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Book Sample: Psychosexual Martyrdom

This post samples from Volume Two, specifically its opening chapter, "Concerning Martyrs, from Demons to the Undead."

Update, 4/9/2024: I've decided to attach "Psychosexual Martyrdom" to the the sample chapter, "Brace for Impact" (2024), another book sample for my upcoming monster volume (rough ETA, mid-2024) and of which the opening section "Hugging the Alien" is already available on this blog. 

"Brace for Impact" is actually a full chapter that divides into over thirteen pieces (
clocking in at ~85,000 words, ~209 pages, ~139 images, and sixteen new exhibits). "Hugging the Alien" is the first piece; "Time," the second; "Teaching" (the opening), the third; "Medicine," the fourth; "Facing Death," the sixth. The others are actually too erotic to feature uncensored on Blogger, so I will be posting them on my (18+) website, instead. Click here to see the promo post for the entire sample chapter and links to all thirteen pieces.

Volume Two is the upcoming Humanities primer/monster volume for my book project, Sex Positivity (2023); "Psychosexual Martyrdom" asks the reader to humanize the oppressed through reclaimed monsters by learning from the monstrous past as something to recreate ourselves in our own artwork:

About my book: My name is Persephone van der Waard and I am currently writing and illustrating a non-profit book series on sex positivity and the Gothic. Made in collaboration with other sex workers, the project is a four-volume set called Sex Positivity versus Sex Coercion, or Gothic Communism: Liberating Sex Workers under Capitalism through Iconoclastic Art. As of 2/14/2024, my thesis volume and manifesto volume are available online (the other volumes shall release over the remainder of 2024). To access my live volumes, simply go to my website's 1-page promo and pick up your own copies for free. While you're there, you can also learn about the yet-unreleased volumes, project history and logo design/promo posters!

Concerning Martyrs, from Demons to the Undead: Learning from the Monstrous Past; or, a Humanities Primer to Humanize Reclaimed Monsters with

Capitalism has no use for people who see each other as human; it wants us dehumanizing ourselves so capital can function as normal, moving money through nature at the cost of human life. Capitalism needs us to die, so we need to remember and honor Nex' humanity. We must if some of us are to survive and develop a better world, one that Capitalism forbids us from imagining through Capitalist Realism (the canceled future, one where vigilante violence against "mutants" is expected and performed as a means of escapist fun). We need to stand together against the ultimate foe: the state and its enforcers, but also their harmful illusions (source).

—Persephone van der Waard, "Remember the Fallen: An Ode to Nex Benedict," (2024)

Capitalism is unstable by design. When you have economic crisis (which is engineered), you get moral panic (which is also engineered); from moral panic, you get persecution using appropriated cultural signifiers: black magic as something to woo and awestrike the in-group into a position of fascinated apathy towards all manner of out-groups. Anyone who is different is marked as such, driving an economy of witch hunts and police-state militarism tied to settler colonialism and Cartesian thought. At home and abroad, this vicious cycle is the creation of an enemy ad infinitum, often a supernatural, queer/alien one tied to nature, to Hell, to the exotic and far-off but also the close-by savage, sodomite and imaginary "barbaric." Presented as weak/strong scapegoats, these personas are simultaneously ripe for the taking and responsible for the degeneracy of the youth, rape of women, and fall of Civilization. They are both infantilized and blamed for everything by those expected to bring these cataclysms about: weird canonical nerds. 

It's a con, then, one carried out by the gullible, zealous and cynical. Thanks to the monomyth as didactic, the colonizers envision themselves as "knights" fighting the good fight. Yet, they are Quixotic, with "courtly love" being a cryptonym for lust of the cis-het male sort: the open secret of rape as synonymous with "protection" in their eyes. Put differently, Capitalism is heteronormative, exploiting workers in sexually dimorphic ways that lead to state decay through Capitalist Realism: the world as parasitized behind the illusion, killing host and parasitoid alike. All the while, said nerds project their terrorism onto others, calling their actions "counterterror" to disguise settler colonialism (and its stochastic terrorism) while chasing their victims down. It's a monopoly whose process must be humanized by learning from the monstrous past as psychosexually martyred, stalling Capitalism and helping it develop into Gothic Communism; i.e., by subverting its heteronormative, kill-on-sight illusions with genderqueer ludo-Gothic BDSM iterations that thwart Capitalist Realism and achieve active intersectional solidary from various marginalized groups working in concert.

Note: Such a concert obviously involves numerous parties of different inclinations and preferences united against the elite. For here, we'll primarily explore Numinous psychosexuality through queer monstrous martyrs (from homosexual men to gender-non-conforming people at large) as something to not only to behold in the present space and time, but evoke using iconoclastic Gothic poetics in our own complicated artistic expression. —Perse 

(artist: Bernie Wrightson)

"Psychosexual" means "of sexuality and the mind," generally trauma; I further liken it to conflict—i.e., conflicting mind and sex, or "battle sex" through rape fantasy, theatre and play. So while Capitalism alienates and sexualizes everything in service to profit and all monsters are psychosexual to some degree, the chaos of iconoclastic monsters ultimately challenge the profit motive and its heteronormative, binarized theatrical language/performative roles (of sex and gender) as a delivery mechanism for orderly state abuse (canon vs camp); i.e., by anisotropically reversing Gothic poetic's flow of power (often through deception, concealment and revelation—cryptonymy) to humanize workers in spite of Cartesian hegemony (and its grim harvests) and Capitalist Realism; e.g., terrorists and counterterrorists, but also heroes and villains (from my thesis volume): "All heroes are monsters, thus liminal expressions that are sexualized and gendered" (source). Challenging state monopolies by reversing the dialectical-material function of said labels (and their oft-pornographic[1] poetics) is exactly what we must do in order to succeed. Monsters as (often queer) code, a messy shadow zone full of darkness visible. It's where the magic (and the sex) happen.

All the while, surrender and segregation[2] are no defense because the state requires criminals to exist inside harmful, highly unequal distributions of power ("Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will" —Frederick Douglass). Instead, we must short-circuit the exchange of violence by humanizing ourselves as ordinarily being the givers and receivers of state harm made into something whose sex positivity—the giving and receiving of pleasure and pleasurable pain; i.e., sadists and masochists during sex-positive demon BDSM—of which the establishment cannot challenge: "The givers and receivers of a state-sanctioned conflict reveal both to be human, one losing its ability to receive punishment and the other to give it. Both must happen simultaneously and en masse for settler-colonialism to stop" ("Bushnell's Requiem"). The state mustn't colonize us through fascism, thus decaying into fractured forms of itself (and Capitalism) through medieval regressive defenses of capital; it must be developed before then, from moment to living moment, as gleaned from monstrous hauntology into something that stalls genocide altogetherThough violence and force are required to challenge the state, liberation comes not from sheer feat of arms, but rather from subversive and transgressive reclamation of monstrous symbols: a pedagogy of the oppressed that makes us human while presenting us as monsters abused by the state. It's a tricky balance, mainly because violence as something to perform and receive are not the same thing despite often appearing identical; i.e., martyrs are generally raped by the state, which we have to convey mid-performance without actually getting raped if we can help it ("rape" meaning [for our purposes] "to disempower someone or somewhere—a person, culture, or place—in order to harm them," generally through fetishizing and alienizing acts or circumstances/socio-material conditions that target the mind, body and/or spirit): finding power while disempowered (the plight of the monstrous-feminine).  

Again, it's tricky because mid-development, we will be criminalized regardless of what we do; but if criminals become human, then the state's power crumbles, not ours. The paradox stems from the manner in which those cast as monsters are designed to threaten the state at all times—either by making demands that go outside their scope of influence, but also because our mere existence must threaten the state and its actors; i.e, because the state demands the arrangement as useful to them. To survive this clear-and-obvious clusterfuck, we must become precious, saintly[3] and unkillable as monsters are, but also loved. As something to perform, queer martyrdom is instrumental to our becoming loved without demanding our actual destruction. That sword is always hanging over our heads:

Military optimism, as I envisioned it ("The Promethean Quest and James Cameron's Military Optimism in Metroid," 2021), is the idea that you can kill your problems, somehow "slaying Medusa." But you can't kill Medusa because her life-after-death persona represents things that aren't people, alone; they're structures and the genocide they cause seen in the final moments of the damned. Theirs isn't a question of blind faith towards a self-righteous cause, but conscious conviction towards a cause that is just (ibid.).

Ideas are bulletproof and fireproof, etc, but people aren't. This requires terrifying those who would kill us for destroying the dogma they hold dear at the cost of human life—our life—as normally the required sacrifice for profit dressed up in American Liberalism (the give-and-take of basic human rights, vis-à-vis Howard Zinn, but retreating as fascists do towards a Zombie Caesar who eats workers at a greater and greater rate): a persona attached to various uniforms. This can be literal military attire, ­vis-à-vis Aaron Bushnell

The paradox for Bushnell is he made a choice to leave the security of the Western mindset, his complete self-destruction an educational act of siding indisputably with the oppressed by literally becoming one of their number. He was not the Roman fool falling on his own sword, but Medusa cutting off her own head to show it to the West and freeze them solid. It took guts, conviction, and profound belief in a better world. More to the point, it will endlessly haunt those people most used to Western illusions ("Bushnell's Requiem").

but it easily extends to more overtly monstrous forms of martyred expression related to state abuses of power on all registers. A state in decay will colonize, thus cannibalize, its local population from the outside in. Like Joan of Arc, we must transcend, becoming something the flames cannot burn, and for which rioting will result if the flames touch us. The state relies on holy violence to sustain its ranks, making the passion of our suffering and that of its regular or tokenized soldiers (e.g., Glory, 1989) utterly necessary to maintain and continue itself through a fresh and ever-flowing supply. If we can't fully protect ourselves, then we must sicken them to the bloodspill, our ashes carried by the wind to dispel the state's ravenous celebration of our tragic deaths:

(exhibit 33b2: Artist, left: Reubens; bottom-left: Malcolm Browne, of Thích Quảng Đức, 1963. Despite the seemingly quaint medievalism of sacrifice, there is an awesome power and forcefulness in death [to say otherwise would be a tremendous disservice to the slain]. Except while America is fed on martyrs, they expect the sort that apologize for war abroad and at home. As demonstrated by Aaron Bushnell, an American soldier, and Đức, a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk, martyrdom can become a relevant means of protest that—despite a likeness to romanticized forms in service to the state [e.g., Stranger Things, 2015, top left]— specifically becomes a powerful form of non-violent resistance through self-sacrifice; i.e., as something the privileged inside the Imperial Core cannot deny or eat happily. Instead, it will become poison to them, turning the sweet taste of victory to ashes in their mouths. Time to slay, queens!

[artist: Guido Reni]

The idea is to "die" with irony insofar as death can be an effective mask whose terminal, holy guise likewise speaks to everyday non-fatal events: the orgasm. Except martyrdom, like sex, also involves a variety of performances that include our old friend, ahegao aka "death face," as a sensuous, at-times undeniably erotic evocation of exquisite psychosexual "torture" [the phallic, traumatic penetration of the arrows pushing deep into the sensitive flesh, but also fetishized[4] pressure points like the armpit: Saint Sebastian's second "pussy"]. To that, consider this exhibit a taste of things to come when we examine the palliative Numinous and rapture in Stranger Things relative to my own undead trauma [exhibit 39a2]: Vecna, per the ghost of the counterfeit, actually being a disastrous projection of status-quo bigotries and systemic harm onto an imaginary other [the predatory outsider] that targets vulnerable fringe parties routinely sacrificed inside colonial projects by Capitalism and its usual in-group/token agents; i.e., colonial benefactors attacking people of color and white women, etc, while pinning it on a cartoon villain From Elsewhere; e.g., Max under Vecna's orgasmic, vampiric spell [rolling his eyes while he tortures and kills his victims, sucking them dry through rape and murder while gouging out the princess's eyes—skull fucking her]. The whole scenario is an abject metaphor for Red Scare and Satanic panic we can turn on its head to speak to our suffering in ways that don't peddle fatal nostalgia to the next generation. By reversing the process of abjection, irony can be injected into the torture, amounting to queer voices, for example, that speak through death as something to perform in shockingly intense, boundary-pushing ways; e.g., Oscar Wilde's inspiration by Guido Reni's homoerotic painting of Saint Sebastian[5], followed by the homicidal pastiche of post-closet, early-'90s writers like Dennis Cooper having twinks-in-peril expose themselves as theatrically "brutalized" but, point in fact, remain unharmed:

He lies naked on a futon with his wrists tied together, legs spread, feet jutting out of the frame. Twisted sheet, like a skinny tornado. In the first shot his long, straight black hair's fallen into his face, covering everything but the tip of his nose, chin, cheekbone, one partly shut eye. He's seventeen. His body's too tensed to be dead or asleep. That's supposedly a noose around his neck. […]

Third shot's a close-up. His face, neck, 'noose,' shoulders, armpits. His tongue's flipped over backward and pushed through his teeth. The underside's weird. His eyes are alert, antsy. Each reflects a little camera and part of a hand. The 'noose' is neither too tight nor particularly loose, like a necktie. His expression suggests an inexperienced actor trying to communicate shock.

Four's a medium shot. He's facedown, wrists untied, feet jutting out of the frame. His arms are bent in a neo-Egyptian manner. His asscrack is covered with something that vaguely resembles a wound when you squint. His back, ass, and legs are generic pale teenager. His hair's studiedly askew like in photos of '60s fashion models. His shoulders are pimply, narrow.

Five. Close-up. The 'wound' is actually a glop of paint, ink, makeup, tape, cotton, tissue, and papier-mache sculpted to suggest the inside of a human body. It sits on the ass, crushed and deflated. In the central indentation there's a smaller notch maybe one-half-inch deep. It's a bit out of focus. Still, you can see the fingerprints of the person or persons who made it.

[artist: Coil]

Apart from psychosexual martyrdom, irony is a broader constant process that waxes or wanes under the influence of competing forces for or against the state[6]; including "death faces," "rape" porn without irony is simply rape canon as a form of state apologetics. Pleasure and pain, death and jouissance—such dichotomies often blur during liminal expression, insofar as this varies per oppressed group from moment to moment. So while it might be tempting to see martyrdom exclusively as a kind of "snuff porn" within psychosexual expression, it also exposes a practical utility to what's common and on hand. Ludo-Gothic BDSM and its assorted contracts of negotiated play and exchange puts power back into the hands of those normally doomed to die from exposure to state forces working with the devil they know to liberate themselves; e.g., the palliative Numinous; i.e., as something whose memento mori evolves over time insofar as state control of a particular group is relaxed or tightened, thus abjected or embraced in society at large. Historically, the separation of these conditions is futile and generally beside the point.

Coil, for instance, was one of my ex Zeuhl's favorite bands, and they loved Wilde and Cooper a great deal [in fact being friends with Cooper in real life]. Yet they seemed to take great delight in "torturing" me by exposing me to the perennial mystery of the beautiful sufferer as a morbid joke. At times it was puzzling and gross, as Cooper showed in Frisk. But, as he showed in his campy [and frankly terrible] movies, it could also be oddly funny[7]In Like Cattle Towards Glow[8] [2015] a young actor pretends to be dead for his partner while both are in bed. The other asks him, lying face down and naked on the bed sheets, "Are you still dead?" To that, Zeuhl looked at me and I them, we smirked, and then had sex; sometimes while we fucked repeatedly in the days ahead, we'd even joke: "Are you still dead?"

Martyrs are paradoxes in how the ideal of someone special generally becomes a "ghost" that survives them after they die; i.e., the rise of a mode of queer-monstrous discourse [the Neo-Gothic] that, from Matthew Lewis onwards, helped GNC people camp canon through Walpole's ghosts [and later Marx'] as penned by them, but also of them. It can also apply to those who fail to measure up. As I tell Bay in my fifth and final dedication to them:

You taught me that when you make a likeness of someone that you want to exist in place of the current version, you're making a gravestone of something that never was, but could be in the future with someone else. With you, babe, I don't have to. You're already ideal. But it feels like a fairy tale—not a delusion to erect and lose ourselves inside regarding a promised "better end," but a current palace of play that helps us find joy and healing together.

The "likeness" was about Zeuhl and their own failing to measure up after they sacrificed our friendship for something they cared about more: their husband and their life in Great Britain, specifically Manchester. So while Zeuhl the person falls hideously short of my deep love for them, their introducing me to Cooper and Joy Division/New Order, Derrick Jarman, etc, all went into the melting pot; i.e., became part of my own psychosexual identity as something that had to grow into itself overtime. It was a real witch's brew—full of darkness and pain, but also self-aware, ironic humor in the creation of future unholy delights. So thanks for that, Zeuhl. You still huff your own farts, though.)

For this entire volume, then, we'll investigate the artistic history of oppositional praxis as a queer defense mechanism that intersects with cis-exploitation by the state; i.e., past examples of the Gothic imagination as a precursor to Gothic Communism, poetically expressing the human condition through older monstrous language in relation to Capitalism, labor and nature. As Gothic Communists, our revolutionary aim is to learn from this expansive, pre-fascist past by humanizing monsters-as-martyrs through hauntological xenophilia—an iconoclastic process and subject group that historically is ostracized by the process of abjection, itself used to sexually devalue all workers through canonical xenophobia and carceral hauntology inside the infernal concentric pattern (the Gothic castle, home as foreign, inside of itself as borrowed from past copies).

For instance, persons categorized as "monsters" don't really want to be made into martyr-esque masks and called "scary" by the in-group (e.g., Tom Noonan's Creature[9], below, set—as generally is tradition—to immortal and touching music by Bruce Broughton: "Scary Mask & Phil's #1," 1987); they want to be accepted and loved, shirking isolation as a social species without feeling like impostors surrounded by a) people who want them dead, or b) who they feel like they have to kill in order to survive. However, their damned position within the out-group leaves them forever longing—desperately searching for a lost sense of community and humanity from those excommunicating them. As the pandemic showed, people don't want to be forced to wear a mask in order to survive, nor be associated with the identity it puts forward as "borrowed," but sometimes we have to, anyways. Capitalism gives us no choice; either we adapt and put on the mask as a revolutionarily cryptonymic device to reclaim from our enemies, or they use the same masks to get near (face-to-face), then attack us at close range (exhibit 100a3) in a place we normally feel safe: among friends/friendly monsters, out on the dance floor, at home, etc.

The paradox during praxial synthesis is intuitive familiarity and recognition of harmful and non-harmful variants; i.e., a monster with a face that is mask-like, said mask worn by people who give the lifeless material a symbolic heft, a human face that looks monstrous to globally disempower the elite's ceaseless calls to violence. We must befriend monsters who are friendly to our cause, and embody themselves from a young age into adulthood. But this must also be provided and taught in ways that challenge capital, which paradoxically operates through the same nostalgia as a constant dialectical-material struggle, mid-opposition.

The fascist pitfall is to self-sacrifice out of revenge and emotional stupidity as taught from an early age by canonical monsters. For the oppressed, a far better option is to address and check for canonical stigmas; i.e., while simultaneously self-fashioning a fresh, xenophilic community for ourselves as we grow up (twice[10], for trans people): our people as something to find, but also make amongst ourselves by subverting the highly visible xenophobic strawmen shown to us as children. We can empathize with our would-be conquers as "fallen" (e.g., horribly sexist, Cartesian men like Victor Frankenstein), but really need to focus on ourselves and the bigger picture: of internalizing Gothic Communism at a societal level. Doing so doesn't make us "apathetic," nor preclude tears for the wretched as hostile towards us; it's merely being practical while fighting for a better world that will help everyone as we dodge state attacks through workers triangulated against us through an equality of convenience—of "boundaries for me, not for thee" claimed by standard/token state enforcers punching down (the paradox of pacification is that it happens against the state's defenders regarding the state as something to not attack, versus the state's enemies for which it's always open season).

For example, while many people weep for Darth Vader's fall from grace, I once cried for Gwyn, Lord of Cinder from Dark Souls. It was at MMU when I was dating Zeuhl. After listening to his maudlin piano theme, I started to sob. Hearing my sadness, Zeuhl came into my room and said, trying to comfort me, "Maybe you shouldn't listen to this song?" But I always felt compelled to—if not to understand, then at lease empathize with the suffering in others (which is probably why I decided to complete my masters in the Gothic, a field of study predicated on intense emotional oscillation); empathy is vital if we want to change the world for the better and generally happens within castle-like spaces full of monsters and their complicated martyrdom as something to humanize alongside various executioners—the Nazi as someone to heal from their own toxic ideology by showing them (with Athena's Aegis) the error of their ways.

To critique power, then, you must go where it is according to how it tends to present itself; i.e., the chronotope (from Volume One):

Such a castle's nightmarish presence denotes potential mayhem tied to one's habitat; i.e., through the liminal hauntology of war colonizing nature and those tied to nature. When such a castle appears, it is time to be afraid; the colonial harvest is at hand. Yet, precisely because the state does not hold a monopoly over violence, terror and morphological expression, a demon or castle needn't spell our end; it can represent our sole means of attack, reclaiming said poetics' endless inventiveness to turn colonizer fears back into their hopelessly scared brains with counterterror (source).

The same idea applies to monsters, myths and magic; i.e., the medieval as something that commonly denotes trauma per capital's regular abuses. Under Capitalist Realism, rape is everywhere because unironic monsters are everywhere. This will undoubtedly be a shock to the system, which means that addressing such things that mark trauma as monsters do will also, to some extent, be shocking and unpleasant. Certainly they'll be paradoxically sickening and delicious. Even so, I'll have to prep you first, which we'll do next.

This concludes the sample. The rest of the section and the entire volume releases sometime mid-2024. It's full of monsters (wolf dorks or otherwise) and other really cool shit, so stay tuned! —Perse

(source: Brianna Zigler)

[1] Porn is very liminal, insofar as it can serve workers or the state during Gothic culture or counterculture; i.e., (from "What I Won't Exhibit"):

Porn under Capitalism is always a liminal proposition, one where canon conflates gore, rape, and general harm with supposed acts of love (e.g., Squid Game's gratuitous 2021 violence illustrating a generalized violation of human rights through misdirection and pornographic force presented as a "cute" game). As the title might suggest, then, Sex Positivity is largely about sex positivity as something to replace canonical forms of abuse with; i.e., liminal expressions of sex and trauma that lean towards, and help lead survivors away from, the status quo using cathartic monster poetics and sex-positive "demon BDSM." 

This often involves a collective sense of humor that verges on the obscene and the bizarre; e.g., earlier I said "lactating furiously" apropos of nothing. And my mother, overhearing said, "It's like those pornos with women spraying milk on each other. People like that." To which I asked, "Why? Because you're waxing nostalgic on your state-sanctioned role of sexual labor?" To which my mother replied, "No, I'm reclaiming lactation for sex workers! Is that ok?" To which I responded, "As long as it's performed with some degree of irony then yes; i.e., porn is liminal, insofar as it can serve the state or workers." To which my mother said, "It's not for the state, it's for Communists! I'm going to get a t-shirt that says that." To which I replied, "Lactation for Communism! Lactate—with irony!" All very silly but iconoclastic nonetheless.

[2] E.g., Nex Benedict (from "Remember the Fallen"):

Nex went to the "correct" bathroom only to be killed anyways by those the rule was supposed to "protect": teenage girls (in truth, the rules are coding behaviors that condition cis-het people [and token agents] to attack "incorrect" persons). The three attackers used the rule to isolate Nex, then entered the bathroom in bad faith to execute them (the rule and the person). In turn, the state's ipso facto sanctioning of selective punishment has been demonstrated by their shielding of Nex' hangmen (or rather, in this case, hangwomen) [source].

[3] In Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc (1927), a member of the public turns after Joan is killed, faces her smug executioners, and declares, "You have burned a saint!" before the whole town riots in mass protest. Indeed, its ruling class anticipated riot, arming themselves beforehand to club the rioters and shower them with cannon fire. "Riots are the voice of the unheard"—a phrase once used by MLK but also channeled earlier still by Matthew Lewis, whose infamous novel The Monk throws the town into bloody panic after they learn a terrible truth: the Prioress has wrongfully imprisoned and indeed murdered Don Lorenzo's long-lost sister, Anges! In truth, Anges isn't dead, but the mob is too angry to care, burning the prison-like convent down. It's a jailbreak, directed furiously at a false, carceral institution calling itself "holy."

[4] The soft, sensitive skin, hair, sweat/scent glands (scent being a very animal, non-verbal way of communicating that's tied to sex). The weirdness of fetishes are generally arbitrary but often attached to a real-life component; e.g., when Bay makes me cum, my armpits smell like Lucky Charms breakfast cereal. 

[5] As Katie White writes in "How Did a Third-Century Catholic Saint Become a Gay Icon? Here's the Homoerotic History of Saint Sebastian" (2022):

In the modern era, the popularization of Saint Sebastian as an icon in the gay community often leads back to Guido Reni's Martyrdom of St. Sebastian (c. 1615) arguably the most famous depiction of the saint (Reni painted six versions). Oscar Wilde was known to have adored the work, which is in the collection of the Palazzo Rosso, in Genoa. In fact, Wilde went so far as to adopt the pen name Sebastian while exiled in Paris during the last years of his life.

Reni's painting was similarly influential to the famed 20th-century Japanese author Yukio Mishima; in Mishima's 1949 novel Confessions of a Mask, the book's adolescent protagonist experiences a homosexual awakening while gazing at the very same painting. The references to the saint didn't end there—Mishima, who was himself gay, went so far as to pose as Saint Sebastian in a now-infamous photographic portrait, taken not long before the writer's death by suicide in 1970. The photograph further cemented associations between the ecstasy and torments of the saint's martyrdom with the homosexual experience of persecution throughout the 20th century. Wilde, himself, it should be noted, had been exiled in Paris, following a nearly two-year imprisonment at Reading Gaol in England for the crime of practicing homosexuality […]

But what about these depictions of Saint Sebastian so resonated with the likes of Wilde and Mishima? Many observers, including Susan Sontag, have noted that Sebastian doesn't yell out in anguish amid his wounding but endures the torment with an expression caught between pain and pleasure. Sontag called him the "exemplary sufferer." His head is often flung back or forward rapturously. He conceals the depth of his emotions, experiencing both torments and pleasures privately, a feeling similar to the experience of gay identity for many men in the 20th century (and often to this day) [source].

(source: Reprobate Press)

The point isn't merely to suffer but speak through it as a performance informed by historical pain. As such, the "suffering" of the sinner-as-queer (not just cis-queer men, but all GNC people) becomes a paradoxical means of expressing one's anguish in ways that, uncorked, feels Numinously cathartic by virtue of releasing repressed tension, coping with nonstop abuse using playful forms, and speaking to one's forbidden, closeted self as frequently synonymized with abject misery by the state.

[6] E.g., 1970s Judas Priest is Priest at their loudest and gayest. Comparatively in 2024, they have completely lost their critical bite, chasing profit through an unironic Zionist edge (from Persephone van der Waard's "Judas Priest: Invincible Shield and Zionism," 2024):

as time went on, Priest sold out. Their critical lyrics became deliberately dumb—starting with British Steel (1980) into Painkiller (1990), the latter being something to emulate with Invincible Shield as pastiche of something that, far from becoming a joke, has become canon to espouse whatever dogma the band wants to enrich themselves with. […] Likenesses haunt themselves as part of this hauntology. Whatever castles raised by Priest, then, these will be haunted by the very spectral and faceless, metallic things they refuse to sing about now but once did; i.e., using the language they've grown accustomed to abusing having the iconoclastic potential to push back against genocide. Priest, the people up close, don't care about that anymore. They care about their legacy as something to sell to Americanized fans worldwide; i.e., by singing about invincibility as a Zionist privilege they invoke time and time again while Palestine suffers for longer than Halford has been alive (source).

Dressed up as leather-clad, Viking-esque heavy metal torturers, they're assisting unironically in the torture (and forced martyrdom) of faraway lands by putting a Jewish police badge on their album cover:

They're not just posers, but posers of their former selves, arrogant enough to put a gold Jewish police badge (surrounded by the red-and-blue color scheme of police sirens) on their album cover […] the Priest logo, already Jewish-like, is woefully crass ("That is an... incredible album cover," a friend tells me. "Wondrously distasteful. Evokes the smell of freshly licked boot leather. Zionist in the most anti-Semitic ways"). Suspiciously embedded inside another Jewish simulacrum, [it] serves as an unironic police badge in defense of British imperial shores (ibid.).

[7] Insofar as the Neo-Gothic, like the actual medieval period before it, treats "comedies" as both gallows-type humor but also simply stories that end well, thus aren't "dramatic" in the ancient sense of the word; i.e., death is allowed, but so are sex and monsters that involve "happy endings" at the end; e.g., Dante's Divine Comedy (1321) being told in three parts: The InfernoThe Purgatorio, and The Paradiso.

[8] Described on IMDb: "Several short films about troubled gay youngsters who attempt to resolve their psychological issues through bizarre fetish play or sinister self-expression" (source). Cooper's films are exceptionally bad, but still offer a unique look into the strange liminality of homoerotic expression carried forward into the present.

[9] The final scene to Fred Dekker's The Monster Squad (1987) demonstrates Amazonomachia well, insofar as Dracula is both a walking movie poster and someone who means different things depending on who's looking at him. Young cis-het boys and men in the audience will see him and relish in his indiscriminate killing of the police (one commentator gushing, "Nothing is more terrifying than the way he barely treats those cops as annoyances, not even bothering looking at them as he kills them and never once breaking stride. Astounding work," source); Leonardo Cimino will see the Nazis color code (and police-state malice) reflected on Dracula's black-and-red affect/murdering of the American doppelgangers (a scene from earlier briefly showing a camp-issued tattoo punched into his arm, specifically a concentration camp tattoo: "You sure know a lot about monsters!" / "Yes, I guess you could say that I do."); and Phoebe the little girl, when picked up threateningly by her would-be destroyer, will gaze into the terrifying eyes of something she doesn't understand (having little grasp of what the boys in their clubhouse [whose floor entrance from the outside reads: "no girls allowed"] are constantly excluding her from): "Give me the Amulet, you BITCH!" (SYFY's "Monster Squad at 30" 2018).

Coming to her rescue, Frankenstein's monster is also a walking poster, but through the walking likenesses of the living and the made-living operating together in the present space and time, becomes a genuine protector that channels Mary Shelley's original monster as someone to vindicate. Featured as regularly saving little girls from danger—i.e., the De Lacey family's, but also a child rescued from a freak accident—stigma and bias are carried on the monster's features, leading him to be punished and ultimately desire revenge against Cartesian dualism inside a settler-colonial project:

"I continued to wind among the paths of the wood, until I came to its boundary, which was skirted by a deep and rapid river, into which many of the trees bent their branches, now budding with the fresh spring. Here I paused, not exactly knowing what path to pursue, when I heard the sound of voices, that induced me to conceal myself under the shade of a cypress. I was scarcely hid when a young girl came running towards the spot where I was concealed, laughing, as if she ran from someone in sport. She continued her course along the precipitous sides of the river, when suddenly her foot slipped, and she fell into the rapid stream. I rushed from my hiding-place and with extreme labour, from the force of the current, saved her and dragged her to shore. She was senseless, and I endeavoured by every means in my power to restore animation, when I was suddenly interrupted by the approach of a rustic, who was probably the person from whom she had playfully fled. On seeing me, he darted towards me, and tearing the girl from my arms, hastened towards the deeper parts of the wood. I followed speedily, I hardly knew why; but when the man saw me draw near, he aimed a gun, which he carried, at my body and fired. […]

"This was then the reward of my benevolence! I had saved a human being from destruction, and as a recompense I now writhed under the miserable pain of a wound which shattered the flesh and bone. The feelings of kindness and gentleness which I had entertained but a few moments before gave place to hellish rage and gnashing of teeth. Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind. […] My sufferings were augmented also by the oppressive sense of the injustice and ingratitude of their infliction. My daily vows rose for revenge—a deep and deadly revenge, such as would alone compensate for the outrages and anguish I had endured (source).

[10] Gender-affirming care—i.e., the taking of sexual hormones—during adulthood leads to what's generally referred to as a "second puberty."


Persephone van der Waard is an anarcho-Communist, sex worker, genderqueer activist and Gothic ludologist. She sometimes writes reviews, Gothic analyses, and interviews for fun; or does independent research for her PhD on Metroidvania and speedrunning every now and again. She's also an erotic artist and a writer. If you're interested in her work or curious about illustrated or written commissions, please refer to her website for more information.