Disorderly Consumption and Capitalism: The Privilege of Sex Addiction.
Sex (Psychology) (Social aspects)
Sexual addiction (Social aspects)
Authors (Criticism and interpretation)
Capitalism (Social aspects)
Falla, Jeffrey
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Name: College Literature Publisher: West Chester University Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Education; Literature/writing Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2001 West Chester University ISSN: 0093-3139
Date: Wntr, 2001 Source Volume: 28 Source Issue: 1
Named Person: Foucault, Michel
Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States

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A familiar theme of Michel Foucault's History of Sexuality (1978) involves the establishment of sexual normalcy through the discursive production of myriad perversions. Ultimately, as a taxonomic system of abnormalities, the discourses on perversion merely have delineated what sexual normalcy is not; or, more precisely, rather than establishing an inclusive conception of sexual normalcy, dominant discourses regarding sexuality constructed a multitude of abnormalities which enabled a disciplinary approach to and regulation of sexual normalcy.

Through the various discourses, legal sanctions against minor perversions were multiplied; sexual irregularity was annexed to mental illness; from childhood to old age, a norm of sexual development was defined and all the possible deviations were carefully described; pedagogical controls and medical treatments were organized; around the least fantasies, moralists, but especially doctors, brandished the whole emphatic vocabulary of abomination. (Foucault 1978, 36)

Yet Foucault's history of the discursive establishment of sexual normalcy does not entirely explain how behaviors and practices became manifested socially and subjectively as universal standards of normalcy. For instance, in the West the most prevalent medium through which these standards attain saliency is the traditional nuclear family, ideologically elevated as the most fundamental, immutable, and natural social organization. The heterosexual family as such an ideal, however, has undergone various historical transformations.

In "Capitalism and Gay Identify," John D'Emilio links the transformation of the American family, along structural, ideological, and sexual lines, with the expansion of capitalism during the nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries. Specifically, D'Emilio argues that capitalism as a free-labor system, effected a shift away from the family as "an independent unit of production" to the individual as "free" laborer, and as such "capitalism allowed individuals to survive beyond the confines of family" (1996, 264-65, 267). The significance of this transformation lies in the extrication of sexuality from the colonial era requisite of producing children for labor: "In divesting the household of its economic independence and fostering the separation of sexuality from procreation, capitalism has created conditions that allow some men and women to organize a personal life around their erotic/emotional attraction to their own sex" (266). D'Emilio, however, is quick to point out that while this shift away from the fam ily has occurred, ideologically the nuclear family has become situated as the primary site for emotional fulfillment: "the ideology of capitalist society has enshrined the family as the source of love, affection, and emotional security, the place where our need for stable, intimate human relationships is satisfied" (269).

In a similar social constructionist approach, Jonathan Katz argues that the emergence of heterosexuality as a normative concept in the United States, coincided with the late nineteenth-century "transformation of the family from producer to consumer" which in turn reconfigured notions regarding the human body: "from being an instrument primarily of work, the human body was integrated into a new economy, and began more commonly to be perceived as a means of consumption and pleasure" (1990, 12-13). Consequently, a pathologizing of desire led to "a historical, epochal move from an absolute procreative standard of normality toward a new norm which Katz identifies as "a consumerist pleasure principle--an institutionalized pursuit of happiness" (15). This new heterosexual norm, however, reasserted procreation as a desire-driven instinct based biologically on gender distinction and sexual difference, and, subsequently, after its hegemonic assertion during the Cold War, began to fall into crisis with the rise of femi nist and gay rights movements. One result of this crisis, according to Katz, has been a "[h]etero defensiveness," characterized by "men's need to defensively assert their heterosexuality" (24).

Katz's conclusion of "heterosexuality on the defensive" (1990, 24) defines, for the following paper, the current historical context in which sex addiction as a psychosexual disorder functions to reassert monogamous heterosexual normalcy. By way of exemplifying a link between the production of normalcy and capitalist production, the enforcement of heterosexual monogamy, in particular, will be considered in its reliance on identifying deviations from the heteronorm while subsequently constructing those deviations as moral transgressions, threats to sociocultural (patriarchal) stability, and/or psychosexual disorders. Here I extend D'Emilio's assertion that,

Ideologically, capitalism drives people into heterosexual families: each generation comes of age having internalized a heterosexist model of intimacy and personal relationships....Thus, while capitalism has knocked the material foundation away from family life, lesbians, gay men, and heterosexual feminists have become the scapegoats for the social instability of the system. (D'Emilio 1996, 269)

While I agree with D'Emilio's assessment, I maintain that the scapegoats have become more numerous and exist closer to (the heterosexual) home, as the case of male sex addiction will bear out, but with one important distinction--many of these newer scapegoats are redeemable, that is, able to be returned to normal. [1] Moreover, while traditionally heteronormalcy relied on the silence and invisibility of its scapegoats as a way of masking its own mutability, the current crisis of normalcy is often played out publicly. The "new hetero defensiveness" referred to by Katz manifests itself as "many men's new need to publicly proclaim their heterosexuality to define themselves to the world as not one of those perverts now more openly portrayed in the media" (1990, 24).

Katz's observation that the heterosexual concept "created as ahistorical and taken-for-granted" now has to be publicly defended (1990, 7), parallels the late twentieth-century rise of the popular media (specifically magazines and talk shows) as a staging ground for publicly defending issues of normalcy in general--from standardizing ways people, especially teens, should dress and behave to demonstrating how married couples should respond to adultery. Indeed, television and popular magazines constitute the most effective vehicle for ideologically refining and delivering these normalizing "products" to the mass market for consumption.

By extension, the discursive construction of psychosexual disorders (in the case of this paper, male sex addiction) involves not only medical and psychological sources but popular media sources, as well. This paper, therefore, initially analyzes popular print media's role in the production of male sex addiction as a treatable disorder which in effect extends elite white male privilege. In addition, contrasting the treatment of male sex addiction with those of nymphomania (historically) and sex offenses (currently) will reveal how male heterosexual deviations from its own monogamy-norm become not only excusable but acceptable. Following that analysis, theoretical critiques on capitalism by Deleuze and Guattari, specifically capitalism's manipulation of desire, will provide the source for situating popular media's imaginary/symbolic constructions regarding sex addiction within the larger sociocultural symbolic matrix responsible for the historical legitimation of compulsory heterosexual monogamy as the standar d for sexual normalcy

Treatments of Deviation

The increase in sociopsychological disorders (e.g., Attention Deficit Disorder, eating disorders, treatable-depression, and sexual compulsion) can be seen to coincide with two modes of treatment. The first involves the increase in pharmaceutical production: the market's need for consumption fueling advances in medicine which occur concurrently with the production of new disorders, symptomatic, perhaps, of a larger disease brought about by the irrational demand to increase consumption rates beyond those humanly possible. This assertion isn't meant to deny differences in physiological and social compositions among people, but rather to focus on how these differences become articulated or symbolically constructed within a socioeconomic framework which continually and historically resituates itself in relation to its own contingently constructed state of normalcy. [2]

A second mode of treatment involves the treatment of various disorders as "sound bytes" for popular media, a phenomenon epitomized by discussions on talk shows and in print media such as those concerning President Clinton's "sex addiction." For instance, a May 30, 1998 article in People magazine, "They Gotta Habit," draws on an interview with a professor of psychiatry to explain, for the typical mainstream American, how sex addiction, or, as preferred by sexual behavior experts, "sexual compulsion," might be the reason for President Clinton's sexual scandals (and, thus, an excuse for male infidelity in general). Rather than locating infidelity in relation to a historical interlinking of social and moral constraints intrinsic to heteronormative monogamy, the article treats male infidelity as a disorder similar to alcoholism. "President Clinton had an alcoholic stepfather, and his brother grew up to be a cocaine user. Why might one person grow up with a drug problem and another become a sex addict?" ("They Got ta Habit" 1998, 101).

In this way, the symptomatic cause of male infidelity in late capitalist society is diverted from the instability of the family as the ideal of sexual fulfillment and onto the individual, primarily white males in privileged positions of power who now have the excuse of a treatable disease for their privilege. [3] "7 to 10 percent of men in the U.S. have sexually compulsive traits," and "one of the fastest-growing categories of men with this problem is well-known, successful people" ("They Gotta Habit" 1998, 109-10). Aside from a highlighted passage which reads, "Men look toward sexuality to answer all their needs," next to a photo of the president, the most telling image is a photo of a sheepish Dick Morris with the caption: "After his dalliance with a prostitute was exposed, former White House political strategist Dick Morris joined a 12-step program for addicts" (110).

Popular print media sources, such as People, Cosmopolitan, and USA Today, portray sex addiction as a disorder involving consumption, most akin to alcoholism. Indeed, many articles offer criteria for recognizing the sex addicts among us, criteria identical to symptoms commonly attributed to drug addiction: denial, inability to stop, alienation from family, work, and social organizations, as well as persistent continuation of self-destructive behavior. While USA Today acknowledges, "American culture--with its values, customs, and tastes--provides healthy soil in which addictions ... can be planted and nourished," pointing out that, "Our consumption is increasing, and behavioral problems continue to multiply" (Hyatt 1997, 66, 68), this type of criticism never aims at the ideological universality of capitalism, never extends beyond capitalist Christian morality.

For example, there exists a parallel between the productive "healthy soil" of American culture which "nourishes" addictive consumption and the shift from sex as procreative (production) to sex as pleasure-driven (consumption), a shift with which both Katz and D'Emilio link not only the construction of sexual identities but also the crisis of heterosexuality (Katz 1990) and the instability of the nuclear family (D'Emilio 1996). Moreover, the tension between production and consumption, according to Susan Bordo, stems from a "contradictory structure of economic life" responsible for "an unstable, agonistic construction of personality":

On the one hand, as producers of goods and services we must sublimate, delay, repress desires for immediate gratification; we must cultivate the work ethic. On the other hand, as consumers we must display a boundless capacity to capitulate to desire and indulge in impulse; we must hunger for constant and immediate satisfaction. (Bordo 1993, 199)

Bordo indicates that this contradiction, in a sense a splitting of the self, makes homeostasis difficult and for many people "inscribes itself on our bodies" as eating disorders--bulimia as uncontrollable consumption and production (binge-purge), anorexia as extreme production (repression of desire), and obesity as over-consumption (1993, 201). Similarly, sex addiction, like alcoholism, is often coded as overindulgence, i.e., uncontrollable consumption, with treatment requiring not homeostasis but extreme production in the form of abstinence, self-denial, and repression of desire. Inevitably, the individual is ascribed as disordered and held largely responsible for his or her disorder.

Furthermore, many popular articles, such as the following from Cosmopolitan, focus on early childhood experiences of sex addicts, widely ranging issues from lack of intimacy to physical and sexual abuse: "While growing up, these people rarely witnessed or received displays of love and affection. Sex was treated as dirty, forbidden, secretive, or was flaunted in front of children. According to a study by Games, 81 percent of addicts were victims of child sexual abuse (Sherman 1994, 144)."

Aside from the implication that so-called healthy sex exists somewhere between the "secretive" and the "flaunted," the portrayal of the sex addict, again, involves the individual who becomes corrupted by seemingly inevitable familial and social forces. While portrayed as victims of societal side effects, these individuals nevertheless represent bearers of abnormalities, uncontrollable consumers whose disorders are to blame. In effect, discursively deflecting the causes of their disorders not only from them but also from the socioeconomic structurings that otherwise might be held responsible, result in a shrinking and constantly mutable position of social normalcy However, when abnormalities become treatable, especially in terms of further consumption (the physical consumption of medicine as well as the psychological consumption of therapy), the treated patient, in turn, returns to normal, though still suffering from a disorder, the management of which requires self-denial and the repression of desire: as an adjunct to therapy, a number of medications--most notably the antidepressant Prozac--have shown promising results in lowering sexual drive and treating the underlying depression (Sherman 1994, 146).

Besides treating uncontrollable consumption as a market niche for the production of Prozac (a point I shall return to in the last section of this paper), this treatment of the sex addict (and the subsequent return to normalcy) highlights historical and gender disparities regarding the treatment of sexual abnormalities, especially when comparing the present day construction of sex addiction as a primarily male sociopsychological disorder to the nineteenth-century construction of nymphomania as a female behavioral disorder with an underlying biological basis. Essentially treatment of nymphomania resulted from the desire of medical science, in particular, and patriarchy, in general, to control women's behavior. Treatment usually focused on biology, and ranged from committal to insane asylums to the removal of female sex organs.

Carol Groneman indicates that while during the Enlightenment male rationality was constructed against a model of female irrationality, by the turn of the nineteenth century a "new representation of the female" argued that women "had less sexual desire than men and thus were uniquely suited to be a civilizing force; male passion would be controlled by the strength of woman's moral virtue" (1994, 345-46). The conflation of these two beliefs led to the basic notion that something intrinsic to, biological in, women had to account for the inability of certain women to keep their irrational nature under control. Thus treatment of nymphomania involved forcibly positioning and entrenching woman as man's negated Other by confining, altering, and consuming part-objects of women who made variant the desired invariance of constructed female behavior.

Into the twentieth century women's transgression of this moral virtue would be considered the result of a physiological disease. Since this virtue was necessary for the construction of heterosexual monogamy it had to be maintained as a standard of normalcy. [4] Even after the "shift from a physiological to a psychological explanation of nymphomania during the twentieth century," according to Groneman:

Biological models of nymphomania were not totally discarded, but psychological explanations that pointed to nymphomania as a personality disorder took precedence. New causes of nymphomania--such as an inadequate sense of self, repressed homosexuality, or incomplete psychosexual development--were introduced and psychotherapy recommended as the treatment. (Groneman 1994, 359)

While sex addiction (as primarily a male disorder) today gets represented as a treatable illness in which the individual, usually voluntarily or by familial pressure, seeks a treatment he might end at will, nymphomania wasn't afforded such leniency. The incongruity between these treatments follows the historically unequal emergings of these sexual deviations from the norm. During the nineteenth-century construction of nymphomania within a hierarchy of sexually abnormal behaviors, heterosexual monogamy's discursive positioning as standardized norm in relation to this hierarchy, could only be maintained by stigmatizing these abnormalized sexualities. [5] The current crisis of heteronormalcy occurs in part when the open articulation of historically silent (i.e., negated) abnormal Others exposes the contingent and also silent universality of heterosexuality. Traditional masculine male practices, such as the sexual conquest of women, historically ignored or tolerated as minor moral infractions, now need to be rec orded in order to maintain heteronormalcy's hegemony. Because men have enjoyed a history of sexuality that places them in the dominant role of pursuer, sex becomes an addiction only when heterosexual monogamy becomes blatantly (publicly) threatened, that is, when monogamy has to be reasserted as normal, in which case infidelity becomes psychologically excusable rather than morally inexcusable.

Unlike nymphomania's coding as a socially and morally unacceptable expression of female sexuality, male sex addiction hasn't really been constructed as a negative reference for male behavior beyond anything already established by hegemonic codes of American morality. Even when considering the changes in the imaginary/symbolic constructions of gender over the past decades the underlying themes of masculinity and femininity have remained relatively stable. As Joanna Russ indicates, boys today are still raised to value competition as an assertion of dominance and encouraged to be distanced from their own and other male bodies, thus expecting sexual gratification from non-masculine (i.e.. feminine bodies) bodies, which they understand to be inferior in comparison to masculine bodies (1998, 386-89).

Because traditional concepts of masculinity intrinsically relate to the American myth of individuality, the conquest of nature, and the necessity of progress as technological superiority, the privileged positions of power capitalism bestows upon men have been historically ingrained and largely taken for granted. While the mere mention of this deeply structured privileging often evokes defensive articulations (e.g., white male as victim or new minority, claims of reverse discrimination, etc.), a more common response, at least regarding popular media, is to simply ignore the structural reasons behind white male privilege. [6] Where heterosexuality in crisis meets challenges to white male privilege, one finds popular media representing male sexual behavior as a normalized addiction, a defensive move which obscures privilege with helplessness. In fact, male sexual behavior approaches abnormality only when it exhibits symptoms of compulsive activity similar to those of substance abuse, an illness that doesn't req uire the straight-jacket, confinement, or surgical mutilation of nineteenth-century nymphomania. On the contrary, male sex addiction becomes treatable.

For example, an Insight on the News article focuses on the analysand's misdirected immersion into the phallocratic Symbolic Order, specifically Clinton's childhood experiences of violence from an alcoholic stepfather and abandonment by his mother. "Clinton turned to sex to disguise his pain.... The sex addict uses sex to deaden and avoid psychological pain and conflict" (Goode 1998, 13). While the president's reckless and uncontrollable behavior, according to this article, is a direct result of his sex addiction, implications of the role patriarchal privilege might play in violence and child abuse are left unsaid. In fact, white male privilege, in these media cases, is often masked by sociocultural issues of workplace competition, stress, fear, and rapidly increasing technology which, in turn, are never cast as symptomatic of late capitalism's constant demands to consume and produce. According to a USA Today article:

People pursue ... almost anything to deny the strains and stressors of high expectations, sophisticated technology, potential disasters, competition, financial pressures, and general distrust, for example. Self-centeredness, convenience, and the yearning for limited limitations (including agedness) have created vulnerability for the quick, easy fix....The cycle is self-perpetuating.... The US has become an addictive culture. (Hyatt 1997, 68)

Treatment of addiction, in this article, involves adjusting the individual's behavior to fit acceptable levels of demanded consumption and production, a treatment which considers these socioeconomically determined levels to be ahistorical and given: "We are all born with wants, strivings, and impulses; clearly they must be disciplined....Freudians taught that each of us must sublimate our impulses, especially the sexual and aggressive ones. We just can't go around doing as we please--unless we are sick, of course" (Hyatt 1997, 68).

While the label "sick" is used ironically to later distinguish sex addiction as a treatable disorder, the article, through the example of a murderous sex addict, leaves room to designate the sexual criminal as sick. Indeed, what's striking about popular media's discussion of and excuse for male sex addiction is the contrast with their treatment of sex offenders as unforgivable, dangerous elements of society. In many cases sex addicts are represented as belonging to a more socioeconomically privileged class than sex offenders. For instance, while the popular press often cite statistics such as, "48 percent of the abusers were parents or family members. Another 43 percent were friends or acquaintances. Only 5 percent were strangers" ("Sex Offenders" 1995, 59), the portrayal of sex offenders mainly relates to that five percent and usually stresses the criminal backgrounds of the predators.

Even though, in the article cited above, the claim is made that "spotting an abuser isn't easy. They come from all socioeconomic backgrounds," two of the three sex offenders discussed in the article (both from the five percent stranger category) are a criminal with "a 30-year history of child molesting," and Clifford Olson, "Canada's most infamous child murderer" ("Sex Offenders" 1995, 57, 59, 105). In addition, two of the five "red flags" one can use to spot a sex offender include "an unstable work history" and "immature behavior" (105), indicators that the predator couldn't belong to the middle or upper economic class. By and large, the popular media's focus on sex offenders consists of rare and dangerous predators, criminals to whom Time can attribute such assertions as, "The only sure way to make him stop molesting children, he has admitted, would be to kill him" (Collins 1997, 29).

By contrast, the peak in the number of popular media reports on sex addiction coincides with the Clinton sex scandal, linking prestigious men like the president to sex addiction. Even before the scandal, however, economically successful men typified the extent and uncontrollability of sex addiction, as well as its threat to domesticity. A 1994 issue of Cosmopolitan contains the following confession: "Here I am, a pillar of the community, dressed in a business suit, groveling around in this filthy place. But when the urge comes over me, I have to have sex; my reputation, my family, are no longer issues" (Sherman 1994, 142).

In popular media's opposing treatment of sex addicts and sex offenders, the line between acceptable and unacceptable transgression follows completely juridical distinctions. If the sex violates moral but not legal taboos, the subject is media-identified as compulsive or addicted thus excusable with treatment. However, if the sex is criminal, the subject becomes an unforgivable offender for which treatment would be a waste of tax dollars. [7] Moreover, while the media's imaginary/symbolic construction of a sex offender mainly fits the profile of a child predator, forms of sexual activity defined by sodomy laws, for instance, also become offenses, further entrenching the ideology that reasserts heterosexuality as normal, homosexuality as abnormal.

In addition to defining the range of acceptable sexual consumption, the tightening of restrictions accompanied by stricter punishments (along with the production of more prisons) serves to redirect fear among citizens. (For example, the fear of failure resulting from economic insecurity--job loss, overextended credit, lack of health insurance, etc.--can be ideologically redirected to fear of each other--the potential criminal or child molester next door.) To that end, male sex addiction provides an illusionary boundary between acceptable and unacceptable sexual behavior, by making sex addiction acceptable, a condition of privilege that "normalizes" male transgression of monogamy by constructing that transgression as a socially accepted (treatable) disorder. The subject not only returns to normal but is also forgiven, provided his transgressions remained legal, that is transgression of monogamy within a primarily consensual heterosexual framework. The real relations of late capitalism's irrational demand to c onsume allow the escape of elite white power from being consumed by leaving heterosexual monogamy intact as the standard for normal sexual behavior. In other words, heterosexual deviations from the norm are not stigmatized as incurable abnormalities but are manageably produced as treatable disorders. However, as I shall argue next, the production following, resituating, and normalizing consumption involves a manipulation of desire that continually throws normalcy into crisis.

Desire and the Instability of Normalcy

According to Michael Warner, the desire to be normal is heavily influenced by statistics, and, as such, to be completely normal is impossible:

Everyone deviates from the norm in some way Even if one belongs to the statistical majority in age group, race, height, weight, frequency of orgasm, gender of sexual partners, and annual income, then simply by virtue of this unlikely combination of normalcies one's profile would already depart from the norm. (Warner 1999, 54-55)

In other words, normalcy involves an impossible state of invariance. To be normal, statistically or otherwise, involves occupying a discursive category whose invariability depends on the constant negation of even potential variability. Therefore, the stability of any categorical normalcy is threatened by its very construction.

Because social and moral standards of identity and normalcy are never really immutable but are continually threatened by variants, the position of normalcy established by a set of standards also risks being carried away especially by variations within its own standards. The instability inherent in any standardized system of normalcy thus continually ensures the shifting and resituating of normalcy. In a sense there exists a reciprocal relationship between what is considered normal and what is rejected as abnormal--a type of economics similar to the basic premise of capitalism as a conditional relationship of supply and demand.

Heterosexual monogamy as a historical standard of sexual normalcy can only be maintained by manipulating desire through repression, so that it takes the form of the desire to maintain the heterosexual standard. In other words, the heterosexual standard assumes its Oedipal form through the repression of desire, and not the other way around; that is, repression results in the heterosexual standard. Deleuze and Guattari's rejection of the Oedipus complex means just that:

If desire is repressed, this is not because it is desire for the mother and for the death of the father; on the contrary, desire becomes that only because it is repressed, it takes on that mask only under the reign of the repression that models the mask for it and plasters it on its face. ... If desire is repressed, it is because every position of desire, no matter how small, is capable of calling into question the established order of a society. (Deleuze and Guattari 1983, 116)

Yet, there always exists a certain degree of desire which spills over, which cannot be contained. This surplus desire results from capitalism itself, from its constant production and required consumption.

The prime function incumbent upon the socius has always been to codify the flows of desire, to inscribe them, to record them, to see that no flow exists that is not properly dammed up, channeled, regulated.... Capitalism tends toward a threshold of decoding that will destroy the socius in order to make it a body without organs and unleash the flow of desire on this body as a deterritorialized field. (Deleuze and Guattari 1983, 33)

It is that surplus desire which subverts the standard by consuming the position of normalcy--a making-variant of the invariant. Male sex addiction as such a variant, motivated by desire, more than disrupts the standard of sexual normalcy Indeed, in its heterosexual form it consumes heterosexual normalcy, becomes the cannibalizing element of desire which threatens normalcy. In response to the threat of its own bastard cannibal, male heterosexuality by way of medical, sociopsychiatric, and media discourses detaches the run-away desire as a disorder to be repositioned as a treatable addiction, a nasty appendage that has to be coded abnormal and recoded as made-normal through treatment.

This coding and recoding echo the inner-workings of late capitalism: capitalism's manipulation of desire always results in a surplus of desire which becomes the vehicle for further growth, a desirous left-over that keeps capitalism from consuming itself. "[C]apitalism, through its process of

production, produces an awesome schizophrenic accumulation of energy and charge, against which it brings all its powers of repression to bear, but which nonetheless continues to act as capitalism's limit" (Deleuze and Guattari 1983, 34).Thus capitalism has to produce lacks to be pursued by desire (the "awesome" accumulation) which has to be continually shunted and redirected. According to Deleuze and Guattari, "Lack...is created, planned, and organized in and through social production....This involves deliberately organizing wants and needs.....amid an abundance of production; making all desire teeter and fall victim to the great fear of not having one's needs satisfied" (28).

Because capitalism is a form of social production and the social field is invested with desire, the effect of market economy has been the collapse of desire into need. Simply put, desire operates as need but with the important distinction that unlike need, desire cannot be satisfied. That desire produces fantasy as a type of fulfillment or satisfaction of the lacking desired object, enables market economy to manipulate desire by producing specific needs and lacks at the level of desire and fantasy, thus ensuring demand and consumption.

However, sex addiction as surplus desire, as desire detached from sanctioned heterosexual monogamy (the "fantasy" of the nuclear family), doesn't support the capitalist-family fantasy; or, more precisely, its support extends beyond the prescribed fantasy. Subsequently, capitalism extends its limits to accommodate this desire and at the same time incorporate it for further market production. This extension is revealed in the passage from Cosmopolitan quoted previously: "As an adjunct to therapy, a number of medications--most notably the antidepressant Prozac--have shown promising results in lowering sexual drive and treating the underlying depression" (Sherman 1994, 146).

Describing the individual sex addict as both victim and bearer of a sexual abnormality while discursively shifting blame away from the individual as well as from the socioeconomic structure, discussed earlier, doesn't actually demonstrate a deliberate ideological evasion of any "real" causes for sex addiction. On the contrary, the ambivalence regarding the causes and blames of sex addiction occurs because the producers of the discourses themselves are also ideological subjects, that is, subject to the same ideological interpellating forces that ascribe social identities and the same social field that instills desire.

Desire manifested in and inseparable from social production exists on and in the social field, comprising its movement, before the subject arrives, and it becomes instilled into the subject upon his/her entering the social field. In this way, desire functions within the individual in the same way that identity functions within the individual. Identity is produced on a social field through a social ordering which inscribes, codes, and constructs us as social subjects in relation to historical standards of normalcy. Because these standards are mutable, identity functions as a process, as a side effect of the shifting standards of, say, femininity and masculinity.

For example, current political problems regarding multiculturalism occur whenever cultural identity is held to be immutable. For one thing, changes in socioeconomic conditions resulting from capitalism's growth directly influence transformations of cultural identity. When an identity politics does not lead to a politics of transformational identity new stereotypes regarding race, gender, and sexuality simply replace old stereotypes. [8] By extension, the recoding of adultery as sex addiction in the context of compulsory heterosexuality only shifts the cause, in that context, from sin to psychological disorder. This comparison, however, is not meant to equate multiculturalism or identity politics with sex addiction, but only is meant to exemplify the social production of identity as ascription.

Rather than playing a central role in social, cultural, and identity formations, the subject is produced along with social production. Deleuze and Guattari detail this production of the subject as a "consuming-consummating":

This subject itself is not at the center, which is occupied by the [desiring-] machine, but on the periphery, with no fixed identity, forever decentered, defined by the states through which it passes....and the subject is born of each state in the series, ... consuming-consummating all these states that cause him to be born and reborn. (Deleuze and Guattari 1983, 20)

Here again, desire functions on the social level. It is in the gap between individual and collective, the gap that isn't a lack but, in fact, determines what is individual and what is collective. It is a space of production, in a sense, producing what is individual as well as what is collective, and mediated by the individual as subject (both as social subject and subject to the social collective). This space of production in which categories of gender and sexuality are reproduced, this social field where desire produces reality in terms of imaginary/symbolic (fantasy) constructions, continually decenters the subject in that individual desires are investments of a larger, social desire. In other words, individual fantasies are not solely produced by the individual; they are not unique or even "owned" by the individual. Instead, fantasies are social in that we fantasize about the same object goals. [9] Furthermore, these group fantasies are products of social and economic manipulations, manipulations involvin g acceptable and unacceptable object goals.

To view treatable disorders such as male sex addiction in conjunction with social production involves not only considering the inscribing, identifying, and categorizing taking place on the social field but also involves considering capitalism's growth. Capitalism operates by decoding and deregulating desire that has been inscribed and categorized on the social field, in a sense regulated by the various discourses operating on the social field. Medical, scientific, religious, legal, academic, media, etc. agents, as ideological subjects, inscribe the social field through discourses. While the agents of these regulating discourses exert power in the social field, this power isn't representative of capitalism per se. According to Foucault:

Relations of power are not in a position of exteriority with respect to other types of relationships (economic processes, knowledge relationships, sexual relationships), but are immanent in the latter; they are the immediate effects of the divisions, inequalities, and disequilibriums which occur in the later, and conversely they are the internal conditions of these differentiations. (Foucault 1978, 94)

Thus while the "divisions, inequalities, and disequilibriums" in the capitalist social field give small corners of power to these various ideological agents, again, it would be a mistake to attribute a totalized power to capitalism. More precisely, the divisions caused by capitalism enable dominant discourses without regard to any discursive power to ascribe. Furthermore, capitalism undercuts the stability and the attempts of these discourses to make invariant the codes, identities, and categories comprising the social field as an imaginary/symbolic construction. [10] In turn, these discourses are continually brought to bear against the constant disruptions of capitalist growth, the result of this interrelationship being termed progress. These disruptions and attempts at discursive stability keep capitalism operating at its limits which it can never truly overtake, for capitalism is a growth without a real goal, and progress involves insatiable consumption. This growth and progress more than echo the flow of desire, they result from it.

In terms of the power capitalism has enabled elite white men to wield, the very emergence of sex addiction as a psychosexual disorder undermines the stability of heterosexual monogamy that once guaranteed male dominance over women. In other words, heteronormalcy contributes to its own crisis. However, the discursive construction of sex addiction as a disorder paradoxically aims to reassert male dominance in compulsory heterosexuality by coding or managing the disruptive surplus of desire escaping the repressive heteronormal standard. In the process, new markets and new corners of power emerge when the surplus desire of infidelity is finally captured. The production and consumption issuing from this relational crisis reveal a structural correspondence to capitalist growth. According to Slavoj Zizek:

The elementary feature of capitalism consists of its inherent structural imbalance, its innermost antagonistic character: the constant crisis, the constant revolutionizing of its conditions of existence. Capitalism has no "normal;' balanced state: its "normal" state is the permanent production of an excess; the only way for capitalism to survive is to expand. (Zizek 1993, 209)

Because capitalism involves a process of expanding production rather than a closed system of exchange, a consuming rather than a conserving, we as social subjects of capitalist culture tend to internalize the constant manipulation of desire disguised as need, a collapse of desire into need resulting in unfulfilled consumption. Consequently, consumption includes consuming ourselves as social subjects, in that the social, cultural, moral, and scientific standards on which we base our normalized subject positions become continually destabilized with the demands for increased consumption and production. The emergence of the myriad forms of behavioral disorders only bears this out. Ultimately, as social subjects we often consume ourselves as subjects of disorders in order to maintain a precarious position of normalcy, a normalcy historically determined by the construction and subsequent treatment of its own abnormalities, a normalcy in continual crisis.

Falla received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Minnesota where he is currently a lecturer in Cultural Studies.


(1.) This redemption, of course, cannot be restricted entirely to heterosexuals. As the case of the same-sex marriage debate reveals, the desire to have one's sexuality normalized in a sociocultural context of sameness marks a further assertion of the nuclear family as the primary site of emotional and sexual fulfillment. Michael Warner states this rather bluntly when he writes: "Marriage, in short, would make for good gays--the kind who would not challenge the norms of straight culture, who would not flaunt sexuality, and who would not insist on living differently from ordinary folks" (1999, 113).

(2.) For example, the production of Viagra coincided with the production of erectile dysfunction, a recoding of impotence which commonly has been associated as a symptom with both physiological and non-physiological causes (e.g., diabetes, physical injury, stress, fatigue, depression). While the medical establishment may still consider impotence a symptom, the articulation of erectile dysfunction by pharmaceutical advertisements poses impotence itself as a treatable disorder. Furthermore, a current television ad for Viagra presents the viewer with a variety of "normal" men and the voice-over "Who's asking about Viagra? Maybe it should be you." Any social, cultural, or environmental cause of impotence is ignored, and the individual simply belongs to that group of men that suffers from a treatable disorder.

The treatment of erectile dysfunction thus echoes the treatment of eating disorders as pathological rather than culturally defined. On the medical "ownership" of the study of the eating-disordered body, Susan Bordo writes:

In the medical model, the body of the subject is the passive tablet on which disorder is inscribed. Deciphering that inscription is usually seen as a matter of determining the 'cause' of the disorder.... But always the process requires a trained--that is to say, highly specialized--professional whose expertise alone can unlock the secrets of the disordered body. (Bordo 1993, 67)

(3.) While the causes of infidelity are myriad, with many predating capitalism, I contend that a significant cause of infidelity in late capitalism stems both from the imposition of the nuclear family as the natural ideal for human union and from the contradictory relationship between capitalism and this familial ideal. On this last point I draw on John D'Emilio's observation regarding capitalism's simultaneous undermining of nuclear familial stability and ideological promotion of the family:

On the one hand capitalism continually weakens the material foundation of family life, making it possible for individuals to live outside the family, and for a lesbian and gay male identity to develop. On the other, it needs to push men and women into families, at least long enough to reproduce the next generation of workers. (D'Emilio 1996, 269-70)

In addition to the development of identities, a great deal of desire is unleashed through the lack of stability. One of the social mechanisms employed to shunt the flow of desire is shame. Michael Warner argues that people are more or less shamed into sexual normalcy partly due to public speech regarding sex that by and large takes the form of condemnation and warning. For Warner, the Clinton sex scandal exemplifies a politics of shame: rather than legality or concern over either Hillary Clinton or Monica Lewinski, Clinton's accusers "were moved by a more abstract sense of violated propriety, a crime not against any individual, but against the imagined rules of sex" (1999, 26-27). These imagined rules stem from the premise that sex is shameful and a private matter. Thus while Clinton's infidelity violated hierarchically based sexual norms, the greater violation, according to Warner, was against the taboo of public sex, a more or less retroactive violation considering Kenneth Starr's public report on the luri d, scandalous details (see Warner 1999, 17-33).

(4.) Discussing the manifestation and distribution of the word and concept "heterosexuality" in early twentieth-century America, Jonathan Katz traces the discursive construction not only in terms of a binary relationship between hetero- and homosexuality but also in terms of the binary opposition between male and female: "The 'oppositeness' of the sexes was alleged to be the basis for a universal, normal, erotic attraction between males and females....The early twentieth-century focus on physiological and gender dimorphism reflected the deep anxieties of men about the shifting work, social roles, and power of men over women, and about the ideals of womanhood and manhood" (1990, 17).

(5.) For a discussion of this hierarchy see Warner (1999), especially pages 24-33.

(6.) The vocal defense (usually as denial) of white male privilege parallels the "new hetero defensiveness" which Katz claims has taken the form of "many men's new need to proclaim their heterosexuality..." (1990, 24).

(7.) In discussing the Clinton sex scandal, Warner writes: "But the scandal had less to do with legal technicalities than with the taboos behind the law" (1999, 26). As stated earlier, for Warner, the aim of Clinton's foes was to humiliate the president. Yet because Clinton didn't violate any sexual laws, and thus couldn't be stigmatized as a sex offender, his apologists could consider the possibility of sex addiction as an excuse for his behavior.

(8.) Lucius Outlaw discusses an identity dynamics that contrasts the usual recognition-only-based approach used by a type of multiculturalism that requires each diverse cultural identity to be more or less monolithic:

Today it is virtually impossible to sustain the wishful fiction of a permanent and collective 'one true racialized self' shared by all Black folk. Rather, study of the efforts of those who came before us will show unequivocally that we, as a group and as individuals, are never finished products, but are always becoming.... We are constantly redefining ourselves as our situations change. (Outlaw 1995, 50)

(9.) For Deleuze and Guattari "fantasy is never individual: it is a group fantasy" (1983, 30).

(10.) In addition, these discourses tend to supercede their previous articulations with continual transformations resulting from a type of forgetting similar to that which Blanchot applies to speech:

Above all, speech is perishable. Scarcely said, it is effaced, lost without recourse. It forgets itself. In the intimacy of this speech forgetting speaks--not only a forgetting that is partial and limited but the profound forgetting out of which all memory arises. Whoever is speaking is already forgotten. Whoever speaks ... gives himself over to forgetfulness in tying the movement of reflection ... to this necessity of forgetting. Forgetting is master of the game. (Blanchot 1993, 214)

Works Cited

Blanchot, Maurice. 1993. The Infinite Canversation. Trans. Susan Hanson. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Bordo, Susan. 1993. Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Collins, James. 1997. "Throwing Away the Key:The Supreme Court Allows States to Keep 'Sexual Predators' Locked Up Beyond Their Terms in Prison." Time, 7 July, 29.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. 1983. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

D'Emilio, John. 1996. "Capitalism and Gay Identity." In The Material Queer, ed. Donald Morton. Boulder: Westview Press.

Foucault, Michel. 1978. The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage Press.

Goode, Stephen. 1998. "Private Affairs, Public Flaws: Psychoanalysis of President Clinton." Insight on the News, 19 October, 12-14.

Groneman, Carol. 1994. "Nymphomania: The Historical Construction of Female Sexuality." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 19: 337-67.

Hyatt, Ralph. 1997. "Sex Addiction: Who Should Be Blamed for Lack of SelfControl?" USA Today, November, 66-68.

Katz, Jonathan Ned. 1990. "The Invention of Heterosexuality." Socialist Review 20.1:7-34.

Outlaw, Lucius. 1995. "Racial and Ethnic Complexities in American Life: Implications for African Americans." In Multiculturalism from the Margins: Non-Dominant Voices on Difference and Diversity, ed. Dean A. Harris. Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey Press.

Russ, Joanna. 1998. What Are We Fighting For?: Sex, Race, Class, and the Future of Feminism. New York: St. Martin's Press.

"Sex Offenders: What You Need to Know." 1995. Chatelaine, March, 57-106.

Sherman, Eric. 1994. "Not Only Is the Man Sexy--He's a Sex Addict." Cosmopolitan, March, 142-46.

"They Gotta Habit." 1998. People, 30 March, 109-10.

Warner, Michael. 1999. The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life. New York: The Free Press.

Zizek, Slavoj. 1993. Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology. Durham: Duke University Press.
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