|Marcel Jouhandeau (1888-1979) Outside France, few will have heard of French homosexual anti-Semite and conservative Catholic, Marcel Jouhandeau. This is a shame, because Jouhandeau offers some pointers into the tormented inner lives of conservative Christian men who have sex with men, and their kindred.
It's not a particularly happy story. Jouhandeau (1888-1979) was born in rural France, and aspired to become a priest. There was just one slight problem here- Jouhandeau had passionate emotional and sexual feelings for other men. This deterred him from the Catholic priesthood, and led to his academic career. Unfortunately, for him, he still retained his rural conservative Catholic beliefs that his enjoyment of sex and love with other men were condemned in Catholic dogma, which led to interludes of mortification (self-punishment) of his body, and then bingeing on mansex when he fell off the wagon, as well as numerous suicide attempts.
In 1928, he married Elise Toulement, and they adopted a child together. For Elise, it was a hellish marriage because she was being used as a front for his repetitious episodes of gay promiscuity, to be followed by mortification, renunciation, self-harm, suicide attempts and reconciliation. Unfortunately, good conservative Catholics don't divorce, and she had to endure this until her death in 1971.
And then, there was his anti-Semitism. At the same time that he published Of Abjection (1939), which described his conservative Catholic self-loathing of his gay sexuality, he also published a work entitled The Jewish Peril (1938). And yes, the two titles are linked. If one displaces the ambiguity, self-hatred and negative attributions of one's own behaviour onto convenient scapegoats, it becomes easier to live with oneself. Given the backwardness of rural France and permissibility of anti-Semitic hate propaganda in French politics until the Second World War, Nazi Occupation and Vichy France, anti-Semitism was Jouhandeau's chosen pathway.
And today? Well, consider Graham Capill, who demonstrates that much the same thing applies to heterosexuals. We now know that while he was screeching abuse at lesbians, gay men and despised 'others,' he had violated three little girls. What Capill loathed in himself (his paedophile desires), he projected onto us. And, like Jouhandeau, Capill's behaviour was excused and tolerated by most of his sycophants and cronies, until those brave children ended their silent ordeal and spoke up to prevent him harming others.
Graham Capill and Marcel Jouhandeau demonstrate that while abject hypocrisy and the temptation to demonise others may take different historical forms, and the scale of harm and injury to those 'others' may differ, hatred of oneself is never an excuse for fostering camouflague hatred of the other, whoever she or he may be.
Keith Reader: The Abject Object: Avatars of the Phallus in Contemporary French Theory, Literature and Film: New York: Rodopi: 2006. Craig Young - 6th September 2007