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homosexuality with impotence seems to be a dangerous

stereotyping, in which negative images such as sterility,

unproductiveness, and, ultimately, death, are linked with

homosexuality. However, in reaction to a positivist paradigm of

liberal humanism, recent theories on gender and queer sexuality

attempt to chart a new course beyond the valorization of positivist

ideas, such as agency, power, and autonomy. For example, in

“Shadow Feminisms: Queer Negativity and Radical Passivity,”

Judith Halberstam identifies with a genealogy of “shadow” feminist

and queer art that “thinks in terms of the negation of the subject

rather than her formation, the disruption of lineage rather than its

continuation, the undoing of self rather than its activation”

(Halberstam, 2011: 126). Through strategies of refusal, radical

passivity, masochism, and “unbecoming” (129), Halberstam

suggests that such practices contest the political foundations of

humanist selfhood in which “‘being’ has already been defined in

terms of a self-activating, self-knowing, liberal subject” (126).

Similarly, in their influential and daring reconsideration of

masochism and the death drive, Leo Bersani and Lee Edelman also

interrogate the concept of identity politics buttressed by a

mastering idea of agency and subjectivity.


These anti-social and

anti-humanist queer feminist theories are compelling and inspire us

to think outside the tyranny of selfhood and its complacency. In

light of these queer theorists’ provocative rethinking of the

negative, Penderton’s affinity to impotence and passivity can be

interpreted in a new way. A more nuanced understanding of the

discourses of gender, sexuality, and nationalism can also be

distilled from this critique of masculine/self-validating connection.

Wrestling with his homosexuality, Penderton has no sexual

desire for women and is even repulsed by the female body.

Confronted with a wife with strong sexual desires and ambitions,


See Bersani’s


(1995) and Edelman’s

No Future: Queer Theory and the

Death Drive