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The tick of eros

“Eroticism always entails a breaking down of established patterns, the patterns, I repeat, of the regulated social order.”

Georges Bataille, Eroticism: Death and Sensuality

Does it? Now I haven’t yet read the book from which this quote is drawn, but I came across fragments of it reading someone else’s writing, and I was able to find a few selections online. Despite my lack of material, I weave the tiniest bits of “yes, this works” and “ooh, maybe I can get away with suggesting this” into the fabric of this particular dose of The Daily Dose of the Good (and Not So Good) Words. Just don’t look at the underside- enjoy the well woven illusion.

I’m willing to concede that much that we define as erotic (personally and collectively) goes against the grain of “normal” life. This gives that which we label erotic power. Eroticism often is a sexual carnival in which the rules are overthrown for step right up, step right up for a limited and liminal good time. But it isn’t a free for all. The disorder plays out within certain constraints. Most limited-liminal transgressions act as a relief valve to let off some pressure in the social system. The rules/norms/standards are not changed by the eroticism’s breaking of “the patterns of the regulated social order” (at least not right away- they will eventually shift, but at a glacial pace). The social order is re-affirmed. Here I’m weaving in a little Mikhail Bakhtin and Victor Turner into my covering of the quote by Bataille. It actually is a bit more complicated than that, but my short hand summary will do in a pinch.

I wonder if eroticism “always entails a breaking down.”

Is noticing and enjoying the way your thighs softly rub against one another (pre-chafing when it still feels nice) contra the social order? Or the way a fresh piece of fruit feel in your hand as you bite into it? Or the glorious getting ready to get out of bed but lingering for just a moment more to stretch and soak up a little bit of the cozy covers feeling? Is that transgressive? Does eroticism ever build up instead of break down? It might. I haven’t thought about it enough to come up with any examples. But I have to pose the question. All those moments could be erotic. They could help us expand our definition of eroticism.

I suppose I should not expect a well rounded definition from the author of The Story of the Eye a freak fest of disturbing porn. Bad boys like Bataille really are romantics at heart. Instead of romanticizing flowers and chocolates and communion and warm fuzzy feelings, they romanticize shit and death and pain and isolation and deviance. I may have mentioned it before, but I’m suspicious of romantics- whether they are the happy-happy-joy-joy kind or the wallow-in-their-own-excrement kind.

While I have an appreciation for the grotesque, I find the shit-piss-blood-death romantics even more teeth grindingly annoying than the fluffy bunnies. Perhaps it is because I expect the prophets of perversity to be smarter than the average Joe Schmoe. I expect them to understand that their romantic notions are no more truthful than the happy-happy-joy-joy kind. They hold some of the truth but not all of it. So do the fluffy bunny romantics.

I think what is caught in my craw is Bataille’s use of the word “always.” If he had said “often,” I might have been more willing to nod and pass on by. But that “always” makes his statement troublesome. We need to set a trap to catch that pesky “always” and release it into the prosy wilds (that “always” deserves to live in an oxymoron). Let’s trap it, let’s free his sentence of that vermin, so that it can more closely approximate the semblance of a truth that might possibly tell us something about what eroticism is and what it does in our lives.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. John Madziarczyk | April 16, 2009 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    I think that people have underestimated the established social channels that eroticism is shunted into. On the one hand there are certain activities that, at least when they’re publicly known, are transgressive, but on the other most societies have ways of dealing with eroticism that allow it to serve its biological purpose of continuing human beings without losing total control.

  2. admin | April 26, 2009 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    John, Thanks for taking the time to comment and sorry for the lag time in my responding to your response.

    I think you are right about eroticism being shunted into established social channels, there is a sense in which eroticism is like a mini-carnival- rules might, possibly get broken but in the long run, it is just another way that the social order is re-affirmed.

    I suppose what is so annoying about the bad boy/girl romantics is that they cling to the outsider image so fiercely that they cannot accept that the erotic might be, in some senses, mundane, quotidian, just part of our lives. Their focus on the explosively naughty transgressions means they are unable to see the smaller shifts in behavior. The smalls ways in which ordinary folks use eroticism to re-affirm and contest, to conform and resist.

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