Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Private Theater of Sexual Oedipus; Anti-Oedipus, Part 2

It's not a meatbox, it's a meatlocker.
(regardless of how much it wants to appear virginal)

In the last post we introduced D&G's (Deleuze and Guatarri) Anti-Oedipus by elaborating on the first insights on what desiring-machines were to them. We saw how desiring-machines attach itself to the body-without organs and give the body-without-organs something beyond the blind intensities that happen to it, mainly desires-after-intensities. I noted that the fun of doing analysis on a text like this is how all encompassing the idea of desiring-machines. We can find desire everywhere and can find many ways in which the phenomena of desire is understood as neurotic. One of these most obvious phenomena of desire is in the sexual act and everything that envelops this act. D&G waste no time making a differentiation between sexuality as being oedipalized and sexuality as belonging to the body without organs as a fantastic factory at the end of chapter 1 of Anti-Oedipus. This post will do its best to try and not sensationalize the theme. This is not just because of how easy of a subject it is to sensationalize, but because D&G don't spend loads of time before or after giving Freudian impressions (sexual) to the Oedipus structure. They find it everywhere and give due justice to all it's different forms. One can't help but see it conspicuously in the sexual act though. D&G are very clear about sexuality as desire and make a clear distinction between an oedipalized sexuality and non-oedipalized sexuality. There will be questions coming up though that question both forms and ask about the power of sexual-oedipus that I'm sure D&G were well aware of, but still need to be emphasized so the reader doesn't take the sexual act the way D&G obviously want it to go (non-oedipalization). I won't necessarily defend sexual-oedipus but will viscerally understand its power, as something that may not belong in a marginalized place that they want to put it.

D&G state "..the Oedipal triangulation plays a role in the recording of the process, we find ourselves trapped in the net of a diffuse, generalized oedipalism that radically distorts the life of the child and his later development, the neurotic and the psychotic problems of the adult, and sexuality as a whole." Oedipus, as the tripartite structure of individuality distorts the life of the orphan unconscious (the child) and whatever they understand as "later development." The son or daughter who look above to the father as an idol figure and the mother as another idol figure (another father) distorts the child's virignal mind. Of course this is the case because people that you're always around are going to have an influence on you. But G&D are more specific with the Oedipus-complex they describe. They want to signify not just influence, but paternal injunction on the orphans moves. These injunctions create neurotic and psychotic problems in "later development," and sexuality as a whole. What does being the direct object of injunctions do to the child as it develops into other-child? For D&G, we find this in the way psychoanalysis treats the sexual act and they refer to D.H. Lawrence who wasn't terrified once he learned "what real sexuality was," but terrified in psychoanalysis's understanding of the sexual act. It's important to point out the "revolution" of Freudian thought here as establishing a new way for the sexual act to be understood. Psychoanalysis through Freud emphasized the sexual drive as the root of all of our problems stemming with a relation to paternal figures growing up. Whatever type of sex we prefer and may even sadistically enjoy come from the Oedipus structure as defined by psychoanalysis. There is a problem with this interpretation and it's with the fact that the sexual act was Victorian before it can be classified as oedipalized by psychoanalysis. Certainly, the relationship between Mr.Darcy and Elizabeth in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice serves as an example of a courtship defined by paternal-injunction. This is a question I leave open that I don't want to go into now because it's not the point of the post. But I would like to hear from a D&G scholar what the difference is between oedipal-sexuality and Victorian courtship, and why the oedipal break has to happen at Freud. Regardless of period though, we can understand the sexual act as being defined by injunction, guilt, and power structures. D&G acquiesce with Lawrence's fear of psychoanalysis's understanding of the sexual act. According to D&G, "he had the impression-the purely instinctive impression-that psychoanalysis was shutting sexuality up in a bizarre sort of box painted with bourgeois motifs, in a kind of rather repugnant artificial triangle, thereby stifling the whole of sexuality as production of desire so as to recast it along entirely different lines, making it a 'dirty little secret,' the dirty little family secret, a private theater rather than the fantastic factory of nature and production." There's a lot to extract here and this description of Lawrence by D&G is a key to understanding D&G's understanding of not only the sexual act but how desire should happen in general. It's important to first mark out that D&G found it necessary to call Lawrence's impression a "purely instinctive impression." D&G will continually want to privilege the "purely instinctive" over the oedipalized structure throughout Anti-Oedipus and this statement will show D&G ascribing a primal nature to Lawrence on their own accord, a primal nature that is appropriate. Lawrence feared the bourgeois motif that was characterizing sexuality meaning that he feared that sexuality was being treated as something that one should do or not do at certain times and certain places depending on a middle class status that needed to be upheld in respectability (see? How Victorian is this?). This triangulation is described as artificial because it places limits on the sexual act where there should ostensibly be none in D&G's body without organs. The freedom of sexuality becomes "stifled" by these oedipal-injunctions. Instead of being "fantastic" and "natural," the sexual act becomes constrained by the socius, by paternal triangulation where the child is shown by the parents that sex is a secret, a "dirty little secret." In oedipus, the sexual act becomes recast as a "dirty little secret" instead of being open and natural. It's a secret of the family. A child is under the guidance of the mother and father who both operate as injunction machines (both fathers) where they have the sexual act in privacy away from the child. The child then knows something is happening but sees that it's something that it can't be aware of (and seen). Simply put, the child can't watch their parents have sex. The child looks up at the parents and may see a smirk or a or a subtle attitude of "yeah we do this." The key is in the subtlety. The child never has a clear vision of what's happening when the injunctive parents are being non-injunctive with each other. The child has to guess and eventually see it as some mystery that is being kept from them for reasons the child doesn't understand but is yet being impressed upon by the secret act that is happening right under or over their nose. The secrecy of the act gives it its oedpilization structure by being hidden while at the same time being known, no matter how vague this "knowledge" is. It's something that the child will be allowed to do, but for now, at this young impressionistic age, they are not to be in the graces of this act. From then on, the sexual act becomes a secret, a secret that appears dirty to the child instead of one that flourishes in the "fantastic factory of nature and production." The sexual act then becomes repressed and this repression is understood first and foremost by psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis will state that the child is repressing their sexual drive when the act is hidden. Then, the child will open up and act out the sexual act in it's repression mode, under the unconscious state of mind that it's a perverted and secret act, the act that was always kept away from them but that they are now exploring. The "bourgeois motifs" that D&G refer to are the "respect-structure" of the socius. It's the socius with all of its injunctions. The sexual act is no longer "natural" but under the guidance of psychoanalysis's understanding of it as seeing the child brought about by mother and father. The mother and father created the child and the child doesn't have access to the mother and fathers creative impulses from it's inception. The child is always defined by it's relationships to its idolized paternal figures and these relationships include the sexual relationships. Psychoanalysis sees the child as defined by their relations to their parents and so the child is defined by the the parents secret gestures of the sexual act, their hidden acts of the sexuality in this case. For Lawrence and D&G, the sexual act loses it's original "power and potentiality" that it used to have. Lawrence isn't frightened by this original power of the "fantastic factory of nature" but psychoanalysis's understanding of it which is not natural. In nature, sex isn't repugnant like it is under psychoanalysis's understanding of it, the understanding of it that puts it in a "bizarre sort of box." Questions arise here. What is "natural sex?" What is this "bizarre sort of box" that psychoanalysis boxes the sexual act in? For D&G, they clearly like Lawrence's idea of the the "natural sexual act" instead of it as the "dirty little secret." The question is one of the residuum carried into the child's unconscious during it's "budding years." But is there universal grounds for marginalizing the sexual act as a "dirty little secret" that happens in privacy? For however powerful D&G want to make "natural sex," can't it also be the case that this oedipalized, perverted, and "dirty-little-secret" sex can be just as powerful without there being something wrong with it, just because it happened to evolve from the hidden character of parental figures? Why does "nature" have to be privileged over "neurotic" and perverted "unnatural" sex? Is it not possible for intercourse to be more powerful when kept secret, essentially when it's oedipalized? Couldn't it easily be argued that a free and unfettered intercourse in the "public theater" wouldn't hold the value of the "private theater," the later being exclusive and not simply intercourse in the "private theater," but the public acknowledgment of private intercourse by the coquettish, feminine (whose agent can be either male or female), and most importantly, subtle recognition of the act of intercourse? (An example of this subtle public acknowledgment of private intercourse was Zooey Deschanel's character in 500 Days of Summer where she made sure to subtly let Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character know that she had a really good weekend.) The value of the sexual act absolutely goes into surplus-mode. But is this fantasy-in-surplus less than what D&G refer to as the "fantastic nature factory?" Is it not possible for fantasy to simply be more pleasurable than what's "natural?" And if it is, how inappropriate is it that desiring-machines attach itself to the body without organs? Or even more simply put, is desire as oedipalization something that one consciously needs to think is inappropriate? If the idea of a body without organs is a privlidged pure place, wouldn't it better "find itself" by treating oedipal-desire (and surplus-value) in neutrality, as an observation where desire pivots off nothing? The basic question is one of value. If D&G want to place us in a body without organs, a state of mind in "nature" (which Husserl emphasized so much for these very reasons of understanding how things happen) then how much are we being puting in this "natural state" by emphasizing that there is such a thing called a "natural state" that is "fantastic" and obviously privileged over psychoanalytical practice of oedipalizing? If it's all happening, if it's all happened at one time or another, isn't it all "natural?" Even oedipus? The "dirty little secret" found it's way to the body without organs. Is this not a natural movement? It did happen after all.

The problems elaborated on here eventually fall back to the Hegelian dialect for me. In other words, it's simply a matter of being becoming representation, or in this case, desire becoming transformed into a modified "non-pure" desire that is nonetheless part of what's "natural." D&G are operating on a theoretical explanation for being and nothingness whereby they're privileging nothingness to be frank. The theory is certainly interesting and convincing but is somewhat diluted with their allusions to the purity of nature. The desiring-machines are at the same place as the body without organs. As was stated above, they both happened. As a reader of this text, what do you take the text as? You can't take this text as pure philosophy and of course D&G and any defenders of their work would probably say "Good, it's better off that's not philosophy," and this is where the Marxian proclivities come in with D&G; to find theory in wanting to change material conditions of being, in this case the psychological conditions of being which are the material conditions of being. Being an ardent defender of this text puts one in the "anti-person" category rather than the neutrality position of watching the phenomena of being happen on its own. I think it's obvious where I tend to sway on this. Regardless of this confession, Anti-Oedipus is a text that needs to be read closely and understood to the best of the readers ability. There's plenty to learn here regardless of the positions taken. Who knows, maybe they're positions that need to be taken, that would be taken regardless of the pretension of the observer who simply watches the positions being taken with a sense that "these positions were always going to be taken anyways." Actually, this was always in the cards. It was always going to happen. As an observer of the phenomena of position taking, one may always know that positions will be taken, in this case the body without organs as the intensity that's natural to being instead of the oedipalized-structure-being, but they don't know it until they observe it. Something that's being observed by the observer is the desire to want to bring things to a more natural place. As much as the observer wants to come into the scene and shake position-takers into a realization of their meaninglessness, they nonetheless will abstain from this position-taking and watch the position-takers as a part of the phenomena of being that always had to happen, and will happen, and is fine that it's happening...and will enjoy this happening rather than taking a position in this happening. We will open up to D&G and observe what they're doing.

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