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Friday, January 21, 2011

The Sadeian Woman (5)

"What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure." - Samuel Johnson


This is the final instalment of the series.

"Belmore, the immolator of small boys, suggests to his good friend, Juliette, Justine’s sister, in the sequel to Justine that the origin of the unnatural reverence for women which finds its expression in the forms of romantic love derives from the professions of witchcraft and prophecy that women exercised in the antique past. To a man freed from ignorant superstion, says Belmore, women are no more than sexual receptacles, pieces of plumbing. All mystification stripped from her, Celia does not only shit; she becomes herself a commode."

"Theft represents the morality of the outlaw. Duval, the master thief, lectures the girls: ‘If you trace the right of property back to its source, you always arrive at usurpation.’ Theft, therefore, is a moral imperative; it is a means of redistributing property. Theft, deceit and cunning are the revenges of the weak upon the strong, of the poor upon the rich. One of Juliette's colleagues encourages her to steal for the sake of the principle of human equality; where equality has not been established by chance or fate, it is up to the poor to ensure it by their ingenuity."

"She meets a man of power, the statesman, Noirceuil, who teaches her how Nature made the weak to be the slaves of the strong. She learns her lesson at once; to escape slavery, she must embrace tyranny. All living creatures are born and die in isolation, says Noirceuil; in the cultivation and practice of egoism and self-interest alone may be found true happiness. Juliette is immediately drawn to this credo of bourgeois individualism.

When Noirceuil tells Juliette that he murdered her father, she declares that she loves him and is soon installed in his house as his mistress, with special instructions to torment his wife, whom he designates as a ‘mere pleasure machine’. Noirceuil has also instructed her in the rare pleasures of avarice. She returns to Duvergier’s brothel, to earn more money in her spare time, for the richer she becomes, the more money she must have."

"The nature of production-consumption relation of shit in Sade is illuminated by a psychoanalytic interpretation. The faeces are the child’s first gift. He can give them or withhold them at whim; utilising his excremental production, he can cause his mother delight or distress since, by producing them, he expresses active compliance with his environment and, by retaining them, disaffection. With his shit, he expresses obedience or disobedience. Before he can speak, his excretions are the child’s means of expression - shit and tears; in this, he is just like the victims in the castle. He is, however, more in control of his shit than he is of his weepings. Excretion is his first concrete production and, through it, the child gains his first experience of labour relations. He may reserve the right to go on excremental strike or to engage in a form of faecal offensive. The excremental faculty is a manipulative device and to be baulked of the free control of it is to be deprived of the first, most elementary, expression of autonomy."

"The coprophagic passions of the libertines reflect their exhaustive greed. The anal Juliette has an appropriately anal passion for capital accumulation. There is more to coprophagy than a particularly exotic perversion that requires an extraordinary degree of mastery of disgust to be able to indulge in it; the coprophage’s taste asserts the function of flesh as a pure means of production in itself. His economic sense, alert even in the grip of passion, insists that even the waste products of the flesh must not be wasted. All must be consumed."

"Juliette’s second acquaintance in Rome is the Pope himself. This Pope, like many of his predecessors, is a profligate atheist. His coprophilia is a statement of his apostasy: ‘I worship shit.’ Juliette participates in an orgy at the altar of St Peter’s, a venue of, simultaneously, privilege and sacrilege. There are further murderous orgies in the Sistine Chapel; these are the most fitting shrines for crime, opines Sade."

"Clairwil, the man-hater, can exhaust the combined pricks of all the inhabitants of the monastery of the Carmelites, since this insatiability has in itself a castratory function. Male sexuality exhausts itself in its exertion; Clairwil unmans men by fucking them and then retires to the inexhaustible arms of her female lovers."

"Men long for it and fear it; the womb, that comfortably elastic organ, is a fleshly link between past and future, the physical location of an everlasting present tense that can usefully serve as a symbol of eternity, a concept that has always presented some difficulties in visualisation. The hypothetical dream-time of the foetus seems to be the best that we can do.

For men, to fuck is to have some arcane commerce with this place of ultimate privilege, where, during his lengthy but unremembered stay, he was nourished, protected, lulled to sleep by the beating of his mother’s heart and not expected to do a stroke of work, a repose, of course, not unlike that of a corpse, except that a foetus’s future lies before it. And the curious resemblance between the womb and the grave lies at the roots of all human ambivalence towards both the womb and its bearer; we mediate our experience through imagination and dream but sometimes the dream gets in the way of the experience, and obscures it completely — the womb is the First and Last Place, earth, the greatest mother of them all, from whom we come, to whom we go...

The womb is the earth and also the grave of being; it is the warm, moist, dark, inward, secret, forbidden, fleshly core of the unknowable labyrinth of our experience. Curiously, it is the same for both men and women, because the foetus is either male or female, though sometimes both; but only men are supposed to feel a holy dread before its hairy portals. Only men are privileged to return, even if only partially and intermittently, to this place of fleshly extinction; and that is why they have a better grasp of eternity and abstract concepts than we do.

They want it for themselves, of course. But not, of course, a real one, with all the mess and inconvenience that goes with it. The womb is an imaginative locale and has an imaginative location far away from my belly, beyond my flesh, beyond my house, beyond this city, this society, his economic structure — it lies in an area of psychic metaphysiology suggesting such an anterior primacy of the womb that our poor dissecting tools of reason blunt on its magnitude before they can even start on the job. This inner space must have been there before any of the outer places; in the beginning was the womb and its periodic and haphazard bleedings are so many signs that it has a life of its own, unknowab1e to us. This is the most sacred of all places. Women are sacred because they possess it. That, as Justine would have known if she had thought about it, is why they are treated so badly for nothing can defile the sacred."

"As Dolmancé penetrates her anally while she inflicts the artificial penis with which he has equipped her upon her mother, Eugénie cries: ‘Here I am, at one stroke incestuous, adultress, sodomite and all that in a girl who has only lost her virginity today!’ The act of profanation and sacrilege she has performed, a fugue of sexual and familial misconduct, is a Sadeian rite de passage into complete sexual being. The violence of Eugénie’s reaction is some indication of the degree of repression from which she has suffered. It is also a characteristic piece of Sadeian black humour.

Then the libertines invalidate Madame de Mistival’s long- cherished and hypocritical chastity by introducing into the gathering a syphilitic who inoculates her with the pox in both orifices, forcing her to suffer the very punishment specially reserved by natural justice for the pleasures she has always denied herself. Finally, Eugénie seizes needle and thread and sews her securely up...

Eugénie’s delirious transgression has ensured her own sexual freedom at the cost of the violent cessation of the possibility of her mother’s own sexual life. Her triumph over her mother is complete."

"In the Freudian orchestration, now father enters the nursery and interposes his phallic presence between his daughter and her mother; his arrival in the psychic theatre, bearing his irreplaceable prick before him like a wand of office, a conductor’s baton, a sword of severance, signifies the end of the mother’s role as seducer and as beloved. ‘The turning away from the mother is accompanied by hostility; the attachment to the mother ends in hate,’ hypothesises Freud in his essay on femininity in the New Introductory Lectures in Psychoanalysis. The primary passion was in capable of the consummation of a child. The girl now turns to the father in the expectation he will give her the object that he possesses which she lacks, the phallus that is a substitute child and also makes children, that weapon which is a symbol of authority, of power, and will pierce the opacity of the world. Freud’s account of this process has such extraordinary poetic force that, however false it might be, it remains important as an account of what seemed, at one point in history, a possible progression. It retains a cultural importance analagous, though less far-reaching, to the myth of the crime of Eve in the Old Testament."

I think the line "Freud’s account of this process has such extraordinary poetic force that, however false it might be, it remains important as an account of what seemed, at one point in history, a possible progression" is very telling.
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