September 17, 2004


The sidewalk papers gutterpress you down - Roxy

Sex is boring - Infinite Thought

You want to hurt and crave again - Magazine

c198404.jpg 1984-room101-3a.jpg

Whenever I imagine total humilitation, it always involves being psychically stripped in the tabloid Videodrome.

For those of us who've lived in the UK all our lives, the UK tabloid-videodrome-papula is a permanent presence in our heads, the worst thing in the world, the thing in Room 101... your own most embarrassing and pathetic moments (and we all have them, folks) replayed on endless loop, for the ephemeral delectation of the pruriently guffawing masses. (There but for the grace of God go they....)

Naturally, such a scene need only be virtual for it to exercise control; who knows what compromises, cautious restraint, quietism we unconsciously opt for out of fear of exposure in the Videodrome's humiliation-sensation-machine?

The recent belief-beggaring monstering of Wayne Rooney (he's a nineteen year old working class kid for fuxake, lay off him you fucking resentful pighead alcoholic Oxbridge scum*) once again demonstrates how integral a component sexuality is in the English Master Class's socio-psychic control apparatus.

Now, the Lawrentian 'healthy' sexualites would argue that this is a perversion of sexuality, a 'reduction' of sexuality to 'the dirty little secret' (cf Anti-Oedipus).

What if, though, sexuality is ESSENTIALLY a dirty little secret? This is what Zizek dares to suggest, in a passage which - in contradistinction to oday's lazy sex-pol orthodoxy - praises 'the Soviet pedagogy from the early 1920s onward' which argued 'that sexuality is inherently patho-logical, it contaminates cold, balanced logic with a particular pathos - sexuality is associated with bourgeois corruption, and in the Soviet Union of the 1920s there were numerous psycho-physiological "materialist" researchers trying to demonstrate that sexuality is a pathological state.'+


This is of to take the side of Orwell's O'Brien against his Winston Smith and Julia. Orwellian liberal orthodoxy has it that romantic-sexual passion is an eternal, 'natural' impulse, the projected re-engineering of which signals once and for all the evil inhumanism of Marxism.

But what if O'Brien is right? What if sexuality, particularly as expressed in us-against-the-world coupledom, is irredeemably decadent, precisely because it is 'natural', precisely because what we are dealing with here is one of the most stubbornly persistent and atavistic mammalian impulses? What if it is Smith and Julia, not the kommunist drones, who are the real slaves - slaves to passion - and O'Brien who is the Spinozist agent of freedom?

The inhumanism of the Soviet state came from its unequivocal dedication to the task of 'engineering human souls', its ruthless subordination of Nature to Culture, in the attempt (failed but nonetheless noble) to machine a proletarian revolutionary class out of resistant bio-socialized human material.

Almost no-one has taken seriously Foucault's rejection of sexuality (which has habitually, and grotesquely, been read inside the dominant sexualist paradigm). A consequence of Foucault's challenging of the idea that the truth of ourselves/ our selves is to be found in sexuality would be to view sexuality as basically trivial, no more defining of 'the reality of what we are' than are our defaecatory habits.

(Though with How Clean is Your Arse surely imminent, maybe I speak too soon... Foucault's point is, though, that there is that, presumably, any bio-cultural process could fill the function of privileged bio-signifying behaviour and neurotic attractor that sex serves for us ... You are what you eat ....)

What the sexually tormented New England Burroughs sought in the Nova Trilogy was not a release of his sexuality, but a release from sexuality. There's no better writer on the dreary-delirial treadmill of sexual desire, tristesse and renewed desire than Burroughs. He understood that (male) sexuality was essentially Sadean: i.e. an autononomic agitational reflex that ceaselessly and idiotically seeks release. The longuers in both Burroughs and Sade arise from the repetitive tedium of sexuality itself, its conservative slaving to the insatiable k- pleasure principle.

It is Sade who proved once and for all that nothing 'sexual' can be perverse, since all sexual behaviour is equally natural. Look at a dog fucking a chair leg. That is the reality of natural sexuality.

The profound and inherent perversity of glamasochism, by contrast, lies in its departure from sexuality in the direction of a wholly artificialized or synthetic eroticism. This is one of the things that the feminazi anti-glam Glums don't get about glam. The Glums, like Lads, associate glamour only with male sexual release, as if the only way of responding to the beautified female body is to emit seminal fluid, whereas the body of the model can be a pure surface devoid of any interiority which can be penetrated, either physically or psychically. Such a body can be explored with a gaze that is tactile-caressing rather than specular-phallic.

Here again, Foucault is an important guide: remember his distinction between a science of sexuality and an art of erotics. Sadie Plant's unfortunately-titled essay 'Coming Across the Future' is especially valuable in its insistence on Foucault's practical search for what he called the 'desexualization of pleasure'. The San Francisco bath-houses presented Foucault with physical encounters that were Spinozistic-machinic engagements with bodies, in no way organic or personal, 'You meet men there who are as you are to them: nothing but a body with which combinations and productions of pleasure are possible. You cease to be imprisoned in your own face, in your own past, in your own identity.'


While Foucault's anti-sexual program inevitably takes male-male encounters as its model, Irigaray's erotics in This Sex Which is Not One privilege female auto-affection. Much more than men, always tragically disabled by having the body with organ, women have the potential for a radically desexualized ecstasy, an unlocalized erotics in which the whole body is an erogenous zone ('women have sex organs more or less everywhere'). Tellingly, Foucault could only find this through drugs. Whereas (male) climax inevitably localizes pleasure, Foucault observed, 'things like yellow pills or cocaine allow you to explode and diffuse it throughout the body.' Perhaps it is only through drugs, dancing and music that we men can get a taste of what it is like not to be dominated by an aggressively localizing libidinal apparatus.

*(btw, donchathink that the class agenda of the tabloids was fully exposed when, at the same time as they were mercilessly white-trashing Rooney, they were mollycoddling whining state-subsidized middle-class crybaby loser Paula Radcliffe --- who, according to yesterday's Standard 'can now reveal' she was suffering from a 'leg injury' that she for some unstated reason 'had to keep secret'? - why can't fucking athletes ever admit that they lost because other people were faster than them?)

+ cf his remarks on 'today's deadlock on sexuality or art'. '[I]s there anything more dull, opportunistic, and sterile than to succumb to the superego injunction of incessantly inventing new artistic transgressions and provocations (the performance artist masturbating on stage, or masochistically cutting himself, the sculptor displaying decaying animal corpses or human excrement), or to the parallel injunction to engae in more and more "daring" forms of sexuality?'

Posted by mark at September 17, 2004 01:05 AM | TrackBack