Gegen Kapital und Nation
Streifzüge (April 15 2014)
Theses toward a critique
of bourgeois sexuality
A) Nature, society, individual
1 Homo-, hetero-, and bisexuality are not biologically determined. Every scientific inquiry into the biological origins of homosexuality seeks to establish statistical correlation between sexual preference and physical attributes. Bigger earlobes, the properties/condition of testicles, shape of the brain, DNA sequences, etc., cannot count as causes, even if correlates exist within the group under review. For, in order to prove cohesion, one has to find not only a formal coherence of phenomena, but material coherence as well. After all, the high incidence of men with white beards and red coats around Christmas Eve does not prove that Santa Claus in fact brings the presents. Human sexuality is a specifically social thing. So it is just wrong to look for purely biological determinants or explanations.1
2 Nature provides the material preconditions of human sexuality: a body equipped with nerves, the brain, diverse fluids, etc. But it’s society that provides the historical conditions under which it takes place: everything from the form of political authority with its rules and acts, the prevailing perceptions, expectations, and aspirations of human coexistence, as well as the available knowledge about sexuality (including stimulants, toys, assorted utilities). The forms and contents of sexuality, however, originate in the thoughts and feelings of individuals who interpret these biological preconditions and sociological conditions.
3 The reason the “nature” argument appears obvious to so many people is that their sexual desires cannot be changed at a mere whim. Even if their sexual orientation changes once again after a certain point in their lives, they quite often think that now they’ve finally discovered their very own, formerly suppressed, true sexual identity. Precisely because modern human beings want to express their true nature in love and sexuality, they also seem to find here the identity of who they really are (not as determined by others). Henceforth, their sexuality and falling in love shall be entirely their own. The long road bourgeois subjects must take from birth so as to develop explicit sexual fantasies and practices — along with the wealth of experiences and decisions, all the sensible and senseless thoughts and feelings about human desire, objects of desire and their behaviors — this then appears to them like the long road to themselves. And all of this is put retrospectively in order to make sense of it. When this result is obtained, the process is at an end.
4 [“Born this way”] sexual inheritance was politically welcomed by the gay movement, because it could serve as an argument against concepts of therapy to reform and punish gay people. It also came in handy to confront fundamentalist Christians with the following question: Why would the Lord create gay and lesbian people, if he hates them so much? The notion of sin implies free will, the ability to violate God’s commandments. If homosexuality is inherited, it can’t be a sin. Yet this argument is defensive, often helpless, but always foolish and dangerous. At worst, it could even have brutal consequences. Defensive because gays appear as predetermined ninnies who might want to be otherwise if only they could, instead of saying that it’s fun and doesn’t harm anyone.2 Helpless because ideologies long ago evolved to reconcile the contradiction between divine creation and allegedly natural homosexuality (e.g., “special burden,” or “we love homosexuals but hate their sinful lifestyle,” etc.). Right-wing moralists will not be dissuaded from their hatred of gays after learning about gay penguins. Foolish and dangerous because the argument affirms biologism, which purports to derive everything from the links between amino acids to unemployment, French kissing [Zungenkuss], as well as Zionism. Manmade affairs are thereby transfigured into unalterable matters of nature. Lastly, it could have at worst brutal consequences, for if homosexuality is seen as an evil caused by nature this might lead to the conclusion that homosexuals and other miscellaneous “deviants” need to be outlawed and marginalized, if not annihilated outright.2
5 Humans make their own sexuality, but they do not make it as they please. They cannot simply undo what has already happened to them, either by or without their consent, as well as what they have (un)consciously made of these experiences. Psychoanalysis once promised to render these mechanisms visible and thereby enable patients to better handle them. That sounded appealing to a number of gay people looking for a psychoanalytic “cure” in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. With regard to homosexuality, over the decades psychoanalysis developed into a form of heteronormative enforcement therapy, in only partial compliance with its founder. It managed to promote some of the silliest and most contradictory psychological theories about homosexuality being conditioned by the family. Either the mother was too cold, affectionate, dominant, absent, or the father was too cold, affectionate, dominant, absent. Nowadays psychologists will say “multifactorial,” at least putting it on record that they have no idea where homos come from either.
6 Still, this isn’t so bad given that the question itself is somewhat stupid. Usually it’s just a prelude to pathologization or persecution which turns gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people into an anomaly demanding explanation. Rather than, say, putting into question the concept of choosing a partner or fuck buddy based on primary or secondary sexual characteristics, of all things. Even if a certain type of build, one’s hairiness, or the presence of a penis or vagina4 can be more or less sexually attractive:
a) biological sex is, in most cases, simply a matter of chance, since men and women and trans* and intersex are fortunately not as uniform as commonly maintained, and
b) the sexual function of bodily attributes is not independent of the thoughts and emotions people have about it.
Moreover, the commonplace notion is that love somehow naturally coincides with sexual attraction. But that’s not necessarily the way things work.
7 Homo- and heterosexuality are each opposing consequences of the prevalent gender relation, namely to desire just one of the two official genders. This is not particularly logical, but neither is it all that objectionable. For the most part, it means finding roughly half the earth’s population both sexually and amorously uninteresting. If this were the only consequence of all the bullshit around sexual identity, one might simply shrug and ponder these differences of taste the same way one might marvel at people who are not into spinach. But the world is not like that. Sexual identity is more than a mere consolidated verdict of taste; it has a tangible quality, with a bloody history and brutal consequences for the present.
8 There have been homosexual acts going back as far as anyone cares to date. Homo-, hetero-, and bisexuality as exclusive, clearly defined concepts — every form of desire that goes beyond the question of whom one shares a bed or straw mat with to comprise the true, innermost core of each person — these are a product of the growth and spread of bourgeois society during the nineteenth century. Prior to then, homosexual acts were sanctified, accepted, ignored, condemned, and/or persecuted, but they were just that: acts. The fixation of sexual activity, the consolidation of all these categories that we ourselves produce as a material power standing above us, exceeding our control, thwarting expectations, bringing calculations to naught, is one of the chief factors in the historical passage from “sin” to “perversion,” i.e. from men who commit the “sin of Sodom” to men who are “gay.” The identification of definite sexual practices, characteristics, and behaviors with hetero- and homosexuality proceeds swiftly.5
9 It would take us too far afield to sketch a history of same-sex desire through different precapitalist modes of production or pre- and early bourgeois forms of rule. The interplay of ruling rivalries and interests, the prevailing ethical order [Sittlichkeit] (including religion), the stabilization of the respective gender relations, and struggles between and within the various classes for the wealth of societies and extension into the most diverse zones, escapes the generality of systematic determination. A mere glance the history of sexual acts is enough to refute the pious rumor that in earlier times, closer to nature, people behaved sexually only in ways that would meet with the approval of contemporary conservatives and fascists, for whom the “lasciviousness” of today is the product of modern estrangement from the “laws of nature.” The apologists of a past that never existed have never met anyone who doesn’t fit with their preconceptions.
10 Of course, there is no ground whatsoever for idealizing these times so enthusiastically: Even in European antiquity, where every conceivable male orifice was available for the sexual gratification of other adult men, sexuality was not free of coercive identity, so that the free play of desire [freie Spiel der Lüste] would have been reasonably prone to the violence of patriarchal relations. It would be no different with the initiation rites of primitive Germanic tribes or anywhere else. For even where Native Americans offered a third and fourth social gender not set by biological sex or by someone’s role within the sociological division of labor, this was not stepping out of given assignments. Sexual liberation’s aims cannot be found in the past.
11 The historic ascent of the bourgeoisie was not just politically, (non)religiously, and economically legitimate, but ethically as well. Not all forms of sexuality result in monogamous, lifelong, romantic relationships between two people who want to have children. Both the decadence of the nobility and the animality of the underclass attested to this fact, illustrating that the bourgeoisie’s claim to rule was but one. With the enforcement of competition as an economic at every level of social wealth, a “standard measure” for subjects of competition [Konkurrenzsubjekte] was simultaneously enforced: healthy “white” heterosexual male citizens with a certain degree of education and private reserves. The struggle of all kinds of groups to participate equally in this competition and to gain acceptance as full citizens has softened somewhat in Western capitalist countries, where the sexual division of labor has slightly shifted. Meanwhile, beyond any feelings or desires, the traditional (though not to say outdated) ideal of the successful bourgeois subject of competition is still tied to the false belief that the right attitude is a guarantee of success.7
12 Fear stirs the hearts of the authorities when living conditions deteriorate, fear that there won’t be enough workers or underlings [Untertanen] in the future because proletarians will refuse to give birth. Hence why it occurred even to the pre-bourgeois gentry, quite apart from the sexual preferences of its leading figures, to control sexual and reproductive behavior. That both abortion and contraception would now become the concern of government, and not just infanticide, was simply logical. Even “unproductive” sexual behavior was ostracized and banned. It is hardly surprising that bourgeois rule would strike one here as clearly totalitarian, since it discovers that managing the population as a resource necessary for the increase of capital and securing a monopoly on violence are quite different. Just as diverse ideological radicalization does not always serve a function.
13 In previous days, the bourgeois state regarded sexuality as a potential danger to society. It called for subordination, abstinence, humility, and submission. Since sexuality could be adapted “just” for pleasure, and no workers, soldiers, or underlings would commit to a moral system that didn’t seem right, the state responded by allowing sex to be socially recognized in one alternative way that’d serve its interests: marriage. That sexuality would sees its nucleus in marriage (and by extension, the family) is a source of constant worry for it. Love and kinship’s unconditional responsibility to each other is devoured in the competition. And this remains unchanged in recent days.
14 Lately, however, the modern bourgeois state has learned to accept sexuality as more of a source of comfort [for its citizens]. It wants male and female (indeed, even non-binary) citizens who see their lives as an opportunity for self-realization, including sexually. What has changed is that, the day before last, these citizens were suspected of compromising the public order by forming cliques to seduce the young — undermining manliness, feminine docility, and soldierly virtues in general. And just yesterday, the state excluded them [from this order] on the patronizing grounds that they only cared about pleasure and were not disposed to the moral duties so valued by the state. Now it trusts them with what was earlier still in doubt, and so has the “commitment-averse gays” in a same-sex household [Bedarfsgemeinschaft] placed under a mutual obligation to support one another according to the provisions of Hart IV. This has led the argument to be postponed: Gays have generally been accused of irresponsibility, despite their constant struggle to take responsibility for each other. State agents have since abandoned this line of attack, so now the Ressentiment goes more like this: Gays are to assume responsibility for those of lesser stature, who are morally or ethically unable to achieve self-realization through children, quite unlike the heterosexual parents for whom producing offspring is the big thing on their mind.
15 Western states have not given up on regulating their citizens’ sexuality altogether. Since roughly the mid to late sixties, they’ve rebuilt it on new principles. Police surveillance and persecution of homosexuality, usually male, declined before coming to an end by the nineties at the latest.8 This then allowed a gay subculture to emerge, which back then was all about presenting an alternative to bourgeois sexual morality. It made possible a level of freedom that many veterans of the movement are still nostalgic about. At the same time, it illustrated the fact that bourgeois society tends to generate its own deviations, but also showed how far rebellion and transgression comply with the very conventions they oppose. From the 1970s on, the model gay couple has referred to clichés of bourgeois society.9
16 In Western and Northern Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand it was this same subculture which became an important junior partner of the state during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Not just in the struggle for public health, either — it also served as a kind of conveyor belt bringing bourgeois norms to the rest of the gay scene. Today, the remaining gay organizations are a long way off from any criticism of society. On the contrary, they insistently fight for social acceptance of their ways of life and love. Lesbian subculture, on the other hand, developed against the backdrop of the feminist movement, and is as adjusted and maladjusted as the latter. Since the sexual dimension was not foregrounded so much, sex education programs and the healthcare system of the state are less addressed to the lesbian community.
17 State socialism has contributed nothing to the emancipation of homosexuals. Nor has the Left done much on this score. While the old socialist workers’ movement, along with its Social Democratic and Communist heirs, bravely called for the abolition of sections of the Criminal Code pertaining to homosexuality, antigay overtones could be heard in the polemic against the “decadence of the ruling class” or against political opponents from the outset. In power, the Bolsheviks initially continued to advance sexual-political demands. But only a decade later, under Stalin, communist libertinism gave way completely. Homosexuals were placed in labor camps. This is how things remained in the USSR, as well as in China and Albania. East Germany gradually moved away from the more stringent Nazi paragraphs 175 and 176, whereas they continued to apply in West Germany until 1969. Yugoslavia and several Eastern Bloc countries were ahead of the West in legalizing consensual homosexual acts, so long as the ideal of the bourgeois — pardon, socialist — nuclear family and bourgeois — pardon, socialist — sexual morality for the most part were left untouched. Gays and lesbians, to say nothing of trans* or intersex people, did not have an easy life.
18 Undoubtedly, life for gays and lesbians has become a lot easier in Western states compared to a few years ago. Still, the question of homo- and heterosexuality makes for a great deal of agony and violence. Bullshit around sexual identity becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses. Especially against those who do not share it.
19 Beyond the storybook paintings in glossy brochures put out by companies advertising their diversity management, there is a real world of ignorance, projection, as well as clear, direct hatred and disgust. Presumptive heterosexuality still alienates homosexuals in modern Western societies today. And that starts even before gays and lesbians first get beaten up. Every third teenage suicide can be linked to homosexuality, and no one disputes that homosexual youths are killed and injured more often than their heterosexual counterparts. The permanent rejection and exclusion of those who love or fuck “differently” — even when this occurs without malice, without meaning harm — gives rise to a whole range of oddities and quirks. While different from the heterosexual archetypes they emulate, the consequences are no less grim. Repressed sexuality cannot fuck freely.10
20 As with any group, the group of homosexuals is also suited for projection. With seemingly positive judgments, many homosexuals are better able to live with these attributes than with the others ascribed to them. For example, gays are more creative than their fellow men and lesbians more assertive than their fellow women — an ideal befitting humanity, but one which must be released. Just as seemingly positive or neutral attributions may be transformed into negative functions, a group at first defined as “other” can run through the most diverse groups of people. Even compliments can imprison someone in an otherness not of his or her own choosing.
21 Men and women even in Western states have to fear for their health if labeled “gay” or “lesbian.” Disgust is shown toward both. On top of that, lesbians have to deal with the added ignorance of those who regard their sexual orientation as a passing phase. This has its foolish logic: Wherever sexuality is primarily conceived as tortuous maneuvering around the cock, and successful penetration alone counts as real sex, everything else is secondary and seen as unthreatening. Fear of gay sexuality’s “power of seduction” cannot be explained except as phallic hubris. It’s possible that the relative equanimity [Gelassenheit] many hetero men show toward lesbian sexuality also stems from this, though it only lasts as long as male control over the female body is not the principle in question. At this point, things often turn brutally violent (“correctional rape”).11
22 Hetero-terror [Heterror] starts early on. Children use the term “gay” for anything somehow daft or not working properly. It even represents pretty much the worst thing you can say about a male kid.11 But being gay is more than just “daft.” The worst thing about male homosexuality still seems to be that men are getting fucked and enjoying it.12 “Getting fucked,” that is, giving up the position of power and becoming an object. Enjoying that means not to be the cool, self-controlled, and controlling man. And this of course is still the utterly idiotic male ideal held by most socialized individuals. This ideal is difficult to hold onto and entails numerous sacrifices. Fulfilling it incurs a lot of psychological distress. Anyone not seen to follow this role poses a threat, which is why many gay men have at some point gone from getting hit on to getting hit.
23 While “lesbian” is not usually used as a synonym for “crap,” being labeled a lesbian at school, for instance, is enough to isolate someone. It is clearly intended as an insult. Girls holding hands are indeed viewed differently in Western countries than boys doing the same, but if these “girls experimenting” eventually turn out to be lesbians, they’ll soon be confronted with physical violence and contempt. This contempt, according to gender image, is connected with the sexist view that lesbian women have withdrawn from the male prerogative to treat them as sexual object. And it’s related to the idea that they don’t fulfill their “natural” role as mothers and wives in the eyes of the rest of society.
24 Don’t be deceived, though: Traditional gender relations are, to put it mildly, usually no bargain for women. But to point out that they are unwittingly stabilized by homophobic acts does not mean that all women are perceptive critics of these relations. Nor does it mean that they couldn’t possibly be hostile toward gays. In much the same way as many men prep and prepare to become “men,” many women do not find what society expects of “women” easy. Yet they internalize and uphold the bourgeois ideal of femininity, which is no less idiotic. From their standpoint [Sprechposition] as “mother and wife,” the defender of family values and protector of children and youths, women have repeatedly been brought into a speaking role [Sprecherposition] in anti-homosexual movements. Whether in the Russian Duma or the streets of France, women are firm in the struggle against homosexual rights. Interestingly, this is also where the focal point lies in struggles against equality for gays, particularly when it comes to adoption.
25 Legal recognition required a certain amount of goodwill from the state. For many, homosexuality is not threatening. Nowadays it is an option which doesn’t bring with it total condemnation and ostracization. Precisely this fact has led religious reactionaries of all stripes, in league with conservatives and fascists, to discern the danger of a “disease-like spread” of homosexuality and the decay of clear gender boundaries. The morbid fascination lurking behind such worries, with their implicit commentary on the desolate state of married heterosexual life, needn’t bother anyone. Still, it would be misguided to see only psychic mechanisms at work here, and not ideology. Men and women are not “homophobes”: i.e., they do not suffer from an anxious obsessive-compulsive “disorder.” Even if their hatred is involuntarily and their disgust is “only natural,” of course, this behavior is learned. It flows from their prior moral and political convictions.
26 It is no coincidence most attacks on homosexual emancipation are conducted in the name of “family values.” Here, homosexuals not only symbolize the erosion of the state’s fundamental unit, but also a threat to organic solidarity [Solidarverband]. Because this is thought to be based on “blood” and “ancestry,” its members ought to unconditionally support one another — they are not to relate as calculating subjects of competition, but rather make sacrifices for each other and stick together through thick and thin. A reality that is largely repressive, frequently spiteful/petty, and often filled with jealous competition, which delivers private life over to the rule of capital and state, does little to diminish the attractiveness of this ideal. That homosexuality, of all things, is viewed as an attack on this blood bond doesn’t have a lot to do with actual homosexuals. No matter how well their parents and siblings understand them, or even if they want to start a family, homosexuals remain a symbol of those unwilling to make any sacrifices, who refuse to be saddled with traditional obligations. Homosexuals just have fun. Or that’s what they want, anyway: they are for individualization and market conformity, more concerned with making choices and calculations than with forms of living together. It would be worth investigating whether the furor over lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and intersex people, transgender people, etc., occurs more in places where the family is the essential social safety net.
27 From the perspective of global emancipation, there’s not much reason for optimism. In many countries, not just Islamic ones, gay liberation is perceived as corrosive and destructive to the nation. Homosexuals are therefore treated as a danger, and persecuted or punished. These regimes have barely anything at all to offer their citizens, oftentimes not even the shabby opportunity to drudge for someone else’s wealth. Accordingly, these states are very keen on the idealism of their citizens, and so they fight against Western “hedonism” and “individualism” (that old rumor that capitalism is about the pursuit of individual happiness), is taken as a threat to the sacrifices made for state and belief. Today gays, more so than lesbians,13 are persecuted because they serve as representatives of this model — destroyers of traditional values, deniers of family, marriage, and procreation, weakeners of male fighting strength for the nation and/or Umma.14
28 Homosexuality is often depicted in many of the ex-colonies as a product of colonialism. But homosexual behavior almost always existed in these societies even before European colonization.15 In some cases it was sung about or praised, in others it was hidden or seen as a natural phase of sexual development, especially for males. Nowadays, gays and lesbians have the misfortune to serve as a symbol of the colonial legacy, Western decadence, and above all the abdication of reproductive duty. All the disgusting shit that European nations put their populations through in the nineteenth century is today being repeated in the underdog nations of Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. Unlike the accumulation of capital, which they never quite seem to successfully manage, they have no need to fear competition in the moral formation of their people. Every now and then it might happen that imperialist countries complain about human rights violations in order to show their moral superiority. Several such countries, which thirty years ago were throwing gay people into jail, have discovered that “the gay question” [die Homofrage] now provides a compelling pretext for imperialist measures.
29 But why look so far afield when shit is so close…? Even in the realm of domestic politics, questions regarding the “integration” of migrants and refugees are often combined with the gay question. Racists usually couldn’t care less about homophobia. Most of them shout slurs against gays and lesbians from time to time. Now they feel compelled to decry homophobia all over the place — but only within the immigrant community. (This hints at the problem faced by any identity politics which only demands that a particular group no longer be excluded from the nation).16 Others are worried that the migrants taken in, thought very repressed, are more fertile. Western society has been weakened by tolerance of homosexuality and gender mainstreaming, they contend. And so they plead — in the name of freedom, naturally — for a decent conservative moral program. Preachers and priests in Southern and Eastern Europe try to extend their influence through pseudocritical rhetoric about capitalism, over the backs of homo-, trans-, and intersex people. Faith in any sort of unstoppable, irreversible, stable march toward tolerance or acceptance, let alone Reason, is unwarranted.
1 This is not to say that sex is only okay if nobody gets hurt. We’d rather say that sex is okay as long as nobody involuntarily gets hurt.
A common contemporary extension — really an adulteration — of the gene debate says there’s a complex interplay of environmental and anatomical factors. There is thus a genetic “disposition,” according to this theory, which then meets or collides with social “factors.” Following this line of thought, one does not have to and also cannot prove anything. The origins of social environments and individual dispositions are mutually referring to each other: What fails to find biological answers, needs to be explained environmentally and vice versa. This way, free will plays no role whatsoever in searching causes for any human habit.
2 Incidentally, the Nazis were not sure if homosexuality was hereditary or acquired. They tried to figure it out by conducting numerous disgusting experiments.
3 Most insist that “primary sexual characteristics” are those a person is born with, not acquired through surgery.
4 See David F. Greenberg, The Construction of Homosexuality. (Chicago, 1988).
5 Contemporary advice for success recommends that women display strength here and there, while men should work on their soft skills. This does nothing to dissolve gender image as such, however. It merely adjusts it, while retaining a reference to the original roles.
6 As a rule, state persecution of homosexuals is usually limited to male gays. Whether this is due to contempt toward feminine sexuality in general, or deeper anxieties about being penetrated by men, or something completely differently we cannot say. Exceptions to this rule include the Austrofascist state and East Germany, which we do not choose to compliment for practicing that kind of equal opportunities in prosecution.
7 Contemporary advice for success for women is to show some strength here and there and for men to work on their soft skills. This is no dissolving of the image of each gender. It is rather an adjustment, in which the reference to the initial role allocation is contained.
8 Bürgerinnen und Bürger, ja notfalls sogar Bürger_innen
9 As a rule, when modern states chased “their” homosexuals it was limited to male gays. Whether that matter can be explained by contempt of female sexuality in general, or by stronger feelings of menace regarding gay sex on account of penetration by men, or even completely differently — we cannot give a definite answer to this question here. An exception known to us was the Austrofascist state, which we do not choose to compliment for practicing that kind of equal opportunities in prosecution.
[Es gibt keine befreite Sexualität in repressiven Verhältnissen] „Es gibt kein richtiges Leben im falschen.“
10 Partly, that meant exhibiting a newly self confident individual declaring himself as sexually liberated who refused to abide by the valid codes of civic masculinity. That was merely the positive translation of old clichés for gays as sexually ready and effeminate. That comes off as much more sympathetic than uptight authoritarian petit-bourgeois. But it serves just as much as a new ideal, which gays have to conform with, like “If you sleep with anyone twice, you are a square.” And promiscuity is lustful only if it is fun for those involved, i.e. if it is not a desperate attempt to get a little ego-boost or just a nasty competition. And then, there was the simple turning around of the gender clichés, just doing that with one gender only. That implies malign exclusion of “ponces.”
11 We can’t say for sure what the exact reasons are for this gender specificity. It could be because women in these states do not count for fully-fledged human beings and therefore lesbian sexuality is not taken serious. Or it might be, because the violence against women happens at home by father, brother, husband etc. It then would not become public so as not to ruin the honor of the family.
12 “Correctional rape” is written in English.
13 The religious community of all Muslims.
14 For a critique of identity politics, see “Proud to be …So what?” in kittens #1.