The word “squirm” encapsulates for me, a non-native speaker of English, a certain cloud of words, affects, and ideas: sperm, semen, swimming, squeamish. This cloud of flowing, seed and aversion marks a tension within what I would like to call, in the wake of Derridean deconstruction, philosophemes of masculine self-sameness or ipseity: between the innermost seed and its protective shield, its indemnity. This tension is made manifest in recent discoveries concerning the complex and vexed relationship between semen and the human immune system. I have a few reasons for looking at these discoveries through the lens of Jacques Derrida’s “Plato’s Pharmacy” and his usage of the term “autoimmunity” in his later “Faith and Knowledge: ‘Religion’ at the Limits of Reason Alone” when making an argument about the queerness of sperm/semen. First, these texts explicitly discuss sperm and the concept of the immune, as Derrida’s treatment of pharmakon (in “Plato’s Pharmacy”) and autoimmunity (in “Faith and Knowledge”) show the deconstruction at work in concepts of ipseity (of which one is the “immune”), and I will argue that the deconstruction captured by the term “autoimmunity” in Derrida’s work also unfolds in these immunological discoveries concerning sperm cells. Second, several of Derrida’s texts, “Plato’s Pharmacy” among them, are especially useful for queer theory since they help us see queer figures dispersed in the vast expanse of Western textuality in a way which consistently resists the conventional textual limits naturalizing sexual difference.
Keywords: emission, sperm, autoimmunity, masculinity, pharmakos