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Howto Dothe History of Homosexuality

DavidM, Halperin

The University of Chicago Press : : Chicago and London


Contents

Acknowledgments lx
Introduction: In Defenseof Historicism I

1 Forgetting Foucault 24
The First Homosexuality? 48
3 Historicizing the Subjectof Desire 8r
4 How to Do the History of Male Homosexuality ro4

Appendix: Questions of Evidence r38


Notes r 55
Index r99
AO
CH A P T E R T WO

male homosexuality.6T

Historicizing
the Subjectof Desire

First: the good news. On January 19, r99o-in one of the


darkest hours of those sex-hating, Helms-ridden times-
the U.S. Postal Serviceofficially issued a homosexual love
stamp. It is a curious production. The stamp displays in
its uppermost register the heading "love" in large, widely
spaced black lettering. Underneath that rubric is a sym-
metrical designfeaturing two identical lovebirds, or doves,
outlined in profile, facing each other, and blocked out in
solid blue; centered between and below them is a solid
red valentine-shapedheart, and beneath it is a symmet-
rically arranged vine tendril in solid green. The inspiration
for this design-to judge from U.S. Postal ServicePoster
669 (fig. t), whtch advertisesthe stamp and which exhorts
us, moreover, to "Add a little Love to [our] collection"-
apparently derives from traditional European-American
quilting patterns.I say that the stamp promotes "homosex-
ual" love, becausein conformity, no doubt, with age-old
quilting conventions the two birds are not depicted in an
anatomically explicit manner, and so it is not easyto deter-
mine whether they representspecificallya lesbian or a gay
male couple: their blue coloring, along with my own parti-
san sentiments,incline me to favor the gay male possibility,
but the customary assignmentof quilting work to collec-
tivesof women,the traditionalassociation of lovebirdswith
w{)nlcnr$(l(nrrcsricworld, the posrer'sacknowledgmentof
C HA P T E R IHR EE Il IST OR IC ]Z IN G IHE SUSJECT OF DESIRE

stamp is not easily taken to representa one-night stand). The viewer may
also perform a number of other, subsidiary operations on this visual tcxc,
such as installing the "male" bird on the right-hand side of the field and
even magnifying "his" size in relation ro that of "his" mate, so as ro
motivate as well as to justify a heterosexistreading. But nothing in the
text itself-nothing, at least, that I have beenable to detect-provides the
slightestimpetus for such collectivehallucinations. Rather, the apparently
universal and unconquerableurge to read off gendered,heterosexualized
meanings from the innocent surface of this unoffending text springs-
as the text's source in the figural repertory of European-American folk
art implies-from the traditional codes or conventions for represenring
"love" in European-Americanculture. Those codes, which also govern
the culture's visual rhetoric, restrict the use of erotic symbols, such as
the valentine-shapedheart, to heterosexual contexts and employ exem-
plary animals, such as lovebirds, to rypify and thereby to naturalize con-
temporary human social and sexual arrangementsJsuch as monogamous,
heterosexualmarriage. Common to all those rhetorical practices is a rcp-
resentational strategy whose effect is to (re)produce "love" as an exclu-
sively heterosexualinstitution and to convert, under the sign of "love,"
all pairs of identically figured bodies into heterosexualcouples (compare
the image on the cover of the New Yorker's t99t Valentine's Day issuc,
reproduced here as fig. z). It takes nothing less than a combination of
masculine names, explicitly gay identities, and matching fezzesto with
stand the weight of heterosexualpresumption, if one is to judge by the
example of Matt Groening's Akbar and Jeff (seethe cover of the r99r
one Dora B. Hamlin as the source of the quilt against which the stamp is Valentine's Day issue oI The Aduocate, reproduced here as fig. 3, with
photographedand its crediting of one ReneeComet as the photographer- accompanyingstory)-though inasmuch as "Life in Hell," the cartoon rn
all of thoseconsiderationscombine to argue,perhaps,for the lesbianinter- which they appear, is routinely syndicatedin college newspaperswithout
pretation. Whether the birds are gay or lesbian,however, they are clearly stirring the slightest breath of scandal,perhapseven that odd couple's re-
identical to each other in every respect,and they are in love: the heading sistanceto heterosexualpresumption is lesssuccessfulthan one might have
"love," the red, valentine-shapedheart, and (most important of all) the supposed.2
requirements of the symmetrical design, taken in conjunction, leave no The point of this perverse little exercise has been to recall the cur-
room for escapefrom that queer conclusion. rently trendy (if still undervalued) precept that rhe body is not only a
Now: the bad news. My conclusion, inescapablethough it may be, is thing but a sign: it functions as a site for the inscription of genderedand
one that almost nobody elseseemsto have drawn, so far as I am aware- sexual meanings, among a great many other meanings.Instead of treat-
neither the Postal Service,the public at large, nor lesbiansand gay men in ing the body as the "really real," after the fashion of various scientific
particular.l As if by magic, each person who views the stamp-no mat- positivists, or as that which lies outside of language,or meaning, or sub-
ter what her or his social location-instantly and unreflectivelyreconfig- jectivity, or discourse,or representation,or power, after the sentimental
ures the image,constructingthe pair of lovebirdsnot only rts rnirlcand fashion of various post-structuralists, it might be more profitable to re-
femalebut as a hetcrosexualand, presumably,monr)l4ilnl0uri r'otrplc(the gard the body, afrer the constructionistfashionof Donna Haraway,as "a
C HA P 'IE R T H REE H IST OR IC IZ IN G TH E S L ] g J E C T Of Df SINE

Feb,

: TD
flntllll .lllfl|lIl||lt|I|laE||lD . tlaltt

A"[ife in Hell"Ualentine

Csrlmnisi
ltrtt GnsthgOutsAlhr AndJetf

'material-semioticactor' " in "the apparatusof bodily production."3 Har-


away's projecr is ro denaruralizethe body and to deconstructthe bourgeois How does one write a history of the body? At one poinr in his career,
concept of "self," which has so closely attached to it, through a radical Michel Foucault seemedabout to o(fer us an exemplary answer to that
critique of scientific and, specifically,immunological discourse.My own question. ln the first volume of his unfrnished History of Sexuality, Fou-
considerablymore modest project in this essayis to denaturalizethe sex- cault promised that his own study would not be "a 'history of mentalities'
ual body by hisroricizing it, by illuminating its multiple determinationsin that would take account of bodiesonly through the manner in which they
historical culture, and thereby to contest the body's use as a site for the have beenperceivedand given meaning and value; but a'history of boo-
production of heterosexualmeanings and for their transformation into ies'and [of] the manner in which what is most material and most vital in
timelessand universal realities.To that end, I propose to take advantage them has beeninvested" by knowledge and power.a In the secondvolume,
of the happy accident of my training in classicalscholarship-for it turns published eight years later, Foucault enlargedhis project and spoke of hrs
out that classicalscholarship,if properly deployed,can in fnct provide work as a "genealogy" of desire-and a genealogyof man as a desinng
abundantammunition againsrthe powerful cultural nragicthur continu- subject.iDespiteFoucault'sinitial insistence on wriring the historyofsex-
ally (re)produces the sexualbody as a heteroscxurlbrxly, itrtl itg,rtinst thc uality as a history of bodics,and his later redescriptionof that proiect as
" l ove" i r (' r( l u$i vcl yh( tcro-
honr ophobi lco g i cth l t i n c l u c tl b l yc o rrs tn rcts a historyof t.r'oticsrrbit'ctivity,rhc historyof scxualityhe foundedis often
scxuilttc lts. tundcrskxxlrrsit lristrrry rrcitlrt.rol' lrrxlicsnot of strbicctshut asr hrstoryof
CH A P IIR IH NIT fl Is T O N IC IZ IN G IHE 5UOJICT OF OESIRE

categoriesor representations,a history of the different ways that different Foucault, of course, did not claim that sexuality was a discourse.He
historical cultures have put 'sexuality" (understood as some natural and argued for treating it as a novel social apparatus composed of a vast
timelessfact of life) into "discourse" (understood as language, or artic- and seeminglyheterogeneousmass of discourses,social practices, disci-
ulate speech),In a word, Foucault is thought to have demonstrated that plinary mechanisms,institutional structures,and political agencies,all of
'sexualiry" is, within the horizons of any particular historical culture, a which arose,out of different circumstancesand different contexts, in Eu-
"discourse." rope during the modern period. Theseheterogeneousdiscourses,practices,
I confessthat I have never understood how anyone could seriously be- mechanisms,structures, and agenciescame to form a vast and complex
lieve that sexuality is a discourseor how anyone could attribute such a network, the formation of which corresponded to a dominant strategic
notion to Foucault. To be sure,Foucault's inaugural lecture at the CollEge function (which Foucault called "bio-power," the administration of life).
de France, "The Order of Discourse," is accessiblein English only in a It is this dominant strategic function, uniting and connecting these other-
catastrophic translation by Rupert Swyer, which makes almost no sense wise disparateelements,that provides Foucault with his basisfor claiming
on its own terms and can only have exerciseda disastrous influence on that the whole network constitutesa sin9ledispositif, a single "device" or
English-languagestandardsof acceptabletheory-speak.6But a more dect- "apparatus."e Nonetheless,Foucault's notion has beenwidely understood
sivefactor is doubtlessour penchantfor assimilatingunfamiliar conceptual in such a way as to salvage the non-tecbnical, pre-theoretical meanings
innovations to earlier,deeplyentrenchedhabits of thought. Ifthere is a tide of both "sexuality" and "discourse," rhereby preserving and even rean-
in the affairs of men, as Shakespeare's Brutus says,there is somethinglike imating those meaningswithin an ostensibly Foucauldian framework of
an undertow or a backwash in the fortunes of critical terms and concepts. analysis.
New critical vocabularies are helplesslyoverwhelmed and reabsorbed- Thus, many historians, as well as many scholarsworking in the inter-
or "recuperated," as we used to say, before that term lost its conceptual disciplinary field of lesbian and gay studies, have tended to assumethat
specificity-by older and more familiar ones, while prior epistemologies the principal achievementof Foucault's History of Sexuality was to have
and methodologiescontinually resurfacewithin the intellectualframework provided a preciseand detailed account of how yarious socletiesrepresent
of even the most radical innovations. sexuality in their discourses,as if sexuality wele some ubiquitous natu-
Those of us who rypically dependfor our understandingof concemPo- ral realiry outside of, or even prior to, discourse and as if discourse it-
rary critical conceptson what Northrop Frye once called "the psychology self were some wholly transparent cognitive or linguistic medium, rather
of rumor"T may often find ourselvestempted to believe that we can m- than a highly specialized,evolved, and evolving technology for producing
fer the meaning of a new term from its recognizablelexical associations, truths. That tendency to treat Foucault's stanling determination to write
from its ostensiblesemantic adiacencyto other words with which we are the history of sexualiry "from the viewpoint of a history of discourses"l0
already conversant.That tendencyproducesa kind of terminological drift as if such a project amounted to nothing more than a banal preoccupa-
whereby rhe vocabulary coined to articulate conceptual advancesis grad- tion with the representation of sexualiry /z discourse has had the effect of
ually resignifieduntil it ultimately comesto designatethe very conceptsit authorizing the (re)production, under the apparent aegis of Foucauldian
was invented to displace.The most spectacularrecent casualty of such a historicism, of an entire seriesof ancient positivistic distinctions between
processis of course Deconstruction, which in its current usagehas come material things and mental representations,objectsand words, bodiesand
to mean very nearly the same thing as the New Criticism: common aca- minds, nature and culture-precisely those metaphysicaldichotomiesthat
demic parlance has detachedthe verb "to deconstruct" from its original Foucault's radical holism had in fact enabled him, and might have en-
meaningand investedit insteadwith a seriesof progressively---or,perhaps abled other historians of sexuality, to evade.A secondeffect o{ attributing
it would be rnore accurateto sayrregressively-normalizing significations, to Foucault such pre-Foucauldian conceptionsof both sexuality and dis-
starting with "demystify," ranging through "dismantle," "criticize," and course has beento allow his would-be followers to resume their old habit
"atalyze," and devolving finally into "unpack," "explicate," or even srm- of situating historical ruptures merely wirhin sexualcarcgoriesrather than
ply'explain." Likewise, "intertextuality" has becomelinle more than a within sexual subjects themselvesand thus to license them to continue
pretentiouseguivalentto "literary allusion"or "sourcecriticisnr,"asJulia speakingand thinking of pre-modern sexualformations as "sexualities"-
Kristevacomplainedalreadytwo decadesago.3 as quaint historicalvariants,that is, of a timelessand universalentity.
CH A P T E R T HREE
89

And yet Foucault himself famously contendedthat what we call sexuality its distinctive shapeand irs fundamentally radical design.r3Such a concep-
nowadays is in fact a distinctively modern, bourgeoisproduction, that rt tion still representsalmost as decisivea rupture with customafy modern
is not some biological or physiological reality but an unprecedented,his- ways of thinking about sexuality as it did when Foucault first formulared
torically specific deviceldispositif) for the organization of subjectivities, it nearly three decadesago.
social relations, and knowledges-"a great surface network," as he puts To be sure, Foucault himself was not always so unambiguous about
it, "in which the stimulation of bodies,the intensifrcationof pleasures,the thesematters as one might have liked. In the earlier and more accessible
incitement to discourse,the formation ofspecial knowledges,the strength- portions of the 6rst volume of his History of Sexuality, he speaksfreely
ening of controls and resistances,are linked to one another, in accordance oI "rhe mise en discours of sex," of "regulating sex through useful and
with a few major strategiesof knowledge and power." 11 public discourses,"and more generallyof "discourseon" or "about sex'-
Foucault's attempt to refute what be calls 'the repressivehypothesis" therebygiving his incautious readerthe possibleimpressionthat sex some-
is continuous with that claim. The targets of his anti-Lacanian critique how pre-exists the discoursesof sexuality.la Later in the same voluurc,
are not limited ro the conventional image of the Victorian era as a period however,he goesout of his way to argue that "sex" itself, far from being a
in which the discoursesof sex were oppressivelysilencedinsteadof explo- pre-discursivefact-the raw marerial of sexuality, as it were-is a product
sivelyproduced or to the conceptualizationof power as a force of negation of sexuality, an elementinternal to its discursiveoperation: "We must not
and prohibition instead of as a force of production and possibility. What situate sex on the side of reality, and sexuality on that of confused ideas
Foucault also aimed to contest by meansof his attack on'the repressive and illusions; sexualiryis a very real hisrorical configuration'; indeed, "the
hypothesis" was the common replesentation of sexuality as an eternal, apparatusof sexuality, with its different strategies,was what put in place"
universal presencein history, a cultural invariant, the flamboyant histor the very notion of sex.1r
cal variations of which supposedlyreflected only the differential impact
on sexuality of the various mechanismsemployed in different societies
to r€pressit; such a representationof sexuality, as Foucault remarks in
The Use of Pleasure,has the unfortunate effect of situating desireoutside In order to demonstratethat the history of sexuality, at its most adventur-
the field of human history altogether.l2By contrast, Foucault refused to ous, can be a history of erotic subjectivity, nor simply of sexual classifica-
consider sexuality or desireexterior to historical configurations of power, tions, categories,or representations,and in order to anchor a hisrory of the
knowledge, and subjectiviry. body in the history of erotic subjecrivity,I propose to look at some lirerary
The history of sexuality, as Foucault conceivedit, then, is not a history texts from the ancientworld whose potential contribution to the history of
of the representations,categories,cultural articulations, or collective and sexuality hasyet to be fully realized.My chief exhibit will be a late antique
individual expressionsof some determinate entity called sexuality but an Greek text, entitled the Er6tes (rhe'Loves," the "Forms of Desire," or, as
inquiry into the historical emergenceof sexuality itself, an attempt to ex- A. M. Harmon somewhat quaintly renders it, the "Affairs of the Heart"),
plain how it happenedthar in the eighteenthand nineteenthcentuliessexu- which has been preserved in medieval manuscripts among the wririugs
ality gradually came into existenceas a conjunction ofstrategies for order- of Lucian. Stylistic considerations,however, apparently prohibit ascribing
ing social relations, authorizing specializedknowledges, licensing expert the work to the authorship of that well-known Greek satirist; the text,s
interventions,intensifying bodily sensations,normalizing erotic behaviors, most recen! editor and translator, M. D. Macleod, attributes it to a lare
multiplying sexualperversions,policing personalexpressions,crystallizing antique imitator of Lucian and assignsit to the early fourth century e.o.,
political resistances,motivating introspectiveufterances,and consuucting although his dating of the text has beendisputed.l6Detachedat one stroke
human subjectivities.Sexuality, in the last analysis,is thus an apparatus by this scholarly sleight of hand from any specificgeographical,politicar,
for constituting human subjects.It is Foucault's concern with th€ consti- or cultural context, and long relegatedto the academicoblivion of Latin
tution of the subject rather than with the production of sexual categories dissertations, to the embarrassed silencesofclassicalphilologists,or to the
or classifications,his resolveto use the hisrory of scxuitlityirs ir means rccreationalrcirdirrgof borcclgraduatestudentsin classics(which is how
of inquiry into thc modalitiesof human subjcctivirtiott-rts:trtcxcrciscin | 6rst cnc()ltntcrc(l it), tlris rrrrorryrrrous liftle work deservcsnonetheless to
histtticizing thc stlricct oI dasirt-thtt intp:rrtsto ltis proicrt :tsrt wltolc rrcql ri rci r P ror t lir r crPlir
r t r , riI. or r r cr r cr . ginghist or . ics
of scxullit y, : r nclin
CH A P T E T IHRET H IST O IIC IZ IN G TH E S I J B J E C T OF DEsIRE

1984 it in fact provided Foucault with the vehicle for a characteristically interpretation deal with the issuesof identity and difference that it raises?
subtleand brilliant analysisin a late chapter of Le souci de sol.17Foucault's It is fairly evident (as I hope to show) that rhe dialogue in question cannot
chief purpose was to contextualize the Er6tes, along with the opinions be understood straightforwardly or unproblematically as a debate over
expressedin it, in the philosophical currents of late antiquity-the only the relative merits of "homosexual and heterosexuallove."2aAt the same
possiblehistorical and cultural context for it that can now be recovered. time, it is clearly difficult for those of us who are (or who at least funcuon
I have a different, and admittedly cruder, purpose in view, as will appear as if we were) the inheritors of the Kinsey scale to conceive of exclusrve
presently. preferencefor male or female sexual contacts except in terms of sexual
The Er6tes is a notably sophisticatedand elegantspecimenof late an- orientation.2sIs it possible for us to think exclusive sexual object-choice
tique luxury literature. Taking the form of a philosophical dialogue, but outside the terms of 'sexualiry"? Are their other ways of conceptualizing
designedto mock the moral pretensionsand austereposturesof traditionat sexual preference?And how can a reading of the Er6tes today manageto
philosophers (especiallythe supposedly high-minded, Platonizing advo- preservea senseof the cultural specificiry of the sexual system reflected
catesof boy-lovelr who by late antiquity had becomestock figuresof fun in in it, and prevent that systemfrom being overwhelmed and colonized by
the elotic literature of Greece),1ethe work featuresa debatebetweentwo modern notions of sexuality, without at the sametime red ucing the Er6tes
men, Charicles and Callicratidas, over the relative merits of women and to a mere antiquarian curiosity and pleventing it from functioning posr-
boys as vehiclesof male sexual pleasure.As such, it belongsto a widely tively in the context of contemporary anti-homophobic politics?
distributed genre of erotic writing, which is representedin the surviving A third questionpresentsitself more particularly to the historian ofsex-
literature of the ancient world by Plll.arch's Eroticus and by an extended uality. How can a historically precisereading of a pre-modern text help us
passagein Leucippe and Cleitophon, a late Greek romance, or novel, by to arrive at a more systematicconceptual distinction berweenan indiyrd-
Achilles Tatius.'?oSimilar debatescan be found in medieval European and ual's establishedsexualobject-choice,or evena consciouserotic preference
Arabic literatures, in late imperial Chineseliterature, and in the literature for a sexual object ofone sex rather than another, and homosexuality and
of "the floating world," the luxury literature of town life in seventeenth- heterosexuality,conceivedas categoriesof psychosexualorientation? Can
century Japan.2l we us€ the text of the El6tes ao document historical instancesor repre-
In the ancient Greek context, however, the existenceof such a genre sentationsof sexual object-choices,and consciouserotic preferences,that
raises a number of provocative issues.For one thing, most Greeks seem nonethelessdo not satisfy modern criteria for sexual orientation or "sex-
routinely to have assumedthat most adult Greek men-whatever therr uality"? If so, we would be able to document a historical ffansformation
particular tastes-were at leastcapable of being sexually arousedboth by not only in the classificationsor categoriesof "sexuality," but in the very
beautiful women and by beautiful boys; as I have noted elsewhere,'it mode ofbeing of sexuality, and in the historical forms of erotic subjectivity
would be a monumental task indeed to enumerateall the ancient docu- themselves.
ments in which the alternative'boy or wornan'occurs with perfect non- It is with thesequestionsin mind that I turn to a reading of the pseudo-
chalancein an erotic context, as if the two were functionally interchange- Lucianic text. My reading, light-hearted as it is, will be an "engaged" one,
able."22In fact, an instance of precisely such a nonchalant approach to and as such, it will have a very limited scope.I am not going to attempt to
matters of sexual object-choicecan be found in the opening chapter of provide a balanceddescription of the Er6les as a whole or to convey much
the Er6tes, in which one adult male speakerurges the other not to omit in the way of aestheticappreciation of the work's admittedly numerous
" mention of any of your passions,whether male or evenfemale" (r ).23One formal and stylistic accomplishments.Nor is it my intention-and, I trust,
question it may be interesting to put to the pseudo-Lucianictext, then, is my reading will not produce this effect-to champion the ancients at the
this: how do exclusive sexual preferenceson the Part of men get conceP- expenseof the moderns or to promote a rhetoric of erotic self-fashioning
tualized and representedin a culture that neither expectsnor enforcesex- over a rhetoric of sexuality; after all, it is not possible to reinstirute the
clusivesexual object-choicein the caseof men?A secondquestion springs ancient Greek sociosexual system, nor, if it were, would I wish to [ve
immediatelyfrom the first. Sincethe dialoguein the Er6les is about asclose under it-for reasons that will emerge shortly. Finally, I am not about
as an antique Greek text ever getsto producing a discussionabout the rel- to undertakea critique (which it would be easyenoughto do) of male
ative valuesof homosexualityand heterosexuality, how shotrlcln moclern sexual privilcgcrrs it pcrmeatesthe world of the text or to analyzethe
C HA P T E R T HREE N IST ( ]R IC IZ IN G TH E S I J S J E C T OF OE5IRE

operationsof gendered,social power as it expressesitself in the adult male familiar one about the supposed naturalness of sex between men and
objectification of both women and boys. Whar I want to do, instead,is to women and the supposedunnaturalness of sex between men and boys,
bring out the cultural specificiryofancient sexualexperiencesand to throw an arBument borrowed in this case directly from Plato's Lauts (835D-
into relief the ideological contingency of what we lightly call "our own" 842A, esp. 8Z6C,8lgAl.23 Calling "luxury" (tryph6l what Callicratidas
sexual practicesand institutions.26The point is not to devisea populariry had called "beauty," Charicles associatesboyJove with eunuchs, with
contestberweenthe anci€nb and the modernsbut to contrast them in order the surgical construction of gender, and he goes on to appeal, in the Pla-
to distinguish more systematicallythe peculiar featuresof their respective tonic manner, to animal behavior for a standard of alleged naturalness
sexual regimes.Furthermore, I want to bring the Er6tes tnto the areta of in matters of sex lzo-zz),2e Callicratidas, however, is unmoved by the
late twentieth-century ideological strugglesover sexual definition and to analogy from animals; he claims that male animals eschewsex with one
dramatize the multiple temporalities that the historian of sexuality inhab- another and copulate with femalespreciselybecausethey are mindless;3o
its. By attempting to make this text contemporary, I wish to place its testi- otherwise, he remarks, "they would not be satisfiedwith solitary lives in
mony at the serviceof various current radical critiques of sexual identity.2T rhe wilderness,nor would they feed on one another, but just like us they
At the sametime, by exploiting the text's cultural distancefrom the world would have built themselvestemples and . . . would live as fellow citizens
that I move in, I wish to problematizesometwenrieth-cenruryassumptions governedby common laws" (16). And to Charicles'assertionthat anatomy
about sexual preference,erotic identity, and the linkages betweenthem. In is destiny, that sex between men and boys is necessarilyone-sidedin irs
short, by confronting the modern Western bourgeoisdistinction between distribution of sexual pleasurewhereas sex between men and women is
hetero- and homosexualiry with the Greek distinction between boys and mutually enjoyable (27), Callicratidas retorts that true reciprocity consists
women as objects of male sexual pleasure,and thereby calling attenhon in the shared erotic life of an ongoing, longJasting relationship (48), not
both to thematic continuities and to discursiveruptures in the history of in who does what to whom. Some o{ those answers to moral obiections
sexuality, I aim to demonstratethe play of identity and differencein queer against gay sex may still prove to be, within certain limited contexts,
historiography. The ultimate effect of this stereoscopic-or dialectical- rhetorically useful today.
procedure, I hope, will be to defamiliarize current sexual behaviors and But despitethe various points of correspondencebetweenthe pseudo-
attitudes and to destabilizethe binary opposition berweenheterosexuality Lucianic debateand modern polemics, or berweenancient misogyny and
and homosexuality that so decisivelysrructurescontemporary discourses its twentieth-century gay male equivalent, a number of factors militate
of homophobia. I will leave more weighry theoretical reflections to the againstinterpreting the argument betweenChariclesand Callicratidas un-
conclusion. problematically as a dispute over the relativ€ merits of heterosexualityand
homosexualiry.Chief among thesefactors is the dialogue'sfocus on paed-
erasty to the virtual exclusion of any mention of either female or adult
male homosexuality.The text contains only one mention of female homo-
The dialogue betweenCharicles and Callicratidas jn the pseudo-Lucianrc sexuality, wholly negative in intent (if subversivelypotent in effect), and
Er6tes sounds a number of themes that will be immediately familiar to eventhat doesnot refer to lesbianismin the modern senseof the word but
modern readers from contemporary debates over the morality, or im- rather to what the writer calls "tribadism"-that is, to the sexual penetra-
morality, of homosexuality. Charicles argues, for example, that men tion of women by other women.3l "If males find intercourse with males
should favor sex with women over sex with boys becauseit conduces acceptable,"exclaims Charicles (the partisan of women), playing what he
to reproduction, renews life, and preservesthe human race from annihi- clearly considers to be his trump card in the argument, "henceforth ler
lation (r9), Callicratidas replies that the very instlumentality of cross-sex women too love one another. . . . Let them strap to themselvescunningly
sexual intercoursefor speciesreproduction is a mark of its unworthiness: contrived instruments of wantonness,those mysterious monstrosities de-
'Anything cultivated for aestheticreasonsin the midst of abundance," he void of seed,and let woman lie with woman as does a man. Let wanton
maintains,"is accompanied wirh greaterhonor than thingswhich require tribadism-that word seldom heard, which I feel ashamedeven to utter-
for their existenceimmediateneed,and beautyis in evcrywiry supcriorto freely paradc itsclf, and let our women's chambers.. . defilethemselves
neccssity"(13).(lonncctcdro thc rrgumentab()utrcProdrrctiolt is rrnothcr am our s" ( 28) . Needless
w i th scxrrlllyindct cr m inat e t o say,Callicr at idas
CH A P IT R T HNEE H IST OR IC IZ IN G TH E S I J B J E C T O F O E S I R T

(the partisan of boys) doesnot rise to his opponent'schallengeand endorse icles assertsthat nature, in implanting in men and women a desirefor one
such forwardlooking proposals. another, sought to polarize the sexesand to distinguish masculine from
'Within
the realm of male eroticism, correspondingly,the Erdresmakes feminine sryles, making males masculine and women {eminine (r9, z8),
absolutelyno allowance for the possibility of sexualrelations among adult his own comportment belies that claim. Just as Callicratidas's habit of
men-for the possibiliry, that is, of "homosexual" rather than merely consorting with boys representseither a symptom or a causeof his hyper-
paederasticlove. Both Chariclesand Callicratidas seemto agreethat adult masculinity, so Charicles' erodc preferencefor women seemsto have had
maleshold not the slightestsexualappeal to other men; the terms in which the correspondingeffect ofeffeminizing him: when the readerfirst encoun-
they expressthat sharedassumptionare revealing,I believe,ofthe distance ters him, for example, Charicles is describedas exhibiting "a skillful use
that separatesthe aestheticand sexual conventions of ancient Mediter- of cosmetics,so as to be attractive to women" (9). Indeed, Greek women,
ranean paederastyfrom the canons of modern American middle-classgay if one is to credit the desiresimputed to them by male authors, seem to
male taste. "If a man makes attempts on a boy of twenty," Charicles (the have liked men who looked young.36(No one in this world, apparently,
paltisan of women) remarks, 'he seemsto me to be pursuing an equiv- would appear to find adult men sexually appealing-which, to my mrnd,
ocal love.32For then the [boy's] limbs, being large and manly, are hard; furnishesa very good reasonfor not trying to revive ancient Greece.)Now
the chins that once were soft are rough and covered with bristles, and cosmeticadornment is itself an indicatively feminine practice (38-4r), and
the well-developedthighs are as it were sullied with hairs. And as for the so Charicleswould seemto have beeninfected by femininiry from his long
parts lessvisible than these,I leave knowledge of them to you who have habit of associatingwith women.37His passionateencomium of women,
tried them" (26).33Each detail in this description of overripe boyhood moreover-his defenseof their claims to be loved by men and his praise
is intended to evoke revulsion and disgust; it is telling that Charicles' of their sexual attractiveness-signals to the iaundiced eyeof Callicratidas
opponent, Callicratidas, has nothing to say by way of refutation of it. No that Charicles has simply enslavedhimself to the causeof women and is
muscle boys or leather daddieswelcome here. entirely at their beck and call: if he were a real man, the implication seems
I should pause at rhis point and describemore fully the two rivals rn to be, he would not allow himself to be so dominated by women as to be
the debate.Callicratidas, the partisan of boys, is an Athenian. He is a man obliged to defend their interestsin public. According to the terms of Greek
of mature age, well establishedin life; his sexual taste bespeaksa stable misogynistic discourse,there would appear to be no distinction between
and settled disposition, not a transition from one identiry to another or a being the champion of women and being their slaye (3o). Compared to
mere "phase" in his psychosexualdevelopment,His sexual "acts" express Callicratidas, then, it is Charicles who is a traitor to his gender, having
a well-establishederotic "identity." Far from being socially marginalized beenled to betray his masculineidentity by the very vehemenceof his sex-
by his openly acknowledgederotic preference,however, Callicratidas is a ual preferencefor women: he has becomewoman-identified. In sho.t, the
leading figure in Athenian public life. Far from being effeminized by his sharply polarizing tendenciesof Greek sexual discoursewould seemto re-
sexual predilection for boys, as the modern "inyersion model" of homo- quire that excessiveliking for women on the part of a man be interpreted
sexual desirewould have it (whereby a man exclusivelyattracted ro males as a sign of deviant, specifically effeminate identity. Such an outlook is
has "a woman's soul in a man's body" or representsa "sexual intermedi- plainly at odds with modern constructions of hetero- and homosexuality
ate" or member of a "third sex"), Callicratidas'sinclination rendershim (which of course is not to say rhat it is unheard of today),r8
hypervirile: he excels,we are told, at those activities traditionally marked
in Greek culture as exclusivelyand characteristicallymasculine-namely,
political life, public oratory, gymnastics(9, z9), and philosophy-and ne
takes as his role models the heroesand philosophersof old ( 46-491.3aCaI- As the precedingaccount implies, neither Callicratidas nor Chariclesis en-
licratidas's sexual desirefor boys, then, makeshim more of a man; it does tirely conventional, by Greek standards,in the matter of his sexual tastes.
not weaken or subverrhis male genderidentity but rather consolidatesit.35 Rather, eachman is somethingofan extremist (5), a zealot whosefanatical
By contrast, Charicles,the partisan ofwomen, is young and handsomc; attachment to his own erotic object-choice-and whose correspondingly
he hails from Corinth, a ciry as traditionally renowned for its colrrtesansas violent revulsionagainstthe sexual objects favored by his opponent-
Athensis renownedfor politicalrhetoricand philosophy,AlthorrghChar- mark him orrr ls pccrrliirrand manifestthemselyesin his enrire style of
I lrlrillll l r lr r H ]s IO R IC IZ IN G INE SUBJECI OF DE5IRE

lllc, Morcrrvcr,citcll rriul's sexualinclination,if not exactly "wrinen im- cide, interestingly enough, in the caseof the famous statue of Aphrodite
or his fnccand body" (asFoucaultsaysof the nineteenth-cenrury
rrrorh'rtly at Cnidus, by the sculptor Praxiteles. Callicratidas, of course, is initially
Ironroscxurl),re is at leastvisibly inscribedin his domesticarrangements. reluctant to view this world-renowned masterpiece,becauseit hasthe form
Olllicratidas, the narrator points out, "was well provided with handsome of a female figure (r r), but even he is struck dumb by the sight of it, while
slave-boysand all ofhis servantswere prety well beardless.They remaineo Chariclesraves over it and even kissesthe statue (r 3 ). When th€ two men
with him till the down first appearedon their faces,but, once any growth inspect the rear of the figure, however, it is Callicraridas's rurn to rave,
cast a shadow on their cheeks,they would be sent away to be stewaros while Charicles stands transfixed with cearspouring from his eyes (r4),
and overseersof his properties at Athens." Charicles,by contrast, "had iD "Heracles!" Callicratidas exclaims,
attendancea large band of dancing girls and singing girls and all his house
was as full of women as if it were the Thesmophoria [a women's religious what a well-proportionedback! What generousflanksshehasl
festival], with not the slightesttrace of male presenceexcept that here and How satisfyingan armful to embrace!How delicatelymoulded
there could be seenan infant boy or a superannuatedold cook whose age the fleshon th€ buttocks,neirhertoo thin and closeto th€ bone,
could give even the jealous no causefor suspicion" (ro). Callicratidas and nor yetrevealingtoo greatan expanse of fat! And asfor thosepre-
Charicles do not represent,then, spokesmenfor abnormal and normal ciouspdrtssealedin on eithersideby the hips,how inexpressibly
sexualities,respecrively:rather, they are both a bit queer. sw€etlytheysmile!4rHow perfecttheproportionsof thethighsand
Nonetheless, each man demonstrates a certain connoisseurship in theshinsestheystretchdownin a straightline to thefeer!Sothat's
speakingabout the good and bad featuresof the sexual objects favored by what Ganymede lookslike ashepoursout thenectarin heavenfor
his rival, a knowingness that bespeaksa broader range of erotic sympa- Zeusand makesit tastesweeter,For I'd neverhavelakenthe cup
thies or a wider sexualexperiencethan one might initially have imputed to from Hebeif sheservedme.
such s€lf-sryledsexualpurists. I have already cited one instance:Charicles' ( r 4)
vivid and sensuouslypreciseevocation of the physical aftributes of a boy
past his prime. Charicles'taste in boys, his ability to judge when a boy Chariclesis hardly in a state to disagree,Such passagesleave one with the
is no longer desirable,his standards for discriminating smoothnessand impression that what endearsboys to Callicraridas and women to Char-
hairiness in youthful cheeksand thighs are confirmed in their inerrancy icles is not a preferred sex or gender but merely certain favorite parts of
by the institutional arrangementsof Callicratidas's household,which (as the human anatomy,
the passagejust quoted makes clear) has well-establishedproceduresfor That impression is strengthenedwhen the two men go on to discover
"graduating" overage,hirsute lads. Chariclesevidently understandswhat that a discoloration of the marble they have noted on the back of the statue
Callicratidas likes and dislikes in a boy. Conversely,Callicratidas betrays was causedby a young man who fell in love with it and who, having ar-
an intimate knowledge of women. His violent denunciation of women's ranged to be locked up alone with the statue at night, had sex with it
cosmeticpractices(38-4r) implies so extensivean acquaintancewith them by stealth (r5-r6).a2 Charicles concludes rhat the feminine eyokes love
that one might imagine him to be a professional beautician-were it not evenwhen carved in stone. Callicratidas, however, observesthat although
that his accusationsbelong to the arsenalof traditional Greek misogyny.ao the amorous youth had the opportunity to glut his entire passion for the
Still, the intenselyvisceralterms in which he avows his disgust (he claims goddessduring an uninterrupted night of love, he chose to make love to
that 'every man [who getsout of a woman's bed] is in immediateneedof a her "as if to a boy" (paidik6s)-that is, from the rear-in order not to
bath" [42]) seemintended to indicate at leastpassingpersonal familianty. be confronted by the female parr of her (r7). (Face-ro-faceintercourse
And his acceptance,however reluctant, of the necessiryof having sexual would have beenpretty hard to bring off, in any case,even if the lover had
relations n/ith women in order to begetoffspring (38) demonstratesthat desiredit, sincePraxiteles'statue-in addition to being made of marble-
he does not regard himself as incapable of consummating a sexual umon was far from anatomically correct. Callicratidas'srejoinder, then, provid€s
with a woman, should the situation call for it. one more indication of the playful, highly sophistical tenor of the whole
On rare occasions,in fact, both Charicles and Callicratidas are able debate.) These passagesconfirm that the quarrel between Charicles and
to agreeabout the attractiverless of a sexualobiect.Thcir rlcsircscoin- Callicratidrscomesdown not to a differencein sexualobiect-choice. to
{ l tA P Iti rHl tE

differing sexualpreferencesor orientations, but rather to a differential lik- homosexualiryin the modern sensebut a disagreementover the resPective
ing for particular human body parts, independentof the sex of the person advantagesand disadvantagesof different "avenues of sexual pleasure"
who possesses them. (cf- z7) and different stylistics of personal life. The alternativespresented
The specificargumentsthat the two men use in order to establishthe by the two disputants delineate sexual options aPparently available, in
putative superiority of their preferred sexual obiect display, accordingly' principle at least, to any free adult Greek male, such that anyone-no
what modern middle-classreaderswill be apt to find not only unpersuasive matter how set in his ways-might plausibly be thought at least capable
but positively bizarre srylesof reasoning.That is becausemost bourgeors of entenaining those options, if not necessarilyeagerto explore them
Westernersnowadays tend to think of sexual obiect-choiceas an expres- Here. then, are nine considerations we can derive from the pseudo-
sion of individual "sexualiry,' a 6xed sexual disposition or orientation, Lucianic text that combine to make it look very queer indeed, especially
over which no one has much (if any) control and for which reasonscannot if we view it as a debate about the relative merits of homosexuality and
be given: any reasonsone might give for one's sexual object-choiceseemto heterosexuality:{r) the text's emphasison paederastyto the exclusion of
be mere afterthoughts,adventitiousrationalizations,late cognitive arriYals homosexuality (whose existence,apparently, is not even recognized);(z)
on the sceneof sexual speciation;reasonsfollow the fact of one's sexuat the masculinization of the paederastand the effeminization of the lover of
being and do not determineor constitute it. Thus, sexual preferenceis not women; (3)the paederast'slack of social marginalization; (4) the shared
something that one can be argued logically out of or into-least of all by queernessof both interlocutors; (s) the ability of each interlocutor to put
considerationsof utility or convenience.And yet, those are precisely the himself in the erotic subiect position of the other; (5) their common know-
sorts of considerationsthat Chariclesinvokes in order to demonstratethat ingnessabout both women and boys; (7) the paederast'scaPacifyto eroti-
women are superior vehiclesof male sexualpleasure.For example,women cizeelementsof the human anatomy independentlyof the sex ofthe person
have more sexual orifices than do boys, Charicles observes;hence, it ts whose anatomy is being eroticized;(8) the lover of women's utilitarian ap-
possiblefor men to make use of women 'even more like boys than boys" peal to quantitative factors as a basisfor calculating relative sexual value;
and, finally, (9) both men's treatment of sexual object-choiceas a matter
\paidik6teron-;.e., by two methodsof penetration insteadof merely one),
thereby availing themselvesof "twin paths to sexual pleasure," whereas of taste.The coniunction of all nine of those considerations(which, taken
"a male has no way of bestowing the pleasure a woman gives" (27),ar individually, might be paralleledin modern bourgeoisexperience)suggests
And here is yet another considerationof a practical nature: women, unlike that whatone is dealingwith in the Erdfes is somethingquite different from
boys, can be enioyed for a protracted period of time. "From maidenhood a systemof "sexuality," in the modern senseof that modern word. And so
to middle age, before the time when the last wrinkles of old age spread our readingof the text ought to caution us againstidentifying stablesexual
over her face, a woman is a pleasantarmful for a man to embrace," Char- object-choiceor consciouserotic preferencewith contemporary notions of
icles points out (25), adding-a bit wishfully, perhaps-that a woman's sexuality or sexual orientation.
body (unlike a boy's) remains anractively hairlessas shegrows older (25).
Callicratidas does not dispute those assertionsrbut counters instead with
a lengthy polemic about the superiority of art to narure (1y36t I qltoted
an excerpt from it at the outset of my discussion)'{ In order to make senseof the quarrel between Charicles and Callicrati-
Vhat all this evidenceindicates,finally-and here is the pay-off for the das in modern terms, it may be helpful to think of it somewhat along the
historian-is that the anonymous author of the pseudo-LucianicEr6as lines of a passionatedebateover dietary object-choicebetweena commit-
approachesthe question of male sexual object-choicenot as a matter of ted vegetarian and an unreconstructedomnivore----or,to employ a more
sexual orientation but rather as a matter of taste: the sort of thing that, as ludicrous (and therefore a more exact) analogy, berween someone who
everyoneknows, there's no disputing, and that everyoneiust loves ro dis- eam norhing but vegetablesand someonewho eats nothing but meat. It
pute. (As W, H. Auden wrote in 1936, 'Who can ever praise enough The is a quarrel that springs not from fundamental differencesin kind among
world of his belief?')4J The quarrel beween Charicles and Callicratidas human beings but from the dissimilar values, ideals, and preferred sryles
over the relative merits of women and boys asvehiclesof male sexual plea- of life that othcrwiscsinrilarhuman beingshappen(for whateverreason)
sure is not an argumentabout the relativemerits of hctcroscrxttnlity and to havecsporrscd.a" lt is thcrcforcr disputcabout the very sortsof things
C IIA P T 'R II{ REE I]ISIO R IC IZ II{C TH E S I I B J E C T O T D E S I TE

that people tend to argue about most heatedly-namely, their basiccom- Vhich is to be preferred:A girl of elevenor twelvescrurinizing
mitments. No matter how basicsuch commitmentsmay be, however, they herselfin a mirror, or a boy of the sameagecleaninghis teeth?
are susceptibleof being criticized or debated precisely becausethey de- Lying rejectednext to a courtesan,or conversingintimately
rive from what people believeand value, not from u'hat or who they are. with a kabukiboy who is sufferingfrom hemorrhoids?
The probability of one disputant actually convincing the other to alter his Caringfor a wife with tuberculosis, or keepinga youth who
basic comrnitments, and to alter the behavior that follows from them. rs constantlydemandsspendingmoney?
admittedly slim, but by citing various reasonsor adducing various con- Havinglightningstriketheroomwher€you areenioyinga Doy
siderations each disputant can nurture the (no doubt foredoomed) hope acroryou bought,or beinghandeda razor lsy a courtesanyou
that his interlocutor may come one day to look at things from his own hardlyknow who asksyou to diewith her?
perspective.Vithout the conviction tbat the available options admit of
right choicesand wrong choices,that those choicesare open to everyone The choice is evidently not a difficult one: "In each caseabove," Saikaku
to make, and that one's own choiceis indeed the correct one, one has lime concludeswith a partisanship so extreme as to be ludicrous and therefore
motiye to get worked up over the issue-and uncommitted onlookers have self-canceling,"even if the woman were a beauryof gentle disposition and
little causeto find the dispute amusingor entertaining.Suchis not the case the youth a repulsivepug-nosedfellow, it is a sacrilegeto speak of female
with sexuality nowadays.That is why modern debatesover the respective love in the same breath with boy love. . . . The only sensiblechoice is to
merits of various sexual orientations, even when they take place (if they dispensewith women and turn instead to men."aE
ever do) without an explicit or implicit element of anti-gay violence,tend Vhat the pseudo-Lucianic Er6tes shares with Tbe Great Mirror of
to have an entirely different character from the sexual debatesstaged by Male Loue, besidesits evident misogyny, is its combination of literary
ancient Greek writers: modern argumentsare more like argumentsabout gamesmanshipand sexual connoisseurship:it playfully explores various
whether it is better to be a peasantor a king-matters possibleto dispute possibilitiesof sexual pleasure,presenting the (implied male) reader with
in principle but impossible to do anything about in actual practice. The specificsetsof alternative options for achievingerotic enjoyment and per-
practical outcome of such arguments,in orhe! words, is always foreclosed sonal satisfaction. Perhaps the final surprise that the Er6tes has to offer
from the start, which makes them, at best, "forlorn / Yet pleasing," as the modern historian of sexualiry is its dramatization of the absurdity
Shelleyputs it, "such as once, so poets tell, / The devils held within tne of the very notion of exclusive sexual object-choice, whether homo- or
dalesof Hell, / Concerning God, freewill and destiny."aT hetero-. It is not that Greek malesexhibited on the whole a different "sex-
'What
exactly is ar stake in the quarrel berween Charicles and Calli- uality" from modern American men of the professionalclasses,if one may
cratidas may be easierto grasp if the Er6res is situated in its wider genenc judge solely on the basisof rhis one text (which, of course,it would be ex-
context and compared to another text from an analogouscultural tradi- tremely hazardousto do in the absenceofcorroborating documentation).4e
tion, namely, The Great Mirror of Male Love by the seventeenth-century Rather, the Greeks exhibited no "sexuality" at all, in the modern sense,
Japanesewrirer Ihara Saikaku. Published in Osaka and Kyoto on New Not only are the very notions of "sexuality" and "sexual orientation" en-
Year's Day, 1687, The Great Mirror contains forty tales of exemplary tirely foreign to the world of this text: to the extent that the text can even
love between men and boys. Its opening chapter iustifies the choice of accommodate such notions-to the extent that it can represent human
subject by means of twenty-three comparisons of women to boys, each types who roughly approximate modern hetero- and homosexual males-
of them designedto champion the latter at the expenseof the former ano it treats them as outlandish and bizarre. Merely to have a 6xed sexual
to establish the relative advanragesof boys as vehiclesof male pleasure. obiect-choiceof any kind is to be some sort of freak, apparently-a figure
'!7hat
setsoff thesealternativesfrom the argumentsof Callicratidas is that of fun whose foredoomed efforts at rationalizing his exclusivepreference
they are couchedentirely in negativeterms. That is, instead of purporting provide amusementand relaxation for one's fellow man (5, zg, j3).i0
to demonstratestraightforwardly that the love of boys is superior to the Despite all rhe sound and {ury of their polemics, then, Charicles and
love of women, Saikaku's comparisonsshow rhat when affairs go badly, Callicratidas actually agreeabout the fundamentals.They certainly resem-
boyJove is on the whole lessvexatious.Here is how Saikaku'sargumenr ble each othcr more than either resemblesa modern homosexual or het-
Degrns: eroscxuillnitlc (who, corlcspondingly,resembles his moderncounterpart
C HA P T E R T HRIE H ISIO N IC IZ IN G TH E S U O J E C T OF DE5IRt

more than he resembleseither Charicles or Callicratidas). Like the puta- of a metaphorical project. As such, sexuality rePlesentsa seizure of the
tive differencesof gender that supposedlydistinguish the two lovebirds body by a historically unique apparatus for producing historically specific
representedon the United States "LovE" stamp, the putative differences forms of subiectivity. What I have tried to do through my reading of the
of sexual orientation that seemto distinguish Charicles and Callicratioas pseudo-LucianicEr6tes is to confront the ancient discoursesof erotic self-
are largely an optical (that is, a semiotic) illusion-an effect ofculturalper- fashioning with the modern discoursesof sexuality in otder to dramatize
spective:the two disputants, like the rwo lovebirds, are mirror-oppositcs, the differencesbetweenthem and to make visible the historical dimensions
which is co say that their basic outlook on the relation between sexuar of that supposedlyahistorical and universal entity called "the body"-to
preferenceand erotic identity is prery much the same.Charicles and Cal- historicize that discursive space in which modern bio-power constructs
licratidas are doubtlessa very odd couple, but in their own way they are "the body" as the "natural" ground of the desiring subject. One aim, and
made for each other.Jl (l hope) one effect, of my interpretative strategy will be to contribute, in-
sofar as scholarship can, to the task of reconstituting the body as a po-
tential site of cultural activism and political resistance.If the sexual body
is indeed historical-if there is, in shon, no orgasm without ideology-
If my interpretation of the pseudo-LucianicEr6tes proves to be persua- perhapsongoing inquiry into the politics of pleasurewill serve to deepen
sive, I shall have managed to provide at least some support for Michel the pleasures,as well as to widen the possibilities,of politics.
Foucault's proposition that sexuality is not lodged in our bodies, in our
bormones,or in our genitals but residesin our discursiveand institutional
practicesas well as in the experiencesthat they construct. Bodies do not
come with ready-madesexualities.Bodiesare not even attracted to other
bodies.s2Itis human subjects,rather, who are attracted to various objects,
including bodies,and the featuresof bodiesthat render them desirableto
human subjects are contingent on the cultural codes, the social conven-
tions, and the political institutions thar structure and inform human sub-
jectivity itself, thereby shapingour individual erotic idealsand defining for
us the scopeof what we find attractive. Modern cultural modes of inter-
pellating Europeanand American bourgeoissubjectstypically occludethat
processof sexual subjectivation,prompting us to misrecognizeit as a bro-
physical process-and thus to interpret the 'sexuality effects" produced
in our bodies as the collective sign of an intrinsically and irreducibly bod-
ily event. As D. A. Miller has reminded us, "All the deploymentsof the
'bio-power' that characterizesour modernity depend on the supposition
that the most effective take on the subiect is rooted in its body, insinu-
ated within this body's 'naturally given' imperatives. Metaphorizing the
bod.y begins and ends uitb literalizing tbe meanings tbe body is tbts made
to bear." 5J
But just becauserhat deployment of bio-power which we call sexuality
rnakes use of our bodies as sites for the production of sexuality effects-
in the form of literalized bodily meanings-we neednot therefore assume
that sexualiryitself is a literal, or natural, reality.Rarher,sexr,rality is a
mode of human subjectivationthat operatesin part by figurirrgthc body
as the litcraland by prcssingthc hody'ssupposctllitcrrtlityirtto thc scrvicc