PRINT Summer 2006



“IT IS OUR PROMISCUITY that will save us,” AIDS activist and art theorist Douglas Crimp asserted in 1988, defying the media’s brutal vilification of gay sex—in which a devastating health crisis was portrayed as punishment for pleasure—by arguing that gay men’s sexual flexibility would help them adapt to safer sex. While the AIDS crisis continues, albeit cushioned for some by the effects of life-extending drugs, it is nevertheless difficult to render Crimp’s claim intelligible today. The value of promiscuity considered literally, as Crimp did, seems impossible to imagine given the profound conservatism of much of the contemporary gay and lesbian movement. (The terms of public discourse have changed, clearly, when debates focus on the participation of gays in the institutions of marriage and the military.) Gay couples have perhaps become more tolerated in US society, but other queer practices

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