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After Sex on Writing Since Queer Theory

After Sex on Writing Since Queer Theory

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Published by Pablo Herrera

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Published by: Pablo Herrera on Mar 22, 2012
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06/11/2013

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to fgure self-indulgent resistance to communal imperatives—a resistance
that, in our heteronormative social dispensation, allows for the wholesale
embodiment of the antisocial by nonreproductive sexualities. By contrast,
heterosexuality succeeds, from within that dispensation, in dissociating
itself from the anarchy and ahistoricism of sex by virtue of its socially valo-
rized (re)production of the “after.”
This compulsion to produce the “after” of sex through the naturalization
of history expresses itself in two very diferent, though not unrelated, ways:
frst, in the privileging of reproduction as the after-event of sex—an after-
event whose potential, implicit in the ideal, if not always in the reality, of
heterogenital coupling, imbues straight sex with its meaning as the agent
of historical continuity; second, in the confation of meaning itself with
those forms of historical knowing whose authority depends on the fetish-
istic prestige of origin, genealogy, telos. In each case the entry into history
coincides with the entry into social narratives that work to domesticate the
incoherence, at once afective and conceptual, that’s designated by “sex.”
That incoherence, in turn, construed as external not only to the social order
but also to the historical self-consciousness through which the social order
is born, gets mapped onto sexualities that prove resistant to sublimation,
resistant to the reproduction of meaning as social and historical genera-
tivity. “After” thus stands in relation to “sex” as “heteronormative” stands
to “queer,” or as “history” stands to “repetition,” or the “social” to the “anti-
social.” It afrms the identity of value with history, sociality, collective life,
over and against the abyss of sex as the site of drives not predetermined
by any fxed goal or end, as the site, therefore, where the subject of social
regulation might come undone and with it the seeming consistency of the
social order itself. Thus to situate queer theory “after sex” is more than
a contradiction in terms. It attests to a latent fantasy of gaining political
legitimation at the cost of predicating politics on heteronormative tem-
porality, even though such a politics pits sociality against the queerness
ascribed to its antisocial other who won’t transcend or repudiate “sex” for
the good of the greater community.
But the antisocial is never, of course, distinct from the social itself. The
ideological delimitation of an antisocial agency, one that refuses the nor-
malizing protocols that legislate social viability, conditions the social order
that variously reifes and disavows it, condemning that localized agency as
the cause of the sufering for which the social order disclaims its responsi-
bility. Whatever the body or bodies that fnd themselves chosen to fesh it

Ever After 471

out, this antisocial force absorbs the repudiated negativity without which
community is never imagined, let alone brought into being. This focus
on the negativity of the social, on its inherent antisociality, does not deny
that such commonalities as community may posit can result, according to
Jacques Lacan, in “a certain law of equality . . . formulated in the notion of
the general will.” But while the imposition of such a law may establish, for
Lacan, “the common denominator of the respect for certain rights,” it also,
as he goes on to add, can “take the form of excluding from its boundaries,
and therefore from its protection, everything that is not integrated into its
various registers.”1 For the general will to be general, that is, it must negate
a certain specifcity, which refects, of course, frst and foremost, the spe-
cifc construction of the “general will.” Theodor Adorno, who makes a simi-
lar point, proposes that “society stays alive, not despite its antagonism, but
by means of it”—an insight that subsequently leads him to conclude that
“under the all-subjugating identity principle, whatever does not enter into
identity, whatever eludes rational planning in the realm of means, turns
into frightening retribution for the calamity which identity brought on the
nonidentical.”2

The governing logic I defned in No Future as reproductive futurism is
one of the forms this calamity takes3—a calamity that efects the violent era-
sure of the cost at which a social order, constitutively self-sentimentalizing,
perpetuates, in the name of the future and its privileged embodiment,
the Child, the absolutism of identity, the fxity of what is. It does so pre-
cisely by proscribing whatever insists on the nonidentical, whatever brings
out, through a critical practice that accedes to negativity, alternatives to
the terms permitting our conceptualization of the social only by means
of compulsory submission to the temporality of community—alternatives
that threaten the coherence, and so the identity, of the social itself and with
it the utopian fantasy of a collectivity, a general will, whose norms need not
themselves conduce to the enforcement of normativity.
For futurism’s dispensation, like the laissez-faire faith of neoliberalism,
authorizes every discursive stance to compete in the register of the political
except that stance construed, by those on the Right and Left alike, as extra-,
post-, or a-political insofar as it directs its negativity at the framing of poli-
tics as such. This is the fate of those whom No Future describes as sinthomo-
sexuals, those who reject the Child as the materialized emblem of the social
relation and with it the concomitant mapping of the political in the space
of reproductive futurism. Bringing together the Lacanian sinthome, which

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