[-empyre-] discussion on track again

Christina Spiesel christina.spiesel at yale.edu
Thu Nov 27 07:41:46 EST 2014

Thank you Ana for the links to the French exhibition! Ana raised many 
issues and this is only a partly, and personal, reply. There is a point 
where grown men beheaded and little girls sexually exploited meet in the 
common theme of the exertion of absolute power over the bodies of 
others. These are demonstrations of what the group can do/get away with. 
And it is terrorism,  meant to create fear and compliance in others.  I 
think this is distinct from the far more common theme of the maintenance 
of patriarchal social power through control of sexual information. A 
very influential book for me is Walter Kendrick's /The Secret Museum, 
Pornography in Modern Culture///(1987)/. /He makes many arguments//but 
the most compelling for me is that erotic materials actually convey 
sexual information and that protected classes -- women and youths, poor 
men -- are kept in subjugation by denial of sexual information. (We can 
see the latest iteration of this in the United States where some people 
are trying to put the genie back in the bottle by trying to repress 
birth control, sexual education, abortion rights, etc.) Traditionally, 
young warriors (and athletes before competition) are taught that their 
prowess will be diminished if they have sex before battle. It is not 
hard to imagine that having sex would reaffirm life's pleasures and make 
one less inclined to risk life and limb in warfare. Upper classes have 
always had access to materials forbidden to the rest of us -- hence the 
"Enfer" sections of  libraries that have become the repositories of 
materials once held in private collections. "L'origine du Monde" was 
painted for Khalil Bey, Ottoman diplomat, who had a collection of 
erotica.  Reportedly he kept it behind a curtain which would be pulled 
back to show particular guests -- performance as display. Circling back, 
I do wonder what particular cultural arrangements has produced ISIS. 
Yes, of course, official propaganda might talk about rejection of 
western colonialism, etc.  but what of the psychological factors local 
tpo that culture?  And somewhere in this discussion we might ask about 
DeSade who would probably assert that we are dealing with the human 
condition. And one more circling back -- Alan is writing about what 
happens to humans when their culture is going off the rails. In the case 
of the United States, much of our culture arose from the existence of a 
middle class, now under extreme threat.


On 11/26/2014 10:02 AM, Ana Valdés wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> I was trying to find a red line in our discussion, reading what others
> wrote, Aneta, Monika, Murat, Alan, Johannes, Christina, Aristita,
> Andreas, Simon, Rustom, Alicia, Leandro, others...
> I go always back to Modernity. Yesterday we discussed with Alicia
> about Bataille and all the French writers and painters using erotic as
> a kind of rebellion against the power, again the etablished norms. In
> the French National Library there is a place called "Enfer" (Hell)
> where erotic texts written by Voltaire, Diderot and many other are
> hidden from public view. They can only be consulted and peroused by
> researchers with several degrees of clearing.
> Why are these texts so revulsive today? In a society where pornography
> is an industry with millions of people employed these texts are still
> so revulsive and must be kept secret.
> The same with the paintings. Gustave Courbet "L'Origine du Monde",
> showing the vulva of a woman, was censored by Facebook several times
> only a few years ago.
> Bear with me, I am trying to find paralleles here between beheadings
> and naked women. The beheadings are shown in You Tube and can be seen
> by anyone with a screen nearby, the real erotic seems more powerful
> and more dissident and must be kept from the public.
> Isis marriages with small girls and the selling of women as slaves are
> for me more horrific than the beheadings.
> Ana

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