Sorry, I can't help it. Like many non-lefty homos, I just can't get enough Camille (as enraged former New Republic readers in the 1990s will recall).I've never met a man like myself (regardless of how we react to our same-sex attraction) who doesn't absolutely love her combination of erudition and bitchiness. Here she is this week on the Hillary "it's 3am ... do you trust" ad:
Would I want Hillary answering the red phone in the middle of the night? No, bloody not. The White House first responder should be a person of steady, consistent character and mood -- which describes Obama more than Hillary. And that scare ad was produced with amazing ineptitude. If it's 3 a.m., why is the male-seeming mother fully dressed as she comes in to check on her sleeping children? Is she a bar crawler or insomniac? An obsessive-compulsive housecleaner, like Joan Crawford in "Mommie Dearest"? And why is Hillary sitting at her desk in full drag and jewelry at that ungodly hour?If you're familiar with her talk-show performances, you can just *hear* her say this. This is what makes Paglia such a singular writer: she writes as she speaks. But to why I post about her here now, I was recently rereading her book "Sex, Art and American Culture," which includes her brilliant essay "The Joy of Presbyterian Sex." But the thing I found inspiring this time was from a speech she gave at MIT, in which she crystallizes, from the other end of the sexual-morality spectrum, how uncritical the acceptance of a link between same-sex attraction and "gay identity" has been:
Now, you know what I hate? This thing of, say you have a man who's married, he has children, and maybe every month or every few weeks he goes out and picks up a guy. Today, in this fascist environment it's "you're gay! You're gay and you're secretly homophobic! You are self-loathing! You are hiding behind the mask of respectability!" What if he's just married and likes to sleep with men now and then? ...Obviously, Paglia is not a champion of Catholic sexual morality (though her relationship to it is mature and ambivalent, not hate-filled and infantile like so many of today's gays). But she's making an important point about sexual identity, how it's actually repressive and constricting, even to someone like her who thinks homosexual acts are not immoral. She refuses to be boxed in and sees her true liberation as moving beyond gay identity. She had feelings, but asserted her freedom not to be defined by them (though she's certainly acted on them).
I don't like the situation because right now it's bad for gay people! Right now, people are afraid. Often, a woman is afraid to go to bed with another woman because she's afraid that if she does that, even though she's attracted to her, she'll be "gay"; she'll have to have an identity crisis, be gay and all that other stuff. Why? I'm influenced by the great foreign films of the Late Fifties and Sixties where you had Catherine Deneuve and Jeanne Moreau and Dominique Sanda floating from bed to bed with a man, then with a woman, then with a man, then with a woman. ...
In terms of my history, you know, for a long while in my life I felt that, well, I have to be gay, because I'm so attracted to women, but then in a way it's living a lie, because then I have to repress my attactions to men. So after a while I thought, well, why do I have to give myself any label? Why can't I just respond from day to day and just go with the flow in the Sixties way? ...
It reminds me a little bit of Holly Woodlawn, the great Warhol drag queen, who was on an early Geraldo show. And Geraldo said to Holly Woodlawn: "are you like, a man who should be a woman, or are you a woman who was a man, or are you a man/woman?" And Holly Woodlawn said, "Oh — who care? As long as you look fabulous!"
Honestly, and counterintuitive though it may seem ... Camille Paglia, "a bisexual radical libertarian and fulltime scold of the feminist establishment" (to quote Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes, from memory) and Andrew Sullivan helped me get through American universities in the early 90s, at the height of political correctness and about the time I was starting to become fully conscious of "That." Though neither could be called an orthodox Catholic, they both kept me away from the gay establishment of a time when I might have been quite vulnerable to it.