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If That’s What It Means to Be a Writer, I Quit

Back in 2009, I wrote an article for Canada’s Globe and Mail titled If that’s what it means to be gay, I quit. “If you speak to the leaders of most gay and lesbian political groups about what it means to be gay today, they will probably answer using the words ‘love’ or ‘family’ or ‘caring,'” I wrote. “Well, the world of pretty rainbows, church on Sunday, monogamy, respectability and good citizenship is not the world I signed onto when I filled out my gay card.”

I have been an out gay writer and activist in Toronto for nearly 40 years. For some time, I have complained about gay assimilationism—our cultural identity switch from gay sexual revolutionaries to obedient corporate citizens. Perhaps that’s because I come from another time.

I remember the day I figured out I was a homosexual. I was at my grandmother’s house and I picked up a copy of Life magazine (June 26, 1964: Volume 26, #6). I was 12 years old. It was an article called Homosexuality in America, by Paul Welch. The photos were hypnotizing: brooding young men in leather jackets drinking in seedy looking bars and smoking under streetlights in tantalizing groups. Somehow, I just knew I belonged to this illicit world. I was one of them.

Though I knew I was gay in the 60s, I lied to myself and everyone else about my true identity. So art became the locus of my rebellion. I was drawn to 20th century plays that challenged the bourgeoisie. I became obsessed with Tennessee Williams, William Inge and Edward Albee. In 1966, Stanley Kauffman (then a critic for The New York Times) attacked these playwrights for their insidious gay influence. In Homosexual Drama and its Disguises Kauffman spoke of how three dramatists (whom he did not name) presented a “badly distorted picture of American women marriage and society in general.” (Before his death, Edward Albee suggested that everyone at the time knew who Kauffman was talking about.) “A recent Broadway production raises again the subject of the homosexual dramatist,” wrote Kauffman. “It is a subject that nobody is comfortable about. All of us admirably ‘normal’ people are a bit irritated by it and wish it could disappear. However, it promises to be a matter of continuing, perhaps increasing, significance.”

Kauffman defended himself from charges of homophobia by saying that he wasn’t against the ‘gay influence’ in theatre, only its insidiousness. In other words, he wanted gay writers to come out of the closet and write openly about their lives. I didn’t read Kauffman’s article as a teenager, and I didn’t think of Williams, Inge and Albee as homosexual writers, but I knew that somehow, in their opposition to the status quo, they spoke for me.

In 1972, I was pondering a career as a cellist and composer. But when I was accepted into the acting program at York University, in the suburbs of Toronto, I was ineluctably drawn to theatre.  Theatre attracts gay men because the theatre is a closet. If you are the least bit effeminate (as I am)—and you are male—then your mannerisms put you on stage. People were always watching me and asking me, “Why do you talk so much with your hands?”  I could now say, “Well, I’m an actor and flamboyant!’

Also, theatre is a disguise; it’s about hiding. (Despite the best efforts of Konstantin Stanislavski and David Mamet, no one has ever made actors stop acting and just “be themselves.”) Also, theatre is an escape. I knew that I was gay inside. But even if I never kissed a man, it still seemed to me there was a happy “healthy” world out there that I would never be a part of—the world of what Kauffman had called “admirably ‘normal’ people.”

Like Blanche Dubois, I would end up mad and lonely, probably. So, as much as I was drawn to the rebelliousness of gay playwrights who “wrote straight,” I also was drawn to musical comedy because it offered an escape. To this day, you will find that schools that prepare young performers for musicals—i.e., “Triple threat” schools—are filled with young, gay, effeminate actors.

Straight playwrights such as Henrik Ibsen and Eugene O’Neill had laid the foundation by critiquing middle class culture. Gay playwrights—Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Joe Orton, Jean Genet—continued the tradition, with their anti-heterosexual agenda hidden inside a critique of middle class life. But their gayness revealed itself in subtle ways. All were stylists of the highest order, and made a fetish of language. Their work is either poetic, or witty, or both. It’s as if all their anger, flamboyance and femininity is compressed into wordplay. In addition, the subject matter is hyper-sexual, violent, and obsessed with the spirit of Épater la bourgeoisie. In the 19th century, Ibsen’s Ghosts was scorned by critics as “an open sewer, a loathsome sore unbandaged.” And as recently as 2006, Carol Rocamora described Tennessee Williams’ plays, in The Guardian, as “desperate dramas of alcoholism, addiction, incest, madness, sexual voracity and violence.”

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, I was content to imagine myself an actor (and budding playwright), and hide myself at theatre school reading the gay playwrights I idolized, while humming Broadway tunes. But in 1969, the New York City police infamously raided the mafia-run Stonewall bar. Sex trade workers, drag queens, lesbians and gay men decided to fight back. Overnight, society’s secretive liars became dangerous, sexual, truth-telling, boundary-flaunting iconoclasts. During the 1970s, gay men and lesbians kept 1960s sexual liberation alive. Articles in Toronto’s gay magazine, The Body Politic, affirmed that the gay “lifestyle” offered viable, healthy, humane alternatives to monogamy. Gay men—as Jean Genet noted—were part of the global oppressed, and also part of the revolution. Queers endorsed open relationships, promiscuity, and S/M as politically radical and psychology healthy—not only for gay men—but for everyone.

This was the gay world I finally entered in 1979—the year I left theatre school and started Buddies in Bad Times theatre in Toronto. At first, I didn’t write “gay plays.” But in 1981, I wrote a play about gay American poet Frank O’Hara. I immediately lost my friendships with the two men who co-founded Buddies in Bad Times. One of them, Jerry Ciccoritti (now a successful television director), dismissed my work, saying “Sky just likes shocking mommy and daddy.” He was right. After coming out, I dedicated my life to writing like an openly gay version of my favourite 1960s icons.

When AIDS appeared in the early 1980s, it was terrifying and traumatic for everyone. To me, it also seemed very unfair—because just after coming out of the closet I was being told to “wrap it up.”  But AIDS inflicted more than just a death toll on the gay community; it attacked the very core of the gay psyche. Imagine, if you will, not only contracting a fatal illness, but being told you are the incarnation of evil. Imagine your family abandoning you. Most gay men will say that AIDS was a “lesson,” and that gay men, as a result of the AIDS epidemic, became more monogamous and loving. This is simply not true. Many gay men were monogamous and loving before AIDS (and those two things don’t necessarily go together in any case). It is certainly true that, with the advent of AIDS, a unified community of gay men educated themselves very quickly about safe sex. But gay men were not just afraid of the illness, they were afraid of of being demonized. So they learned how to present themselves as respectable citizens, not only by practicing safe sex, but by pretending to act like straights.

AIDS taught gay men how to lie again. Most gay men, that is. Not me. AIDS just made me more sexually outspoken. In 1985, I wrote a play called Drag Queens On Trial about Lana Lust—who defies AIDS with her uncompromising libido and high heels. When John Glines, the producer of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy read my play, he told me he wanted to produce it in New York. I was ecstatic. But it all blew up in one conversation. “Oh, it’s funny, hilarious, really great—keep the jokes—and I’ve got three great drag queens to play it,” he told me. “The only thing is, you’ll have to take the AIDS stuff out.” I said, “What? Take out AIDS?” That was the whole theme.

“No, it’s gotta go. Sorry—too depressing! Gay men don’t want to see something about AIDS. It’s too close to us. Not now.”

This was the turning point for me. I began to understand how different my views were from the views of my own community. Some of my gay friends were rejecting gay liberation and embracing assimilation. I remembered that the straight newspapers all loved Drag Queens on Trial, but the gay rags were conflicted about it. In fact, my drag queens weren’t allowed into many gay bars to promote the show. The owners were so obsessed with the assimilationist “clone look”  in the late 80s (a masculine look that was in vogue) that they had banned drag queens. I became so estranged that in 1997, I left the theatre I’d co-founded.

* * *

The author, in 2018.

If you were to ask most gay men what part their sexuality plays in their lives today, they would probably say “none.” Gays and lesbians today say their sexuality is only related to a genital preference—something many consider inconsequential. They aspire to the same values as middle class heterosexuals, which means they wish to get married, have children, buy things and support their local police. The only problem with this is that the monogamous heterosexual model, which most gays and lesbians now ape faithfully, isn’t very practical.

Compulsive heterosexuality is founded on the lie that most people are naturally suited for monogamous marriage. This lie can be maintained only when it is accompanied by a whole range of practices that—at least until very recently—heterosexuals didn’t want to talk about: sexism, prostitution, strip clubs, rape, and the molestation of children. The truth is that gay men have not become less promiscuous, they have just learned to lie like straights. The gay bars (although there are fewer of them) are still busy with horny gay men, as are bath houses, parks, toilets, crack/meth sex parties—and the ubiquitous online “hookups.” Modern straight and gay hypocrisies are wonderfully facilitated by modern technology. We hook up on cellphones, and do not have to actually appear in public to get laid. This is a godsend for straight men who want to cheat on their wives, or gay men who are still in the closet—and/ or who want to appear non-promiscuous, or monogamous. Hence the popularity of Grindr.

As a writer, I have continued to write novels plays and books that are mainly focused on gay life, love and sex. My books are not popular with gay men. The people who read them are, well, people who read (a limited audience these days). My work now lives permanently outside the mainstream.

The increasing marginalization of queer work—or any sexual work at all, really—is related to two political movements: trans politics, and #MeToo. Don’t get me wrong: Both movements have positive value. As a gender non-conforming gay male and drag queen, I have devoted much of my life and work to challenging gender. And I appreciate trans theory, and the efforts it makes to change the gender status quo. And as an ardent male feminist, I am happy to see women call out male abusers. But the politics of trans theory and #MeToo can be significantly anti-sexual, in direct opposition to pre-AIDS political movements—women’s liberation, sexual liberation and gay liberation. #MeToo is considered by some critics—particularly French feminists such as Catherine Deneuve— to be an anti-sexual. Many trans theorists state over and over again that being trans has everything to do with gender and nothing to do with sex.

What is most frightening about the #MeToo movement in terms of aesthetics is that it demands the rigorous analytics of social justice be applied to creative work. Michele Perrot, speaking of the public letter signed by Deneuve and other prominent French women in opposition to the excesses of #MeToo (“Nous défendons une liberté d’importuner, indispensable à la liberté sexuelle”), notes that the authors “fear that the #MeToo movement dents creative, artistic and sexual freedom, that a moralist backlash comes and destroys what libertarian thinking has fought hard to obtain.” Has this actually happened? Absolutely. A female Canadian filmmaker I know told me recently of her difficulties in acquiring permission from the actors’ union to make a film involving—as she described it—”a plus-sized woman having rough sex with a man, in which they would hit and bite each other.” The union denied permission, saying effectively that that the scene was “too much” in the #MeToo era.

I have written drag-queen roles for myself, and am certainly a fan of the sly and radical rebelliousness of camp humour. At the Q2Q Conference in Vancouver in 2016 (“A Symposium on Queer Theatre and Performance“), several transgender artists raised objections to drag-queen performers on the basis that they were “cruel.” I was asked to read some very campy poetry at a high school recently—and also lectured on drag (though I wasn’t in drag). One of the teachers told me that the whole idea of having a drag queen at the school had only recently become controversial—not because it offended conservatives, but because some educators though it might be offensive to trans people. The reason some trans theorists object to drag is because they think that drag serves to mock or satirize trans people.

* * *

Before the modern scientific age, people who wanted to understand the world didn’t look though a microscope. They read a prayer; or a poem, which could be considered equivalent to the word of God. Then the puritans arrived. Their messenger was Petrus Ramus, a 16th-century philosopher (and Protestant convert) who railed against over-decorated, complex, metaphorical language—which is to say, poetry. He championed the so-called “plain style,” which became popular with many puritans.

The Royal Society, founded in 1660, is known for its dedication to the scientific method. But it also policed speech, which is one of the reasons Shakespeare remained surprisingly unpopular until the bardolator David Garrick began to stage his plays (and star in them) in the mid 1700s. Thanks to the puritans, poets and critics became suspicious of what were called “quibbles”—a 17th-century word for a pun. Wordplay was distrusted because it endowed language with double (or sometimes triple, or quadruple) meanings. For purveyors of plain speech, it was important to know the exact moral message of whatever was being said or written. It was required that the message be clear, and related to facts (or approved faith), not the imagination.

David Garrick, in his elaborate adaptations of Shakespeare, managed to both clear the work of quibbles (Garrick’s adaptations were, effectively, punless) and provide new endings to plays such Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth. In these moralistic finales, evildoers cried to God for mercy as they were sent to hell, and the good flew off to heaven. Shakespeare’s actual plays—by contrast—are essentially amoral. For all great art is amoral.

As a rhetorician, Shakespeare was more interested in presenting eloquent and uniquely persuasive arguments on both sides of any issue, than in celebrating the good and punishing the evil. In fact Shakespeare’s work presents the most passionate arguments in favour of evil you will ever find in serious literature. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called Iago, famously, “the motive-hunting of motiveless malignity.”

Like Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams was a master rhetorician and poet. Streetcar Named Desire centres around the fundamental Manichaean argument between the body (Stanley) and the soul (Blanche). Williams’ brilliance lies in the fact that these opponents are evenly matched. Stanley is sexy, funny, and honest—but Blanche is brimful of poetry and pathos. One gets the feeling that Williams had as much sympathy for Blanche’s point of view as for Stanley’s. On leaving the theatre, we are torn. What is the answer? There is none; only an eternal, dangerous question. Williams, Albee, Orton and Genet raised dangerous questions and didn’t answer them. This is why they challenged the status quo and audiences, and why their work still stands as art. Art leaves us torn and uncomfortable. Mere entertainment confirms us in our comfort zone.

Garrick’s adaptations of Shakespeare were entertainment, like today’s hit musical Come From Away—the longest-running Canadian musical in Broadway history. Come From Away is the story of the people of Gander — a small Newfoundland town whose residents took stranded travellers into their homes when their planes were grounded in the days after 9/11 . This relentlessly cheery musical congratulates its middle class white audience on being white and middle class: “Yes, you are good kind humans! You took people of all colours, sexualities and creeds into your homes! You went and bought toilet paper for them! It was very inconvenient! Congratulations!” But most importantly, Come From Away has a positive, Christian, feel-good message audiences can take away, without equivocation: Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

Consider, in contrast, contemporary attitudes to works by Woody Allen and Louie C.K.. It is no accident that these two artists and poets are comedians. Stand-up comedy can be very dangerous; much of what any comic does has to do with making language and meaning untrustworthy through irony, sarcasm, and puns (quibbles). These two men are great modern poets of the cinema (Allen) and television (Louie C.K.). #MeToo works doggedly to rip Annie Hall and Manhattan from the canon, citing Allen’s personal crimes and misdemeanours. But I predict that ultimately they will not succeedbecause these works of art ask big questions, but don’t answer them, which is what makes art art.

Louie C.K.’s comedy series Louie—and his drama Horace and Pete—are Chekhovian in their manner, their danger and their eloquence. Have you seen Louie C.K.’s movie I Love You Daddy? You probably never will, because Louie C.K. has been cast into reputational purdah due to his personal life. He may not be as great an artist as Shakespeare, but he does share one thing with the bard: His work will slowly slip from view, at least for a time, due to it’s amorality in an excessively puritanical time.

Catherine Deneuve and her fellow French Feminists criticize the “confusion of the man and the work,” in reference to Roman Polanski. I am not defending the private lives of Woody Allen, Louie C.K., Roman Polanski—or any other poet (or honorary poet) who has led an immoral life or held immoral personal views. It’s important to note that Ezra Pound and Knut Hamsun were Nazi sympathizers. Picasso was apparently quite abusive to women. Dorothy Parker was an incorrigible drunk, and William Burroughs was a heroin addict. The list goes on and on. In fact, sadly, it may be somewhat of a prerequisite, for any artist, to not lead an exemplary personal life, or to hold personal views that are outside the realm of “admirably ‘normal’ people.” I am not defending the personal lives or the views of these artists, but their art. This is because artists’ personal lives are now being used as an excuse to ban their work at a cultural moment when we risk slipping back into an earlier, puritanical era.

* * *

From the 1700s and on into the late 19th century—around the time when Oscar Wilde wrote The Importance of  Being Earnest and The Decay of Lying—Western poets, novelists and playwrights were taught that their work must be sentimental, kind, Christian and well-intentioned. All this was blasted apart by the modernist styles of realism, naturalism, and eventually by the anarchy of modern visual art. But for as long as this puritan influence on the arts endured, it resulted, I would argue, in some very bad poetry, novels and plays.

We seem to be going through another era in which poets are to be silenced in the name of morality. Let’s just hope it doesn’t last quite as long as its precursor. My job as a poet is not to improve you morally, or to present a clear, kind, socially approved message.

In fact, if that’s what it means to be a writer: I quit.

Sky Gilbert is a Canadian writer, actor, educator and drag performer. He teaches creative writing and theatre studies at Guelph University. His new book of “anti-essays,” Small Things, recently was published by Guernica Editions.

Image: Ford Madox Brown, Lear and Cordelia, 1849-54
Photo © Tate, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)






  1. Rebecca says

    “For all great art is amoral” — YES, YES, YES. As a writer, I fully agree. This piece is just wonderful.

    • Adjunct-Filth says

      How about as a wife and mother, Rebecca? Do you agree as a wife and mother?

      • Innominata says

        If that’s what it means to be a reader on Quillette …

        I quit too.

        • TLDR: “I’m a raging faggot who was molested as a kid and ever since people stopped paying attention to who I put my dick in I made dumb word-salads, but now no one’s paying attention to those either and I’m upset.”

        • Thoughthelookingglass says

          I hope you do not, Innominata. I have lurked on this site for a while and have always found your comments worth reading.

      • markbul says

        Thank you. So much of what ‘right thinking people’ think and say today seems to leave out the messy business of family. The truth is, if your idea of the good life starts with career and ends with activism, there’s something missing – something big.

    • Charles says

      The construction of the great churches and cathedrals ;Michelangelo’s Pieta and Sistine Chapel, Rafael’s Transfiguration and Leonardo’s “last Supper ” are just a few of the great works inspired by Christianity and often commissioned by The Church.. Hindu and Buddhist temples are great works of art inspired by religious faith.

      It is often the desire to return home to one’s wife and family which keeps people going and survive great ordeals, especially in war . The people who survive when others died are often grateful for life and those who survived the death camps, Japanese POW Camps or Gulag consider the warmth of home to be Heaven. Very few people nowadays can say their survival was a miracle. To be wake up in warm bed, next to one’s wife and have an expectation that the forthcoming day will be free of pain and death; that the nightmare of torture is in the past, is bliss for those who have suffered.

      Those Jewish people who survived the death camps had a burning desire to create loving and stable families.

      The reality is that those people who came to adulthood post 1963, especially the white collar non-industrial middle class arts graduates have had the most comfortable existence in the history of mankind. I am increasingly thinking that the greatest threat to western society is the vast numbers of affluent, impractical, effete and degenerate arts educated non industrial middle class: modern day Capuans. In effect the western world has become a Capua, as opposed to the Roman Campagna. The Capuans requested Rome save her from the Samanites and then betrayed the Romans to Hannibal. The soft living of Capua demoralised Hannibal’s army so it was never the same.

      It was the middle class who created western civilisation through their technical skills, honesty, hardwork, robustness, resilience resourcefulness, fortitude, integrity, etc. The writer’s lack of fidelity would make him an untrusty member of a group of people who needed to trust each other , such as scoffolding team, trawler crew, oil rig crew, combat unit, etc, etc. The theatres in which the writers work were designed, built and maintained by the middle classes he despises. All the creatures comforts -sewage, clean water, electricity, gas, roads, bridges, aeroplanes, cars, communications, systems , food, etc, etc are the result of the middle classes. If wishes, he can always venture into the wilds of Canada and survive on his own; free of bourgeois morality.

      Compared to the rest of Europe, Elizabethan writers had great freedom.

      It would interesting piece of research to asses whether those who were loyal to their fellow workers and risked their live were also loyal to their wives/husbands? Does the fact that someone has earned a medal for gallantry also mean they are more loyal to their wife or husband? There are vast numbers who have earned awards bravery since 1914: do they demonstrate greater loyalty to their partners than the average person. Is there a correlation between sexual infidelity and cowardice and treachery?

      • Philoctetes says

        “Compared to the rest of Europe, Elizabethan writers had great freedom.”
        Tell that to Ben Jonson, tossed in prison in 1597 for putting on a satirical play called The Isle of Dogs. The play was supressed and all copies of it destroyed. Saying that Elizabethan writers had great freedom compared to the rest of Europe – from which Tudor and Elizabethan theatre developed – is like saying a prisoner not held in solitary confinement is more free than the one that is.

        • Debbie says

          As someone who’s spent a fair amount of time in and out of jail in my youth I can tell you from personal experience that being in general population makes you much more free than being in solitary. Being in solitary is psychological torture and hell. I only had to spend 14 days and I still nearly went crazy from the complete isolation.

          • Charlie says

            That is why it is used to break people. The Book “Papillon ” gives a vivid description of the ordeal of solitary confinement experienced by the writer in a French penal colony in S America in the 1930s. It is also why it used as test in some Buddhist monasteries to go from novice to monk or nun

        • Charlie says

          You need to compare to conditions elsewhere in Europe. Compared to the rest of Europe, only spending a year in prison for criticising the monarch was lenient. He was out a year later and then killed a man in duel for which he was not imprisoned. If he had written a similar piece anywhere in Europe he would have been tortured, executed or had to flee the country.

          There was no Inquisition. People were able to speak freely as there was no secret police. The power of the Church was greatly diminished, due to Dissolution of Monasteries and a reaction to the Protestant Martyrs being burnt by Mary Tudor. One of the results of the Hundred’s year war was that the English archers realised they were much freer than most of the populace in France. A major aspect of English life was that there were recognised and legally enforced “Liberties”.

          • Philoctetes says

            Having to submit plays for approval and censorship to the Master of Revels hardly qualifies as anything consistent with the concept of freedom. In 1559 Elizabeth I prohibited any play that touched on religion or politics. Jail and possible torture awaited those who might have offended this arbitrary law against new ideas. If you think this is any more ‘free’ than elsewhere in Europe you need to review your understanding of freedom. Get a copy of Areopagitica.

          • Charlie says

            England was close to civil war from the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries- 1536-39. More Protestants were killed under Mary by burning in her eleven years than the whole of Europe. St Bartholomew’s Days massacre of the French Protestants by Catholics in 1572 raised concerns about Catholics murdering protestants in England. There had been countless plots against Elizabeth in addition to the Armada. Elizabeth had no children and there was still the memory of War of The Roses which lasted 30 years. Religion and politics was avoided to prevent war. The Puritans wanted Catholics purged. Elizabeth said she did not want to look into men’s hearts. Elizabeth accepted Catholics provided they were loyal to her and did allow Jesuits to preach. You need to research the history of the period to understand how fraught concerns were about religious conflicts leading to war

          • Philoctetes says

            Nothing in Tudor and Elizabethan history presents evidence that the English were any more “free” than others in Europe. Henry VII levied harsh, arbitrary and unfair taxes making him hated by the end of his reign and inspiring the Cornish rebellion of 1497. He struggled to create rule of law, but alienated the aristocracy by outlawing livery. They tossed the livery but continued to exploit indentured serfs. Those who fought with Richard III risked execution after Henry created the fiction that his reign started August 22, 1485, not August 21 at Bosworth. His son became a tyrant, executing his first wife (mother of Elizabeth) on flimsy evidence probably trumped up by Thomas Cromwell (also executed by Henry, after the Anne of Cleaves fiasco). Henry VIII hardly stands out as a paragon of freedom among European despots. You might say Elizabeth was more lenient in some ways, but cruelty and oppression continued. She personally asked for a new and cruel method of execution for the Babbington plotters. Walsingham pretty much framed Mary Queen of Scots. There was nothing resembling freedom in those days of the Star Chamber. Legalized extortion allowed informers to collect a reward for turning in scofflaws. It’s true Elizabeth said she did not want to look into men’s hearts – but they still had to attend Church of England services on Sunday or be fined. And you think history shows this era was somehow emblematic of greater freedom in England? Don’t think so. The problem here is looking at freedom as a relative concept or plastic word. We are either free with a rule of law protected within a democratic regime or we are not. Keep diluting it with relatavism and nothing will be left. Someone will come along and say, “well, you are now free not to be killed – but complain and we will take that away too but leave you free to be cremated.” Funny though how our own time is starting to resemble one Elizabethan reality – those with money could buy certain rights. The rich were granted monopolies, which to Elizabeth’s credit she abolished late in her reign. But no one, especially the poor, could exercise anything like freedom of speech or be protected from the abuses of the state. Maybe it’s you who needs to take a closer look at Tudor and Elizabethan history.

          • Philoctetes says

            Oops, line about Henry VII at Bosworth should read “Henry created the fiction that his reign started August 21, 1485, not August 22.”

          • Charlie says

            Henry VII inherited a bankrupt war town country. Taxation broke the power of the military feudal aristocracy who had enabled England to be subject to 30 years of civil war. Henry VII left a prosperous country where the middle class thrived. Henry VIII actions impacted on those who intrigued at court and he was generally liked by the middle classes and labourers. The Tudor Period sees a massive growth in the middle classes who invested in education- grammar and public schools and Oxbridge Colleges. Stratford Grammar School which educated Shakespeare was founded by his Father and other merchants. The large number of farm houses, pubs and small manor houses which still exist from this period shows a free, peaceful and prosperous nation. People do not build if they are not at peace. Wolsey was a son of a butcher and Cromwell a son of blacksmith and the rise of middle classes was represented by the feudal military aristocracy. Even Cecil , Elizabeth’s main advisor comes from minor gentry , not a major military aristocratic family. Cecil and Elizabeth believed that money should fructify in the peoples pockets. Cecil said Elizabeth’s major asset was that she was parsimonious; she was not profligate in wasting income. I find it amazing that you are supporting the feudal military aristocracy.

            Those who did not involve themselves in plots were safe. The Tudor period enabled talented people to better themselves far more than before and in any other country apart from Holland and N Italy. The Star Chamber is used against aristocratic plotters and has no impact on the majority of the population. The English were far freer than any other nation. Do not compare today with a nation which has come out of 30 years of civil war, been subject to Bloody Mary and then been subject to the threat of The Armada . Elizabeth was declared a bastard, a heretic and every R Catholic Nation and RC person in the UK was encouraged to kill her.
            Mary Queen of Scots had to flee from Scotland and take refuge in England yet she encouraged plotting against Elizabeth 1. What animated the English was the memory of the 287 Protestants burned by Mary, The Inquisition and the murder of Protestants in France. Attending Church on Sunday was what everyone did. What irked people far more was the monasteries were often the most severe of landlords and the various religious days meant people could not work on their land. Removing the banning of working on the numerous religious days was far important than compulsory attendance of Church on Sunday.

            Compare England with France, Italy and Spain and see which is the freest of nations and where the people least subject to the whims of the aristocracy and monarch. Up to the French Revolution, aristocrats had the right to imprison and torture their tenants- rights of third, second and first degree. If you want to understand social history A Bryant of G Trevelyan.

          • Philoctetes says

            No nation in Europe, including England, had anything resembling freedom for its citizens in the 16th century. The argument that England was “more free” since citizens were subjected less to the whims of the aristocracy makes no sense. In fact, it’s ridiculous. It’s a misuse and misunderstanding of the concept of freedom. Freedom for citizens only followed the French and American revolutions. You are romanticizing an era that truly was, as Hobbes pointed out, nasty, brutish and short. You lay out a lot of historical facts, none of which demonstrate that the English experienced anything like guaranteed freedoms. And unless freedoms like freedom of speech, due process and equality are guaranteed in a constitutional document, they are not freedoms and a people is not free. You are describing a benevolent monarchy, which may or may not have been so benevolent. Regardless, as long as the populace could be subject to the whims of the Crown or aristocracy, even if those whims were minimal, they were still not able to speak freely, had no protection from abuses of those in power and lived in fear of being victimized or unjustly accused. That you think the English had any experience of freedom in the 16th century is disconcerting. Tyrants depend on that sort of fuzzy logic. There is no partial freedom in comparison to some other place or time. We are either free with those freedoms guaranteed, or we live under a tyranny or an impending one. And if enough people share your broken concept of freedom, we will soon lose have that tyranny.

          • Philoctetes says

            More simply put, just because the English may have been less subject to the harshness that accompanied the general oppression of the era (a dubious proposition) does not make them more free. If there was a flowering of creativity in England at the time, it had more to do with the nascent fight for true freedoms rather than any experience thereof.

  2. “Compulsive heterosexuality is founded on the lie that most people are naturally suited for monogamous marriage. This lie can be maintained only when it is accompanied by a whole range of practices that—at least until very recently—heterosexuals didn’t want to talk about: sexism, prostitution, strip clubs, rape, and the molestation of children”.

    What a load of nonsense. I’d expect this rubbish from The Guardian, attempting to link monogamy to the molestation of children, not to mention rape. No evidence provided.

    Up your game, Quillette. I am really sick of having this LGBTQWERTY+ lunacy shoved down my throat.

    • Wentworth Horton says

      That paragraph caught me too, but it reads more like projection than politics. Some people never do get past mommy and daddy, perhaps he’s just too invested at this point. The central theme of the article, the insistence that art be judged on its own merits, does fit well on Quillette. In addition pieces like this (there has been two recently on the rift between the feminist and trans movement) serve as a record of the natural outcome of Identity Politics. The author can now dedicate his newfound spare time exploring his own contribution to the tyranny of Identity Politics.

      • A handful of good points.

        Most irrelevant.

        At points ridiculous.

        “Compluslive heterosexuality”?
        “Shakespeare was amoral”?
        “Guelph University”?

        Bitch please. ?

      • Michael Joseph says

        The “tyranny of identity politics” is not part of the hegemonic power structure. You did notice which unpopular, as in got fewer votes, candidate won. Identity politics and PC people are a non powerful minority in civilian life but I’m glad there is a large cadre of horsemen already going after them in case some of those old white men above the glass ceiling should need a hand some day.

        Shakespeare is not amoral, he’s a realist and a dramatist. Sometimes everybody dies in a tragedy and the only comfort we have is the bad ones did too.

        I love the description of the immorality of artists. Weak tortured people produce great art. Makes you wonder if we are enriched by them or they are just getting over on us. I take special exception to his rant against #Metoo. At its core it’s a rebellion of the weak against the powerful centered around sexual exploitation. And thank God for it. What a debacle. So many very powerful men abused their positions that I’m shocked anyone thinks it could go too far. What went too far was the exploitive behavior of powerful men. Coming from the theater, I assume the author saw this in all its forms and sexual manifestations.

        This author is going to quit writing because he thinks he’s being censored? Yeah, you might not get a contract. Yeah, a producer might turn your play down because he might not be able to sell tickets. Guess what, Shakespeare wrote one play that wasn’t based on previous publications or popular tales. Maybe he didn’t have time to make up a plot or maybe he was weaving his own ideas into stories he knew were already embraced by the public. Today you can write anything you want and you can promote your work as much as you want. That wasn’t true for Shakespeare and he didn’t quit.

      • Peter from Oz says

        ”Some people never do get past mommy and daddy, perhaps he’s just too invested at this point. ”
        Philip Larkin got it right: “They fuck you up your Mum and Dad”

        • Actually, they play a minor role (if any at all) in “fucking you up”, unless of course they are demented or damaged profusely themselves.

          See, for example, Judith Rich Harris, for details

    • Ray Andrews says


      What a silly thing to say. Clear your throat by simply not reading. I am myself quite opposed to the LGBTA>>Z agenda, but I admire Quillette for publishing articles from all points of view.

      • The day people leave Quillette for disagreeing with some of its articles is the day Quillette loses its purpose.

    • That’s not what it says. It’s claim is against “compulsive heterosexuality” being founded on a lie (monogamy). Those aberrations prove monogamy isn’t practiced as much as people claim.

      • Jeremy says

        I had a hard time being monogamous when I was 16 and in a relationship, but I grew up and no longer have the crazy hormones of a teenage boy so now its easy to stay faithful to my wife.

      • Just Me says

        No explanation of the claim that “compulsive heterosexuality” is founded on monogamy. I never understood it to be natural, but an ideal, and most societies in history have not been ideally monogamous, yet they were normatively heterosexual.

        Heterosexuality and monogamy are two independent variables.

    • Rigel says

      In the interests of Free Speech, it’s important to give what you might consider the opposition a fair crack at it. After all, if for no other reason, you must know what you’re up against.

  3. I read the article up until thsi passage:

    “Compulsive heterosexuality is founded on the lie that most people are naturally suited for monogamous marriage. This lie can be maintained only when it is accompanied by a whole range of practices that—at least until very recently—heterosexuals didn’t want to talk about: sexism, prostitution, strip clubs, rape, and the molestation of children.”

    This is total nonsense, the overwhelming majority of heterosexuals are not sexists, do not rape or molest children. It is also an astonishingly bigotted and hate filled statement demonising the majority and implicitly men in general.

    I like Quillette’s willingness to print articles which challenge orthodoxy and are controversial but this is unpleasant stuff and it is not really unorthodox as it is completely aligned with feminist misandric dogma. If there was some evidence for it then it would be justified, but it is clearly false and so no more than hate propganda and I am disappointed it was published.

    • Emmanuel says

      @ AJ, indeed “compulsive heterosexuality” and “monogamous marriage” are two concepts with nothing in common. There are plenty of non monogamous heterosexuals and a good deal of monogamous homosexuals.
      As for the practices heterosexuals don’t want to talk about, well, they are far from limited to them and one can easily find examples of homosexuals indulging in them. That part of the article is highly hypocritical.

      • Michael Joseph says

        It’s hypocritical except for the fact that homosexuals are only ten percent of the population. Monogamy is our best way to organize society so far but it could be improved. I wonder how many sex workers we would be left with if all people were guaranteed shelter food and healthcare. If the pro didn’t need to fuck you for rent money, or food, and she could go to a free clinic to get heroin, you’re not getting laid. When you extend it out to other jobs like field labor it becomes very obvious. If people have the economic security to not do a difficult job, they won’t. Just like crack downs on migrant labor. US citizens will let food rot in the ground before they will take a highly laborious job for slave wages. The only real way to end exploitation is to provide a basic living standard to everyone. If you don’t, sure you can tell some folks they are going to hell but prostitution, drug addiction, and job exploitation will be a permanent part of the landscape.

        • scribblerg says

          @Michael – So much wrong in your comment, it’s hard to know where to start. Homosexuals are 3% of the population and about 85% are male, gay men…

          Sex workers. Ever know any? Ever read any studies? A great study from like 2011 in The Netherlands showed that more than 80% of sex workers in the study were promiscuous women already who decided, “why not see if I can get paid for it?” Also, many of them can live a subsistence if they wanted to live that way. A reasonably organized sex worker, independent, using the internet and keeping pretty low volume can easily make 2k per week seeing a handful of guys. They make their own hours, pick the clients and pay no taxes.

          What they mostly have in common is a high school education. Most are comparing sex work to say waitressing, as there is no such thing as “office work” or “secretaries” anymore. All require a degree. But even waitressing sucks because it has been flooded with willing, desperate immigrants who are willing to take those jobs. A big part of the desperation comes from the mass exportation of U.S. based production and the flood of immigrants competing with high school graduate women.

          There are also more than a few sex workers who are sex addicts or so-called “nymphomaniacs”, who really enjoy their work. This may be hard for uptight straight people to imagine, but it makes sense.

          You seem to think they are all victims. How absurdly patronizing of you, and quite Victorian. Marxist materialist reductionism conceals much more than it reveals.

          • Peter from Oz says

            I think I could count on the fingers of a leper’s hand the number of secretaries I’ve met who had university degrees. Office workers too, tend to be people who don’t need degrees. Maybe things are different in the US where it seems that college is really just an extension of school.

        • Gay people arent even close to 10 percent of the population.

    • Adjunct-Filth says

      The “overwhelming majority” of “sexists” are a lot friendlier to real individual women, and like them a lot more, than the overwhelming majority of “feminists” are/do.

    • Ray Andrews says


      “the overwhelming majority of heterosexuals are not sexists, do not rape or molest children”

      The author does not claim otherwise. However his point is correct — the more strictured our conventional morality is, the more we will see closeted deviations. This is inevitable and it does not detract from my personal uncompromising support for conventional morality. Most of us are not naturally monogamous, we enforce that standard on ourselves for very good reasons — but we sometimes fail too.

      • Burlats de Montaigne says

        So, a society unfettered by “conventional morality” would be a more benign, enlightened, inclusive and altogether more stable ? May I suggest you go and read Lord Of The Flies. That is what really happens in a society without “conventional morality”.

    • That you focus on rape and molestation suggests that you are okay with “monogamy” including sexism, prostitution and strip clubs. He never say most monogamists are rapists; that’s your strawman argument.

      • Michael Joseph says

        Until modern times, in most societies women were bartered like horses and girls were married off as soon as they could reproduce. That sounds pretty rapey to me. But whatever makes you feel good straw man.

    • Dude looks really cheesy in that picture reading the book. Who the hell thought putting that bizzare looking picture in was a good idea?

    • Grant says

      Seems to me that non monogamous gay liberated communities also have sexism, prostitution, strip clubs, rape and child molestation problems too.

  4. Evander says

    @Mark @AJ

    Easy, fellas.

    Sky’s iconoclastically cynical of heterosexuality. You and I disagree with him. That’s it.

    “I like Quillette’s willingness to print articles which challenge orthodoxy and are controversial but this is unpleasant stuff and it is not really unorthodox as it is completely aligned with feminist misandric dogma.”

    Which reads as: I tolerate oppositional perspectives but this piece crossed my subjective boundary.

    “Up your game, Quillette. I am really sick of having this LGBTQWERTY+ lunacy shoved down my throat.”

    No one compelled you to read this. You’re endorsing censorship. Stop whingeing.

    • Cerastes says

      The issue isn’t so much that it’s objectionable to publish the claim, but rather that such a sweeping and dramatic claim is presented without evidence, support, or logical basis – the author simply treats it as a given, with no critical thought.

      Indeed, about half of this essay boils down to the author being uncomfortable with the fact that not every homosexual is like him, and his ironic unwillingness to accept that others want to live their lives differently.

      • Evander says


        It’s one loose claim among a whole opinion piece, which people are using to damn the whole. Fallacy. I’m calling out weasel-worded pleas of ‘Yeah, I like dissident views, but this one is X, Y, Z and therefore not really dissident, so don’t publish it.’

        The author says that the gay bloc have moved away from revolutionary queerness. He’s disappointed, and claims this has affected him (sort of) professionally and queer culture more broadly, which he thinks is a shame. Insert narrative about queers historically being drivers of culture.

        I’m pleased that Quillette is publishing pieces such as this. Others are spitting the dummy because a gay has made a bare assertion in his piece about being gay.

      • Ray Andrews says


        “without evidence, support, or logical basis”

        This is an opinion piece, we are not expecting data or logic. The author gives an unprovable opinion on the state of gay culture in the broadest possible frame. How on earth would data be collected? Sheesh, for the first time in my life, I find myself defending a sodomite 😉

      • Brian Villanueva says

        Cerastes, that’s why there’s a comment space.

        I suspect I disagree with Sky about almost everything, but I appreciate his perspective. In order to change someone’s mind, I must first understand where his mind is.

    • “Which reads as: I tolerate oppositional perspectives but this piece crossed my subjective boundary.”

      There is a substantive difference between criticising a groups beliefs or practices as mistaken or wrong and claiming that the group you are criticising maintains its beliefs through rape and child abuse. I dont care if the author criticises monogamy or heterosexuality I do care when this sort of false hateful propoganda is published because it is both valueless, being completely false, but also dangerous.

      The danger of this sort of statement is one that a homosexual in paticular should be very aware of.

      Is it a subjective boundary? I don’t think so. I believe that making allegations that the most serious criminal conduct is an intrinisc part of a group when that statement is in direct conflict with a wealth of evidence that it is not true is I think quite an objective criteria for deciding a statement is unacceptable.

      • Evander says

        Mate, I agree with you that the statement was objectionable. Unpublishable? Nope.

        Let him fling out a ridiculous claim and civil society will do the rest. Someone can tweet Sky or a Quillette editor can email him and finger this point.

        My problem is with people thinking that one loose claim going unchecked is leading to Quillette being instrumentalised as a platform for radical queer claims.

        Develop the critique of the ridiculous claim rather than whining about the editorial team somehow licensing propaganda.

    • George G says

      @ Evander,

      No one compelled you to read the comments. You’re endorsing censorship of commentators. Stop whingeing.

      something…something …glass houses and stones etc etc or maybe we can all sit and scream fuck you at each other until the 2 min hate has ended?

      No one is above criticism not Sky for his un-evidenced accusations against heterosexuals, not Quileute for publishing it, none of us for whatever comments we pass on all of the above or each other.

      I’m glad Quileute are up holding their mission statement : “Quillette is a platform for free thought. We respect ideas, even dangerous ones. We also believe that free expression and the free exchange of ideas help human societies flourish and progress. Quillette aims to provide a platform for this exchange.”

      • Evander says

        G’day George, how are you today?

        “No one compelled you to read the comments. You’re endorsing censorship of commentators. Stop whingeing.”

        I’m certainly glad they didn’t. Nor am I whingeing about anything being shoved down my throat. Just telling people that censorship is a gronk move.

        “something…something …glass houses and stones etc etc or maybe we can all sit and scream fuck you at each other until the 2 min hate has ended?”

        Try and articulate better.

        “No one is above criticism not Sky for his un-evidenced accusations against heterosexuals, not Quileute for publishing it, none of us for whatever comments we pass on all of the above or each other.”

        Did I say anyone was exempt? I’m responding to calls that Q not publish articles such as this for one freaking loose claim. Dummy spitting and adult discourse: choose one or the other.

        • George G says

          @ Evander

          Thanks for your thoughts and I’m good thanks for asking, How are you? , I’m secretly writing these whilst I’m working.

          Fit ‘like to you too, are you in Australia? I’m in Scotland. Quillettes an interesting place Canadian, Australian, American and Europeans all come speaking a common language but often talk passed each other.

          For my 2 cents I think we are all broadly on the same page, Sky’s article is interesting but contains a howler of a statement. Some people want to loudly signal their disgust at that and not read on, well fair play to them but that’s the same attitude as I’d expect to see at The Grievance or HuffPo boards or articles, generally here people are more considering but maybe that’s changing as the site becomes more popular?. that statement is a stinker though and betrays some of the authors prejudices, but commentators using that as an excuse for their on prejudice’s isn’t on either.

          Its an interesting article, so was this transhuman theatre writer one by Libby Emmons ( I think Libby’s is the better written but that’s by the by)

          they’re both saying something similar they considered themselves and their community outsiders but have found themselves exiled because they couldn’t conform to the dogma of their group and so here they are on quillette, home of the outsiders outsider and very welcome they are too.

          I think regarding Sky and Libby, people are criticising they’re lack of logical argument but I don’t think that’s exactly fair, they are artistic people and more concerned with the aesthetic rather than the rational. We’ve also been spoiled by some of the high quality of articles written on here so its not fair to hold everything to that standard.

          Anyhoo back to work for me, Cheers.

      • I wonder where the Quileute spelling is coming from (not only George’s mistake), not from the commenters themselves, I think, but from some automatic spelling correctors, Quileute is a native tribe (US?Canada?), with a long history, but not at all related with quillette.

      • peanut gallery says

        @George He’s making an argument, not calling for censorship. If some of the commentary got any more hysterical or overdone, I’d swear I stepped into a Progressive party. Chill out.

        • GeorgeG says

          @ peanut gallery

          Thanks for your thoughts, I’m cool thanks, how are you?. I agree the commentary is OTT on this article, that’s the point I was poorly making. My comment was directed at Evander response to a previous comment. Stop whining, is a call to censor, not a strong or persuasive one but still a call to stop communication he finds disagreeable.

          • Evander says


            “Stop whining, is a call to censor, not a strong or persuasive one but still a call to stop communication he finds disagreeable.”

            There’s a distinction between my comments and the ones I criticised.

            Suggesting Quillette not publish material you don’t like is censorship. How is that different from not wanting books published?

            Telling other posters not to whinge about the fact that such material got published isn’t; it’s a liberal, anti-censorship stance.

    • Endorsing censorship? I think not. Endorsing more selective and sensible editing perhaps.

      • Evander says

        “Up your game, Quillette. I am really sick of having this LGBTQWERTY+ lunacy shoved down my throat.”

        “I like Quillette’s willingness to print articles which challenge orthodoxy and are controversial but this is unpleasant stuff and it is not really unorthodox as it is completely aligned with feminist misandric dogma.”

        “Endorsing more selective and sensible editing perhaps.”


        The above two posters openly took issue with Quillette publishing – key word – this opinion piece. Why? Because of one objectionable claim. So, they damned the whole as radical propaganda.

        Rather than merely attacking the claim, they complained about the journal.

        Such sentiment points in the direction of censorship.

        But I’m open to being persuaded otherwise.

        What would ‘selective and sensible editing’ look like applied here?

  5. “Compulsive heterosexuality is founded on the lie that most people are naturally suited for monogamous marriage. This lie can be maintained only when it is accompanied by a whole range of practices that—at least until very recently—heterosexuals didn’t want to talk about: sexism, prostitution, strip clubs, rape, and the molestation of children.”

    Ok, Quillette, I really don’t need to read articles by some diseased degenerate attacking the foundations of our society. I get enough of that from the rest of the media.

      • Why do you assume that I am a bigot? I have no problem with Sky being gay, but with his glorification of a shitty burnout lifestyle. I would have the same problem if he was a straight male advocating for a life of casual sex and pick up artist stuff.

      • You have a strange and deluded concept of what compromises censorship.

        No one is suggest this piece not be published. Just that it not be published here.

        Got to have some standards. right?

        • Evander says


          Standards are one thing and censorship is another. This isn’t a peer-reviewed journal or a theological college; it’s a platform for free thought.

          Does one loose claim – which was more underargued than wrong, imo – disqualify a whole opinion piece from publication here? By violation of which standard shouldn’t the piece above have been published?

          And didn’t you discern the tribal tone of the complaints, with reference to ‘feminist misandric dogma’ and ‘LGBTQetc. lunacy’?

          I don’t come to Quillette as a refugee from mainstream media. I value what the former Prime Minister of Australia Robert Menzies called ‘the untrammelled clash of opinion’.

          State why this piece shouldn’t have been published here. Argue compellingly for a legimiate, non-censorious ground of refusing it, and then I might change my mind.

          Otherwise, the strange, deluded notions are yours not mine.

        • Michael Joseph says

          At the risk anyone reads this far down the comments column; I’ll just say that blaming prostitution, rape, and strip clubs on monogamy or the false impression that monogamy is suited to most people has its merits but the author did as his idols do and asked a question without giving an answer. What organization of society is better? I suppose we don’t want to go backwards and let people have as many spouses as they can afford. We certainly don’t have lifetime monogamy just serial. I don’t think polyamory is illegal. I think we’re moving towards improvement.

    • Wentworth Horton says

      The author has some hang ups and beyond lifestyle is as responsible for the tyranny of what he’s bucking against as anyone else, probably more so but the piece has merit.

    • The problem with people like you is that you always project. You find yourself and the acts you engage in disgusting. You hate yourself.

      I don’t find homosexual sex, mastrubation, or even sucking yourself off disgusting or even interesting.
      It’s the glorification if a boring destructive lifestyle that I fine offensive, and honestly offensive is a massive over statement. I find it dull.

    • Michael Joseph says

      Oh come on Vicki, you know why dogs lick themselves. Because they can.

  6. George G says

    Surely Drag Queens are a mockery of femininity (kings are not mentioned here but I’m sure the reverse logic would apply ) , Queens are often a deliberately exaggerated grotesque mockery. So whilst I don’t agree with much with Trans Activists say the accusation that Drag is offensive seems completely correct to me, often the persona of Drag artists are deliberately offensive to go with this.

    Perhaps Sky can explain how dragging up is any way different from blacking up?

    • Adjunct-Filth says

      Moreover, the promotion of the sterile career-lady Borg-Queen as the ideal to which all young women are to aspire — promotion via nonstop ubiquitous advertising — is not only a mockery of but also a semi-deliberate destruction of female existence by envious homosexual (I assume) ad-designers.

    • peanut gallery says

      @ George
      I’d be really interesting is seeing the author take on some questions like this that came to mind when reading this. I can understand how needing to repress gay feelings resulted in a lot of exhibitionism and bucking against the forces causing them to need to hide. Once gayness becomes mostly accepted though, there’s nothing to buck against and some people, including the author I suspect, really enjoyed the bucking. If I were to imagine the reverse mirror of the gay culture the author loved, it would be Roosh V (famous-ish hetero pick-up artist hero) and a “hetero-pride parade” celebrating copulating with the opposite sex in the missionary position. Both of those things are pointless, lame, and maybe pathetic. Why would your entire universe be centered on sex? Is he still a teenage boy? I’m quite liberal, so people can do what they want, but that doesn’t mean I have to respect or value it either. YMMV.

      • George G says

        @ peanut gallery

        Thanks for your thoughts, I totally agree with you, I’d love to hear a reasoned justification of drag culture from anyone. I think your pretty spot on in your armchair psychiatrist analysis too, the author seems to relish being a contrarian as much as being gay, so initially they rebelled against the dogma of heterosexual culture and now he’s rebellion against the dogma of the gay scene. If they are reading this, Vicky Heal seems to say a lot of similar ideas to this, i’d appreciate your thoughts on this.

        also re-reading what I’ve written I think i’m probably wrong about drag kings though, I think that’s probably a whole different kettle of fish so i’ll stealthy back track away from what I said there, I doubt its the same issues at play.

  7. Alistair says

    The article is almost devoid of scientific argument and data, and it suffers for it. There are a lot of assertions that may be simply untrue. The author really doesn’t seem to know anything about biology, psychology, anthropology, statistics or economics where it might inform his argument.

    Indeed, the “argument” as a whole just meanders all over the place. I can get this kind of semi-autobiographical tosh elsewhere.

    I like Quillete publishing a variety of authors, but this one doesn’t really tell me any new facts or present new arguments.

    • Ray Andrews says


      It isn’t an argument at all, it is an opinion on a broad cultural shift.

  8. Sure, the statement about compulsive heterosexuality and monogamous marriages being a big fat lie is unfounded and doesn’t sit with me well, but the article had some interesting points and insights. (though probably not enough to warrant its length)

    This being published on Quillette is perfectly okay, imo. We don’t need to agree with every author about everything. In fact, it’s best if there are some of them with which we maybe don’t agree at all.

    • peanut gallery says

      I think its really important to not get stuck only listening to things one agrees with. I get bored hearing stuff I already understand and have heard a million times. New perspectives, even if I disagree, are just more interesting. The caveat I think is that people with progressive leanings that were purged are going to be the most interesting reads. I know the Progressive critical-gender-whiteness-theory talking points enough that reading a true believer isn’t probably going to particularly enlightening. I just go read Vox or other MSM to confirm that “yes, they are still awful and regressive.”

  9. Sam Hall says

    Congratulations, Sky, your side won the culture war, and your prize is that both the libertines and the puritans now come from your side. Ha ha.

    To the statement that all art is amoral and it’s not the artist’s job to be a moral gatekeeper, guess what. That’s how art works for a lot of people. They imitate their favorite characters, whether those characters are of good character or not. This goes back at least to the days when the public idolized Jesse James, and continues down to today with hipsters who tiresomely try to talk with TV-quality dialogue even if they’re just telling you they’re going to the bathroom. You can say you don’t want that on your shoulders, and I sympathize with you, but artists are among the minority of internally directed people, and the audience is the majority of externally directed ones. You will never have more than a handful of people who watch a play or a movie and come away analyzing the central question, rather than wanting to be like the main character. This is why some of us criticize the amorality of Hollywood, not because we are prudes (other criticize because they’re prudes and that’s a separate issue.)

  10. mikeb says

    Like many readers here, I balked at the line, “Compulsive heterosexuality is founded on the lie… etc.” There’s no need to read further of the gay ideologue.

    This is a dangerously stereotypical, ugly, angry rant that typifies why my husband and I want little to do with most gay culture: it’s horseshit.

    We’re no closet cases. We have lived in a rural area of New England as a couple for over thirty years. If Mr. Gilbert thinks this means we are “silenced in the name of morality,” he can stuff it.

    • mikeb says

      After reading more comments here, I scanned through more of the piece. Glad I did:

      “In fact, if that’s what it means to be a writer: I quit.”


      • Continent's Edge says

        For those who throw bouquets at this writer take a giant step back to his poetry online – more mundane, banal, pedestrian, non-creative writing you’d be at a loss to find. Please do quit.

    • D-Rex says

      I don’t understand what’s wrong with gays fitting in with “normal” people. I thought that was what they always wanted, to be treated like everybody else. Isn’t that what gay marriage was all about?

      • Just Me says


        The author and other radicals wanted to destroy the very notion of normality and morality (“bourgeois”), etc.., and gay male sexuality was seen as the revolutionary force that would do that, accepting no limits, celebrating BSM, promiscuity, gender-bending, etc.

        Unbridled male sexuality, unfettered by the requirements of those boring, unsexual females demanding marriage and monogamy…

        So those adopting “hetero” norms are traitors to the cause.

    • Grant says

      I’m sure many men tried to live heterosexual lives to fit in and this is the lie he’s referring to I think. I’m not sure why he feels such a need for everyone to live and think as he does, but often radical people believe that.
      Of course we’re not wired to be monogamous but we’re wired with a violent streak too that we choose is suppress. There are a great deal of benefits to be had in s monogamous relationship, otherwise we wouldn’t do it.

  11. Philoctetes says

    That Gilbert has alarmed the homophobes on this site with his comment on “compulsive heterosexuality” is a good sign. When art and writing create fear in the minds of conservatives and right wingers it’s achieving its goal – to reveal the hypocrisy, lies and half truths that suppress creativity, free expression and truth. Art is not there to make us feel good but to make us feel. As political activists of the right (demanding conformity to morality) and left (demanding ‘social justice’) try to strangle free expression we open the door to fascism. Every repressive regime goes hard after creativity and provocative art knowing intuitively that is the their only real opposition. The real threat of ‘gay’ literature is not Sodom and Gommorah, but that there is no ‘heterosexual’ literature. There is just literature. Good writing reveals who we are, bad writing describes what we do. Just as a there is no free market in economics and a market must regulate itself or be regulated to prevent its destruction, art will either assert itself and expose our destructive tendencies so that we can be more human, or we will experience unprecedented and catastrophic social breakdown and suffering. Gilbert and other writers may quit in protest, but their work is out there and cannot now be silenced. It’s up to us to listen.

    • mikeb says

      “When art and writing create fear in the minds of conservatives and right wingers it’s achieving its goal…”

      A very narrow-minded, parochial goal, if you ask me.

      I write, and I don’t give a shit about its effects on the minds of right-wingers.

      • There is no fear from these sort of articles. Just yawn inducing boredom. Take any random center or left publication and you will find a autobiographical screed in defense of a destructive lifestyle. It’s not new, not edgy, and not interesting.

        What next, a autobiographical screed lamenting how awesome smoking cigarettes used to be?

    • I think you might be conflating art with run of the mill kitsch aimed at a very narrow audience.

  12. Philoctetes says

    The goal is not conservatives and right wingers per se, or even to change their narrow-minded parochialism, but to expand the internal experience of being human – something conservatives inherently resist. So the negative reaction of right wingers tells an artist that he or she is on the right path.

    • That’s what dull post modern artists who cover themselves in piss and feces tell themselves. It’s the 21st century, we are over boomers acting edgy.

      • Philoctetes says

        Would you like your black coffee with no cream or with no milk?

    • “expand the internal experience of being human”

      translation: how much degeneracy can we publicly get away with

  13. fabio says

    Great art is NOT amoral, that is utter nonsense. Romeo and Juliette is far from it: it denounces revenge and rivalry, which are positive values to some of the characters. Even Oscar Wilde, who coined this idea of art being amoral, did not write amoral stories. Tennesse Williams is not amoral. Have you read The Glass Menagerie? Aren’t compassion and authenticity moral values in the play? Wasn’t it also denouncing the mores of the time? You are making a confusion between “adjusted to the mainstream moral of the time” and “being moral”. A subversive piece of literature is one that defies the prevalent moral norms and champions alternatives. It is moral in its own way.

    • Naava says

      Thank you for writing what I thought, but couldn’t quite put into words. Great art shouldn’t preach, but that doesn’t make it amoral

  14. Philoctetes says

    Fabio is right … and wrong. Great art contains moral lessons, but is not and cannot be a moral fable. It’s a paradox. Romeo and Juliet also denounces the kind of stupid and restrictive morality that prevented young people in the play, not just R & J, from experiencing eros. It’s like saying Crime and Punishmnent is only saying that killing is bad. Well, yes, and why is it bad? What is evil? Can killing ever be justified? Does a restrictive and mindless morality create crime? Great art challnges our definitions, including that of morality.

  15. I love the defence of art for the sake of art and the defence of creative freedom.
    I congratulate the author for this piece.
    I do have one point of disagreement:
    “Compulsive heterosexuality is founded on the lie that most people are naturally suited for monogamous marriage.”
    There are many ways one could live one’s life, all of them true. I don’t want to fall into the “natural fallacy” argument but monogamy was selected over the course of hundreds of thousands of years. A partnership between a male and a female is the best and most efficient way to raise a child. In modern days we can argue that it isn’t the only way, and it is true, it isn’t the only way, but for millennia it was the only way.
    It is ironic that after thousands of years of heterosexuals telling gay men how to lead their lives we have now a gay man saying that we, that choose to be in a monogamous relationship are living a lie.
    It is a choice, and quite frankly, most heterosexual men, over 40, don’t have available to them abundant choice in the field of sex with no ties, in that regard the choice isn’t very hard. I’m referring to free sex with women. I wonder if the author really understands women regarding their sexual behaviour.
    Some of us take great enjoyment in a stable relationship. There are many ways to do it. And not everybody is suited for it. But don’t call it a lie.

    • George G says

      @ jorge espinha

      interesting point, theres an awful lot of projection on the part of the author on why he thinks heterosexuals behave the way they do

    • Grant says

      I believe compulsive heterosexuality and homosexuality are founded on hormones. Monogamy was founded on creating a stable culture, providing security and successfully raising children, avoiding fatal diseases and acquiring wealth.
      Historically we didn’t have the luxury of having the choice of a sexually liberated lifestyle. It was quite dangerous.

    • Just Me says


      That is misconception. Monogamy has been the exception, not the rule, for most societies, and has only spread as the norm recently as the result of the expansion of the western, i.e., Christian civilisation to other parts of the world, not because of any intrinsic evolutionary advantage.

      Societies have organized themselves in many different ways adapting to different environments and circumstances, sometimes polygamy was more adaptive, but in a modern industrial society monogamy is preferable.

      • Evolutionary biologists and evolutionary psychologists seem to have another opinion. Human babies are born “half made”, incredibly fragile; they demand a lot of attention. Back at the beginning of the homo sapiens species, our ancestors where on the move, a child meant that the mobility of the female was impaired, there for the need to select a male that would stick around and shared the load. Things like jealousy arouse from that adaptation. I’m just making a few objections to your commnent. I don’t have any certainty about this.

  16. Alyosha says

    Truly great piece. I often find myself trying to draw distinctions between enjoyable trash and true art, and this article touched on topics that really helped me sort out some if my thoughts on the topic.

    As for the criticism of the ‘homosexual community’ I have a few criticisms. I guess that I should start with a suggestion. You are not looking for a homosexual community. You are looking for a deviant community. The homosexual community has changed to be less deviant because the actual body of homosexuals has aged demographically. Most of the edgy 18 year old stuff you like is still readily practiced in other communities, I suggest you go be a furry but really there are plenty to choose from.

    I understand you don’t like monogamy, and that’s fine. Just let us deal with civilization, and you can go get AIDS or whatever the kids do for fun now adays.

    • Alyosha says

      If you looked into the demographics of those who openly identify as homosexual then what I’m saying ins’t conjecture. Its just true. This article has mainly just given a first person perspective on the cultural changes that happen within a community as demographics shift, in this case that demographic was age.

      The phenomenon has been documented within and without the LGBT community.

      -clueless hetero signing off

    • Peter from Oz says

      And the clueless lesbian falls into the trap… plop!

      Love you work, Vicki.

      Reading your comments is like reading the Bible by by flashes of lightning

  17. Our author seems to be committed to a life’s work of inducing shock. I certainly agree with his right to express his opinion. But his voice is lost amidst the shrieking of other shock artists to an audience that is shell shocked. I yearn to be inspired by art instead.

  18. wow, the fearless intellectuals of Quillette’s audience sure got triggered here. So much for dispassionate inquiry.

    Maybe, just maybe, with the rates of divorce, spousal abuse, infidelity, and all around unhappiness that’s so easily found in heterosexual marriages, the author might have a point. At any rate, if you read something that makes you uncomfortable and your reaction is to stop reading, then you’re just reading to self-soothe your feelings that got hurt in the culture war.

    • Alyosha says


      I just wish if we are letting through every article that says “regressive left bad” we would just let actual articles that are defenses and counter arguments to that idea instead of turning out pages of “regressive left bad” + shock factor or “regressive left bad” + overly personal stories.

      • Peter from Oz says

        But this article is saying that the regressive left is bad. Sky is lamenting the puritans taking over the culture. The puritans are always on the left.

    • is that what you get from the comments? First of all, Quillete published the article. Conservatives like me read it all and agreed on the substance. I disagree with the author regarding monogamy being a lie. The difference between me and so many of the disagreements of the left is that I don’t want the author to be silenced. Can you see the difference? Not only there are many marriages that are disfunctional, but many, many heterossexual males are incredibly violente. It is a fact. So, do we trow the baby with the bathwater ? I also heard my share of stories of gay men beating up their partners and butch lesbians being violent. Maybe we are violent apes in general.
      Debate. Facing uncomfortable subjects. Exchanging ideas, disagreeing in a civilized way. That’s what we need. We don’t need some hypocritical facade where we all exchange bland statements about the weather.

  19. Kenny says

    Love the Carol Rocamora quote about how Tennessee Williams’ plays are “desperate dramas of alcoholism, addiction, incest, madness, sexual voracity and violence.” She says that like it’s a bad thing. Seems to me that we’re suffocating on too much Ted-Talk deluded optimism. Life itself is a desperate drama of alcoholism, addiction, incest, madness, sexual voracity and violence. Art is mostly a big yawn if it doesn’t remind us of this.

    • peanut gallery says

      “Life itself is a desperate drama of alcoholism, addiction, incest, madness, sexual voracity and violence.”

      Yes, especially when I drop of my son at Kindergarten. Every day it’s this. Overly simple description of what life is is overly simple. Nihilism is for children. YMMV.

      • Kenny says

        Good point. And I have absolutely no intention of RETORTING in some argumentative way. However, I don’t mean what I say as nihilism. I have raised two kids. As the years passed, I’ve drawn strength, as a parent, from anything that can remind me of the chaos and barbarism underlying life. And, man, when they hit their teens, they start to embody this chaos and violence. It’s pretty exciting. Let me stress again, I’m describing my personal experience and not some objective truth to which I believe that you or anyone else should agree. Enjoy your son! Those images of dropping him off will tear you apart in the best way as you look back on them.

    • Burlats de Montaigne says

      “….desperate dramas of alcoholism, addiction, incest, madness, sexual voracity and violence.”

      Why do I need to go to the theatre? I can get all that at home.
      Peter Cook

  20. Nate D. says

    I’m a conservative heterosexual and I enjoyed this piece. Obviously, that “Compulsive heterosexuality is founded on the lie…” line induced a fatigued groan, but otherwise, he’s coming from an interesting angle on several issues.

    I’ve been saying for a while that the #MeToo movement is proof that Western Culture has buyers remorse from the sexual revolution. So many were convinced that open sexuality, no-strings sexual encounters, the celebration of alternative sexual preferences, and the riddance of puritanical sensibilities would pave the way to a happier and more contented society. The sexual revolution had its perks, but it also succeeded in making life tremendously chaotic and confusing for many who unwittingly embraced it. Some people, like the author, thrive on that chaos. He’s convinced that, deep down, everyone should/does thrive in that chaos – hence his conviction that “order” (heterosexual monogamy) is a lie.

    I think the return to puritanical order is just culture’s way of saying, “We tried that, and it kinda sucked.” He’s like that one dude at the party that’s still feverishly dancing on the dance floor, while everybody else is collecting their coats and going home.

    His allegiance to chaos leavens his artistic preferences as well:

    “Great art is amoral,” he says. As if, good artist only stir the pot. As if, there can only be Yin, never Yang. If all art suddenly became amoral, it would become white noise. Suddenly, amorality would a rule to be rebelled against and art would fight back – by enforcing strict boundaries. It would discover that sin, disorder, and chaos are banal. It would, in a sense, rebel against rebellion… Hey, wait a minute. I think I just cracked the case.

    • The more confortable and unrestrained homosexulas and/or women feel the better the society. In the barbaric Islam, our natural allies are feminists and gays. What I find puzzling is why so many gays and feminists march side by side with their natural predators in the name of diversity. Historians in the future will have a hard time understanding that oddity.

    • DiamondLil says

      Oh, calm down, Vicki. To disagree is not the same thing as being “threatened.” People who see the world differently than you do and say so are not “idiots.” And dismissing women who have children as “baby machines” is just childish. Or do “breeders” threaten you?

    • D-Rex says

      I’m a conservative heterosexual and I DIDN’T enjoy this piece. But that’s OK, different strokes for different folks and all that. Once again it’s like wine, it’s not how expensive it is or who made it but whether you like the taste or not.
      Keep ’em coming Quillette.

    • Just Me says

      Oh Vicky, stop being so paranoid.

      No, homos are no longer universally reviled, they are celebrated now in our culture and it is hetero cis people who are being reviled.

      Yes there are still some fundies and rednecks around, but they are a minority. At most many have mixed feelings, especially at the most in-you-face types.

      The Muslim world is another matter and how our radical Left can hold such double standards on the issue is baffling…

      As for breeders, most women, including lesbians, still want children, and so do many gay men.

    • Grant says

      Man Vicki you are one bitter person. Most women and men choose to be breeders because they want something more than a self absorbed life and they enjoy the miracle of human life. It’s compelling, beautiful and a challenge. Angry people like you aren’t on their radars. As a homosexual, you live in a society that excepts you like any one else.

  21. Ghatanathoah says

    So apparently the author quit being gay because the gay community was pushing for “gay” to mean monogamous bourgeoisie instead of nonmonogamous counterculture. I didn’t know gay meant either of those things. I thought it meant be attracted to people of the same sex/gender!

    Leather-wearing counterculture drag queens who have tons of anonymous sex in bath houses: You are gay.

    Suburban bourgeoisie monogamous homosexual couples: You are also gay.

    Everybody in between: You are gay too.

    When gay people started seeking each other out and forming a community they developed a unique “gay culture.” Many gay people like this culture and find it fulfilling, but not wishing to participate in it does not make you less gay. Some gay people either dislike this culture, or think it makes gay people look bad. Tough, the people in it are still gay.

    People need to stop attaching meaning to “gay” besides “person who experiences same-sex/gender attractions.”

    The whole #MeToo thing seems similar. What #MeToo ought to be about is people not being sexually harassed. That’s it. Asking whether fiction that portrays sex in some way “belongs in the #MeToo era” is stupid, because #MeToo should just be about real, flesh and blood people not being sexually harassed. #MeToo should not in any way dictate the content of fiction.

    • Grant says

      I encourage everyone here to ignore people like Vicki here. She’ll go away if we do.

  22. This comment section reminds me of Scott Alexander’s observation that, if some people establish a town and declare that they won’t tolerate witch hunts, they shouldn’t be surprised if a bunch of witches move in.

    • DuppyConqueror says

      Heh. Do you have a link? Been reading through his archives.

    • X. Citoyen says

      It’s a great blog, and I’m glad you reminded me of that piece because it deserves a rejoinder. SA is right about the witch dynamic, but he misses the how it applies to academia and how much worse off we all are for it. In outlawing conservative warlocks but not progressive witches, universities have allowed whole covens roam campuses casting spells and aspersions at students and professors who don’t recite their incantations—or don’t do it with enough fervor.

      This is a far worse state of affairs. People ranting on Reddit or elsewhere are harming no one and nothing. People shutting down debates on campus, however, threatening professors and students, and generally disrupting classes and intimidating non-believers is undermining the education of yet another generation of students.

  23. Umbratile says

    You lost me at “the rigorous analytics of social justice”. Until then, I thought the piece was very interesting – regardless of how much I would subscribe to its tenets.

    • I also found the piece to be very interesting, but that statement made me laugh out loud.

  24. How dare women talk about their experiences and how men make them feel uncomfortable and threatened.

    Also, honey, no ones censoring anyone. Being called bad names is not censorship.

  25. R Henry says

    “The photos were hypnotizing: brooding young men in leather jackets drinking in seedy looking bars and smoking under streetlights in tantalizing groups. Somehow, I just knew I belonged to this illicit world. I was one of them.”

    This reminds me an article I recently read regarding Sissy Porn, and how it prompts males suffering gender dysphoria to obsessively pursue “transition” to the female gender, often with suicidal results. The point is, that our human desires are easily manipulated, especially when we are emotionally weakened for one reason or another.

    I sense our author was encouraged by images of those leather-jacketed brooding young men to CHOOSE the gay lifestyle. Being 12 years old is to live in the most emotionally weakened states one can imagine, and the media images fed his aberrant desires. I believe he CHOSE to be one of them, as a result of manipulation.

    • R Henry says

      You claim not to care what I think…yet responded. Hmmmmmm……

    • R Henry says

      I believe humans are not animals. We chose what behaviors to engage in. We are NOT controlled by our deviant desires…

      • R Henry says

        Classy. In that single sentence, you illustrate Trolling at its worst.

        Regardless, I wish you peace.

  26. Erminio Arpinate says

    I agree on the fact that I hope my (heterosexual) love for my partner may last past your pretty unilateral condemnation of monogamous life. For morals are not just sexual morals, and one can be an iconoclast and yearn for the destruction of the petty individualistic social order of the middle class without necessarily yearning for sexual promiscuity.

  27. Farris says

    Many of the recent articles have a similar theme…The authors bemoaning the fact that subsequent generations are failing to follow their lead. Welcome to old age. Confounded younger folks just don’t appreciate their elders.

    • DiamondLil says

      Farris, it wouldn’t be such a problem if they’d just get off our lawns!

      • Farris says


        Yep. Just when you have it all figured out, here comes the next generation to tell you that you have it all wrong.

  28. Susan says

    As a wife and mother, I fully share the author’s apprehensions about the current state of art. The BBC says that it could not produce Monty Python today because the artists don’t check any of the correct identity boxes. A UK publisher (Penguin UK maybe) said it was not publishing white males (let alone straight white males) at this time. I have hope. After all, Tiger Woods is back in everyone’s good graces but it in the “art world” the situation goes far beyond separating the art from the artist.

  29. Ike the Spike says

    …He may not be as great an artist as Shakespeare, but he does share one thing with the bard: His work will slowly slip from view, at least for a time, due to it’s amorality in an excessively puritanical time…

    “May not be”?



    This guy’s a histrionic moron.

    What I quote is but a grain of sand in this universe of outlandish, exaggerated, intellectually incept, faux provocative piece.

    What’s the thesis in this discursive ramble1: separate artists from their art; art must be dangerous; art can’t celebrate the virtues of bourgeois life; gay assimilation into that life is a betrayal; what?

    This piece founders on its own intellectual ineptitude. It points to many issues worthy of nuanced discussion. But nuance doesn’t live in this guy, only a posture of cynical dismissiveness.


  30. TofeldianSage says

    Dude, from a straight guy’s perspective this is boring. After the initial gay awareness phase in the 1970’s and 1980’s pretty much everyone had come to tolerate the gays amongst us. Basically we didn’t care what you did with your dick on a Saturday night. Just didn’t care. But as you candidly admit, it was never about that. It was really a fast track to being noticed and noteworthy. When tolerance wasn’t enough, it turned to promotion next. It was no longer beholden on the rest of us to tolerate gays, we had to think being gay was a good idea. Since then it has gotten worse; now we’re half-expected to encourage our kids to be gay. But the flamboyance isn’t enough, is it? It doesn’t really put food on the table, does it? So here you are lamenting that the life has gone out of the gay surge, when in fact it nevery had much. It certainly left the rest of us pretty unimpressed and happy to stick with our own ways.
    And you might recall the origins of the term ‘homophobia’. You might recall that it originally was used against people who spoke out against the rise of gayness, but it had a particular meaning. It was called a phobia because it was to imply that the speaker was afraid of their own homosexual tendencies, and thus the louder they objected to homosexuality the more they revealed their own. It was a nasty little slur that we’ve put up with for 25 years now. But 8t bought you a clear field in which to grow the gay culture all you wanted. Nobody has seriously opposed gayness in 30 years. If you’re kind of bored now with the culture you created, you won’t find a sympathetic ear in me. You’re just slowly returning to the place where we began: nobody cares what you do with your dick on a Saturday night.

    • D-Rex says

      Viki, you seem to be fixated on men sucking their own dicks, and if it were in fact possible, why do you call that perverted?

    • Just Me says

      Yes, Vicky, cis gendered female here, I am baffled by your obsession with men’s dicks, and
      “cock sucking”, kinda bizarre.

      Besides, I don’t think that is the sexual act most distinctly associated with gay male sexuality…

  31. Ray Andrews says

    Having read all the comments, I find myself longing for the good old days when all the freaks and perverts were in the closet and we just didn’t have to worry about it, and it seemed better for them too. My dad talked about the old days. He said that everyone knew that so-and-so in the office was queer, but so long as so-and-so didn’t make it too obvious, no one really cared to bother him about what was his own affair. It’s none of my business to worry about any difficulties between the queens and the gay bourgeoisie, their internal affair entirely. I don’t want to know.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @R Henry

      It does not follow that simple recognition of that fact equates to ‘hate’ or even persecution, but we should not be forbidden to face facts.

      • Just Me says

        The intent is clearly derogatory.

        Sounds like envy to me…chalk one up for good ol’ Freud?

    • Ray Andrews says


      You seem to be the only person here who has nothing intelligent to say. Surely there are better sites for a troll?

    • D-Rex says

      So now you think that masturbation is perverted? I’m confused.

  32. Farris says

    Having read the comments to this article, I must say the vast majority are reasonable, well thought out and make excellent points. What I believe hampers the immigration debate is lack of specificity. For some reason the qualifiers and modifiers are conspicuously absent. For instance, immigrant/immigration. Most people in first world countries are not opposed to immigrants or immigration but add the qualifiers illegal/unrestricted and therein lies the debate. Those desiring only restricted immigration and legal immigrants should not be referred to as xenophobic. Furthermore defining open borders as libertarian seems inaccurate. Open borders would be more akin to anarchy. Also conspicuously absent is the term “assimilation”. Multiculturalism discourages and has been discouraging assimilation. Were the recent immigrants more willing to assimilate one can only wonder what would be the state of the immigration debate today. Assimilation does not mean forfeiture of one’s religion or traditions but it does require respect and admiration for the laws and customs of the host country. In other words does the immigrant seek an better life and to contribute or rather simply better benefits? The notion that separating the wheat from the chaff is nationalistic or xenophobic is devoid of reason. How else can a population guard and protect its way of life? What is the best way to determine who is seeking to immigrate and assimilate in comparison to those seeking to sponge off better benefits? One might begin by looking at who is willing to obey the immigration laws, fill out the necessary forms and endure the wait times.

  33. Shatterface says


    I though being gay made me special. Now I find it’s just being attracted to people of the same sex.

  34. Intersectionality pits groups against each other vying for power. This is the way it has always been. This collection of ideas just shifts the playing field; it does not end the game. Stand back and watch as each cause celeb the left embraces fights for its own survival and priority in the crucible of self-righteous indignation. What else would you have me call it? Intersectionality provides no solutions, it only provides the discord.

  35. Jezza says

    I couldn’t force myself to finish the article – people who make an idol of sex are just plain boring. Porn stars – boring. Drag queens – boring. Wankers – boring. Go and get pollinated the lot of you. You just can’t handle the truth.

  36. Stephanie says

    “Compulsive heterosexuality is founded on the lie that most people are naturally suited for monogamous marriage. This lie can be maintained only when it is accompanied by a whole range of practices that—at least until very recently—heterosexuals didn’t want to talk about: sexism, prostitution, strip clubs, rape, and the molestation of children”.

    Others have pointed out that it is factually incorrect that monogamy requires rape to be maintained. What is also incorrect is the premise that the foundation of “compulsive heterosexuality” (can you imagine what the reaction would be to calling homosexuality compulsive) is that people are naturally suited to monogamy. Aside from the obvious that being heterosexual does not require a commitment to monogamy, no one ever claims monogamy is the natural, easy thing. It is supposed to be a challenge, that keeps you honest and your life stable. There is a reason why these values developed in most cultures, a major one being containing the spread of STIs. A quick look at the countries with the highest rates of nonmonogamy reveals they are also the worst countries by every objective measure.

    The author’s rejection of the values that produce safety and stability is likely why he failed to learn from the AIDS crisis. I’m glad to hear he’s not been successful in propagating this view to his satisfaction.

    Other than that, it was a dull article. Most of it was him talking about himself, and summarising the work of others in a way that didn’t seem coherent or structured. Perhaps he should quit writing, as he childishly threatens.

    • Just Me says


      I don’t get it. Why is a lesbian so obsessed with men and their male genitalia?

      Are you a lesbian because you are attracted to women, or because you find men disgusting?

      As a female, I find this kind of OOT, obsessive hate for hetero men disturbing to say the least.

  37. Morgan says

    Monogamy isn’t “practical”?
    And yet the West was build on monogamous marriage as a foundation.
    And is currently falling apart as we’ve torn marriage apart.
    Maybe it’s just a coincidence
    But if you tear out a foundation, I doubt the building will hold up.
    And if you remove the punishments, the crimes will grow in number.

    • Kenny says

      @Vicki … I just wish that I could directly congratulate Sky. This was brilliant theater and proves his thesis.

    • Just Me says


      The overwhelming majority of males are hetero, so of course the majority of sex crimes are by hetero males. As are the majority of crimes, period, so…chop off their hands?

      What a Koranic view of crime and punishment…

  38. “Compulsive heterosexuality is founded on the lie that most people are naturally suited for monogamous marriage. This lie can be maintained only when it is accompanied by a whole range of practices that—at least until very recently—heterosexuals didn’t want to talk about: sexism, prostitution, strip clubs, rape, and the molestation of children”.

    Replace “Compulsive heterosexuality” with “male sexuality” and this article makes some sense.

  39. Larry English says

    “… cultural identity switch from gay sexual revolutionaries to obedient corporate citizens …”

    Two sides of two coins. Both coins multi-sided, not just dualities.

    If you or any writer wishes to continue writing what you or I wrote forty years ago, we should quit.

  40. Denis Leonard says

    What happened to diversity? While I think Sky has become a bit jaded in some of his views, and who could blame him. Not I. I am thankful that such people who challenge our complacency and remind us where the heart of art comes from, exist. A culture without creative tension does not grow. I’d rather hear a gay activist challenge the status quo though expression than forced repression. Thank you Mr. Gilbert. Quite a long thread this, isn’t it?

  41. rickoxo says

    I enjoyed the article, appreciated the struggles in the comments section and I appreciate that Quillette is trying to be a place where different ideas and opinions can be expressed. It’s a work in progress 🙂

    I’m fascinated by a different part of this article, the Michele Perrot quote where he says, “the #MeToo movement dents creative, artistic and sexual freedom, that a moralist backlash comes and destroys what libertarian thinking has fought hard to obtain.”

    This hits me as the crux of an old argument about the nature of civilization. Vico argued that it’s the nature of civilization in general to dent or blunt all forms of extreme expression. Too violent, reign it in, too extravagant, reign it in. Civilization by its definition curtails the excesses of human desire and behavior and requires them to be subservient to the larger goals of civilization (everything in order and in its proper place).

    Jordan Peterson has gotten a lot of play lately for talking about this dichotomy, the intersection of order and chaos that I think is part of what the author is getting at. Civilizations can die from too much chaos, but they can also die from too much order. If artists represent the part of our civilization that is able to (or even charged with?) introducing chaos and challenging the existing order, then shackling them too tightly is a sign of danger and increased likelihood of the possibility of stagnation.

    On the other side, art in the form of piss Christ seems more about being provocative just to be provocative or just to get attention vs. making a statement that challenges the order so deeply and profoundly it can only be said through provocation-through communication that by its nature must be out of bounds.

  42. Ridiculous, men are much more promiscuous then woman, so two men will have many many more affairs….

    Simple tests as simple as a good looking man going into a bar and propositioning woman versus a woman propositioning a man. The numbers are overwhelming that a man will say yes, so two man would say yes much more than a woman/man or even a woman/woman relationship

  43. FWIW I was recently on a Royal Car cruise and Ive been on dozens, but this one had a gay theme, As a straight man I had to stop using the shower/sauna/steamroom as it was standing room only, most of the men didnt even go to the gym, and one guy in the sauna was jer-ing himslef off with 10-14 people in the sauna….

    Gay Men are mch more promiscuous

  44. Peter from Oz says

    I enjoyed the article. But I do wonder why Sky didn’t find it enough to enjoy his own life without feeling the need to base his career on attacking bourgeoise values and normal heterosexual culture.

  45. Gay_Marc_In_Sydney says

    Gay liberation means the liberation to be who you really want to be. I left behind promiscuity and entered a long term relationship because it was what I sincerely wanted. I’ve never had any regrets about pursuing emotional contentment and a deeper love instead of what I felt to be an empty and destructive pattern of soulless sex that was not working for me. I’m not aping straights. I’m being me.

    • D-Rex says

      @ Gay_Marc
      More power to you, I’ve seen gay men on youtube who find pride marches etc unsettling and don’t identify with that “culture” at all. They want what you’ve got, a stable, loving relationship and to be left alone.

  46. Viktor in BER says

    “For all great art is amoral.”
    “…it may be somewhat of a prerequisite, for any artist, to not lead an exemplary personal life, or to hold personal views that are outside the realm of “admirably ‘normal’ people.”

    Looks to me like Gilbert has led what he’d consider an artist’s life, and when he found little success, he blamed everyone else for being too straight for his genius.

    • Rigel says

      Thus speaketh the voice of Arrogance, crowing from its great Tower.

  47. For all great art is amoral.

    I was reading with interest, right up until the author made the eye-rolling assertion above.

    Now, I get it. De gustibus. So who agrees on what constitutes “great art” is an eternally vexing dilemma.

    But if we look at the storytelling landscape specifically as it’s applied to the broader culture, almost all of the storytelling which has mattered across generations, for the past century, is very much moral. Just as so much Classical myth was also moral, to one degree or another. Because stories are not just art for their own sake. They are metaphors for patterns of thought and behavior. If even as cautionary tales, which a great deal of anti-hero storytelling — such as television’s Breaking Bad — actually is.

    Many contemporary artists love to tell themselves that they (and their work) operate outside the moral lines, either because of unique insight or poignant suffering. I’ve always thought this to be an incredibly pretentious kind of special pleading. Human nature has not changed in a million years, and the plights to which we are all subjected have not changed either.

    Only our technology is better — and this is our excuse for believing we are somehow elevated above those poor rotten fools who went before us.

    ‘Tis not so. And the art which survives us, will continue to be very much moral. Exactly because we are what we were, and we are also what we will be.

  48. Ooh nice word-salad, those sure are a lot of big words that have no meaning whatsoever, or evidence of their validity. You certainly did a good job looking like a thoughtful person. A+

  49. Sorry you had to turn your back on writing. I hope that acting, educating, and being a drag queen pays the bills.

    What an age we live in. Who would’ve imagined that once a culture reaches a point where almost anything goes that all the fun of being a revolutionary would recede so quickly and dramatically?

    All that’s left is either to be assimilated and to find meaning via traditional well, worn paths


    For the members of the International Union of Professional Perpetually Protesting Protesters & Perpetual Victims of This, That & The Other Thing to turn on each other like rabid Jacobins.

    Tonight on NBC! Intersection Wars! Sponsored by Célinununu, Celine Dion’s new gender neutral clothing line.

  50. Jyn Ranlom says

    Wow, Sky (helluva name, btw) seems to be making two main, overarching points: Heterosexual monogamy is not the end-all and be-all sexual and cultural experience – is not the only (sexual and moral) mode through which to have a meaningful existence, and 2) art exists to challenge stagnation. He puts media which exists to edify, mollify, etc., in the class of “entertainment”. OK.
    But then, most saliently, a new type of Puritanism is on the rise in schools and culture more broadly. And that new puritanism is a pain in the ass, or a pain in the mid-brain, more accurately, for many, many of us who started this life at the apex of the post-war cultural revolution: in the 60’s and 70’s.

  51. Throughthelookingglass says

    The Flyoverland Crank wrote:

    “Who would’ve imagined that once a culture reaches a point where almost anything goes that all the fun of being a revolutionary would recede so quickly and dramatically?”

    And who would have imagined that the heirs of the 60’s counterculture would quickly move to establish their own lines in the sand, their own rules and taboos and pieties which cannot be violated? Actually, nothing is more predictable, given history and human nature. Camille Paglia noted over 20 years ago that once you sweep a hierarchy away, another will rise in its’ place, and chances are good it will be even less tolerant than the system it replaced.

    Sky wrote:

    “In fact Shakespeare’s work presents the most passionate arguments in favour of evil you will ever find in serious literature. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called Iago, famously, “the motive-hunting of motiveless malignity.”

    Huh? Does anybody admire and applaud Iago at the end of “Othello?” Shakespeare created one of the supreme devils of Western literature, but to create an evil character is not the same as “favouring evil.” Iago and Edmund are not rewarded in the end for the destruction and suffering they cause.

    Saying that art must celebrate perversity or else it becomes a Sunday school sermon or a Hallmark card shows a decided lack of imagination.

  52. Peter from Oz says

    I would suggest that Sky considers carefully the wise words of W.S. Gilbert:
    ”If everybody’s somebody, then no-one’s anybody.”
    Enjoy your campiness and forget about what others do.
    The fact is that most people need moral codes, rules and taboos. Only a few can really lead bohemian lives and be happy. If you are one of those, then be happy. But don’t commit the sin of Virginia Woolf and so many more idiotic ”progressives” of thinking that amoral living will suit everyone. The world has much to lament as a result of the solipsism of the upper middle class bohemians in the first half of the 20th century.

    • Thoughthelookingglass says

      Sky overlooks or ignores those artists who, after a period of youthful bohemianism, married, settled down, and had families. Even the queen of the Algonquin Round Table lived in Bucks County, PA for a while, got pregnant by her husband Alan Campbell, and knitted baby clothes.. Since Parker was still fond of her martinis and cigarettes, she miscarried and her dreams of domesticity ended. It’s certainly difficult to imagine her as a mother, but at one point in her life, at least, she very much wanted to be one.

      William Styron lived in rural Connecticut with his wife and 4 kids for decades. Robertson Davies spent a big chuck of his life in Peterborough, Ontario, where he and his wife raised 3 daughters. Faulkner, of course, lived most of his life in Oxford Mississippi. I am not claiming that every writer or artist who leaves bohemia and settles into, or tries to settle into, a life of quiet domesticity is successful at it, or turns into Ward Cleaver, Life is complex and writers and artists are notoriously difficult people to live with. However, Sky’s dictum that a life spent rejecting all middle class norms and values is the only one worth living is not only untrue when it comes to people in general, it’s untenable for many artists as well. One might be able to drink, take drugs and sleep around and still produce good work when one is 28. It’s a bit harder to pull off when one is 50.

  53. Stephen J. says

    Mr. Gilbert,
    We disagree on a lot, but one thing I respect is the willingness to speak truth as one sees it not just when it will offend their enemies, but when it may cost them some friends — which is a uniquely painful human experience for which we should all be sympathetic. God go with you, sir.

  54. Gonout Backson says

    What’s wrong about “the private life”(…) of Roman Polanski”?

  55. Indie Wifey says

    Between the Virtue Vetting of any creative contributor and what I call Cultural Prohibitionism, we may as well strip bare museum walls, shut down or off all music and song, close buildings and empty all book shelves. It’s frightening to think which playbooks are being tapped or at least emulated in this inversive era of ours….

  56. I am sure that Flannery O’Connor ( amongst a handful of others) would be amused by the claim that all art is amoral.
    Am I mistaken or did M Gilbert name only Southern gay writers (excepting Genet)?
    A great many ill-considered claims and rants in the article.
    Ironically, it can be read as ‘conservative’.

    And Vicki is a troll … maybe a Sovietski bot trying to influence an election! 🙂

  57. Ajqtrz Smith says

    Impressions from Reading “If That’s What It Means to Be a Writer, I Quit” by Sky Gilbert

    If one is gay it is, or was, necessary at some point in history to also be a rebel. At least if one wished to be “out of the closet.” When, a young man of 12 faces the “hypnotizing” images of “brooding young men in leather jackets drinking in seedy looking bars and smoking under streetlights in tantalizing groups” it is pretty obvious the reaction may be as much about the rebellion as the sexual orientation. The images are powerful and display men of power standing against the overbearing and puritanical mores of society, in particular the middle class hetero-sexual bourgeois values of the past. At a time when he and his many fellow boomers were rejecting the orthodoxies of the post-war world it ought not to be surprising that such images glamorized and reinforced the connection between the angst of teenage years and the power of individuals to stand up and be counted. And what greater identification with the power of being a rebel could there be at that time than to acknowledge one’s homosexuality, if not to the world, then at least to oneself.
    This spirit of rebellion seems to be the actual thing with which Mr. Gilbert is in love. Whatever his sexual orientation might be, hidden to himself or not, it is clear it is not the driving force of his forty years of writing, but only the clay with which he forms work. His work is to keep the rebellion alive. Rebellion is his life.
    Of course, to rebel one must have something against which to rebel. In his early life, as he notes, “art became the locus of my rebellion. I was drawn to 20th century plays that challenged the bourgeoisie.” And he then follows this up with a short discussion of Stanley Kaufmann’s critique of Tennessee Williams, Inge and Albee and quotes Kaufmann as saying the “homosexual dramatist” … “is a subject that nobody is comfortable about. All of us admirably ‘normal’ people are a bit irritated by it and wish it could disappear. However, it promises to be a matter of continuing, perhaps increasing, significance.”
    To which Gilbert responds in the very next paragraph by aligning himself with those playwrights saying that he “knew that somehow in their opposition to the status quo, they spoke for me.”
    This refrain of “I am one of the rebels” continues throughout the article, and is, I believe the real locus of his angst. For he consistently reiterates and rejects the “assimilation,” of the gay life style to the “monogamous middle-class heterosexual” values and claims that “gay men were not just afraid of the illness, [AIDS] they were afraid of of being demonized. So they learned how to present themselves as respectable citizens, not only by practicing safe sex, but by pretending to act like straights.” It is the desire for ‘respectableness’ to which Mr. Gilbert holds in contempt. A rebel stands in the face of the respectable and spits. If it flies back in his face it is worn a badge of honor.
    It would appear to me that the desire to be a rebel circumvents and overpowers any other desire Mr. Gilberts might have. And this is his chief objection to the current direction of the gay movement since it might be rather difficult to take real issue with homophobia when it’s on the ropes. After all, this is an age of gay ascendency and empowerment. One need only look at the current social requirements for any television show, any play or movie, and see that it is almost sacrilege to omit a sympathetic, often heroic, portrayal of a gay person or persons. And that is the problem. One can only rebel against what is not the status quo. And since I believe the underlying self-identification of many, including Mr. Gilbert is that they are “rebels by nature” it should not surprise anyone when they rebel against the rebels with whom they took up arms.
    In the end, the thread which binds Mr. Gilbert’s life and identity is not his homosexuality, but his need to be and to identify himself as a rebel. Perhaps though, it may be more accurate to acknowledge the desire of many gay couples to assimilate and imitate the hetero-sexual, monogamous, and, dare I say it, bourgeois value system is nothing more than the natural maturing? For the fires of rebellion are stoked by the young and is it not true maturity teaches us a bit humility? And humility rarely decides the vast majority have been wrong all this time.
    But of course, I could be wrong. I do not know Mr. Gilbert and, perhaps sadly, have not read any of his works. Yet, it must be said that soldiers begin leaving the army once when complete victory is near. Wars are fought to their conclusion and then the soldiers just want to go home. In the case of the gay rights movement the distance to complete victory may seem far to some but to many the distance already travelled is far more than half the battle.
    In the end though, rebels often want to remain rebels and it should not surprise us the gay rights movement is splintering into an alphabet soup of sexual orientations with their accompanying phobias. At the very edge of victory is exactly where of the fires of progress begin to fade and those who’s true identity is to be burning with indignation at injustice will necessarily find new injustices to fuel their needs. We ought not, I think, therefore be surprised at the anarchy present in the sexual revolution. Rebels always need a new battle to fight and since the war against homophobia is almost over, new phobias are needed and will spring up or be invented. Rebellion is its own cause even if some rebels retire, and some don’t agree against what they should be rebelling.

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