Tuesday, April 29, 2008
(11:13 PM) | it:
'Murderous mothers and incestuous fathers, who are infinitely more widespread than paedophile killers, are an unsettling intrusion into the idyllic portrait of the family, which depicts the delightful relationship between our citizen parents and their angelic offspring' - Badiou, 'Sex in Crisis' The Century.
Current revelations with regards to the way in which 'citizen parents' can sometimes treat their children remind us, as if we needed reminding, both that Thomas Bernhard is always right about Austria, and that families, when they go wrong, go really really wrong.
Badiou in The Century attempts to reawaken the original impulse of Freud's thought by reminding us that 'he explained human thought on the basis of child sexuality' and that 'there is nothing either natural or obvious about the fact that the object of desire for a subject is borne by the opposite sex'. Both the 'naturalness' of heterosexuality and the sexual innocence of the child are simultaneously put into question by psychoanalysis in its nascent state, and it is Badiou's conviction that Freud's attempt to address the 'real of sex, rather than its meaning' has sadly become lost in the ubiquitous call for mandatory, yet hyper-moralised, enjoyment.
Badiou seems somewhat depressed about sex, in fact, and certainly not pleased with pornography ('Bénazéraf has not kept any of his promises'), despite the fact that it supposedly touches on the 'very essence of cinema insofar as it is confronted with the full visibility of the sexual' ('Philosophy and Cinema'). Nowhere do we find a communist hypothesis with regard to the future uses of a sexuality that responds to the insights of psychoanalysis in a non-hysterical manner.
For that we must turn to the deplorably overlooked, somewhat mad but absolutely brilliant Shulamith Firestone and her 1970 tract, The Dialectic of Sex (written in a white heat in her mid-20s, shame on us all). In the final chapter, 'The Ultimate Revolution', Firestone takes seriously the implications of what she calls cybernetic communism, the total emancipation of women (and men) from the shackles of biology via advances in contraceptive, reproductive technology and alternative models of work and social organisation (choice line: 'Natural childbirth is only one more part of the reactionary hippie-Rousseauean Return-to-Nature'). Not surprisingly, she ends up touching on the same 'real' of sex as Freud, that of child sexuality, only instead of merely noting it (shocking enough in the first place, admittedly), she attempts to incorporate it into her plans for a future utopia of collectives, work-replacing machines and no more pregnancy.
Following the 'complete integration' of 'sexegrated' women and children into society, Firestone argues that we will uncover 'for the first time', natural sexual freedom (her perverse technologism is the precondition for humanist practice). The sexual freedom of all women and children is summarised baldly in the following way: 'now they can do whatever they wish to do sexually': Cybernetics simply destroys the incest taboo. Relations with children would include, apparently, 'as much genital sex as the child was capable of ... but because genital sex would no longer be the central focus of the relationship, lack of orgasm would not present a serious problem.' This idea of the literal limits of child sexuality is pretty extreme, though not without its historical echoes in the intellectual climate of the time ('Certain children opened the flies of my trousers and started to tickle me,' said Daniel Cohn-Bendit. 'I reacted differently each time, according to the circumstances ... But when they insisted on it, I then caressed them.') The immediate cry of 'paedophile!' is enough to put a very rapid end to this kind of sexual utopianising both in theory and in practice, but 'the problem of children', as Foucault puts it, remains very much with us...a creepy secret in the basement of an otherwise perfectly normal-looking family house...