I am reading Salon’s Pariah Personals series alongside Samuel Delaney’s Hogg. I like Hogg. I might even love Hogg. No disclaimers. It’s one of the most powerfully erotic works I’ve ever read, one that takes Bersani’s “self-shattering” and Tim Dean’s “unlimited intimacy” to an altogether different place. Scrap that. I love Hogg. I insist on this love because those who write about Hogg insist on issuing disclaimers—they don’t like the piss-drinking, the shit-eating, the rape-for-pay, the no-limit 11-year-old protagonist. I’m struck by the need to say, “I like Hogg, but . . .” It feels dishonest or at least too normative for my tastes, as though readers are unable to grant fiction and fantasy the space they need to be fiction and fantasy. To enter into the danger of these spaces. Hogg reminds me what it means to abandon myself to fiction, to lose myself, to feel my resistances seduced away, my frigidities melted, my reticence shattered. I love Hogg.
Read it. You might discover something about yourself.
I am ambivalent about Salon’s Pariah Personals. While I’m delighted to see POC represented on Salon, and this time not simply as victims of some racist attack—POC tend to appear on Salon when one of its white columnists is complaining about white conservative racism–it’s a curious thing. Sexuality is being used to mitigate race in ways I find unsettling. Not to mention, race is being sedimented in relation to sexuality: homophobic family members? Check. Homophobic home cultures? Check. Two-spirit native traditions? Check. Immigrant gender fluidity? Check. Triumphant narrative of overcoming? Check.
And why are these “Pariah Personals”? Who is browsing these pictures of young, attractive QPOC and for what reason? I hear my students reminding me that representation of underrepresented groups can be a good thing, a necessary thing. And I agree with them. Even as I remain skeptical about POC being allowed to appear on Salon as exhibits. Were Salon‘s racial politics better, less tokenizing, then I might be inclined to take these narratives seriously. But I have the sneaky feeling that they are fulfilling some quota: “have we covered enough POC this year? No? Well, let’s run a series, but let’s do queer ones, because they are less objectionable.”
Some representation is better than no representation. But I’ve long since stopped being grateful for crumbs.