New Article in Body Politics: A New Era of Queer Politics? PrEP, Foucauldian Sexual Liberation, and the Overcoming of Homonormativity
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
- French and German Publication: Libération sexuelle et nouvelle sexualité queer avec la PrEP / Sexuelle Befreiung und neue queere Sexualität durch PrEP, 30. January 2022
- September program: Foucault and sexual liberation, academic freedom and authoritarianism, identity politics and polarization, the future of radical democracy, neoliberalism and anti-genderism, 5. September 2021
- PrEP as Democratic Biopolitics. On the Critique of the Biopolitical Repression Hypothesis - New Publication in the Yearbook Sexualities, 9. July 2020
- Video online: PrEP changes Sex. Gay Subjectivity, Biopolitics, and Democracy, Keynote at taz Berlin, 4. March 2020
- Publication: Dispute over HIV-PrEP: Stigma, homophobia and the liberation of gay sexuality on magazin.hiv, 25. January 2020