Wednesday, April 23, 2008
(9:45 PM) | Dominic:
Wednesday Sex, With Diagrams1) I wanna get adjoint with you, baby
Would Lacan have written his graphs of sexuation differently if he'd brushed up against category theory at some point in his mathematical peregrinations? One thing's for sure: they wouldn't have made any sense to category theorists if he had.
All those commutative arrangements: circle-jerks, love-triangles, soixante-neufs between objects. Between you and me, entre nous: morphisms. Between myself and myself, the identity morphism. The net is cast wider: morphisms compose. There are universal properties, axiomatic restrictions: if you want to get to her, you have to go through him.
The ladies who came in first thing in the morning to empty undergraduates' bins at my college maintained a graph of who'd been having it off with whom, which was occasionally put up on a notice-board for general scrutiny. Some names appeared in the middle of dense clusters of arrows; some names didn't appear at all. My own deeds went unremarked. They were indeed unremarkable. It occurs to me that even by pluralizing the word "deed", I might be overstating things a bit. Depends what you're counting - I might have appeared with greater intensity in a graph showing the intangible, neurotic components of collegial intersubjectivity, and then again I might not. Amid so much general noise and fuss, who can tell?
ii) Is this thing switched on?
How do you know if your mojo is working? More generally, how does one arrive at a proper estimation of the effective range of one's own charisma? The problem here isn't only one of overestimation - there are advantages to thinking you're all that even when you're not, since confident fakery will do some of the work of the real thing. It's also a matter of knowing, and being responsible for, one's own glamorous powers.
In this respect I hope there's a difference between myself a decade and a half ago and myself a decade into the non-relationship ("this non-relationship that we're not having", as I called it at the very start) that became a relationship that became parenthood and marriage (in that order). It isn't just that I'm older, more confident, better fed and more - ahem - experienced. At eighteen I identified instinctively with Morrissey's "wish I had the charms to attract the one I love, / but you see, I've got no charms" ("Seasick yet still docked") even though I also recognised that this was at some level self-preserving bullshit: I undoubtedly had something, even then (as one old friend attested a couple of years ago), and less time to wait than I supposed before it would be put to the test. What I didn't have was any sense at all of my own ability to charm, fascinate or intimidate others - either the extent of this ability, or its limits. After ten years of living together with someone, I think I've started to learn a little about both.
Why is not knowing a problem? In some respects it is the problem of adolescence, the problem that adolescents try to resolve by experimenting with the different kinds of effects they can have on other people. But it doesn't belong exclusively to adolescents, not least because it never really goes away: perfect knowledge about where one stood in the flux of intersubjectivity would be a way of escaping intersubjectivity altogether, into the safe, predictable universe of solipsistic mastery. Knowing, or supposing one knows, that one has "no charms" is a bid for precisely this sort of mastery: a cop-out. So the old friend who thought I did indeed have something about me, something she called "power", also found that being around that power left her feeling emotionally bruised and demoralized, because I had absolutely no idea (or refused to countenance the possibility) that anything I said or did might possibly matter to her.
So the moral of today's sermon is: pay attention to your mojo! It's a disturbing thing to have there, whirring away like a little generator, throwing out sparks that might earth themselves in all sorts of unpredictable ways, and the wattage might be less than you'd wish (or more than you're comfortable with), but it needs and deserves to be honoured and recognised if it is not to show up as a demonic, controlling agency bent on distorting your own life and others'. The great gift of my married life so far has been that it has put me at ease with myself as a sexual person, and greatly calmed my propensity for thoughtless havoc-wreaking. Any woman who has actually enjoyed my company in the past few years has my wife to thank; and so do I.