At the outset of Anti-Oedipus Deleuze and Guattari lays out what they understand as desiring machines. The mouth coupled with the breast, the bee coupled with the flower. Desire, in Deleuze’s understanding of the word, is productive, it drives us forward, the amalgamation of the in some sense heretofore singular, or at least separable, into a new totality is how desire works. Desire produces novelty. The mouth-breast machine is often understood as a symbiosis of mother and child. But it could also be about adults and pleasure. In the connection of breastfeeding, life is sustained and a bond is created. In the connection of one woman’s lips encompassing another’s breast in an act of sexual pleasure, the desire sustains another form of life. The distinction between what was formerly only mine and what was in comparison you, and yours, breaks down in the bond-making. Even as the tongue retracts from the nipple, things are not as they were a moment ago. A moment ago, my body was mine and whether I would ever share it with you was open. But now, seeing as my cock has been in your mouth, we share a bond, an experience, that will encode encounters to come. The acknowledgement that my desires and yours coincide, fuses it into our desire. The expectancy of what life will be beyond that point will be very different. Will I ever see you naked is a very different question from will I see you naked again?
A disclaimer about disclaimers
Christianity seldom engages in coitus-centered theology. Nor does it ponder the possible connections between sex and theology. A central problem for ’the church’ is that it has a tendency of locking one meaning of sex in place, as the just, the right, the virtuous, the sanctioned. Sex is divided into proper and improper. Sex positivity always comes with a disclaimer, which just so happens to be bigger than the positive streak itself. Before we start to affirm any sort of sex, it is as if we need to consider that sex is a particular area of life where things can go particularly wrong, where people are particularly sensitive and fragile. I think it would be productive to throw said cautions to the wind and ponder sex in the affirmative, without always feeling a need to resort to notes that sex could also be violent, dark, brooding, exploiting and so on.
A clever psychoanalyst I met once said: If we, as we are about to engage in sex, start looking at our sexual partner in terms of anatomy … ’well, under this skin, there are veins, muscle tissue, a skeletal structure, sinew … not much arousal will take place’. I concurr. And so, if we are ever to perceive sex in the entirely positive, we need to separate the moments of perceiving sexual desires and the space in which it’s sanctioned to temporarily look at others as sexual objects, and those where we engage in critical exploration of the dark underbelly of humanity that quite possibly could be connected to some kind of sex (such as trafficking).
I’m now going back to a productive analogy I’ve written about in the post Thinking without representation. Think of a blowjob. What would ”a blowjob ’like it really is’” even be? What is it really about? Objectively? To pleasure? To be in control? To enable oneself to feel like a dirty person (in a good way)? To flush yourself with feelings of being naughty? Wanting to give someone a gift that has nothing to do with money? To experience the pleasure that comes from a place of ’I’m being a good partner’? Objectively, which one is true? One of the productive powers of sex is that we know from experience, from talking, reading, and comparing, that sex is not about one thing (a wisdom we can then also tranfer to other areas of life). In the example above the can all be true at the same time. Or none of them need to fit the bill. Above all: A blowjob has no objective meaning. It happens in tandem with the thoughts in the minds of both giver and receiver. This is how sex enfolds. In tandem with thoughts that cannot be disconnected from the sex. Sex, is thus, a great example of deleuzian non-representational thinking. This sexual encounter doesn’t represent another. And it cannot be the same as the last one, as new encounters are folded into our mix of experiences, thoughts, references, feelings, memories and moods.
Joel Kuhlin forwards the argument in his master thesis (something he is also currently exploring in his ph d thesis) that the ’Jesus event’ is not singular, but multiple already from the start. Somehow this is a thought that we struggle with as we assume that god has imprinted the situation with one specific thought of what god and god’s interaction with humans is about or how it should speak to us. The problem, one could say, is our conjecture of transcendent meaning. Whereas the — multiple — meaning of the sexual is less hard to digest.
In my text about ”Deleuzian” Theology I addressed the assumption that there are productive sides of Deleuze’s (and Guattari’s) thinking, but that some such sides are usually shone by most if not all scholars in humanities (and even more so in theology). ’Safe Deleuze’, I called it, and compared it to ”christian art” (which I proclaimed has lost all merits warranting the epithet ’art’ at all). My notion is that theology should go where humanities seems unwilling to; into the gore, the trenches. It’s about time we discover ’NSFW Deleuze’. In the trenches, we find what is dirty. However, seldom, there has been a better time to reiterate Mary Douglas’ formulation, that dirt is matter out of place. In this case, pornography has always been dirty, as it projects sex onto a screen of sorts (or a piece of paper). Sex on the internet can thus be productively discussed as matter out of place.
First, I’d like to offer a reflection on time. When the Kopimi movement (the file-sharing religion) registered as a religious affiliation, journalists called my department making inquiries to the professors ’but surely, this is not a real religion?’. I quite like a sociological answer to the question of ’what a real religion really is’; it’s a system of thoughts that’s been around long enough. There is no qualitative difference to the arguments posed by mormons, scientologists, christians, muslims, and kopimists. Once enough time has gone by, it becomes acceptable enough to believe in Joseph Smith, L Ron, or the J-man. The trick is to outlive that first period where resistance towards one’s ideas are the most acute.
The same goes for academia. Once something is far enough in the rear-view mirror, it magically becomes an acceptable field of study. At the islamology seminar I am attending there will be a lecture on medieval islamic erotica the upcoming spring. At the same time, we have no one working on the boom of arabic porn that is connected to the overturning of censorship laws in the Middle East, from an islamological perspective. [A thoughtprovoking op-ed on arabic porn can be found here (in Swedish): http://www.gp.se/nyheter/ledare/ ledarkronika/1.2683898-csaba-bene-perlenberg-mer-porr-at-mellanostern] As sex of the world’s eight most pornsurfing nations are situated in the Middle and Far East (#1 Pakistan, #2 Egypt, #5 Iran, #7 Saudi Arabia, #8 Turkey), and as demands for domestic productions grow, this would certainly make for worthwhile academic analysis (and surely reading). I feel fairly certain in venturing a guess, certainly no theologians — christian, muslim or other — are addressing this phenomenon. And most likely no one else, seeing as … well, it’s not medieval enough.
Similarly I’ve heard people speak about Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) when they want to exemplify how, indeed, the encounter with god is expressed not only in implicitly erotic language but as instances of orgasmic coitus. Again, apparently, sex in the middle ages was quite ok. So why not today? I will elaborate on this in the parts of this text to come. Stay tuned.
(photo taken from memoryanddesire-stirring.tumblr.com)
I am indebted to the comments of Josef Gustafsson and Joel Kuhlin, as they have helped and challenged me, in my writing, to come up with a more deleuzian text than I would’ve otherwise done.