SIM cards of desire

Sexual versatility and the male homoerotic economy in urban Congo

by Thomas Hendriks

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Despite its pervasive homophobia, everyday life in urban Democratic Republic of Congo is full of queer affordances that are of particular interest for understanding larger socioeconomic changes, shifting gender dynamics, and recurring cosmopolitan aspirations. Ethnographic fieldwork in Kinshasa and Kisangani reveals how male same-sex desire is produced, distributed, and consumed in a “homoerotic economy” that generates its own characteristic instabilities. My interlocutors constantly renegotiate this economy's dominant logic of penetration and solve its underlying “problem” of sexual versatility through a creative vocabulary of erotic SIM cards. Closely analyzing these processes sheds new light on the hegemonic notions of sexual “activity” and “passivity” as particularly unstable markers of erotic belonging.