National Commentary

Nick Benton’s Gay Science No. 46: The 1970’s Vortex Of Sexual Addiction

My core argument can be summed up like this: (1) Homosexuals are beautiful, (2) we are important, and (3) we must shift our culture’s “center of gravity” away from hedonism.

First, especially when free of self-loathing and oppression, we gays have demonstrated through history unique qualities of heightened sensibility, an alternate perspective and constructive non-conformity that have brought beauty and joy, and have been integral to the humanizing and progress of civilization.

Second, there’s no doubt that we gays are an integral component of natural creation whose role has, in general, been to focus on the socializing qualities of education and science, appreciation of the beautiful, humane social governance, and to be the “great poets” described by Walt Whitman. Because we’re not inherently focused on species reproduction and the territorial components of that (which lead to wars), we focus on the nurture of widows and orphans, so to speak, and to stand firmly, as unconventional and usually perceived arch-enemies of male-dominated cultures, against the dehumanizing trends of those. Without homosexuals exercising a proper role, societies become harsh, brutal and self-destructive.

Third, hedonism, says the dictionary, is”the pursuit of or devotion to pleasure, especially to the pleasures of the senses.” The tragic fact of our gay history that 40 years ago, at the time of Stonewall, just when it became possible for the first time in history for us to shed the terrible burden of secret double-existences and self-paralyzing deceit, we were plunged into a maelstrom of destructive anarcho-hedonism. Our current gay culture is inherited from this.

“Anarcho-hedonism” is a novel term I get credit for introducing into serious discourse. It is descriptive of the so-called “counterculture,” the noxious product of sinister conniving by pro-fascist elements in the covert U.S. intelligence structure. I witnessed first hand its evolution and deployment to shift the national cultural ethos away from post-World War II progressive and humanitarian values to, by the early 1970s, a mass movement of depoliticized, self-centered hedonists.

The nation in the early 1970s, including its suddenly-burgeoning urban homosexual scene, was going literally insane. The young went from being principled, idealistic civil rights activists to being deluged with powerful mind-altering drugs, content-less hypnotic music and free sex, the most powerful narcotic of all – it was the “triple threat” of the counterculture: sex, drugs and rock-and-roll.

Whereas it’s very cool, of course, to be homosexual and to like what we like, the “counterculture”-led explosion of anonymous, impersonal and relentless gay sex in major urban U.S. centers – egged on by mysteriously suddenly-libertine attitudes by public authorities and gurus of sexual freedom who taunted the fainthearted by accusing any impulse for restraint of being counter-revolutionary – created a serious, massive clinical addiction that eventually led to AIDS.

The addiction was to sex, itself, the internal bodily chemistry of the orgasm and its release being most powerful narcotic of all. It was reinforced by peer pressure and, in the haze of instant gratification, the relentless preachers and peddlers of hedonistic excess. Among other things, it was a hay-day for rapists, predators and pederasts, emboldened to practice drug-laced seduction and coercion, all in the name of the “sexual revolution.” It was too much. By 1973 I’d effectively exited the scene, but observed its relentless deepening and spread until slowed by AIDS beginning in 1981.

The new freedom was, in fact, a new slavery, as with any addiction. Writing about gay culture in that era, Andrew Holleran and Edmund White, even if they didn’t acknowledge the problem as addiction, in fact, alluded to its effects repeatedly.

In “Dancers From the Dance” (1978), Holleran’s “non-fiction novel” (his term) describing the New York homosexual scene in the pre-AIDS 1970s, he used terms like “prisoner of love,” “the hot gloom of lust,” “unable to leave,” “kept him there against his will,” sex as the “extraordinary disease,” “doomed queen,” “the grim expression of someone living for lust,” “the itchy sore of lust,” “ceasing, like us, to have any identity at all,” “just as lost as we were,” “the hope of love getting further and further from any chance of it,” “sick with lust,” “surrender to the white pill,” “the disease, the delirium of the last 10 years,” “we were lunatics, I am sorry to say,” “addicted,” “the madness of it all,” “the disease had eaten into his system,” “we are doomed.”

Hedonistic addiction act like a powerful vortex, a force of destruction hurling victims against their will to utter destruction. Plato knew this. It is the dynamic expressed in Dante’s “Inferno,” and in Wilde’s “Picture of Dorian Gray.”

This, and not the grinning, PR version of our post-Stonewall history, is what we actually suffered. It led to the unspeakable horror that beautiful gay people could not be deterred from becoming the crazed assassins of 400,000 of their own.

To be continued.