What makes sex bad? Censorship, deviance, and failure. Perversion, inversion, and racial transgression. Finding pleasure in pain and disgust, parading in public not hiding in private. Having sex for ready money not for a dowry; straying from gender scripts; playing roles, recording acts, and inviting strangers along for the ride. All these forms of sexual intimacy and more have been persistently denigrated by lawmakers, moralists, and right-thinking people. But we won’t bother with them.
Rather than celebrating “healthy,” “good” sex – gay or straight – in this class we will turn the tables. Through a series of novels and films, we will become acquainted with Michel Foucault’s “numberless family of perverts who were on friendly terms with delinquents and akin to madmen.” Neither seeking to condemn nor to uncritically applaud these figures, we will explore twentieth-century cultural representations of perversity. In so doing we will discover, as Michael Warner put it, “the trouble with normal.”