Michael O’Rourke



Stanley Cavell asks that we “learn to maintain our disgust more easily than we learn to maintain what disgusts us”. In this piece I launch a frontal (or rather dorsal) attack on the squeamishness (what we might call sanonormativity) and hygienicization (we might call it a hygienonormativity) of contemporary queer and feminist thinking which has little to say about (sexual) disgust (the term is Jonathan Dollimore’s) and the erotics of bodily fluids and the ontologically leaky body. One could mine philosophical texts, literature and film for a whole range of fluids: blood, sweat, pus, mucous, semen, milk, tears, vomit, diarrhea, saliva, bile, spinal fluid and urine among other suppurations which unsuture the neatly stoppered up body (and the very bodies of knowledge of queer and feminist theories). My overall argument which is pitched against the domestication of queer thought—and it is apposite and serendipitous that queer and queasy share etymological roots; Jennifer Boyd has coined the wonderful and productive neologism Queezy which conjoins uneasy, queer, and queasy— is that these bodily fluids potentialize new ways of thinking about corporeality, ontology, aesthetics and politics and that, as Derrida would argue, the worst is yet to-come. And that is a good thing. One might expect the proper (or improper) names of Georges Bataille and Julia Kristeva to be the main figures indexed in this project. But my archive will be Derrida, Heidegger, Lacan, and Freud and my focus, for this short piece, will be on the novel Wetlands written by Charlotte Roche (published in German as Feuchtgebiete in 2008 and the subject of a recent film).


Keywords: bodily fluids, disgust, sanonormativity, hygenicization , Charlotte Roche, Wetlands