in the future, if needed. For now, I’m happy with him. I flirt with girls, we talk openly about my preferences, but I haven’t had sex with a woman since before I married him. And I’m okay with that. So, here’s my dilemma: Is it right to call myself a lesbian if I’m married to (and sexually involved with) a man? I hesitate to stay with the ‘bi’ label, since I have no interest in other men. Can I call myself a lesbian even though I’m not sleeping with women?

Advice columns, agony aunts, therapists, support groups such as Sex Addicts Anonymous, self-help books, and sex manuals can be drawn upon to offer advice on relationship rules, sexual etiquette, and sexual mechanics in the liquid world of modern sex. Titles such as Women Who Love Too Much, Relationship Rescue, How to Fall Out of Love, or If It Hurts, It Isn’t Love guide readers through the minefield of intimacy and emotions. Other works privilege a more practical angle, such as Sexercise (‘will help you get fit while you’re having fun!’), This Book Will Get You Laid (‘the bonking bible no bloke should be without’), or American sexologist Dr Ruth’s Sex for Dummies. Specific subgroups are catered for by
works such as The Adventurous Couple’s Guide to Strap-On Sex, The Gay Joy of Sex, Sex: A Man’s Guide, The New Love and Sex After 60, The Lesbian Sex Book, or Enabling Romance: A Guide to Love, Sex and Relationships for People with Disabilities (and for the People Who Care About Them).

Best-selling self-help books such as The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right (1995) reproduce traditional norms of female and male sexual behaviour and needs, based upon the claim that men and women are biologically different creatures. ‘In a relationship, the man must take charge. He must propose. We are not making this up – biologically, he’s the aggressor’, as the Rules, such as ‘don’t talk to a man first (and don’t ask him to dance)’, formulate it.

Подпись: The future of sexAttempts to break away from dominant norms frequently involve the formulation of new normativities, however, as illustrated by Shere Hite’s emphasis on the necessity for women to experience sexual pleasure:

If you can’t orgasm, you could also read books on sex therapy, feminist literature, and try to talk to friends about how they have orgasms. You could also try a local women’s self-help group, perhaps a sex-therapist, or a lover who was sensitive enough to help. Don’t give up. Many women have learned to orgasm after years of not knowing how, and it is never too late to discover what works for you.

The current transformations and politics of sexuality have started to problematize the hegemony as well as the forms of ‘normality’. Feminist critiques of sexuality have encouraged wider understandings of sexuality, less centred on penetrative intercourse alone, while gay and lesbian communities of choice and attendant political activism have publicly demonstrated the profound transformations of both the sexual order and the gender order of the West in recent decades.

In their radical experiments with intersections between gender and sexuality, the ‘queers’ queers’ are perhaps the sexual revolutionaries of our time. Just as self-castrating early Christians, anarchist free-lovers, 1960s swingers, Reichian sexual liberationists, and political lesbians came from the periphery of the continent of sex to invent new meanings and practices, so the pomosexual ‘lesbian separatist who becomes a professional dominatrix, then falls in love with a male-to-female transsexual grrl, decides to go through with a sex change, becomes a guy, and realizes he’s a gay man’ questions our most basic assumptions about gender and sexual identity, and illustrates the possibilities for greater fluidity that the (post)modern world offers.

Подпись: SexualityDoes that mean that, in future, we will all think of ourselves as pomosexuals? Are we currently witnessing the final death throes of heterosexuality and homosexuality? As we have seen, current sexual ‘truths’ and identities are relatively recent historical constructs, produced by sexual science and medicine. The future of sex may well involve leaving behind the constraints of 19th-century ‘sexuality’. Theorists of sexuality have thus called for collective ‘un-sexualization’. At the same time, there is little in the current state of the politics of sexuality to lead us to conclude that an ‘unsexual’ future is anywhere near, given the renewed propping up of traditional understandings of sex by the fundamentalist backlash, as well as by scientific discourses. What is certain, however, is that alternative futures of sex based on moral pluralism cannot escape new normativities, new relations of power, and new state policies. No culture can have ‘full’ sexual freedom. As the sociologist Ken Plummer puts it:

However neutral and objective talk about sexual diversity appears to be, it is also talk about power. Every culture has to establish – through both formal and informal political processes – the range and scope of the diversities that will be outlawed or banned.

Подпись: The future of sex

As this volume has argued, sexual needs, values, and emotions are the products of specific historical contexts. Current practices may contribute to undermining concepts of ‘sexuality’, but, whatever changes scientific and technological developments will bring to our bodies and relationships, future meanings of sex will be shaped by society and politics.

Sexuality and power

Recent controversies around sexuality thus further illustrate the intricate links between sexuality and the social relations of power flowing from gender, social class, and ‘race’ that have, historically, shaped it. As Michel Foucault put it, sexuality constitutes

an especially dense transfer point for relations of power: between men and women, young people and old people, parents and offspring, teachers and students, priests and laity, an administration and a population.

Contrary to the sexual liberation paradigm, sexuality cannot, in this view, simply be pitted against power. As we have seen,

Freudian Marxists such as Marcuse, Reich, or Fromm argued in the 1960s that sex is a positive force which is repressed by modern civilization and capitalism, and that sexual liberation will transform the social order. Such hopes that the sexual revolution would not only liberate sexuality but also subvert wider repressive structures of power have faded since.

Подпись: SexualityBut the connections between sexuality and power are all the more important because our relation to ourselves as sexual beings constitutes such a central component of modern identity, as Foucault emphasized. A similar point is made by the British sociologist Anthony Giddens, who argues: ‘Somehow… sexuality functions as a malleable feature of self, a prime connecting point between body, self-identity, and social norms.’ The two authors disagree, however, on the political implications of the centrality of sexuality to modern self-identity. Whereas for Foucault, sexuality is a prime target of modern relations of power and fundamental to processes of societal disciplinarization of ‘disorderly’ populations, Giddens identifies the spread of the ‘pure’ relationship over the past few decades as a positive phenomenon; by ‘pure’ relationships, he means to denote a type of relationship which, in a social context where women’s economic dependency towards men has lessened and exit options such as divorce have become accessible on demand, exists for its own sake. Though more fragile than traditional marriage, which was propped up more firmly by wider social institutions, the pure relationship involves transformations of intimacy that contribute towards a democratization of the private as well as the public sphere. Concentrating on heterosexual relationships, Giddens, as well as the German sociologists Beck and Beck-Gernsheim, see women as the vanguard of more equal understandings of sexuality and intimacy. In their view, transformations of male sexuality are largely a result of women’s struggles to change their lives. As Beck and Beck-Gernsheim put it: ‘men’s liberation is a passive affair’. Men, they add, ‘seem to engage in self-liberation as spectators’.

Certainly, relations of power between men and women have shifted dramatically over the past few decades, as have normative models of femininity and masculinity. Whereas male sexuality has been theorized as inherently violent, alternative accounts have emphasized the passivity and vulnerability of male (hetero-)sexual experience, against the backdrop of a wider ‘crisis of masculinity’ to which groups such as the Promise Keepers provide a fundamentalist answer. Similarly, recent controversies over the potency drug Viagra could be read in different ways: the speed of its availability on the market could be seen as a sign of the triumph of male wishes or, alternatively, as further contributing to the myth (and psychological pressure) of unproblematic male sexual performance. In terms of intersections between gender and sexuality, analyses have currently come full circle, from the pathologization of female sexuality and taken-for-grantedness of male heterosexuality as the norm within sexual science and medicine, to greater problematization of male sexual experience, reminding us, in the words of the political theorist Terrell Carver, that ‘gender is not a synonym for women’.

Подпись: The future of sexSince the late 1980s, sexuality has figured prominently on Western political agendas, covering national as well as international issues. Controversies around teenage pregnancy rates, prevention of sexually transmitted disease, regulation of prostitution, sexual exploitation of children, Internet porn, gays and lesbians in the military, gay ‘marriage’ and adoption, hate crimes, new reproductive technologies, and the ‘private’ morality of politicians are the topic of intense public debate, and older issues such as access to abortion are currently subjected to renewed contestation. Issues such as Aids, sex tourism, international trafficking of women, and Internet networks of paedophiles illustrate the global nature of politics of sexuality, as well as the resurgence of moral purity discourses and their political influence. Against the backdrop of the politics of sexuality, as well as wider social and technological developments, sexuality has undergone profound changes over the past few decades. Modern sexual science has

13. Pfizer/The Impotence Association magazine advertisement, featuring the football legend Pele, which appeared in 2002

 

Sexuality and power

documented the impact of such changes on individual practices. Somewhat ironically, the primary agents in the transformation of sexual truths and relations of power are those that medicine and sexology had constructed as marginal in relation to hegemonic male heterosexuality, namely women and homosexuals of both sexes, as we have seen throughout this volume.

In the process, social understandings of sexuality have opened up to a plurality of meanings. Whereas liberation theorists saw sexual pleasure as crucial for the fulfilment of full human potential and happiness, competing understandings have portrayed sexuality as the site of risk, death, moral decay, commercial exploitation, male violence, political self-affirmation, and destabilization of identities.

Conservative sexual politics

Radically social models of sex as promoted by queer theorists and embodied by pomosexuals have competed with a major revival of both religious and biological models of sexuality over the past two decades. The Catholic Church, for example,
still officially defines homosexuality as a ‘moral evil’. The rise of Christian and other religious fundamentalisms throughout the West from the 1980s has reinvigorated traditional moral condemnations of sexual deviancy. In the political arena, the activism of the Christian Right has generally been the source of the most vehement opposition to gay rights campaigns, especially in America. As a social movement, the Christian Right draws primarily from Evangelical Protestant groups which aim to defend and restore ‘traditional values’ against the ‘moral decay’ of the rise in sexual permissiveness, and perceived threats to the patriarchal, heterosexual family resulting from feminism and gay rights campaigns.

Подпись: SexualityPolitical strategies differ within the movement, however. Mass movements such as the Promise Keepers, an American Christian men’s movement, focus on a commitment to ‘spiritual, moral ethical, and sexual purity’ (promise 3) and to ‘building strong marriages and families through love, protection and biblical values’ (promise 4), but prioritize a focus on masculinity rather than on sexual orientation – which is indirectly present in their primary aim of restoring the traditional gender role of men within the heterosexual family. In contrast, American organizations such as the Traditional Values Coalition tend to see gays not only as immoral, but also as out to undermine society and ‘recruit’ the young, and they consequently specialize in the fight against gay rights. The notorious Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas welcomes various ills that befall America, including Aids, 9/11, and the death of US soldiers in Iraq, as well-deserved punishments from God for America’s tolerance of homosexuality. On its website ‘God Hates Fags’ (opening words: ‘welcome, depraved sons and daughters of Adam’), it argues that ‘God Hates America’ (as well as Sweden, Canada, Ireland, and Mexico) for its ‘Godless sodomite culture’.

Many Western countries have Christian support groups for gay men and women that depict homosexuality as a misguided
lifestyle choice, and undertake to ‘help’ those who wish to lead a ‘proper’ heterosexual lifestyle. Among the largest of these, EXODUS International, for example, promises ‘freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ’, offering ‘reparative therapy’ to ‘men and women who struggle with unwanted homosexual attractions’ and who want to ‘grow into heterosexuality’, as well as annual international ‘freedom conferences’ (the 2007 conference was titled ‘Revolution’).

Подпись: The future of sexAlthough religious and conservative groups that reject sexual diversity in the name of ‘family values’ have largely monopolized moral models of sexuality, alternatives founded on respect for sexual pluralism are, of course, implicit in equal rights campaigns. Faced with recurring moral fundamentalisms and sexual conservatisms, authors such as Jeffrey Weeks and various queer theorists have attempted to elaborate alternative, ‘progressive’ value models for sexuality. Furthermore, liberal theologians from various religious affiliations have vocally supported gay rights claims, drawing on different versions of Christian ethics, while neo-conservative redefinitions of sexual identity promote equality from a political standpoint which is both conservative and libertarian in contrast to the Left-activist position that forms the basis for queer politics. This type of counter-queer gay politics is personified by Andrew Sullivan, the British author of The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back (2006) who lives in America, or by the Log Cabin Republicans (the gay wing of the Republican Party); while on the cultural plain, the ‘Bears’ movement, which celebrates conventionally masculine-looking gay or bisexual men with hairy bodies and facial hair, and rejects what it perceives as ‘effeminate’ styles and mannerisms, has been gathering steam in recent years.

Biological models of sexuality have been reinvigorated by the recent expansion of evolutionary and genetic science, as exemplified in the ambitious Human Genome Project which has undertaken to map the entire sequence of human DNA.

Developments in genetic research have repopularized biological and hereditary understandings of sexual practices and identities. For example, beliefs that homosexuality could be explained by a ‘gay gene’ were triggered by a study by Hamer and others on fruit flies, published in Science in 1993, which claimed a link between genetic make-up and sexual orientation – a finding that has since been heavily contested. Various 1990s studies have attempted to identify specific biological characteristics such as more frequent left-handedness in gays, while other studies continue to argue that homosexuality is caused by a disorder in sex hormones. Institutions such as the American Department of Defense continue to define homosexuality in biological, medicalized terms, as a mental disorder. Finally, the pharmaceutic development of potency products such as Viagra further involves the profound medicalization of sexuality.

Подпись: SexualityBiological models of sexuality have been adopted to legitimize opposing positions within the politics of sexuality. For example, on the one hand, the claimed discovery of a ‘gay gene’ has led to calls for genetic ‘correction’ of sexual deviancy. On the other hand, a representative of Lambda welcomed the ‘discovery’ of the gay gene in Time Magazine in 1993 on the grounds that such a finding meant that homosexuals ‘can’t help the way they are’ and should therefore not be discriminated against. Just like religious models, biological understandings of sexuality have served both to pathologize sexual deviancy and to sustain equal rights claims.

Recent developments in the area of genetics have also revived collective preoccupations with heredity, reproductive control, and the future of welfare systems, and returned such issues to the political agenda. New practices such as genetic counselling during pregnancies have led to misgivings based upon past eugenic experiences for some, and triggered new hopes for improvement of the collective genetic stock of the nation for others. For example, the genetic scientist Herman Muller set up a ‘sperm bank’ in the US which operated until 1999 and was intended to
raise the genetic ‘quality’ of America by providing sperm from Nobel prize laureates, an aim that failed miserably due both to the reluctance of the intended donors to get involved and the low quality of the sperm of those few (elderly) scientists who did.

Подпись: The future of sexMore generally, concerns with higher levels of reproduction from what are regarded as ‘undesirable’ categories of citizens, such as Muslim immigrants, were publicly articulated by politicians in countries such as France in the 1990s, echoing older Western worries about fertility levels in non-Western countries such as India and China. Female reproductive sexuality continues to constitute a particular policy concern of the state. For example, in America in the early 1970s, an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 women on low incomes were sterilized annually under federally funded programmes, frequently under the threat of withdrawal of welfare benefits. Following action from the US Committee to End Sterilization Abuse, a federal judge put an end to the legality of such practices in a 1974 ruling, but it is generally recognized that this failed to put a halt to coerced sterilization. By the early 1980s, an estimated 24% of African-American women,

35% of Puerto-Rican women, and 42% of American-Indian women (compared to 15% of white women) had been sterilized, many of them without their consent or full understanding of the consequences. Current organizations such as Project Prevention/CRACK (‘Children Requiring A Caring Kommunity’) offer cash incentives to male and female drug addicts who accept sterilization or vasectomy, and Republican politicians have triggered accusations of ‘neo-eugenics’ by calling for forced sterilization of ‘disorderly’ categories of the population, including crack-addicted mothers and other welfare recipients, since the 1990s.

In European countries, recent cultural battles around immigration have centred on controversies around sexual ethics. Muslim immigrants, in particular, are accused of rejecting both Western sexual liberation and women’s liberation, and of lack of tolerance

12. A woman caresses another woman, who uses a root vegetable as a dildo, 19th century, India

 

Conservative sexual politics

towards sexual diversity. The portrayal of cultural ‘outsiders’ as more sexually repressed than the native population is an interesting reversal of earlier historical depictions of non-Western sexuality. Indeed, ‘Oriental’ cultures have traditionally been the repository of Western sexual fantasy. Exotic representations of ‘the Orient’ which conjured up images of Eastern unlimited sensuality and guilt-free licentiousness have been a persistent theme among Western intellectuals, including the 18th-century French political theorist Montesquieu in his Persian Letters (1721), 19th-century French novelist Gustave Flaubert, or the 19th-century British explorer Sir Richard Burton (translator of Arabian Nights and the Kama Sutra). In a similar vein, early Western anthropologists such as Margaret Mead in Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilization

(1928) , or Bronislaw Malinowski in The Sexual Life of Savages

(1929) Подпись: The future of sex, have routinely portrayed non-white races as closer to nature and therefore much freer sexually, in contrast to the more civilized, and therefore sexually more restrained, West. Cultural stereotypes of black men as sexually potent and better-endowed than white men further reflect the projection of Western sexual as well as racial fantasies and anxieties.

Sexual separatism

Подпись: SexualityDisagreements as to whether to focus efforts through ‘single-issue’ organizations or to pursue much broader aims have also given rise to separatist strategies. Indeed, this has been a recurring theme since the early days of homosexual activism. The very first movements for the rights of sexual minorities which arose in Germany around the turn of the 20th century were already split around this question, with the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee (1897), led by the sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld and based upon a ‘third-sex’ model of homosexuality, tending towards a gay-separatist model of alliances between gay men and lesbian women, while the Gemeimchaft der Eigenen (‘Community of Self-Owners’), co-founded in 1902 by the anarchist Adolf Brand, the sexologist Benedict Friedlaender, and the youth movement activist Wilhelm Jansen, promoted a gender-separatist model of alliances between gay and heterosexual men. The Daughters of Bilitis, generally recognized as the first organization for lesbian rights, founded in San Francisco in 1955, broke apart in the 1970s over internal disagreements regarding the prioritizing of commitment to women’s rights over specifically lesbian interests. Furthermore, the American National Organization of Women (NOW) called for the expulsion of the ‘lavender menace’ from its

ranks, fearing that vocal lesbian presence would increase media hostility towards the movement.

Подпись: The future of sexSome strands of lesbian separatism of the 1970s and 1980s radicalized such controversies in seeking not only organizational, but also geographical, independence. Most prominently, Jill Johnson’s 1973 work Lesbian Nation: The Feminist Solution argued for ‘tribal groupings’ of ‘the fugitive Lesbian Nation’, calling for separate lesbian social and cultural spaces which could act as a power base within the wider women’s movement. Dutch radical-feminist groups dreamt in the early 1970s of establishing an independent lesbian community on a ‘women’s island’, a utopian idea that was echoed when Australian activists declared the small islands of Cato to be the new micro-nation Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea in 2004, issuing its first postal stamps in 2006. Territorial separation of either lesbian-only or women-only groups was achieved – if only temporarily – with the founding of women-only spaces and festivals with names such as ‘herland’, ‘wimminsland’, and ‘Womyn’s Festival’ in the US, Canada, and Australia, satirized in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City novels. Territorialized strategies were revived by the US radical feminist Dworkin’s call, in 2000, for a separate homeland for women. Male gay authors such as William S. Burroughs have similarly called for a gay nation state, and organizations such as the German-based Gay Homeland Foundation, created in 2005, aim to persuade ‘the government of a large and thinly-populated nation’ to sell a stretch of ‘uninhabited land’ where an independent state would be established for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and transgendered citizens.

Virtual versions of separatism around gender or sexual identity are incarnated in the recent writings of the British ‘Miss Martindale’, the self-proclaimed public face of ‘the feminine empire Aristasia’ where men do not exist and the two sexes are ‘blonde’ and ‘brunette’. Semi-religious versions of separatism emerged from the 1980s in the shape of spiritual organizations
across the world such as the Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess International, and Dianic Paganism, some types of which have been associated with lesbian separatism. The latter, following Zsusanna Budapest’s 1975 ‘ovarian book’ The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries, regroups ‘neo-pagan feminist goddess-worshippers’ in Wiccan groups or in non-Wiccan covens which draw heavily on biological models of femininity to celebrate female reproductive powers, women’s bodies more generally, ‘womanism’, and ‘the divine feminine’.

Подпись: SexualityThe territorialization of sexual and gender politics involved different activist strategies for radical groups such as Queer Nation, which emerged in New York in 1990 and produced the deeply controversial slogan ‘I Hate Straights’. Queer Nation epitomizes newer approaches to the politics of sexuality in no longer demanding the right to sexual freedom in the privacy of the home, or in literally separate ‘homelands’, but instead calling for the de-heterosexualization of the public sphere through actions such as ‘queer nights out’ in straight clubs by groups like the Lesbian Avengers. Being queer is, they argue, not about the right to privacy, but about the freedom to be public. Whereas separatist political lesbianism promoted ‘fugitive’ exit from the heterosexual colonizer, the new cultural (rather than ethnic) nationalism of queer nationalism calls for the gay re-colonization of public spaces by eradicating heterosexist homophobia.

In theoretical terms, queer theory, as associated with authors such as Judith Butler, Eve Sedgwick, Teresa de Lauretis, Michael Warner, and Steven Seidman, and developed from the early 1990s onwards, has built upon earlier radical feminist theorization and critique of normative heterosexuality by Adrienne Rich, Monique Wittig, and others. Queer theory emphasizes the socially constructed nature of gay and lesbian categories, echoing the earlier writings of Michel Foucault, symbolic interactionist sociologists such as Gagnon and Simon, Ken Plummer and Jeffrey Weeks, and theorists of political lesbianism. Though the term
‘queer’ encapsulates a plurality of meanings, it primarily refers to the rejection of binary categorizations such as man/woman and gay/straight. Instead, the multiplicity and instability of identity labels in general is emphasized. As the sociologist Diane Richardson puts it:

We are, it is suggested, post such identities: post woman, post man we are transgender; post lesbian, post gay, post heterosexual (perhaps?) we are queer.

Подпись: The future of sexCulturally, queer theory involves an emphasis on ‘permanent rebellion’ and subversion of dominant social meanings and identities. For some authors, this includes a vehement rejection of the spectacular development of gay consumer culture since the 1980s, including gay travel agencies, bars, bathhouses, legal services, therapists, and fashion outlets, as expressed in the slogan ‘we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re NOT going shopping’. Instead of promoting assimilation into mainstream society, queer theory aims radically to transform the social order by destabilizing not only the taken-for-grantedness of heterosexual norms, but also stable, biologized understandings of gay and lesbian identity as well as gender. Gender and sexual identities are, it is argued, fluid and unstable, as queer author Kate Bornstein illustrates when describing herself in the following terms:

In a nutshell, I used to be a het guy who did the gender-change thing and became a grrl, a lesbian grrl at that. Then, after my female lover became a guy, I stopped calling myself a lesbian. Being a lesbian had become too complicated. Calling myself a lesbian managed to offend just about everyone, so I began to call myself a dyke.

The US sexologist Carol Queen and novelist Lawrence Schimel coined the term ‘PoMosexuals’ in 1997 to describe ‘POst-MOdern’ individuals such as Kate Bornstein, who graphically illustrate the fluid nature of both gender and sexual identity. In their words:

We pomosexuals are the queer’s queers, the ones who will not stay in the boxes marked ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ without causing a fuss – just as we all burst out of the boxes the straight world tried to grow us in.

Pomosexuals, the ‘bastard children’ of the gay and lesbian movement, as the American self-identified ‘troublemaker’ and ‘S/M writer of gay male pornography for women’ Pat Califia puts it, break the intricate links between gender and sexuality involved in the labels gay, lesbian, and heterosexual.

Подпись: SexualityPolitically, queer activism – numerically a very small movement – involves an emphasis on inclusiveness and solidarities around diversity. Queer politics has also, however, involved calls for a renewing of alliances between lesbians and gay men on the grounds of the prioritization of common identities as ‘queers’ over that as women. Some versions of queer political theory criticize gay and lesbian organizations for implicitly assuming homosexual identity as unified and stable. Similarly, radical feminism has been attacked for naturalizing the category of ‘woman’ (as well as for its presumed ‘moralistic’ stance). In contrast, in a queer future, sexual labels such as gay, lesbian, as well as heterosexual, would be subsumed in the overarching fluid identity of queer, as is argued by queer theorists, who often prefer to speak of LGBT&F (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Friends). The current reality is, however, different, as the writer D. Travers Scott put it:

Queer almost immediately came to mean ‘saucy fags and dykes’, not the radically-sexualised boundary-breaking coalition it was first advertised to be, or we’d have a hell of a lot more heterosexual ‘queers’ in our parades.

Moreover, the privileging of solidarities across different identity labels has led to criticisms of a ‘false unity’ which glosses over specific discriminations around gender and race. Judith Butler,

seen as one of the most prominent queer theorists, has raised such questions in her own writings, while also warning against the idea that feminism and queer theory are somehow incompatible.

Подпись: The future of sexQueer theory echoed earlier criticism of sexual liberation, including gay liberation, politics (or the sexual liberation promoted by Reich and Marcuse) by Michel Foucault, who famously rejected the implicit assumption of liberationism that there was such a thing as a natural, biological sexuality that could be ‘liberated’. As Foucault and other social constructionists emphasize, sexuality should instead be viewed as a social experience that is shaped by its social and political context. However, while political mobilization based upon tactics such as ‘coming out’ and ‘outing’ (declaring public figures to be gay) have, on the one hand, solidified the categories of gay and lesbian, the emphasis on sexual identity as ‘choice’ and political practice (though not shared by all gay activists) also denaturalizes sexual identity. Moreover, the wider categories of gay and lesbian have been the object of greater fragmentation since the time of Foucault’s writings, as reflected in commercial and activist subcultures which cater for leather dykes, S/M gays, butch/fem lesbians, denim queens, lipstick lesbians, bisexuals, pan – or omnisexuals, gay Republicans, anarcho-lesbian-feminists, gay veterans, gay Mormons, British gay skinheads, or Daddies (older gay men with a sexual interest in young, adult men). Both the denaturalization and the fragmentation of wider identity labels and related political interests serve to create new opportunities for sexual politics, as well as new difficulties for coalition politics and new exclusions.

The future of sex

The hesitantly speaking perverts of Krafft-Ebing’s medico-forensic pages, confessing their most intimate secrets to the new sexual experts, have walked out of the clinical text and onto the stage of history, the living proof of sexual diversity.

Jeffrey Weeks, 1986

Coalition politics

The 1960s and 1970s constituted a pivotal period of intensification of public discussion and politicization of sex in the West, which ultimately led to a fundamental review of the prevalent ways of understanding and experiencing sexual practices and identities. While the relaxing of moral and legal controls over sexual activity is commonly taken to have been the defining feature of the sexual revolution, feminist and gay critiques of the normative status of heterosexuality have triggered transformations of sexual meanings that are no less radical. Mainstream public discussion of sex, however, remained at first firmly wedded to the idea that sexuality meant – necessarily and only – heterosexuality. Typical popular works of the time such as The Joy of Sex, which its author had described as ‘an unanxious account of the full range of human sexuality’, did not cover homosexuality or lesbianism, for example. The similarly popular 1969 sex manual Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex But Was Afraid to Ask replied to the
question of ‘what do female homosexuals do with each other?’ as follows:

Like their male counterparts, lesbians are handicapped by having only half the pieces in the anatomical jigsaw puzzle. Just as one penis plus one penis equals nothing, one vagina plus another vagina still equals zero.

Подпись: SexualityAnd yet, the social and political changes of the time created a context that facilitated the greater public affirmation of ‘peripheral’ sexualities, to use Michel Foucault’s term, most dramatically illustrated by the proliferation of lesbian and gay communities. Though pockets of same-sex subcultures, for example in the form of meeting places, can be identified earlier in modernity, particularly in large urban centres, the development of gay and lesbian cultural spaces and political organizations from the late 1960s onwards was unprecedented in human history.

The founding moment of the modern gay liberationist movement is commonly taken to be the spontaneous rebellion against a routine police raid at the Stonewall gay bar in New York in 1969, though many precursors existed, starting with the organizations defending the rights of sexual minorities that emerged in Germany towards the end of the 19th century around the exact same time the modern label ‘homosexual’ was invented. Stonewall was followed by the founding in 1969 of the National Gay Liberation organization in the US, the short-lived Gay Liberation Front in the UK in 1970, and many similar organizations in other countries. While some gay rights organizations, such as Lambda in the US, focused on reforming discriminatory policies from within existing political structures through litigation or lobbying strategies, others, such as the anti-hierarchical ACT UP, have pursued more unconventional and confrontational tactics towards the ‘breeders’ (heterosexuals). The unique problems posed by the appearance of Aids further galvanized political mobilization,

The future of sex

10. Gay liberation in New York, 1970

in particular of gay men. The sexual transmission of Aids, and the fact that it initially devastated large and already vocal gay communities in urban settings such as San Francisco and New York, helped to further unite gay men, strengthening collective identification with communities of choice both nationally and internationally. Many Western countries have subsequently passed a raft of gay rights legislation in crucial policy domains such as the military, employment, and civic partnerships, especially since the 1990s.

Подпись: SexualityAs part of their repertoire of political strategies, homosexuals have re-appropriated the labels that had been applied to them in the past, transforming their social meanings in the process. Terms such as ‘fag’, ‘dyke’, or ‘queer’, for example, initially used pejoratively, have been effectively co-opted by groups such as ACT UP and the New York organization Queer Nation, who adopted the defiant slogan ‘we’re queer, we’re here’ as an identity label around which gay pride and collective mobilization have been organized. In this vein, the use of ‘gay’ as a self-description, which spread from the American context in the 1950s and 1960s, marked the politicization of homosexual identity (leading to new identity divisions, as in ‘he might be homosexual, but he’s not gay’). More generally, many of the categories that 19th-century sexual science had so meticulously delineated, including transsexuals, transvestites, sadomasochists, paedophiles, and fetishists, have provided platforms for public self-affirmation and demands for recognition.

The increasing recognition of sexual diversity within politics, culture, the media, and the consumer industry has, in turn, led to a decline of the idea of ‘perversion’. The sexological account of sexual normalcy that constructed the concept of the ‘pervert’ during the 19th century has been undermined by the public flowering of sexual minorities. As the sociologist Jeffrey Weeks puts it:

Подпись: The future of sex

The future of sex

There no longer appears to be a great continent of normality surrounded by small islands of disorder. Instead we can now witness clusters of islands, great and small… New categories and erotic minorities have emerged. Older ones have experienced a process of subdivision as specialised tastes, specific aptitudes and needs become the basis for proliferating sexual identities.

The multiplication of identity labels has created difficulties, however, for coalition politics around sexuality, forming a source of possible tensions between respective political agendas. For instance, while the interests of gay men and lesbians often converge around issues such as parenting and adoption rights, lesbians have questioned why they should focus activism on Aids and sodomy laws (still in force in around 70 countries, but usually enforced against male-to-male sex only) when such issues have little impact on them. Lesbians perceive greater overlap with the political agenda of heterosexual feminists rather than gay men around health and reproductive policies, child care, or discrimination against women in the workplace. Moreover,
some issues, such as the fight for improvement of breast cancer treatments, have been identified as affecting lesbian women particularly, since breast cancer disproportionately affects women who have not had children, which is the case for many (though by no means all) lesbians. Whereas many lesbian activists have strongly supported feminist campaigns for abortion rights, male gay organizations have generally refused to become involved with this topic on the grounds that ‘it is not a gay issue’.

Подпись: SexualityFurthermore, feminists, gay men, and lesbians have disagreed – both within and across these groups – over the respective merits of practices such as sadomasochism and pornography, while transsexuals and transvestites have been the object of feminist critique for perceived reinforcing of gender stereotypes. Feminists have also clashed with male gay activists over the promotion of ‘gay marriage’. As the sociologist Stevi Jackson has pointed out, in the eyes of many feminists, the fight for gay marriage was about extending the male privilege anchored in the patriarchal institution of marriage to gay men and women, while leaving the gender hierarchy upon which the institution itself was founded – and which had led some feminists to call for the abolition of marriage in the past – unquestioned. Against this backdrop, some feminists, including lesbians, asserted that gay liberation had become a movement for male gay liberation. Thus political divisions between gay men and lesbians in the gay rights movement emerged in similar fashion to those, discussed in the previous chapter, between heterosexual and lesbian feminists.

Other sexual minorities created separate organizations. For example, and perhaps most controversially, paedophile interest groups emerged from the 1970s in numerous countries, including the Netherlands, the US, and the UK. Paedophile activism was particularly prominent in the Netherlands, where the respectable Dutch Sexual Reform Organization (NVSH) supported the publication in 1972 of the book Sex met kinderen (‘Sex with Children’), which outlined international research on
‘inter-generational sex’, and which was widely drawn upon in paedophile political activism across Western Europe. In 1979, a petition to the Dutch Parliament calling for the legalization of consensual sexual relationships between children and adults was supported by the NVSH, feminist organizations, and the COC, the oldest still-existing gay rights organization in the world (founded in 1946). Around the same time, the Protestant Foundation for Sex Education (PSVG) distributed tens of thousands of copies of an information booklet with the title Paedophilia to Dutch elementary schools (1979-81).

In contrast to the World Health Organization’s characterization of paedophilia as a sexual and mental disorder, paedophile activists argued for greater legitimacy, declassification of paedophilia as mental illness, children’s sexual rights, and the decriminalization of (consensual) inter-generational sex.

Подпись: The future of sexIn France, various public petitions of the late 1970s called on Parliament to abolish age of consent laws; in particular, a 1977 petition calling for the decriminalization of all consenting relations between adults and minors was signed by prominent public intellectuals including Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, and France’s most prominent child psychoanalyst Fran§oise Dolto. Paedophile advocacy groups thus operated in a context in which cultural ideas about children’s sexuality were being redefined more generally, and in which the age of sexual maturity had dropped significantly, probably due to better health and nutrition. For example, by the 1960s to 1970s, girls reached puberty on average around the age of 13 in Western countries, as well as among prosperous groups in many non-Western countries, compared to 16 or 17 a century earlier; and boys reached physical sexual maturity around 17, compared to 23 in the mid-19th century; a trend that has continued since.

Groups such as the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) in the UK (created in 1974); North American Man Boy Love Association
(NAMBLA) in the US (created in 1978); the Danish Paedophile Association (DPA) (set up in 1985); and International Paedophile and Child Emancipation (IPCE) (founded in the early 1990s), drew on Freudian theories and on sexological research, including the Kinsey Reports, to argue that children are sexual beings, and on ancient Greek models of sex to argue for the ‘educational benefits’ of such relationships.

Подпись: SexualityWhile always a controversial issue among the wider population, public attitudes towards adult-child sexual relationships have hardened significantly since the 1980s, though important cultural variations remain. In Western Europe, paedophile political lobbies have mostly withered away in the face of increasing public outrage at sexual abuse of children, and although in the Netherlands a ‘Love Thy Neighbour, Freedom and Diversity’ Party was founded in 2006 whose aims included seeking to decriminalize sexual activities at any age unless they are dangerous or coerced (it also supported the criminalization of sexual maltreatment of animals, currently not punishable in Dutch law), it was unable to raise the required number of public signatures from Dutch citizens to participate in actual elections. In the US, Canada, and the UK, increasing police surveillance and criminalization of their members have led many – though not all – of the most prominent groups to disband or to transform into less visible Internet-based communities.

Political alliances initially existed between paedophile groups and some gay rights organizations, for example around issues such as the age of consent (the minimum legal age at which individuals are considered to be capable of giving informed consent to sexual relations). The legal age of consent is currently set around 17 or 18 in many countries, with limits of 12 in the Philippines, 13 in Spain and Japan, and 14 in Germany and Italy at the lower end of the scale. Sex outside of marriage is illegal at any age in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran. Age of consent legislation constituted a major issue of gay rights mobilization over the past
few decades, since in many countries the age of consent for sexual relations between men was set higher than that for heterosexual relations or same-sex relations between women (which were less commonly criminalized), though many countries have equalized the age of consent in recent years. In contrast, around 70 countries currently criminalize homosexuality (and, in the case of Zimbabwe, same-sex hand-holding as well) altogether.

Подпись: The future of sexGay rights organizations’ alliances with paedophile activism around the age of consent issue, or more generally on the grounds of solidarity with other sexual minorities, have melted away since the early 1980s. In large part this was the result of campaigns from the Christian Right such as the US conservative activist Anita Bryant’s self-proclaimed ‘crusade’ against ‘the threat of homosexual recruitment of our children’, entitled Save Our Children, which portrayed all gays – and gay men in particular – as potential child molesters and triggered the start of organized opposition to gay rights organizations in the US from the late 1970s. While the Dutch gay rights organization COC had declared in the early 1970s that gay liberation would never be complete without the sexual liberation of children and paedophiles, by the mid-1990s the great majority of gay rights organizations had distanced themselves explicitly from paedophile advocacy and condemned the campaigns for the removal of legal protections against sex between adults and children as sexual abuse, as illustrated in the statement about NAMBLA from a representative of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest US lesbian and gay lobbying group: ‘they are not part of our community and we thoroughly reject their efforts to insinuate that paedophilia is an issue related to gay and lesbian civil rights’.

In other policy areas away from paedophilia, strategic alliances were successfully formed. Attempts at greater inclusiveness and coalition politics between different sexual minorities are symbolized by the currently prevalent umbrella label ‘LGBT’ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered community). This
already precarious wider grouping has come under attack, however, from black homosexual activists, who have argued that concerns over black homophobia have been privileged over addressing hidden racism within gay rights organizations. Despite the influence of the black civil rights movement in the US on gay political mobilization, the importance of cultural icons such as Bessie Smith and Audre Lorde, and the prominent role black homosexuals and transvestites played in the context of the Stonewall Rebellion and political responses to Aids, black gays and lesbians are, they feel, underrepresented among the leadership of gay rights organizations and their specific concerns are insufficiently included on gay political agendas.

Citizens’ ‘eugenic duties’

Подпись: SexualityThe eminent Swiss sexologist and socialist reformer Auguste Forel (1848-1931), Member of the Advisory Board of the International Federation of Eugenic Organisations and Honorary President of the World League of Sexual Reform in 1930, thus presented the construction of a social and national order based on the scientific management of reproduction by the welfare state as a moral duty to the future national community:

The regulation of procreation through appropriate means is a moral task. It is necessary for the hygiene of our race. Only this, combined with the elimination of narcotic poisons, will be able to block the increasing degeneration of our race, and bring us a better future.

We owe this to the progress, happiness and health of the future generations, for whose quality we are responsible.

Forel’s view that the social order was based on hereditary dispositions and was under threat was combined with a traditional social-democratic belief in the redeeming powers of education. While ‘only a healthy selection of the race’ could
improve the biological stock of the nation, this should be combined with active education campaigns based on science and reason:

Let Science enlighten our sexual life freely and openly; then, the hypocrisy of normal people will cease, and that of abnormal people can be recognized in time and damage be prevented.

Подпись: The state in the bedroomGiven the importance of sexual selection for the regulation of procreation, Forel strongly promoted policies of sexual education. In his view, it was through selective, scientifically informed procreation that the boundaries around the national order were to be established and maintained. It was crucial, he argued, to teach young people about the consequences of having sexual relations with ‘inferior’ partners, and about the corresponding necessity of gathering information on the hereditary background of potential spouses. ‘Each fiancee has the right and, in the interest of the future children, the holy duty,’ Forel wrote, ‘to know the sexual antecedents of their future spouse.’

In 1912, Switzerland prohibited marriage for the ‘mentally deficient’ and the ‘legally irresponsible’. This made it the first European country to introduce a prohibitive marriage law based on eugenic rationale to prevent the reproduction of ‘mental deficiencies’. Worldwide, the first eugenic sterilization law was introduced in Indiana in 1907, and by the 1930s almost two-thirds of US states had similar legislation targeting, in particular, institutionalized individuals such as criminals and those labelled ‘mentally ill’. The notorious 1927 Buck vs Bell decision by the Supreme Court allowed the State of Virginia to sterilize a young single mother considered ‘feeble-minded’, who had been institutionalized to hide the fact that she had become pregnant from incest against her will, on the grounds that:

It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or letting them starve for their

imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind… three generations of imbeciles is enough.

Подпись: SexualityIn 1928, the Swiss canton of Vaud, influenced by Forel’s ideas, adopted the first eugenic sterilization law in Europe. They were followed by Denmark in 1929, Germany in 1933, Sweden and Norway in 1934, and Finland in 1935. In the case of Switzerland, collective anxieties centred on the various social categories that were seen to constitute hereditary ‘threats’ to the Swiss nation: criminals, prostitutes, alcoholics, ‘immoral’ citizens (in particular unmarried mothers), the mentally ill, the physically disabled, haemophiliacs, people with tuberculosis, drug addicts, Jews, ‘gypsies’, and vagrants. It should be noted that the distinctions between labels such as sexual promiscuity, alcoholism, unsteadiness, dissoluteness, or ‘squandermania’ (a propensity for reckless spending) were often rather hazy. The ‘mentally ill’ were a particularly loose category which could include vagrants, people of ‘weak morals’, delinquents, and unmarried mothers (who were considered morally defective since they had clearly had sex outside of wedlock). Boundaries between medical diagnosis and moral values were, at best, fluid in eugenic discourse, and they completely dissolved in concepts such as ‘moral feeble-mindedness’. Eugenicists such as Forel constantly called for the ‘artificial sterilization’ of the above-mentioned ‘degenerate’ categories of the population by the state, as a rational measure to prevent their reproduction. Forel perceived this task to be all the more urgent as he considered these sexualized ‘others’ and sexual ‘perverts’ – as well as women in general – as ‘more sexual’, and thus representing a particular reproductive threat to the nation.

Reflecting the eugenicist focus on female bodies as the reproducers of the nation, the sterilization of ‘inferior’ categories of the population was a strongly gendered practice. An early evaluation of the application of the Vaud law carried out in 1944 reported that nine out of ten eugenic sterilizations were carried
out on women. Similarly, data from Zurich show that from 1929 to 1931, eugenic sterilizations were carried out on 480 women (in conjunction with abortion) and 15 men. Sterilization was also a heavily gendered practice in other countries: over 90% of the Swedish sterilizations were carried out on women.

Подпись: The state in the bedroomThe majority of legal sterilizations in the canton of Vaud – similar to the Swedish context – were applied to young, female social deviants, that is women who were deemed ‘maladapted’, living in poor conditions, mostly unmarried, and judged to have ‘low intelligence’. The policing of respectable female sexuality appears to have been a central motive, since ‘loose morals’, ‘uninhibited’ female sexuality, or ‘nymphomania’, were frequently used as arguments for forced sterilization. In Zurich in the 1920s, for instance, prostitutes could legally be referred to psychiatric care when arrested. In a context in which ‘feeble-mindedness’ was considered to be more easily inherited by women than by men and prostitutes were considered to be particularly prone to pathologies, they were sometimes pressured into sterilizations. Sigwart Frank and Simon Jichlinksi, two psychiatrists who reported on sterilization practices in Switzerland in the 1920s and 1940s, provide extensive case stories exemplifying linkages between sexual transgressions and sterilizations. In 1931, the Directorate of the Poor Relief in Bern, the Swiss capital, issued a directive condemning the widespread practice of women’s referrals for sterilization by welfare agencies and specifying that unmarried women, for instance, should only be sterilized ‘if they show clear signs of physical or mental deficiency. [Sterilization] should henceforth not be carried out only because of sexual licentiousness if that person is otherwise physically and mentally normal.’

Sterilization could be applied against the consent of the person involved if she had been labelled as mentally defective. In other cases, methods for obtaining ‘consent’ included threatening withdrawal of welfare support or referral to a workhouse, or by
granting permission to abort only on condition of simultaneous ‘voluntary’ sterilization.

Female bodies were a particular source of eugenic anxiety, as indicated by the gender imbalance in the removal of reproductive capacities. Reflecting traditional associations of reproduction with the female body, women were also seen as particularly important targets for the eugenic education and state regulation that eugenicists called for. As the sociologist Nira Yuval-Davis has pointed out, ideas about the ‘purity of the race’ tend to be crucially intertwined with the regulation of female sexuality. The prominent Swiss physician Imboden-Kaiser thus advocated an education programme that would instil in mothers a ‘sense of reproductive responsibility’, further developing Forel’s principle of rational sexuality, while also calling for obligatory medical examinations and ‘marriage ability attestations’.

Подпись: SexualityWhile sterilization policies were the most extreme form of eugenic regulation of reproductive sexuality by the welfare state, these practices were complemented by ‘preventative’ education policies. The emphasis Forel and other campaigners placed on the necessity of eugenicist sexual education and marriage advice paved the way for the entrance of eugenics into the education curriculum. For example, an information brochure was produced and distributed in Swiss schools and officers’ associations in 1939. The brochure educated Swiss youth about the dangers of reproducing with degenerate others, and pointed out their patriotic duty to the national collective. Youths were thus encouraged to:

Choose your spouse from a physically and morally healthy, mentally

superior family! You owe this to your offspring and to the Nation.

A Central Agency for Marriage and Sex Advice was set up by social-democrat welfare reformers in Zurich in 1932 – followed later by other Swiss cities – and organized exhibitions,

Citizens’ ‘eugenic duties’

9. Eugenic marriage counselling in the US during the 1930s

presentations, and conferences on themes such as ‘hereditary responsibility’, ‘psychiatric-eugenic advice on marital candidates’ (1930s), and ‘prevention of hereditarily diseased offspring’ (1949). Sex and marital advice also constituted an area of political action for feminist social reformers who subscribed to the need for a ‘less degenerate’ future generation.

The notorious Swiss Kinder der Landstrasse (‘Children of the Country Lanes’) programme, a government-approved programme that aimed to eliminate vagrancy, had been set up by the federal child agency Pro Juventute and ran from 1926 to 1973.

Подпись: SexualityIts explicit aim was, in the words of its founding father Alfred Siegfried, to prevent the Yenish (the main group of ‘gypsies’ within Switzerland) from ‘reproducing without restraint and bringing new generations of degenerate and abnormal children into the world’; it therefore sought the effective eradication of Yenish culture. In pursuit of these eugenic aims, Pro Juventute removed over 600 Yenish children from their parents, to be raised in orphanages, foster families, and mental institutions – an experience which a later prime minister, Ruth Dreifuss, described as ‘one of the darkest chapters in modern Swiss history’ in 1988.

Switzerland was by no means an exceptional case, however. It has been estimated that in Sweden, where eugenics was even more clearly intertwined with the construction of the social-democratic welfare state, 63,000 citizens were sterilized on eugenic grounds between 1934 and 1976. What is more, other European countries soon followed the Scandinavian and Swiss examples. Eugenic discourses were scientifically orthodox and their respectability was seldom questioned, and so eugenics seeped into mainstream culture in pre-Second World War Europe. The German Social Democrat Party (SPD), which had links with both the Swedish and the Swiss social democrats, played an important role in the development of left-wing versions of eugenics in the Weimar Republic, long before the Nazis applied a more radical form of eugenic policy. The SPD politicians Alfred Grotjahn (who also
occupied the first Chair in Social Hygiene in Berlin) and Wolfgang Heine introduced the first eugenic measures, including the sterilization of disabled people, in the social-democratic-governed Prussia of the 1920s.

Подпись: The state in the bedroomSocial-democratic scientists, in particular sexologists, played as central a role in Germany as they did in Switzerland. For example, Magnus Hirschfeld was a prominent pioneer in the field of sexual reform and a homosexual himself. He was also a eugenicist who energetically campaigned against marriage for homosexuals. Indeed, he believed that, given their ‘inferior’ genes, homosexuals would be prone to giving birth to retarded children. Despite the fact that many social-democratic eugenicists, including Hirschfeld, later fell victim to the Nazis or fled Germany, they did not, as a rule, oppose Nazi measures such as forced sterilization, a practice that Hirschfeld considered ‘an interesting experiment…’, with the prudent qualification that ‘it will be a long while before the results can be judged on their merits’.

Hirschfeld, like his friend and mentor Forel in Switzerland, was also involved with the social-democrat and eugenicist Marriage Advisory Board, which he had helped to develop in the context of his Institute for Sexual Science in the early 1930s and which became a forerunner of Nazi family eugenics. Disagreements with Nazi eugenicists centred, rather, on the ‘fanatic’ and consequently unscientific character of Nazi science, and especially on the matter of who should be included in the category of inferior persons. Indeed, social democrats such as Hirschfeld disapproved of the Nazi obsession with Jews (and complained that alcoholics and drug addicts consequently received less attention), a disapproval that was shared by British mainstream eugenicists. Interestingly, the International Medical Bulletin, which was edited in Prague by Jewish and social-democrat doctors who had fled Germany, attacked the 1933 Nazi sterilization law on political rather than ethical grounds: ‘such a law is abused as an instrument of power in a capitalist state… only after a social revolution will it be
possible to create the scientific and social conditions for “true” eugenics’.

Подпись: SexualityIn the UK and the US, a movement of ‘Bolshevist Eugenics’ emerged in the 1930s, which saw the Soviet Union as the only country that would be able to adopt a scientific stance towards the improvement of the community. In France, socialists such as Vacher de Lapouge, at various times a candidate for the Parti Socialiste Ouvrier, promoted the idea that citizens should fulfil a ‘sexual service’ in addition to their military service to the nation. Socialist versions of eugenics thus became part of the intellectual and political project of European social democracy. It is no surprise that social democrats were avid defenders of eugenics within the state as they held a firm belief in the responsibilities of the state towards its citizens, individually and collectively. As Forel put it, an ‘intelligent, scientific (not dogmatic) social democracy’ was needed in order to ‘solve the eugenic problem’. In addition, social democrats promoted the subordination of individual interests to the collective good. Viewing eugenics as a social technology to alleviate poverty and social ills, social democrats conceptualized eugenic policies as being in the collective interest of the nation.

Although eugenic ideas were articulated from both sides of the political spectrum, and some social democrats strongly opposed them, social democracy nevertheless played a key role in the creation of eugenic technologies in countries such as Switzerland and Sweden between the 1930s and 1960s. It was within the framework of the axis of scientific disciplines, state actors, and private organizations that eugenic thinking was most ‘successfully’ applied, with social democrats being involved as civil servants, bureaucrats, and scientists. In Sweden and Switzerland, in the absence of the colonial encounter with other racial groups, preoccupations with racial purity turned inwards rather than outwards. This resulted in the intensifying categorization and
hierarchization of ‘internal others’ such as ‘gypsies’, ‘loose women’, or the mentally and physically disabled, who were deemed to be sources of physical as well as moral degeneration. Policies were thus particularly engaged in the safeguarding of internal boundaries around the nation which had both a biological and a moral dimension.

It should be remembered, however, that there were internal divisions among social democrats regarding eugenics; moreover, social-democrat versions of eugenics were dwarfed by the Nazi programmes. It would be misleading to align social democracy and eugenics in any simplistic way.

Подпись: The state in the bedroomThe emergence of modern welfare policies and the presence of a favourable political context offered an institutional framework for attempts to realize the eugenic dream. Eugenic technologies such as sterilization without consent and marriage interdictions were combined with other measures such as eugenic education, sex education, and marriage advice. Limiting the numbers of those population categories that were to become the main recipients of the new welfare provisions appeared in this context as a rational means of cost reduction. Although not all policy-makers agreed with the eugenic emphasis on the influence of heredity rather than the social environment, the cost-reduction argument often led them nevertheless to support eugenically motivated sterilizations. After all, sterilization was a lot cheaper for the state than the long-term financial support of ‘degenerates’.

The widescale social and political experiments with eugenics illustrate the concern of the state with the reproductive sexuality of its citizens. Drawing heavily on biological understandings, eugenic policies nevertheless failed to acknowledge the role played by men in reproduction. Politics around eugenics and Aids illustrates the complex intersections of sexuality with hierarchies around gender and ‘race’, and its connections to notions of

Подпись: Sexuality
individual and collective ‘purity’. Both policy contexts suggest, moreover, that the interests of the individual do not always coincide with those of the majority. Collective mobilizations around state intervention in the area of sex have seen feminist and gay organizations occupy politically complex, and at times contradictory, positions.

Eugenic ‘race improvement’

Подпись: SexualityWhereas state policies around Aids put the main emphasis on treatment, support, and transformation of sexual practices of individual citizens, other types of state action regarding sex have been primarily driven by collective concerns. At the collective level, sexuality carries particular symbolic importance, since it is through reproductive sexuality that the nation is biologically reproduced, which turns it into a concern of the state. As Michel Foucault put it:

Sexuality has always been the site where the future of our species,

and at the same time our truth as human subjects, are formed.

States have traditionally been preoccupied with the size and quality of their populations, concerns that have often reflected anxieties about the nation and its identity. Worries about decline in size or quality of the national population, about overpopulation, about ‘surplus’ of female or male children, or about whether immigrants are having more children than ‘native’ citizens have been recurrent items on national policy agendas. State concern with reproductive sexuality was particularly central to Western
experiments with eugenics. The term ‘eugenics’ was popularized by Sir Francis Galton in 1883, to refer to the genetic improvement of the national ‘stock’ on the basis of the scientific study of ‘all influences that tend, on however remote a degree, to give to the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable than they otherwise would have had’. Galton regarded the evolutionary processes analysed by his cousin Charles Darwin, in particular the ideas of natural selection and the survival of the fittest, as too slow and uncertain for modern needs. Modern society put particularly high demands on its political elites, whose intellectual capacities were evolving too slowly, he argued. The ‘science’ of eugenics thus emerged during the second half of the 19th century, with the aim of assisting nation states in implementing social policies which would improve the quality of the national ‘breed’. In opposition to the laissez-faire attitude of political liberalism, eugenicists advocated active social engineering. Individual citizens had a patriotic duty to contribute to the improvement of the nation through what Galton’s successor Karl Pearson called ‘a conscious race-culture’. As Havelock Ellis, a pioneer of both sexology and of eugenics, put it, ‘sound breeding of the race’ constituted ‘our best hopes for the future of the world’.

Подпись:Sexologists and psychiatrists were prominently represented within eugenic ‘science’ and activism. Eugenic thought in the first half of the 20th century comprised more precisely three central elements, which all reflected a profoundly biological model of human development: methods of selective breeding, worries about the physical and mental decline of the population, and ideas about the hereditary character of mental and physical illnesses and morally deviant behaviours – all of which directly affected ideas about sexuality and gender. As a combination of science and social movement, eugenics provided an analysis of what was wrong with modern society, how this occurred, and by what means it could be remedied. In the face of mounting threats and anxieties about ‘degeneration’, ‘race suicide’, and the threat

of ‘disorderly sexualities’, eugenicists promoted a comprehensive programme of social engineering founded upon the rational management of reproductive sexuality by the state. It was to become an influential set of ideas, due to overlaps with other social and political concerns. Indeed, in the context of accelerating industrialization and urbanization processes, the rapidly growing urban population appeared as potentially destabilizing to the public order, while disciplined, healthy, and prolific citizens came to be seen as a source of wealth for expanding nation states.

Подпись: SexualityThe emergence of modern health and social policies from the turn of the 20th century provided the institutional conditions for translating eugenic rhetoric into a policy programme. Nowadays, eugenics tends to be popularly associated with Nazi Germany, where large-scale experiments in social engineering included forced sterilizations and ‘euthanasia’ of ‘degenerate’ persons.

The 1933 Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring required doctors to register hereditary illnesses in their patients. In the course of the Nazi regime, over 200 ‘Hereditary Health Courts’ were set up, which implemented over 400,000 sterilizations.

However, eugenic ideas found support across the political spectrum, including among socialists and anarchists. Social democrat reformers were among the pioneers of eugenic ‘science’ as well as policy practices in Europe. A number of eugenic policies such as forced sterilization of ‘degenerates’ were strongly promoted by the Left and pioneered in democratic countries. Socialist eugenicists placed great hope in eugenics as a social technology which could alleviate problems such as poverty and alcoholism, especially in combination with the eugenic education of citizens. Socialist versions of eugenics became part of the intellectual and political project of European social democracy. While feminists were to be found on both sides of the debate – supporting and opposing eugenics – most opposition
came from liberals, who rejected state intervention in private life, and churches, particularly the Catholic Church.

Eugenicists called for scientifically founded state intervention to prevent further degeneration of the diseased national body.

Подпись: The state in the bedroomThe emerging welfare state added an additional motive to that of preventing degeneracy: limiting public expenditure. Rapidly expanding welfare institutions increasingly targeted the ‘inferior’ categories of the national population, who became the main recipients of the growing welfare system. Limiting the number of ‘weeds’ in the national garden therefore appeared as a rational means of reducing welfare costs, which many social democrats as well as feminists supported enthusiastically. For example, Margaret Sanger, a prominent early 20th-century American feminist campaigner for sexual liberation and birth control – which would, she believed, liberate women from the biological burden of reproduction – was also an enthusiastic eugenicist. She wrote in 1925:

Nature eliminates the weeds, but we turn them into parasites and

allow them to reproduce.

Such ‘human weeds’ which ‘clog up the path, drain up the energies and the resources of this little earth’ should be eliminated from the national garden in order to ‘clear the way for a better world’, as she put it in 1922.

Eugenics offered the hope of a scientifically grounded elimination of all sorts of social ills and disorderly conduct, through policies that would carefully regulate the reproductive sexuality of the population. Other eugenic policies included education programmes, non-voluntary incarceration in psychiatric clinics, removal of children from parental homes, prohibition to marry, as well as measures that specifically targeted vagrants, ‘gypsies’, and, more generally, socially deviant groups such as unmarried mothers, ‘sexual deviants’, or people
with physical or mental impairments. In Great Britain, eugenic preoccupations were clearly intertwined with the demands of the colonial empire, and much anxiety focused on the supposedly degenerative characteristics of the colonized, racial ‘others’ and the perils of interracial reproduction. However, despite widespread support for eugenics among leading intellectuals, the strong influence of liberalism in the UK, in particular the distrust of state intervention in private life, put a brake upon the translation of eugenic ideas into actual policy practice, at least at a national level. The political context was more favourable elsewhere in Europe. Countries such as Sweden and Switzerland – interestingly, neither of them colonial powers at the time – pioneered and applied eugenic policies to an extent that British eugenicists could only dream of.

Government responses to Aids

By the late 1980s, most Western governments had belatedly acquired a grasp of the urgent need for intervention, partly triggered by the rising numbers of heterosexual infections. The intensity of policy efforts varied across countries, however. Most Western countries introduced Aids-prevention measures in the form of poster and television campaigns and various forms of sex education from the late 1980s, and have repeated these since at varying intervals every few years. Switzerland had, in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, the highest level of HIV infection in Europe, partly due to relatively high levels of intravenous drug use. It is now recognized as the most proactive European country in publicizing Aids prevention, having introduced yearly nationwide Aids-prevention campaigns as well as a complete overhaul of its policies towards drug users, which have switched

Подпись: Don’t condemn our youth to death from HIV/AIDS!
Подпись: Provide both the Bible and condoms

8. An example of an Aids-prevention poster campaign

from an emphasis on police repression to medicalization, including free supply of sterilized needles; the result has been a dramatic decrease in new cases of infection.

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Government responses to Aids

Debates continue, however, about which prevention policies to promote, and have been the arena for major intervention from religious models of sexuality. Controversies have centred in particular on the promotion of condom use. Recognized by medical experts to be the most effective protection against Aids short of sexual abstinence, condoms continue to arouse great opposition from fundamentalist groups and the Catholic Church, who reject their interference with procreation and claim that they encourage sexual promiscuity. The US and American-funded

programmes operating in developing countries currently privilege the ABC approach to Aids prevention, emphasizing ‘Abstinence, Being faithful, and Condom use’. In the US and elsewhere, ‘Just Say No!’ campaigns promote sexual abstinence, while unmarried young people with a sexual past are encouraged to become ‘born-again virgins’ through a pledge to refrain from further sexual activity until marriage. However, such programmes have generally been unsuccessful in radically changing sexual behaviour or in reducing rates of HIV/Aids transmission, as health evaluations have demonstrated.

Подпись: SexualityThe emerging recognition that the majority of infections occur through unprotected heterosexual intercourse led to what has been described as a ‘de-gaying’ of Aids in the 1990s. Its results were received with ambivalence by gay activists. On the one hand, it was welcomed for decreasing the stigma associated with homosexuality. On the other hand, it meant that public funding, which had already been little forthcoming in the early years, was now not allocated with priority to gay support organizations, although gay men were still disproportionately affected by Aids. Some activists have consequently called for the ‘re-gaying’ of Aids.

The issue of heterosexual infections with Aids also triggered further feminist critiques of sexuality. Building on the argument that Aids risk was not attached to certain types of people, as the focus on ‘risk groups’ had implicitly assumed, but to certain types of (unprotected) sexual practices, such as anal sex, feminist research such as the series of studies carried out in the early 1990s by Janet Holland and others explored the consequences of male sexual domination for risk-taking sexual behaviour. The research revealed that both heterosexual men and women tend to define and experience sexuality in relation to the primacy of male sexual ‘needs’. Most partners adopt a biological understanding of male sexuality as the expression of natural, uncontrollable drives which should not be interrupted; a view which puts obvious constraints
on women’s possibilities for negotiating safer sex. Furthermore, normative female identity creates the dilemma for women that, on the one hand, contraception and Aids protection are seen as female responsibilities, while, on the other hand, women feel they should refrain from asking for anything that might spoil their partners’ sexual pleasure. Interrupting the sexual performance of the male partner and being assertive about safety can run counter to being feminine, as Holland’s team pointed out. The non-adoption of safer sex practices such as condom use does not, however, result from an external imposition of male power (at least not within the consensual relationships that were the focus of this study). As Holland’s study demonstrates, male preferences are instead interiorized and actively reproduced by women, a mechanism the team describes as ‘the male in the head’.

Подпись: The state in the bedroomVarious feminist analyses emerging from the area of Aids risk and prevention have thus been concerned with issues of women’s power and powerlessness in heterosexual interactions, usually stressing the relative lack of power of women in sexual encounters with men. The reasons given for this powerlessness vary, however: different socialization for UK sociologist Janet Holland, economic dependency on men for Australian social psychologist Susan Kippax, or wider dominant definitions of heterosexuality for US anthropologist Carole Vance. Despite such divergent diagnostics, feminist research demonstrates the need to take gender identity into account when conceptualizing risk in sexual practices. Normative gender identities and gendered relations of power have clear implications for people’s ability to prevent the sexual transmission of Aids; implications that government policies have in recent years attempted to try to build into their preventative strategies.

The health emergency created by Aids has constituted a major area for state intervention in citizens’ sex lives, with sex education campaigns spelling out to them, in sometimes graphic detail, how they can avoid risk of infection with HIV. Initial government

campaigns focused primarily on providing information as to how to prevent HIV infection, implicitly assuming that citizens were rational individuals who would abandon their risk-taking practices once they had been informed of their dangers. However, continuing new infections rapidly demonstrated that the provision of information, while crucial, did not suffice. Indeed, sexual interactions do not constitute the most rational area of most individuals’ lives. In addition, we generally do not engage in sex as individuals, but in interactions with others, which again underlines issues of power and communication. The Aids crisis has thus demonstrated the importance for government prevention campaigns to take into account the emotional and irrational aspects of sex.

The Aids crisis

The access to more reliable methods of contraception, the legalization of abortion, and the relaxation of moral controls on sexuality triggered by the sexual revolution opened up a small window of greater openness, legal freedom, and sexual experimentation from the 1960s which detached sexuality from its traditional associations with sin and disease. The consequences of these changes were profound, especially for women, for whom sexuality had historically been entwined with the dangers of loss of reputation, unwanted pregnancy, and death in childbirth.

In retrospect, the lighthearted celebration of greater sexual
opportunities – criticized by feminist thought for masking the exploitation of women by men – lasted less than two decades. The emergence of HIV/Aids (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) from the early 1980s symbolized a move away from the hedonistic emphasis on sexuality as a site of pleasure. It revived earlier associations with danger and risk, echoing traditional anxieties about sexually transmitted disease, and about prostitutes and ethnic or racial ‘others’ as sources of sexual danger. It also set the stage for a return of religious models as major actors in the politics of sexuality.

Подпись:The sociologist Jeffrey Weeks has argued that Aids revealed the unfinished character of the sexual revolution. On the one hand, sexuality remained primarily associated with heterosexuality not just within writings and therapeutic practices of sexologists such as Masters and Johnson and popular works such as The Joy of Sex, but also within areas of the feminist politicization of sexuality (as lesbian feminists had earlier complained). In this sense, the sexual revolution was a heterosexual revolution, as Sheila Jeffreys has pointed out. On the other hand, the loosening of moral control over sexuality, combined with the weakening of legal regulations against deviant sexualities, created societal conditions in which peripheral sexualities could flourish more publicly.

The historically unprecedented growth in the West of lesbian and gay ‘communities of choice’ in the 1960s and 1970s publicly demonstrated the profound transformations of the sexual order that accompanied the sexual revolution and signalled a new era of political mobilizations around the rights of sexual minorities. Whereas lesbians and gays had been successful in establishing new public identities, the Aids crisis revealed, as Weeks contends, that traditional associations of homosexuality with disease and abnormality had not been suppressed irreversibly. With the advent of Aids, sexuality moved away from its connection with liberation to become once again fraught with anxieties and risks. As the American sexologist Theresa Crenshaw, president of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and

Therapists (AASECT), put it in 1987: ‘the sexual revolution is over’.

Подпись: The state in the bedroomWestern responses to Aids were shaped by the political climate of the time. In countries such as the UK and the US, the 1980s saw the rise of the Right with the Thatcher and Reagan governments. The moral agenda of the Right was shaped in response to the claims of gay rights activists and the perceived threat from feminist critiques of dominant understandings of femininity and female sexuality. Whereas the sexual reforms of the 1960s had been promoted by the political Left, by the late 1980s, it was the Right which called for moral regeneration backed by state intervention. Particular targets were the 1960s liberalizations such as the legalization of abortion and homosexuality, as well as the greater legal freedoms in the areas of obscenity and censorship (attacks on the latter being supported as much by the moral Right as by certain strands of feminism that combated pornography).

The World Health Organization and UNAIDS currently estimate that more than 25 million people have died from Aids since it was first reported in Los Angeles by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention on 5 June 1981, and that 38.6 million people presently live with the disease worldwide. A third of deaths from Aids have occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. While national rates of HIV infection currently exceed 20% in countries such as Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe, in some sub-regions over 70% of the population are estimated to be living with Aids. Such figures show the Aids pandemic to be one of the most destructive in human history. Since unprotected sexual contact is the main (though by no means only) vehicle of infection with HIV, Aids put sexually transmissible disease back at the forefront of collective anxieties about sex. As an infectious disease whose global spread was accelerated by long-distance trucking, mobile migrant work, tourist travel, and other forms of mobility characteristic of modern society, it required fast intervention both at the level of national states and at the
international level. And yet, most governments were initially slow to react due to its initial identification as a disease that struck marginalized groups such as gay men, drug addicts, and ethnic minorities. Whereas ‘innocent’ victims such as haemophiliacs were to be pitied, the ‘degenerate conduct’ of promiscuous people meant that they were ‘swirling around in a human cesspit of their own making’, as the Chief Constable of Manchester, James Anderton, put it in 1988.

Подпись: SexualityFor the moral Right, Aids was the result of the permissive society. In the US, where the majority of Aids victims in the 1980s were black or of an ethnic minority, underlying racism further impacted on government inaction, and elsewhere the association of Aids with black people – in particular, Africans – or foreigners more generally structured public understandings of Aids as something brought in by ‘outsiders’. Policies that were initially considered were primarily repressive in nature, including measures such as quarantine (supported by religious fundamentalists who saw Aids as divine retribution for immoral behaviour) or the mandatory testing of ‘risk groups’ and revival of anti-sodomy laws; measures that were promoted by conservative groups despite lack of evidence as to their effectiveness in curtailing the disease. Proposals for preventative sex education campaigns were treated with hostility from conservatives, who argued that they would encourage promiscuous behaviour. The first few years of the epidemic were furthermore characterized by recurrent media hysteria about the ‘gay plague’.

Against the backdrop of governmental foot-dragging, most of the initial prevention effort in the West, especially in the UK and US, did not come from the state, but from grassroots organizations which had developed out of gay liberation and feminist movements. Voluntary organizations such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), founded in the US in 1981, or the Terrence Higgins Trust in the UK, set up primarily by gay activists, developed the concept of ‘safe sex’ and pioneered preventative sex
education as well as support groups for people living with Aids, initially with minimal state support.

Подпись: The state in the bedroomGay organizations pursued different political tactics. For example, groups such as the GMHC centred on self-help, with the declared aim being the provision of care for the sick similar to that given by families or groups of friends – a crucial necessity in a social context in which biological families were often reluctant to assume that role themselves (reflecting the stigmatization of Aids and homosexuality in general). The GMHC’s radical offshoot ACT UP – Aids Coalition to Unleash Power – campaigned for greater access to new drugs for people living with Aids. Adopting the slogan ‘silence = death’ and the pink triangle which the Nazis had used to identify homosexuals, they privileged shock tactics that aimed to publicly embarrass government officials into action. Other groups such as the Lambda Legal Defense Fund pursued the strategy of ‘impact litigation’ – consisting of the selection of cases not just for their impact on a particular person, but for the wider legal precedent that they would set – in areas such as discrimination in the workplace, aiming to improve the legal position of Aids sufferers as well as gays and lesbians more generally. The health emergency of Aids acted in turn as a further point of crystallization for political mobilization around gay rights. As Weeks has put it:

The impact of the Aids crisis served to solidify the ties of community between gay people not despite but because of’the threat it posed to their survival.

Sexologists were generally as slow to react to the emergence of the epidemic as governments. Deep internal divisions emerged over the most appropriate political response. In the US, for example, as the sociologist Janice Irvine reports in her analysis of modern American sexology, politically conservative sexologists such as Helen Singer Kaplan, Theresa Crenshaw, and Masters and Johnson rejected the notion of safe sex as a myth, and called
for the ‘re-establishment of traditional values’, to use Crenshaw’s terms. Masters and Johnson’s alarmist book Crisis: Heterosexual Behavior in the Age of Aids claimed in 1988 that Aids could be contracted from toilet seats and restaurant food (a claim that epidemiological experts strongly disavowed but which triggered a thriving commerce in ‘anti-viral’ toilet sprays). They called for mandatory testing of risk groups and for ‘governmental crackdowns on prostitution’. Conservative American sexologists consequently frequently found themselves in political alliances with religious groups, as illustrated by Crenshaw’s statement in 1987:

I don’t really mind if the right-wing leaders want to limit sexual practices to monogamy for religious reasons, if we want to limit them scientifically and the net result is the same.

Подпись: SexualitySuch positions were strongly rejected by other sexologists, however, many of whom became actively involved in the production of safe sex material and counselling.