During the 20th century, Latin American homosexual men tried to find spaces where they could feel safe and able to live an untethered sexuality that does not conform to the heteronormative model. In the Chilean case, the occupation of the streets by homosexual men and trans women in Santiago de Chile was the result of a series of laws that sought to define their behavior as deviant by appealing to moral, hygienic and criminal codes. The discursive apparatus of the Chilean state —medical, legal, religious discourses— symbolically and physically confined homosexuals to a space —the area of San Camilo— whose socioeconomic status had been degrading from the 1980s onwards. The implementation of a neoliberal model in Chile brought a social reconfiguration of the city. It pushed the upper and upper middle classes that used to live in the center of Santiago in the 19th century to move to the eastern part of the city, in the foothills of the Andes mountain range, drawing an invisible geographical line between social classes. After the elite classes moved eastwards, public spaces that had been built in the center of the city in the 19th century, symbol of a bourgeoisie who looked up to Europe, were abandoned during the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990), paving the ground for their occupation by homosexuals and other denizens who were considered second-class citizens by the Chilean state. I am talking about the Parque Forestal, where the Museum of Fine Arts is located, and Cerro Santa Lucía. Both spaces, with their tree-covered paths, were conceived in the 19th century to represent the model of modernity that the Creole bourgeoisie was seeking to impose while sanitizing a city that was growing at a fast pace. In the case of Cerro Santa Lucia, Benjamin Vicuña Mackenna, mayor of Santiago de Chile at the end of that century, hoped that the transformation of the hill would symbolize “un modelo de civilización y progreso” that would be able to “ejercer un efecto transformador en el orden social de la alta sociedad santiaguina, sociedad que no lograba aún desprenderse de sus provincianas costumbres” through “el ornato y la higiene” as an intrinsic element of Santiago’s modernizing project (Parada 64). Designed in such a way that Santiago’s population could walk and be seen on its tree-lined paths, after the upper-middle class left the area in the last quarter of the 20th century, both places began to be frequented by homosexuals who, at nightfall, found under the foliage of the trees an ideal place to unleash their sexual urges and thus subvert the normative use that had been devised for these spaces. Brian Douglas and Richard Tewksbury call these sexual environments in public space “erotic oasis.”
Because of the Internet, smartphones and GPS (Global Positioning System), homosexuals and trans people have found themselves having these erotic oases literally at their fingertips. Alberto Fuguet’s Sudor (2016) gives a perfect example of this situation. The novel explores the use of sex dating apps like Grindr in Santiago’s gay scene and how gay men interact on the app. During my interview with Fuguet, he advocated for the need to normalize the use of this kind of dating app and to bring awareness to the particularities of its language:
Como Sudor es una novela contemporánea que ocurre en 2013, me parecía que hubiera sido poco creíble que los chicos, o los personajes de la novela, solo se comunicaran por teléfono o por cartas, por así decirlo. En Grindr no solo se intercambian fotos sino que se intercambian textos escritos, por lo tanto, la gente que participa del sistema de intercambio en Grindr usa la palabra escrita, por lo tanto, escriben. Yo como escritor no podía no darme cuenta de que una de las formas que se está usando ahora en el siglo XXI para ligar se parece a como se hacía antiguamente en el siglo XVII, usando la palabra para seducir.
Fuguet insisted on the idea of a specific language, a sort of gay jargon, during the interview:
Yo creo que escribí la novela desde la libertad creativa, sexual, [para] mostrar estas aplicaciones como lugares donde la gente puede ser quien es, sobre todo en cuanto a mostrar sus deseos y sus ansiedades. A mí me parece que existe todo un rollo con tenerle miedo a los deseos. Como si los homosexuales fueran gente que merece nuestro respeto, la igualdad, pero nadie realmente quiere hablar de lo que hacen en la cama. Me parece interesante que también se sepa lo que pasa en el mundo de los homosexuales, y por eso la novela tiene parte de su premisa el revelarle al otro lo que pasa en la cama y en estas aplicaciones, cómo funciona la coquetería, cómo funciona la comunicación, cómo funciona el ligue usando las palabras (Fuguet, Entrevista Personal).
In 1967, at a conference at the Circle of Architectural Studies, Michel Foucault coined the term heterotopia to designate spaces that are inherent to society but serve as “counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, answered, and inverted” (24). In apps such as Grindr, these counter-sites are built through specific language that subverts heteronormative categories of sexual identity. On one hand, these apps expand the gender binary system by including categories such as ‘queer’, ‘non-binary’, and ‘non-conforming’ and allowing the user to describe their identity in their own words. On the other hand, through the resignification of language, the homosexual user of these apps employs a code that is shared with other members of that community but becomes opaque to any outsider. In this sense, the language of the apps relates to the sense of opacity that Édouard Glissant elaborated in his Poetics of relation to defend the opacity of the language as a formative and distinctive element of the Other’s racial identity:
Transparency no longer seems like the bottom of the mirror in which Western humanity reflected the world in its own image. There is opacity now at the bottom of the mirror, a whole alluvium deposited by populations, silt that is fertile but, in actual fact, indistinct and unexplored even today, denied or insulted more often than not, and with an insistent presence that we are incapable of not experiencing (111).
He also delves into the role of language in the literary text as producer of opacity: “Writing’s relation to that absolute is relative; that is, it actually renders it opaque by realizing it in language. The text passes from a dreamed-of transparency to the opacity produced in words” (115). Drawing on the Foucaultian concept of heterotopia and the idea of opacity as a sine qua non condition to be able to recognize the Other, this paper examines the opportunity provided to homosexuals to conform a space of their own by resorting to the Internet and dating apps intended for gay men. I look into how Alberto Fuguet’s Sudor (2016) opens up a possibility for heterotopias, especially the so-called heterotopias of deviation — “those in which individuals whose behavior is deviant in relation to the required mean or norm are placed” (25)—. I contend that Sudor shows that the use of specific language and jargon offers homosexuals a valuable pathway to constitute a multiplicity of identity discourses within this homosexual virtual space. Furthermore, I argue that this alternative discursive site allows gay men to think of themselves as empowered non-heteronormative subjects, whose intelligibility is shared only by members of the homosexual community and renders it opaque for outsiders, hereby transforming the heterotopias into what I denominate ‘homotopia.’ Finally, by contrasting Foucault’s “repressive hypothesis” in which heteropatriarchy tries to silence everything related to sex, I assert that Alf’s explicit sexual effusiveness as well as that of the other Grindr users functions as a counterbalance to the aforementioned hypothesis for “the mere fact that one is speaking about it has the appearance of a deliberate transgression” (Foucault, History of Sexuality 6).
From cruising to Grindr
In the early 21st century, Opus Gay —a Chilean magazine focused on topics concerning the LGBTQ community— ran the report “The Gay Sex Market in Chile” in which its author, Patricio Garrido, exposed the different ways and places where Chilean homosexuals could find sex with other men. Garrido’s article already points out the importance of the Internet and the role it plays in finding sexual partners. Under the heading “El rey: Internet”, the author emphasizes the use of chats and pornographic pages in addition to noting that “desde el 2000 en Chile han surgido algunos cibercafés que son, en forma táctica o explícita, exclusivos para homosexuales. Dichos espacios están equipados con módulos privados con el objeto de otorgar la privacidad necesaria a quienes chateen, utilicen las webcams o compren servicios vía red” (7). As smartphones have lowered their price and become more affordable for most of Chile’s population, the use of internet cafes has given way to apps such as Grindr, Scruff, Jack’d or Hornet. The most common one in Chile is Grindr, with approximately 27 million users worldwide in 2018. As I confirmed during my research, its use is widespread among homosexuals across the country, especially in Santiago, an observation shared by other scholars (Riumalló Grüzmacher; Castillo). In fact, during my two trips to Santiago de Chile, I noticed how the area south of Cerro Santa Lucía —limited by the Alameda to the north; Santa Rosa street to the west; Curicó to the south; and Avenida Portugal to the east— concentrates a considerable number of Grindr users, as if the cruising that takes place in the physical space of the hill had crossed over the boundaries of physicality into the virtual. In his book Love Online, Jean Claude Kauffman states that the new millennium turned dating apps into “a normal and legitimate way of finding a sexual partner—long term or otherwise” (5). Along those lines, Riumall affirms in his investigation on Grindr in Chile that “the virtual world can be considered of more vital use to Chilean gay people than heterosexual people, because of the stark necessity to safely find more people with the same sexual identity but remain behind a screen; this in the context of a country that still is perceived as very conservative. The virtual world still seems to be the public square for gay people to meet and share experiences” (64).
After GPS became a common feature of cell phones, practices that would take place in a physical setting —such as cruising—, began to transfer to dating apps, providing the LGBTQ community with a space to feel somewhat safer and protected from homophobic attacks, although not always exempt from them. Grindr was released in 2009, three years before Tinder, the heterosexual version of Grindr, despite the widespread belief that Tinder was created earlier. These applications are easy to use. A Grindr user creates a profile with their personal information (optional) and a picture (also optional). When it was launched, Grindr was intended for gay cis men. In recent years, the app has included other gender categories and sexual orientations: bi, trans, queer, non-binary and non-conforming. The current version allows the user to specify age, weight, height, gender, sexual role, ethnicity and HIV status. In addition to sending messages and photos to other users, the user can also send a tap to another user. This feature is represented by a flame and has three options: the ‘hi’ icon, to greet another user; an orange flame, usually used to show interest; and a devilish purple face, which is usually used when looking for sex right now. Once online, Grindr shows a grid with profile pictures of the closest 99 users that are online and how far away they are. Tapping on a picture allows the user to read information of a specific profile, as well as giving the option to chat, send other pictures or send a tap. By incorporating these features or similar ones, Grindr and other apps, such as Scruff, Jack’d or Hornet, have come up with their own coded language —including the use of emojis— that twists conventional language and resignifies it. The ethnographic work of Rohit Dasgupta in India about the use of dating websites (such as PlanetRomeo) and apps affirms that the intimacy created within those spaces springs from “the language of its expression [that] is still a ‘privileged knowledge’ that is only understood by those to whom it is directed” (43). I am interested in delving into the relation between language and privileged knowledge in order to show the connection between these two concepts and that of homotopia as a discursive site as shown in Sudor.
Before I move on to analyze Grindr conversations in the novel, I think it is worth going back to Foucault’s words to clarify the concept of heterotopia. In his talk, the French theorist uses the metaphor of the mirror to define this concept:
In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface; I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of shadow that gives my own visibility to myself, that enables me to see myself there where I am absent: such is the utopia of the mirror. But it is also a heterotopia in so far as the mirror does exist in reality, where it exerts a sort of counteraction on the position that I occupy (Foucault, “Of Other Spaces” 24).
Think of a cell phone when it is powered off. The screen is a mirror in which the self of the normative space is reflected. But at the same time, after clicking on the Grindr icon, the visualization of the users’ profiles, including that of the person who is using the application, serves as a gateway to a different space beyond where non-normative identities and sexualities are conformed. Within this virtual space is where a heterotopia of deviation takes form. Foucault resorts to actual and common spaces to give examples of these kinds of heterotopias, such as nursing homes, psychiatric clinics or prisons. Other cases he mentions are “the famous American motel rooms where a man goes with his car and his mistress and where illicit sex is both absolutely sheltered and absolutely hidden, kept isolated without however being allowed out in the open” (Foucault, “Of Other Spaces” 27). It is not unreasonable to include Grindr in this category, insofar as the behavior of individuals using this application moves away from the standard established by the heteropatriarchy. However, Foucault’s constant reference to heterosexual acts in order to define heterotopias prompts me to come up with a term that best suits the homosexual community, especially the male one, since they are the majority of Grindr users. For that reason, and for lack of a better term, I call them ‘homotopias.’
‘Homotopia’ in Sudor
In April 2016, Fuguet published Sudor, a novel about Alfredo Garzón ‘Alf’, a 41-year-old man, homosexual and editor for a publishing house, who is asked to be a cicerone for Rafa, the son of Rafael Restrepo Carvajal, a famous Latin American writer. The young man is accompanying his father in Santiago de Chile, where both have traveled to present their book together. During the last four days of October 2013 in which most of the novel takes place, Alf establishes a very special relationship with Rafa, while he continues looking for sex with other men he contacts on Grindr and whose conversations the reader has access to. Despite being busy with his sexual encounters, Alf finds the time to criticize the publishing industry in Chile and the institutions that sustain it, such as the International Book Fair of Santiago (FILSA), and to question the privilege of heterosexuality embodied by his friend Vicente Matamala.
Fuguet resorts to conversations that one would find on Grindr to show the specificity of the language used in such applications. One of its most salient characteristics is the use of categories and subcategories to define different types of homosexuals, based either on their physical appearance, their sexual role or their gender performance. Certainly, some of these categories are influenced by heteronormative parameters. For instance, the user ‘Buscando…’ writes: “Parezco hétero pero salí pasivo, pero no por eso menos varonil. No express. No locas” (158), emphazising his straight-looking attitude while rejecting any interaction with flamboyant gay men. ‘Jugado’, another user, is described as “pasivo igual macho: hay que ser muy hombre para que te entre entera” (225), reinforcing the stereotype of ‘macho’, a man strong enough to bear the pain of getting penetrated; and, ‘Extranjero’, is defined as “masculino” (268). Butler, like Foucault, notes that “intelligible” genders are those which in some sense institute and maintain relations of coherence and continuity among sex, gender, sexual practice, and desire" (23). To the extent that these categories remain intelligible to the majority of the population, regardless of their gender and sexuality, the homosexual characters in the novel who use Grindr are subconsciously perpetuating heteronormative behaviors, assuming that ‘masculine’ homosexuals will be the ones who penetrate during sexual intercourse while the ‘feminine’ ones will be penetrated. However, the range of categories on Grindr goes far beyond the masculine/feminine binary. The mere presence of such conversations in Fuguet’s novel constitutes a breach to the repressive hypothesis that is represented by “a multiplicity of discourses produced by a whole series of mechanisms operating in different institutions” (Foucault, History of Sexuality 33). The repressive hypothesis intends to control and monitor any statement on sex through its silencing, especially when it comes to exposing non-normative and dissident sexualities. Nonetheless, Foucault points out these mechanisms of power involve an array of weaknesses in their own exercise for they operate through a double incentive:
power and pleasure. The pleasure that comes of exercising a power that questions, monitors, watches, spies, searches out, palpates, brings to light; and on the other hand, the pleasure that kindles at having to evade this power, flee from it, fool it, travesty it. The power that lets itself be invaded by the pleasure it is pursuing; and opposite it, power asserting itself in the pleasure of showing off, scandalizing, or resisting (Foucault, History of Sexuality 45).
Sudor remorselessly unveils these conversations to the readers, openly showing homosexual sex as a shameless act of resistance against the repressive discourse of heteronormativity. Fuguet insisted on this idea during the interview I carried out for my research which I have previously quoted. Similarly, Didier Eribon’s comments on the latest interviews given by Michel Foucault about the gay community point out that “two ideas are always collapsed together in these interviews: first, the idea that a sexuality that is common to a separate group of individuals is capable of uniting them in a shared “culture”; second, that emotional ties between men can exist in the absence of any sexual relation” (331). I agree with Foucault’s argument that both ideas are part of the gay community. For reasons of argumentative clarity, I will discuss these two ideas separately. As for the former, if we assume that Grindr users in Sudor identify themselves as member of the gay community –something similar could be seen in the real world, albeit with nuances given the multiplicity of ideas of the term ‘queer’ / ‘cuir’– the common culture they share is amalgamated by the specific jargon they use.
In his investigation on the language in Fuguet’s Mala onda (1991), Cristián Opazo affirms that “la narrativa de Fuguet es—en síntesis—una lengua doble: así como conoce los mecanismos para “enmendar” sus desvíos, también conoce las tácticas para “gozar” más allá de las reglas” (91). The Chilean writer underlines the implications of the language used in Grindr as they resonate with other codes such as the one that involves gay cruising or male prostitution in public spaces that Néstor Perlongher examined:
Me di cuenta también de ciertos códigos. Me di cuenta de que incluso había como reglas o protocolos en estas aplicaciones que eran claves. Por ejemplo, nunca hablar de tus sentimientos, nunca hablar de algo sentimental, nunca hablar de tu pena o de tu dolor o tu soledad. Cuando te preguntaban ¿cómo estás?, una respuesta normal es ‘caliente’, ‘cachondo’, ‘horny’, etc. En cambio, si alguien le responde ¿cómo estás? y el otro le responde ‘triste’, ‘melancólico’ de inmediato todo se va al carajo (Entrevista personal).
While discussing the necessary conditions to recuperate the democracy and the politics of difference in post-Pinochet Chile, Nelly Richard sees the deconstruction of signs of heteropatriarchal discourse as paramount to political transforming discontinuities in said hegemonic discourse. As she suggests, “lo que hacen las prácticas artístico-culturales es desmontar y reformular activamente tensiones y antagonismos a través de figuras de lenguajes que intervienen la discursividad social redistribuyendo sus signos cambiados en nuevas constelaciones múltiples y fluctuantes. Es entonces cuando estas prácticas artístico-culturales burlan el afán de totalización unificante de la ideología” (“Insubordinación signos” 87). For instance, in Chile’s political context during conservative Sebastián Piñera’s second term -Piñera’s Secretary of Education, Marcela Cubillos, voted in favor of Pinochet’s remaining in power in the 1988 plebiscite- Sudor exemplified a space for cultural intervention where a regula easy-to-decode question -¿cómo estás?- destabilizes the hegemonic sexual system that pursues the subjugation of any dissidence.
In the novel, Alf resorts to Grindr not only as his preferred app to find other men to have sex with but also as a space where the literary expression of his homosexuality may lead to meaningful connections. Insofar as he admits, embraces and gives no apologies for his promiscuity, Alf’s and other homosexual users’ language reinforces Grindr as a homotopia:
Lo que desea es portarse mal. Hay en su ánimo algo de travesura, de transgresión, de deseo de lanzarse. Eso es lo que lo calienta: hacerlo porque se puede hacer, porque es fácil, porque es mejor que ver porno, porque varios al otro lado, cerca, andan en lo mismo: quieren culiar y listo, saciarse, No Strings Attached (NSA). Alfredo lo tiene claro: lo mejor de Grindr es la parte literaria: eso de imaginarse al personaje y cómo es el lenguaje lo que transforma un intercambio de información prosaica en flirteo hasta derivar en una conversación (266).
The codified language and the messages users exchange on the app finally allows the formation of the ‘homotopia’ as a discursive site. Grindr users employ twists and subversions of the Spanish language to communicate with each other but are opaque for those outside this community. The following example shows a Grindr conversation between Alf and ‘Extranjero’, a Grindr user:
Serio, masculino, discreto, pasivo, busco similar, amigos con ventaja para morbo y lo que salga. Express no es más que dejarse llevar.
C’est la vie.
Alfredo le responde: foto cara?
Y otro: edad?
Y otro: cerca, muy cerca, dónde estás? (268)
Then ‘Extranjero’ messages back:
47. Muy buen estado. Tú?
Sudado? Calor. Caliente.
Sta María-Recoleta. Torres. Tú? (269)
'Extranjero’s description contains enough information for Alf to figure out what that profile is looking for in addition to picturing the person he is talking to, for the language exceeds the denotational meaning of the adjectives and nouns in that exchange. ‘Serio’, ‘masculino’ and ‘muy buen estado’ refer to a physical appearance that conforms to the parameters of hegemonic masculinity that are associated with virility and conventional male beauty established by the market (in this case, a muscular man). ‘Amigos con ventaja’ insinuates sex with no strings attached, while ‘lo que salga’ opens up the possibility to something more than just sex, as long as the sex is good. Lastly, ‘express’ implies looking for sex right now. The narrator in Sudor rarely offers any explanations regarding the meaning of those terms and categories. As the conversation moves on, Alf walks towards 'Extranjero’s home and makes sure they both are on the same page: “Debajo de donde vives, caminando… llego en 3 min. Kieres?” (269). When he arrives at ‘Extranjero’s building, Alf reads one last message from him that inquires about kinks: “Estás sudado? Verga transpirada? Axila? Pies? Puedo lamerte? Sube. Ven. Hot” (271). The intelligibility of such a straighforward exchange of messages between Alf and ‘Extranjero’ is clear to the homosexual community while it renders itself opaque for the rest, which reinforces the formation of a ‘homotopia’ as an identity and discursive site. The constant use of categories that identify a certain type of homosexual or sexual practices requires a certain inside knowledge from the readers, especially if they are heterosexual, to fully comprehend the messages. There are abundant examples in the novel, like versátil, oso, lumbersexuales, pendejos, twinks. The term ‘versátil’ designates a gay man who likes to penetrate and be penetrated during sexual intercourse. ‘Oso’ refers to a hairy and overweight homosexual. ‘Lumbersexual’ means a hipster homosexual with lumberjack looks. Examples of jargon in the novel are poppers, jale, o leche. As Anna Castillo asseverates, “[w]hat is remarkable about Sudor is that while it occasionally pauses to explain, the novel assumes an ideal reader who is not only gay (like Renato) [one of the gay characters], but also well versed in gay vocabularies.” She continues: “Sudor’s unprecedented discussion of masculine anatomy, gay sex, and gay sexual desire in more or less mainstream Latin American literature even pushes the limits of existing sexually explicit vocabulary in the Spanish language” (11). Sudor is not intended only for the enjoyment of a homosexual reader because, if so, it would lose the potential to deliver a combative discourse against heteronormativity. However, I agree with Castillo that the novel appeals especially to homosexuals, for there is a code and shared experiences that facilitates a better understanding of the plot and what the characters think and feel. It is precisely the lack of explanations about each of these words that renders them opaque to hetereosexuals, so that Grindr can be established as defiant discursive space to heteronormativity. The condition of opacity, as a defiant Glissant suggests, explains heterosexuals’ recognition of homosexuals as the other. In spite of the fact that most of Sudor’s homosexual characters conform to a heteronormative idea of homosexuality, they are still the other for most of Chilean society. Since heterosexuality is the norm, homosexuality reveals itself as the otherness that sustains the potential agency of the homotopia.
The second of the two ideas mentioned by Eribon —“that emotional ties between men can exist in the absence of any sexual relation”— seems to break the heteronormative discourse that links promiscuity with homosexuality. However, doing this has the pernicious effect of subsuming homosexual practices to the heteronormative hierarchy, seeking to invisibilize these practices and to remove them from public space. On the contrary, Grindr users expose, without guilt or remorse, their desire to transform the textual exchange into actual sexual intercourse which does not follow the parameters of the heteropatriarchal romantic love that punishes any dissociation between love and sex. After explaining that Alf has no interest in the lives of those men he has sex with, the narrator in Sudor points out the honesty of the sex dating apps in Chile:
…sucede con la gente contactada en Grindr y con los que se conocen en bares, en fiestas, en una playa, en el metro, en el mall. Si hay algo que le gusta de los lazos esporádicos es que siempre son más o menos transparentes: nadie promete más de lo deseado. A veces le gustaría que se deslizara algo más, que se pudiera quebrar la idea de que todo terminará con el sobrevalorado orgasmo, pero a la vez hay algo limpio y sano e incluso civilizado en esos encuentros donde la confusión no es permitida pero sí el placer o la curiosidad o la lujuria o el mero afán de hacer algo (300).
As Castillo points out, “Alberto Fuguet’s Sudor leaves decorum behind to lead us nose-deep into the steamy, gay sex scenes of Santiago’s digitally connected streets” (10). Grindr offers the homosexual characters the possibility to find sex here and now, with no other emotional involvement but to fulfill sexual desire, thus inserting in the mainstream literary world a sexuality which heteropatriarchy sees as deviated, libertine, promiscuous and disease-prone.
Grindr and homonormativity
The attitude described above is not without debate. There is a thin line between a sexually liberated attitude and the consumption of bodies as mere disposable market products. Nelly Richard reflects on the repercussion of a constant display of sexual dissident bodies on social media and their commodification and absorption by the neoliberal market:
Me temo que el hecho de someter todos los fragmentos del repertorio sexual de los cuerpos a la explotación mediática de las mismas tecnologías de hípervisibilidad que ocupan las sociedades de la imagen en la era del capitalismo globalizado tal como lo hace el posporno, conspira contra la potencia reverberante de la energía simbólica como energía capaz de generar una reserva crítica que se niega a complacer el efectismo de los artefactos visuales que consagran el devenir de la imagen-mercancía en las sociedades del mercado y el espectáculo (Richard, Abismos Temporales 190).
I concur with Richard’s statement as I believe the LGBTQ community should be aware of the pernicious consequences of incorporating minority groups to capitalism. Along the same lines, Delia Dumitrica and Georgia Gaden bring attention to the fact that “as virtual spaces have been popularized, they have been both celebrated as an opportunity for liberation from conventional gender roles and criticized as white-male shaped spaces, filled with pornography, sexualization, and increased commodification” (6-7). Sudor presents the reader with a myriad of homosexual identities and subjectivities, although most of the homosexual characters could fit Lisa Duggan’s concept of homonormativity, to wit, the translation of a heteronormative and capitalist model into the homosexual community represented by a gym-body middle-class white man. Castillo notes that “Fuguet deliberately writes against the script of subalternity by associating his characters with mainstream consumer culture rather than subculture. No longer considered other by default, the same-sex intimacy portrayed in Sudor becomes more readily recognizable, even relatable, as we contemplate the many ways that digital technology mediates contemporary relationships, sexual or otherwise” (8). Alf, the protagonist of the novel, is aware of his privilege as a middle-aged, well-educated white man in Chile. Nonetheless, he enjoys the privilege and does not want to get rid of it. His classism, slight misogyny, and demeanor are all reprehensible from a decolonial perspective in a sociohistorical context such as that of Chile’s, in which the coloniality of power still permeates the State policies. While straight people may recognize a pattern in the way gay men interact on Grindr due to their familiarity with digital technology, as Castillo suggests, the performance of homosexual flirting shown in Grindr interactions substantially differs from those that happen between heterosexual men and women, leaving them clueless more often than not. Furthermore, I consider that no one should disregard the existence of this type of homosexual —middle-class, white, cis gay men who are usually associated in Chile with organizations that advocate for sexual diversity such as Movilh and Iguales— and the opportunity to insert themselves within the mainstream in order to create a possibility to implode heteronormativity from within, even though this sort of political action clashes with other political actions supported by organizations that belong to the sexual dissidence activism in Chile. I suggest that the lack of remorse and guilt the Grindr users in the novel exude and the shameless exhibition of their sexual intercourse reassert the political and discursive agency of the homotopia in opposition to heteronormative spaces. A Marxist and anticapitalism critique of this type of behavior would argue that it treats bodies as commodities that can be used and consumed. I acknowledge the validity of the critique to what some scholars have called sexual neoliberalism (de Miguel; Wesling). However, blaming homosexuals for perpetuating an economic system that diminishes minorities by being promiscuous —what is commonly known as ‘slut shaming’— can have the unwanted consequence of supporting the heteronormative ideal of romantic love, namely, an affective relationship with its specific rituals that lead to sexual intercourse, flirting, having at least one formal date, getting to know each other, with the understanding of sex as a private, intimate and exclusive bonding between two people for the purpose of reproduction. This circumstance reveals itself in the dialogue between Alf and his straight best friend, Vicente Matamala:
Lo sé. ¿Te digo algo? Puta, Grindr me parece más digno, Alf, más directo.
Es que entre hombres somos más dignos, directos, básicos.
Aunque les guste el pico.
Quizás por eso: sabemos lo que queremos, vamos al grano. Hueón, somos hombres, somos más animales. Me parezco a ti, sólo que tiro más. Son las minas las que cagan el juego.
La dura. Sí. Sería ideal que todo fuera sin tanto rodeo, sí. Más honesto. ¿Follemos? Sin tener que engrupir y salir y conversar (149).
While this conversation follows the pattern of heteropatriarchal discourses in which women should offer themselves to satisfy men’s sexual impulses, and homosexuals are promiscuous, Alf’s dignified attitude confronts them. Those discourses are weakened due to Vicente’s submissive and defeated position in front of Alf. In a later conversation, Alf prides himself on being part of "la hermandad del semen, la de los amigos/minos en común, la secta de conocidos con intimidad que no generaba odio o venganza o abandono [que] nos hacía, de alguna manera, superior a los héteros que, como insistía Matamala, “no sabemos terminar” (171). Alf defends this position of moral superiority that is symbolically reinforced by the fact that Vicente moves in with Alf. Thus, he enters a homosexual space that physically compels him to admit an inferiority to which he is not accustomed.
In this paper I have argued that new technologies, especially the fast implementation of dating apps as a tool to contact other homosexual men, have generated an alternative to heteronormative space from which the gay community can consolidate a dissident discourse through language and an unapologetic visibilization of homosexual sex. This is what I have called ‘homotopia.’ In this other space, which might well be placed between the official discourse and its counterdiscourse, as Eribon suggests, the possibility of experiencing an empowered homosexual subject arises: “the entire thematic of subjectivation, of practices of the self, of the stylization of life, of the construction of a gay culture, belongs to the second movement, to the heterotopical gesture, to the idea of establishing a divergent relation to the system of subjugation” (314).
Grindr appears in Fuguet’s novel as the possibility of escaping from this system of subjugation through a process of subjectivation that is based on dissenting practices of the homosexual subject. Although some heteronormative behaviors, attitudes, and discourses have been transplanted to this virtual space, the creation of a language that is opaque to those outside the community facilitates –and here I mean the possibility of mediating, not the meaning of simplifying– a ‘gay culture’ and at the same time, offers resistance from within the system of power relations. In Sudor, Vicente Matamala, Alf’s straight friend, moves in with him temporarily, entering a space whose practices he doesn’t know. To some extent, Tinder mirrors what Vicente does in the novel: in 2012, the app replicated what Grindr was already doing, making it the straight Grindr and not the other way around, as it is broadly believed, although it is also used by homosexuals.
In order to support my argument, I am including a paragraph of an article written by Francesc Morales, a gay Chilean filmmaker, in The Clinic, a Chilean online newspaper. In his article, he imagines what the Grindr profiles of some Chilean conservative politicians would look like:
Sebastián Piñera: El hater. No extranjeros, no gordos, no plumas y no viejos. Es el perfil de la aplicación que siente la necesidad de criticar a todo lo que no sea parecido a él. Los extranjeros nos han traído muchos centímetros de beneficios y él no es capaz de verlo. Le cuesta ponerse en la posición del otro hasta que se da cuenta que le puede traer algún beneficio. Es capaz de mandarte un inbox criticándote, pero semanas después se da vuelta la chaqueta y te manda un toque. Se dice que una vez puso en Grindr que quería contactar solteros que creyeran en el amor. Le escribieron tres. Los tres eran feos (Morales).
After Morales posted the article on his Facebook page, some Facebook users commented on it. Isabel Adana, most likely a heterosexual person, mentions Morales’s use of jargon in the article:
No entiendo mucho, o más bien casi nada de lo que habla mi querido francés, porque lo que relata está escrito en un secreto idioma gay, habla sobre situaciones gay que solamente suceden a espaldas del resto de nosotros, en recónditos e inaccesibles lugares gays, donde se reúne la indescifrable gente gay. Y eso es lo bonito. La temática gay es parte de la temática humana. Y como tal, irrumpe en un diario que es de todos, porque la homosexualidad es de todos.
This comment reinforces the sense of opacity of the language used on Grindr and it also acknowledges that language confers power upon homosexual men. Far from being politically radical, the homotopia empowers homosexuals as they regain consciousness of their political agency from within the capitalist system. As Eribon asserts:
We are not, for all of that, condemned to be trapped by power, conquered by its ruses, powerless to escape from its knots and its nets. If the act of dissenting is always relative, if victories are only partial, local, and uncertain, fragile and provisional, that doesn’t mean that we are always the losing party. The mythology of all or nothing needs to be set aside. We can, by way of a never-ending critical effort, alter the limits imposed upon us and expand the possibilities for freedom (334).
Hence, Adana’s comment on Morales’s article seems to indicate that outsiders of dissident discursive spaces, such as homotopia, are required to learn the “idioma secreto gay” if they want to understand the nuances and double entendres of the conversation. It also shows that homotopias can break the limits imposed by the heteropatriarchy on non-normative subjects and get rid of the ‘losers’ label by inserting themselves in mostly heteronormative spaces —major publishing houses, mass media or social media— and unapologetically visibilizing a sexuality that politically threatens heteronormativity.
Benjamin Vicuña Mackenna (1831–1886) was a Chilean writer, historian and politician. Born in Chile of Spanish and Irish origin, he lived in Europe for two years. In 1871 he returned to Chile and was appointed mayor of Santiago.
The idea of civilization and progress is very present in much of the literary production of Latin American politicians and intellectuals of the 19th century as part of the modernization project for Latin America. The influence of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento and his Facundo: Civilization and barbarism (1845) sets social policies, among them, the hygienist discourse, which goes beyond personal hygiene and clean streets. This sanitizing process aims to get rid of the population considered marginal by the ruling class, including racialized and poor people, and also those who do not conform to normative sexuality.
The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite geolocation system that determines where a person is located. Created by the U.S. government, GPS has been widely implemented as a navigation tool.
In 2001, the Movilh (Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement) launched Opus Gay. The magazine was published in paper until 2002, when it went online. That year, the ultraconservative Catholic organization Opus Dei requested that the Chilean Intellectual Property Department prohibit the registration of the name Opus Gay. From that moment on, litigation began. In 2014, Opus Dei also filed a petition asking for the removal of opusgay.cl. The lawsuit was eventually settled in favor of Movilh in 2015. Currently, the opusgay.cl redirects you to the Movilh website.
At the time, even a magazine dedicated to homosexual men conceived gay sexuality as another product of the market and chose to characterize Chilean homosexuals with the English word ‘gay’. Given the impossibility of knowing the reasons behind that choice of word, it is not far-fetched to think that ‘gay’, which was not in vogue at the time, could be perceived by the magazine’s homosexual reader as a kind of dignification of his sexual status while equating it to the American homosexual. It would also offer the Chilean homosexuals the illusion of feeling accepted by a society that criminalized homosexuality until 1998.
For more information, https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-47668951.
In some countries, such as Russia and India, users of applications such as Grindr, Hornet or Planetromeo have pretended to be homosexuals in order to chase gay men and commit homophobic attacks, including murders. For more information, “In India, Gangs Are Preying on Queer People Through Dating Apps” (https://www.vice.com/en_asia/article/a3xevk/india-gangs-prey-on-lgbtq-community-dating-app-hate-crime). In Chile, drug dealers have found in these applications a new means of selling drugs, thus distorting the intent of the app. For more information, “The New Narco: From the Corner to the Grindr” (https://www.latercera.com/reportajes/noticia/el-nuevo-narco-de-la-esquina-al-grindr/501859/).
In his article “The Society of Broken Mirrors. Notes for a Sociology of the Gayhood”, Ernesto Meccia calls Grindr the “gay GPS.”
Black Lives Matter activists have requested Grindr to remove the ethnicity filter as a measure to reduce racism on the app. Grindr pledged to do it in solidarity with the movement. However, as of June 2022, the app still shows the ethnicity filter. For more information, “Grindr pulls feature that lets users sort by race. It says it’s supporting Black Lives Matter” (https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/03/tech/grindr-ethnicity-filter-intl-scli/index.html) and “Grindr fails to remove ethnicity filter after pledge to do so” (https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-53192465).
I resort to the term ‘gay community’ since it is widely accepted in Chile and it is easy to understand for someone outside the field of Queer and Sexualities Studies. However, I acknowledge the term triggers a much broader debate about what parameters establish a community as well as the use of the term gay.
For more information on gay cruising and its codes, see Richard Tewksbury, “Cruising for Sex in Public Places: The Structure and Language of Men’s Hidden, Erotic Worlds.” Deviant Behavior, vol. 17, 1996, pp. 1–19; Brian Douglas y Richard Tewksbury. “Theaters and Sex: An Examination of Anonymous Sexual Encounters in an Erotic Oasis.” Deviant Behavior, vol. 29, 2008, pp. 1-17; Jose Antonio Langarita Adiego, “Sexo sin palabras. La función del silencio en el intercambio sexual anónimo entre hombres.” Revista de Antropología Social, vol. 22, 2013, pp. 313-333.
Nestor Perlongher, “Avatares de los muchachos de la noche.” En Prosa plebeya: ensayos, 1980-1992, Ediciones Colihue: Buenos Aires, 2008, pp. 45-58
For more information, see "El día en que la ministra Cubillos defendió a Pinochet en la campaña del “Sí.” El Desconcierto, 15 de mayo de 2019.
Culear o culiar is a coloquial term used in Chile, Argentina and Colombia that means to have sexual intercourse.
The lack of accents and question marks at the beginning of the sentence —as Spanish grammar requires— as well as orthographical variations —‘k’ instead of ‘qu’— indicates a transgression of norms commonly used in texting. By incorporating Grindr conversations into the structure of the narrative, Fuguet queers and dignifies a writing style frequently discredited by literary institutions such as Real Academia Española.
‘Poppers’ is the slang term for amyl nitrite, a recreational drug that can be inhaled and act as a vasodilator, making penetration easier and more pleasant. ‘Jale’ refers to cocaine, while ‘leche’ means semen.
Sudor is published by Penguin Random House Editorial Group, which owns 40 publishing divisions.
The last update includes the XTRA membership —monthly ($19.99), quarterly ($39.99) or annually ($99.99)— which offers extra features such as seeing six times the profiles shown on the grid and video chatting; and the Unlimited option —monthly ($39.99), quarterly ($79.99) or annually ($239.99)— that allows users to see unlimited profiles, browse incognito and unsend messages, among others.
Sebastián Piñera (1949) was President of Chile between 2010 and 2014, and then again between 2018 and 2022. He is a member of Renovación Nacional, a liberal conservative party, and one of the wealthiest men in Chile.