October 02, 2004

The dark shimmer of sex

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Burroughs: 'I am assigned to engage the services of Dr. Benway for Islam, Inc.

Dr. Benway had been called in as advisor to the Freeland Republic, a place given over to free love and continual bathing. The citizens are well adjusted, co-operative, honest, tolerant and above all clean. But the invoking of Benway indicates all is not well behind that hygienic facade: Benway is a manipulator and coordinator of symbol systems, an expert on all phases of interrogation, brainwashing, and control. I have not seen Benway since his precipitate departure from Annexia, where his assignment had been T.D. -- Total Demoralization. Benway's first act was to abolish concentration camps, mass arrest, and, except under certain limited and special circumstances, the use of torture.

"I deplore brutality," he said. "It's not efficient. On the other hand, prolonged mistreatment, short of physical violence, gives rise, when skillfully applied, to anxiety and a feeling of special guilt. A few rules or rather guiding principles are to be borne in mind. The subject must not realize that the mistreatment is a deliberate attack of an anti-human enemy on his personal identity. He must be made to feel that he deserves any treatment he receives because there is something (never specified) horribly wrong with him. The naked need of the control addicts must be decently covered by an arbitrary and intricate bureaucracy so that the subject cannot contact his enemy direct."

Obviously my sexual abuse episode was completey trivial.

Certainly compared to what most women go through. Most of my female friends have either been raped or sexually assaulted. This is not aberrant. It is the norm of sexuality.

When gliberal 'feminists' trot out that familiar platitude 'rape is not about sex, it's about power', what do they think sex is about? A blissed-out communion of desubjectified bodies? It is not that body to body contact couldn't be about that, but it is very far from being the default option. For heterosexual men, sex, even when it is casual, even when they are disgusted by or indifferent to the woman they are fucking, is never trivial since (1) it involves us giving free reign to the evil death-pleasure virus within us (which is always a draining experience, almost total takeover of yr body by idiot monkeymatic reproducer machinery and (2) the dominant biopolitical regime insists that sex is the truth of what we are.

That was the worst aspect of the Doctor's abuse of me. Far worse than his using my body to feed his fantasies (which, after all, is kinda flattering ---- as my mother joked when the abuse scandal was revealed, 'I'm offended that he didn't try and use me!' ahhh, the mordant humour of the working class ;-) ), was his insinsent implantation of the idea that all MY problems were sexual, that the truth of me was sex (or failure to have it, which constituted - already in the mind of a young heterosexual male - a total, humiliating exclusion from the ranks of the human. You really don't feel real.

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Foucault: 'It is through sex ... that each individual has to pass in order to have access to his own intelligibility (seeing that it is both the hidden aspect and the generative aspect of meaning), to the whole of his body (since it is a real and threatened part of it, while symbolically constituting the whole), to his identity (since it joins the force of a drive to the singularity of a history). Through a reversal that doubtless had its surreptitious beginnings long ago - it was already making itself felt at the time of the Christian pastoral of the flesh - we have arrived at the point where we expect our intelligibility to come from what was for many centuries thought of as madness; the plenitude of our body from what was long considered its stigma and likened to a wound; our identity from what was perceived as an obscure and nameless urge. Hence the importance we ascribe to it, the reverential fear with which we surround it, the care we take to know it. Hence the fact that over centuries it has become more important than our soul, more important than our life; and so it is that all the world's enigmas appear frivolous to us compared to this secret, minuscule in each of us, but of a density that makes it more serious than any other. The Faustian pact, whose temptation has been instilled in us by the deployment of sexuality, is now as follows: to exchange life in its entirety for sex itself, for the truth and the sovereignty of sex. Sex is worth dying for. It is in this (strictly historical) sense that sex is indeed imbued with the death instinct. When a long while ago, the West discovered love, it bestowed on it a value high enough to make death acceptable; nowadays it is sex that claims this ambivalence, the highest of all. And while the deployment of sexuality permits the techniques of power to invest life, the fictitious point of sex, itself marked by that deployment, exerts enough charm over everyone for them to accept hearing the grumble of death within it.

By creating the imaginary element that is "sex," the deployment of sexuality established one of its most essential internal operating principles: the desire for sex - the desire to have it, to have acccess to it, to discover it, to liberate it, to articulate in it discourse, to formulate it in truth. It constituted "sex" itself as something desirable. And it is this desirability of sex that attaches each one of us to the injunction to know it, to reveal its law and its power; it is this desirability that makes us think we are affirming the rights of our sex against all power, when in fact we are fastened to the deployement of sexuality that has lifted up from deep within us a sort of mirage in which we see ourselves reflected - the dark shimmer of sex.

"It is sex," said Kate in The Plumed Serpent. "How wonderful sex can be, when men keep it powerful and sacred, and it fills the world! like sunshine through and through one."

(editor's note: sound of gagging from k-punk - Lawrence really is possibly the worst and most pernicious writer ever....)

So we must not refer a history of sexuality to the agency of sex; but rather show how "sex" is historically subordinate to sexuality. We must not place sex on the side of reality, and sexuality of that of confused ideas and illusions; sexuality is a very real historical formation; it is what gave rise to the notion of sex, as a speculative element necessary to its operation. We must not think that by saying yes to sex, one says no to power: on the contrary, one tracks along the course laid down by the general deployment of sexuality. (ed's note 2: k-punk italtics) It is the agency of sex that we must break away from, if we aim - through a tactical reversal of the various mechanisms of sexuality - counter the grips of power with the claims of bodies, pleasures and knowledges, in their multiplicity and their possibility of resistance. The rallying point for the counter-attack against the deployment of sexuality ought not to be sex, but bodies and pleasures.

(ed's note 3: obv k-punk has problems with 'pleasures' - see for instance here)

"There has been so much action in the past," said D.H. Lawrence, "especially sexual action, wearying repetition over and over, without a corresponding thought, a corresponding realization. Now our business is to realize sex. Today the full conscious realization of sex is even more important than the act itself."

Perhaps one day people will wonder at this. They will not be able to understand how a civilization so intent on developing enormous instruments of production and destruction found the time and infinite patience to inquire so anxiously concerning the actual state of sex; people will smile perhaps when they recall that here are men - meaning ourselves - who believe that therein resided a truth every bit as precious as the one they had already demanded from the earth, the stars, and the pure forms of their thought; people will be surprised at the eagerness with which we went about pretending to rouse from its slumber a sexuality which everything - our discourses, our customs, our institutions, our regulations, our knowledges - was busy producing in the light of day to noisy accompaniment.'
(History of Sexuality, Part 1, 155-158)

Sound of rousing cheers from k-punk towers.

This is surely one of the most unsettling, most subversive, passages in the whole of theory - because it says what was previously Unthinkable, precisely because the sex discourse acted/ acts as the Unthought transcendental precondition for all our experiences as sexualised subjects ---

No hiding place from Foucault's cold rationalist anayltic-disecting instruments.

The genius of Foucault (as I said in converstation with Sean Crumbling Loaf and Infinite Thought the other night) is that he reveals the arbitrariness of our fixations, the randomness of our valuations of what is Important.

Posted by mark at October 2, 2004 08:52 AM | TrackBack

Impressed that you remembered your real life uttererance Mark. Could I suggest an umbrella title to your ruminations? Capitalism is about Bad Sex

Posted by: sean at October 2, 2004 09:33 PM

Lol... Sean I hardly ever forget anything... it's a blessing and a curse....

Posted by: mark k-p at October 4, 2004 09:51 AM