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2 Infectious desires With characteristic acuteness, Gayle Rubin has noted how, "it is precisely at times such as these, when we live with the possibility of unthinkable destruction, that people are likely to become dangerously crazy about sexuality. Contemporary conflicts over sexual values and erotic conduct have much in common with the religious disputes of earlier centuries. They acquire immense symbolic weight. Disputes over sexual behaviour often become the vehicles for displacing social anxieties, and discharging their attendant emotional intensity."1 This book is concerned with precisely such "discharges", with the ways in which Aids is made to seem to speak on behalf of various social groups, whose moral opinions thus ostensibly emanate from the syndrome itself. It is important to unmask such feats of ideological ventriloquism, since this is the only way in which we can identify the individualpositions which speak across the huge, bellowing amphitheatre of Aids commentary. This amphitheatre takes many forms; it is at once a television studio and a bar, a newsagent's shop and the operating theatre of a teaching hospital. One factor is common to all: the figure of the patient, who is speaking but cannot be heard for the hubbub which surrounds him. He is completely ignored, the person with Aids, as he-with-whom-identification-is-forbidden. In this respect he is confined not only within the ordinary regime of medicine, but also by the entire apparatus of modern sexuality, both of which are continuallymonitoring and controlling the public meaning of his illness, as closely as his presenting symptoms. The overall narrative structure within which Aids is almost invariably described is not, of itself, especially interesting. Any newly identified and seriously life-threatening disease will be discussed in terms of its source of origin, its modes of transmission, its recognisable signs, its range of infection, and the possibility of cure and preventative vaccination. In the case of Aids, however, this narrative has been massively inflected and distorted by a number of external determining factors. Principal among 22 INFECTIOUS DESIRES these is the felt connection between the disease itself and the social groups in which it has initially emerged, in particular gay men. Maurice Blanchot has written that "if it weren't for prisons, we should know that we are already in prison".2 In this respect the gay man is always in any case a prisoner, aware that behind him there stretches out the long shadow of "the homosexual", for signs of which parents anxiously scrutinise their uncomprehending offspring, and against whom they literally and metaphorically double-bolt the nursery windows night after night. Two major streams of images and their related associations converge to constitute this shadow. Firstly, the notion of homosexuality as a contagious condition, invisible and always threatening to reveal itself where least expected. And secondly, the spectacle of erotic seduction, in which "innocent", "vulnerable" youth is fantasised as an unwilling partner to acts which, nonetheless, have the power to transform his (or her) entire being. Thus I read in the sex education textbook which was in my school library in the 1960s that it is, "obvious that sexual love among persons of the same sex is a perversion because, quite apart from any other arguments based upon ethics and morality, such a practice cannot result in procreation . . . The greatest danger in homosexuality lies in the introduction of normal people to it. An act which will produce nothing but disgust in a normal individualmay quite easily become more acceptable, until the time arrives when the normal person by full acceptance of the abnormal act becomes a pervert too."' There is an important internal conflict at work within this text, and countless like it, concerning the "normal" person's "disgust", and the seeming ease with which it is apparently over-ridden. If this were the case, and one accepted a contagion/seduction model of homosexuality, then everyone would be at risk from pleasures which remain too awful and dangerously seductive for the text to dwell on. It needs to be understood that the widespread association of homosexuality with the subject of child molestation is not accidental, but stems from the way in which homosexuality has been theorised since the late nineteenth century, when the word largely replaced other terms and produced the idea of a single, coherent, uniform type of human being - "the homosexual". As I have written elsewhere, "on the one hand there was the invert, the 'natural' (e.g., incurable) homosexual, emotionally and/or physically attracted to...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780816688524
Related ISBN
9780816630257
MARC Record
OCLC
85846084
Pages
192
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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