orgy, Shunga scroll, Japan c. 1870.
goatlike cry of ‘Brother!’
worse than shouting Fire –
more danger. For centuries
it has been struck out of
– Tennessee Williams[i]
sex, transgressive desires, the orgies of witches, the blood and
shit of leathermen – queers tend the sacred fire of sex. We break
laws, pass over limits and boundaries, exceed what is possible.
However chaste and circumspect our personal lives, just by being gay
we invoke for others the heat of Satanic sexual fire. According to
the Westboro Baptist Church, gays and lesbians are “a group of
people who BURN in their lust for one another, and who FUEL God’s
turns us upside down and inside out, erasing certainties and
separations. Lust burns up the boundaries with which we construct a
sense of self, differentiated from the world around us and defended
from its incursions. Intercourse opens our bodies to an other and
initiates us into a deeper and more terrifying knowledge of self.
When sex is hot, we experience disintegrations of body and soul.
is a visceral representation of the opening and surrender that every
intimate relationship demands. No profound union with another lets
us stay intact and self-identical. We become one pair as well as two
individuals. Each one surrenders the carefully constructed ego and
its wishes. Joseph Campbell comments, “Marriage is not a simple
love affair, it’s an ordeal, and the ordeal is the sacrifice of
ego to a relationship . . . .”[iii]
Men and women in sexual relationships with one another may seek to
abjure this truth. The social support their sexuality receives can
lure them into believing they are safe; there is no risk; nothing
will make them bleed and weep. Safety and self-protection become an
aim and an end. But without loss and danger, there can be no
relationship. Queer means accepting risk as a condition of our
lives. We are exposed, injured, and called to union with another
greater than ourselves –
our lovers, our queer identity. Self-certainty is destroyed in the
fire of desire and its social stigma. It matters little that most
gays and lesbians want only the most private and polite exchange of
kisses and orgasms. Queer identity opens to the archetype of mad
illicit passion, impossible pleasure, unwilling surrender, fire,
the Middle Ages, same-sex lovers called themselves Ganymedes, after
the boy who was raped and abducted by Zeus in the form of an eagle.
Today the homophobic stereotypes that surround queer identity carry
the image of sexual fire for contemporary society: violated
children; abusive priests; seduced hockey players; prison rapists;
leather dykes; barebacking People with AIDS. No matter how ordinary
and obedient our personal sexual choices, we can enjoy the
transgressive power that queer identity evokes.
Central and Northern Europe ecstatic sex was an aspect of pagan
ritual worship of the great goddesses of death and fecundity and the
green and mortal god. This sex involved the choreographed experience
of power and surrender, psychological depatterning, and ecstatic
unity with the other. Christians violently repressed these rituals,
and the alternate world view they supported and expressed.
breaks the world into opposites –
self and other, good and evil, us and them, heavenly and demonic – without offering techniques of trespass and reasons
for reconciliation. Almost all other world views suggest ways to
incorporate the shadow, pay homage to the destructive forces that
help to shape inner and outer realities, and envision a unity of
self and world. Christianity explicitly repudiates this possibility,
consigning all that is other and evil to hell. There fire consumes
witches, sodomites, savages, and fornicators of all descriptions.
Illicit sex represents the danger –
and attraction –
of lust and appetite that would have us abjure boundaries and enter
the opposite. So sex can turn you into a work of fire, in this
world, or the next.
stereotypes consign us to hell and identify us with evil. We are
irredeemably other. Our sex, however ordinary, has at least this
transforming power. We are called to use sexual energy as a
technique of the spirit, a way to erase boundaries and achieve
metamorphosis. Through the fire, we lose our sense of self as a
discreet entity. We become water, mud, blood and stone –
and we are willing to defend the earth’s life with our last
breath. Sex is radical, fearsome and dangerous when it evokes this
unity with all that is other, opening self to world, and world to
“The Dangerous Painters,” quoted in Saslow, 1999 (250).
see godhatesfags.com, emphasis original.
Joseph Campbell et. al., 1991, (7).