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Home/Rod Dreher/Justice Through Public Degeneracy

Justice Through Public Degeneracy

'We parade not to humiliate others but to dignify ourselves.' Leatherman and his 'pups' at London Pride 2014 (Source)

Writing in the Boston Review, Joseph J. Fischel says that if we don’t allow kinky sex and nudity at Pride events, Love won’t Win, but racism and homophobia will. Excerpts:

All this talk of public sex acts that violate can make one lose sight of the more sanguine correlate: the varieties of public sex practices that we might want to revalue as benign, amusing, mildly to moderately inconvenient, or, finally, politically potent. We might then think about the wicked intentions of the flasher as an exception to a norm of public sex accommodation. For whatever the intentions of Pride participants, whether we are wearing wedding rings or dog collars, we are there to celebrate queer love, queer family, and queer sex; we parade not to humiliate others but to dignify ourselves.

Turning, then, from the question of what can make “sex” in “public” wrong (or not), let us focus upon the more generative question: Why might some “sex” in “public” be right and good?

Gender studies scholars Michael Warner and Lauren Berlant conclude their queer cri de coeur, “Sex in Public” (1998), by describing a scene in which a man induces a younger man to vomit, pushing milk and food down his throat, onstage, at a leather bar in New York. Berlant and Warner are not exalting public puking as an antidote to heteronormativity. But they use this extreme example of nonreproductive, nongenital erotics to redefine “sex” and “public” and to occasion reexamining our norms and rituals. When we go to a leather bar for its weekly talent show, or to Pride for its yearly parades, is this not what we came for, to be shook and shocked, to be introduced to alternate pleasures and publics? And what kinds of harmful intrusions do we invite by asking that these acts be regulated by the state or shamed back into the “private” bedroom?

What a sicko. Fischel is saying that if queer people aren’t allowed to have sex in public, then America is right back to the closet. There can be no difference between public and private life when it comes to displaying sexuality. If you believe there is, he explains, then you are racist. You’ll have to read the whole thing to encounter the pathetic sophistry he undertakes to make that claim.

Here’s the “coming for your children” part:

Over at Vox, my friend and colleague Greta LaFleur has less patience for the kink-at-Pride debate than I do, averring that the full-throttle corporatization of Gay™ has defanged Pride of any political promise or power. I suppose I see another payout. My argument, all along really, has been for the children.

Like Robin Dembroff, another friend and colleague quoted in that same Vox article, I believe queerness is anchored in “political resistance to hegemonic ideas of how humans ought to be.” Leather chaps and nipple clamps and boys kissing boys and girls kissing girls—even on an otherwise unexceptional Bank of America float—model modes of living and loving that many kids and teenagers attending Pride have never seen, or have just seen online, and only as pornography (not that there is anything ipso facto wrong with pornography, but the more models of queerness, the better). When parents or people ventriloquizing parents oppose public indecency at Pride on the grounds that it may upset children, the opposite is more likely the case: their children might like it, and that upsets the parents, not the childrenWhat is the presumptive harm if a child happens upon a guy sporting a chest harness, or sees an adult’s butt cheeks, or even an adult’s genitals or breasts? Would such children necessarily feel violated, or might adults be feeling violated on their behalf? Might the child be as likely to respond with curiosity?

The “problem” with gay sex or kink in public, like the “problem” of early twentieth-century young Black women carving slices of pleasure and intimacy out of brutal city life, is that it models how to have gay sex, or how to be kinky, or how to squeeze fun (or a living) out of socially mandated misery. For an antiracist, democratically hedonic, and more just future, we ought to celebrate kink, butts, and boobs at Pride. And we should do so especially for those kids whose opportunities and curiosities are stifled by racist violence, economic inequality, or their heterosexual nuclear family.

There it is. Fischel argues that gay sex in public is necessary to fight racism, poverty, and the nuclear family. When confronted by kink at Pride, he says, “Might the child be as likely to respond with curiosity?”

This. Is. Grooming. There it is. Grooming as liberation. Read it all. 

This is not new. Gayle Rubin is an academic cultural anthropologist and sadomasochism enthusiast. Her 1984 essay “Thinking Sex” is considered a founding text of queer studies. In it, she defends all sexual expression, including pederasty. Excerpts:

She is doing to fellow progressives what Joseph Fischel is doing: attempting to shame them into permitting and affirming kink. In the essay, Rubin laments that “no tactic for stirring up erotic hysteria has been as reliable as the appeal to protect children.” And then she defends adults who have sex with children:

 

And here she defends adult incest and sadomasochism:

 

So, when the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus trills that they will “convert your children,” what they mean is that they want to corrupt their moral imaginations. I was given one idea of what this means the other day in Slovenia, talking to a man who came to hear my Live Not By Lies lecture. He told me that his 11-year-old daughter made contact over the Internet with some people on the US West Coast who have convinced her that she has to choose her sexual identity now, before biology does it for her. He said she has been paralyzed by this thought, and can think of nothing else. They offered her 26 different identities, and now the child is terrified that she will choose wrongly, and is obsessed with the topic. The father sees her in torment, and rues the day he ever let her get on the Internet. I asked him why he did, and he said that all the kids had to have computers to do their school lessons under Covid restrictions. Anyway, the thought has already been put into this poor kid’s head, and it is breaking her.

Don’t come at me with the usual “Dreher is just nutpicking again” crap. This very issue was discussed on the op-ed page of the Washington Post the other day, in an op-ed arguing that children should see kink at Pride, because it will be good for them. This is what we are dealing with. You have to be willfully blind to not see where this is headed in our suicidal culture. We can be grateful to Joseph Fischel for saying the quiet part out loud.

What we are seeing here is a sign of civilizational collapse. There will soon be violence. Count on it. I wrote last year:

Over the weekend I finished reading Rites Of Spring: The Great War And The Birth Of The Modern Age, by Modris Eksteins (only $7.21 on Kindle). It’s as good as people say; thank you Rob G. for recommending it. Eksteins is a (now retired) Latvian-born Canadian historian who specializes in German culture. This book is a cultural history of the West from the 1913 premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (the ballet choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, and produced by Serge Diaghilev) till the death of Hitler in 1945. Eksteins focuses on the transgressiveness of Western culture in Modernism. I found this passage especially interesting:

Diaghilev’s ballet enterprise was both a quest for totality and an instrument of liberation. Perhaps the most sensitive nerve it touched—and this was done deliberately—was that of sexual morality, which was so central a symbol of the established order, especially in the heart of political, economic, and imperial power, western Europe. Again, Diaghilev was simply an heir to a prominent, accumulating tradition. For many intellectuals of the nineteenth century, from Saint-Simon through Feuerbach to Freud, the real origin of “alienation,” estrangement from self, society, and the material world, was sexual.

“Pleasure, joy, expands man,” wrote Feuerbach; “trouble suffering, contracts and concentrates him; in suffering man denies the reality of the world.” The middle classes, in particular, of the Victorian age interpreted pleasure in primarily spiritual and moral rather than physical or sensual terms. Gratification of the senses was suspect, indeed sinful. Will, based on moral fervor, was the essence of successful human endeavor; pure passion, its opposite. That the issue of sexual morality should become a vehicle of rebellion against bourgeois values for the modern movement was inevitable. In the art of Gustav Klimt, in the early operas of Richard Strauss, in the plays of Frank Wedekind, in the personal antics of Verlaine, Tchaikovsky, and Wilde, and even in the relaxed morality of the German youth movement, a motif of eroticism dominated the search for newness and change. In the United States Max Eastman shouted, “Lust is sacred!”

The sexual rebel, particularly the homosexual, became a central figure in the imagery of revolt, especially after the ignominious treatment Oscar Wilde received at the hands of the establishment. Of her Bloomsbury circle of gentle rebels Virginia Woolf said, “The word bugger was never far from our lips.” André Gide, after a long struggle with himself, denounced publicly le mensonge des moeurs, the moral lie, and admitted his own predilections. Passion and love, he had concluded, were mutually exclusive. And passion was much purer than love.

And:

Despite a fascination among the avant-garde with the lower classes, with social outcasts, prostitutes, criminals, and the insane, the interest usually did not stem from a practical concern with social welfare or with a restructuring of society, but from a desire simply to eliminate restrictions on the human personality. The interest in the lower orders was thus more symbolic than practical. The search was for a “morality without sanctions and obligations.”

Hannah Arendt said something similar about pre-totalitarian culture. She said intellectuals and artists were happy to see the habits of civilization destroyed just for the fun of transgression. That worked out well for us, didn’t it?

Certain liberals in this blog’s comments section love to scratch their heads and puzzle over why social and religious conservatives are so preoccupied with sex. They ought to read a little history. Sexual revolution was at the core of the Modernist revolution. In the 1960s, Philip Rieff, the great interpreter of Freud, said this cultural revolution — of a morality based on feeling, and of forbidding to forbid — was more significant than the Bolshevik Revolution, because the Bolsheviks, atheists though they were, still believed in a binding transcendent order.

With the Eksteins passage above in mind, take a look at Carl Trueman’s latest in First Things. He’s writing about Critical Theory, of which Queer Theory is a part. Excerpts:

What exactly is the endgame here? What do these people want in terms of positive philosophical and political construction? I eventually concluded that the answer was really quite simple: The purpose of critical theory is not to establish anything at all. Rather, it is to destabilize as potentially oppressive any claim to transcendent truth or value. Its target is the destruction of all metanarratives, and thus the bombastically rebarbative prose is itself part of the “argument.” Leaving readers hopelessly confused about even the simplest things is an important part of the game, pellucid simplicity being one way the oppressors made their oppression seem natural.

Trueman explains why the acceptance of transgenderism and queerness is so extremely radical, far moreso than many people (especially Christians) realize. More:

The debate over LGBTQ issues is not a debate about sexual behavior. I suspect it is not really at this point a debate with the L, the G, or the B. It is the T and the Q that are carrying the day, and we need to understand that the debate is about the radical abolition of metaphysics and metanarratives and any notion of cultural stability that might rest thereupon. Until we clarify that and adjust our strategy of engagement accordingly, we cannot develop the arguments needed to persuade our fellow Christians of the truth, let alone anyone else.

Read the whole thing.

It is important that you — that we — understand the meaning of what we are seeing and hearing and living through. These “blessings of liberty.”

UPDATE: Thinking further about what people like Fischel and Rubin are after reminds me of Tanner Greer’s important recent piece, “Culture Wars Are Long Wars.”In it, he says:

Generational churn helps account for the “gradually, then suddenly” tempo of social revolution. Cultural insurgents win few converts in their own cohort. They can, however, build up a system of ideas and institutions which will preserve and refine the ideals they hope their community will adopt in the future. The real target of these ideas are not their contemporaries, but their contemporaries’ children and grandchildren. Culture wars are fought for the hearts of the unborn. Future generations will be open to values the current generation rejects outright.

This will not be apparent at first. Beneath the official comings and goings of the cohorts above, a new consensus forms in in the cohorts below. Ideas will fester among the young, but their impact will be hidden by the inability and inexperience of youth. But the youth do not stay young. Eventually a transition point arrives. Sometimes, this transition will be marked by a great event the old orthodoxy cannot explain. At other times it is simply a matter of numbers. In either case, the end falls swift: the older cohorts suddenly find themselves outnumbered and outgunned, swept up in a flood they had assumed was a mere trickle.

For them it was a trickle. They spent their time with members of their own cohort. The revolution occurring below did not echo in their souls. It won no converts among their friends, nor even among their rivals. The new values remained the preserve of weirdos and extremists. Not so for the rising generation!

Might the child be as likely to respond with curiosity? writes Fischel. This is the heart of the matter. Many people here “we’re going to convert your children” and think “they want to have sex with my kids.” I don’t think this is what these revolutionaries mean. They rather want the youth to embrace the full spectrum of sexual desire, including perversion, as liberation. They not only want to create children who grow up into kinky adults; they want to create children who grow up to be adults who think it’s progressive and wonderful to take children to Pride parades to watch perverts lead their catamites around on leashes like dogs.

Think about that Slovene girl whose mind is occupied by tormenting thoughts about what her sexual identity should be. This should never have been allowed to happen. Any society that allows its children to be possessed by such thoughts has failed them, and is failing itself. I wonder if we in the decadent West are even capable of pulling back from this particular brink.

UPDATE.2: Meanwhile, in London, Love continues to Win, with Labour’s help:

UPDATE.3: A reader writes:

We are probably less than 10 years before we start seeing a case for grooming on consent grounds. It is the logical outcome of transgender ideology: if you can consent to sex change and hormone blockers as a minor, why can’t you consent to sex?
As with transgender ideology it will initially be confined to a small segment and there will be all the usual tut-tutting about conservative prudes and killjoys. But there are no cultural antibodies or ability to generate them, so there you have it.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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