Category Archives: Theory

‘Don’t sugar me cunt!’: The drug search as a technology of sovereign humiliation and assertion

This scene, from Ana Kokkinos’s brilliant (1998) film Head On, astutely demonstrates how the drug search has emerged as a key technology for the instatement of white heteromasculinist sovereignty.  But before watching, please be warned it’s disturbingly  violent and depicts police brutality against vulnerably sexualised, gendered and racialised bodies.

“This room is so white!!!”

From the underpants inspections that NSW police used to conduct to harass cross-dressers and transgender people over the 1950s and 1960s in Sydney, to the NSW police use of sniffer dogs that continues to this day, stripping people bare –  down to the bios of bare life –  has a long history of use as a strategy of coercion, humiliation and violence,  deployed most often against queers, blacks, immigrants and women in bids to assert particular forms of sovereignty and abjection.

To me, Kokkinos’s take on the intersections of nationalism, policing, ethnicity, sexuality and gender in this scene is incredibly incisive.  It eloquently demonstrates why the police use of drug and other laws to intimate and harass people they don’t like the look of (with sniffer dogs for example) must be brought to an end now …..and why it requires an urgent counter-response from anyone concerned with the violent operations of racism, homophobia and transphobia in present day Australia

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Filed under Affect, Devices and technology, Drug dogs, Masculinities, Police, Sexual practice, Theory, Transgender

An Index of Collective Action

Queering the Direction of Present Events

gay-again

I snatched these photos from all over the place ~ collectively I take them to be grabbing back the public domain from the hands of those conspiring to restrict its terms of membership and eradicate dissidence.

The images are presented in the chronological order events unfolded …. more or less … with one or two exceptions…

(what a liberty!)

I pay tribute to all the friends and strangers who participated in the making of these snapshots and their circulation .

Thanks for sharing ~  such awesome creativity.

On the Campaign Trail …

trump-liberty

hilary-mural

adventures-into-the-unknown

protesting-forever

As Inauguration Day draws near…

ursula

…and a Queer Dance Party erupts outside the DC Residence of

Mike Pence, Vice-President Elect…

queer-pence

divine

(Divine!) 

Inauguration Day Arrives

trump-southpark

(Michelle isn’t having a bar of it)

michelle-enough

merkel

Among the first changes instituted  @Whitehouse.gov….

lgbt-whitehouse

[[BUT WAIT! …EXCITING NEW CONTENT!]]

melania-model

jewelley2(Did someone say something about draining ‘Elites from the Swamp’?!)

On the first day of Trump’s presidency

 feminists around the world act up…

march-on-washing-posteraudre-lorde-self-care

strap-on

“I’m with her”

girl-i-know-michelle

Washington DC:

trump-tower-woman

Detroit:

detroit

Atlanta:

queer-black

Washington DC

tamborine

 Sydney

(flashback: pre-emptive tambouring)

undead-tambourine

Sydney

(21 January 2017)

sydney

fuck-u-trump-sky

Meanwhile in London…

Fierce Pussy!

roar-good

Flashes of Pink

(Unknown Location) 

vulva

Hear Us Roar:

lion-mouth-dentata

PUSSY POWER!

NEXT POST:

“What is emerging Down Under??”

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Filed under Affect, Erogenous zones, Eroticism and fantasy, Masculinities, Parties, Police, Policy and programs, Random thoughts, Sexual Sociability, Theory

Bette Midler’s Gay Science

octopus-desire-tiawan-cover

 Cover design of the National Central University of Taiwan’s Center for the Study of Sexualities‘ forthcoming edited collection, translated into Mandarin, “When Desire Meets Public Health”

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I can’t believe I’d never seen this footage of Bette Midler’s Continental Baths Concert of 1971. It is all kinds of awesome and fabulous; a cataclysmic moment of gay world-making.
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The referentiality between the runsheet and the context of reception – the song choice and the abject status and attachments of the deviants who frequented “such establishments” – is so incredibly sharp and blatant and pointed and contradictory but ultimately joyous for what it cares to acknowledge and celebrate in and about, these places, these attachments, these publics, these gatherings.
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Basically it’s like, so gay 💅🏽
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octopus-bette
 Queer Entanglements
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Among the highlights of the show (and if you can’t quite face another cultural studies rave right now, don’t take my word for it: do yourself a favour & just watch it):
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  • Midler blows queer theory’s “anti-social” thesis right out of the water within 3 minutes of appearing on stage, because (doncha know?) “It’s All About Friends!”
  • Yet only minutes later, this woman, who at first glance might have come across as some happy-clappy redemptive sex pastoralist is getting down and dirty and revelling in a celebration of shameless sexual receptivity, with all its hurt and pleasure, in a show-stopper that situates “copping it” within the same order of bodily experience/urgency/necessity as scratching an itch: A basic craving, mundane, but often unbearably intense;  practically constitutive of being bodily in this world, difficult, disturbing –  with a million ways of approaching it, each with their own risks and possibilities for connection, intimacy, transformation, disappointment, frustrated consummation, and boundless enjoyment.
  • But what the heck?  What’s a Queen got to lose?

nothing-to-lose

  • And then next up (as though out of nowhere) an Ode to Marijuana, to top things off.  The Exotic/Palliative Sublime!
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Meanwhile, in the  second half of the show there is a Nostalgia Interlude, featuring hits from the 1940s, in which Milder adopts such a cheesy, self-assured persona when she sings “Going to the Chapel” (“R’member that great song? ‘Member?”) that she verges on obnoxious. The more she goes on and on and on and gloats about how she’s “Gonna Get Married” in the morning, the more you want to slap her! And you could almost be forgiven for that violent impulse, given the sense of comfort she derives so obviously and insensitively from knowing that that moment (indeed, even the slightest rendition or reference to that moment) has whole institutions dedicated to propping it up, as is more than demonstrated in how reliably and  routinely the refrain is backed up by a troupe of captive but ecstatic chorus singers. A surefire crowd-pleaser! What a triumph!  How enchanting!  (God knows it oughta be; they’ve being doing it to death in rehearsal).
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To counteract the bulldozing affects of this excruciatingly marital personae/performance, in the next sequence Midler switches gears and gets busy turning things around:  Mainly by ramping up the rapport she has  achieved so magically with her bathhouse audience: whipping up the feels, stirring up the love, only to culminate in her finally belting out this climactic, earth-shattering, quivering chant: “Any Day Now, I will be RELEASED!!” Which sends the audience arse over tit in an utter frenzy of gay abandon and delirium.
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Which all seems natural enough in the circumstances. Earlier in the show, she had confided casually that, like many of the boys in her bathhouse audience, she’d been working her ass off for “three days now”, without barely a breather in between acts.  No wonder the show’s climax is  so enthusiastically shared among the crowd, so devastating, so intense, so overinvested – and yet so playfully and powerfully communicated.
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Such brilliant realisation, explosive as dynamite.  Bringing to mind what a good friend suggested to me recently:  It’s “All about Energy”.  A pedagogical moment of sparkling clarity.
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*******
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Filmed a year before I was born, Bette Midler’s 1971 Continental Baths Concert is such a joy to behold, I feel so lucky to have been thrown into a world in which this could be found and grasped as a precedent, and so lucky to have chanced across footage of the event … Partly because of the queer associations it reveals and multiplies: it’s so obviously and unapologetically *her* kind of audience – striving for release – the kind of release that only a few legends like Midler were gutsy enough to affirm, acknowledge, and share publicly at the time, despite the likelihood of recrimination and scorn this might bring upon her, (not to mention the loneliness and despair and rejection and ugly affects that often underwrite such collective investments, which she also movingly acknowledges).
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But mainly because she just *owns* these desires and investments – in all their messy, abject complexity – so damn indiscriminately in this performance.   The whole queer kit and caboodle. In short, she belts it out of the ballpark.  & I’m talking …..FAR OUT!!!!!
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What kind of magic is this?  So playful! So abject! So affirmative! So powerful!  Overflowing with unmitigated pleasures and gusto….💖💕
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*******
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 On a more scholarly note, I take this show to be an exemplary instance of Sexual Sociability, a concept I came up with a while back now & have been trying to work with ever since, & which has ended up becoming key, as it turns out, to my forthcoming book, The Gay Science (“Forthcoming” ….ahem…..Any Day Now”….)
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It all makes me wish you could have a YouTube clip as a book cover! (it won’t be long now, surely? I mean, “we have the technology”, right?).  What a wild wet dream it would be to have Bette Midler’s 1971 “You’ve Got to Have Friends” featuring prominently somewhere in the book’s back matter, for the benefit of friends and readers, both old and new – or maybe I could arrange to have the number just playing throughout, on autorepeat. I can’t think of a better way of acknowledging my key informants, divine muses, motivating impulses and other assorted sources of gayspiration.  Or of signalling some of my work’s key design principles – and impossible objects.
bette
 The Divine Bette Midler, Continental Baths, circa 1971
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There. Thanks for putting up with that excessive, raving gay rant.  Writing it at least ought to force me to finish the fucker.  And friends, believe me, that day can’t come quickly enough … 🌊💨🌪💥⚡️🌈🌸💦
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(Did someone say “happy ending?”  Bring it!!)

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Filed under Affect, Books, Erogenous zones, Eroticism and fantasy, Masculinities, Parties, PNP culture, Random thoughts, Self-medication, Sexual practice, Sexual Sociability, Theory

Thinking with Pleasure: Agency & Experimentation

ABSTRACT

Queer theory makes a rather polarized distinction between pleasures of self-confirmation and pleasures of self-shattering, plaisir and jouissance. But pleasure can be approached as a conjunctural event in which new objects, attachments, identities, and ways of relating to the world emerge. Standard conventions in drug research remain unmoved by pleasure, consigning it to irrelevance, minimizing its significance or otherwise disregarding it. Thinking with pleasure is different from thinking about pleasure, thinking against it, or even thinking through it. It foregrounds the relation between the researcher and researched, proposing that each party has the capacity to affect and be affected by the other in surprising and potentially generative ways. While this creates some symmetry between the practices of the researcher and the practices of the researched, it does not confuse their respective projects. Each is engaged in their own process of self-transformation, though in each case established habits of practice and thought are put to the test in an encounter that creates the conditions for new ways of feeling and doing and being to emerge. Drug practices are often said to be motivated by a desire for self-loss, but this is not the same as a death wish. Concerns about safety inform the design of people’s experiments with drug use – experiments which also, incidentally, put techniques of reducing risk (among other procedures) to the test. Thinking with pleasure confers agentive capacities on research participants, while directing attention to the sociomaterial arrangements that constitute the infrastructure of their experiments and the criteria of value they employ to make sense of them. If care services find better ways of articulating with the everyday concerns and experimental arrangements people put in place to benefit from using drugs, new prospects for health, care, wellbeing and safer drug use might emerge.

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Sensationalising the Night-Time Economy

So, I’ve been thinking about the mass media’s investment in sensationalism as a way of growing its markets; the way this dynamic structures the narratives that get told about drugs, sex, nightlife, crime, etc; and the sense in which sensationalism is also productive – it mediates, amplifies and circulates affects and desires around the law and its transgression.

In this sense, sensationalism could be said to amass publics that ramify the erotic thrill of transgression, even as it intensifies popular investments in the policing of public order (cf. classic moral panic theory).  This process is not merely a matter of representation, but cultural and economic at once, deeply entangled and emanating from the prerogatives of capitalised media.

If we turn to the night-time economy, that object of sensationalised reporting, intense moral panic, and popular entertainment in recent times,  you could argue  that its survival and mass appeal materially depends, in part, on a process that paradoxically also produces it as a problematic object of governance, singling it out as the proper target of authoritarian intervention: an object that requires forceful policing in the name of public order.

Stanley Cohen famously argued that moral panics creates folk devils. I take this to be a material process of production, and not merely a question of discursive representation, in the sense that the world is now populated with folk devils. They are among us, the common folk.  And they come out at night.

The expected response to these figures from the right is to scapegoat them, and from the left, to deny their reality.

But instead of exiling these figures, disavowing their desires, declaiming the processes that produce them and our own implication in them, the only constructive response to this situation – a response that Isabelle Stengers would call diplomatic, in the sense that it does not deny but rather seeks to acknowledge the materiality of media as a generative element in the ecology of desires – is to affirm what is common in the making of folk devils, to account for their presence, and to actively engage these figures in the construction of problems in a way that multiplies and transforms general capacities to engage in public life.

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Filed under Affect, Erogenous zones, Police, Policy and programs, Sexual practice, Theory

A Chance to Swoon

Gay Science

Weiss partying

Penned by legendary Lost Gay Sydney DJ Richard Weiss

 

 

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Filed under Affect, Devices and technology, Erogenous zones, Eroticism and fantasy, Parties, Police, Random thoughts, Self-medication, Sexual practice, Theory

Bodies Sexualities & Identities 2016

This is the new BSI 2016 outline for the large Undergraduate course I teach – essentially an introduction to queer theory with a progressively Australian spin as we dig down into local cultural examples.  Can’t wait to work with students on it this year.

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Filed under Affect, Books, Eroticism and fantasy, Sexual practice, Theory, Transgender