Blissed out queer culture

Hedonism and the average lesbian and gay man

Permit me to speak in the broadest of generalities and the sweepingest of statements. Straight lives are the means; gay lives are the ends. Straight is work; gay is play.

Befuddled? I admit, it’s a stretch. Bear with me, please.

Adult straight life – epitomized in traditional parenthood – is not about living, but about providing. At least in mythology, parents put their own wants and needs on hold to make a better life for little Petunia or Brock. A parent’s life thus becomes merely the means to an end: a well-adjusted adult offspring.

But central to the concept of well-adjustedness is a child programmed also to become a parent. And thus, straight life becomes a chain, whereby one life is the means to the end of another life, which itself is only a means, and so on, in perpetuity. Means without end. Talk about delayed gratification. If each generation puts off living for the next generation, who – finally – gets to really live?

Enter the homosexual.

Queer people who don’t reproduce break the daunting chain of deferred living. There are long traditions of homosexual hedonism which revere pleasures of the flesh, art and beauty. At its best, gay culture celebrates the living of life.

There is even a new scientific theory which describes homosexuality as “biological exuberance.” Homosexuality has traditionally been associated with historical periods of affluence and even decadence. Now we are now told that our sexuality represents an expression of some kind of biological affluence. Straight sex is about scarcity; gay sex is about surplus.

Sure, homos are breeding like rabbits these days, and even among those of us who don’t reproduce, there are legions of teetotalling bookworms and selfless caregivers. But contemporary gay culture is also pushing hedonism to more and more sophisticated levels.

Circuit parties and raves have reintroduced bacchanalian revelry to modern culture, providing mass celebrations on an enormous scale. For mainstream culture, body modification means piercing and tattooing. For hordes of gay men, body modification is the complete overhaul of one’s physical being with steroids or new AIDS drugs, and the careful adjustment of pleasurable moods and sensations through precise combinations of drugs like Special K, Viagra, GHB and various flavours of ecstasy. We are at once the eager guinea pigs of the pharmaceutical industry, and lay scientists conducting our own pleasure experiments.

Lesbians are getting into the game in a big way, institutionalizing their promiscuity in recent forays into bathhouses and underwear parties.

The rise of lesbian and gay partying coincides with the decline of activism around traditional gay concerns like social justice and AIDS. We’re switching from a movement of anger and rebellion to a movement for bliss.

There are complications, of course. Some characterize gay party culture as the ultimate in mindless, passive consumerism. Comparisons to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World – in which sex, drugs and endless distractions placate the citizenry – leap to mind. Others worry we’re learning to embrace addiction, disease and a “live fast, die young” lifestyle. To top it all off, I suppose, we risk becoming trivial.


But I’m not going to rail on about that. And not because most gay revelers find a moderate balance between instant gratification and long-term goals, between selfish pleasures and the responsibilities of tending to themselves and their friends and chosen families.

It’s important it to stand up for fun in a big way. Pleasure needs no permission, no excuse. But if you need one, do it for that bedraggled mother of five in Kapuskasing.

Cheers to homosexuals in our role as the world’s pleasure technicians. Here’s hoping you give and receive much pleasure this Pride Week!

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Culture, Toronto

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