a pleasure-self post

“The Hadza of northern Tanzania publicly marked a boy’s first nocturnal emission by decorating him with beads in exactly the same way as they decorated a girl with beads at the time of her first menstruation.” Charles Stewart, Erotic Dreams and Nightmares from Antiquity to the Present.

"The crocodile signifies a pirate, murderer, or a man who is no less wicked. The way in which the crocodile treats the dreamer determines the way in which he will be treated by the person who is represented by the crocodile. The cat signifies an adulterer. For it is a bird-thief. And birds resemble women, as I have already pointed out in the first book." – Artemidorus, Interpretation of Dreams

Whenever LI hears the phrase “mental masturbation” (and for our sins in writing this blog, we hear the phrase quite a bit), we always wonder what the opposite is. What would be full frontal missionary mental fucking, and how would one achieve it with an organ as marooned as is our poor human brain – which, without the pineal eye that Bataille dreamed would burst someday out of the top of the skull, blinking monstrously in whatever shade of darkness its nerve impulses are couched in, is, in actuality, reduced to living in that darkness familiar from infancy that is enlivened only by the flickers of light coming in from the relatively distant eyes.

Since there is an answer to all questions (although not necessarily a right answer), we turned to the experts. Our readers are probably already familiar with the Zurbriggen and Yost study, Power, Desire, and Pleasure in Sexual Fantasies, published in the Journal of Sexual Research last year. Z and Y brought together one hundred plus persons of both sexes, filtered out the bis and the gays, and had these people write down sexual fantasies. Subsequently, they coded the sexual fantasies. Their conclusions are conveniently summed up in the following reader-friendly manner:

“Men's sexual fantasies were more sexually explicit than women's, t(160) = 4.11, p < .001, and women's sexual fantasies were more emotional and romantic than men's, t(160) =-2.69, p =.008. In addition, men's fantasies involved more interactions with multiple partners than did women's, t(160) = 1.97, p = .05. There were also gender differences in fantasized dominance and submission. Men's fantasies included more portrayals of the self as dominant and in power than did women's, t(160) = 2.45, p = .02. Women's fantasies did not include significantly more portrayals of submission than did men's, t(160) = -1.62, p = .11. However, in a repeated measures ANOVA, the interaction between gender and type of power fantasy (dominance vs. submissive) was reliable: F(1,160) = 7.75, p = .006.

Although men were equally likely to fantasize about dominance and submission, women were more likely to fantasize about submission. Other interesting gender differences involved sexual desire and sexual pleasure. Men's fantasies mentioned a partner's sexual desire more frequently than did women's fantasies, t(160) = 3.09, p = .002. Although men's fantasies were equally likely to include desire-self and desire-other, paired t(84) = -.58, p = .57, women's fantasies were marginally more likely to include desire-self than desireother, paired t(76) = 1.69, p =. 10. Men also described their partners as experiencing sexual pleasure more frequently than did women, t(160) = 3.24, p = .001.

Although men's fantasies were marginally more likely to include sexual pleasure-other than sexual pleasure-self, t(84) = -1.74, p = .09, women's fantasies were significantly more likely to include sexual pleasure-self than sexual pleasure-other, paired t(76) = 2.04, p = .04. In a repeated measures ANOVA, this interaction between gender and sexual pleasure (self vs. other) was reliable, F(1,160) = 7.14, p = .008”

To which one wants to say, Zut alors. But bien sur, this is the way of a man with a woman and a woman and a woman, at least when I shut my how do you say, peepers?

But to tell you the truth, LI felt old and ghost ridden reading Z and Y’s paper. Call us a throwback to that old reprobate, D.H. Lawrence, but we feel something is wrong with handing sex over to multiple digits, pinching and prodding it for gender singularities. So we turned, for a more narrative view, to Charles Stewart’s paper, published by the Royal Anthropological Institute a few years ago, Erotic Dreams and Nightmares from Antiquity to the Present. Stewart combines approaches from Freud and Foucault – still not Lawrence’s cup of tea, but much closer to LI’s way of thinking. Although our pleasure-other quotient might well be –1.74, we feel a little more akin to the Umeda, among whom “a hunter intentionally [sleeps] on a net-bag scented with magic pighunting perfume (oktesap) in hopes of receiving the erotic dream that presaged a successful hunting expedition. Such erotic dreams held out the promise of real sexual consummation, which often followed after a kill was made.”

Our own experiments with pighunting perfume are for another time. Stewart’s point is that erotic dreams can act as portents – and indeed, isn’t desire a portent laden structure among the best of us? With Foucault, Stewart sees sexuality in the modern epoch as a matter of subjectivication – that is, it is taken as the truth about the subject. In a society as dedicated to sensation as ours is – where we are supposed to judge the merit of, say, Darwin’s theory of evolution on the sensations it evokes of like or dislike among Gallop’s focus groups – sex, being an ultimate of sensation, is going to be a criterion for authenticity.

But of course, there is always killing. This is where the erotic dream and the nightmare intersect. Stewart’s notion is that a change in the hermeneutic value of erotic dreams was wrought by Early Christian culture. For “Artemidorus, the dream of sex with one’s mother, for example, was not problematic, but rather a good dream for politicians. This was because the mother represented one’s native country, and to make love is to govern the obedient and willing body of one’s partner. The dreamer would thus control the affairs of the city (Artemidorus, Interpretation of dreams, 1.79). Hippias, a Greek traitor serving as the Persians’ guide in the landing at Marathon, dreamt of sleeping with his mother and interpreted this to mean that he would return to Athens and recover power (Herodotus, History, 6.107).” However, there was no room in the Christian culture for portents deriving from sleeping with your mother.

Although… surely there are spicy enough stories in Genesis to toss up the problematic, here. Not that the Greeks didn’t put the stamp of their own ethical ideas on sexual dreams. “Some ancient doctors understood ‘gonorrhoea’ to be an involuntary emission of semen, and their term for this ailment, meaning literally ‘the flow of seed’, remains with us to this day. Nocturnal emissions were considered a variant of gonorrhoea, and in his survey of acute and chronic diseases CaeliusAurelianus contrasted the two. Gonorrhoea could occur any time, without imagery, while nocturnal emissions occurred only during sleep and as a consequence of imagining sexual intercourse through ‘unreal images’ (inanibus visis concubitum fingat) (On chronic diseases, 5.71.82). Unlike gonorrhoea, nocturnal emissions did not necessarily constitute an illness. They simply resulted from desire, which could arise either through regular sexual practice or throughprolonged continence.”

Well, enough – we have a few other things to say about Stewart’s article, but we will reserve our shots until another time.


Anonymous said…
Once again señor rogerio yr prose doth sin-tillate marvelously. That men are more into the domme role is not surprising (I always feel comforted seeing an ANOVA) but one question might be whether there is evidence showing that women (and/or passive gays) are drawn to the more aggressive "alpha" males. That certainly seems the case from observation: thugs (white, black or hispanic) are typically the ones with the cute and young chicas yes? Aggressivity and physicality are read by the women as signs of worthiness, in terms of breeding and sexual prowesss probably ( ie the baddest ass on the block is thought by the gals to be the possessor of the biggest schlong as well). Or something like this.

Most of the college gals I stalk, er, meet these days are more pleased with "hangin wit da homies" or indulging the coach (if not the lawnmower or local crack dealer) than they are going to the cafe to discuss hermeneutic strategies in regards to Spinoza or whatever.

That women--even intellectual women--are so drawn to mere male physicality is a sign of something rather unsavory, I think, but you may flesh out the implications better than I. Pynchon in Vineland sketches a nice picture of such a shallow, erotically-intoxicated rat-gal in Frenesi. (perhaps Oedipa Maas also fits this category, but at least she's on a Quest with a capital Q, however Shirley Maclaine like)
Anonymous said…
Man, I love all women being reduced to a hive-mind of physicality-seeking 'chicas'!

Naturally we are all looking for those brute males to submit to, even though some of us find the chief pleasure with that sort of man is making him sob.

Thank you, Anonymous, for re-educating me as to my preferences. I always thought a knowledge of Spinoza was hot, but thanks to your guidance I am going to go right out to the gym and find me a thug with whom to experience conjugal bliss!

Skell said…
Gym? No, the big doggs are in the barracks, sistah. US Army or Marines: now dem guys get the dames.
roger said…
Myself, I swim among shoals of divorcees, so -- I can't say much about the current college dating scene. When I do visit the part of Austin near U.T. and go into the coffee houses, it looks the same to me.

However, I wasn't endorsing Z and Y's conclusions as the truth about sex. We advance on that truth as cautiously as Theseus stalked the Minotaur. What fascinated me about the study was not the domination/submission dichotomy, but its intersection with pleasure-self/pleasure-other.

I still have a soft spot in my heart for Blake's verse, what does man in woman desire/the lineaments of gratified desire/what does woman in man desire/the lineaments of gratified desire. But I know, now, have long known, that that symmetry is bullshit. However, it is interesting that the dom/sub model, Hegel's master-n-slave beneath the sheets, results, paradoxically, in the master desiring recognition for the pleasure he gives the slave, while the slave, all wrapt in pleasure-self, turns out to have chosen submission as a contingent path to her own object. In other words, the master-slave dialectic is a broken mousetrap, and you won't catch the truth of fucking in it. In fact, if Z and Y are right, that truth is more like the Max Ernst painting -- is it Ernst? -- of two lovers kissing, both of them having cloth sacks on their head.

And yet... I have a hard time giving up bits of my Blakian liberalism. I still think there's some obscure blind progress in sexual relations that can occur in the lives of people and societies.
Diogenes O'K-mart said…
The Blake christ, the blake beat, the blind blake, the billy blake: naive as a haight freak on sandoz. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Blake's not one of the current faves in the Clara Petaci, Inc. line-up. And it's unlikely he (or one of his manifestations) will be making an appearance on the L-Word, or have a column featured on Slate.

romantic poesy was sucked up into jeannajameson-like anal vortex one sweltering afternoon during a valley porn shot....
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