My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
Sexual harassment, we might then say, is the great male performative, the act through which a man aims to convince his target, not only that he is the one with the power – which is true – but also that his power and his sexuality are one and the same thing. As Judith Butler has argued, the performative is always melancholic, since the performer knows the role they are enacting is no more than skin deep (‘melancholic’ also because of all the other buried and unconsciously grieved sexual lives one might have led).BACK TO TOP