Are homosexuals sick? Since gay liberation, the enlightened answer to that question has been a resounding no. But times have changed. Recent efforts to analyze gay men's motives for sexual risk-taking in the context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic have led to a revival of medical thinking about homosexuality and breathed new life into punitive clichés about gay men's alleged low self-esteem, lack of self-control, and various psychological "deficits." What Do Gay Men Want? offers a different language for describing gay men's inner lives.
Unlike most writers on the topic of barebacking (condomless sex), David Halperin rejects psychology's claim to hold the keys to human subjectivity. He argues that psychology, which is grounded in a highly prejudicial opposition between the normal and the pathological, between healthy and unhealthy behavior, masks a set of dubious moral assumptions about "good" and "bad" sex.
Against these insidious forms of sexual discipline, Halperin champions neglected traditions of queer thought, both literary and popular, that afford fascinating possibilities for addressing the vexed question of what gay men want. In a series of provocative and often moving readings of authors as obscure as Marcel Jouhandeau and as well known as Jean Genet, he shows how the long history of gay men's uses of "abjection" can yield alternative, non-moralistic models for thinking about gay male subjectivity.
The reverberations of this original and bold contribution to queer studies will be felt for years to come. Anyone searching for creative and non-judgmental ways to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS among gay men—or interested in new modes of thinking about gay male subjectivity---should read this book.
"What Do Gay Men Want? is compelling, timely, and provocative. The writing is sleek and exhilarating. It doesn't waste time telling us what it will do or what it has just done—it just does it."
—Don Kulick, Professor of Anthropology; Director, Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality; and Director, Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, The Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University
"This rich and provocative book is a fundamental intervention in (and reconceptualization of) the field of queer studies. This, Halperin's most recent work, will confirm his reputation even as it serves to renegotiate what is (or should be) thinkable under the rubric of 'queer studies.'"
—Paul Morrison, Professor of English and American Literature, Brandeis University, and author of The Explanation for Everything: Essays on Sexual Subjectivity
"With Genet, David Halperin invokes a desire that seeks the limits of desire, and, warning against explaining it away through analyses of the individual psyche, proposes a poetical-philosophical-political exegesis. Brilliant, elegant, simple."
—Myra Jehlen, Board of Governors Professor of English, Rutgers University, and author of Readings at the Edge of Literature
"Truly a wonderful read . . . wonderfully clear and exciting argument for new ways in which we may understand gay subjectivities."
—Gay & Lesbian Issues in Psychology
David M. Halperin is W. H. Auden Collegiate Professor of the History and Theory of Sexuality, Professor of English, Professor of Women's Studies, Professor of Comparative Literature, and Adjunct Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Michigan.
Cover design by Savitski Design