Purple Magazine
— The Island Issue #35

cover #5 amanda wall

“TESTO-MANIA”

text by PAUL B. PRECIADO
artwork by AMANDA WALL

spanish writer, philosopher, and curator paul b. preciado is one of the most important voices for queer theory and identity politics. he is a regular contributor to purple.

One’s relationship to testosterone changes as soon as one leaves the framework of a medical and legal protocol for changing sex. In the medical protocol, changing sex implies making a unique decision, a choice made once and once only. But things are more complex than that. I don’t want to change my sex, and I don’t want to declare myself dysphoric about whatever it may be; I don’t want a doctor to decide how much testosterone a month is suitable for changing my voice and making me grow a beard; I don’t want to have my ovaries and breasts removed. Even if I do not want to procreate, I don’t want my reproductive cells to be hijacked by the state; I don’t want my uterus to be confiscated by the medical-industrial complex. There is no predefined direction for the changes in me that are triggered by testosterone. What I do know is that, before testosterone, my voice was not a woman’s voice, my beardless face not a woman’s face, my clitoris, measuring less than two centimeters, not a female organ. Simply because femaleness is a biopolitical fiction, a variable within a power regime that cannot be derived from anatomical form or reproductive function, I don’t need permission from the Spanish monarchy or the French Republic to do up some testosterone. I lay claim to the irreducible plurality of my living body, not to my body as “bare life,” but to the very materiality of my body as political site for agency and resistance.

The problem is as follows: outside the institutional context defined by the state, testosterone is no longer part of a therapy of hormonal substitution and becomes an illegal drug, just like cocaine or heroin. The consequences — in legal and medical terms — of my rejection of the protocol must therefore be admitted: I’m addicted to testosterone.

My relationship with V could be defined in this way: Dependent on Despentes. My relationship with T could be defined in this way: T-dependent. Even when I’m with the two of them. Especially when I’m with them. Hooked. It becomes obvious that my relationship with V belongs to the type of codependency categorized under the sign of addiction. Dependence. I’ve found my drug, and it is, like all drugs, available and elusive at the same time. You could say that any kind of love relationship is addictive in a certain way. But I don’t believe that. It wasn’t like that for me the other times. I know from experience that there are forms of love that function according to the model of a satisfying form of feedback. Why am I certain that this love, this and not another, corresponds to the addiction model and not to a cybernetic mechanism of satisfaction? First of all, because there is a dissymmetrical relationship between the ingestion of, or the presence of, the object of desire and satisfaction. Second of all, because that satisfaction takes the form of withdrawal. Right where satisfaction is supposed to take place, frustration emerges. When I’m kissing her, I think I want to kiss her; when I’m talking with her, I think I have an urgent need to talk with her. When it spills out across my skin, I think I want it to spill out across my skin; and when my body absorbs it, I think I want to absorb it, more and more. The present moment, the instant of assimilation, has no importance compared with the overweening necessity for what must come immediately after. More, more, as quickly as possible. A moment later, desire will be still more intense, and on and on, more and more. Desire doesn’t destroy itself. It transforms itself, changing into an unconscious state during fatigue or sleep. I desire to continue desiring, without any possibility of satiation. Few substances have led me beyond this threshold of addiction. Alcohol has never interested me. During one period, I took crystal: megapower for the brain. I spoke French fluently, in one night, thanks to an overdose of crystal. Perhaps my accent wasn’t changed, but my ability to use vocabulary and my relationship with grammar were radically improved; it was like attaining a new level of consciousness in a foreign language. Efficient, but not to be used regularly. I barely use coke, or Ecstasy or speed; or rather, I use them very rarely, only for those times when I go back to Barcelona or Madrid (when you’re passing through metropolitan Spain, a certain toxicological dose is absolutely necessary), and only in those cases. These are city drugs, with the appropriate molecular charge for cohabiting and communicating in a specific urban location. My metabolism has never accepted any substance meant as a compensatory substitution. My only drugs, in all their romantic or anonymous variations, are testosterone and sex, which form, in that way, a circle of mutual production. Both of them affect me inasmuch as their being likely to put me in contact with the amorphous, with the formless, or with that which imagines a form in place of formlessness, that which produces desire without any possible satisfaction. Gender identity, or pleasure are beyond the ken of the possible.

Today, without realizing it, we’re sliding into one of those abysses into which we regularly fall every ten or twelve days. Between two doses of T. Such cyclical alienation could become one of our routines, a key to stability. Through these microbreakups, which are forms of preventative distancing, our symptomatically addictive relationship destroys and regenerates itself. To be more precise, it should be said that she is the one who descends, alone, into these depressions, dragging me along with the childlike hyperactive eyes of an inconsolable rocker, who’s no longer sure exactly whether she has just killed someone or learned that she’s going to be murdered. The sadness in her eyes is located precisely in the tension between these two possibilities. I’ve identified her as the driving force of such downward movement, but perhaps it’s actually I who reach the bottom, leading her there with a maximum amount of enthusiasm, kindness. Such depths are by necessity liquid; she weeps, plunges into a hot bath, starts doing a wash. It’s a pre-fetal, pre-sexual, premature sadness. The day this happens is the same day I have to go for a blood test. Deep down, something is flowing, circulating within a circumscribed space, but it can spread. On this stratum, feelings exist in their gelatinous state, just before the evaporation and transformations of carbon solutions into electric currents. Such is the state of blood, water, sperm, vaginal secretions, saliva, urine, rachidian and amniotic solutions, the infusion in which the brain floats; but also what one has just ingested, the gel, and exterior nourishment for the body during the process of gastric assimilation, before it’s transformed into fecal matter. To fall in love, Derrida said, is falling into a precise topography, rising by detachment or utter dejection to a particular stratum of being, body, city, planet, evolution, species. This is where the conversion of scale occurs: love of being, carnal love, urban love, earthly love, geological love, animal love, interspecies love. It isn’t the place to conceive of a Heideggerian rictus, in any way. I’m talking about an architecture. Not a revelation, an unveiling of being by some precise inspiration, or making the real emerge in spotlit clarity. That isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a tactile perception, occurring in darkness, about thumping the bottom with your stomach, crawling on a viscous mass. No illumination, but feeling around in the dark. I’m talking about discovering the surface of an interiority with your skin. It’s a matter of returning to cyberreptilian life, a regression, tasting the electrically viscous truth of being, with small strokes of your tongue. No more long inhalations, because you haven’t arrived at the state where being is given to us in its ethereal form. We have no other solution than to lick at being. Suck it, as the sole mode of knowledge and apprehension. It is here that the secret of addiction reveals its arithmetic. There is neither light nor oxygen, no means of respiration of being, no possibility of finding any optical or pulmonary satisfaction. It’s a question of diameter, texture, and fluidity. The moment we end up in one of these gelatinous lower depths, getting out is as difficult for her as it is for me. There is the same degree of anxiety, the same sadness. When it comes down to it, there are no levels, because the bottom is just that: the bottom. We’re imprisoned in a monad, a single unit. Finding how to get out means, purely and simply, changing the ground, solidifying liquefied feelings to get a foothold, or evaporating them so you can breathe.

END

AMANDA WALL, CHERRIES, 2020, OIL ON CANVAS, 30 X 24 INCHES, COURTESY OF DANNY FIRST & THE CABIN LA AMANDA WALL, AUTONOME, 2020, OIL ON LINEN, 40 X 30 INCHES, COURTESY OF DANNY FIRST & THE CABIN LA AMANDA WALL, BLOW UP BEAR, 2020, OIL ON LINEN, 40 X 30 INCHES, COURTESY OF DANNY FIRST & THE CABIN LA

Excerpt from Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era by Paul B. Preciado, translated from the french by Bruce Benderson, published by Feminist Press. New York City, 2013

[Table of contents]

The Island Issue #35

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