Introduction: talking/having sex
In issue 17 of the Vertigo comic Transmetropolitan, Spider Jerusalem wakes up in bed with his assistant, Yelena: ‘What happened?’ he asks himself. ‘Well, obviously, I know what happened’. But when she wakes up, Yelena insists – repeatedly – that ‘nothing happened’. ‘I’m sticky’, Spider argues; ‘Something must have happened to make me sticky’. ‘Nothing happened. Nothing at all. Nothing. Nothing!’ Yelena reiterates, though, in increasingly large and messy lettering.
If sex is not had, then, nothing happens, it would seem. This commonplace enough formulation nonetheless perhaps demonstrates the potential enormity of the task which this issue of parallax has set itself in taking on the title having sex – a word which should be read here both in the Butlerian sense of ‘biological’ sex as a dimorphism produced as the eVect of compulsory heterosexuality and enforced by being cast as prediscursive in relation to gender, and in the sense of ‘sexual intercourse’ as an activity similarly circumscribed by heteronormative presumptions about what it is to ‘have sex’. (These preliminary and tentative definitions will, of course, be fucked with in the course of having sex.) Nothing happened, as a synonym for sex was not had, begins to make visible the intricate conjunctions of desire, signification, reproduction, evolution, technology, familial structures, ‘nature’..., which can always be summoned when the term ‘sex’ is deployed; it hints at a particular understanding of ‘sex’ as that which makes it possible for something, anything, everything to happen. Here we move from Transmetropolitan’s Yelena to The Ballad of Halo Jones’s Glyph, a character who has changed sex so many times that ze (it?) no longer registers as human:
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