I’ve been going down a lot of weird rabbit holes lately, trying to map the global right wing in all its bizarre, cross-fertilizing vitality at the moment. I tripped over a little column by Rod Dreher, popular right-wing writer and senior editor at The American Conservative. Titled “Queer as Volk,” the column recounts the recent scandal surrounding You Tube manosphere personality and writer Jack Murphy, founder of the Liminal Order, an organization that for $100/month guides young beta men to their alpha destiny. This cartoonish he-man, it turns out, has a history of appearing in online porn, gay and straight, and has been especially fond of a “cuckold” scenario—watching his girlfriend having sex with other men.
Shocking! Not. The libertine underbelly of life on the right is so widely noted that it qualifies as a pretty worn-out cliché. Sure, sure … another right-wing politician soliciting sex workers, another priest abusing boys, Steve Bannon’s third ex-wife living in a sex partying meth house he pays the rent on. Yawn. The standard response to these commonplace scandals is to charge these homophobic masculinists and pious moralists with hypocrisy. But that charge doesn’t really get at the broader structural determinants of this ubiquitous phenomenon. It’s not merely a matter of individual or even simple political hypocrisy. The deeper history shaping these scandals is the way that inequality has been sexualized. The least powerful are represented as sexually excessive or perverse, needing regulatory controls. The most powerful espouse those controls as key to public social order, while maintaining their own unaccountable sexual access to subordinates. This is the open secret of sexualized inequality that is the backdrop for racial lynching (both extralegal and via the penal system), for gendered rape culture, for the sexual impunity of the boss, the father, the priest. The complex intertwining of class, race, gender, ability, citizenship status and more produces a historically embedded, shifting, interactive map of impunity and punishment; its maintenance depends on a public/private distinction that enforces public order while shielding private license. When that historically morphing distinction breaks down, scandal erupts as a momentary crisis of sexual order. The charge of hypocrisy actually frames the crisis as personal or narrowly political rather than structural and historical.
So, poor Jack Murphy has to respond to a minor uproar—which he has done with the standard confession about past mistakes and present evolution. But at this historical conjuncture, there’s something else going on. While portions of the trad right hold on tightly to “family values,” some sections of the new New Right (NRx neoreactionaries and dark enlightenment denizens) are heading in a different direction—moving to openly justify white male sexual license rather than hide it behind moral platitudes. Murphy, born John Goldman before he assumed his bulked up he-man persona and changed his name, is busy defending pornography on twitter. Meanwhile his”cuckolding” fantasy isn’t really cuckolding at all—he enacts scenarios entirely under his control (he selects the male partners and supervises the sex), and not the independent female sexual agency that supposedly turns alpha men into betas. Matt Goetz is not ashamed of his sex partying, which routinely features younger women often getting paid by him. This is just the standard historically pervasive masculinist libertine mode—but it’s appearance in far right and Republican politics, while pervasive as a *practice,* is creeping more openly into the public political frame. This is dominance masquerading as freedom. But it does create some problems for the right—as this process proceeds, it’s going to get harder to shame and expel the likes of bisexual Congresswoman Katie Hill.
But wait, there’s more! In addition to the increasing thinness of the layer of social protection shielding right-wing (and other) men’s “private” sex lives, there’s also a weird intermixing of sexual cultures along with political frameworks and rhetoric between the left and the right. Recently, Vanity Affair announced the engagement of computer engineer, Thielworld monarchist and neoreactionary luminary Curtis Yarvin (also known by his blogging pen name Mencius Moldbug) and Lydia Laurenson, the sex educator and editor of progressive magazine The New Modality. Laurenson has another online life as feminist BDSM and polyamory practitioner and writer, Clarisse Thorn. They met when the recently widowed Yarvin advertised online for “reasonably pretty and pretty smart” women for Zoom dates—but wanted response only from those who consider dating a prelude to marriage and kids. Laurenson, the feminist polyamory and BDSM advocate, responded and the rest is history. She agreed to marriage, he now advocates full marital equality. This is no longer trad family life or libertinage, nor is it independent queer/feminist polyamory. The new companionate marriage perhaps? Oy.
Whatever impact Laurenson may have had on Yarvin’s ideas about sex and gender, she certainly has not mitigated his devotion to Thielian techno-corporate monarchism. And these ideas are circulating all over different factions of the right. PornoChad Jack Murphy recently interviewed Ohio Republican Senate nominee J.D. Vance on You Tube. Vance explained that he sees the US headed in one of two directions—total collapse of political economic systems into chaos, or an extra Constitutional coup by a strong leader. Vance’s campaign was bankrolled by gay right-wing billionaire Peter Thiel.
It’s important that we clearly distinguish between gay masculinist fascism, a la Thiel, feminist “equality” that preserves racial and class hierarchies, a la Laurenson, and a vision of queer liberation as the end of social domination and exploitation. More than ever it’s decolonial socialism or barbarism for all of us. There is no sexual/gender liberation without the dismantling of all the inequalities that structure “family values” and libertinage both.
Thanks for the super-quotable, fantastic passage about "the way that inequality has been sexualized" (I guarantee this one has legs!).
This feels adjacent to why yoga instructors, New Age healers, etc. have been so prominent in alt-right, anti-vax etc. circles.