Marriage is the primary filter through which supposedly basic rights are rationed among American citizens. It allows the restriction of what should not be restricted, and legitimizes the inequity of allowing the rich to stay healthy and the sick to stay poor. Moreover, the denial of benefits to groups such as welfare recipients, senior citizens, and union members makes it ever more impossible for such citizens to live single or queer lives without suffering extreme punitive consequences. Resisting marriage and monogamy, then, is itself an act of resistance to the dominant paradigm's insistence that basic rights such as healthcare can be made contingent on normative behavior or status. The capitalist economy is the heteronormative economy, and resisting one is resisting the other.
In addition, because poor and working-class Americans are disproportionately people of color, it is certainly possible that policy-level racism factors into the sexually repressive equation as well. In fact, racism, too, is propped up by normative sexual ethics: much of the anti-poor rhetoric of the past several administrations has centered around the supposed sexual deviance and promiscuity of people of color, in the shape of the thoroughly ahistorical and counterfactual archetype of the adolescent black welfare mother. Are we heading towards a future, or are we already in one, in which access to drugs, doctors, and reproductive choice is restricted to the white as well as to the hetero? If we are, it will be because we allow dominant sexual mores to legitimize the illegitimate.
2. The war on women and queers
Second, sex activism is valid political radicalism because is resists a growing war on women and queers on the part of the current conservative consensus and the new American holy war. The current administration's war on women, queers, and the single is becoming indistinguishable from the brutal, impoverishing, and disenfranchising war on labor, the poor, and people of color - to the point where it all begins to look like the same war. At first, the war is quite subtle, but with just a few examples, the trend becomes clear. Notice how even those lucky enough to get insurance are constrained by the dominant morality: Many government employees can no longer get their contraceptives covered by their health plans. Notice that abortion is growing steadily more inaccessible to those who need it, with the Bush administration's all-out attack on abortion rights taking the form of (in the words of Planned Parenthood) "[i]nstituting gag rules that censor free speech; supporting legislation that limits access to family planning and abortion services; sinking large sums of money into medically unproven abstinence-only sexuality education; and nominating staunchly anti-choice judges to federal benches and right-wing, religious ideologues to important scientific posts. And notice that Bush even refused to sign the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which Planned Parenthood called "a testament to his overall contempt for women and his steadfast refusal to respect their fundamental civil and human rights."
Zeek in Print
Spring 03 issue available here
Shtupping in the Shadow
of the Bomb
The Mall Balloon-Man Moment of the Spirit
Beats, Rhymes & Nigguns
Matthue Roth & Juez
Susan H. Case
Josh Gets his Checkup
The Ritual of Family Photography