chapter  20
18 Pages

Promiscuity and Death

A t the outset of the A I D S crisis, in the early 1980s, the tabloid press angrily denounced, even as it recorded in salacious detail, the numbers of sexual partners gay men were alleged to have in a day, a month or a year. Orgiastic sexual freedom had become the way of death, and if Christians who believed A I D S to be the wages of sin were a vocal but relatively insignificant minority, those who regarded A I D S as somehow the inevitable if not appropriate fate for sexual deviants were less vocal but more numerous. The gay bathhouses became the focus of intense hostility. Whereas a decade earlier gay writers like G u y Hocquenghem could celebrate them as the scene of a 'primary sexual communism' (p. 97), now, in the popular imagination (and this included the imagination of some gay people), they figured as places of contagion and danger, where the sexually obsessed deviant became at once suicidal and murderous. Which leads back to this book's point of departure: H u g o , the character from Oscar Moore ' s A Matter of Life and Sex, in the Parisian bathhouses; the philosopher M i c h e l Foucault in the Cali fornian ones.