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Guy Hocquenghem

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A young Hocquenghem

Guy Hocquenghem (10 December 1946 – 28 August 1988) was a French writer, philosopher, and queer theorist. He was the first French person in the twentieth century to publicly come out as homosexual to the press, on January 10, 1972.[1]

At the age of 15, Hocquenghem began a homosexual affair with his high school philosophy teacher René Schérer and they remained lifelong friends. Hocquenghem was an academic peer to many of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, including Michel Foucault and others who (alongside his lover René Schérer) signed the 1977 French petition against age of consent laws. In 1978, he participated in a radio conversation in Paris between himself, philosopher Michel Foucault, and playwright/actor/lawyer Jean Danet, debating sexual consent and reform to the age of consent. It was transcribed and published as "The Danger of Child Sexuality" and, later, "Sexual Morality and the Law", and can be read online at Ipce.[2]

Hocquenghem was a militant left-wing radical who participated in the May 1968 student rebellion in France. He was the staff writer for the French publication Libération, and a leading member of the Front Homosexuel d'Action Révolutionnaire (FHAR), in English, the Homosexual Front for Revolutionary Action, which opposed the age of consent.[3] A Front de libération de la jeunesse (Youth Liberation Front) was created within the FHAR which contested the age of sexual majority, and chose “Minors want to be fucked!” as its protest slogan.[4] Hocquenghem was loyal to the French Communist Party, but was expelled because of his homosexuality.

The academic Ron Haas (2004) described him as "a founding father of homosexual liberation in France":

Though Guy Hocquenghem's career as a militant and writer began, like many in his generation, in the occupied Latin Quarter in the first weeks of May '68 - by his own account he literally threw the first stone on the rue Guy Lussac - most would date his entrance into the public sphere to January 1972, when he published his so-called "coming out" essay in Le Nouvel Observateur, entitled the "Revolution of Homosexuals." It was the literary event that, probably more than any single other, helped establish the cause of gay liberation firmly in the wider public consciousness. That same year saw the publication of his manifesto, Homosexual Desire, the first philosophical elaboration of the new revolutionary homosexual movement in France and his most well known work today. Since 1972, Hocquenghem's name has been almost synonymous in France with the early years of gay liberation and, more specifically, with the Revolutionary Homosexual Action Front (Front homosexuel d'action révolutionnaire or FHAR), the movement he helped build in the early 1970s. Exaggerating only slightly, one might say that Guy Hocquenghem was to French gay liberation in 1972 what Stonewall was to its American predecessor in 1969. In its early period at least, he was responsible for much of its momentum, its theory, and its character.[5]

Hocquenghem taught philosophy at the University of Vincennes-Saint Denis, Paris, and wrote numerous novels and works of theory. He had a significant impact on leftist thinking in France but is not very well known outside of academic spaces frequented by gay and queer theorists such as Jeffrey Weeks, who wrote the 1978 preface to the first English translation of Hocquenghem's revolutionary theoretical tract, Homosexual Desire[6] (1972, English translation 1978), speculated to be the first work of Queer Theory. Some of his writing and thought concerns pederasty/age-disparate homosexuality, intergenerational sex, and the social construction and institution of childhood.

Hocquenghem died of AIDS-related complications on 28 August 1988, aged 41.

Schérer (left) and Hocquenghem (right) pictured together

Relevant and English publications

Other than Homosexual Desire (1972), his works include:

  • The Screwball Asses (1973) (English translation by Noura Wedell, Semiotext(e), 2010) - His 2nd most noted work, this essay originally appeared in the twelfth (March 1973) issue of Recherches, a French journal. Edited by Félix Guattari and the FHAR, the issue was devoted to homosexuality and included positive testimony of male same-sex age-gap sex. The issue bore the title Trois milliards de pervers: Grande Encyclopédie des Homosexualités (Three Billion Perverts: Grand Encyclopedia of Homosexualities). In an example of state enforced censorship, shortly after publication, copies of the issue were seized by French authorities where the issue was ordered destroyed and Guattari was fined 600 francs for his role in the issue's creation.[7]

On the publication, the historian Amin (2014) wrote:

[C]omposed of a combination of erotic photos and drawings, homosexual "détournements" of comics and illustrations from French Boy Scout novels, masturbatory autobiographic narratives, and transcribed conversations, along with more recognizably political declarations and analyses. [...] This erotic and, indeed, pornographic frankness is likely why Guattari was found guilty, as the editor, of affronting public decency: his apartment was searched, and the existing journal issues were confiscated. [...] The chapter on pedophilia [...] censored as recently as 2002 in the special issue’s online publication, opens with a transcribed dialogue between Max, a forty-year-old pederast who prefers adolescents but occasionally has sex with prepubescent boys, and his former boy beloveds, twenty-five-year-old Truc and nineteen-year-old Albert, both of whom are now heterosexual.[8]

  • L'Après-Mai des faunes (1974) (Published in English in 2022 as Gay Liberation After May '68),[9] Details the rise of the French militant gay liberation movement alongside the women’s movement and other revolutionary organizing, from Hocquenghem's perspective. According to the publisher:

Hocquenghem situates his theories of homosexual desire in the realm of revolutionary practice, arguing that revolutionary movements must be rethought through ideas of desire and sexuality that undo stable gender and sexual identities. Throughout, he persists in a radical vision of the world framed through a queerness that can dismantle the oppressions of capitalism and empire, the family, institutions, and, ultimately, civilization.

  • Co-ire, album systématique de l'enfance (Coming and Going Together: A Systematic Childhood Album) (1976) examines childhood sexuality from a Marxist perspective, co-authored with professor and lover René Schérer. In English translation on library genesis.[10]
  • L'Amour en relief (Love in Relief) (1982, English translation 1985) is Hocquenghem's first and most famous novel. A blind Tunisian boy explores French society and discovers the ways in which pleasure can form a resistance to totalitarianism. The novel contextualizes homosexual desire as a resistance to white supremacy and racism. English translated PDF available via Annas archive.[11]

Hocquenghem on intergenerational sex

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In Sexual Morality and the Law[12] (1978), alongside Michel Foucault and Jean Danet, Hocquenghem famously stated that the "notion of consent is a trap [...] No one signs a contract before making love". He said:

As far as this question of consent is concerned, I prefer the terms used by Michel Foucault: listen to what the child says and give it a certain credence. This notion of consent is a trap, in any case. What is sure is that the legal form of an intersexual consent is nonsense. No one signs a contract before making love.

[...]

When we say that children are "consenting" in these cases, all we intend to say is this: in any case, there was no violence, or organized manipulation in order to wrench out of them affective or erotic relations. It's an important point, all the more important for the children because it's an ambiguous victory in that to get a judge to organize a ceremony in which the children come and say that they were actually consenting is an ambiguous victory. The public affirmation of consent to such acts is extremely difficult, as we know. Everybody - judges, doctors, the defendant - knows that the child was consenting - but nobody says anything, because, apart from anything else, there's no way it can be introduced [because their self-perception of consent is legally and socially invalidated/held to be irrelevant - Newgon editors]. It's not simply the effect of a prohibition by law: it's really impossible to express a very complete relationship between a child and an adult - a relation that is progressive, long, goes through all kinds of stages, which are not all exclusively sexual, through all kinds of affective contacts. To express this in terms of legal consent is an absurdity. In any case, if one listens to what a child says and if he says" I didn't mind," that doesn't have the legal value of "I consent." But I'm also very mistrustful of that formal recognition of consent on the part of a minor, because I know it will never be obtained and is meaningless in any case.

He criticizes the then emerging social construction of the the monstrous "pedophile" figure, what Foucault referred to as the creation of "dangerous individuals":

[P]eople think they know of the total difference between the world of the child and the world of the adult. But today's overall tendency is indisputably not only to fabricate a type of crime that is quite simply the erotic or sensual relationship between a child and an adult, but also [...] to create a certain category of the population defined by the fact that it tends to indulge in those pleasures. There exists then a particular category of the pervert, in the strict sense, of monsters whose aim in life is to practice sex with children. Indeed they become perverts and intolerable monsters since the crime as such is recognized and constituted, and now strengthened by the whole psychoanalytical and sociological arsenal. What we are doing is constructing an entirely new type of criminal, a criminal so inconceivably horrible that his crime goes beyond any explanation, any victim.

[A]n attack without violence that is unprovable in any case and leaves no trace, since even the anuscope is unable to find the slightest lesion that might legitimate in some way or other the notion of violence. Thus, [...] the criminal is simply a criminal because he is a criminal, because he has those tastes. It is what used to be called a crime of opinion.

The constitution of this type of criminal, the constitution of this individual perverse enough to do a thing that hitherto had always been done without anybody thinking it right to stick his nose into it, is an extremely grave step from a political point of view.

[...]

The crime vanishes, nobody is concerned any longer to know whether in fact a crime was committed or not, whether someone has been hurt or not. No one is even concerned any more whether there actually was a victim. The crime feeds totally upon itself in a man-hunt, by the identification, the isolation of the category of individuals regarded as pedophiles. It culminates in that sort of call for a lynching sent out nowadays by the gutter press.

Hocquenghem's thought on childhood and minor-older sexual experience is discussed in Bill Marshall's English language biography, Guy Hocquenghem: Theorising the Gay Nation (1996).[13]

For Marshall, Hocquenghem sees revolutionary potential in:

[T]he margins of homosexualities, those non-totalisable practices which fall through the system, such as "les folles" (camp or drag queens), 'on the frontier between art and life, outside politics', 'that patchwork of street culture, art, preciosity and vulgarity which formed the complex tissue of a mode of apprehending the world without dullness or common sense', and delinquency." (p. 12).

[He] seeks to challenge the homo-hetero binary, as well as the segregation of generations to be found in the discursive system surrounding children's sexuality: 'When you look at the desiring relations between majors and minors, you touch the system of distribution that cuts the child from the adult in all of us, and which segregates them in the social body.' [Ibid].

With Scherer, Hocquenghem observed that:

The child is caught in panoptic fields [...] which means that he or she is always localized and observed in the institutions of school and family.[14]

[...]

The child is disciplined into personhood. So what a liberation of the child actually means is the undermining of the adult/child distinction and the consequences of that for the liberation of all: 'childhood is not a fixed state which adulthood simply succeeds, but . . . there is a permanence of childhood that also concerns society in general'. [... They] seek to dislodge genital-centred sex from its privileged position. [... For them,] children should be allowed to consent, and the fact that they are not is part of their social disempowerment. (pp. 49-50).

Other scholars, notably Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Tim Dean, have discussed his theories and politics more generally.[15] Similar to vandalism of Eric Gill's art or censorship of a mural featuring Allen Ginsberg, the 2020's saw Hocquenghem's legacy attacked in an attempt to censor/remove public mentions of his name. August 2020 saw the "Hocquenghem affair":

The evening of 30 August 2020, the cameras of RT France followed Cassiopée, a millitant from the feminist collective Les Grenades. Her act: pouring fake blood on the plaque commemorating Guy Hocquenghem affixed at the base of a building where he had lived in Paris. According to her, Hocquenghem would be found guilty of apology for pedocriminality. The city administration took its courage in both hands and stealthily removed the compromising plaque some days later without saying a word.[16]

See also

References

  1. Gay Liberation After May '68 translated by Scott Branson (Duke University Press, 2022), footnote 4, p. 124.
  2. The Danger of Child Sexuality at Ipce
  3. Marshall biography (1996) cited in reference list, p. 12.
  4. Jean Bérard, Nicolas Sallée, Translated by Ethan Rundell, The Age(s) of Consent: Gay Activism and the Sexuality of Minors in France and Quebec (1970-1980), in Clio: Women, Gender, History. Volume 42, Issue 2 (July 2015), pp. 99-124 (paragraph 10). See reference 22.
  5. Ron Haas. (2004). Utopia Aborted: May '68 in the Philosophy of Guy Hocquenghem. French History, Volume 32.
  6. Homosexual Desire
  7. He also wrote for semiotext(e). See semiotext(e): Volume II, No. 3, 1977. Anti-Oedipus: From Psychoanalysis to Schizopolitics.
  8. Kadji Amin, Disturbing Attachments (2014), p. 86, p. 116. Amin adds: "In 2002, a password protected version adapted to the internet was published on the site of the French journal Critical Secret — this version was effectively censored, the “Pedophilia” chapter removed. See Genosko, “The Figure of the Arab in Three Billion Perverts,” 62. The link on the website is currently inactive." (footnote 22, p. 217). The citation is: “La pédophilie.” In “Trois milliards de pervers: Grande encyclopédie des homosexualités.” Special issue, Recherches 12 (1973), pp. 116–28.
  9. Gay Liberation After May '68 translated by Scott Branson (Duke University Press, 2022).
  10. Co-ire, album systématique de l'enfance. Also available from Annas archive.
  11. Hocquenghem, Love in relief (L'amour en relief). New York: SeaHorse Press, 1986.
  12. Sexual Morality and the Law (on Ipce)
  13. Guy Hocquenghem: Theorising the Gay Nation. London: Pluto Press, 1996.
  14. Hocquenghem and Schérer's 1974 article in Les Temps modernes emphasises the importance, in this process, of surveillance to prevent masturbation.
  15. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. “Anality,” in The Weather in Proust (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011). Tim Dean, “The Antisocial Homosexual,” pmla 121, no. 3 (2006): 826–28. For criticism of , see James Penney, Capitalism and Schizoanalysis, in After Queer Theory : The Limits of Sexual Politics (London: Pluto, 2013).
  16. Reading Hocquenghem, Trou Noir 28 September 2020, September issue.