978-0-684-86529-4 / 9780684865294

The Trouble With Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life


Publisher:Free Press



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About the book:

Is gay marriage good for gays? Are queer people better off when they see themselves as "normal" Americans? What is lost when gays go mainstream? What, after all, is "The Trouble With Normal?" Here, Michael Warner, one of our most brilliant social critics, argues that gay marriage and other moves toward normalcy are bad not just for gays but for everyone. In place of the sexual status quo, Warner offers a vision of true sexual autonomy that will forever change the way we think about sex, shame, and identity. With this lively and surprising exploration of the dangers of normalcy, Warner sends a warning shot to the gay rights movement, which has cleaned up its image in order to blend in with an imaginary main-stream. Now taking as its "raison d'etre" the fight for gay marriage, gay politics has abandoned its historic fight against the stigmatization of sex. But, as Warner shows, when gays agree to separate their "sex" from their "identity," they are only rewarded with oppressive trends like stricter zoning of gay clubs and businesses, the "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" policy in the military, and, ironically, the "Defense of Marriage" act. Warner examines the debate over gay marriage through a completely original lens, and also assesses laws governing sexual activity, cohabitation, bar and club zoning, trends in political activism, and HIV prevention. The result is a piercing and cogent analysis of the politics of shame and the stigma of sexual identity. Sexual shame and stigma can be found across the full spectrum of contemporary life. From the Oval Office to the back room, sex remains something that we think needs to be controlled. Michael Warner cuts through the confused moralismthat surrounds sex, and offers in its place an ethics that requires freedom of choice, tolerance, and, most important, access to pleasures and possibilities. On this score, he points out, we have a lot to learn from the "disreputable" queers, prostitutes, trannies, and club crawlers whose point of view about morality, sex, and shame can be transformative. Warner's bold defense of queer ethics and his powerful indictment of all that's wrong with the trend to "normalize" give us a vision of sexual ethics that proclaims sex to be as varied as the people who have it, and holds that honesty and morality are not limited to those with a marriage license. His lucid and lively argument will spark heated debate among all readers who are troubled by the unhappy tension between sex and dignity.

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