Too broad shoulders

What have I been up to? Well, I haven’t managed to get essays done, that’s for sure. The last two or three I’ve drawn from my archives or just hastily written to get something done. The thing with writing is that you have to do it, otherwise you get what they call a writer’s block. Sometimes that means writing something, just something, even something that later on you’ll look back at and wonder why you ever wrote that. Then again, I think it’s better to not look back. That rarely does people any good. Just keep going, just keep going.

I’ve also been reading and re-reading, time allowing. I recently read ‘Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’ by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari from start to finish, to make notes. What can I say about it? I’m not going to write a review of it here, but I guess I can say something about it in general. I’d say that I’m not as fond of it as I am of ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’. I just think that it’s not as strong or thought provoking as the follow-up. Of course, that’s just my take. I think it’s too focused on psychoanalysis. Then again, I think that’s my problem, considering how the book is supposed to be about psychoanalysis and a criticism of it. I can’t blame them for doing what they did. I think it’s also worth saying that my view of the book changed the further I got. It also definitely has its moments. So, while you might not like it as much as ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, if you have read it that is, but it’s still worth your while. It has its moments.

Speaking of moments, fuck it, I’m going to go with it, to take up a central theme in the book and just ramble on. I’d say that sexuality is a central topic in the book. I mean it’s kind of hard to avoid. I guess you could fault them for that, but, then again, they only go on and on about it because psychoanalysts go on and on about it, basically insinuating that no matter what it is, you just want to get rid of your father, to get rid of the competition, just so that you can fuck your mother. Spoiler alert, that’s the so called Oedipus complex and why the book title is ‘Anti-Oedipus’. They gladly, and I think rightly, ridicule it. I mean, come on! Come on! Really! It’s hilarious! You don’t need to read their book to find it hilarious, how everything, no matter what it is, gets reduced into some underlying urge to fuck your mom and kill your dad so that he won’t prevent you from fucking your mom. I was so amused by their examples. I particularly love how anything that enters something or, at least, appears to enter something, ends up being interpreted as some underlying urge to enter one’s mother. I mean come on! How can you not laugh at that! It’s ridiculous.

Now, as funny as that may be, and believe me it is, it gets pretty old, pretty fast. It’s no longer funny when they provide you the umpteenth example of the Oedipus complex. It also gets ridiculed in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ but I’d say that it’s, no, not necessarily a more mature take on the issue, but rather that it’s presented as one issue among many issues that they want to tackle. Sure, it’s still central, but they don’t go on and on about it like they do in ‘Anti-Oedipus’.

Right, now that I covered that, there’s no longer need for me to say more about that. Instead, I’ll comment on how sexuality is presented in the book. Now, the way we generally understand sexuality is, I’d say, very specific. Whenever that word crops up, there’s this big ooh, aah, from some people, while others gasp for air. Almost everyone has this sentiment of oh, oh, no, no, no, no you didn’t! You didn’t just say that word! They just don’t vocalize it. There’s just this awkward silence. I guess the ones not to have such a reaction are people who specialize in sexuality, in one capacity or another, but that’s a small minority. I’d say it’s also a small minority who might not agree with Deleuze and Guattari or, perhaps, it’s the other way around, that Deleuze and Guattari might not agree with them.

What I mean is that Deleuze and Guattari sort of desexualize sexuality in ‘Anti-Oedipus’. To be more precise, they deindividualize or depersonify sexuality. To be even more precise, they desubjectify desire. Now, you may object to the way they use the term, but they (70, 295) reckon that instead of speaking about heterosexuality, the norm, and homosexuality, a now somewhat accepted deviation from the norm, not that I’m saying it’s wrong or deviant but rather that it is often posed as such in contrast to the norm, we ought to really be speaking about transsexuality or, to be more precise, microscopic transsexuality. Now, it’s worth noting that I’m not an expert on sexuality, nor do I claim to be, but I’m pretty sure they define that differently from what people are used to.  You might object to their take on it. You might be tempted to think that they do injustice to it. That said, I’d say that they are on to something and I think I get what they mean, oddly enough. Right, let the controversy begin!

There’s this point that they repeat throughout the book, how we shouldn’t think of men as the ones with a penis or phallus, to use the psychoanalytic jargon, and women as the one who don’t have a penis. It’s not that this isn’t the case, because it is. It’s rather that they are opposed to thinking that what women are to be defined as lacking a penis. Instead, they should be understood in their own terms, not as, this is going to be hilarious again, in search of a penis, not that that might not be the case, just because they are marked by a lack. Similarly, men should not be thought as defined by having a penis, even though, yes, that’s what they have. For men then it’s not a search for a penis that should mark them, because they already have a penis, no need for that, nor the fear of castration, no longer having it or, I guess, having no use for it. It’s not that men and women don’t exhibit such behavior, nor that their bodies aren’t different, but rather that they are taught to behave in certain ways and think in certain ways, which is the problem. You most certainly see people acting this way, even saying such things out loud. I remember reading a comment about some women’s sporting event, where some random man thought it’d be funny to state that things didn’t go too well for the athletes because they were thinking about pussy too much. I was like, well, inasmuch as that might be the case, I mean that might be the case to some extent, that’s more revealing of the insecurities of the person than the women in question. I’d say the person was afflicted by the castration complex, expressing his dismay of not having a purpose for his penis.

What we get draw from all that is that there is no lack. It’s not men have it and women don’t have it. In short, what we have instead is pure positivity or affirmation, desire for whatever it is that draws us to certain people and not to others. Anyway, they (70) state that:

“We are statistically or molarly heterosexual, but personally homosexual, without knowing it or being fully aware of it, and finally we are transsexual in an elemental, molecular sense.”

To get the gist of this, you need to know what they mean by molar and molecular. I won’t get into details here as I’m sure you can look this up yourself if you want their definition of that, but I’ll provide you a short summary. Molar is about rigidity and stability, about aggregation and structures. Molecular is about flexibility and metastability, about flows and connections. They (69) also provoke us by saying that:

“[E]veryone is bisexual, everyone has two sexes, but partitioned, noncommunicating; the man is merely the one in whom the male part, and the woman the one in whom the female part, dominates statistically.”

What mean is that most of us are heterosexual. If we think in terms of aggregates, we are, statistically speaking, heterosexual, man-to-woman, woman-to-man. That said, as they (69) point out, that’s not the whole truth, nor nothing but the truth, as we are, in a sense, all bisexual:

“[T]he male part of a man can communicate with the female part of a woman, but also with the male part of a woman, or with the female part of another man, or yet again with the male part of the other man, etc.”

So, instead of posing this as man or woman, man-to-woman, woman-to-man, they (69-70) push us to think differently, without guilt for assumed deviancy:

“In contrast to the alternative of the ‘either/or’ exclusions, there is the ‘either … or … or’ of the combinations and permutations where the differences amount to the same without ceasing to be differences.”

In other words, we should never think in terms of this or that, either or, as a closed set, but as something open ended, as either this or that or that, like this and this and this and this, and so on, and so on, so that it’s always open ended. The open-endedness is crucial here, as they’ll go on to point out. They (70) move on to rework homosexuality, as explained by Marcel Proust in ‘In Search of Lost Time’ (this excerpt translated by Richard Howard):

“[Men who] seek out women who prefer women, women who suggest young men . . . indeed, they can take, with such women, the same pleasure as with a man. … For in their relations with women, they play – for the woman who prefers women – the role of another woman, and at the same time a woman offers them approximately what they find in a man.”

So, as odd as this might seem, you may have homosexual men/women who, by all logic, ought to be into other men/women, yet they are into women/men. The thing here is that these men/women are homosexual in the sense that they seek out the men/women in women/men. I know, I know! How strange! How queer! That is on a whole other level! And yet it makes sense!

They (69) provide an example that I think is particularly good. It’s another example from Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’, but this time it’s an analysis rather than drawn directly from it:

“[T]he first kiss given Albertine. Albertine’s face is at first a nebula, barely extracted from the collective of girls.”

The point here is that one’s behavior tends to be structured according to molar constructions, such as heterosexuality. In this case, it’s the collective of girls, an aggregate, from which the love interest is drawn from. I believe this happens in the second volume of Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’, when the narrator sees a group of girls on the beach and later on becomes infatuated with one of them, Albertine. Deleuze (76) also explains this in ‘Proust and Signs: The Complete Text’:

“[T]he beloved belongs initially to a group, in which she is not yet individualized.”

This is the initial molar stage. He (76) continues:

“Who will be the girl the hero loves in the homogeneous group? And by what accident is it that Albertine incarnates essence when another girl might have done just as well? Or even another essence, incarnated in another girl, to whom the hero might have been sensitive, and who would have at least inflected the series of his loves?”

Followed by explain this in other words (77):

“There is, in the group of young girls, a mixture, a conglomeration of essences, doubtless analogous, in relation to which the hero is almost equally accessible.”

The point here is that there is a group of girls, but he might still be interested in one or another, as at this stage they aren’t particular distinct from one another. There is, I guess, just a general heterosexual inclination here. He (77) continues:

“Albertine … is selected from a group, with all the contingency that corresponds to this selection.”

Ah, yes, we might be tempted to say that we select our loves, but, as you can see here, it’s not exactly the case as there are all kinds of contingencies at play here, hence the aforementioned seriality. He (77) goes on:

“The pleasures the hero experiences in the group are sensual pleasures. But these pleasures do not belong to love.”

Indeed, at this stage the girls are still girls, members of a group and the pleasure is drawn from being member of that group. Anyway, he (77) adds to this:

“In order to become a term in the series of loves, Albertine must be isolated from the group in which she first appears. She must be chosen; this choice is not made without uncertainty and contingency.”

Again, this is the point about how an individual is drawn from a group, chosen, yet the choice is by no means unaffected by who the person making that choice has become. Jumping back to ‘Anti-Oedipus’, Deleuze and Guattari (69) state that:

“Then her person disengages itself, through a series of views that are like distinct personalities, with Albertine’s face jumping from one plane to another as the narrator’s lips draw nearer her cheek. At last, within the magnified proximity, everything falls apart like a face drawn in sand, Albertine’s face shatters into molecular partial objects, while those on the narrator’s face rejoin the body without organs, eyes closed, nostrils pinched shut, mouth filled.”

To go back a bit, to the point where things begin here, Albertine is just one of the girls, one among many. As one gets closer her face is one among other faces, that is to say contrasted with them. The others then get discarded. It’s now just Albertine and her face. The thing with a face is that you have to be at a certain distance to see it, for there to be a face. When you get closer, it’s no longer about the face, but all these little things that are part of the face but no longer function as its parts as you are too close to the other person. It’s even more so when the eyes are closed because a face is something that can only be seen. When the bodies get closer, the lips touch, it all becomes tactile. Deleuze (124) also comments on this in ‘Proust and Signs’:

“[T]he shapeless nebula seen from too close and that of an exquisite organization from the right distance.”

The face is there at the right distance, but it’s not if we are too close or too far. He (124) continues:

“Albertine’s face, when we imagine we are gathering it up in itself for a kiss, leaps from one plane to another as our lips cross its check, ‘ten Albertines’ in sealed vessels, until the final moment when everything disintegrates in the exaggerated proximity.”

Later on, he (176) further comments on this, summarizing the passage where the narrator kisses Albertine:

“[T]he  vigilant narrator starts with Albertine’s face, a mobile set in which the  beauty  spot  stands  out  as  a  singular  feature,  then  as the narrator’s lips approach Albertine’s cheek, the desired face passes through a series of successive planes to which correspond so many Albertines, beauty spot leaping from one  to  the  next;  ending  with  the  final  blur  in  which  Albertine’s face is released and undone, and in which the narrator, losing the use of her lips, her eyes, her nose, recognizes ‘from these hateful signs’ that he is in the process of kissing the beloved being.”

In this context, he (176-177) notes that while it would be tempting to claim that Albertine is just “a mask for Proust’s own homosexuality’, Albert femininized as Albertine, that’s not the case. For him (176-177), going that route would be awfully reductive and wrongheaded. It would miss how love is always transsexual, as he (177) calls it and as he and Guattari (70) also call it in ‘Anti-Oedipus’. There’s actually a small typo here, being referred to as transexual (177). It should be transsexual as it is transsexuel in the French original (212). Anyway, he (177) notes here that what we have is, on the one hand, surface normality, marked by heterosexuality, man-to-woman and woman-to-man, and homosexuality, man-to-man and woman-to-woman, as the man and woman arrangement includes all those options, as a matter of bisexuality or intersexuality, and, on the other hand, a completely different arrangement that has no name, what, I think he and Guattari (295) go on to call microscopic transsexuality in ‘Anti-Oedipus’.

To avoid using labels that others probably use differently, I’d say that there’s molar sexuality and then there’s molecular sexuality, which, I guess we could also call transversal sexuality. The problem with referring to molecular sexuality as transsexuality, even if it is specified as molecular transsexuality, is that it is generally understood as having to do with identifying with the other sex that one is deemed not to be and/or transitioning from one sex to another. That’s, however, not what they mean by transsexuality because, for them, that’s still a molar conception of sexuality, as opposed to their molecular conception of sexuality.

They (76) explain this through the schizophrenic, that is to say their schizophrenic which is also what they call the nomad in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, not the clinical schizophrenic. Firstly, they (76) state that the schizophrenic “is not a man and woman.” Instead, they (76) state that the schizophrenic “is man or woman, but … belongs precisely to both sides, man on the side of men, woman on the side of women.” This is well in line with what I’ve already covered. Secondly, they (77) reiterate the first point that the schizophrenic “is not simply bisexual”, i.e., not man and woman, only to add that this does not mean the schizophrenic is “between the two, or intersexual” either. Instead, they (77) argue that the schizophrenic “is transsexual”, someone who “does not reduce two contraries to an identity of the same”, but “affirms their distance as that which relates the two as different.”

Later on, they (295) specify that both bisexuality and intersexuality retain the idea of two sexes, which is, of course, true in the molar sense. Bisexuality assumes both at the same time whereas intersexuality reduces them to one, albeit, I’d say, implicitly retaining the two. The problem with reducing sex from two to one is that while it abandons defining women as lacking what men have, it replaces that lack with a mutual or circular lack, so that women lack what men lack but also men lack what women lack, as they (295) point out. Because women lack a penis, men can then only lack what women lack, a penis, therefore it all gets reduced to castration, the point here being that this leads us nowhere. It’s still molar through and through, no matter whether we assert one sex or two sexes, as they (295) also point out.

What can we learn from all of this? Well, I for one like the way they explain this through Proust’s work. I particularly like the Albertine example. It makes you wonder. What it is that attracts us? Like okay, we might say that men are attracted to women and women are attracted to men, while some men are attracted to other men and some women are attracted to other women, but that’s not really saying much. That’s very superficial. Yes, it holds statistically, but that’s not really what Deleuze and Guattari are after in ‘Anti-Oedipus’ or what Deleuze is after in ‘Proust and Signs’. It’s not reducible to a preference for, let’s say, blondes or brunettes either, because, I’d say, that’s also molar through and through. In addition, saying that one is attracted by blondes or brunettes, or, let’s say tallness or shortness, is rather what they call perversion in ‘Anti-Oedipus’, as, for them (35), a pervert is simply “someone who takes artifice serious and plays the game to the hilt”, not conforming to expectations, what the society expects a person to be attracted to, whatever it is or may be, but comes up with other expectations and seeks to conform to them. I actually quite like their definition of perversion because it’s not simply about sexuality as it is generally thought as. Instead, it’s applicable in general. It’s actually really difficult to say what it is that is attractive, which, I guess, is why they (296) say that it’s not about one or two, but about a hundred thousand. To repeat an earlier point, they (70) summarize this quite neatly:

“We are statistically or molarly heterosexual, but personally homosexual, without knowing it or being fully aware of it, and finally we are transsexual in an elemental, molecular sense.”

What’s my take then? Hmmm, to reiterate an earlier point I made, I’d say that it’s pretty cool how they manage to desexualize sexuality or, rather, deindividualize and depersonify sexuality. They push us to think desire and attraction beyond what we are accustomed to, far beyond where should I shove my dick or what should I shove into my pussy. They want to make us think what it is that draws us to do whatever it is that we do. Sure, it can be about a penis and/or a vagina, what it is that we do with them, but that’s just one instance, among many. For example, I’ve met women, I know, how molar of me, who might not have attracted me, as such, like visually, simply judged by their looks, like photographically speaking, but then there’s been just that something to them. It’s not what they are, but how they are. It’s been about their posture, their movement, the sound of their voice, their smile, their touch, their humor, and the like, but at the same time I think I’m not really doing justice to them by listing such. It’s hard to explain. Maybe it’s the jawline that attracts me, maybe it’s the shoulders, maybe it’s the muscularity, which, by the way, if understood as a masculine feature, makes me homosexual, finding a manly feature in a woman attractive. Then again, that’s a poor way to explain this, because, like with saying that I’m attracted to women, it’s a molar conception utilized to explain something. The whole point of molecular sexuality is to undermine such molar conceptions.

I reckon I’m usually clueless about what it is that I am attracted to and what it is about me that attract others. To be honest, I don’t really think about it. I just do what I do, deal with who I deal with. That’s it. There’s no need to attempt to explain any of it. I just go with it.

As I pointed out earlier on, ‘Anti-Oedipus’ has its moments. I don’t think they intended what I’m about to explain as such a moment, but I was highly amused by their discussion of filiations and alliances. There’s this bit where they (147) mention “groups of men residing in the same area, or in neighboring areas, who arrange marriages and shape concrete reality” which made me laugh out loud. I don’t know about others, but there’s just something hilarious about men coming together, as an all-male panel, to discuss issues that pertain to women. That has got to be the most latently homosexual thing there is, men coming together, being so, so passionate about something that doesn’t even concern them, while also excluding those who it does concern.

It’s like with rappers who feel like they need to distance them from homosexuality or, rather, from being possibly perceived as homosexuals by using the expression ‘no homo’. It’s an odd expression, considering that it’s unlikely that others would think that there is something homosexual about it. It’s just unnecessary. Secondly, it assumes that there is something wrong about homosexuality. Thirdly, it indicates that it’s considered detrimental to one’s image or, possibly, even dangerous to be perceived as such. It might lead to being discriminated, losing friends, job opportunities etc., or even result in physical danger. Fourthly, it comes across as possibly disingenuous, hence the latent homosexuality.

I agree with Joshua Brown (301) who argues in article ‘No Homo’ that it’s typically used by men to defend themselves from “presumed attack on one’s masculinity.” That said, I also agree with him (302) on that it can be used to parody the underlying assumption that there is something wrong about homosexuality. Lonely Island’s song ‘No Homo’ does this particularly well. It’s basically two minutes of compliments from one ‘dude’ to another ‘dude’ followed by ‘no homo’, so that ‘no homo’ is repeated for a total of 40 times. The gist is “To tell a dude just how you feel, no homo”, “Just say no homo so he knows the deal, no homo”, so that even when you say “Yo, I’ve been thinking about fucking a dude, no homo”, there’s nothing homosexual about it. You might as well say: “Hey yo, no homo, but today I’m coming out of the closet”, “Wanna scream it from the mountains like a gay prophet”, “These two words have set me free, no homo”, “Damn it feels good to be, no homo”.

Another way to parody ‘no homo’ is to use it in the Latin sense, as in not human, like I did a couple of years ago in one of the essays. What’s funny about that? Well, the funny thing is that you need to know Latin and that it’s correct, that ‘homo’ means ‘human’, and not what you expected. Okay, it’s nowhere close as funny as what the Lonely Island guys manage to do by repeating it, over and over again, but that’s why those guys get paid for making jokes and I write essays, not getting paid to write essays, nor anything else for that matter.

Right, to get back to the start, the more I read ‘Anti-Oedipus’, the more I like it. It’s not as all over the place as ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, which I happen to like about that book, but ‘Anti-Oedipus’ certainly has its moments. It’s very quotable, that’s for sure. If you want to learn more about sexuality, especially in psychoanalytic terms, you’ll like it. I still prefer ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ and I can totally see why they opted to approach some of the same issues by abandoning much of the terminology introduced in ‘Anti-Oedipus’. While they do manage to deindividualize or desubjectify sexuality in this book, forcing you to rethink it all, also on the personal level, I can see how people might miss the point and keep thinking that sexuality is about men and women, themselves included, engaging in certain acts. So, yeah, I can totally see why Deleuze and Guattari may have wanted to explain things differently in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’.


  • Brown, J. (2011). No Homo. Journal of Homosexuality, 58 (3), 299–314.
  • Deleuze, G. (2000). Proust and Signs: The Complete Text (R. Howard, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ([1972] 1983). Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (R. Hurley, M. Seem and H. R. Lane, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ([1980] 1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (B. Massumi, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Lonely Island (2011). No Homo (A. Samberg, A. Schaffer, J. Taccone, B. Long and B. Byrd, Wr., B. Long, Pr.). New York, NY: Universal Republic Records.