Deleuze and other bigwigs I don’t give a fuck about (plus one you should)

Photo: Bart Ramakers
Photo: Bart Ramakers

Having spent all these years studying unusual sexualities and BDSM in particular, I feel qualified to say that I really heard them all. From the girl with basic questions about vaginal vs. clitoral orgasm, to the pseudo-necrophiliac lady asking me where to buy a refrigerated bed to better simulate being a corpse, I think I met every nuance of sexual preoccupation, and I developed a remarkable acceptance toward any kind of diversity and deviation. Almost. I cannot tolerate criminals, for one thing, nor intellectual bullshit.
I stumbled into an example just yesterday re-watching a great documentary called Graphic sexual horror, about the rise and fall of Insex, the extreme bondage website that pioneered online kink as we know it today. After a series of scenes showing pretty intense sessions, the company founder, a former Carnegie Mellon professor, defended his borderline coercive work with a rant about deconstructionism, Baudrillard, McLuhan and other staples of semiolog-ish mumbo-jumbo. Other typical cases happen at my lectures and conferences, at the end of which I am often confronted with lone, overexcited individuals who waited till the end to “bust” me with their oh-so-clever insights on the writings of de Sade or, worse still, Deleuze. Their ramblings usually point to the exquisite meta-commentary on the human condition, or some similar shit.

Did I sound a little harsh, maybe? Fact is, I did study all those authors all right: that’s part of my job, after all. And you know what? They have nothing to do with alternative sexuality, and may only be relevant to very specific literary circles. To wit:

de Sade wrote satirical pantomimes criticizing the French politics and social dynamics of the late 1700s. If you read his works at face value or without a detailed knowledge of his historical context, you are just making a fool of yourself.

Deleuze – the posterboy for empty French post-war intellectualism, he wrote one essay on sadomasochism to justify his jaunts with professional dominatrixes before his radical chic peers and to gain the professional protection of Focault, a notorious kinkster who paved his road to academic glory.

The same sadly goes for all the smartass name dropping happening around BDSM. No matter how interesting a few of those authors can be, none of them is actually related to kink, if not to hypocritically hide his very human passions behind an ungodly amount of written fluff.
Of course there is an intellectual meaning in BDSM, but it is much simpler and straightforward than all their theories. Let me spell it out for you: all unusual sex forces you to question your prejudices, and when you get good at this you will start questioning the status quo, including authority and the media. Also, the principles of BDSM lead to honest communication and to the acceptance of others and of yourself, making your daily life way simpler and less neurotic.

That’s it, really. Name-laden navel gazing is a waste of time you’d better spend pursuing earthly pleasures, because (here comes another epiphany) eroticism is by definition what turns you on. If your cock doesn’t get hard or your cunt wet, it is something else. Which brings us to my own brand of brainy showoff.
You may have heard of one Hunter Thompson, if only for the movie starring Johnny Depp.  The father of gonzo journalism was also a proponent of edgework, that can be summarized with ‘leaving your comfort zone to explore uncommon and dangerous situations, coming back with new transforming insights and experiences which will fuel an otherwise unattainable evolution’ – all of this trying not to die in the process. In other words, edgework is the exact opposite of navel gazing. Unfortunately, edgework is also what I see disappearing more and more from the world of sex. Even at BDSM parties, I rarely witness the sort of bliss one should expect to see; as I am fond of saying, if on ending a play session you don’t absolutely need to sit down and breathe slowly as the world slowly fades back in… you did it wrong. And don’t get me started on the quality of most online discussion about kink, which has grown so removed from actual practice it has mutated into a full-blown parody of itself. And what’s with personal ads? Seeking ‘online domination’ or ‘to be gently commanded, without pain’ plainly is not BDSM, folks. Hey, that’s not even vanilla sex!

This is very puzzling to me. I am not advocating edge play (which is an actual BDSM term describing the sort of games that involve a concrete risk of getting seriously hurt), but what about getting at least moved by what you do? Everyone has his personal edge, varying day by day. The first time I went to a party, in example, I was 18 and so overwhelmed by the intensity of everything around me that I had to sit half-shocked as I struggled to process it all: that was edgework all right, even if I didn’t really participate on that occasion.  To others, edgework may be a complete lifestyle transformation.
The only common trait is the effect it has on your soul. I mean, what’s the point of dressing oddly, experiencing pain and embarrassment, shattering social norms and investing so much time and money into BDSM if it leaves you mostly unfazed? Seriously, taking a cooking or a Chinese language course would be much more useful!

This is another reason why I really can’t stand intellectualism for its own sake: it sucks up all the fun from something that exists solely to make you feel more alive and in touch with yourself. I maintain that BDSM is also about honesty, especially with yourself. So I am sorry, but I cannot offer any better suggestion than embracing that honesty and quit dressing up your fantasies with a totally pointless highbrow air of respectability that only detracts from them.
If you got into BDSM only because you were looking for something else, please go away. Really, you wouldn’t enjoy it anyway and you are ruining everybody else’s fun. If you were just sidetracked by the strange turns taken by the Scene, however, try getting back to the basics. Make sure you really know how to play safe, and get down to it in search of what really touches your heart.  Domination games are about breaking rules, so don’t play to the expectations of what is “normal” in this world, but find your own buttons and enjoy mashing them to your content. Just remember to stay «Safe, Sane and Consensual». And never, never mention Deleuze to me again.

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  • Portia Capelo

    Re intellectualism for its own sake: Some people are intellectual at heart, by nature, through and through, at their core, etc. If intellectuals do not embrace, explore and express that core they cannot be alive and in touch with themselves.

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