How Meat Changed Sex
The article explores the history and structure of American laws criminalizing sexual contact between humans and animals to demonstrate how the ecological conditions of late capitalism are remaking sexual taxonomies, practices, and identities. It notes that the majority of these statutes have been enacted within the past three decades and most contain language that explicitly exempts animal husbandry and veterinary medicine from prosecution. The article explores the legislative politics that produce these exemptions and exposes an underlying ambiguity: in the age of industrial reproduction, the “accepted practices” of animal husbandry can be distinguished from bestiality only through legal fiat. The structure of the laws exempts human sexual contact with animals when it reproduces biocapital and produces “perverse” bestialists and “normal” farmers as mirrored categories, distinguished not by their relations to animals but by their relations to capital. Finally, the article reads this insight against the biopolitical theorist Giorgio Agamben's concept of anthropogenesis and notes that such exemptions reveal a limitation in his theory. In place of the timeless ritualism of Agamben's “anthropological machine,” the article argues for an account of speciation that recognizes strategic gradations of pain and pleasure, the critical role of sexual violence and reproduction, and processes of trans-speciative procreation.
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