- Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era by Paul B. Preciado
New York: The Feminist Press, 2013, 432pp.
Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era is a testosterone fueled “body essay,” a work of “auto-theory” that upends contemporary understandings of biopolitics and revels in the gender-fucking experimentation of its author, Paul B. Preciado. In the text, Preciado is the first-person narrator BP, a Paris-based philosopher who takes black-market testosterone to “foil society” and to avenge the death of a friend, Guillaume Dustan or GD. BP’s experiment may be the only way to mourn or “avenge” someone like Dustan, a filmmaker and notorious sexual provocateur. It is also an extraordinary and exhilarating way to do philosophy. Instead of providing “thinking head” commentaries on Hegel or Butler, BP practices a method of “auto-decapitation”: “I wanted to cut off my head that had been molded by a program of gender, dissect part of the molecular model that resides in me. This book is the trace left by that cut” (424). It is quite a trace. Testo Junkie is shot through with sexual energy and conceptual innovations, alternating between scenes of double penetration and genealogies of the pharmaceutical industry, smutty stories and high-on-T theory. Although BP’s experiment sometimes veers in problematic directions, this is a book that will challenge and entertain [End Page 166] not only readers with an interest in gender and sexuality but also readers looking for new approaches to the practice of philosophy. There is inspiration to be found in BP’s call to “sever your own head” and “experience separation.”
In the opening chapter, “Your Death,” one of many addressed to GD, BP’s experiment with testosterone spurs a personal and philosophical identity crisis.
What kind of feminist am I today: a feminist hooked on testosterone, or a transgender body hooked on feminism? I have no other choice but to revise my classics, to subject those theories to the shock that was provoked in me by the practice of taking testosterone. To accept that the change happening in me is the metamorphosis of an era.(22)
BP’s transformations are entangled with our “pharmacopornographic” present, an era dominated by the production and regulation of “orgasmic force.” According to Preciado, orgasmic force is “the real or virtual strength of a body’s total excitation” (41). Since the mid-twentieth century, it has become the central domain of political action, a highly malleable resource to be controlled and converted into capital. In this era, pharmacopornographic subjects like BP are “movable ideas, living organs, symbols, desires, chemical reactions, and affects” (54). These organs and energies frustrate subject categories (like “feminist” or “transgender”) and force the revision of classic theories. For instance, the very notion of a “pharmacopornographic era” revises Michel Foucault’s theory of biopower, subjecting it to “the shock that was provoked in [BP] by the practice of taking testosterone” (22). According to Preciado, life and biopower are archaic terms because our condition is less bio- than biotech-. Today, being alive or dead is meaningful only to the extent that a subject “can or can’t be integrated into a bioelectronics of global excitation” (45).
Two extended chapters, “Pharmacopower” and “Pornpower,” outline a more contemporary vocabulary of concepts to match this excitation economy. In “Pharmacopower,” Preciado argues that the pharmacological figure of the birth control pill should displace Foucault’s institutional figure of the panopticon. Power no longer operates as an external political architecture. Instead, pharmacopower moves through “a desire for infiltration, absorption, total occupation” (207). It dwells in the “body desiring power, seeking to swallow it, eat it, administer it, wolf it down, more always, more, through every hole” (208). In “Pornpower,” Preciado claims that labor has been “pornified” to produce the “sexual technobody of the multitude.” While technobodies can cooperate in joyful and exciting ways, they are more often reduced to sexual capital and forced to take on characteristics associated with sex work—“lack of security, sale of corporal and affective...