“Did Foucault invent fisting?”
This was a question I was once asked by an anthropology student in our department. I quote it today because it’s symptomatic of the often legendary or rumor-laden mythology that sometimes surrounds Foucault’s private life, particularly when it comes to sex and homosexuality.
By way of commenting on the story that the University of Michigan is thinking of changing its gay support group name to be more inclusive (as predictably decried by Andrew Sullivan here) this guy offers us the following potted history of the politics of homosexuality, concluding:
Then, Saint Michel Foucault happened on the scene with his death from AIDS in 1984. Foucault’s original claim to fame was Archeology of Knowledge, published in 1971. He lectured at U.C. Berkeley as a visiting professor during the Radical Sixties, crossing into San Francisco’s Miracle Mile of S&M extremism. He and his lover back in Paris seemed quite “ordinary,” but according to Edmund White, Foucault “turned into a S&M slave” for other S&M leather men to gang fist him while trashing Folsom Street’s more derelict bathhouses and backrooms. According to White, Foucault did not contract AIDS by being fisted or wasted (he sure could have, Edmund).
While “intellectually” a historian by profession, Foucault ventured into some provocative areas with his corpus, indicting penology, psychology, and criminalization of aberrant behavior. While few read his most promising work of 1971, many became enmeshed with his relational ontology of binary differences, male/female, straight/queer, sadist/masochist, gay/lesbian, etc. And since many gays and lesbians major in English language and literature, this Postmodern bullshit from France is the elite nonsense de jour. Ironically, Foucault is not a Postmodernist, but a structuralist, from which springs his Relational Ontology in a schizo-affective, S/M binary sort of way.
I only quote this rubbish extensively in order to make the point that some people seem all too happy to pass comment on work that they have a stunning unfamiliarity with. Also to point out that this is another example of something I’ve noted before, that Foucault is simultaneously not read (eg., “no one reads him any more”), and yet exerts a massive influence on the gullible.
No one is forced to read Foucault (or to like his work) but it seems to me that if you’re going to offer forceful opinions (“bullshit,” and whatever a schizo-affective “relational ontology” is supposed to be) you might want to know more about him than whatever Edmund White said of him in a couple of sentences.
Filed under: Foucault, Homosexuality, Sexuality | 9 Comments »