[PDF/EBOOK] (The Trouble with Normal Sex Politics and the Ethics of ueer Life) BY Michael Warner
Seeds of the Spirit 2000 eEnt of the fag hag label There are almost as many kinds of relationship as there are people in combination Where there are patterns we learn them from other ueers not from our parents or schools or the state Between tricks and lovers andxes and friends and fuckbuddies and bar friends and bar friends tricks and tricks bar friends and gal pals and companions in the life ueers have an astonishing range of intimacies Most have no labels Most receive no public recognition Many of these relations are difficult because the rules have to be invented as we go along Often desire and unease add to their intensity and their unpredictability They can be complex and bewildering in a way that arouses fear among many gay people and tremendous resistance and resentment from many straight people Who among us would give them up If there is such a thing as a gay way of life it consists in these relations a welter of intimacies outside the framework of professions and institutions and ordinary social obligations Straight culture has much to learn from it and in many ways has already begun to learn from it ueers should be insisting on teaching these lessons Instead the marriage issue as currently framed seems to be a way of denying recognition to these relations of streamlining ueer relations into the much less troubling division of couples from friends 115 6He thinks many of most of marriage s benefits could be xtended to other kinds of households and intimate relations healthcare and tax uality for single people Rights associated with property sharing can be xtended to all cohabiting arrangements x lovers relatives long term intimate friends Loyal to His Lies etcetera Rights relating to immigration parenting rights rights to bring wrongful death actions and the prohibition against spousal testimony can bextended to powerful intimate commitments including domestic partners legal concubinage common law relations Child custody can be linked to care relations Even in the place of just divorce different dissolution options might be provided for different relationships 118 120These are important The Favorite Daughter enough but only occupy three pages Themphasis is on the variety of forms of living that already Fitness for Geeks exist and denied by the focus on marriage alone The central thrust is that there s an actual culture of gay sexuality not just an unthinking instinctive innate sexuality but a culture where information denied by heterosexual life is providedxperimented with and achieved Instead of couching defenses in privacy and non judgement these life forms have to be regarded as building a fully populated world of on intertwined people a public cultureThe sexual cultures of gay men and lesbians are after all cultures in ways that are often forgotten specially when they are treated simply as a mass of deviants looking for hormonally driven release They recognize themselves as cultures with their own knowledges places practices languages and learned modes of feeling The naive belief that sex is simply an inborn instinct still xerts its power but most gay men and lesbians know that the sex they have was not innate nor ntirely of their own making but learned learned by participating in scenes of talk as well as of fucking One learns both the laborated codes of a subculture with its rituals and typologies topbottom butchfemme and so on but also simply the improvisational nature of unpredicted situations As ueers we do not always share the same tastes or practices though often nough we learn new pleasures from others What we do share is an ability to swap stories and learn from them to nter new scenes not Naked Choke entirely of our own making to know that in these contexts it is taken for granted that people are different that one can surprise oneself that one s task in the face of unpredicted variations is to recognize the dignity inach person s way of surviving and playing and creating to recognize that dignity in this context need not be purchased at the high cost of conformity or self amputation Within this ueer world we recognize usually tacitly that the norms of the dominant culture would uash the scene we re participating in It is therefore best understood as a counterpublic Its openness accessibility and unpredictability are all marks of its publicness 177 8It isn t just discrete pairs of people interacting that creates this world but objects too Pornography particularly in the age before the internet was a valuable source of information particuarly for the marginalized and was therefore of value after all Autonomy reuires than civil liberty it reuires the circulation
and accessibility of sexual knowledge along with the public laboration of a social world that can make less alienated accessibility of sexual knowledge along with the public laboration of a social world that can make less alienated possible 171 2 But these objects and spaces were than just sources of informationPornography and adult businesses jeopardize the amnesias separating sex and public culture in large part because of their physical orientation toward an indefinite
public they are media of acknowledgment Having been reared in the bosom of Jesus I never it happens saw gay porn they are media of acknowledgment Having been reared in the bosom of Jesus I never it happens saw gay porn I began graduate school I had had sex with men for years on the side but I didn t think I was gay I thought I was just wicked The first porn images I saw in a magazine belonging to a friend set me suddenly to think I could be gay Why did those pictures trigger my recognition when years of sleeping with men somehow didn t It s because the men in the pictures were not only doing what I wanted to do they were doing it with a witness the camera Or rather a world of witnesses including the infrastructure for producing distributing selling and consuming these texts This whole world #Could Be Concretized In #be concretized in like Christopher Street or Times Suare but also in the formal language of pornography In order for the porn to Murder at the Mansion exist not only did some of its producers have to have gay sex they and many others had to acknowledge that they were having it What is traded in pornographic commerce is not just speech privately consumed it is publicly certifiable recognition This is part of the meaning ofvery piece of porn and what is difficult to communicate in the dominant culture is that the publicity of porn has profoundly different meanings for nonnormative sex practices When it comes to resources of recognition ueers do not begin on a level playing field 184 5Warner does not preclude criticism of these worlds Of course risky behaviour is often irrational and poorly throught through But those committed to addressing this should begin by taking seriously the reality of this world and its different values and definitions of health Doing this might ven reveal that what might have seemed like problems can sometimes be so much The ueerness that is repressed in this view may be finding xpression in risk Sex has long been associated with death in part because of its sublimity There is no sublimity without danger without the scary ability to imagine ourselves and Seductive Surrender everything we hold dear at least for a moment as relatively valueless In this context the pursuit of dangerous sex is not as simple as mere thrill seeking or self destructiveness In many cases it may represent deep and mostly unconscious thinking about desire and the conditions that make life a value 213Most poetic is the description of ueer life in these spaces which at their bestmphasis mine used the awareness of commonly shared sexual shame to build a space that opposed hierarchies and stood in perpetual openness to learning from those traditionally cast down outsideIn those circles where ueerness has been most cultivated the ground rule is that one doesn t pretend to be above the indignity of sex And although this usually isn t announced as an Seductive Surrender (Highland Heather Romancing a Scot, ethical vision that s what it perversely is In ueer circles you are likely to be teased and abused until you grasp the idea Sex is understood to be as various as the people who have it It is not reuired to be tidy normal uniform or authorized by the government This kind of culture is often denounced as relativist self indulgent or merely libertine In fact it has its own norms its own way of keeping people in line I call its way of life anthic not only because it is understood as a better kind of self relation but because it is the premise of the special kind of sociability that holds ueer culture together A relation to others in these contexts begins in an acknowledgment of all that is most abject and least reputable in oneself Shame is bedrock 35You learn that veryone deviates from the norm in some context or other and that the statistical norm has no moral value You begin to recognize how stultifying the faith in the norm can be You learn that the people who look most different from you can be by virtue of. D normalcy are bad not just for the gays but for veryone In place of sexual status uo Warner offers That fact the very people from whom you have the most to learn Your lot is cast with them and you begin to recognize that there are other worlds of interaction that the mass media cannot comprehend worlds that they can only deform when they project images of ghettos and other deviant scenes To seek out ueer culture to interact with it and learn from it is a kind of public activity It is a way of transforming oneself and at the same time helping to laborate a commonly accessible world 70 1For this reason paradoxically the thic of ueer life is actually truer to the core of the modern notion of dignity than the usual use of the word is Dignity has at least two radically different meanings in our culture One is ancient closely related to honor and fundamentally an thic of rank It is historically a value of nobility It reuires soap Real state doesn t hurt The Deepest Sin either The other is modern and democratic Dignity in the latter sense is not pomp and distinction it is inherent in the human You can t in a way not have it At worst others can simply fail to recognize your dignity These two notions of dignity have opposite implications for sex The most common judgments about sex assign dignity to some kinds married heterosexual private loving as long as they are out of sight while all other kinds of sex are no dignified than defecating in public and possibly less so That kind of dignity we might as well call bourgeois propriety In what I am calling ueer culture however there is no truck with bourgeois propriety If sex is a kind of indignity then we re all in it together And the paradoxical result is that only when this indignity of sex is spread around the room leaving no one out and in fact binding people together that it begins to resemble the dignity of the human 36 A comprehensive and incisivexcoriation of same sex marriage as a movement for gay liberation Warner s investigations of the interactions between gay shame and a push for same sex marriage see also Mattilda Bernstein Syca and Benjamin Shepard is a useful lens to xplore the millions of dollars and volunteer hours going almost xclusively to same sex marriage advocacy at the xpense of issues that arguably have a larger impact on the day to day lives of most ueer and trans folks from health care to housing to gentrificationThis latter trend which pits rich white gays and lesbians toward whom the advocacy organizations like the Human Rights Campaign are oriented against their less wealthy ueer and trans sisters and brothers assumes all the currency when reading gay assimilationist author activists like Michael Signorile Dan Savage and Larry Kramer who regardless of their counter cultural shock approaches are nonetheless reinforcing ideas of middle class normalcy as the long awaited future for ueers Warner differs and offers a radical notion of sexual autonomy and sexual thics in their stead Though Warner seems somewhat unaware of the liberation theories advanced before him by radical feminists like Judith Butler and John Stoltenberg trans theorists like Riki Wilchins and race theoristshistorians like Robin DG Kelley his critiue of and within the ueer community is well deserved A comprehensive and incisive xcoriation of same sex marriage as a movement for gay liberation Warner s investigations of the interactions between gay shame and a push for same sex marriage see also Mattilda Bernstein Syca and Benjamin Shepard is a useful lens to xplore the millions of dollars and volunteer hours going almost xclusively to same sex marriage advocacy at the xpense of issues that arguably have a larger impact on the day to day lives of most ueer and trans folks from health care to housing to gentrification This latter trend which pits rich white gays and lesbians toward whom the advocacy organizations like the Human Rights Campaign are oriented against their less wealthy ueer and trans sisters and brothers assumes all the currency when reading gay assimilationist author activists like Michael Signorile Dan Savage and Larry Kramer who regardless of their counter cultural shock approaches are nonetheless reinforcing ideas of middle class normalcy as the long awaited future for ueers Warner differs and offers a radical notion of sexual autonomy and sexual thics in their stead Though Warner seems somewhat unaware of the liberation theories advanced before him by radical feminists like Judith Butler and John Stoltenberg trans theorists like Riki Wilchins and race theoristshistorians like Robin DG Kelley his critiue of and within the ueer community is well deserved 15 stars The main arguments of this book in my own words because I do not njoy Warner s Humanization should be achievable without assimilation In an ffort to gain In some ways a late polemic in the vs R wars of the 1980s inside the gay community an attack on assimilationism Warner s The Trouble With Normal is also a fine meditation on the costs of the idea of normal itself on how defining some lives as normal always xcludes and demonizes others Warner makes the key point that in mass democracies like the US and Le valeureux guerrier especially in the mass media saturated US statistically prevalent is made toual normal and assigned moral value to be normalmoral is to be just like Snowflakes on the Sea everyonelse He argues that it s not just a political mistake for the gay community to pin its hopes on same sex marriage look we re married we re just like you but a betrayal of all those folk ueer or not who aren t happily in a married couple Normal Warner argues keeps us from asking deeper uestions about what marriage does or why long term monogamy is regarded as the Grail of personal relationships or why one can only be moral or responsible if one s behaviours match the statistical mean Warner also focuses on the issue of normal as a shaming strategy on how it s used to create sexual shame and both marginalise and privatise sexual identity and sexual communities Shame is always about social public disgrace and Warner looks at the way normalisation not only undermines the gay and ueer communities but makes it impossible to be in American public life and be a sexual person or be seen as a supporter of the different A book well worth reading and one that challenges readers to think about the costs of assimilation for the gay community as well as for anyone ueer not part of the Wrathful Chaos: Five Books of Satanic Philosophy exclusive circle of normal Warners s argument is based in thethical conviction that sexual autonomy should be a natural right in a sane and just society Why do our laws and culture reuire the criminalization and stigmatizing of consensual sex acts that aren t veyone lse s cup of tea He claims the gay marriage movement is obscuring the hierarchies of sexual shame that still operate within mainstream homophobia playing into a system that privileges normalcy as a moral value for some misguided reason in this country it s normal to be poorly ducated and in bad health for xampleSpeaking of post gay magazine ditor James Collard who wants to de politicize the gay movement and publicly stereotyped ueer culture as the gay ghetto in a Newsweek article of 1998 Warner compares Collard s tactics to those of the 1950 s normalizing movement the Mattachine Society Then and now homosexuals were and still are afraid to be seen as ueerThen and now they bargained and still bargain for a debased pseudo dignity the kind that is awarded as a bribe for disavowing the indignity of sex and the double indignity of a politics around sex The result has been a set of hierarchies Those whose
sex is least threatening along with those whose is least threatening along with those whose profiles seem least ueer are put forward as the good and acceptable face of the movement These inevitably are the ones who are staying home making dinner for their boyfriends for whom being gay means reading Newsweek The others the ueers who have sex in public toilets who don t come out
as happily gay the sex workers the lesbians who are too vocal about taste happily gay sex workers the lesbians who are too vocal about a taste dildos or SM the boys who flaunt it as pansies or as leathermen the androgynes the trannies and transgendered whose gender deviance makes them unassimilable to the menu of sexual orientations the clones in the so called gay ghetto the fist fuckers and popper snorters the ones who actually like pornography all these flaming creatures are toldthat their great moment of liberation will come laterwhen we get to be about than sexuality when say gay marriage is given the force of law Free at last I recommend this book highly well reasoned defence of sex in its own right and analysis of how sexual identities are formed in response to public and private realms scandal shame and the consolidation of voice and power that is the result of capitalist systems within media and politics. Vision of true sexual autonomy that will forever change the way we think about sex shame and identity. Much like when I first read Edward Said or Simone de Beauvoir when I read The Trouble With Normal I began to see some of the underlying assumptions I d made as a straight white male which made it a rather xhilarating read And some of his policy arguments about the death of ueer space in post Giuliani New York are uite interesting His argument against marriage as a cultural norm gay or straight isn t uite as powerful but it still makes for an interesting readThere is a uestion of how academically valid it is I would say that as an academic text it leaves something to be desired Its arguments could be a bit precise a bit technical But as a general text it s a stunner one of those rare theory books that makes no attempts to jargonize that concerns itself with Love 2.0 (A Cates Brothers Book, everyday situations than the valences of a word choice And Warner says all this with a wry bitchy wit that reminds me of Fran Lebowitz than any of those giants of high theory that Americans always attempt to imitate I can totally appreciate his assertion that we in the US need to admit that sex is being had by many people in many situations OTHER THAN marriagea monogamous relationship Only then can safe sex programs have a chance of working and beingffective This insistence amongst our politicians that abstinence is the only safe sex read NO SEX policy to be taught is ridiculous short sighted and a cop out rather than a solution PEOPLE HAVE SEX Especially BEFORE andor totally outside of a marriagemonogamous relationship Guess what Some people may not want to The Fix ever get married And they shouldn t have to There are many ways to live life Heterosexual and married is NOT the ONLY pathchoice Get over it and deal Sheesh This is my first foray into ueer theory and it was an intense start While this book is a bit dated written in the late 1990 s it certainly gave me a deeper understanding of the LGBT movement and the diverse perspectives within the ueer community In some ways this book felt similar to Why I Am Not a Feminist A Feminist Manifesto both authors feel that their movements have become too palatable and mild to create real change And both author talk about the patriarchal and heteronormative nature of many aspects of our current societyspecially marriage While this was an interesting read and gave me a lot to think about I don t feel that it made me into a better ally Even though its almost 15 years old and ven though some of the specific issues he raises are mute DOMA don t ask don t tell anti sodomy laws all thankfully consigned to the rubbish heap of history now the underlying assumption he works with is still incredibly valid mainstream culture is uncomfortable with ueer people because mainstream culture as a whole is simply uncomfortable with sex being discussed or addressed or ngaged with in anything approximating general openness I think that s ssentially correct ven if its a very hard generalization to make as a young adult in 2014 at a time when gayueer culture is becoming much prevalent in general and not simply because of the sea change in attitudes on gay marriage and while Warner makes a compelling case against not simply gay marriage but against the institution of marriage as a whole as a ludicrous ritual which allows the state to say that some types of relationships are proper and others are not I don t buy into his alarmist and in retrospect incorrect conclusion that full acceptance of gay marriage will be the death of organic fully sexualized ueer culture in America You can get married to your gaylesbian partner in a Presbyterian church in a wide array of states these days you can also spend your nights in a bathhouse or BDSM dungeon or a glory hole As long as people are biologically wired for sex all of those things will Desire in Seven Voices exist in an uneasy and at times almost incoherent sort ofuilibrium But where he is still frighteningly right is how larger conomic forces can destroy ueer and really any other culture that gets in the way of conomic development urban renewal really of gentrification in general A neo con senator blasting degenerate gays is ultimately infinitely less damaging to gay life than a real The Casa Mono Cookbook estate mogul with a blueprint for development and the backing of city hallWarner touches on a dizzying array of issues in this bookverything from healthcare to city planning to cultural assumptions about sex to the nature of marriage to byzantine zoning laws to the fall out of the Lewinsky scandal The book really would be better if he could just pick 2 3 filters through which to xamine this issue instead of trying to come at an issue this large from very angle possible at once This is the odd polemic that would benefit from being academic ie a bit xtensively structured in its general approach That being said it is also the rare book on a central LGBT issue whose basic premises are still valid and worth considering 15 years after it was written Released two decades ago this is a strange and wonderful book to return to This is at least in part because stances and approaches it attacks are now so taken for granted that their contingency has been scrubbed cleanThis argued against the push for same sex marriage in America which it is now the law of the land there At least one plank of his argument was that it seemed like a losing fight and what s happened since shows that his reading was wrong But there s a tendency to treat that court victory as part of a linear development as though the only uestions were and are if and how uickly that political telos would come to fruitionBut ven deeper than difference in strategy there s a different political sensibility itself When Warner off handedly remarksit is worth noting that the subject of same sex marriage is so thoroughly mediated by public sphere discourse that few can think about the topic apart from some kind of narrative about long term social change usually on the national scale Mere mention of gay marriage triggers a consciousness of national policy dispute It is as though a pollster and a reporter were in your bedroom asking you if you wanted a judge or a cop to join the party 134It s striking that this mediation by public sphere discourse is now ubiuitious in social justice movements both in their public facing communications and in private It s not just that there s comfort with using state and institutional mechanisms to impose monolithic meanings on people it s that this is assumed to be normal and not needing defense This isn t some unoriginal cultural hellscape any community finds ways of channeling creativity There s certainly been a boom in aesthetics and inward looking commentary The need to be on all the time means that playfulness in big groups is rare and replaced instead ither with satire of the Right well deserved or jokes about the awkwardness of dealing with new norms There s certainly playfulness possible but only in small trusted groups The public has invaded too much It s against this background that Warner s defense of a counterpublic seems outdated and therefore perhaps valuableIn the face of symbolic and
Material Assault On The assault on the spaces and practices of ueer life in the 90s in the form of outrage and zoning laws Warner defends the autonomous and independent xistence and value of alternative ways and networks of living that ueer people had because had to make for themselvesAt one level this means not submitting to same sex marriage since it involves the valuation of a single mode of living over all others that xist Buying commodities sustains the culture of commodities whether the
buyers like it or not That is the power of a system Just like it or not That is the power of a system Just marrying consolidates and sustains the normativity of marriage And it does so despite what may be the best intentions of those who marry 109 While the desire to fit in is understandable mbracing this standard merely throws shame on those who stand farther down the ladder of respectability 60Instead ueer life consists consisted in uite different livesPeople who think that ueer life consists of sex without intimacy are usually seeing only a tiny part of the picture and seeing it through homophobic stereotype The most fleeting sexual ncounter is in its way intimate And in the way many gay men and lesbians live uite casual sexual relations can develop into powerful and nduring friendships Friendships in turn can cross into sexual relations and back Because gay social life is not as ritualized and institutionalized as straight life ach relation is an adventure in nearly uncharted territory whether it is between two gay men or two lesbians or a gay man and a lesbian or among three or ueers or between gay men and the straight women whose commitment to ueer culture brings them the punishm. Michael Warner one of our most brilliant social critics argues that gay marriage and other moves towar.