The liberal euphoria which greeted the registration of the UK’s first same-sex civil partnerships in December 2005 marked another setback for the cause of genuine sexual freedom. The almost total absence of any condemnation of the Civil Partnership Act by lesbian and gay organisations only serves to underline the extent to which this moribund movement has forgotten what such freedom might actually mean. How can it be otherwise when rights campaigners complacently regard freedom as a commodity to be bestowed by the state?
Far from offering freedom, the Civil Partnership Act actually lays bare the extent to which marriage is a state-sanctioned property relationship which has now merely been extended to those same-sex couples deemed “decent” by the state. Stonewall’s Get Hitched brochure – sponsored by Barclays – spells out the substance of state-approved sexual partnership: tax, inheritance, pensions and property rights. Not only is this institution designed to benefit the propertied, it actively disadvantages the poor: couples on means-tested benefits will now find their incomes reduced in light of their new “marital” status, even if they do not enter a Civil Partnership. What a victory for equality!
As surrealists we confess ourselves appalled, not just at the eagerness with which lesbian and gay lickspittles have leapt at the chance to hitch love to property and class division, but at the failure of straights themselves to fight actively for the abolition of marriage on the grounds that it is a vicious assault by the state against erotic love. We are equally appalled that self-styled champions of freedom and equality such as Liberty and OutRage! are so unable to grasp these basic facts about marriage that they have even called for the extension of Civil Partnership into marriage rights for all. We call for the opposite: not just for the repeal of both civil partnership and marriage itself; for the abolition of property and the destruction of the state which serves it.
Postmodernists and queer theorists like to talk about the sophistication and complexity of consumer capitalism, but its sexual-political operation in relation to sexual dissidents is brutally simple: those who cannot be co-opted will be rendered outcast. The Civil Partnership Act is perhaps the highest-profile evidence of a systematic process whereby the state is currently redrawing the boundaries between co-opted and outcast, decent and indecent, in its ongoing struggle to keep capitalism afloat by papering over the contradictions inherent to capitalism itself. Thus while bourgeios lesbians and gay men drink a toast to their new tax rights, the Home Office announces a zero-tolerance crackdown on prostitution under which street workers, brothel workers and sauna workers alike will face greater harassment by the police, and consequently worse and more dangerous bargaining positions in relation to clients, agents and managers. The consequences will be worst of all for poor migrant sex workers whose freedom to work and travel will be further curtailed on the back of a moral panic about “trafficking”. For the state to recognise sex work as work would be not just to extend labour rights to a large and often super-exploited workforce, but would also be to unpick the moral distinction between different kinds of sexual liaison, and hence to unpick the very distinction between the decent and the indecent, the co-opted and the outcast, which has underpinned the state’s sexual-political strategy for at least 200 years. The crackdown on prostitution is part and parcel of the same divide-and-rule as same-sex civil partnership. Unfortunately both bourgeois feminism and queer politics have already been so thoroughly co-opted that they are unwilling to take action against it, since such action would mean overthrowing the state and hence renouncing the material and symbolic gains they have made at the others’ expense.
With the passing of the Civil Partnership Act, monogamous same-sex couples who sign the register, look after their property and do their tax returns have been declared acceptable in the eyes of the liberal state. They have joined the straights – they have effectively in this regard become the straights – whose status requires the abjection of the outcasts, a revolting rabble of perverts, sluts, wankers, ASBO-collectors, fantasists, whores and punters, arse-bandits of every gender and proclivity, sex criminals and assorted dirty bastards. As surrealists we pin all our hopes for genuine sexual revolution on the obsessive-compulsive eroticism of these outcasts, and we count ourselves among them. By genuine sexual revolution we do not mean “greater choice” (i.e. a longer list of consumer options) of sexual pleasures or sexual identities, nor extended property rights for a greater number of “decent couples”. We mean the eroticisation of everyday life at every level, as an endlessly creative flow of freedom and imagination, as the outburst and constantly mutating expression of what surrealists call the Marvellous. We mean the ecstatic, explosive annihilation of all contradictions – not just between male and female or gay and straight, but more profoundly between self and other, subject and object, human and animal, pleasure and pain, organic and inorganic, creation and destruction. The aim of surrealist revolution is to change life and transform the world, and erotomania is our methodology. We remain indecent, intolerable and in total, uncompromising, orgasmic revolt.