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A Factual Gloss.

the imprimatur of science.not gone beyond an automatic doxastic presumption in favor of moralism bearingLeft more than any other institutions possibly could have, because the Left hasSomehow science has served in dismantling the language of liberation in theunquestioned--or at least not very deeply questioned--by academic leftists.AIDS--have been the one significant form of social authority generallyThe altars of science--in particular scientific sounding pronouncements about

sex.apparatuses of liberation, freedom and resistance had not been blanched out ofthere was a time, before this last decade of AIDS, when the discursiveSometimes, and in some ways, it has been, in other times and ways not. Butfree, and sexual resistance not always contrary to broad forms of domination.Sexual liberation has not always been liberatory, sexual freedom not alwaysone inextricably signed with the imprimatur of medico-scientific authority.came from anti-porn "feminism"--precisely because the language of "safe sex" isfrom traditional conservative forces, and which would be largely resisted if itperforming this conceptual shift--a shift which would be seen through if it cameauthoritarianism than with anything on the Left. "Safe sex" has succeeded inat home with a right-wing scheme of social control, xenophobia andresponsibility, danger and obligation--concepts much moreone of liberation, freedom and resistance, to one ofAIDS has succeeded in shifting the left-wing discourse of sexuality away from

ubiquity that we have not seen the ideological functions of AIDS.not overlooked it, but have been so completely blinded by its glaringwhich is associated with the meanings given to AIDS. Or perhaps we havebeen a third current of renegotiations of the ideologies of sexualityrepeated here. What has been overlooked by most of us on the Left hasand analyzed in leftist philosophical circles, and such shall not becrusades. Both of these renegotiations have been extensively critiqued1920s "first wave" feminism in its "anti-prostitution/anti-vice"self-identified feminists who have repeated the puritanical strains ofconservative renegotiation of meaning has come from certaincondemnation of non-monogamy. An additional contribution to such afantasy conception of "family values," normative heterosexuality, anddetermined effort on the part of the right-wing to reinstitute itsresponsibility. Most of the renegotiation of sexuality has been abroader notions of social power, political struggle, freedom andused in conceptualizing sexuality, and the relation of sexuality tochanged dramatically in a decade is the ideological tools and strategiesadvent of mass urbanization in the early nineteenth century. What hasvery little has probably changed in human sexual behavior since theseemingly "must have" happened with the Sexual Revolution. In a sense,sexually limited as they are often imagined in contrast to whatvery little in the 1980s; and, at any rate, the 1950s and before were never aspre-1960 standard of heterosexuality and monogamy. Actual behavior changeddied. It did not die in the sense that people's sexual habits reverted to someIn the last decade, the so-called Sexual Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s


The Conceptual Field.

Initial version: November 1994; slightly revised 1995-96

by David Mertz

The New Left's AIDS-Related Scientism


Sex Wars:

Sex Warsad) q  n$W q p MSIE sucksUdo Schüklenk, Mary Ann Sushinsky, Rachel Roth, Greg Nigh, and Todd Miller.for kind suggestions on the arguments and with bibliographical direction go toAcknowledgements: Thanks for assistance with preparation of this paper, both

conceptualizing moral necessity!

science, remaining on the surface value-neutral, became the framework forconstruction of a fully scientistic theology of disease. The language ofabandoned, rather the very language of science was recycled into theWith the emergence of AIDS as a discursive phenomenon the positivism was notadFB8f? ~ 0 9 U j  l  6W r&O0Sl.CB@and this and this worst doesn't come close, for example, to the three million people whoAs terrible as it is that as many people have died as have, the worst is over,

initial incidence.from every other new disease in human history in following a bell curve ofexact maximum, the fact is that AIDS is not going to be fundamentally differentreached sometime in 1991 or 1992. Whenever the normal distribution reached itsIf you look at deaths, rather than at new diagnoses, the peak was probablysigificant decline in cases.[7]you look at only the cases under the 1992 definition, 1993 also showed anot have been defined as having AIDS had they presented to doctors in 1992. Ifchange in January 1993 which defined a lot of people as having AIDS who wouldincrease in cases in 1993 was purely a statistical artifact of a definitionat roughly the same rate, year by year, that they increased prior to 1994. The[6] They will continue to declineStates declined significantly.numbers either. In 1994, the total number of new AIDS cases in the UnitedThe other dogma about the plague-like epidemic doesn't do too well with the raw

other risk categories.[5]reported as exposure from heterosexual contact are false reports which hideAn argument can additionally be made that even many of the cases which arethat the actual heterosexual transmission may be less than is here reported.purportedly transmitted by heterosexual contact. See footnote for evidenceexclusive of men who have sex with men. Seven percent of cummulative cases areadditional 25% of cummulative cases are reported in injecting drug usersreport having sex with men (some of whom also inject drugs), while anpercent of cummulative AIDS cases are in the exposure category of men whoage group and exposure category, through June 1994, United States." Fifty-nine1992 through June 1993, July 1993 through June 1994; and cumulative totals, byTable 3. "AIDS cases by age group, exposure category, and sex, reported July[4]The 1994; 6(no.1). Seeor female, are overwhelmingly IVDUs.disease, and those persons with AIDS (PWAs) who are not gay men, whether maleheterosexuals, and go straight to the raw data. AIDS is mostly a gay malewhich excitedly, almost reverently, declare an explosion of AIDS cases amongstlaypersons. I recommend disregarding all the articles, scientific and popular,pretty firmly by just about everyone since about 1984: both scientists and(basically non-drug-injecting heterosexuals). These dogmas have been heldand (2) that it is poised on the verge of afflicting non-traditional groupsthe folk epidemiology of AIDS seem to be (1) that it is an ongoing epidemic;new kinds of deaths in the last fifteen years. The two dogmas, as it were, ofQuite independent of what is causing it, something is going on with some

href="sex_fn.html#fn2">[3]with viruses, and with retroviruses in particular.[2] Beyond that, the "war onvery appealing, even where evidence does not support it.[1] For reasons having little tothan would be accepted in a less politically contested area of science.she knowsbuses and billboards underlined by homilies intended to affirm the politicalclothing in a manner to render any functional potential void, and advertised onfeel-good "do something about AIDS" testifiers, amusingly safety pinned ontoregulation of sex. Condoms serve as talismanic objects for theimportance. Condoms are now made to be exhibited, in a kind of paean to thedeaths. The absurdity of the imperative only witnesses its structuraleveryone not mentioning condoms in every context becomes culpable for AIDSzeal. Under this sin, silence becomes death, or more precisely murder; whereinCatholic one: accidie, the failure to perform one's duties with sufficientgreatest amongst us. The cardinal sin according to this religion is an oldCertainly many non-leftists share in the faith, but the fundamentalism is"Safe-sex," I believe, has become a secular scientistic religion of the Left.

enthusiasm, who raise the ire of safe-sex'ers.Christian Right, but those who fail to preach safe-sex with sufficientepidemiological facts. It is not just those who denounce safe-sex, like theand monogamy--even though etiological doubts are quite orthogonal toabout the HIV-hypothesis might somehow lead to insufficient respect for condomsHIV-dissenters like Peter Duesberg on the grounds that insufficient dogmatismacademics whom I know. Leftists have been amongst those who vilifyexperience, brought out some shockingly unprofessional behavior in leftistquite remarkable. A faith in this new orthodoxy of safe-sex has, in myattributed to a simple lack of obedience to the idol of safe-sex isbefore the "innocent" undergraduates whom we teach. The magical powersand insistently, a ritual prescription of safe-sex is insisted upon for speechin my audience, thereby exposing them to the sexual diseases. Most importantlymonogamy--I might precipitate a breakdown of all standards of sexual restraintI admonish my audience explicitly on the virtues of condoms--and perhaps ofa group of leftist academics, my colleagues implicit premise remained that lestbest be careful to emphasize the importance of "safe-sex." For speaking beforewas inevitably a sort of gasp, followed by an exasperated warning that I hadfriends and colleagues on the Left, the very first reaction I receivedWhen I was writing an earlier version of this paper, and mentioned it to


Abjection and Moralism.

this paper.deontic veil that AIDS does now: syphilis, which is discussed later inanother disease of the early 20th century which wore the same shadytechniques for prophylaxis against these deaths. On the other hand, there wasthan AIDS--but leftists do not insistently and obsessively lecture on thethings like cancer, heart-disease and auto-fatalities kill a lot more peoplecompromise a language and hope of political liberation. Similarly, a lot ofdeaths: tragic, regrettable, unfortunate, but not able to convince us toof its very numbers making moral and political arguments. Those were merelythis century than will die of AIDS, influenza never carried the same pretensebut rather to observe that however many more people died of influenza earlierdismiss AIDS deaths on the grounds that they lack the magnitude of influenza,U.S. had about half its current population. My point is not insensitively todied in a much shorter time of so-called Asian Flu in 1917 and 1918--when thead9s$f ~ 6 T i ! { w E A Y  s(Aay.<Y o#=suggested statement, by itself at least, is quite fair.I think is a false normativity often accompanying such statements; but thiscritique against such factual advice. Below is a bit of discussion about whatface relatively high risks of developing AIDS, I would have no ideologicalare men having sex with men, and insofar as they share needles, theywe leftist academics merely to tell our students that insofar as theyfor a bastion of resistance against repressive changes from us academics. Wererecent these sexual ideologies are important insofar as one might have hopedacademics in shaping the intellectual and political climate, our reactions tosexuality. While it is both easy and common to overestimate the importance ofleftist academics bring to their pedogogy in connection with AIDS andof local groups everywhere, I find it important to examine the attitudes whichBeyond the pamphlets produced by U.S. Public Health Service, and by a variety

cancer.example, with the difference in risk that men and women face from breastsomewhere between several hundred and several thousand--on par, foryou think you are having sex with men, the risks are different by powerspamphlets never contain a frank acknowledgement that, depending on how many menparticularly high risk, or that sharing-needles should also be avoided. Thesemight read a parenthetical allusion to the fact that gay-men are atgenerally one in which, in a pamphlet warning of the dangers of unsafe-sex, onereceive a passing footnote for their specificity of risk. The tone here istugs at the consciousness of safe-sex pamphleteers, gay-men and IVDU's mightthese materials. When, occasionally, the actual demographics of AIDS faintlywhite heterosexuals. Injecting drug use receives similarly short shrift ina sizable majority of safe-sex material is specifically targeted to young,gay-men thereby automatically exclude them. But the overall pattern is clear:Further, not every safe-sex pamphlet and billboard not specifically targetingtrace even the federal funding of AIDS, let alone all the local efforts.too fine a point on that particular fraction, since it is very difficult toU.S. AIDS educational materials are directed at gay men. I don't want to putI have communicated with AIDS educators who have asserted that only 5% of all

Our False Catholicism about Who Is At-Risk

quality present.safe-sex. Neither is the insistence ever so great; nor the almost compulsiveabsolutely none of the moralizing quality which is given to slogans onrisks which are greater than that of heterosexual AIDS are treated within critiquing the official legitimization of our AIDS ideology is that the manyconvincing those who matter, are simply so many "Noble Lies." The second pointcatholicism, and arguments on the greater ease of convincing everyone thanrisk!;" but on the facts, not everyone is. The arguments in favor of AIDSheterosexuals. It may have a magical power to proclaim that "everyone is atBasically the message of "safe-sex" is one we preach to our undergraduateare precisely those at the smallest--and in fact quite minuscule--risk.outside the academy--most forcefully and frequently try to "educate" about AIDS,However, those whom we--as academics, the same does not necessarily applysafe-sexers have no more than a purely objective concern with public-health.positivistic reasoning of leftist AIDS discourse breaks down. Overtly, leftistTwo related points need to be drawn out to see where the officially

apply equivalently to all the devout.risk; but this religion is quite catholic: its prescriptions, like its grace,use them is higher, which is fortunate given that it is gays who are at a realhref="sex_fn.html#fn7">[8] The percentage of gay men whoad2.8b|, M  ; ]  x ( A ^;Y x':O<8S |.-case for gay-male sex, nor is it for drug-injecting--but our proselytizing isproportionally and absolutely than are sexually-linked ones. This is not thelesbians), dietary-linked deaths are a good bit more numerous bothLeft as are those for AIDS. For non-drug-injecting heterosexuals (orrecommendations for its prophylaxis are seldom stated so moralistically by theHeart disease is every bit as much behaviorally related as is AIDS, butEven clearer examples of differently preached risks come with other diseases.

sexual regulation.a much larger part which is symptomatic of an adoption of a normativity ofin reaction is simply a misappraisal of the relative odds--but I think there ispercentagewise greater mortality risk of rock-climbing. Part of the differencethan rock-climb, so the totals are a higher for heterosexual AIDS, despite themyself, or also to my climbing partner). Of course, a lot more people have sexropes and such safety measures--poses significantly more actuarial danger (tomoral irresponsibility. But in fact, the rock-climbing--even withcondoms, they will react angrily with accusations of my foolishness andsay I am going to go fuck around heterosexually and promiscuously, withoutprobably would not say anything besides "have fun." If, on the other hand, Imight say "be careful" or "use precautions" offhandedly; but theyaccompanying sex. If I tell them I am going rock-climbing, my leftist friendsprescribed by the Left, our concern for risks is oddly curtailed to thoseWhile the notion that "everyone is at risk" from AIDS is dogmatically

Our Lack of Catholicism about Risky Activities

realities.about how moral ideologies serve to blind individuals to their materialdo not tacitly mutter a few words about redemption of sin--but rather a fewAnd if a young Christian becomes convinced of his future damnation, I hope we(gentle) words on the dependent position women are cast into by patriarchy.formulaicly assure her of her future marital bliss--but rather say a fewyoung woman student despairs, to us, of ever "finding a man," I hope we do noteasily understood by analogy with places we, hopefully, do not fail. If aas that something, at least, be so commanded. I think the failure ispsychoanalytic Paternal Law, for which it matters not so much what is commandednecessary primacy of regulation itself. We ourselves embody a sort ofmonogamy--is fairly uninteresting, our facile advice simply affirms thecontent of the regulation--at least of condoms, if not of abstinence orsexuality in the maintenance of a repressive social order. Even if thesexual contents. Thereby we fail to critique the systematic regulation ofgranting the legitimacy of our students' irrational fears because of theirfailure of leftist pedagogy. What we are doing in giving this "safe" advice isnot harmful of itself, reflects a backing down from a radical stance, and a[9] The second, however, whileThe first part I think is rather bad advice inherently.health-clinic for HIV testing, and use condoms in every future sexual contact.gets us off the hook most easily: that they should go to the localhave now contracted AIDS. What most of us are telling them is exactly whatoffice-hours after having had their first one-night stands, terrified that theyOccasionally, we are getting scared young heterosexuals coming into yourthey had, sui generis, all better be careful so as not to contract AIDS.predominantly heterosexual and non-needle-sharing undergraduate classes thatleftist academics are telling our students. What we are doing is warning ourIn my experience, however, these prosaic accuracies are not what most of us

ad6c6 x , Q  o ! A r # ;Ur%>Sh;Sresult, they would have acted differently. That might well be true most of theenough to say that had the eventually afflicted amongst them known theof "risky" sex to be more important than the associated risks. It is easymuch greater, choose the psychological, physical and political benefitsBoth heterosexuals and lesbians whose risk is minuscule, and gays whose risk isPeople, in full awareness of risks, decide to engage in "risky" sex.

risk almost universally believe their danger greater than it is.years of this barrage having the name "AIDS?" Indeed, those who misevaluatesex--how could they be after a century of constant barrage on this, and after 15lesbian, drug-injecting or not, are really much unaware of the health risks ofrisks they face. This claim is facile. Very few people, gay, straight orspecious rationalizing claim that all those others are merely ignorant of therisk on others; but most often that respect for autonomy is paved over with therecognize that we should not try to impose our moral valuation of health andprinciple on the unwilling. Deep down we all value other's autonomy enough tothe problem is that we simply have no right to impose this moralleftists subscribe--although more likely the valuation is mostly pragmatic--butdisease is good. There may indeed be such a moral principle to whichabout safe-sex is an enthymatic moral principle according to which avoidance of It has been suggested to me that underlying the Left's naturalistic fallacysince the incidence is decreasing[11].among gay-men AIDS is indeed fairly prevalent, albeit not actually epidemicthat even the factual premise is rather weak for heterosexual contacts, butto utilize prophylaxis is thus cast as an ethical failing. It happensmoral obligation for each person to minimize her risk of AIDS. Failurenaturalistic fallacy reasons that since AIDS is pandemic, there exists aits derivation of a political ought from an alleged biological is. Thisobservation. An ontological error, I think, has been committed by the Left inThe unequal treatment of sexual and non-sexual risks leads to a philosophical


Naturalistic Fallacies.

concerned.ritualistic at best as far as the near-nonexistent risk of heterosexual AIDS ismaintain their purity through condoms rather than marriage, but either iscults-of-true-womanhood, and to the moral pureness of women. Perhaps now womensanitized notion of sexuality harks back to some familiar refrains ofeven because, sex is not free of risks. Within feminism, much of thissex because they want to; and they want to even though, or sometimescuriously overlooked the rather commonsense point that people generally havehigh romanticist sentiment about untamed passions, it seems the Left hasimposition of the sexual acts upon them. While I do not wish to proclaim somelack-of-information, self-deceit, or because of some sort of repressive"risky" sex (however small the actual risk) must be doing so out ofshould know better--cling to the supposition that those indulging inno differently than most everyone else, the distinction being that we[10] Rather, leftists--here actingdoes not generally extend to sexually incurred risks.individual's to take. Such magnanimity over the self-endangerment of othersfoolishness of fat-eating, but recognize that such a risk is simply eachactivities, our good leftists will probably shrug to themselves over thewith fatty foods, lack of exercise, or smoking. But if one persists in thesea word of friendly advise from a leftist about the health dangers associatednot directed solely, or even primarily, at those activities. One might receivead=98l8 L 8 7  7 } = V  n ! RW o GcMk 98biology was the rhetorical strategy one used in understanding sexual dangers.language became dominant. A positivistic discourse of public-health andtreatments for syphilis had become much more effective, a much more medicalizedthe essentially ethical dangers of unsafe-sex. By the 1940's, whenteens. The language concerned moral failings and corruptions, and mentionedideological construction of sexual disease had a religious framework in thedevelopmental process in the language of venereal disease. The dominantthese observations. Despite the analogies I suggest, there has also been aAn Hegelian remark on the history of venereal disease might serve to conclude

imminent demand for the forfeit of freedoms.police action. Other diseases, then as now, never seemed to carry such anspecifically sexually-related disease which convinced leftists of the need forthe early century, just as it is today. Then, as now, it was only aepidemiological facts was the centerpiece of much progressivism and feminism ofvery same derivation of moral laws--and thereby state actions--fromnowadays--the chief argument for these police-state measures was syphilis. Thea language of "female spirituality"--often invoked also by feministsvictims of these repressive campaigns were, of course, poor women. Aside frommost widely orchestrated state-repressions of 20th century U.S. history. Thewho led the anti-prostitution and anti-vice campaigns which were some of theprogressives, and especially self-identified feminists of the nineteen-teensconstruction of syphilis as it has with AIDS. It was largely self-identifiedDisappointingly, the Left suffered all the same failures in its ideological

venereal diseases.remarkable description of these myriad confluent groups who united aroundDisease[13], which is aChristian fundamentalists. Alan Brandt's Social History of Venerealgay-press, of leftists and liberals, and the arguments of today's rightwingarguments of the public-health authorities, of today's feminists, of today'sabout AIDS was made almost verbatim prior the 1930's about syphilis: thein the history of syphilis is that virtually every argument made todaycrippling morbidities were common in the disease. What I find most interestingpercent of U.S. residents had indeed contracted syphilis. Mortality andprojections of AIDS cases today--it is nonetheless quite believable that severalno doubt, exaggerations used to support a political agenda--much as are most[12] While such estimates were,of the adult U.S. population.Association, produced stunning estimates of syphilis affecting as much as 10%Progressive groups of the nineteen-teens, such as the American Social Hygienealmost to a "T" the current misconceptions about AIDS: namely, syphilis.epidemiology or causality; but there was a disease, not so long ago, which fitIt happens that AIDS is nothing like what is widely believed in its


Syphilis and History.

so univocally done.for ourselves, but it is not one we should try to impose on others, as we haveit. In the end, this is a perfectly legitimate choice for each of us to makenon-risk-free sex to be outweighed by the potential for harm also accompanyingfreedom in sexuality that we have come to believe every virtue associated withpossibility for the discursive construction of notions of liberation andwalking, and just as bad for avoiding unsafe sex. It is only by abandoning apurpose of their errand. This reasoning is quite a bad argument for avoidinguniversally retroactively evaluate their injury as more serious than thetime. Similarly, that subset of pedestrians who are struck by cars almost