Thursday, October 11, 2007
The Little Death
In answer to what Matthew Yglesias calls "the necessary questions" (Why the second wetsuit?), it's because human sexuality is such a complex intersection of biological urges, physical stimuli and psychosocial imprints that for some folks (read: most all of us to varying degrees) the only way to feel marginally in control of it is to keep it pretty tightly under wraps. Reverend Aldridge's death is just a remarkably vivid illustration of a universal phenomenon. So the need to ridicule him (and Larry Craig and John Vitter et al.) is understandable, and transcends (or more accurately is submerged beneath) the fact that they're all hypocrites. (I say that assuming that Rev. Aldridge espoused the typical "values agenda" of the Christian right.)
Don't mistake this observation for sanctimony, because truth be told, I don't really care one way or the other. But this does strike me as one way in which the left engages in its own form of moral hypocrisy. Liberating politics from sexuality means more than just supporting gay marriage. It means eschewing macho posturing, avoiding the trap of the "bitch slap theory", and not stigmatizing people based on infantile conceptions of sexual gender roles. And the fact that "they (ie. the right) did it first" doesn't absolve us of not having the courage of our convictions.
I'm under no illusions that we'll see the disappearance of this blind spot any time in the near future. Transformation is driven by transgression, which always puts it at a disadvantage when confronting the dominant ideology. Not very likely in an age where strength is increasingly fetishized as brutal dominance.
But so long as we internally reproduce the dominant paradigm of sex, gender and power in our own political discourse, it makes no difference how superficially liberated we appear to be. We're still stuffing human sexuality, in all its messy complexity, into the comforting confines of a wetsuit.