The Sexual Constitution of Political Authority: The 'Trials' of Same-Sex Desire

The Sexual Constitution of Political Authority: The 'Trials' of Same-Sex Desire

Language: English

Pages: 226

ISBN: 1138241695

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


While there is no shortage of studies addressing the state’s regulation of the sexual, research into the ways in which the sexual governs the state and its attributes is still in its infancy. The Sexual Constitution of Political Authority argues that there are good reasons to suppose that our understandings of state power quiver with erotic undercurrents. The book maintains, more specifically, that the relationship between ideas of political authority and male same-sex desire is especially fraught. Through a series of case studies where a statesman’s same-sex desire was put on trial (either literally or metaphorically) as a problem for the good exercise of public powers, the book shows the resilience and adaptability of cultural beliefs in the incompatibility between public office and male same-sex desire. Some of the case studies analysed are familiar ground for both political/constitutional history and the history of sexuality. The Sexual Constitution of Political Authority argues, however, that only by systematically reading questions of institutional politics and questions of sexuality through each other will we have access to the most interesting insights that a study of these trials can generate. Whether they involve obscure public officials or iconic rulers such as Hadrian and James I, these compelling fragments of queer history reveal that the disavowal of male same-sex desire has been, and partly remains, central to mainstream understandings of political authority.

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corruptness and fallibility of the Irish executive. (‘London Notes’, 1884) This passage is confusing because it purports to explain something it does not actually explain. The idea is that revelations about French’s and Cornwall’s homosexuality were made because they illustrated particularly powerfully just how dangerous the virtually unrestrained powers wielded by Dublin Castle officers could be. But the Dublin Castle affair does not illustrate anything of the kind. The article does not show,

in some oracular message revealed to Hadrian). Dio’s argument about Hadrian’s reasons for the foundation of Antinoopolis seems to suggest a refusal to accept that a Roman leader of distinction could love so passionately as erastai did their eromenoi. Elsewhere, Dio (1925: 447) states that the emperor incurred some ridicule for apparently believing that a new star had appeared in the heavens out of Antinous’ soul. So Dio’s narrative seems to oscillate between being in denial about Hadrian’s

2005: 129). But in the case of Edward II, the fourteenth-century sources – both early and later ones – could not get much more specific in conveying just what these commentators, oddly, deny that they do: namely that Piers and Edward were lovers. It is important to settle this preliminary point, for reducing the two men’s relationship to a non-erotic bond disables an appreciation of the specific ways in which the sources construct same-sex desire as a problem for the good exercise of public

less to engage in rustic pursuits than to ‘enjoy his Favourite with more privacy’ (Weldon, 1817: 16).12 Weldon (1817: 17) goes on to say that the king ‘gloried in’ enlarging the park of his country residence and stocking it with deer more than his predecessors did in conquering France – clearly meaning that James got the balance between private pursuits and public duties all wrong. He then reports that the king cared more for animals than for humans,13 which revealed the ‘weakness of his

allies of the administration of the day’ (NA-15). Even more eloquent was Labouchere’s statement, on another occasion, that the government was endeavouring ‘to hush up what they thought would tell against that portion of Society that they specially represent’ (NA-31). This wording leaves the reader with the distinct feeling that Salisbury’s government may have been the designated representative not just of the aristocracy, but specifically of a homosexual aristocracy. Reynolds’s Newspaper

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