Review: Testo Junkie by Paul B. Preciado, Translated by Bruce Benderson
The Feminist Press | September 17, 2013 | Reviewed by Rachel Santee
Note: At the time of original French publication (2008), the author preferred the pronouns s/he and her/his and identified as both genders, using her birth name, Beatriz Preciado. Now, the author uses he/his pronouns and has since changed his name to Paul B. Preciado. For the sake of clarity and continuity, I will refer to the author with the name and pronouns that were represented within Testo Junkie.
“This book is not a memoir. This book is a testosterone-based, voluntary intoxication protocol, which concerns the body and affects of BP [Beatriz Preciado].” So begins the philosophical, critical, and highly personal 427-page essay entitled Testo Junkie by the Spanish/French gender theorist Beatriz Preciado. The essay begins in second person, addressing not the reader, but the recently deceased friend of Preciado—referred to as GD—who had suddenly died of overdose after struggling with HIV. At the onset, Preciado learns of GD’s (your) death, and decides to begin a radical alteration of her/his body. S/he does not want to transition into a male (yet) but wants to take testosterone for the sake of bodily exploration.
Acquiring testosterone in the form of gel sachets aptly called Testogel from the black market—not hard to find if you know where to look—Preciado begins applying daily doses to her/his shoulder, making sure to avoid contact with her/his partner (VD) until the gel dries. As the testosterone begins to course through Preciado’s body, the essay gains momentum and raw energy as it begins to outline the concept of a pharmacopornographic society. Today’s concept of gender and sexuality, as s/he edifies, is constantly affected by the drugs behind the counter, the sex on-screen (computer and silver), the sex between lovers, and the slippery difference between Testogel and lubricant—both to make sex more enjoyable.
In the year Preciado administers daily doses of Testogel to her/his shoulder, s/he begins to realize that her/his testosterone levels not only affect her/his own body, but the body and person of her/his lover and partner, VD. Via closely scrutinized and analyzed reconstructions of the sex between two lovers—one a person who covets a penis but wants to retain her/his vagina, who dresses in male drag and glues her/his hair to her/his own face in a mock-mustache design; and the other a girl who identifies as a lesbian, who loves dildos and strap-ons and her gender-varying partner—Preciado lucidly illustrates the effect testosterone has on a sexual body through the evolving nature of the pair’s sexual conduct.
Using Testogel application as a base on which to cover the pharmacopornographic era, Preciado explores the world of bio-sexual transformation. S/he wonders why rhinoplasty is a cosmetic surgery available to anyone with $6,000, while vaginoplasty or phalloplasty must be okayed by multiple psychiatrists, specialists, and surgeons to determine if the patient is even applicable. What is it about a person’s genitals that make it subject to law and order, while a nose is a person’s property, able to be morphed, modified, and molded to a happy buyer’s exact specifications? How much of our bodies are ours, and how much are under the explicit jurisdiction of our local governance? If sex for money is illegal, why is it suddenly legal when it’s being filmed and marketed? How far is capitalism willing to go to market and profit off trans individuals? The answer: not as far as you might think. While the free market seemingly dominates every aspect of the sex industry, puritan ideals and nineteenth-century “morality” codes still regulate what a person (of age) is or is not allowed to do with their own genitals.
Navigating the wrought and sometimes disconcerting history of the pill—composed of the most-used chemical compounds in all of human history—and of marketed hormones, including Viagra, Testo Junkie offers a unique, daring, and profound critique on the intersection of drugs and sex. Preciado uncovers why Viagra is one of the most profitable prescriptions, while a testosterone supplement for women meant to help the libidos of those with removed ovaries, those affected by hormonal cancer treatments, and those who mentally and physically suffer from lowered sex drives, never got past FDA regulations on the grounds of an unjustifiable reason for its production, despite the obvious beneficial results to test subjects. Preciado traverses from the politics of the pharmacology world to the depths of the porn industry, connecting them with such ease one might think that Pornhub and Pfizer might be part of the same conglomerate.
Preciado connects her/his theory with that of notable contemporaries, such as Judith Butler, but also seeks to deconstruct the hegemonic view of third-wave feminism. To contrast such theorists like Anne Fausto-Sterling and Andrea Dworkin, Preciado argues that asserting the existence of four or five sexes is no longer the issue, but instead “accepting the completely technoconstructed, undeniably multiple, malleable, and mutable nature of bodies and pleasures.” By examining in depth the enormous examples of hormonal variation, experimentation, and implementation for countless reasons throughout human history, Preciado offers up the notion that hormones should be allowed to be used by anyone who wishes to exercise agency over their own sexual being. Hormones, s/he insists, are unjustly regulated because of their association with sex.
While full of didacticism and critical theory, Preciado still writes beautifully, constructing poetic sentences as s/he deconstructs pharmacopornographic ideals. S/he writes, “Testogel and lubricant turning into architecture: a brilliant, viscous edifice, lavished on us.” The images Preciado procures uplift the critique into something other than highbrow instruction; the writing morphs from genre to genre as her/his body morphs from gender to gender. In the final chapter, Preciado returns to second person, calling out to the “you” who has died. S/he laments over a person who inspired a testo-revolution in Preciado and whose death shakes Preciado from the lofts of gender-politics to the deepest depths of human emotion and experience. Preciado ends with a wolf call, a promise to her/his friend and ultimately to those disenfranchised by the current pharmacopornographic society that the future is near, that “we will come to quench your thirst for sex, blood, and testosterone.”
For more information, please visit The Feminist Press’s website.
Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era
by Paul B. Preciado, translated by Bruce Benderson
September 17, 2013
Posted: Aug 31, 2016
Category: Akashic in Good Company | Tags: Akashic in Good Company, Review, Feminist Press, translation, The Feminist Press, Rachel Santee, Testo Junkie, Testo Junkie: Sex Drugs and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era, Bruce Benderson, Paul B. Preciado, Beatriz Preciado
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