Healing Sick Desires in All’s Well That Ends Well
This chapter analyzes Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well in light of the ideology of the ex-gay movement—as a sexual and spiritual conversion narrative about turning men’s “sick desires” from anal, dead ends to vaginal, procreative ends. All ends well only because the play cuts away from two “sex scenes”: Helen’s cure of the king’s fistula and the bed trick, in which the anus tropes the eroticism of both scenes. Both scenes also demystify the work of heterosexual healing they are supposed to effect. Overly insistent on its own happy ending, All’s Well demonstrates how the intractable perversity of fantasy life upsets the teleology of conversion. The play questions the roles of faith and reproduction—two common “proofs” for a full-on conversion of desire into a rigid heterosexual standard, arguing that such efforts inadvertently recognize the fluidity of sexuality, rendering the point of conversion moot.
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