Finally, after much waiting, my new article on PrEP, biopolitics, and sexual liberation has been published in the current issue of Body Politics. The text is a sequel to “The Democratic Biopolitics of PrEP”, my most cited article.

In the gay sexual liberation of the 1970s, there was brief queer life avant la lettre. It was interrupted by the AIDS crisis: The growing stigma of the disease led gay politics to take on more homonormative forms, which later solidified with improved legal equality. PrEP can help end this stigma, removing a key driver of homonormativity today, and in turn, making queerer forms of sexuality and politics possible. Through an analysis of the political struggles over PrEP and its effect on gay subjectivity, the article develops a new Foucauldian theory of sexual liberation. Criticizing repressive norms, it is not based on the presumption of an underlying natural sexuality that needs to be uncovered, but on rather creating new norms in a communal process. This includes the struggle for the self-determined use of biotechnology and medicine, which must be appropriately available for this purpose. Sexuality and politics are negatively linked: Repressive sexuality leads to homonormative politics that prevent queer solidarity. On the other hand, sexual liberation through PrEP can enable new queer solidarity beyond homonormative politics of interests.


Gay men have been severely affected by the AIDS crisis, and gay subjectivity, sexual ethics, and politics continue to be deeply influenced by HIV to this day. PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a new, drug-based HIV prevention technique, that allows disentangling gay sex from its widespread, 40 yearlong association with illness and death. This article explores PrEP’s fundamental impact on gay subjectivity, sexual ethics, and politics. It traces the genealogy of gay politics regarding homophobia and HIV stigma, suggesting a new biopolitical and body political framework that accounts for the agency of activists as well as pharmapower, and proposing that PrEP is an example of democratic biopolitics. Highlighting the entanglement of medical technology, sexual ethics, and politics, the article shows how conservative and homonormative gay politics developed as a reaction to HIV stigma and how, by overcoming this stigma, PrEP enables a new era of intersectional queer politics and solidarities. It thereby develops a Foucauldian account of sexual liberation beyond the repression hypothesis that accounts for the ambivalence of sexual subjectification and the political potential of sexuality.

Cite and download

Schubert, Karsten (2022): New Era of Queer Politics? PrEP, Foucauldian Sexual Liberation, and the Overcoming of Homonormativity. In: Body Politics 8 (12/2020), 214–261.

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