I’ve just started reading Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence, and it’s maybe the first time I’ve ever considered not finishing a book all the way through. It’s not that I’m incredibly outraged or offended - although I do find it to be largely ridiculous - it’s that she has a penchant for sweeping generalizations and fantastical metaphors and images that prevents me from attempting to understand her views. It amazes me that she can discuss homosexuality for no more than a paragraph before just bluntly stating, as though complete fact, that “…the male homosexual is one of the great forgers of absolutist western identity. But of course, nature has won, as she always does, by making disease the price of promiscuous sex” (p15).
There are just so many complete denials of modern understandings of biology in that brief statement that I don’t have an idea of where to begin. First of all, homosexuality is not at all a solely Western phenomenon, it’s not even a human one: homosexuality is widespread across the majority of species/geographical locations. Secondly, homosexuality is overwhelmingly accepted by psychologists - and most other sane people in this world - as not being a “personal choice.” People are not conditioned to by gay or straight, it’s an innate desire. Sure, one can argue that the state of one’s culture - the behaviours that are considered socially acceptable in one’s society - plays a role in the prevalence or popularity of homosexuality in one’s culture, but that’s exactly it - it only serves to encourage or decourage people from acting on urges that already exists. If homosexuality is accepted in a society, it’ll of course be more prevalent for the simple fact that individuals will feel safer, and more free to practise it. Most heterosexual people would not suddenly devote themselves to a life of homosexuality in order to create a “rebel” identity for themselves. Considering the hardship and hatred they’d face, why would they?
Moreover, the second sentence of the quote, in which Paglia had the gull to say that nature had in the end “of course” won by “…making disease the price of promiscuous sex,” is what really pushed my to write this. I don’t think that people who follow me even need me to explain why this is ridiculous, but here it is put concisely: her statement is incredibly presumptuous and inherently flawed through its attempt to be so sensational. How could anyone writing in the 90’s base an argument on the fact that homosexuals are vastly more promiscuous than their equally as sexual heterosexual counterparts? Let alone imply that “nature” created HIV in order to punish and regulate? I could go on and on about this, but I think the vast stupidity of the quote speaks for itself.
The ridiculousness of these sorts of sweeping statements, which she manages to vomit into print quite frequently, is making it extremely difficult to get through her writing.
Thanks for listening, rant over.