Changing Anarchism: Anarchist Theory and Practice in a Global Age

By Jonathan Purkis; James Bowen | Go to book overview

Jamie Heckert


5
Sexuality/identity/politics1

Introduction

At an anarchist discussion group, I confessed to working for the council. I explained that I felt justified because the sexual health programme in which I was involved was so incredibly progressive. The person to whom I had made this admission replied, rather haughtily, 'I hardly think sex education is revolutionary.' Putting aside the idea that something is only worthwhile if it will bring on 'the revolution', I was concerned with the apparent attitude that sex education cannot be 'anarchist'. Perhaps this is because anarchism has traditionally focused on formal hierarchy, especially in the forms of the State and capital.

Academically and politically, my primary interest is sexuality. By this I include sexual or erotic desires, behaviours and relationships. I often ask myself how I can justify putting my energy into sexuality. Climate change, nuclear weapons and other forms of environmental catastrophe could have disastrous effects for all forms of life on this planet. Capitalism, as a system of institutionalised competition, supports abuse of the individual, unsustainable consumption, and inhibits co-operative social efforts. Racial hatred, nationalism and xenophobia are central to violence and war. How can sexuality be seen to be nearly as important? I say this is because any attempt to build a society where people are comfortable with themselves and each other must include a radical reorganisation of sexuality.

Sexuality is not separate from these other issues which are more commonly considered political. Our collective discomfort and obsession with sex is capitalised upon by advertising agencies further fuelling consumerism (Connell, 1997), which plays a key role in climate change (Marshall, G., 2001). The gendered division of labour is partly justified through expectations of reproductive roles (Lorber, 1991). In Britain and elsewhere, belief in 'racial purity' and the fear of 'whites' becoming a minority plays a role in the stigmatisation of mixed-race relationships and the almost eugenic tendencies sometimes found in the distribution of contraceptives and birth control propaganda (Weeks, 1995b). Also during times of crisis or more rapid social change, people tend to become very anxious, often about sex. The McCarthy era of American history offers one obvious example of this, when fears

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