A few years ago on a trip to Paris, I read an intriguing review in Le Monde of a book called Comme un Frère, Comme un Amant, a study of “Male Homosexuality in the American Novel and Theatre from Herman Melville to James Baldwin,” the work of one Georges-Michel Sarotte, a Sorbonne graduate and a visiting professor at the University of Massachusetts. I read the book, found it interesting; met the author, found him interesting. He told me that he was looking forward to the publication of his book in the United States by Anchor Press/Doubleday. What sort of response did I think he would have? I was touched by so much innocent good faith. There will be no reaction, I said, because no one outside of the so-called gay press will review your book. He was shocked. Wasn’t the book serious? scholarly? with an extensive bibliography? I agreed that it was all those things; unfortunately, scholarly studies having to do with fags do not get reviewed in the United States (this was before the breakthrough of Yale’s John Boswell, whose ferociously learned Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality obliged even the “homophobic” New York Times to review it intelligently). If Sarotte had written about the agony and wonder of being female and/or Jewish and/or divorced, he would have been extensively reviewed. Even a study of black literature might have gotten attention (Sarotte is beige), although blacks are currently something of a nonsubject in these last days of empire.
I don’t think that Professor Sarotte believed me. I have not seen him since. I also have never seen a review of his book or of Roger Austen’s Playing the Game (a remarkably detailed account of American writing on homosexuality) or of The Homosexual as Hero in Contemporary Fiction by Stephen Adams, reviewed at much length in England and ignored here, or of a dozen other books that have been sent to me by writers who seem not to understand why an activity of more than casual interest to more than one-third of the male population of the United States warrants no serious discussion. That is to say, no serious benign discussion. All-out attacks on faggots are perennially fashionable in our better periodicals.
I am certain that the novel Tricks by Renaud Camus (recently translated for St. Martin’s Press by Richard Howard, with a preface by Roland Barthes) will receive a perfunctory and hostile response out there in book-chat land. Yet in France, the book wasn’t treated as if it were actually literature, admittedly a somewhat moot activity nowadays. So I shall review Tricks. But first I think it worth bringing out in the open certain curious facts of our social and cultural life.
The American passion for categorizing has now managed to create two nonexistent categories—gay and straight. Either you are one or you are the other. But since everyone is a mixture of inclinations, the categories keep breaking down; and when they break down, the irrational takes over. You have to be one or the other. Although our mental therapists and writers for the better journals usually agree that those who prefer same-sex sex are not exactly criminals (in most of our states and under most circumstances they still are) or sinful or, officially, sick in the head, they must be, somehow, evil or inadequate or dangerous. The Roman Empire fell, didn’t it? because of the fags?
Our therapists, journalists and clergy are seldom very learned. They seem not to realize that most military societies on the rise tend to encourage same-sex activities for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who has not grown up ass-backward, as most Americans have. In the centuries of Rome’s great military and political success, there was no differentiation between same-sexers and other-sexers; there was also a lot of crossing back and forth of the sort that those Americans who do enjoy inhabiting category-gay or category-straight find hard to deal with. Of the first twelve Roman emperors, only one was exclusively heterosexual. Since these twelve men were pretty tough cookies, rigorously trained as warriors, perhaps our sexual categories and stereotypes are—can it really be?—false. It was not until the sixth century of the empire that same-sex sex was proscribed by church and state. By then, of course, the barbarians were within the gates and the glory had fled.
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Today, American evangelical Christians are busy trying to impose on the population at large their superstitions about sex and the sexes and the creation of the world. Given enough turbulence in the land, these natural fascists can be counted on to assist some sort of authoritarian—but never, never totaliarian—political movement. Divines from Santa Clara to Falls Church are particularly fearful of what they describe as the gay liberation movement’s attempt to gain special rights and privileges when all that the same-sexers want is to be included, which they are not by law and custom, within the framework of the Fourteenth Amendment. The divine in Santa Clara believes that same-sexers should be killed. The divine in Falls Church believes that they should “be denied equal rights under the law.” Meanwhile, the redneck divines have been joined by a group of New York Jewish publicists who belong to what they proudly call “the new class” (né arrivistes), and these lively hucksters have now managed to raise fag-baiting to a level undreamed of in Falls Church—or even in Moscow.
In a letter to a friend, George Orwell wrote, “It is impossible to mention Jews in print, either favorably or unfavorably, without getting into trouble.” But there are times when trouble had better be got into before mere trouble turns into catastrophe. Jews, blacks and homosexualists are despised by the Christian and Communist majorities of East and West. Also, as a result of the invention of Israel, Jews can now count on the hatred of the Islamic world. Since our own Christian majority looks to be getting ready for great adventures at home and abroad, I would suggest that the three despised minorities join forces in order not to be destroyed. This seems an obvious thing to do. Unfortunately, most Jews refuse to see any similarity between their special situation and that of the same-sexers. At one level, the Jews are perfectly correct. A racial or religious or tribal identity is a kind of fact. Although sexual preference is an even more powerful fact, it is not one that creates any particular social or cultural or religious bond between those so-minded. Although Jews would doubtless be Jews if there was no anti-Semitism, same-sexers would think little or nothing at all about their preference if society ignored it. So there is a difference between the two estates. But there is no difference in the degree of hatred felt by the Christian majority for Christ-killers and Sodomites. In the German concentration camps, Jews wore yellow stars while homosexualists wore pink lambdas. I was present when Christopher Isherwood tried to make this point to a young Jewish movie producer. “After all,” said Isherwood, “Hitler killed 600,000 homosexuals.” The young man was not impressed. “But Hitler killed six million Jews,” he said sternly. “What are you?” asked Isherwood. “In real estate?”
Like it or not, Jews and homosexualists are in the same fragile boat, and one would have to be pretty obtuse not to see the common danger. But obtuseness is the name of the game among New York’s new class. Elsewhere, I have described the shrill fag-baiting of Joseph Epstein, Norman Podhoretz, Alfred Kazin and the Hilton Kramer Hotel. Harper’s magazine and Commentary usually publish these pieces, though other periodicals are not above printing the odd exposé of the latest homosexual conspiracy to turn the United States over to the Soviet Union or to structuralism or to Christian Dior. Although the new class’s thoughts are never much in themselves, and they themselves are no more than spear carriers in the political and cultural life of the West, their prejudices and supersttions do register in a subliminal way, making mephitic the air of Manhattan if not of the Republic.
A case in point is that of Mrs. Norman Podhoretz, also known as Midge Decter (like Martha Ivers, whisper her name). In September of last year, Decter published a piece called “The Boys on the Beach” in her husband’s magazine, Commentary. It is well worth examining in some detail because she has managed not only to come up with every known prejudice and superstition about same-sexers but also to make up some brand new ones. For sheer vim and vigor, “The Boys on the Beach” outdoes its implicit model, The Protocols of the Elders of Zlon.
Decter notes that when the “homosexual-rights movement first burst upon the scene,” she was “more than a little astonished.” Like so many new-class persons, she writes a stilted sort of genteel-gentile prose not unlike—but not very like, either—the New Yorker house style of the 1940s and ’50s. She also writes with the authority and easy confidence of someone who knows that she is very well known indeed to those few who know her.
Decter tells us that twenty years ago, she got to know a lot of pansies at a resort called Fire Island Pines, where she and a number of other new-class persons used to make it during the summers. She estimates that 40 percent of the summer people were heterosexual; the rest were not. Yet the “denizens, homosexual and heterosexual alike, were predominantly professionals and people in soft, marginal businesses—lawyers, advertising executives, psychotherapists, actors, editors, writers, publishers, gallery owners, designers, decorators, etc.” Keep this in mind. Our authoress does not.
Decter goes on to tell us that she is now amazed at the recent changes in the boys on the beach. Why have they become so politically militant—and so ill groomed? “What indeed has happened to the homosexual community I used to know—they who only a few short years ago [as opposed to those manly 370-day years] were characterized by nothing so much as a sweet, vain, pouting, girlish attention to the youth and beauty of their bodies?” Decter wrestles with this problem. She tells us how, in the old days, she did her very best to come to terms with her own normal dislike for these half-men-and half-women, too: “There were also homosexual women at the Pines, but they were, or seemed to be, far fewer in number. Nor, except for a marked tendency to hang out in the company of large and ferocious dogs, were they instantly recognizable as the men were.” Well, if I were a dyke and a pair of Podhoretzes came waddling toward me on the beach, copies of Leviticus and Freud in hand, I’d get in touch with the nearest Alsatian dealer pronto.
Decter was disturbed by “the slender, seamless, elegant and utterly chic” clothes of the fairies. She also found it “a constant source of wonder” that, when the fairies took off their clothes, “the largest number of homosexuals had hairless bodies. Chests, backs, arms, even legs were smooth and silky…. We were never able to determine just why there should be so definite a connection between what is nowadays called their sexual preference [previously known to right-thinking Jews as an abomination against nature] and their smooth feminine skin. Was it a matter of hormones?” Here Decter betrays her essential modesty and lack of experience. In the no doubt privileged environment of her Midwestern youth, she could not have seen very many gentile males without their clothes on. If she had, she would have discovered that gentile men tend to be less hairy than Jews except, of course, when they are not. Because the Jews killed our Lord, they are forever marked with hair on their shoulders—something that no gentile man has on his shoulders except for John Travolta and a handful of other Italian-Americans from the Englewood, New Jersey, area.
It is startling that Decter has not yet learned that there is no hormonal difference between men who like sex with other men and those who like sex with women. She notes, “There is also such a thing as characteristic homosexual speech.… it is something of an accent redolent of small towns in the Midwest whence so many homosexuals seemed to have migrated to the big city.” Here one detects the disdain of the self-made New Yorker for the rural or small-town American. “Midwest” is often a code word for the flyovers, for the millions who do not really matter. But she is right in the sense that when a group chooses to live and work together, they do tend to sound and look alike. No matter how crowded and noisy a room, one can always detect the new-class person’s nasal whine.
Every now and then, Decter does wonder if, perhaps, she is generalizing and whether this will “no doubt in itself seem to many of the uninitiated a bigoted formulation. ” Well, Midge, it does. But the spirit is upon her, and she cannot stop because “one cannot even begin to get at the truth about homosexuals without this kind of generalization. They are a group so readily distinguishable.” Except, of course, when they are not. It is one thing for a group of queens, in “soft, marginal” jobs, to “cavort,” as she puts it, in a summer place and be “easily distinguishable” to her cold eye just as Jewish members of the new class are equally noticeable to the cold gentile eye. But it is quite another thing for those men and women who prefer same-sex sex to other-sex sex yet do not choose to be identified—and so are not. To begin to get at the truth about homosexualists, one must realize that the majority of those millions of Americans who prefer same-sex sex to other-sex sex are obliged, sometimes willingly and happily but often not, to marry and have children and to conform to the guidelines set down by the heterosexual dictatorship.
Decter would know nothing of this because in her “soft, marginal” world, she is not meant to know. She does remark upon those fairies at the Pines who did have wives and children: “They were for the most part charming and amusing fathers, rather like favorite uncles. And their wives… drank.” This dramatic ellipsis is most Decterian.
She ticks off Susan Sontag for omitting to mention in the course of an essay on camp “that camp is of the essence of homosexual style, invented by homosexuals, and serving the purpose of domination by ridicule.” The word “domination” is a characteristic new-class touch. The powerless are always obsessed by power. Decter seems unaware that all despised minorities are quick to make rather good jokes about themselves before the hostile majority does. Certainly Jewish humor, from the Book of Job (a laff-riot) to pre-auteur Woody Allen, is based on this.
Decter next does the ritual attack on Edward Albee and Tennessee Williams for presenting “what could only have been homosexual relationships as the deeper truth about love in our time.” This is about as true as the late Maria Callas’s conviction that you could always tell a Jew because he had a hump at the back of his neck—-something Callas herself had in dromedarian spades.
Decter makes much of what she assumes to be the fags’ mockery of the heterosexual men at the Pines: “Homosexuality paints them [heterosexuals] with the color of sheer entrapment,” while the fags’ “smooth and elegant exteriors, unmussed by traffic with the detritus of modern family existence, constituted a kind of sniggering reproach to their striving and harried straight brothers.” Although I have never visited the Pines, I am pretty sure that I know the “soft, marginal” types, both hetero and homo, that hung out there in the 1960s. One of the most noticeable characteristics of the self-ghettoized same-sexer is his perfect indifference to the world of the other-sexers. Although Decter’s blood was always at the boil when contemplating these unnatural and immature half-men, they were, I would suspect, serenely unaware of her and of her new-class cronies, solemnly worshiping at the shrine of The Family.
To hear Decter tell it, fags had nothing to complain of then, and they have nothing to complain of now: “Just to name the professions and industries in which they had, and still have, a significant presence is to define the boundaries of a certain kind of privilege: theatre, music, letters, dance, design, architecture, the visual arts, fashion at every level—from head, as it were, to foot, and from inception to retail—advertising, journalism, interior decoration, antique dealing, publishing… the list could go on.” Yes. But these are all pretty “soft, marginal” occupations. And none is “dominated” by fags. Most male same-sexers are laborers, farmers, mechanics, small businessmen, school teachers, firemen, policemen, soldiers, sailors. Most female same-sexers are wives and mothers. In other words, they are like the rest of the population. But then it is hard for the new-class person to realize that Manhattan is not the world. Or as a somewhat alarmed Philip Rahv said to me after he had taken a drive across the United States, “My God! There are so many of them!” In theory, Rahv had always known that there were a couple of hundred million gentiles out there, but to see them, in the flesh, unnerved him. I told him that I was unnerved, too, particularly when they start showering in the Blood of the Lamb.
Decter does concede that homosexualists have probably not “established much of a presence in basic industry or government service or in such classic [new-classy?] professions as doctoring and lawyering but then for anyone acquainted with them as a group the thought suggests itself that few of them have ever made much effort in these directions.” Plainly, the silly billies are too busy dressing up and dancing the hully-gully to argue a case in court. Decter will be relieved to know that the percentage of same-sexers in the “classic” activities is almost as high, proportionately, as that of Jews. But a homosexualist in a key position at, let us say, the Department of Labor will be married, and living under a good deal of strain because he could be fired if it is known that he likes to have sex with other men.
Decter knows that there have always been homosexual teachers, and she thinks that they should keep quiet about it. But if they keep quiet, they can be blackmailed or fired. Also, a point that would really distress her, a teacher known to be a same-sexer would be a splendid role model for those same-sexers that he—or she—is teaching. Decter would think this an unmitigated evil because men and women were created to breed; but, of course, it would be a perfect good because we have more babies than we know what to do with while we lack, notoriously, useful citizens at ease with themselves. That is what the row over the schools is all about.
Like most members of the new class, Decter accepts without question Freud’s line (Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis) that “we actually describe a sexual activity as perverse if it has given up the aim of reproduction and pursues the attainment of pleasure as an aim independent of it.” For Freud, perversion was any sexual activity involving “the abandonment of the reproductive function.” Freud also deplored masturbation as a dangerous “primal affliction.” So did Moses. But then it was Freud’s curious task to try to create a rational, quasi-scientific basis for Mosaic law. The result has been not unlike the accomplishments of Freud’s great contemporary, the ineffable and inexorable Mary Baker Eddy, whose First Church of Christ Scientist he was able to match with his First Temple of Moses Scientist.
Decter says that once faggots have “ensconced” themselves in certain professions or arts, “they themselves have engaged in a good deal of discriminatory practices against others. There are businesses and professions [which ones? She is congenitally short of data] in which it is less than easy for a straight, unless he makes the requisite gesture of propitiation to the homosexual in power, to get ahead.” This, of course, was Hitler’s original line about the Jews: They had taken over German medicine, teaching, law, journalism. Ruthlessly, they kept out gentiles; lecherously, they demanded sexual favors. “I simply want to reduce their number in these fields,” Hitler told Prince Philip of Hesse. “I want them proportionate to their overall number in the population.” This was the early solution; the final solution followed with equal logic.
In new-class circles it was an article of faith that television had been taken over by the fags. Now I happen to have known most of the leading producers of that time and, of a dozen, the two who were interested in same-sex activities were both married to women who… did not drink. Neither man dared mix sex with business. Every now and then an actor would say that he had not got work because he had refused to put out for a faggot producer, but I doubt very much if there was ever any truth to what was to become a bright jack-o’-lantern in the McCarthy Walpurgisnacht.
When I was several thousand words into Decter’s tirade, I suddenly realized that she does not know what homosexuality is. At some level she may have stumbled, by accident, on a truth that she would never have been able to comprehend in a rational way. Although to have sexual relations with a member of one’s own sex is a common and natural activity (currently disapproved of by certain elements in this culture), there is no such thing as a homosexualist any more than there is such a thing as a heterosexualist. That is one of the reasons there has been so much difficulty with nomenclature. Despite John Boswell’s attempts to give legitimacy to the word “gay,” it is still a ridiculous word to use as a common identification for Frederick the Great, Franklin Pangborn and Eleanor Roosevelt. What makes some people prefer same-sex sex derives from whatever impulse or conditioning makes some people prefer other-sex sex. This is so plain that it seems impossible that our Mosaic-Pauline-Freudian society has not yet figured it out. But to ignore the absence of evidence is the basis of true faith.
Decter seems to think that yester-year’s chic and silly boys on the beach and today’s socially militant fags are simply, to use her verb, “adopting” what she calls, in her tastefully appointed English, a life style. On the other hand, “whatever disciplines it might entail, heterosexuality is not something adopted but something accepted. Its woes—and they have of course nowhere been more exaggerated than in those areas of the culture consciously or unconsciously by the propoganda of homosexuals—are experienced as the woes of life.”
“Propaganda”—another key word. “Power.” “Propitiation.” “Domination.” What does the new class dream of?
Decter now moves in the big artillery. Not only are fags silly and a nuisance but they are, in their unrelenting hatred of heterosexualists, given to depicting them in their plays and films and books as a bunch of klutzes, thereby causing truly good men and women to falter—even question—that warm, mature heterosexuality, that is so necessary to keeping this country great while allowing new-class persons to make it materially.
Decter is in full cry. Fags are really imitation women. Decter persists in thinking that same-sexers are effeminate, swishy, girlish. It is true that a small percentage of homosexualists are indeed effeminate, just as there are effeminate heterosexualists. I don’t know why this is so. No one knows why. Except Decter. She, believes that this sort “of female imitation pointed neither to sympathy with nor flattery of the female principle.” Yet queens of the sort she is writing about tend to get on very well with women. But Decter can only cope with two stereotypes: the boys on the beach, mincing about, and the drab political radicals of gay liberation. The millions of ordinary masculine types are unknown to her because they are not identifiable by voice or walk and, most important, because they have nothing in common with one another except the desire to have same-sex relations. Or, put the other way, around, since Lyndon Johnson and Bertrand Russell were both heterosexualists, what character traits did they have in common? I should think none at all. So it is with the invisible millions—now becoming less invisible—of same-sexers.
But Decter knows her Freud, and reality may not intrude: “The desire to escape from the sexual reminder of birth and death with its threat of paternity—that is, the displacement of oneself by others—was the main underlying desire that sent those Fire Island homosexuals into the arms of other men. Had it been the opposite desire—that is, the positive attraction to the manly—at least half the boutiques, etc.” would have closed. Decter should take a stroll down San Francisco’s Castro Street, where members of the present generation of fags look like off-duty policemen or construction workers. They have embraced the manly. But Freud has spoken. Fags are fags because they adored their mothers and hated their poor, hard-working daddies. It is amazing the credence still given this unproven, unprovable thesis.
* * *
Curiously enough, as I was writing these lines, expressing yet again the unacceptable obvious, I ran across Ralph Blumenthal’s article in The New York Times (August 25), which used “unpublished letters and growing research into the hidden life of Sigmund Freud” to examine “Freud’s reversal of his theory attributing neurosis in adults to sexual seduction in childhood.” Despite the evidence given by his patients, Freud decided that their memories of molestation were “phantasies.” He then appropriated from the high culture (a real act of hubris) Oedipus the King, and made him a complex. Freud was much criticized for this theory at the time—particularly by Sandor Ferenczi. Now, as we learn more about Freud (not to mention about the sexual habits of Victorian Vienna as reported in police records), his theory is again under attack. Drs. Milton Klein and David Tribich have written a paper titled “On Freud’s Blindness.” They have studied his case histories and observed how he ignored evidence, how “he looked to the child and only to the child, in uncovering the causes of psychopathology.” Dr. Karl Menninger wrote Dr. Klein about these findings: “Why oh why couldn’t Freud believe his own ears?” Dr. Menninger then noted. “Seventy-five per cent of the girls we accept at the Villages have been molested in childhood by an adult. And that’s today in Kansas! I don’t think Vienna in 1900 was any less sophisticated.”
In the same week as Blumenthal’s report on the discrediting of the Oedipus complex, researchers at the Kinsey Institute reported (The Observer, August 30) that after studying 979 homosexualists (“the largest sample of homosexuals—black and white, male and female—ever questioned in an academic study!”) and 477 heterosexualists, they came to the conclusion that family life has nothing to do with sexual preference. Apparently, “homosexuality is deep-rooted in childhood, may be biological in origin, and simply shows in more and more important ways as a child grows older. It is not a condition which therapy can reverse.” Also, “homosexual feelings begin as much as three years before any sort of homosexual act, undermining theories that homosexuality is learned through experience.” There goes the teacher as seducer and pervert myth. Finally, “Psychoanalysts’ theories about smothering mum and absent dad do not stand investigation. Patients may tend to believe that they are true because therapists subtly coach them in the appropriate memories of their family life.”
* * *
Some years ago, gay activists came to Harper’s, where Decter was an editor, to demonstrate against an article by Joseph Epstein, who had announced, “If I had the power to do so, I would wish homosexuality off the face of the earth.” Well, that’s what HitIer had the power to do in Germany, and did—or tried to do. The confrontation at Harper’s now provides Decter with her theme. She tells us that one of the demonstrators asked, “Are you aware of how many suicides you may be responsible for in the homosexual community?” I suspect that she is leaving out the context of this somewhat left-field cri de coeur. After all, homosexualists have more to fear from murder than suicide. I am sure that the actual conversation had to do with the sort of mischievous effect that Epstein’s Hitlerian piece might have had on those fag-baiters who read it.
But Decter slyly zeroes in on the word “suicide.” She then develops a most unusual thesis. Homosexualists hate themselves to such an extent that they wish to become extinct either through inviting murder or committing suicide. She notes that in a survey of San Francisco’s homosexual men, half of them “claimed bo have had sex with at least five hundred people.” This “bespeaks the obliteration of all experience, if not, indeed, of oneself.” Plainly Decter has a Mosaic paradigm forever in mind and any variation on it is abominable. Most men—homo or hetero—given the opportunity to have sex with 500 different people would do so, gladly; but most men are not going to be given the opportunity by a society that wants them safely married so that they will be docile workers and loyal consumers. It does not suit our rulers to have the proles tom-catting around the way that our rulers do. I can assure Decter that the thirty-fifth President went to bed with more than 500 women and that the well-known… but I must not give away the secrets of the old class or the newly-middle-class new class will go into shock.
Meanwhile, according to Decter, “many homosexuals are nowadays engaged in efforts at self-obliteration…. there is the appalling rate of suicide among them.” But the rate is not appreciably higher than that for the rest of the population. In any case, most who do commit—or contemplate—suicide do so because they cannot cope in a world where they are, to say the least, second-class citizens. But Decter is now entering uncharted country. She also has a point to make: “What is undeniable is the increasing longing among the homosexuals to do away with themselves—if not in the actual physical sense then at least spiritually—a longing whose chief emblem, among others, is the leather bars.”
So Epstein will not be obliged to press that button in order to get rid of the fags. They will do it themselves. Decter ought to be pleased by this but it is not in her nature to be pleased by anything the same-sexers do. If they get married and have children and swear fealty to the family gods of the new class, their wives will… drink. If they live openly with one another, they have fled from woman and real life. If they pursue careers in the arts, heteros will have to be on guard against vicious covert assaults on heterosexual values. If they congregate in the fashion business the way that Jews do in psychiatry, they will employ only those heterosexualists who will put out for them.
Decter is appalled by the fag “take-over” of San Francisco. She tells us about the “ever deepening resentment of the San Francisco straight community at the homosexuals’ defiant displays and power [‘power’!] over this city,” but five paragraphs later she contradicts herself: “Having to a very great extent overcome revulsion of common opinion, are they left with some kind of unappeased hunger that only their own feelings of hatefulness can now satisfy?”
There it is. They are hateful. They know it. That is why they want to eliminate themselves. “One thing is certain.” Decter finds a lot of certainty around. “To become homosexual is a weighty act.” She still has not got the point that one does not choose to have same-sex impulses; one simply has them, as everyone has, to a greater or lesser degree, other-sex impulses. To deny giving physical expression to those desires may be pleasing to Moses and St. Paul and Freud, but these three rabbis are aberrant figures whose nomadic values are not those of the thousands of other tribes that live or have lived on the planet. Women’s and gay liberation are simply small efforts to free men and women from this trio.
Decter writes, “Taking oneself out of the tides of ordinary mortal existence is not something one does from any longing to think oneself ordinary (but only following a different ‘life-style’).” I don’t quite grasp this sentence. Let us move on to the next: “Gay Lib has been an effort to set the weight of that act at naught, to define homosexuality as nothing more than a casual option among options.” Gay lib has done just the opposite. After all, people are what they are sexually not through “adoption” but because that is the way they are structured. Some people do shift about in the course of a life. Also, most of those with same-sex drives do indeed “adopt” the heterosexual life style because they don’t want to go to prison or to the madhouse or become unemployable. Obviously, there is an option but it is a hard one that ought not to be forced on any human being: After all, homosexuality is only important when made so by irrational opponents: In this, as in so much else, the Jewish situation is precisely the same.
Decter now gives us not a final solution so much as a final conclusion: “In accepting the movement’s terms [hardly anyone has, by the way], heterosexuals have only raised to a nearly intolerable height the costs of the homosexuals’ flight from normality.” The flight, apparently, is deliberate, a matter of perverse choice, a misunderstanding of daddy, a passion for mummy, a fear of responsibility. Decter threads her clichés like Teclas on a string: “Faced with the accelerating round of drugs, S-M and suicide, can either the movement or its heterosexual sympathizers imagine they have done anyone a kindness?”
Although the kindness of strangers is much sought after, gay liberation has not got much support from anyone. Natural alies like the Jews are often virulent in their attacks. Blacks in their ghettos, Chicanos in their barrios, and rednecks in their pulpits also have been influenced by the same tribal taboos. That Jews and blacks and Chicanos and rednecks all contribute to the ranks of the same-sexers only increases the madness. But the world of the Decters is a world of perfect illogic.
Herewith the burden of “The Boys on the Beach”: since homosexualists choose to be the way they are out of idle hatefulness, it has been a mistake to allow them to come out of the closet to the extent that they have, but now that they are out (which most are not), they will have no choice but to face up to their essential hatefulness and abnormality and so be driven to kill themselves with promiscuity, drugs, S-M and suicide. Not even the authors of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion ever suggested that the Jews, who were so hateful to them, were also hateful to themselves. So Decter has managed to go one step further than the Protocols’ authors; she is indeed a virtuoso of hate, and thus do pogroms begin.
* * *
Tricks is the story of an author—[Renaud] Camus himself—who has twenty-five sexual encounters in the course of six months. Each of these encounters involves a pick-up. Extrapolating from Camus’s sexual vigor at the age of 35, I would suspect that he has already passed the 500 mark and so is completely obliterated as a human being. If he is, he still writes very well indeed. He seems to be having a good time, and he shows no sign of wanting to kill himself, but then that may be a front he’s keeping up. I am sure that Decter will be able to tell just how close he is to OD’ing.
From his photograph, Camus appears to have a lot of hair on his chest. I don’t know about the shoulders, as they are covered, modestly, with a shirt. Perhaps he is Jewish. Roland Barthes wrote an introduction to Tricks. For a time, Barthes was much admired in American academe. But then, a few years ago, Barthes began to write about his same-sexual inclinations; he is now mentioned a bit less than he was in the days before he came out, as they say.
Barthes notes that Camus’s book is a “text that belongs to literature.” It is not pornographic. It is also not a Homosexual Novel in that there are no deep, anguished chats about homosexuality. In fact, the subject is never mentioned; it just is. Barthes remarks, “Homosexuality shocks less [well, he is—or was—French], but continues to be interesting; it is still at that stage of excitation where it provokes what might be called feats of discourse [see “The Boys on the Beach,” no mean feat!]. Speaking of homosexuality permits those who aren’t to show how open, liberal, and modern they are; and those who are to bear witness, to assume responsibility, to militate. Everyone gets busy, in different ways, whipping it up.” You can say that again! And Barthes does. But with a nice variation. He makes the point that you are never allowed not to be categorized. But then, “say ‘I am’ and you will be socially saved.” Hence the passion for the either/or.
Camus does not set out to give a panoramic view of homosexuality; He comments, in his preface, on the variety of homosexual expressions. Although there is no stigma attached to homosexuality in the French intellectual world where, presumably, there is no equivalent of the new class, the feeling among the lower classes is still intense, a memento of the now exhausted (in France) Roman Catholic Church’s old dirty work (“I don’t understand the French Catholics,” said John Paul II). As a result, many “refuse to grant their tastes because they live in such circumstances, in such circles, that their desires are not only for themselves inadmissible but inconceivable, unspeakable.”
It is hard to describe a book that is itself a description, and that is what Tricks is—a flat, matter-of-fact description of how the narrator meets the tricks, what each says to the other, where they go, how the rooms are furnished and what the men do. One of the tricks is nuts; a number are very hairy—the narrator has a Decterian passion for the furry; there is a lot of anal and banal sex as well as oral and floral sex. Frottage flows. Most of the encounters take place in France, but there is one in Washington, D.C., with a black man. There is a good deal of comedy, in the Raymond Roussel manner.
Tricks will give ammunition to those new-class persons and redneck divines who find promiscuity every bit as abominable as same-sex relations. But that is the way men are when they are given freedom to go about their business unmolested. One current Arab ruler boasts of having ten sexual encounters a day, usually with different women. A diplomat who knows him says that he exaggerates, but not much. Of course, he is a Moslem.
The family, as we know it, is an economic, not a biological, unit. I realize that this is startling news in this culture and at a time when the economics of both East and West require that the nuclear family be, simply, God. But our ancestors did not live as we do. They lived in packs for hundreds of millennia before “history” began, a mere 5,000 years ago. Whatever social arrangements human society may come up with in the future, it will have to be acknowledged that those children who are needed should be rather more thoughtfully brought up than they are today and that those adults who do not care to be fathers or mothers should be let off the hook. This is beginning, slowly, to dawn. Hence, the rising hysteria in the land. Hence, the concerted effort to deny the human ordinariness of same-sexualists. A recent attempt to portray such a person sympathetically on television was abandoned when the Christers rose up in arms.
Although I would never suggest that Truman Capote’s bright wit and sweet charm as a television performer would not have easily achieved for him his present stardom had he been a heterosexualist, I do know that if he had not existed in his present form, another would have been run up on the old sewing machine because that sort of persona must be, for a whole nation, the stereotype of what a fag is. Should some macho film star like Clint Eastwood, say, decide to confess on television that he is really into same-sex sex, the cathode tube would blow a fuse. That could never be allowed. That is all wrong. That is how the Roman Empire fell.
There is not much angst in Tricks. No one commits suicide—but there is one sad story. A militant leftist friend of Camus’s was a teacher in the south of France. He taught 14-year-old members of that oldest of all the classes, the exploited laborer. One of his pupils saw him in a fag bar and spread the word. The students began to torment what had been a favorite teacher. “These are little proles,” he tells Camus, “and Mediterranean besides—which means they’re obsessed by every possible macho myth, and by homosexuality as well. It’s all they can think about.” One of the boys, an Arab, followed him down the street, screaming “Faggot!” “It was as if he had finally found someone onto whom he could project his resentment, someone he could hold in contempt with complete peace of mind.”
This might explain the ferocity of the new class on the subject. They know that should the bad times return, the Jews would be singled out yet again. Meanwhile, like so many Max Naumanns (Naumann was a German Jew who embraced Nazism), the new class passionately supports our ruling class—from the Chase Manhattan Bank to the Pentagon to the Op-Ed page of The Wall Street Journal—while holding in fierce contempt what they think our rulers hold in contempt: faggots, blacks (see Norman Podhoretz’s “My Negro Problem and Ours,” Commentary, February 1963) and the poor (see Midge Decter’s “Looting and Liberal Racism,” Commentary, September 1977). Since these neo-Naumannites are going to be in the same gas chambers as the blacks and the faggots, I would suggest a cease-fire and a common front against the common enemy, whose kindly voice is that of Ronald Reagan and whose less than kindly mind is elsewhere in the board rooms of the Republic.