Saturday, August 6, 2011

sport fucking, slut walks and transit systems: sublimation_anguish_dialectic

Not every conversation I have pushes towards the dark side. Although, most people I know teeter on that edge, where just beside them is a chasm waiting to overcome them. And much of what we describe as pathology could be seen merely as an embodied response to metaphoric vertigo.

Last night at a bar with a bunch of inner-city school teachers (easily some of the coolest people I've ever met) the conversation took a turn that might rapidly have ended with us confronting our monstrous fathers in hollowed out trees. I am normally inclined to fall down these holes. But something about that potential seemed to bother one of them, so I let it go before it got too heavy. But there was an interesting, if not entirely pleasurable (since for some reason the conversation was also a bit contentious), general discussion about mental health and sickness, about metaphor and anguish. And in some respects I think we were all saying something similar, albeit in different language.

For Nietzsche, Freud, and Bataille the basic requirement of human life (language) is the exclusion of the will to power/ libidinous desire/ the excess of life and death. But in all these thinkers this exclusion is also creative – meaning we don't actually intend to suppress the erotic. Which, of course, is not exclusion at all. We simultaneously say don't touch the fire, touch the fire this way. And in this I see a Hegelian dialectic that works out in a way very similar to the aims of the Slut Walk.


The Slut Walk makes a complicated theoretical and political statement about sexual violence, liberation, and desire. At least one aspect of it, the reclaiming of the word slut, is entirely dialectical. The idea of reclaiming something is perhaps more complicated than it seems. On the one hand I think that most of us believe or consider that reclaiming a word (or an image, or a demeanor, etc.) is merely a change in the meaning of the word – a suppression of its negative or pejorative association in favor of some new, affirming meaning. And to some extent I think that this is true-ish. My sense, though, is that that desire for transformation is antithetical, meaning that the original term, and its replacement no longer exist as they did but are transformed into a third term that retains elements of both. My saying “I'm queer,” or “I'm a spic,” works as 'liberatory' only in so far as the pejorative elements of the words persist. Otherwise they mean... nothing at all really. It would be the same as saying I am unusual, or of Hispanic descent. It is the suggestion/ memory of violence that gives the new term its radically liberating effect. In order for the Slut Walk to work at this performative level, it must retain and insist upon the violence and degradation of calling someone a slut, or a bitch, or blaming a victim for a rape.

What is interesting in this dialectical thinking, is that the terms are not contradicted/ repressed/ excluded; instead, they become something else, are combined in a conflict and transformed, so that what we seek in our humanity – in Bataille's transgression, in Freud's sublimation, in Nietzsche's overcoming – is exactly that union of terms which creates an entirely different Being that pulls that dialectical conflict along in it's wake. In other words what we seek in our humanity is the promise of Eros.

I like the idea of carrying the dialectic with me, that all of history, place, and trauma comes together in each person's vast and tiny wake. Late last night a friend suggested that since I'm single I should be “sport fucking.” I told her that that was very protestant of her; that I'm much to Catholic to sport fuck. I want even the most casual sexual relation to be anguished, meaningful, and with a spark of the divine. And that doesn't happen with just anyone – I like what's written with and on the bodies of smart, complicated, wounded, and tragic figures. Or, I prefer people who don't just have baggage, but rather, freight and transit systems. I'm not sure if that counts as slutty.

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