'Most people can't comprehend why anyone would risk death for
a good fuck (as) unsafe sex appears as inconceivably self-destructive
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Complex questions have difficult answers and merit structured
analyses. Beyond Sexuality gives contemporary sexual
analysis new direction. Jacques-Marie-Emile Lacan was a challenging
French forensic psychiatrist - coupling Lacan theory with Foucault
rising, Tim Dean enjoins the insatiable reader in a walk down
the cobbled uneasy path of queer theory. Veering from radical
politics ('Twice as many Americans were killed by AIDS in the
first nine years of the epidemic as were claimed in the nine years
of the Vietnam war.') to radical emotions (an exposition on the
deheterosexualization of desire, the concept of jouissance
as an omnipresent motif), you are in for a bumpy read unless you
want to listen to the psychoanalysand within.
While AIDS has indeed restructured gay ecology, it has stoked
several sleeping giants (civil liberties, safe-sex education,
federal drug policy) and steeped into the fabric of popular culture
(cameos by Dennis Hopper's character malficience and the origin
of Madonna's dance moves). To distill these into a variegated
paperback is no mean feat but Mr. Dean is up to the task of assembling
his textured prose.
After roundly mocking the ever-expanding self-help section of
every generic strip mall corporate bookselling chain, Mr. Dean
starts with an introduction to Lacan 's works. Thereafter, he
immediately addresses the concept of transgenderists as gender
outlaws - 'anyone who expresses dissatisfaction with the normative
exigencies of masculinity or femininity (and refuse) to conform
with the appearance or reality of either sex'. This gestates
a rich discussion on the concept of reality and the misidentification
of transvestism with homosexuality. The psychoanalysis of AIDS
that follows dissects the cultural and political name-calling
wrought over the natural history of the epidemic from its birth
to the current time in an objective manner. Especially keen are
Dean's insights into the dearth of mourning (a la Hamlet), survivor
guilt, and jouissance (bliss) as an elaboration of the
pleasure principle. Perhaps the most provocative chapter deals
with safe-sex education and the death drive. While such life threatening
practices as smoking, drinking, and drug abuse must be indulged
repeatedly over a substantial period before they are likely to
cause harm, HIV infection can result from a single unprotected
encounter. Safe-sex education tends to remain in the parking lot
even as it is abundantly clear that preventing HIV from being
endemic to gay populations would help dissociate homosexuality
from undesirable connotations of disease and pathology. In the
chapter 'Bodies that Mutter' is laid bare an exposition of homographesis
and the cultural association of homosexuality with narcissism
(both involve love of the same). In conjoining Lacan and queer
theory, Dean involves concepts of normativity, perversion, the
impersonality of desire, repressive hypothesis, the ideology of
lack, sexuality versus genitality, the logic of fantasy and finally
(gasp!) the triumph of love.
Beyond Sexuality is not for those who with a mere passing
acquaintance with psychoanalysis but a delectable treat for anyone
interested in queer theory. Bold, fascinating and provocative,
it is a labor of love that pushes you back to the drawing board.
Read more in:
Dean T, Lane, C (Eds.): Homosexuality and
the Problem of Otherness, University of Chicago Press, 2001
Lacan J: The Four Fundamental Concepts
of Psychoanalysis (The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book 11),
W. W. Norton and Company, 1998
Lane C (Ed.): The Psychoanalysis of Race,
Columbia University Press, New York, 1998.
Leader D, Groves J, Appignanesi (Eds.): Introducing Lacan,
Totem Books. 2000
Valente J (Ed.): Quare Joyce, University of Michigan Press,
Ann Arbor, 2001.
© 2002 Sundeep Nayak
Dr. Nayak is an Assistant
Professor of Clinical Radiology in the University of California
School of Medicine San Francisco and his interests include mental
health, medical ethics, and gender studies. A voracious reader
and intrepid epicure, he enjoys his keyboards too much.
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