A New Era of Queer Politics? PrEP, Foucauldian Sexual Liberation, and the Overcoming of Homonormativity

Body Politics 8 (12):214-261 (2022)
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Gay men have been severely affected by the AIDS crisis, and gay subjectivity, sexual ethics, and politics continue to be deeply influenced by HIV to this day. PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a new, drug-based HIV prevention technique, that allows disentangling gay sex from its widespread, 40 yearlong association with illness and death. This article explores PrEP's fundamental impact on gay subjectivity, sexual ethics, and politics. It traces the genealogy of gay politics regarding homophobia and HIV stigma, suggesting a new biopolitical and body political framework that accounts for the agency of activists as well as pharmapower, and proposing that PrEP is an example of democratic biopolitics. Highlighting the entanglement of medical technology, sexual ethics, and politics, the article shows how conservative and homonormative gay politics developed as a reaction to HIV stigma and how, by overcoming this stigma, PrEP enables a new era of intersectional queer politics and solidarities. It thereby develops a Foucauldian account of sexual liberation beyond the repression hypothesis that accounts for the ambivalence of sexual subjectification and the political potential of sexuality.

Author's Profile

Karsten Schubert
Humboldt University, Berlin


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