GAY IDEAS by Richard D. Mohr


Outing and Other Controversies
Email this review


 An insightful and iconoclastic series of essays on gay issues, by Mohr (Philosophy/Univ. of Illinois at Urbana; Gays/Justice, 1990, etc.--not reviewed). Here, Mohr examines topics such as ``outing''; the methods of the activist group ACT UP; and the morality of ``masculinist'' cultures--offering, in the process, his view of the gay identity today. Mohr is a liberal individualist much concerned with basic democracy: ``Dignity rather than happiness or practicality ought to be the ideal and polestar of gay politics.'' Accordingly, he finds ``outing'' to be ``an expected consequence of living morally,'' and he draws a distinction between privacy and secrecy--with the latter, he says, protected by no established right. Mohr deplores the ends-based policies of ACT UP, an organization that he accuses of messy rhetoric and of pandering to government agencies. The author finds in the AIDS quilt a celebration of liberal individualism, and he examines Wagner's Parsifal, as well as gay erotic illustrations and Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs, as clues to ``the morality of explicitly masculinist cultures.'' Mohr finds that such representations, and the cultures in which they arise, do not rely on the degradation of women and are not misogynistic. He posits a link between homosexual relationships and democracy: ``I suggest that male homoerotic relations, if institutionalized in social ritual, provide the most distinctive symbol for democratic values and one of their distinctive causes.'' The author is willing to flout convention, as when he attempts to refute the theory of homosexuality as a social construction, and he argues that gay studies can shed light on ``core cultural paradigms'' such as gender. A rich, striking display of independent thinking applied to topical controversies and the experience of being homosexual, though occasionally marred by a desire to provoke rather than to illumine. (Thirty-six illustrations--including several photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe--that generated considerable publicity for this title when 23 printers refused to print it because of the illustrations.)

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 1992
ISBN: 0-8070-7920-0
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1992