My somewhat tormented perorations on impostors in my last post came to rest in the notion of the neo-con as impostor. That is a subset of the notion that all ideologues are impostors in that they pretend that thought follows fact when their method is to force fact to follow their idealist impositions. It is true of left and right, and so soon after my little attack of dry heaves at the conceit of Michael Burleigh's Earthly Powers, by chance and the efforts of a friend I have run into a classic case of a left wing ideologue whose mouth has got well ahead of any reasoned thought.
My upstairs neighbor and old friend, Tony, pushed an article through the mail slot that he suggested I read. It is from a gay rag called The Guide which features thoughtful articles among many many salacious and lovely pix of ill-clad men. The piece is called Desiring Arabs and it concerns a new book by a controversial Columbia University academic, one Joseph Massad. The reviewer, Bll Andriette, writes:
Massad's overarching theme is that Europe's encroachment on the Middle East -- Napoleon's aborted invasion of Egypt in 1798 is the opening salvo -- poured acid rain on the Arabs' literary legacy of same-sex eros. Western conquest has had that unsavory effect, Massad contends, whether the interlopers were Victorian-era colonial administrators, European scholars unearthing and systematizing ancient Arabic texts, gay tourists on sexcapades, or Western human-rights groups and the gay campaigners that he contemptuously dubs the "Gay International." Indeed, these latter Massad accuses of being a sometimes witting tool of Western imperialism. Moreover, he says, they do no favors for erotic freedom in the Middle East.
Later he writes:
Massad does not dispute that some Arabs embrace gay identity. But he contends they hail from the increasingly westernized elites. "They remain a minuscule minority among those men who engage in same-sex relations and who do not identify as 'gay' nor express a need for gay politics," Massad argues. The evidence, he suggests, includes Zakharia's care in distinguishing "gay love" from "gay sex," pointing to a world where same-sex activity is a commonplace without name or label.
It is noteworthy that he prefaces the previous comment with this:
"Since the concept of same-sex relations does not exist in the Arab world, being 'gay' is still considered to be sexual behavior," asserts Ramzi Zakharia, GLAS's outreach director. "Just because you sleep with a member of the same sex does not mean you are gay. Once a relationship develops beyond sex (i.e., love), this is when the term 'gay' applies."
GLAS refers to "The Gay and Lesbian Arabic Society (Glas.org), for example, was established in 1988 and claims chapters in New York, Los Angeles, Beirut, and Cairo."
Let's start here ... the notion propounded that "the concept of same-sex relations does not exist in the Arab world" is complete piffle ... idiocy ... one of those commonplaces that develop among people talking in closed rooms that are repeated so often that they start to sound true just so long as you do not compare them to reality. Folks, being gay IS a sexual behavior. When some straight Arab guy, or Afghan where the practice is quite common and roundly tsk-tsked by assorted campaigners of one type or another, screws some straight youth, what they are doing is gay. It is gay by any definition.
Now it may not be a "gay relationship" in the sense of gay marriage or commitment ceremonies or two queers gathering their nickels and quarters and buying a million dollar condo just outside the Castro. But it is gay. Gay equals homosexual, and vice versa. The terms are interchangeable.
The confusion here started, frankly, in the refusal of politically correct feminists to accept the fundamental arguments of gay liberation in the 70s ... and it was much abetted by the partial thinking of poor M. Foucault who had the misfortune of dying before he could complete, and correct, his thought. Let me explain.
The feminists of the 70s loathed and openly opposed gay liberation. They were motivated by two bad theories ... firstly that they had to counter the broadly propounded notion that feminists were frustrated dykes who just needed a good fuck by a proper man and they'd see the light; and, secondly, that all penetrative sex was male supremacist and since gay men are distincly penetrative, if you get my drift, they were the most supremacist of all. Those among my readers chary of hard thought may think I exaggerate, but I assure you that this is not hyperbole ... rather it is stated as fact from repeated direct personal experiences.
Gay liberation was founded on the notion that gay is good, by which we meant that "though some seek to deny it, homosexuality is normal and natural and not a threat to society or the individual." The quote is a paraphrase form memory of the opening sentence in the Gay Alliance Toward Equality (GATE) Vancouver statement of principles. Frobisher will no doubt correct any inessential inaccuracies. I believe that he wrote the line. By "gay is good", we meant gay sex, gay life, gay community, gay individuals, gay lovers, gay people. We did not create some inane separation between the joy of versus sex and gay relationships. Such an distinction is pandering to our enemies, and chiefly our religious enemies.
An aside on poor M. Foucault at whose doorstep we must lay blame for the truncated notion of discourse ... in this case, the ideational underpinning of the silly notion that the homosexual "discourse" was invented in the 19th century. The truth is that the long history of both Islam and Christianity in regard to homosexuality is a history of silencing in literate or reported form of the oral and obvious discourse of homosexuality. I find some support for this in Tim Blanning's excellent The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815, my current reading material, who has an thorough review of gay life ... including sex ... on pages 80-85. Again and again, he notes the silencing. For example, he quotes a 1709 report by the "raffish journalist" Ned Ward "who in his account of the clubs of London and Westminster" uses the phrasing "that they may tempt each other to commit those odious Bestialities, that ought for ever to be without a Name." It is not that there is no discourse for homosexuality, but rather that it is impolitic or blasphemous or what have you to give the discourse a name. Everybody knew what it was.
Notwithstanding our current standing on the left ... to whit that we have after much struggle been accepted as a struggle ... we remain the poor sisters of liberation struggles. What leftoid is willing to credit Mayor Newsom for his courage in standing up for gay liberation ... certainly not current poster-man (smirk) Barrack. (Here's an article article along with an alluring photo of the good mayor in a recent speech in which he avers that politicians are too risk-averse.) But even today, the struggle for gays is against silence and for civil rights.
That is what the would-be liberal Joseph Massad completely does not understand ... I believe he willfully misunderstands it in favor of a pre-figured ideology, to whit the "not quite as popular as it was a decade or two ago" anti-colonialism. His argument has this structure. Arab men used to fuck with gay abandon and repression was rare. Then the Euros arrived with their discourses of sodomy, and the elites adopted these homophobic notions. So all homosexual repression is the result of colonialism. Therefore, to oppose it is to be a colonialist since the removal of colonialism would result in a return to the status quo ante.
Return ... if I might refer to my argument about Lev Nussimbaum and his love of monarchy ... return to that which cannot be re-accessed is the essence of the fantasy of monarchism. If I commit to that which cannot be, then I cannot gird myself against commitment to, or more importantly against, that which actually is. Parenthetically, this is the allure of religion. In the current case, it is that which immunizes a would-be thinker like Massad against taking a stand FOR gay sex ... for the right of free individuals to do what they want in free association with other free individuals. And by consequence, a man who poses as a liberal can find himself defending the brutal repression not only of Arab dictators but also of their fascist Islamist opponents. The fall guys are a bunch of gay boys who just want to fuck. Who the hell cares ... people have sex! Let them be. Leave them alone.
This is precisely the deadly game of ideology. By convoluted paths, it argues that the non-existence of a discourse of homosexuality in the past allowed people to have gay sex, but now the imposition of gay discourse by colonialists means that gay people cannot have sex, therefore gay liberationists should shut up and then everything would return to the situation of silence in which gay guys could fuck. Applied to a context such as cooking or bibliography, such idiocy would get you kicked out of the club. On the left, you get a book published and a professorship. What foolishness ... it would be funny if lives were not at issue ... if victims of this logic were not languishing in Egyptian prisons and at the end of Iranian nooses.
What we really have here is the fact that Massad is a reactionary, a homophobe. Not a liberal. He supports the repression of gays and he opposes free speech. His convoluted thinking ... I am too sane to call it logic ... amounts to supporting the repression of gays by the Egyptian regime and the Iranian murderers.
I will return to the depredations of ideologues against gays tomorrow.
I have read a lot of this to my sainted roommate and bartender, RL, who notes that his arguments reek of perversions and subjections of logic. Perfect.
I am writing this post to the stylings of the inimitable Noel Coward in his 1950 Las Vegas performance at the Desert Inn ... and I am spurred by the equally inimitable RL's production of a Gin Buck, a fine dinner of tortelloni and salad, and soon another cocktail whose identity is yet to be determined ... it is a Hearst with Punta Mes.
Check out this additional good article from the horny Guide.
Photos from the work of Fred Holle.