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Number 1: Spring 2008

Interpellation and Intensity: Thinking Homosexuality with Psychoanalysis

Philip Derbyshire

In his 1972 book Homosexual Desire, Guy Hocquenghem used Deleuze and Guattari’s model of positive desire–desiring production–to develop an account of homosexuality that still has interest. Homosexuality is defined not by negation, loss or absence, the dominant codings of sexuality within the psychoanalysis of the time, and still residually mobilised in queer theory, as we saw above, but as a positive conjunction of organs and bodies. For Hocquenghem, the Oedipal machine makes homosexuality meaningful by seeing it as a molar linkage between whole gendered bodies: men and men, women and women. Hocquenghem wanted to see homosexual desire as a way in which the territories of gender and totalised bodies might undergo a sort of dissolution, leaving new surfaces for connection–for ‘plugging in’. Psychoanalysis theorises, or rather is the representation in theory, of a particular coding of desire which it later endorses. Hocquenghem thus sees Freud’s account of the various developmental stages of the libido, with their final outcome in the suzerainty of the phallic, as a sequence of socially functional repressions, limiting the possibilities of pleasure and connection. The repression of anality becomes the foundation of the private self: the phallic ordering of the body sacrifices anal jouissance in the service of an external order, one of separate gendered individuals. By contrast a de-Oedipalised homosexuality opens up the anus to desire, to interconnection, to exchange. The body is disarticulated into a congeries of erotic machines, which can interact with other machines to generate flows and pleasure. The utopian vision that Hocquenghem proposes foresees a generalisation of the dérive, the cruising that gay men have traditionally practiced in liminal spaces, now transferred to the social field as a whole. Rather than a confined encounter between persons, homosexual desire seeks a perpetually open gamut of connections, of greater or lesser duration. For Hocquenghem, homosexual desire is not a derivative desire harking back to a lost object (real as with Freud, or always already lost, as with Lacan), or a moment of transgression that maintains the law, but a drive to new connections. Crucially, desire is not tied to a fixity of fantasy: rather than a supercoded route to jouissance, Hoquenghem posits the creation and endless novelties of pleasure through multiple connections.7


  1. For those interested in philosophical connections, one might see this Deleuzian account as oddly consonant with Lacanian notions: the Deleuzian body is the body before the mirror stage, but also the body after subjective destitution, the body beyond meaning, where intensity is pure and unrestricted. The relations between Lacan and Deleuze (and Guattari) would be a useful study.