Week 7 responses – Testo Junkie

Don’t forget to bring at least 1 passage from the book to our class discussion on Monday.

This may also be helpful: a book review of Testo Junkie by Julian Gill-Peterson.

 

Plus a meme on-theme:

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7 thoughts on “Week 7 responses – Testo Junkie

  1. In simplicity, Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era is a reevaluation of the way gender is perceived in the society of today. In the beginning of Testo Junkie, Paul Preciado writes,“[y]ou’re the only one who can read this book. In front of this camera, “for the first time I’m tempted to make a self-portrait for you.” Design an image of myself as if I were you. Do you in drag. Cross-dress into you. Bring you back to life with this image” (Preciado 19). After reading this section, this quote “performance is a drag” came back to me. I heard in another class and I am not sure who said it originally. It gets at the idea that all performance is a type of “drag.” We are all performing the embodied ideas that society has presented to us, internalizing them, and then representing these ideas back to the world through our filtered gaze. Any performance studies student will tell you that it is impossible to escape performance due to the fact that performance is everywhere. Performing is something we must do. One of the quotes from the book that Peterson’s review of the book pointed out was, “Contemporary society inhabited by toxic-pornographic subjectivities: subjectivities defined by the substance (or substances) that supply their metabolism, by the cybernetic prostheses and various types of pharmacopornographic desires that feed the subject’s actions and through which they turn into agents” (Preciado 35). Our bodies exist within a gendered world where they are gazed at through the lens of gender. Even if bodies do not conform to any gender, they are still viewed at as something they are “without,” as if gender were something that was innate to our existence. Preciado’s reexamination of gender as “a biotech industrial artifact” where “Male and female” are terms without empirical content beyond the technologies that produce them” allows the reader to see the industrialization of gender present within modern society. The body is merely a vessel, and we the operator are in control of the experiences and treatments that we put ourselves through. We are prototypes subject to the change which we undergo to become something. I think that is what Preciado meant when they wrote, “[w]e are not bodies without organs, but rather an array of heterogeneous organs unable to be gathered under the same skin” (Preciado 116). In terms of capacity, our bodies are capable of undergoing certain experiences and similar changes in the pharmacopornographic era. We inject ourselves with drugs in an attempt to have a certain experience of something, or with the hope of becoming something else. Gender queer bodies have pressure placed on them by society to be read on the ends of the gender spectrum. They are policed and disciplined into fitting into a certain role. Preciado writes that this is the same thing that Foucault’s writings on biopower were about, just transferred into a different lens: “[t]he disciplinary regime didn’t erase the sovereign necropolitical techniques” (Preciado 77). Testo Junkie forces us to reexamine the middle. Why must we become something or become someone else? Why is a binary perspective even present there? With all of this in mind (but especially the first quote I pulled), I wonder what would a true “drag” of another look like? Can we ever really perform the role of another fully? What would that embodiment look like? In another class of mine this semester, we are focusing a lot on the work of Anna Deavere Smith and the idea of identity being performed in the gaps within a person’s voice. Smith’s work occupies the idea that vocal mimicry and true embodiment of a voice is the way to understand the identity of another. I find it interesting comparing both perspectives of identity, and trying to determine where a true “drag” performance of another would lie. What makes the imitator “more” of the person they are emulating? Is it through physicality or vocal? Or is the true performance of another somewhere in between? Preciado grasps at this question when stating “my face is immaterial, my name of no significance. Only the strict relationship between my body and the substance is a cult object, an object of surveillance” (Preciado 21). Where does our identity really lie? I guess my real underlying questions are if someone were perfectly able to emulate another and move throughout reality with their exact physique and demeanor, do they become that person? Can they constitute as them?

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  2. In Paul Preciado’s Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era he presents modern gender and sexuality as products of capitalistic moldings of the self. He attributes this to a mixture of three things: synthetic body parts (not like arms but like blood and sperm), pornography, and drugs. He essentially argues that these three things, working in tandem with capitalism and the media, have not simply perverted our gender and sexuality beyond anything close to “natural”, but have completely constructed them in the first place. Indeed, as a child I knew that Hugh Hefner was totally awesome and the person that every guy wanted to be before I even knew who or what Hugh Hefner was. That was one of the desires created in me by this phenomenon. Just like how companies create products, it “produces mobile ideas, living organs, symbols, desires, chemical reactions, and conditions of the soul… [it] is the invention of a subject and then its global reproduction”. If growing up you see a Prozac or Viagra commercial every other day, then the way you see depression and erections is inherently going to be linked to those drugs and those commercials, even if just by something as arbitrary as the terms they decided to use or the details they decided to include/not include. This is why the part where he read the Testogel label was especially powerful for the argument. What you see on that label is a very specific way of defining sex and gender identity, as he points out. Anyone, especially a younger person, reading that label not only learns about the safe and unsafe ways to take a medicine, but they also learn less obvious things like what it means to be a man according to this very official looking label. This reminds me of the elevated language of the economy that we talked about last time. While medicine is (probably) much more of a science than the economy, and the respect that we give medicinal experts is certainly deserved, it’s interesting to see what happens when capitalism gets its clutches on this process. The fact that something is on the back of a medicine container gives it that same unquestioned ethos. The other thing that I was thinking is that this also goes back to the way that we frame conversations in Health classes and how we develop preconceptions about sperm and eggs and gender just based on the ways that those conversations are framed. Another passage that caught my attention was the hope for the future. He says that now our views of what a lesbian, for example, is is molded by the fact that almost the only lesbians that have visibility are cisgendered white ones. Just like how Depression looks like Prozac, lesbianism looks like Ellen. In the future (hopefully by the 22nd century so everyone can blast the Nina Simone song), he theorizes that, an increase in visibility for other races and body types will bring about a change, in which “normative white heterosexuality will soon be one body aesthetic among many others”.

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  3. Paul Preciado’s Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era explores the historical clinical and social construction of sex in relation to contemporary pharmacological and pornographic industries. “Desire, sex, and gender resemble neither the earth nor manufactured products. Desire, sex, and gender are, in reality, closer to information… they are living codes… they defy ownership,” is perhaps my favorite summary of some of the ways in which Preciado expands upon the work of Foucault, Butler, and Haraway (Preciado 277). The book slips in and out of an autobiographical narrative marked by beautifully erotic moments from the author’s sex life and an equally enthralling account of the use of testogel on the body of a queer, trans subject– a “technomale” (Preciado 234). From histories of witchcraft and hallucinogenic medicine, to birth control and colonialism, to the potential behind gender and sex hackers to “shift the code to open the political practice to multiple possibilities”, Preciado covers so much ground in his exploration of technobodies that it would be impossible to summarize everything in one response.
    One key term that Preciado uses early on in Testo Junkie is Potentia Gaudendi, which he translates as “orgasmic force… [a] strength of indeterminate capacity” (Preciado 41). An important aspect of Potentia Gaudendi for Preciado is that this strength cannot be possessed by oneself or by another (Preciado 43). However, if I am understanding correctly, Potentia Gaudendi is a force that is exploited, controlled, and commodified as part of the pharmacopornographic regime. Or rather, it has the potential to be exploited, controlled, and commodified.
    Speaking of potential, Testo Junkie is full of it. “Testosterone existing externally is inserted into a molecular field of possibilities that already exist inside my body,” writes Preciado of his experience applying testosterone in gel form to his skin for the fifth time (Preciado 141). This sentence was, for me, most theoretically exciting when combined with the image Preciado paints later in the chapter on Pharmacopower of subjects who have permanently developed deep voices and facial hair through continued use of testosterone, but who can break away from T for long enough to re-establish a menstrual cycle and the potential for fertilization. “We would be confronting a new species of technomale postsexual reproducer… [and] cis-males simply resemble women with more or less testosterone…” (Preciado 234-44). The idea of defining sex by the level of testosterone produced naturally or artificially in the body is fascinating because it draws attention to how much medical potential that currently exists to construct sex inside and outside of the male-female binary. It also draws attention to how much that potential has always existed– how synthetic hormonal treatment is just the latest technology being used to create sexed bodies.
    Earlier in the same chapter, Preciado discusses the emergence of “experts” at the end of the medieval period, “the persecution of witches can be interpreted as a war between expert knowledge and the non-professional knowledge of the multitude, a war between white patriarchal power and narcosexual knowledge…” (Preciado 152). Until I read this section of Testo Junkie, I had never given any thought to the invention of licensed “experts” and the ways in which this led to the production and spread of capitalism as well as the formation of categories of sex and sexuality. Experts lead to institutions, institutions lead to “the imagining and conceptualizing of hormones”, and the idea of hormones (one tied to masculinity and two tied to femininity) participates in the creation of biopolitical regimes, which leads to the regulation and exploitation of bodies, usually in a colonial context (Preciado 153). This is why Preciado’s commitment to exploring the whole history of the pharmacopornographic regime is so important– the emphasis is on the constructed nature of the expert as well as the sexed body.

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  4. In Paul B. Preciado’s Testo Junkie, he writes about the process of transitioning from female to male by way of testosterone gel. The book is a mix of an epistolary novel and critical and queer theories. He writes about addiction, love, sex, the economy, and gender performance. He explains the diabolical tie capitalism has to the sexual body, and the ability to force humans into gender and sexuality norms to capitalize off of them. Preciado clearly explains that sex drugs motivate nearly every gendered norm we have today by his evaluations of Viagra, the Pill, and hormone consumption. Additionally, Preciado turns gender radicalism on its head by explaining his process of accepting himself as transsexual, and the odd confidence that testosterone provides him, even though that confidence may be socially constructed. There is much more to this book that is difficult to synthesize, and I hope to better understand a larger and more impactful picture through discussion and listening. Even though I am lost on my ability to synthesize a coherent summary of Testo Junkie, I was still left with an even more radical stance on gender than I ever had before. He was able to twist my conception of biology on its head through his language and explorative and artful depictions of sexual acts and his narrative. His near-like epistolary parts reminded me of Chris Kraus’s novel I Love Dick. However, it was even more poignant because of the differing points of view; it was like reading Dick’s side of I Love Dick, except with an added dimension of a transitioning person (which made it even more juicy!). I nearly hated Preciado near the end of the book, as he is somewhat of a self-indulgent writer; but really, what epistolary is not self-indulgent?

    Preciado raised some interesting points that I am interested in critiquing, mostly surrounding what I feel as his own elitism. Throughout the explanation of his manicure experience, I ended-up judging Preciado for intellectualizing something so simple, which reminded me of Rich’s essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence .” In both writings, I feel as if both authors patronize and condescend women who just wish to exist. I understand the sexual parallels Preciado draws from receiving a manicure and the power of touch, however, to say that “they’re the masked agents of a secret brigade devoted to female pleasure” is way too general! (I was automatically critical because I get manicures every two weeks and I think of myself as more than a woman who is “short on style, intelligence”). Additionally, women who receive manicures are not just white women (in fact, the only women I know who get manicures are black, and I have a decently diverse friend group). The reason I bring up this certain critique is because it unfortunately lead me to think of Preciado as patronizing un-“woke” women, women who don’t intellectualize their daily interactions as micro-aggressions from the patriarchy. As of now, I am too distracted by what I find as the elitist perspective of Preciado to be able to comprehend his theory. However, I am open and willing to learn the deeper meaning of his book, and through discussion, I hope to stray away from my judgments of an elitist perspective.

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  5. Paul B. Preciado’s Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharnacopornographic Era is a book of unique breadth and rigorous research, with heart and passion and personal account. In their establishment of the term ‘pharmacopornographic era’, as a system of complex external and then internal subjugation, they reframe and contextualize an era of human history which is augmented, controlled, strictured, and horny. Preciado begins with a versing on the historical contexts of war and a sort of synthetic, techno-boom, and how social and cultural concepts of male and female sexuality became formulated and influenced by the war machine. The congealing of ‘technosexuality’ as it is currently follows an ideological path which can be traced through the canon of thought and theory, as well as economic influences.
    In (very very) short and summarized from Preciado’s flow chart visual (Preciado 80) the one-sex model became the two-sex model, technologies of war and explosives, the transfer from a system of similarities to a system of distinct difference as it pertains to our breadth of knowledge on gender/sex and anatomy, and the literal invention of homo and heater poles of sexuality, became the base for ‘technosexuality’. This technosexuality then granted the powerful and all-encompassing rise of the pharmacopornographic regime. This is instigated via the transformation of pornography into popular culture, gender and sexuality utilized as an economic tool (which hails to the discussion from last week’s Clough reading on the Affective turn and the economization of social issue), then the management of sexuality as an endocrinological biological process which can be malleable, but also wrong. Finally, the inward looking and self-propelled nature of widespread contraceptive use, which created the technical separation of reproduction and sexuality, nailed down self-fulfilling nature of this regime. Preciado summarizes beautifully, stating that “we are gradually witnessing the miniaturization, internalization, and reflexive introversion…of the surveillance and control mechanisms of the disciplinary sexopolitical regime” (Preciado 79).
    While there is so much to be said about this dense and nuanced book, I am especially interested in the imagery of the panopticon, as a design choice for birth control manufacturers but also as Foucault uses it: as a system for of order and monitored cells of control. The personal birth control container, the miniature panopticon, as monitored vigilantly by the person taking it, and by their own ‘responsibility’, their own ‘family planning’, and their own ‘sexual freedom’. Rooted in the clear dilineation and gendering of sex hormones to begin with, the concept of contraceptives as a form of social control is not a new idea, but Preciado questions it with an intensity and clarity that only can be achieved with heavily cited historical accounts (such as the use of The Pill in the ghettoes of pseudocolonies) and personal qualms with health professionals still raving about it’s positive side effects (such as regulation of blood pressure).
    The Pornopower of the 21st century body, separate from it’s inherent worth or even biopower, functions within a post-WWII-war-machine internet age as a complex inner struggle to use and commodify cellular processes. Preciado ends with what I think the entire book seeks out: to define what we are working within, and what qualifies as true resistance, calling for “a micro politics of disidentification, a kind of experimentation that doesn’t have faith in representation as a exteriority that will bring truth or happiness” (398).
    all in all, it fucked me up good

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  6. In Testo Junkie, Paul Preciado uses their personal experience as a user of testosterone with the examination of society in the post Fordism world of pharmacopornography. I found it very interesting how Preciado utilized their life as a point of examination for the way in which gender and sex (as in the act of having sex) are defined within the current social landscape. Furthermore, I found the inclusion of history to be particularly enlightening and was really interested in the ways in which trends in the definition of terms became evident throughout certain time periods. Being able to trace the ways in which sex and bodies became a marketable and political asset was fascinating, especially the part where Preciado writes about their experience in a spa. I found this discussion of the ways in which “the work of taking care of bodies on our society…[falling] to women” (Political Care, Ch. 11) provoking in the way in which for women this care comes packaged a bodily maintenance and beauty and for men it is packaged as sexual relief and care. What furthers my interest in this is the way that this bodily maintenance is usually for the need to fulfill a societal standard of beauty in order to generate sexual attraction to the appeal of men. This promotes Preciado’s researched narrative of how women were viewed as reproductive vessels and men were viewed as vessels for production. To further delve into the medical sphere of this notion, if a woman is unable to reproduce (due to an ailment such as ovarian cancer, PCOS or malnutrition) does her value as a woman diminish due to the fact that she is no longer capable of carrying out her “duty” as a reproductive vessel? In expansion, is this a defining factor in being a man/woman? I also found the distinction between the prescribed use of testosterone versus a self-prescribed use to be really interesting. Within the physician prescribed use one must commit to a full transition and relinquish all other aspects that do not pertain to the medical affiliation of testosterone use. This administration is also monitored and controlled by an outside entity that dictates the progression of the path that the patient/testosterone user is taking. On the other hand, a non-prescribed testosterone user is free to administer at their own will and to remain uncommitted to relinquishing anything, while also being able to not adhere to one association of ‘sex’ or ‘gender’. However, this medically unmonitored use falls into the same realm as those that use prescription medication recreationally by societal norms and standards, placing those not using under physician surveillance as ‘delinquents’ or ‘junkies’.
    The breakdown of the history of the body as commodity throughout society was very helpful in furthering my understanding of the material that we have been reviewing in class. I found that the reading we have done of Judith Butler’s became a lot more clear, especially through Preciado’s statement that “there are not two sexes, but a multiplicity of genetic, hormonal, chromosomal, genital, sexual, and sensual configurations. There is no empirical truth to male or female gender beyond an assemblage of normative cultural fictions (Kindle Locations 3449-3451). This definition really broke down the barriers that I had been struggling to see past in terms of understanding Butler’s statements of the cultural construction of sex and gender. Viewing these as unique collections of preferences rather than concrete categories that one must subscribe to, allows for a more established understanding of this field of study as well as a more educated approach to the lives others lead and how they choose to define and create their preferred identities.

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  7. Testo Junkie combines personal narrative and critical theory to develop a conception of subjectivity which understands all genders to be technologically composed and assembled. Preciado re-conceptualizes modern subjectivity, rejecting the feminist and queer mainstream politics and envisioning a complete deconstruction of the nature of the sex-gender dichotomy. Using affect theory to challenge any concept of a ‘natural’ body or gender, Preciado utilizes Foucault’s notion of biopower and applies a transhuman approach to identity that is affected by commercial, medical, and mass media industries.

    Preciado’s analysis centers around our modern age of pharmacopornographic industries that inform subjectivity and control not only the physical construction of the body but the psychological perception of the self. He argues that the technologies that construct the modern subject are motivated by a biopower that revolves around pleasure. Potentia gaudendi or orgasmic force that “is both the most abstract and the most material of all workforces…a phantasmatic or molecular wonder that can be transformed into capital” (43). Building on Foucault’s concept of biopower, Preciado shows that the power of pleasure creates a neoliberal framework through which bodies, sexuality, and work are mixed and manipulated in order to produce capital.

    Preciado argues that these technologies best serve capitalistic ends through the regulatory power of normalization. The medical and social implications of hormone medications is in pursuit of a transition “from one fiction of sex to another” (143). Instead Preciado postulates about the infinite polymorphous possibilities that can be accessed through experimenting with somatic technologies of the body and how they can impact our perception of our bodies as whole and our own. “A conflicting multiplicity of power-knowledge regimes are operating simultaneously on different organs, tearing the body apart” (116). This deconstruction of the body as a homogenous, singular entity is the result of the pharmacopornographic microtechnologies of normalization. Preciado argues that on the molecular level, somatic bodies are transformed by medical processes and substances which alter the ‘natural’ state of bodies. Therefore, he surmises that no one is exempt from the normalizing power and that all bodies are the result of technological processes of augmentation. The social value formed in accordance with the visible body is what forms somatic fictions of sex, gender, race, and ability.

    To resist the normalizing power of pharmacopornographic technologies, Preciado turns back to Potentia gaudendi and the methods through which pleasure produces a dismantling and reassembling of bodies. In Preciado’s recounting of sex with VD, he explains, “her hand is inside me. Her entire body has become my cock, is emerging from my loins… we go on like that until I come in her hand, until my hand comes in her mouth” (98). This description disrupts traditional notions of bodies and identities and exemplifies the ways that orgasmic force can produce new somatic configurations and conception of self. The act of producing sexual pleasure as Potentia gaudendi also exemplifies the ways in which affect can work both productively and destructively in both the act itself as well as in the act of recounting its memory.

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