In the wake of the US Supreme Court decision in Obergefell et al. v. Hodges, US citizens can now claim a right to marriage without regard to their genital anatomy. No doubt this genital indiscrimination has much to recommend it. Yet we might wonder why this achievement represents the culmination of almost fifty years of sexual politics. To answer this question, the essay returns Guy Hocquenghem’s seminal 1972 text Homosexual Desire to consider the latent friction between sexual and politics that Hocquenghem identifies and that continues to characterize our contemporary moment. It then situates Hocquenghem’s text in relation to Michel Foucault’s reflections about origins of politics in ancient Greek in his first lecture course at the Collège de France, which took place the year before Hocquenghem’s book appeared, to suggest that the relation between the sexual and the political may inevitably entail paradox.
Sometimes Sex Is Just a Pain in the Ass; Or, the Paradox of Sexual Politics
Ed Cohen teaches modern thought in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. He also is a member of the Social Text Collective. A number of his recent publications are available online at womens-studies.rutgers.edu/faculty/core-faculty/122-ed-cohen.