11.15.2008

Body of Pleasure, Body of Labor

"'Polymorphous sexuality' was the term I used to indicate that the new direction of progress would depend completely on the opportunity to activate repressed or arrested organic, biological needs: to make the human body an instrument of pleasure rather than labor." --Herbert Marcuse, from Eros and Civilization.

OK, OK, so I am only just beginning to understand what Marcuse wrote over 40 years ago. You see, I thought I was immune from things like capitalism, that I could frolic and play, turn the world to my own liking. But one—or, perhaps, I—reached an impasse: the demands of the life I lead ask me to be rid of pleasure and become a foil of capitalism.

The work world is transforming the body, ridding it of its desire to enjoy the world. After all, the horny body, the sumptuous body, does not want to sit at a fucking computer all day, every day, banging out Power Point presentations. The sumptuous body wants to linger over a meal; the sumptuous body wants to make very slow, deliberate love; the sumptuous body wants to eat acid and stake a long stroll.

And so capitalism is breeding enjoyment out of us, making us impotent with Prozac and Ambien, with computer screen generated migraines and depression. Of course, capitalism still needs its labor force and so it must give us a way to reproduce; ergo, Viagra. But once cloning is in full swing, there'll be no need for hard ons.

Hard ons get in the way of productivity. Why do you think sex is barred from the workplace? We're afraid to express any desire whatsoever for someone who shares our workplace. It's insane. It seems the struggle to rid the workplace of so-called sexual harassment became another foil of capitalism, an opportunity to flush the work world of all desire.

And then they ramp up the work week—40, 50, 60, 70, 80 hours a fucking week! And, no, you can't touch anyone at work! You can't even look at anyone with the slightest sexual intention. So where the fuck are we supposed to find our pleasure? Nowhere. We're not supposed to be sexual beings; we're supposed to be productive beings.

What's so insidious, of course, about capitalism is that it makes us think we're enjoying life. It co-opts the pleasure principle, turns it to its own use. So you think you're enjoying life when you buy another stupid fucking useless phone or shoes or get a haircut—or even when you buy sex. It fills the airwaves with the hint of sex—but it won't actually allow you the opportunity to have it. And so we feel like we're being pleasured when all we're doing is buying more shit.

Because none of this is enjoyment: it's consumption. Enjoyment is slow, deliberate, considered, decadent. Enjoyment is a body enjoying itself; it is the biological, organic drive for pleasure, the organism finding pleasure in its own experience.

Consumption is allopoetic: it is based in contingency. So when I buy the new 42 inch plasma tv or get a lapdance or buy a bottle of Cristal, I'm not enjoying my body's experience of these things: I am enjoying my consumption of them. My pleasure is not in and of my body; my pleasure melds with the object—the lapdance, the shoe, the tv. I therefore come to think that the expression of my pleasure must come from these things—not from my own body.

Again, it all seems so obvious—now. The question is: What the fuck do I do about it?

5 comments:

Kyle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kyle said...

Read The Bhagavad Gita. It goes beautifully. And one of its messages (if you're willing to say that a work has a "message") is exactly what you're getting at here.

J.S. Butcher said...

"And now I must go," she said as soon as he had mastered his instructions. "I'm due back at nineteen-thirty. I've got to put in two hours for the Junior Anti-Sex League, handing out leaflets, or something. Isn't it bloody? Give me a brush down, would you. Have I got any twigs in my hair? Are you sure? Then good-by, my love, good-by!"

-1984

Ryland Walker Knight said...

write a novel, duh. dont you do that? if i had any clout, we'd have that lynch thing in the hardback hands of every perve cinephile around town (hack a lung: the globe).

also, i dunno, you got a kid, right? that's funny sometimes, right? doesn't he get to blow out some candles soon? isn't he a beast? isn't he lovely and hilarious and genius?

isn't it t-gives this week?

is all i do ask you questions?

i got the answer: go see _a christmas tale_ at some early-week matinee.

V said...

Move out of America.

Capitalism may be global, but there are still places where it's only a thin veneer (or crude patina, depending on your preference) over all manner of still-vibrant heterodoxy, where in fact capitalism struggles if not founders because it is constantly lapping up against minds and bodies still attuned to pre-feudal rhythms.

Or, more simply put, there are still places in the world where you can fuck your secretary and get away with it.