a homosexual life

what does it mean to be homosexual? having sex with other men? maybe. maybe not. so what is a homosexual life? maybe it could be an approach to living life that has not much to do with sexual orientation. so good news for all you heterosexuals out there: you can lead a homosexual life, too!

what follows is a little sketch of a definition of homosexuality, of a homosexual life that follows somehow the ideas of foucault regarding this subject – but extracted from the reading of foucault by patrick ffrench in “a different life? barthes, foucault and everyday life“, an essay published in 2004 in cultural studies (the detailed information you’ll find at the bottom). i will not totally adhere to this text – so don’t blame mister ffrench for any simplifications and/or mistakes.

allright, so let’s get started. we already know that foucault was interested in new ways of thinking, and as a consequence in new ways of living. as a basic assumption we take that identity is formed through the social norm – through the installation of the norm our lifes get produced, through the norm we get created as subjects (to do, to become what society expects from you), the social norm defines our identity – and it does not make any difference if we try to adhere to the norm or if we oppose it, since both ways use the social norm as reference point. so that explains also foucault’s interest in history – history in this context means the history of the self, of how in history people related to themselves.

during this investigation foucault postulates that one important field in western society where we get formed as subjects is sexuality. so sexuality has a privileged role in defining our identity, our social selves.

so our desire makes what we are: a normal heterosexual or a normal homosexual.

so the homosexual desire makes one a homosexual (as social identity) – so this desire is not subversive in any way towards society – it already has a meaning in society. so how do we get out of being just made, of being ascribed an identity based on our desire? one way to change that is identity politics – changing the social meaning of what is a homosexual.

but foucault was not really interested in identity politics – he was more interested to find another way – to leave desire out, since desire is in any case occupied by the forces of social definitions. he was thinking of something more radical, more utopian.
in a first step he substitutes pleasure for desire and body for subject (or identity).

pleasure not as something defined by society, but as something that might be, but not necessarly must be connected to sex.

body as in sharp contrast to the subject – the body as having not a clear social definition, but as something that enables the giving and receiving of pleasure.

and the relationships of bodies outside and beyond sex is then what he would call “une mode de vie homosexuel”, a homsoexual way of living.

therefore we find a definition of heterosexuality and homosexuality which has nothing to do with sexual desires, but with different ways of structuring relationships.

heterosexuality: the goal is sex, the structure of relationships are given by the society (the courting, for example).

homosexuality: the goal is friendship, the structure of relationships have to be invented.

so the homsexual way of life is friendship as a way of life. as example we can take the relationship between two men with great age difference, or from a very different social standing. contrary to a heterosexual relationship you already start with sex – and then you don’t really have an idea how you deal with each other, meaning society has no template for this kind of situation. therefore one has to invent ways of relating to the other. and since sex is not the goal (already done, thank you), the goal is friendship.

so homosexuality is not the truth about oneself, it is not ones essential identity, but a strategic position:

“Homosexuality in this instance is re-articulated not as the truth and secret of one’s desire but as the possibility at least of new and strange relations after and beyond sex. One could imagine it voiced in this statement: You identify me as homosexual, I identifiy myself as homosexual (or why not, as heterosexual) but I am going to claim that identity not as my truth, as the truth of my desire, but as a local and strategic means of inventing different relations with others, of realizing virtual relations:

Homosexuality is a historic occasion to re-open affective and relational virtualities, not so much through the intrinsic qualities of the homosexual but due to the biases against the position he occupies; in a certain sense diagonal lines that he can trace in the social fabric permit him to make these virtualities visible. (Foucault, 1997, p.138)

(ffrench, 2004, p. 302)”

so just havin these same sex desires will not make you in any way subversive or any different from any member from society – it just puts you in a (still stigmatized) specific place. you can fight that definition as homosexual, fag, queer or change their meaning in society, and then you can take these identities as a starting point to actually make your daily life more adventurous in the sense that you take it just as a strategic position (not as the truth about yourself) and try to establish relationships far away from any given rules.

so this is in a very condensed form the ideas of foucault how to avoid the trap of a daily life – opening oneself to new ways of relating to other people, not by trying to find yourself, but rather by constantly loosing and re-defining yourself. and yes, homosexuality is a good starting point…

here the detailed bibliographic information:

ffrench Patrick: A Different Life? Barthes, Foucault and everyday life, Cultural Studies Vol. 18, No. 2/3 March/May 2004, pp. 290-305

the cited foucault text:

Foucault Michel: Ethics: The Essential Works I, trans. Robert Hurley and others, ed. Paul Rabinow, Penguin, London

prof. patrick ffrench homepage

cultural studies journal online

4 Responses to “a homosexual life”

  1. suzie queue Says:

    I gotta tell you, I always laugh when I hear those right wing idiots talk about the “Homosexual LIFESTYLE”.

    I bet they think that every gay men wakes up to an alarm-COCK, brushes their teeth with a dildo-shaped toothbrush, takes a shower and shove the back-srubber up their ass…

    They just can’t imagine that gay men lead ordinary lives like the rest of the world. What’s done in the bedroom between consenting adults is nobody’s business. And really, if a “Hetersexual LIFESTYLE” is defined by having sex with a woman, then that’s about 20 minutes every few days. THen when you’re not having sex, you’re JUST LIKE the gay men who are not having sex.

    So what’s the difference?

  2. Anonymous Says:

    FUCK ME!

  3. sunbathinglizard Says:

    send your application via email and we will see what we can do. just having you IP is just not that sexy, you understand.

  4. nice site Says:

    This is the kind of place I wish to see! Smartly written, it’s nifty!

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