Wednesday, June 04, 2008
(5:14 PM) | Dominic:
Wednesday Sex: Extemporaneous Quickie
I always try to explain to people that marriage isn’t that interesting. It is no different from a whole host of other aspects of human life, and no more interesting. Which isn’t to say it is bad, or really that it is good, it is just sort of a fact. What you do with it, that is what makes it interesting or not.
APS, in comments over at AUFS
As with marriage, so with sex in general: "it is just sort of a fact". What sort of a fact? One of the "facts of life", in spite of the best efforts (to date) of Schopenhauerian cybernetic feminists; but also a social fact, part of the matter of opinion. Sex gossip and biopolitics - what a pair! One minute you're joking about who copped off with whom last Friday, the next you're red in the face arguing with someone about abortion rights, or feeling "deeply uncomfortable" about so-and-so's advocacy of sexual relations between professors and students, or wondering whether you ought to delete those scans of Lost Girls you have on your hard drive, not that it'd do much good, they have forensic data recovery experts who can find evidence of dodgy downloading in the dust on your motherboard nowadays...*
It occurs to me that we have a problem in thinking these two things together, sex as a social fact about which everybody is, broadly speaking, fairly comfortable, and sex as something people feel it's terribly important to be in favour of (or in certain circumstances against). On the one hand, rivalry and opinion, gossip and innuendo, which accommodates and neutralises, makes it possible to live with the sex lives of others; on the other, exhortation and prohibition, and consequences that are not the punchline of a joke.
Undoubtedly the correct move here is to see both the "vulgar" symbolisation of sex in everyday language and the "law" of sex (which manifests itself both as the prohibition of enjoyment and the demand that one demonstrate one's sexual normality by expressing oneself - in appropriate ways - as a sexual being) as forming a system which works to suppress or manage a third term: sexual awkwardness, which offends both the puritanically disgusted and the evangelists of sexual liberation, which sexual jokes in their cruelty and bluntness conjure and exorcise in the same gesture.
As with sex, so with marriage. Marriage is, to tell the truth, an awkward business; not, as the ideology of capitalist heteronormativity would have it, a seamless partnership of equals who share the same core values and work together towards common goals, but the jamming together in a confined space of two frightened mortal animals who have somehow to learn how to be kind to one another. It is quite rational to want to avoid this situation, and people have come up with all sorts of exciting utopian ideas about how to accomplish this; but at the same time it is "just sort of a fact" that we are in comparable situations with other people to whom we are not married all the time: our kinfolk, flatmates, people we work with, people who happen to have got on the same tube train as us during rush hour...
* Not that I've anything on my hard disk I'd be ashamed to show my mother.**
** I keep that shit on the USB drive, along with all my terrorist training manuals and photographs of railway terminuses and public buildings.***
*** You're supposed to say something like "just kidding!" here.