April 7, 2012

Susan Sontag's fame: Why?

The normally reliable Arts & Letters Daily links to a 4,800 word review by Adam Kirsch in The Tablet of the second volume of the late Susan Sontag's diaries. Kirsch is quite emotionally overwhelmed by Ms. Sontag's life, but has a difficult time explaining why any man would care. Perhaps his editors just didn't give him enough space.

That brings up the question: Why was Susan Sontag so famous in the 1960s, other than for saying "the white race is the cancer of human history"? As far as I can tell, it was because Sontag was smart, ambitious, egomaniacal, humorless, pedantic, snobbish, Jewish, sexy, and lesbian. 

I think the sexy lesbian part might have been central. There are lots of lesbians and lots of sexy ladies, but not too many sexy lesbians. (Sorry to break the news, but you have been lied to by your porn downloads.) Sontag's huge mane of hair had to rank at the 99th percentile among lesbians' hair. She was a giant tease to other lesbian intellectuals, who were all enthralled by her. Lesbian lit-crit Terry Castle's hilarious 2005 memoir (which is well worth reading for fun) of Sontag says:
I think she was fully conscious of – and took great pride and pleasure in – the erotic spell she exerted over other women. I would be curious to know how men found her in this regard; the few times I saw her with men around, they seemed to relate to her as a kind of intellectually supercharged eunuch. The famed ‘Natalie Wood’ looks of her early years notwithstanding, she seemed uninterested in being an object of heterosexual desire, and males responded accordingly. It was not the same with women – and least of all with her lesbian fans. Among the susceptible, she never lost her sexual majesty. She was quite fabulously butch – perhaps the Butchest One of All. She knew it and basked in it, like a big lady she-cat in the sun.

It's kind of like Paul Johnson's unkind revelation (p. 253) of what Picasso's special secret sauce was that made him so popular with gay critics, gay promoters, and gay collectors. Picasso was muy macho, but in the Mediterranean mode, and was not above rewarding a good review personally. A commenter supplies the quotation from Johnson:
His appeal to homosexuals, especially those who enjoyed the passive role, was even stronger; he seemed a small, fierce, thrusting tiger of virility. Picasso himself was overwhelmingly heterosexual by inclination. But in the culture from which he sprang there was no disgrace to his manhood in taking the active role to satisfy a needy “queen,” to use his expression.

Thanks, Paul, that really made my day. But it does explain a certain amount about the history of art in the 20th Century.

Unfortunately, Sontag didn't have much to say of enduring interest, as Mr. Kirsch's many thousands of words of explication inadvertently demonstrate.

114 comments:

Auntie Analogue said...

If you, Mr. Sailer, think that Susan Sontag was sexy, then you've removed from me all doubt to the impending - and now richly deserved - doom of Western Civilization.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with Auntie.

Lucius said...

Camille Paglia's "Sontag, Bloody Sontag" essay in the early 90s set off one of the last of the semi-famous literary feuds of modern letters.

In that reminescence of a drunken, early 70s speaking engagement at Bennington, Paglia describes lengthy sessions of semi-drunken conversation with a definite hint of erotic tension (Sontag: "What do you want from me?") but it *never* expressly addresses Sontag's lesbianism.

If Paglia-- openly gay-- didn't know this, did anybody really know it then?

Or perhaps Paglia was being coy because she really wanted to send a message to Sontag personally?

--For what it's worth, you don't have to be a hot lesbian to excite some voyeuristic heat. Those tales of 17 year-old Sontag getting passed around like a party favor at lesbian bars in, what, 1948, when she's not visiting her teenybopper crushes like Thomas Mann? I can't help but be deeply curious about that girl . . . .

Anonymous said...

Are you channelling Stanley Ann Dunham?

Anonymous said...

I'd guess Jewish women make up a higher % of lebians than any other group.

Anyone know?

sunbeam said...

I never really knew who she was.

I'd heard the name, but none of the context I've read it in, or heard in a conversation ever interested me.

Now I know I guess. The older I get, the harder it is for me to take any intellectual seriously. It really doesn't matter what sort of politics or values they are associated with either.

I've never been able to get this lesbian fantasy thing either. As far as I know I'm heterosexual, but watching two women have sex just means nothing to me. I've never been able to understand this fixation, widespread as it is.

Anonymous said...

I'd guess Jewish women make up a higher % of lebians than any other group.
_______

Well, maybe lebians too, but I meant "lesbians."

Thrasymachus said...

>> (Sorry to break the news, but you have been lied to by your porn downloads.)<<

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

Yeah, from that one picture, nothing special.

Anonymous said...

I googled some pics of Sontag from her younger days. Meh. Certainly not ugly. More accurately described as "handsome". Not an ounce of sexiness in her, though. At least not that this hetero guy can detect from old photos of her. Yeah, she did have nice hair, I'll give her that.

Anonymous said...

Susan Sontag's fame: Why?

It helps if your fourth and fifth cousins are well represented in media and academia and can't seem to help writing about you.

She's a total mediocrity but you still have people penning thousands of words about her.

I mean more people have heard about her than Carl Schmitt.

Thursday said...

This brings up a point about what exactly lesbians find attractive. Do they tend to find young and beautiful women attractive like heterosexual men? Or do they go for social dominance just like heterosexual women?

Sontag would appear to point in the latter direction. I've also had some buddies who were into "game" who were able to bang lesbians, so that might be an indicate the latter too. Maybe women just have sexual preferences rather than orientations.

P.S. As a heterosexual male, I have to say that Sontag was actually pretty hot when young. Later not so much.

Anonymous said...

"Lesbian lit-crit"

Tee-hee-hee

Anonymous said...

It's kind of like Paul Johnson's unkind revelation (p. 253) of what Picasso's special secret sauce was that made him so popular with gay critics, gay promoters, and gay collectors. Picasso was muy macho, but in the Mediterranean mode, and was not above rewarding a good review personally.

Quoting from that page:

"His appeal to homosexuals, especially those who enjoyed the passive role, was even stronger; he seemed a small, fierce, thrusting tiger of virility. Picasso himself was overwhelmingly heterosexual by inclination. But in the culture from which he sprang there was no disgrace to his manhood in taking the active role to satisfy a needy “queen,” to use his expression."

RWF said...

I have to disagree about lesbians- the two I'm friends with personally are a very cute petite blonde and a 20 year old goth-looking girl who is a part time model and was her school's prom queen and has men drooling over her non stop.

There are real sexy lesbians out there.

Sword said...

I have also heard her name, but never connected it to any action worth of note. When checking the Wiki article, is seems as if I have not missed anything.

The article did however state that she had been married from age 17 to 24, and that the marriage had produced a son born 1952, David Rieff. He also has a Wiki article, but there was no mention on any family of his. I then googled a bunch of search strings to find out if he has any family of his own, but all of the searches came up empty.

So the TFR is not much.

Remnant said...

Well she wasn't entirely lesbian. She had a son with Philip Rieff: novelist David Rieff.

Talk about an undersung conservative hero: Philip Rieff's work is prophetic and very difficult to categorize politically. He should be much more well known than his then-graduate-student wife.

JK said...

Thursday:

Judging from "hottest women" lists voted on by lesbians (and, I suppose, bisexual women), they have the same standard of beauty that men do (with respect to facial features and thinness) In other words, while the Jodie Fosters & Amber Heards (i.e. any conventionally attractive celebrity lesbian) always make these lists, famous lesbians who look like Rosie O'Donnell are notably absent.

With a few differences: even if really good-looking, fewer are good-looking in a way that fits into the "Playboy" aesthetic. And age - if men's lists tend to be dominated by 20-somethings, lesbian lists always have a large helping of attractive women in their late 30's-late 40's.

And "butchness" - I think that beyond a certain level, a real masculine or hardcore tomboy quality is a turn-off to most men, but obviously appealing to a lot of lesbians.

A couple of friends and I were discussing a lesbian we all know who has a very beautiful face & body - weirdly, she strongly resembles that lesbian model Gia - but she has such a masculine way of walking, dressing, and carrying herself, that most of us simply cannot see her in a sexual way.

However, she has bedded an insane number of women, including many straight ones. Her personal theory is that her appeal to straight women in particular is due to the combo of her feminine beauty and masculine aggression/demeanor when she pursues them.

JK said...

As far as Sontag's legacy goes, the only thing I've seen cited with regularity is On Photography. It's consistently in the top 10,000-20,000 sellers on Amazon, which seems high for a book published in the 70s - perhaps it's assigned reading in many college courses?

morleysafer said...

Glamour drives social esteem, she was a perfect celebrity (was, certainly, a bit smarter than most who have the celebrity skill set) and her stagey-sounding name seemed like some invention of a Lost Generation writer

"RWF said...
the two I'm friends with personally are a very cute petite blonde and a 20 year old goth-looking girl"

Just because they're not motivated to look good doesn't mean they're not capable. Lots of burlesque dancers, porn performers, starlets identify as such and probably also take "The L Word" seriously. Check back on that couple after a real life interval has passed.

Anonymous said...

I liked Sontag's essay on Camp. Very insightful. Told me what it was.
Robert Hume

Anonymous said...

This brings up a point about what exactly lesbians find attractive. Do they tend to find young and beautiful women attractive like heterosexual men? Or do they go for social dominance just like heterosexual women?

The only studies I'm aware of on the preferences of gay and straight men and women on femininity and masculinity, in terms of looks, are as follows:

1. http://phys.org/news176055134.html

"“Our work showed that gay men found highly masculine male faces to be significantly more attractive than feminine male faces. Also, the types of male faces that gay men found attractive generally did not mirror the types of faces that straight women found attractive, on average,"

In this particular study, straight women preferred more masculine-faced men than lesbian women, while lesbians preferred slightly more masculine female faces than straight women or men."

See http://preview.tinyurl.com/brbkxwl - Figure 2

Seems like:

- gay women prefer male faces which are much more feminine than average, and female faces which are more feminine than average

- gay men prefer male faces which are more masculine than average (although this is more complex), and female faces which are more feminine than average

- straight women prefer male faces which are about average, and female faces which are more feminine than average (and same as straight men do)

- straight men prefer male faces which are slighlty more feminine than average, and female faces which are more feminine than average

everyone's on the same page in preferring more feminine women than average, but the gays have a weak preference compared to the straights, which is probably why they get seen as having an androgynous preference.

lesbians seem to have the most androgynous preference overall, with their preference for weakly more feminine women and very feminised men. but the women they like best, facially, are still about as feminine as the straights do.

of course, if the theory that lesbianism is mainly about women "opting out" of the sexual marketplace because they are unattractive is true, they might like feminine, but otherwise ugly women a lot more than straight men do.

(Also there is this - http://www.nickyee.com/ponder/topbottom.html, which shows that the gay men who are "catchers" tend to like older, darker, heavier, taller, more masculine men while the gay men who are "pitchers" like younger, fairer, lighter, shorter, more feminine men. Might be a similar dynamic amongst lesbians.)

DYork said...

Sontag's huge mane of hair had to rank at the 99th percentile among lesbians' hair.

You mean on her head.

Reminds me of the line by the perverted little comic Jim Norton..."It looked like Fidel Castro eating a London Broil".

Sorry for the visual.

I don't see anything sexy about her but I didn't meet her when she was 25.

Always wondered why some people are advanced and promoted to unworthy status.

It's always because ultimately a small group of people with power elevate them and the sheeple follow or ignore.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 1:59 AM

Anonymous said...
It's kind of like Paul Johnson's unkind revelation (p. 253) of what Picasso's special secret sauce was that made him so popular with gay critics, gay promoters, and gay collectors. Picasso was muy macho, but in the Mediterranean mode, and was not above rewarding a good review personally.

Quoting from that page:

"His appeal to homosexuals, especially those who enjoyed the passive role, was even stronger; he seemed a small, fierce, thrusting tiger of virility. Picasso himself was overwhelmingly heterosexual by inclination. But in the culture from which he sprang there was no disgrace to his manhood in taking the active role to satisfy a needy “queen,” to use his expression."

This is true. Many gays resent the Gay Liberation movement because it made any kind of sexual contact between men "gay".

Before the Gay Liberation movement of the 1960's, many "normal"(masculine) men could have sex with "queens" and "fairies" taking the active role and still be regarded as straight men. After the Gay iberation movement insisted that makes you also gay as a way to boost their ranks, most of those men became completely heterosexual.

This wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for something: "typical"(effeminate)gays are not attracted to each other, but to hard-charging straight men. One of the icons of gays is Dana White, the uber-crass, vulgar, belligerant, vigorous president of the UFC.

The only exception to this are gay men who are attracted to adolescent boys. These men are almost indistinguishible from straight men in their attitudes, interests and mannerisms, and they find other grown men completely unattractive. They also share with straight men an intense loathing of the thought of taking the passive role. They are not pedophiles, though: they are usually attracted to young males between about 14 to 18. They also go after adolescent boys not because they can't get women, but because they truly find teenage boys more attractive. These gays are the exception, though. They are known as "chicken hawks".

American gays love to travel to Latin America because it is not uncommon in these cultures for normal(masculine) men to have fairies as "girlfriends".

Anonymous said...

Auntie:"If you, Mr. Sailer, think that Susan Sontag was sexy, then you've removed from me all doubt to the impending - and now richly deserved - doom of Western Civilization."

By the standards of female intellectuals, the young Sontag was really sexy.

Anonymous said...

Agree with you about her popularity, I never quite understood what she was famous for either. She wrote books I guess, but never ones that I ever heard anyone discuss or ever saw in anyone's home. When she said the white race ( When you were allowed to use the term race in adult conservation, because as we all know such a thing doesn't actually exist ) was a cancer on humanity, I remember the quote tending to undermine the purpose of the quote. This is because she she rolled out a pretty extensive list of accomplishments by white people and then reached the irrational conclusion that because of environmental degradation none of it mattered or something like that. ( BTW, I read the quote in a book about technology written by a NASA rocket scientist type guy from the local library, not in one of her books. )

Anonymous said...

The term "camp" (popularized by Sontag) has certainly had a long history (unfortunately - but bad influence is still influence).

Harry Baldwin said...

She had that white streak in her hair, which gave her a certain dash.

What I remember most about her was that in 1982, in the middle of her career as a radical leftist, she gave an anti-communist speech at New York's Town Hall. In it, she asked, "Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Reader's Digest between 1950 and 1970, and someone in the same period who read only The Nation or The New Statesman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of Communism? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?"

The RD was then a very anti-comminist publication. Saying this was the equivalent of saying that someone who listened to Fox News would be better informed than someone who listened to NPR.

It received a lot of attention.
However, shortly thereafter she went right back to her radical leftism like it never happened.

Frodo said...

There is that age between 18 and 22 or 24 where most women can be considered good-looking before time sets in.

Will never forget this girl in college. I was totally into her, then I didn't see her for a year. Oh my, what a year can do to a person. Her youthful attractiveness disappeared and all that was left was the husk of former beauty.

Judging from Google Images, Sontag had a year two of youthful beauty and then it all went downhill from there. Doesn't mean she couldn't be sexy, but she certainly was good-looking after her Golden Age.

SFG said...

Steve's actually hit on a really good point here--intellectuals' reputations can depend as much on their attractiveness (to other intellectuals, of course) as their work.

The whole lesbians-are-hot-to-men bit? Men like to see attractive, sexually aroused women. Two attractive, sexually aroused women are better, because (in your fantasies), after they've gotten each other off, they'll go after you! Twice the chance to spread the seed, say the testes!

Of course this is rank foolishness, but the sexual impulse is responsible for some of the greatest stupidity around (which is why every religion on earth restricts it).

Anonymous said...

Sontag was a bisexual woman, NOT a lesbian, with a hearty appetite for sex. As far as men were concerned she preferred young beautiful men. She said that after the age of 45, it wasn't easy for her to capture the attention of young beautiful men, so she focused her attentions on women.

PublicSphere said...

I think that some of this misses the point.

Sontag is also influential because she was excellent at adopting the "intellectual persona" -- someone who says things that sound deep, in an impressive and intimidating way, regardless of the value of their ideas. Cf. Sartre.


Within academia, these are widely assigned essays:

"Notes on Camp"
"Against Interpretation"
more recently "Regarding the Pain of Others."

FredR said...

I bet Pierre Bourdieu could have explained the career of this high-culture entrepreneur really well. Her success was proof that Americans still feel culturally insecure, and aren't really on board with Emerson's prescriptions in "The American Scholar" ("we have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe").

Anonymous said...

"The normally reliable Arts & Letters Daily"

You gotta be kidding. It's been highlighting Holocaust stories over all else for ages.

In the last week:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/01/nobel-winner-eric-kandel-the-age-of-insight-memory-the-holocaust-and-the-art-of-vienna.html

http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/95282/life-inside-the-camps/?all=1

Anonymous said...

Susan Sontag's fame: Why?

It's so obvious. She was one of the most fascinating cultural commentators and personalities of the past 50 yrs.

Anonymous said...

"Kirsch is quite overwhelmed by Ms. Sontag's life, but has a difficult time explaining why any man would care."

Because he's writing for people in the know. After all, if one writes about Orson Welles, does he have to explain why the reader should care? Reader is assumed to know the importance of Welles.

Anonymous said...

"That brings up the question: Why was Susan Sontag so famous in the 1960s, other than for saying "the white race is the cancer of human history"? As far as I can tell, it was because Sontag was smart, ambitious, egomaniacal, humorless, pedantic, snobbish, Jewish, sexy, and lesbian."

Not again. The White Right like to pull that quote on Sontag, as if her whole life/career amounted to that one sentiment. It's a form of reductionism--and without taking into context the age in which she said it. It's like people who know nothing about Freud ONLY quoting his anti-gentile statement.
It's like Gladwell reducing all of Sailerism to 'Sailer thinks blacks are less intelligent than whites, he's a racist' and without taking into account Sailer's other views, evidence, or explanations.

Sontag said a lot of dumb things over the years, but who hasn't? Politically, I don't agree with her at all, but she was a great critic and writer with unusual views and perspectives. She made people see and think in new ways. To reduce her appeal down to lesbianism or some such is ridiculous, especially since she came to prominence in an age that was, as yet, politically incorrect. And there were plenty of good-looking lesbians back then as now. Why didn't any of them win the respect she did? Because they weren't the thinker that she was.

Sure, her personality and look had something to do with it. But that's the case with anyone. Buckley had his charm, Vidal his wit, Hemingway his machismo, etc. But is it right to reduce their entire life to just that?

Her essay on Bresson is one of the profoundest in movie criticism. Her Notes on Camp was provocative. Against Interpretation was fresh and necessary. And her essay Fascinating Fascism was one of the first to emphasize the AESTHETICS than just the politics of fascism, i.e. even politically non- or anti-fascist works could have aesthetic qualities of fascism. Though I don't agree with her conclusions on many things, she was spot on when she said Riefenstahl's obsession with African Nuban wrestlers was really a continuation of her Aryan superman vein. (Boy, how it applies to Cameron and Avatar.) This is all the more relevant today since liberals are now using fascist aesthetics to prop up the cults of Obama, MLK, mulatto chic supremacism, etc. Where she was wrong in the essay was she thought that sort of thing had no future. I guess she didn't see STAR WARS coming. Also, she had little regard for fascist aesthetics, which I find fascinating and appealing on some level.

Anonymous said...

The problem with Sontag, as yrs wore on, was she became more fascinated in her thoughts on the matter than on the matter itself. So, she wrote this massive essay on Syberberg's HITlER, but the essay is more interesting than the actual movie, which I find unwatchable. I don't think she was really watching the movie, which was boring, but rhapsodizing over all the references and connections she was making in her own mind.

Anonymous said...

"By the standards of female intellectuals, the young Sontag was really sexy."

Not in the conventional way but more like in the Jeanne Moreau way. There was an air of mystery about her. She was feline, not as a housecat but a big cat.

Anonymous said...

Though Sontag grew less interesting over the yrs, I'm glad she had the courage to change and evolve. Some people want Dylan to remain the same forever, but people change and grow.

In fact, I think it's comical when people try not to change. Paglia still acts like a 60s college brat, and it's getting grating. And if Sontag came up with interesting views over a decade or more, Paglia's one claim to glory is SEXUAL PERSONAE. She thinks with her mouth and panders to populism--though she is no less a member of the elite. She's phony in her own way.

Anonymous said...


Sontag says something interesting at 11:30. In a way, though she seemed 'out of it', she was actually anticipating the internet age where people find their OWN THINGS and INTERESTS. Prior to the internet, we had to stick to major publications and TV. But now, we can find the things that really engage us, high or low.
She said Pop Culture, which didn't get enough respect in the early 60s, become all too pervasive, and so she found other things of interest. And why not? Why should we be slaves of most shit on TV? Most of don't care about NRO or Limbaugh anymore. We'd rather read the Derb at takimag.

Anonymous said...

"I think the sexy lesbian part might have been central. There are lots of lesbians and lots of sexy ladies, but not too many sexy lesbians."

Do not mistake the gravy for the meat.
For example, it helped that the Beatles were pleasant to look at, but they made some great music.
It helped that Dylan had rascally persona and brilliant wit, but he was a great artist.
It helped that Godard had a certain mystique, especially with sunglasses and cigarette, but he made some of the most interesting movies at least up to 1966.

Things are different today, with guys like Obama, who really is a zero but has been made into some great messianic icon.
Sontag worked very hard on her writing and made people see new things. She was contrarian and glamorous at it.

Anonymous said...

And remember, even John Simon, no fan of gay community, respected her.

Anonymous said...

"It's kind of like Paul Johnson's unkind revelation (p. 253) of what Picasso's special secret sauce was that made him so popular with gay critics, gay promoters, and gay collectors."

The sort of tabloid garbage Johnson would pull to discredit a great artist, something he never was.
There have been TONS of dick-lickers and ass-humpers in the art world. And tons of women who slept with producers in Hollywood to get a role. But in the end, few became great artists or actors. Why? Few have it, most don't.

All artists, since they rely on money and publicity, are whores to some extent. Even the maverick Peckinpah said he's a whore or at least tries to be one. But only a fool would say his reputation--Wild Bunch, Getaway, Straw Dogs, etc--had to do with sucking up to movie execs.

Anonymous said...

Hey, let's reduce Lennon's career down to the rumor that he once had an affair with the gay Brian Epstein.
How ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

"Camille Paglia's "Sontag, Bloody Sontag" essay in the early 90s set off one of the last of the semi-famous literary feuds of modern letters."

I'd like to see Ingmar Bergman's PERSONA remade with Sontag as the patient and Paglia as the nurse. Both were crazy about the movie, and it explains a lot.

anony-mouse said...

Re: Picasso

On of his earliest fans/promoters was Gertrude Stein. I can't figure out how his sexual abilities affected her.

anony-mouse said...

PS: Homosexual attraction was clearly an important reason why Brian Epstein decided to manage the Beatles, and I suspect John (and maybe the others) knew that. That doesn't mean the Beatles didn't have loads of talent.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Picasso. I think there's a lot of circumstantial evidence that Ernest Hemingway was gay. What straight, handsome alpha in the 20's would hang out with Gertrude Stein, marry a frumpy older woman only to leave her for a lesbian, Pauline Pfeiffer (google a pic). Crazy Zelda called EH and F. Scott fairies. It's also my understanding he had gay characters in a few of his stories...

stari_momak said...

"She had that white streak in her hair, which gave her a certain dash."

Sontag...and Jose (of Pussycats fame) and Indira Gandhi.

stari_momak said...

I could have done without the 'special sauce' imagery.

Anonymous said...

Before the Gay Liberation movement of the 1960's, many "normal"(masculine) men could have sex with "queens" and "fairies" taking the active role and still be regarded as straight men.

This was only the case for certain cultures, like Mediterranean and African cultures, not all cultures and societies. It wasn't the case for northern European and other cultures.

Anonymous said...

You're funny Steve. You link to the Jewish "The Tablet" and then you ask why Sontag was ever Famous. Famous/Popular with who? It'd be interesting to have a gentile/Jewish breakdown of what Literati found her interesting.

It'd also be interesting to have a Jewish/Gentile breakdown of the writers at say the New York Review of Books and their subscribers. Might tell us a lot.

Big Bill said...

I think that's "lesbian clit-rit", not "lesbian crit-lit".

Anonymous said...

"Why was Susan Sontag so famous in the 1960s"

The Scots-Irish and their long-winded paeans.

"This brings up a point about what exactly lesbians find attractive."

Don't they put up the flavor of the month on gender-studies department's noticeboards? Beauty is socially constructed by patriarchal men after all.

"Well she wasn't entirely lesbian."

Isn't that a surprise? It would be more less surprising if there were statements to the effect that men didn't know how to satisfy her, or she took the moral high road, something that the gays wouldn't make.

Mr. Anon said...

Sexy? Really? I don't see it. She looks like a female version of Anthony Bourdain.

I'm not familiar with anything she's written; it all just sounded like the same sort of intellectual New York navel-gazing that only interests other people in that clique.

However, I believe that she once remarked that Readers Digest - i.e., the kind of publication that she and her set had often reviled as square, simplistic, and bourgeois - had more realistically portrayed communism than had The Nation - i.e., the kind of publication that she and her set had written for.

Auntie Analogue said...

It may be that many iSteve readers misapprehended my opening comment to have been a put-down. It wasn't. It was an enormously winking leg-pulling intended to amuse and perhaps to provoke witty repartée.

(Whom, or why, any individual finds another individual to be sexy is outside my concern: there is, after all, no disputing taste.)

I've known hundreds of lesbians and never have I suffered meeting and knowing more humorless, narrow-minded, prejudiced, judgmental, politically indoctrinated, unquestioning, incurious, timorous, ignorant, groupthink-craven, slogan-parroting, petty, nunnish-priggish, and - most of all - utterly obtuse and BORING persons than most lesbians are. Lesbians I pity for the claustrophobic, clique-dominated, trend-clutching, can't-see-the-forest-for-the-trees wee subcultural, monkey-see-monkey-do "world" in which they claim to live "the life." Their world admits and permits no genuine individualism. Yet all of the foregoing also form a powerful argument for gay marriage, which can only expand and improve the present constricted and bitterness-limned horizons of gay, and especially of lesbian, worldview, and ultimately deprive the gay left of the very grounds on which its adherents have based their perpetual sniping and carping.


Sontag, in a word, was famous for being a snot. She said and wrote nothing that was genuinely novel and, more tellingly, nothing that improved the lot of the people whom she claimed to champion. All she did was to have made it possible and chic for certain people to make a living off of being bitch-clones of herself. She was just another leftist "intellectual" poseur who collected a following for the same reason expressed in Robert Shaw's line as Henry VIII in Robert Bolt's 'A Man For All Seasons' about his, the king's, sycophantic retinue: "They follow me because they'll follow anything that moves."

Peter said...

I'd guess Jewish women make up a higher % of lebians than any other group.

If that's the case, I've never seen any statistics, it likely would be due to socioeconomic status rather than religion or ethnicity. Lesbians are disproportionately from the higher ends of the socioeconomic ladder. You'll find a far greater percentage of lesbians among Ivy League students than among Wal-Mart cashiers. Given that Jewish women tend to be toward the upper end of the socioeconomic ladder, it follows that they have a greater tendency to be lesbians.

Anonymous said...

'People run beautifully in Godard films' is the only line of hers I can remember.

In 'The Long March', Roger Kimball wrote a very funny essay on her. The section on her novels is particularly amusing.

Anonymous said...

Those lesbian pictorials in the men's magazines are an excuse to have more than one naked women in them. Men know that lesbians never have sex more than once, if at all.
The rule at my swingers club is that if two women are doing it for the emtertainment of a man. it is not lesbianism. It is their way of exciting him.

Anonymous said...

So the TFR is not much.

That was exactly the same thing I wondered about, and I went straight to Wikipedia, and I also came away with the impression that her son almost certainly partakes of the love which dare not speak its name.

Why was Susan Sontag so famous in the 1960s, other than for saying "the white race is the cancer of human history"? As far as I can tell, it was because Sontag was smart, ambitious, egomaniacal, humorless, pedantic, snobbish, Jewish, sexy, and lesbian...

Or perhaps Paglia was being coy because she really wanted to send a message to Sontag personally?...


And if Sontag really did believe "the white race is the cancer of human history", then that immediately begs the question of whether she ever stooped to vacuuming a Shiksa carpet.

Perhaps Miss Paglia can chip in here at iSteve with some insight.

Wikipedia, though, says that Sontag shacked up with that Scots-Irish photographer chick [the one who took the lewd photos of a 15-year-old Hannah Montana].

Those tales of 17 year-old Sontag getting passed around like a party favor at lesbian bars in, what, 1948, when she's not visiting her teenybopper crushes like Thomas Mann? I can't help but be deeply curious about that girl...

The article did however state that she had been married from age 17...


Didn't Andrew "Roid Rage" Sullivan climb all over The Derb for having pointed out that a woman achieves her peak of desirability at about that age?

BTW, Heartiste & his crowd have been hitting this theme a lot lately...

Ray Sawhill said...

I used to hear it said that her male publisher found the young Sontag an incredible turn-on and helped make her career and rep. He promoted her, he gave her connections, he helped her develop the visuals -- the leather, the white streak, etc. There's a real appetite in the NYC cultureworld for a super-serious, difficult-to-read, visually-striking female intellectual. Sontag played the role perfectly.

I was never much impressed, amused or enlightened by anything of hers that I read or heard, FWIW.

Anonymous said...

Sontag was a pretentious poseur just like have of the people in the NY Review of Books crowd. If she stuck out more it's because she was a good shmoozer and reasonably prolific and maniaclly self absorbed.

The NY intelligentsia scene is just another high school clique.

I think you were right about her looks be important though. She was rather young when she got started in that world. No doubt her devoted college girl readers appreciated that. You could tear her picture out of the magazines and put it up on your dorm wall.

Anonymous said...

Sontag said a lot of dumb things over the years, but who hasn't?

Me.

Anonymous said...

SUSAN SONTAG READER and UNDER THE SIGN OF SATURN are classics of their kind, must-reads.

And this is a great essay.

Anonymous said...

The thing I value about Sontag was she kept digging, and as such, she tended to be subversive of her own preconceptions and prejudices. She had strongly held views but couldn't commit to any single ideological narrative. She was more about sensibility than ideology, which is why she was harder to pin down than most Jewish intellectuals. She even 'hid' her lesbianness, not because she was ashamed of it but because she didn't want to be pigeonholed as a LESBIAN writer. She wanted to be herself. In her interviews on youtube, she can come across as an arrogant ass, but in a way, she was trying to go beyond pat summaries, soundbites, and tags/labels most of us are so used to understanding the world.
She went to North Vietnam like Jane Fonda, but if Fonda the nitwit thoughtlessly committed herself completely, Sontag, while lending moral support to anti-American-imperialism, found communist conformity stifling and mentally dead. I think she withdrew more and more in the 70s because she found the nature of public discourse and culture so simplistic and simplifying. She did become irrelevant, but we have to ask in relation to what? I mean who wants to be relevant in a world that thinks Mudonna is an artist or Buffy the Vampire Killer is worthy of a doctoral thesis in the English Department? Sailer is irrelevant to MSM, but does it matter?

I see a continuation from her 60s sensibility to later ones in one sense. Unlike Paglia, she didn't promote pop culture as religion but as something to acknowledge when it was good without the snobby kneejerk attitude that it was 'trash'. She was trying to expand the field of debate and culture, not reject one thing and prop up something new(and vulgar) in its stead.
Also, Sontag, like Dylan, wanted to do her own thing and on her own terms. Dylan explored psychedelic space before most rockers but tired of it by 67 and was doing something else--when everyone was into the summer of love.

Anonymous said...

I think maybe Sailer doesn't get Sontag because they have such different personalities.
They are both 'accidental' cultural personalities, by which I mean Sailer is, by nature, a 'conformist' thinker who is contrarian by circumstances whereas Sontag was, by nature, a contrarian thinker who found herself pigeonholed into conformity.

Though Sontag worked hard at thinking differently, the fact of her Jewishness, leftism, and other such attributes made her the darling of the liberal community. She didn't want to be some bland liberal or typical leftist thinker, but many wanted to see her as their own. So, though she wanted to be groundbreaking and shake things up, too many people were welcoming and eager to listen to her, and this might have made her a bit uneasy. When you try to think outside the establishment box, but the establishment sees you as a guru or expert on everything, you feel like a cheat. Too often, though she wanted to provoke people, too many just nodded in agreement or admired her without reading her cuz they liked her iconic status. She was being contrarian, but too many people were unthinkingly conforming to her.

Sailer, in contrast, is conservative by nature, and prolly wants to live in a society where he's in agreement with most people. He likes to be provocative but he's not, by nature, a provocateur with a burning desire to 'make trouble'. But given the liberal domination of media and academia, Sailer is forced to be contrarian. Sailer views on race aren't contrarian by design but merely views based on known data. But, it's so beyond the pale in modern liberalism and conservatism that he's become an adversarial/dangerous figure though he is, by nature, not an adversarial personality. I think same goes for the Derb.

Our society is funny that way. 'Contrarian' provocateurs like Sontag are welcomed while consensus preferring-personalities like Sailer and Derby are hounded for their unassailable view of facts.

ATBOTL said...

Ethnic nepotism. Sontag is another mediocre Jewish mind that has been elevated to greatness by other Jews.

Anonymous said...

"In 'The Long March', Roger Kimball wrote a very funny essay on her. The section on her novels is particularly amusing."

Kimball is a shallow writer, all opinions but no thought.
The thing I valued about Sontag thought through things instead of merely spouting opinions. Kimball, like Paglia, think with their mouths. Some of Sontag's views were nuts, some were misguided, but you could get a sense of the contours of her thought. She laid them out carefully, and it was like a journey through her mind. Kimball, in contrast, is just a cultural hack. He has nothing good to say about DEATH OF A SALESMAN because it's anti-capitalist! I don't mind his conservatism but he has the style of a commissar, not a critic. He's to Hilton Kramer what Lowry is to Buckley.

The sheer idiocy of Kimball comes through here:


"Never mind that a lot of it was literally nonsense: it was nevertheless irresistible nonsense. It somehow didn't matter, for example, that the whole notion of 'an erotics of art
' was ridiculous. Everyone likes sex, and talking about 'erotics' seems so much sexier than talking about 'sex'; and of course everyone likes art: How was it that no one had thought of putting them together in this clever way before? Who would bother with something so boring as mere 'interpretation'--which, Sontag had suggested, was these days 'reactionary, impertinent, cowardly, stifling,' 'the revenge of the intellect upon art'--when we could have (or pretend to have) an erotics instead?"


Why is 'erotics of art' ridiculous, and did Kimball really think Sontag was talking about sex? Sontag was saying that the true worth of art lies in its mystery, its power to overwhelm us, to entice and seduce us, its effect on our subconscious.

Partly, it was Sontag's fault for titling her essay 'Against Interpretation' when it should have been titled 'Before' or 'Beyond' Interpretation. As an interpreter all her life, she wasn't opposed to interpretation per se but to the tendency among academics to confuse intellectual molehill-building as the primary engagement with art.
Before we interpret any work, we have to ask, IS IT WORTH INTERPRETING?, and we can only know that through the 'erotics of art'. Before we seek to understand and analyze, certain works makes us want to know more, makes us want to return again and again. Now, no one can rationally understand everything about a great work in the first viewing or listening, so we must be affected by something other than our power of interpretation when we encounter a great work. Artistic genius goes beyond logical systems or rational constructs; the artist has a way of making us see, hear, and feel the world differently. Before one decides to write about or interpret Van Gogh or Monet, he finds himself overwhelmed by their vision. This was the erotics of art Sontag was talking about. If anything, it was a defense of art as a living organic force. Judging by the tendency of idiots like Paglia to interpret everything from LIKE A PRAYER to Soap operas--as if anything has value simply because people can write doctoral theses about them--, we need this emphasis on the erotics of art today more than ever. We need to judge, based on genuine artistic sensibility, what does and doesn't have artistic value, and that comes BEFORE interpretation, through the erotics of art. I probably watched THE WILD BUNCH over 80 times and came to know the movie much better over the years(through reading and my own interpretation), but I knew on my first viewing--though heavily edited and pan-scan on tv--that it was something special.

A

Anonymous said...

And Sontag's idea was that the critic, instead of aiming directly at the MEANING, should focus on the visionary, expressive, and/or original power of the work. She shook things up for the good.
If high brow critics were valuing works simply because they were dense and intellectual--with much to interpret by 'experts'--, the middle brow crowd was rating the works of Stanley Kramer over those of Hitchcock and Welles because his movies had a great message for mankind to take to heart.
Both with the high brow and middle brow, the critics weren't so much asking 'does the work have aesthetic value' as 'what meaning does it possess for us to probe intellectually or embrace morally.' Sontag, along with Kael and Manny Farber(favoring termite art over elephant art)pushed for a new sensibility. Some people, like Kimball, stupidly construed Kael-Sontag-Farber's views as favoring trash over art. If anything, we have too much post-modern interpretation today and not enough erotics of art.

Sadly, Sontag seems to have forgotten her own lesson in the 70s and 80s as she championed one film after another that had no value except for parlor game intellectual interpretation. I mean BEGOTTEN is crap.

Btw, I wonder what Kimball has to say about National Review's truly ridiculous stuff like 50 greatest conservative films of all time?

Whiskey said...

Sontag will be forgotten totally in ten years, because nothing she wrote was entertaining. That hot-house bed of pseudo intellectual junk is supported only by stored capital of late 19th Century Industrialists foundations. Even that will go soon.

As far as the "cancer on human history" that goes to show you that women HATE HATE HATE men who are unsexy and Lesbians in particular HATE HATE HATE White guys.

Anonymous said...

"I believe...that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap..."
Crash Davis, Bull Durham

Funny that Ron Shelton used Sontag as the cultural poseur that the smarter-than-you-think ballplayer uses to skewer the pretentious Annie.

Darfur Miller said...

I wrote Sontag a letter in the late 70's, over something she wrote, and she was pretty harsh with my comments. I mentioned this to my father a few years before he died, and he became very quiet. I had known that he'd met Sontag on occasion in New York, when he worked there, but he had never gone into detail. He said that he had had relations with her several times and that she had a nasty personality, but was wild in bed.

So she was apparently bisexual.

eh said...

To answer your question: I don't know. But when you've cracked that one, please take up the case of Kim Kardashian.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 10:03 AM

"This was only the case for certain cultures, like Mediterranean and African cultures, not all cultures and societies. It wasn't the case for northern European and other cultures."

You are on the defensive. Let me take a wild guess...you are a Christian, conservative, of northern European ancestry. Did I guess right?

Unfortunately for you, you are wrong. The ancient Hellenes and Romans were scandalized by the amount of homosexuality among the ancient Germanic tribes. Several Greek and Roman authors like Tacitus and Suetonius wrote that Germanic shamans had teenage boys as lovers, and that many older warriors had sex with their young apprentices.

Homosexuality was quite common among northern European peoples. The British Navy was notoriously gay, and so were British public schools.

You want to ascribe homosexuality to Africans and Mediterraneans because, as very likely a Christian conservative and racist, you see them as inferior. But homosexuality has been observed in most vertebrates species to some degree or another, and there is no absolute moral standard that makes homosexuality "wrong".

pat said...

If I'm right there won't be any more lesbians soon. Homosexuality is a disease caused by a parasitic infection of mothers. The parasite is Toxoplasma Gondii. There are treatments now that that might eradicate homosexuality. Of course we will need to wait for the last one to die, but no more need be born.

The question we now must now face is: will we have lost something valuable in the arts when there are no more gays and lesbians?

Anonymous said...

Susan Sontag: not sexy and not interesting. Patti Smith: both sexy (but not conventionally beautiful) and interesting.

I'm afraid Susan Sontag's entire life's work is without merit. Next.

Yawn: another tedious, self-regarding Jewish leftist and agent of betrayal, and also of course, of self-regard. Hell is so full of them at this point, it's become a stoopid cliche down there, sort of like being an Asian violinist applying to Yale.

Anonymous said...

"Sontag will be forgotten totally in ten years, because nothing she wrote was entertaining."

If it happens, it'll be because classical music is dying too. Instant gratification is what people go for.
Anything that requires patience and some level of difficulty is so passe.

Anonymous said...

Sontag on Persona. This is another classic.

David said...

The camp essay is interesting. But I can't get past the whites=cancer quote (could anyone, should anyone get past a Jews=cancer quote?). Also can't get past the fact Gore Vidal pronounced her fiction derivative. You may laugh, but Gore really was a giant of letters.

Anonymous said...

"But I can't get past the whites=cancer quote (could anyone, should anyone get past a Jews=cancer quote?)."

By 'whites', she was including Jews. She was talking about the forces that created modernity, industrialism, and the despoiling of nature and indigenous cultures.
She wasn't a Jew merely fingering goyim but seeing all of modernity as a grave problem in the long equation of things. But, I don't think she stuck to this juvenile view for long. It was just part of 60s radicalism.

Anonymous said...

My connection the the NYC art/lit scene explained it this way: it's hellishly inbred, and has been for a long time. She knows 3rd and 4th generation gallery/crit people whose grandparents were either painting or promoting. Such connections definitely affect who gets in shows, who gets reviewed, who gets the Guggenheims, etc. It works in either the art or the literary scene, and there is a measure of overlap. She says that it is very common for an average talent to get pumped by "friends and family".

Anonymous said...

You are on the defensive. Let me take a wild guess...you are a Christian, conservative, of northern European ancestry. Did I guess right?

No, I'm not Christian.

Unfortunately for you, you are wrong.

No, I'm right, and you're wrong. You're just spouting homosexualist propaganda. Tacitus noted that the ancient Germans punished homosexuals with death by pressing them into the bog. Homosexuality among the northern Europeans and ancient Germans was basically nonexistent and unknown. It only really started appearing following contact and influence from more the Mediterranean and southerly world.

Homosexuality was quite common among northern European peoples. The British Navy was notoriously gay, and so were British public schools.

No, this isn't true. Homosexuality was not common among northern European peoples in the past. The homosexuality in the British navy and public schools was following hundreds of years after and during significant contact with the Mediterranean and African worlds.

You want to ascribe homosexuality to Africans and Mediterraneans because, as very likely a Christian conservative and racist, you see them as inferior. But homosexuality has been observed in most vertebrates species to some degree or another, and there is no absolute moral standard that makes homosexuality "wrong".

I'm ascribing homosexuality to Mediterranean and African contact and influence because I'm interested in the truth, and that's what the truth is.

Homosexuality hasn't been observed in most species. Homosexuality is virtually nonexistent in the natural world, aside from humans and some sheep.

Kylie said...

"...I can't get past the whites=cancer quote..."

How ironic then that she succumbed to cancer--and according to her son's account, after a protracted struggle rife with pain and almost totally lacking in dignity.

Anonymous said...

Look, if a whole bunch of Jews can appreciate Wagner at the Met, we can appreciate the brilliant side of Sontag.

Anonymous said...

"The British Navy was notoriously gay, and so were British public schools."

I don't see why the Brits have to gay-gay. It's like overkill.

Anonymous said...

Some of the most interesting Jews didn't grow up in NY, the center of Jewish power. Kael and Sontag started out West. Dylan came from Minnesota. So, they were double-outsiders who got inside the castle.

Anonymous said...

"Ethnic nepotism. Sontag is another mediocre Jewish mind that has been elevated to greatness by other Jews."

Wrong. She worked very hard and deserved her reputation. Also, she could have cashed in her celebrity big time and Andy War-whore-ized it. But she didn't. Though she turned funny later, she remained true to herself even if it cost her in terms of fame and money. I respect that.

She belonged to a generation of Jews who really had to work hard to make their mark. Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Dylan, Kael, etc. all fit into this mold. Though there were Jews in high positions to help them out, they really did it on merit and on their own terms.

Indeed, Jews who tend to rise through nepotism, ethnic or personal, tend to be bogus.... like Jonah Goldberg or William Kristol. They're smug, glib, and shallow.

Anonymous said...

I think appreciation of Sontag has a lot to do with one's cultural leanings, interests, and sensibilities. If you're fascinated with art cinema of the 60s, then you know where Sontag was coming from. If you don't, you've no clue or care what she was talking about.

Anonymous said...

Sontag at her most chic.

Anonymous said...

A truly odious woman intellectual would be Lillian Hellman. A liar through and through.
Mary McCarthy's feud with her was classic.

Anonymous said...

There were two modes of thought in Europe: the Anglo thought and the Continental thought. Jewish intellectuals are steeped more in continentalism, and so Sontag's sensibility was more along that line. Not always logical or rational but grasping for meanings hidden in the shadows. Anglo sensibility trusts nothing outside the purview of visible light.

Anonymous said...

Sontag wrote somewhere (or was it her son, David Reiff, writing about her after she died? I don't remember) that she was always more attracted to men than to women. Sontag (or Reiff) says she decided to pursue romantic relationships with women in her late 30s because men were not paying as much attention to her, so she settled for the legions of lesbians who found her irresistible into late-middle age.

Where did I read that? It might have been a review of the tell-all on Sontag by her son's college girlfriend who lived in Sontag's flat for a while.

Anonymous said...

pat said...
"If I'm right there won't be any more lesbians soon. Homosexuality is a disease caused by a parasitic infection of mothers. The parasite is Toxoplasma Gondii. There are treatments now that that might eradicate homosexuality. Of course we will need to wait for the last one to die, but no more need be born."

Thanks for staying HBD focused, instead of putting your lit. degree on display. I didn't find where the parasite caused homosexuality, but it causes mice to be attracted to cat piss and that is fascinating.

Anonymous said...

"Sontag at her most chic" looked and sounded like a man in drag.

Deep voice, huge nose...very masculine.

Anonymous said...

"How ironic then that she succumbed to cancer--and according to her son's account, after a protracted struggle rife with pain and almost totally lacking in dignity."

Disease is like torture. It eats away at you until it leaves you with no 'dignity'.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 6:09 PM

"No, I'm not Christian.

No, I'm right, and you're wrong. You're just spouting homosexualist propaganda. Tacitus noted that the ancient Germans punished homosexuals with death by pressing them into the bog. Homosexuality among the northern Europeans and ancient Germans was basically nonexistent and unknown. It only really started appearing following contact and influence from more the Mediterranean and southerly world.No, this isn't true. Homosexuality was not common among northern European peoples in the past. The homosexuality in the British navy and public schools was following hundreds of years after and during significant contact with the Mediterranean and African worlds.Homosexuality hasn't been observed in most species. Homosexuality is virtually nonexistent in the natural world, aside from humans and some sheep."

What a LAUGHABLE answer. Suetonius, Tacitus, and even Julius Caesar in his Comentarii De Bello Gallica observed the custom of Germanic shamans of having sex with young warriors, and the Greeks were scandalized by the sexual depravity of the Celts and the Germans they came in contact to.

Saying that homosexuality has only been observed in humans and sheep is OBVIOUSLY not true. It has been observed in birds, small mammals, equines and in our closest genetic relatives, the apes.

The only thing more absurd than that is saying that the homosexuality in British boarding schools and the Royal Navy came from contact with Mediterraneans and Africans. This is a BLATANT LIE and you should feel ashamed for making that statement.

You care for the truth? Right...you are just as bad as those gay activists who claim every historical figure was gay, except that you are at the opposite(conservative, northern European apologist) of the spectrum.

Anonymous said...

Suetonius, Tacitus, and even Julius Caesar in his Comentarii De Bello Gallica observed the custom of Germanic shamans of having sex with young warriors, and the Greeks were scandalized by the sexual depravity of the Celts and the Germans they came in contact to.

No, this is simply not true. Like I said Tacitus noted that the ancient Germans punished homosexuals with death by pressing them into the bog. Homosexuality among the ancient northern Europeans was basically nonexistent and unknown and only really started appearing following contact and influence from the south.

The Celts by that time had been in nearly continual contact with the civilizations of the Mediterranean and Middle East for millenia. Celts were Germanics who failed to maintain a deadzone between them and civilization and as a result became more exposed earlier to the kinds of pathogens and memes that evolve in population dense, energy dense environs like civilizations and warmer areas.

Saying that homosexuality has only been observed in humans and sheep is OBVIOUSLY not true. It has been observed in birds, small mammals, equines and in our closest genetic relatives, the apes.

No, this is not true. Homosexuality is basically nonexistent in the natural world except for humans and some sheep. Read Greg Cochran's writing about it.

The only thing more absurd than that is saying that the homosexuality in British boarding schools and the Royal Navy came from contact with Mediterraneans and Africans.

The Brits by that time were northern Europeans who had had hundreds, thousands of years of contact with the Mediterranean world and Africa. They weren't ancient northern Europeans by then and would have been exposed long enough to the pathogens or pathogenic memes that cause homosexuality that evolved in more southerly environs and encroached northward.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 12:23 AM

"Homosexuality hasn't been observed in most species. Homosexuality is virtually nonexistent in the natural world, aside from humans and some sheep."

I think you are trolling me. You are either just being disengenious or are extremely ignorant about a lot of topics. My personal opinion is that it is a combiation of both.

It is a FACT that homosexuality has been observed in a myriad different species. Even among gorilla, who are naturally polygamous, homosexuality occurs when young males dabble together without available females. Homosexuality has been observed in most species of higher animals.

Stating that homosexuality was "taught" to northern Europeans by Mediteraneans is a LAUGHABLE statement made by an obviously proud man of northern Eueopean descent who believes that homosexuality makes one inferior and that, since Mediterraneans are inferior, you think, homosexuality could only possibly manifest in Mediterraneans. I wonder how you explain all those blonde Swedish gay men who never came into contact with a Mediterrenean person in their lives...

Anonymous said...

Anon at 7:50:

"I didn't find where the parasite caused homosexuality, but it causes mice to be attracted to cat piss and that is fascinating."

I agree with you that there's nothing that ties t. gondii to homosexuality, but not only does it cause "mice to be attracted to cat piss," it has been established fairly recently that it does so by causing the sexual centers of the rodent brain to be exicited by the urine.

Anonymous said...

I think where I disagree with Greg Cochran would be the proposals that:

a) human sexuality is too simple to go wrong at high frequencies (bees do, birds do it... so what, birds and bees also think and use it to provision, and yet their cognition and provisioning is quite unlike ours in terms of complexity)

b) human cultural environments through history are similar enough to today that any cultural factor causing homosexuality (through its interaction with the human sexuality system) have been present and thus any genes affected by it would already have been removed by selection

c) in pre-modern environments, reproductive variance of homosexuality as unconstrained by cultural conditions would lead to it being removed

I doubt all of these propositions.

Anonymous said...

The irony of American conservatism is that the conservatives are trying to conserve what they believe to the engine of change. Conservatives are capitalist and individualist but why? They believe capitalism and individualism lead to the fastest growth, progress, change, 'creative-destruction'.
American conservatives are not trying to conserve a period but a process, a process that produces most change at revolutionary speed.

Anonymous said...

There could be two kinds of minds in thought and culture: the original and the reliable.

Hilton Kramer went into art cuz he was really passionate about it, not because of the politics of art. But he got sick of liberal politicking in art and turned conservative. As editor of NEW CRITERION, he chose people like Kimball who was reliable than original. Kimball was a cultural hack but reliable on politics. If art came first and politics second for Kramer, the opposite was the case with Kimball.

Same with Buckley and Lowry. Buckley was an original in his own way. He took chances. But as he grew older and NR became a cushy part of the establishment, he chose someone who was reliable than original. Someone who would try hard not to rock the boat. And that hack was Lowry.

Kylie said...

"Disease is like torture. It eats away at you until it leaves you with no 'dignity'."

Not necessarily. My father died of the same kind of cancer that killed Sontag (myelodysplastic syndrome) and had virtually no pain until the last few days of his life. He only discovered he had this cancer (like Sontag, he'd had another form of cancer earlier) because his feeling of fatigue caused him to go to the doctor.

My father did receive treatment but not of the same drastic nature as Sontag's and was able to stay alone in his own home until 3 days before he died. I'm not holding him up as a paragon of dignity but I am saying that even when diagnosed with a terminal illness, one can choose to confront the disease in ways that minimize the loss of dignity attendant on any final illness.

According to her son's account--and I know of no reason to disbelieve it--Sontag was apparently so desperate to live that she made choices that robbed her of dignity sooner than she otherwise would have had to relinquish it.

http://www.salon.com/2008/02/13/david_rieff/

I'm not going to bother to make the link clickable, I've already spent too much time on my reply to you.

Anonymous said...

"According to her son's account--and I know of no reason to disbelieve it--Sontag was apparently so desperate to live that she made choices that robbed her of dignity sooner than she otherwise would have had to relinquish it."

I just don't wanna pass judgment on people who are facing death.
A friend of mine died of blood cancer right after college. Brilliant person with bright future, and he just could't handle the prospect of death. He searched and searched for a cure and struggled, doing all sorts of research, tests, experiments, going from state to state. I heard from his sister that he desperately clung to life to the last minute. Perhaps it wasn't 'dignified', but I don't wanna pass judgment. People die differently, and that's just a fact.

Anonymous said...

It is a FACT that homosexuality has been observed in a myriad different species.

No, it's not a fact.

Homosexuality is rare to nonexistent in the natural world.

Again, read Gregory Cochran's writing on homosexuality. He notes that it's almost nonexistent in the natural world except for some humans and sheep.

Stating that homosexuality was "taught" to northern Europeans by Mediteraneans is a LAUGHABLE statement

I never said "taught", so I don't know why you're quoting that.

I don't know what specifically the vector might have been, whether it was pathogens, memes, etc.

I said that the vector or vectors evolved in population dense, energy dense environs like civilizations and warmer areas, such as the Mediterranean world, the Mideast, Africa, etc., and spread northwards.

Anonymous said...

a) human sexuality is too simple to go wrong at high frequencies

You don't understand Cochran's reasoning.

Cochran doesn't argue that it's too simple to go wrong at high frequencies. He just argues that when it does, it's due to disease pathogens.

Anonymous said...

"Anon at 7:50:

"I didn't find where the parasite caused homosexuality, but it causes mice to be attracted to cat piss and that is fascinating."



I agree with you that there's nothing that ties t. gondii to homosexuality, but not only does it cause "mice to be attracted to cat piss," it has been established fairly recently that it does so by causing the sexual centers of the rodent brain to be exicited by the urine.

4/9/12 9:50 AM"

It is a profound effect to turn away from one's survival instincts? A mouse is quite a complex animal.
Is it a legitimate hypothesis to say this is the cause of cat hoarding by asexual women and their messiness and obliviousness to odor? How about the stereotype of gay men fancying cats?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:25, ummmmm that's not exactly a novel insight about about Schumpeterian "dynamism". e.g. George Will, Jonah Goldberg, Michael Barone have probably produced 100+ newspaper columns on that between them.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous 11:25, ummmmm that's not exactly a novel insight about about Schumpeterian "dynamism". e.g. George Will, Jonah Goldberg, Michael Barone have probably produced 100+ newspaper columns on that between them."

WELL, EXCUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSE ME!!!

Anonymous said...

"Is it a legitimate hypothesis to say this is the cause of cat hoarding by asexual women and their messiness and obliviousness to odor? How about the stereotype of gay men fancying cats?"

I'm a believer that Cochran has advanced the idea that makes the most sense but I've never read that he suspects t. gondii, probably because if that were the cause of homosexuality we'd have found cysts in those affected by now.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 1:22 PM

"No, it's not a fact."

Yes, it is a fact. Exclusive homosexuality has been observed in birds, elephants, rodents and other species, and situational homosexuality has been observed in an even much larger number of species.

"Homosexuality is rare to nonexistent in the natural world."

Wrong.

"Again, read Gregory Cochran's writing on homosexuality. He notes that it's almost nonexistent in the natural world except for some humans and sheep."

That is either a blatant misrepresentation of facts or the result of poor research. Who cares what Gregory Cochran has to say, anyway? He is not a top tier scientist anyway.

"I never said "taught", so I don't know why you're quoting that."

Excuse me. Now I see you subscribe to the disease theory of homosexuality

"I don't know what specifically the vector might have been, whether it was pathogens, memes, etc."

I don't think a meme could turn a heterosexual man gay. As for it being cased by a virus, it leaves open the question why roughly 2% of the population are gay throughout most of the World. Viruses don't work that way. They are seasonal and different populations have different types of immune systems that would result in markedy different rates of "infection" if it were caused by a virus, you would expect extremely high rates of homosexuality in some parts of the World where their immune systems are more susceptible and much lower rates elsewhere. You would also expect higher amounts of gays of certain age groups since viruses come and go - assuming that, once infected, you are infected for life. Also, people infected with viruses show a high degree of physiological "sound". For instance, people with the flu get a running nose, brutal headaches, changes in body temperature, changes in the composition of the urine, etc. Gay men do not exhibit any physiological sound compared to straight people. The gay "lisp" could be seen as sound(literally!!!) as many have suggested, but the problem is that a LOT of gay men do not lisp, which rules out this hypothesis.

"I said that the vector or vectors evolved in population dense, energy dense environs like civilizations and warmer areas, such as the Mediterranean world, the Mideast, Africa, etc., and spread northwards."

I see. But exclusive homosexuality has been observed in northern species. For insntace, there was the famous experiment that showed homosexuality among geese.

critique said...

"A truly odious woman intellectual would be Lillian Hellman. A liar through and through.
Mary McCarthy's feud with her was classic."

Mary McCarthy on Hellman: "Everything she said was a lie including 'a' and 'the.'

Anonymous said...

Anon at 3:33 am,

I just want to know, why is there homosexuality? I want a Darwinian explanation. That's what this blog is all about. Pathogen theory makes sense. Saying that other animals are homosexual is a poor argument. Pathogens occur across species and could provoke the same behavior; when monkeys get lice, they scratch - just like us!

Whitehall said...

My first exposure to Sontag was "On Photography" back in the late 60's.

I don't remember a single thing from it except her photo.

I later picked up a volume of her short stories which were really boring! That's the end of my Sontag reading.

The best explanation of what we know of homosexuality is from "Sperm Wars."

Given the hereditary component, it must exist in equilibrium with normal heterosexual behavior (about 2% in Western industrial cultures). It has gotten consistent disdain from the bulk of all populations as a competitive threat to individual reproduction.

Females show less dichotomy - ie more bisexuality - since they can always be impregnated, even passively. Plus, it adapts females to life in the harem under a dominant alpha male.