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Foucault's Dividing Line: Legitimate and Illegitimate Sexualities
The Loss of the Pre-sexual and the Soliloquies of Insulation: Sex/Rape and Victim/Rapist
That which is [was] already Corrupt: from Soliloquies to Dialogue and the Possibility of a Pact
The Language of [Post-]Sexual Dialogue and what is to c[u-o]me
Notes and References
Before we begin our discussion today, I shall remind the readers of the many trepidations and anxieties that will fill my writing up to the very brim if I am to be successful in reaching out to, and eventually arrive at the focal point [this, as we shall see, would be ironically the absence of any focal point as such] of my study. As for why this kind of trembling and discomposure shall haunt the writing that is to come? This can be answered quite simply. This haunting will be in consequence of the immense gravity and historical violence that entails the project that is at hand: that is, sexual exploitation [which can be represented by a chain of non-synonymous substitutions1: rape, harassment, assault, violation, etc.], irrespective of the sex that is violated, is an undoubtable historical reality [and a reality that has widened the gulf between the sexes], yet one that merges or has merged over the years with the socio-cultural notion of the perverse or the illegitimate [sexual practices].
This [non-synonymous] signifying chain that can be said to represent the discursive structure of sexual violence and exploitation, lies in opposition to another chain of signification [albeit an oppositional one]: the approved and normalized structure of sex and sexual pleasure [these two oppositional signifying chains are dialectically related to each other i.e. a term belonging to one corresponds to another term belonging to the other]. But these two oppositional chains can also be thought of/conceptualized as lying [together] on a single and heterogeneous signifying plane2 that has either been forgotten or is yet to be grafted. That is, although standardized sexual practices and illicit sexual activities discursively oppose each other, they can be thought of as belonging to a common and intersectional signifying field that allows both opposition and play. This essay would focus, not on the possibility that this pre-sexual field of play [which allows sexual oppositions free reign] had once occupied the social space, but rather on a quite different kind of possibility: that is, the possibility of the emergence of such a field of play in the near and foreseeable future.
I shall therefore not try to historically [or otherwise] reconstruct a field of play that goes beyond the dialectic of normalized sexual practices and illegitimate [or prohibited] sexualities, but try to constitute a possibility of such a field of play [in the form of a post-sexual dialogue] from within the two dialectically construed discourses at hand. I must hence undertake a path ahead into the future that leads me on to a third space3, rather than in search for it in the past within some kind of lost history. Unlike either the phallogocentric language [centered round the symbolic-singular phallus] of Jacques Derrida4 or Hélène Cixous' écriture féminine - the language of white ink5 [“There is always in her at least a little of that good mother’s milk. She writes in white ink” (Medusa 881)], the language of post-sexual dialogue would be a pluralized formation structured around the homonym 'cum/come' [ejaculation, orgasm, address, call, order, conjunction, etc] that shall be formulated in the form of the compound c[u-o]me [a compound with multiple and inconsistent significations]. We shall analyze the structurality, functioning(s) and signification(s) that would be connotated and made available by this neographism [also a neologism] later on in the essay, but now we must return to the chain of binary productions that would make possible for such a compound to be invented and integrated into the play of language in the first place.
Foucault's Dividing Line: Legitimate and Illegitimate Sexualities
We will take up two different sets of binary formations [sex/rape and victim/rapist, both belonging to the ‘master binary structure’ of the legitimate and the illegitimate] from the contradictory double discourse that we have just stated above, and show how the privileged [or dominant] term of the dialectic is divided and barred from its subservient counterpart by a figurative wall that delimits and discourages dialogue and commerce, subsequently leading on to the development of two distinct voices that not only contest but also try to exclude the other. This radical alterity 6 that exists between the two voices can be traced back to the classical [i.e. Greek classicism] periods and [as opposed to what Foucault claims at the very beginning of The History of Sexuality ] remains visibly prevalent during the European Renaissance. I do not attempt to disregard Foucault's contribution [completely] to the domain of sexuality and sexual practices and how they were marginalized during the puritan regime, but only attempt to draw out its [his] own inconsistencies. In the first chapter [of The History of Sexuality vol. 1 ] We "Other Victorians" Foucault remarks that in contrast to the seventeenth century which "was a time of direct gestures, shameless discourse, and open transgressions" (3), the nineteenth century demarcated this kind of open sexuality into legitimate and illegitimate sexualities: whereas "sexuality was carefully confined...the conjugal family took custody of it and absorbed it into the serious function of reproduction" (3), its other [ sexualities in the plural] was moved "to a place where they could be reintegrated, if not in the circuits of production, at least in those of profit...brothel and the mental hospital...the prostitute, the client, and the pimp...those 'other Victorians'." (4)
But Foucault's focus on the neo-classical age as the origin point of such a repression of sexualities is a premeditated one and so is his claim that "the advent of the age of repression...after hundreds of years of open spaces and free expression...coincide with the development of capitalism" (ibid. 5). Whorehouses and practices of prostitution and sex trafficking were common since the medieval times, at least in parts of Europe and were considered to be an integral albeit a restricted part of the social sphere, and there are also multiple stories that have been circulated which describe sexual offenders [homosexuals, rapists and transsexuals] being heavily persecuted [by locals if not by law] and even killed or burnt alive at the stake. Coming to his second assertion, the division between approved and illicit sexual practices can also be traced back to prohibitions against incest and inter-communal unions. Although one could indeed agree with Foucault's allegation that "repression has indeed been the fundamental link between power, knowledge and sexuality" (ibid. 5), yet this particular triad cannot be ascribed to the emergence of capitalism [at least not exclusively] but rather stretches back to the imperial monarchies, feudalism and even slavery. What underwent a radical change under capitalism, a change that Foucault seems to mistake for the construction of his triad is only the uniform and global scattering of the same. That is, Power which was centralized and focused around the monarch and the feudal lord previously was displaced, de-centered and disseminated [democratized] after the age of revolutions7 and made available to the common man [which coincided with a new bourgeois morality]. Sexuality suffered the same fate. The question of sexual morality [and the purity of sexual activity] was only a concern for the royal blood till the seventeenth century: Lucrece [the wife of a Roman general] is seen stabbing herself out of dishonor after being raped by Tarquin and the latter is exiled by the people of Rome in Shakespeare's rendition of The Rape of Lucrece 8. Jocasta, the queen of Thebes hangs herself out of disgrace after coming to know that she has not only married her own son [incest] but also bore his children in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex 9 [although in Euripides' version in Seven Against Thebes she decides to not kill herself10]. In Shakespeare's The Tempest Prospero the duke, castigates Caliban for trying to rape his daughter and later prevents Ferdinand and Miranda from consummating before their nuptials. In contrast to this Royal exclusivity, the Enlightenment and the disintegration of monarchies into constitutional democracies [along with suffrage rights] brought sexuality into the domain of social life and imprisoned it, as Foucault says, behind the doors of the bedroom. This imprisonment was the point of initiation which eventually led to the installation [an installation that was moral, judicial and social at the same time] of sexually divided soliloquies and the insulated monologues of desire on one the hand and torment on the other.
The Loss of the Pre-sexual and the Soliloquies of Insulation: Sex/Rape and Victim/Rapist The signification of rape [as stated earlier, we shall focus our study to a select set of binaries only] as a sexually violent and subverted activity emerges [is made available to us] from a possible intersection between the legitimate and the illegitimate [between the two chains of discourse], between the language of the victim and the language of the violator and the insulated divide that separates the two at all points. In fact it is this lack of connectivity, this absence of dialogue between the two languages that essentializes the violence of rape or sexual abuse. It is hence the language of sexual polarization that divides and separates [in the first instance] the dialect of the victim from that of the perpetrator or the rapist.
A young Connecticut woman Amy, who was raped by a Spanish man named Morena Hernandez Jose Angel in March of the year 2009, explains her experience in the courthouse while narrating her testimony in front of her rapist:
I thought of it [recollecting the incident] as exposing him for what he was and not to feel exposed anymore. This was about pointing him out for the monster that he is, not about me being a victim anymore (WTNH News8)
Binaries such as ‘monster/victim’ and ‘exposer/exposed’ here reinstates the linguistic polarization that we have marked out. In fact Amy's feeling [and memory] of 'being exposed' in a state of being naked and violated betrays the underlying ostracism [both moral and social] that a rape survivor is subjected to. Furthermore, she adds that only by overturning this gaze of victimhood upon the act committed by the perpetrator, is she released from that societal gaze that had marginalized her and entrapped her into a psychological victimhood in the first place. The word 'monster' here is reminiscent of Shakespeare's Caliban who is called a monster by both Stephano and Truinculo [throughout the play The Tempest ] and is reprimanded by Prospero for attempting to rape [his daughter] Miranda: "Filth as thou art, with humane care, and lodged thee/In mine own cell, till thou didst seek to violate/The honor of my child." to which he replies, "Thou didst prevent me, I had peopled else/This isle with Calibans" (Tempest 33) [breaking the puritan pact by associating rape (and not sex) with reproduction].
Coming back to the interview of the Connecticut victim, she [as recalled] evidently uses a general rhetoric of passivity to describe her attempted escape from her predator: "I was trying to plead with him, I was saying no and please, and he was just swearing at me [the soliloquy of the rapist]... I screamed like the dickens, the scream still haunts me… at some point [after being raped repeatedly] I just told myself, let go, let go, let go" (WTNH News8). One could draw a parenthetical division to bracket off her soliloquy of victimhood [and this indeed is a soliloquy in the strictest sense of the term. The interview that is conducted does not include the rapist, who also remains silent in the courthouse during her testimony]: the words no, please, let go, and the screams of the victim doesn't only sever her linguistic experience from that of the rapist but does so violently. Any possibility of dialogue is restricted to both the inarticulacy of her screams and the constant swearing [in a language that is foreign to her] of her rapist respectively11.
Jacques Derrida in his essay The Cogito and the History of Madness reevaluates another [similar] dialectic formation [reason and madness12] and traces the origin of the division between the two terms to a logos before classical reasoning [and even back to the pre-Socratics], a logos of interaction and free trade:
Because the silence whose archeology is to be undertaken is not an original muteness or nondiscourse, but a subsequent silence, a discourse attested by command, the issue is therefore to reach the origin of the protectionism imposed by a reason that insists upon being sheltered… and to reach this origin from within a logos of free trade, that is from within a logos that preceded the split of reason and madness, a logos which within itself permitted dialogue between what we're later called reason and madness (unreason) [or between rape and sex in our case], permitted their free circulation and exchange, just as the medieval city permitted the free circulation of the mad within itself [the presence of the perverse within the normal]. The issue is therefore to reach the point at which the dialogue was broken off, dividing itself into two soliloquies— (45)
Derrida's critique of Foucault's division of madness and reason [as well as Foucault's own critique of Descartes' Cogito] in Madness and Civilization is grounded upon a movement of archeology or a historical tracing back to a common language that had [according to Foucault] preceded the separate [and disparate] soliloquies of reason and unreason: a language of dialogue and commerce. Although the language of c[u-o]me or sexual play that I am trying to assemble here bears an analogous resemblance to this language of dialogue between madness and reason, it only does so in its constitution and not with respect to the kind of archeological historicity that it professes. That is, unlike Derrida's pre-Socratic language of a different logos [a logos that is mad], the language [or structurality, as it is still to be a language as such] of c[u-o]me only exists in a possible future when/where a dialogue between rape and sex [or the rapist and the victim], or between sexual legitimacy and illegitimate sexualities would have been made possible, established, and integrated into the linguistic game.
Although the individual soliloquies themselves remain well insulated from each other [in a dialectical language] making any kind of dialogue impossible, each term of the dialectic remains well represented. Unlike Foucault's division of madness and reason, the representative disparity between sexualities [normalized and perverse] is overcome by an increased journalistic interest over the last few decades in criminology and the socio-culturally deviant. In their book The Rapist's File: Interviews with Convicted Rapists Les Sussman and Sally Bordwell interview convicted rapists from prisons and correctional facilities. In one of the compilations, Sally Bordwell visits the Green Haven Correctional Facility to visit one of the convicts named Zeke, [who "was charged with attempted rape and conspiracy to sell narcotics" (394)] who narrates to her his rape of a girl that he had met at a disco [along with four to five others he had committed between the years 1970 and 1972]:
“She turned me down, so…I followed her home, and I tried to force my way into her house...I took from her what I wanted. I tied her up...if I put bruises on her I didn’t see it...The pain part of it was the best part. Especially when I sodomized her. All six or seven of them. I had to get pain from entering them from behind. Because I had been entered in that way. It hurt me, and I knew it was going to hurt them.” Zeke becomes increasingly animated as he continues. “It was the pleasure of entering her from the ass. Because when I do that—even though I never had a virgin—if they never have been entered from the back, that’s the virgin part of it. I just like to take that. That’s a pleasure thing for me...The asshole, that’s the only virgin part of a woman I could find...I think of myself as a sodomizer, not a rapist.” “What did the women you were sodomizing have to say about that?” Sally asks. “They called me everything under the sun—black bastard, no-good nigger, faggot, homo—everything which someone would say if they was in pain” (Sussman 455-466)
Here the radical shift in the position of enunciation13 [inside the victim/violator dialectic] is clearly noticeable. The convict Zeke found pleasure in the pain of the other [the victim], and unlike the case of the Connecticut woman [whose body rejects her attacker] the inmate here is driven by fetishes and the promise of fulfilling those fetishes at the expense of the victim. In fact Zeke isn't satisfied with the word [rapist] that is assigned to him and prefers to call himself a sodomizer [an enjoyer of anal intercourse]. Furthermore Amy's attacker who swears at her for resisting his advances is replaced here by the cursings of Zeke's victims: the verbal profanity of the abuser is mirrored and substituted here by the verbalism of victimhood. Yet the word sodomy also hints at a possible dialogue between pleasure and pain ["I had to get pain from entering them from behind" (ibid. 455), Zeke admits], a dialogue which is otherwise made impossible by the dialectical divide.
This ‘resistance to dialogue’ between rape [as perverse sexuality] and sex [and hence also between the rapist and the victim] is reinforced by the radical alterity [as stated earlier] between the soliloquies of rape and the soliloquies of victimhood, a radical alterity that was invented to restrict all sexual activities to the bedroom [ The History of Sexuality ] and to the other side of the private/public divide [therefore coupling sex with reproduction for the sake of labor production for factories and offices, and marginalizing every other form of sexual practice as illegitimate]. The walls of the bedroom [the wall that divided the private from the public] therefore not only functioned and still functions as a division that regulated [and still does so] capitalism as a means of production, but also made [and still makes] sex sacrosanct [and hence to be performed privately and kept secret] and inaccessible [and prohibited] to the public eye. These walls of a morally instituted bedroom therefore can be thought of as being constituted by the same fabric that divides legitimate sexual activity from illegitimate ones such as rape, incest, sodomy, masturbation, adultery, prostitution, etc [and also that which divides pleasure from pain or the rapist from the victim], which not only reinstates the strict gulf between the two discourses we have talked about but also prohibits any kind of interaction, agency or dialogue between the two.
It is therefore the possibility of a dialogue within this highly polarized language of sex and sexual practices that we shall now turn to.
That which is [was] already Corrupt: from Soliloquies to Dialogue and the Possibility of a Pact
Before I arrive at a critical description of what the language or the signifying economy of c[u-o]me 14 [as the language of dialogue] entails or represents, I want to explain and evaluate at length the preconditions that makes possible for such a critical and pluralized economy to inaugurate itself in the coming future. The possibility of sexual dialogue, a dialogue that is marked by inclusion and not exclusion [that is, a dialogue that contains the legitimate, the illegitimate as well as unmarked sexualities] must come from a shortening, or more radically an eradication of the gulf that separates sex [which is singular and sanctioned] from all other possible sexualities [which is plural and perverse]. This destruction of the insulated space that arranges the legitimate/illegitimate dialectic in terms of soliloquies [or even internal monologues] must follow from a calling, a congress [a congress to discuss commerce] of the sexes [as multiplicity] into a common space of difference: a space that espouses the possibility of a pact, a parleying [between normalized and transgressional sex such as rape or sodomy or incest or adultery] and a speech of sexual negotiation.
When Monsieur de Franval [in Marquis de Sade's novella Incest ] admits to Eugénie his own daughter [while asking her for sexual intercourse] that, "If I am not the person you prefer, I will bring you the man you cherish, and thus at least I will have earned your affection, even if I have been unable to captivate your heart, and I will be friend of Eugénie, even if I have not managed to become her lover" (Incest 17-18), Eugénie replies:
"You will be all of that, my brother, you will be all of that!"...burning with love and desire. "To whom do you think I should sacrifice myself, if not to the only man I love? Who in the whole world can be worthier than you of these poor charms that you desire...Can you not see, by the fire that is setting me ablaze, that I am just as impatient as you to experience the pleasure which you are telling me of?...Take me, enjoy me, my tender brother, my best friend! Make your Eugénie your victim: sacrificed at your beloved hands she will always be victorious" (ibid. 18)
The sexual union between the two characters here, which is attested by both, has a double illegitimacy: it is both an act of incest [Eugénie is Franval's daughter but also calls him 'brother' as the gesture of a special kinship], as well as falls under the category of statutory rape [Eugénie is only fourteen when they make love the first time]. Yet, although questions can be raised with regard to the willingness of the daughter to participate in such an activity given that juridically she is still a minor, her language is conceding and consensual if not driven by an equal desire to that of her father Franval. Sade's inquiry into the nature of incest and other sexual prohibitions and his critique of both as a natural taboo finds its utmost expression in the novella and in the sensual exchanges between the two main characters. Commenting upon his own book and explaining the moral-cultural [constructive] pretext of sexual illegitimacy Sade’s mouthpiece goes on to say that:
“Would not a man have a conscience that never varied? From one end of the earth to another, would not all actions be the same for him? But is that actually the case? No, there is nothing real in the world, nothing which… though unjust here, is not legitimate five hundred leagues away” (ibid. 55-56)
Eugénie's words [in the passage] reflect the language of a different kind of desire, a desire not marked by sexual normativity but by a number of dangerous divergences that break down what is permitted and what is prohibited in sex and sexual practice. Her openly perverse and heterogeneous jargon closely mimics the structurality of the language of c[u-o]me [in its sexual multiplicity] as we shall see in the final part of this essay: Eugénie's monologue not only consents to sex [a simple sexual union between two individuals] but also to incest and rape [at least in the judicial sense] at the same time. Her language of multiplicity therefore professes a kind of disregard for normative sexual regulations [which were incredibly strict at the time when Sade was writing the novella] and pronounces the coming of a liberated sexuality ['brother' is also reminiscent of a de-sexualized and universal brotherhood] that based on the inclusivity of [and tolerance towards] the perverse.
Here the transgression of the sacred [and moral] divide is not one that threatens this divide within the social contract but one that is undertaken under the silent oath of a secret15. A contract, either visible or invisible, is always [more or less] made prevalent when it comes to the inauguration of a sexual dialogue, especially one that is not permitted under normative circumstances. By the same token in E.L. James' erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, Christian Grey a billionaire entrepreneur draws up a non-disclosure contract, one that Anastasia Steele [a literature student] has to sign that assures complete secrecy to their sexual practices that include bondage and role-playing. In fact in Sophocles' play, incest is not purely incidental but Jocasta consciously pledges secrecy when she learns about Oedipus's past [and the fact that they have commuted incest] from the messenger from Corinth. This contract of silence or secrecy is not bound by speech but engraved within the act of illegitimacy itself [it is inscribed rather than given any kind of self-presence], making it unalterable.
The dialogue between rape [or any other illegitimate practice] and sex not only implies a silent pact but also introduces an element of linguistic equivocation when the silence is broken, a kind of double vernacular that can be traced in the language of the one who has undergone such an encounter. In a confessional article [about his own rape] in The Washington Post, freelance writer Richard Morgan describes his experience:
I had received anal sex twice in my life before that night. By weekend’s end, it was 17 times, according to my fog-of-war count. Eyes squeezed shut, the tally was the only thing I focused on at times — like a ticking clock in a solitary confinement cell. Every addition to the tally meant I was one moment closer to the end. He moved out soon afterward, which helped erase the existence of that place for me.
I was raped...He was not some lecherous old man. He was not a sexually repressed loser. There was nothing about him that was “rapey” (a word I detest). The sex itself was — I can’t really say it was “good,” because that’s far too moral of a word and far more than he deserves, but it was highly skilled. He knew exactly what he was doing, exactly how to stimulate me. What he didn’t know was when to listen to me saying “no,” when to stop, when to realize that my kicking and punching and shoving and screaming and writhing was not just some sick roleplay while he blasted Lady Gaga’s “I Like It Rough.” (Washington)
Apart from the sexual subjugation and violence that is narrated [elaborated by terms such as confinement, raped, kicking, screaming, writhing ], there is also a simultaneous confession of a moment that cripples [his] language and expression. While explaining how his violator was "highly skilled" and "knew exactly what he was doing, exactly how to stimulate me" yet he refrains from using the word "good" because of the general sense of morality that is assigned to the term. This double [and simultaneous] vernacular of aversion and approval, if not a secret admiration, betrays the contradiction of upholding or privileging any one of the two positions in the violator/victim [or even in the rape/sex] dialectic in this instance. Richard even admits that "I was erect for much of my rape". Jenny Morber in another article for Popular Science writes that:
In February of this year, Reddit featured a child therapist in an 'I Am A' discussion to address orgasm during rape...In the first post the therapist states, "I've assisted more young women than I can count with this very issue…There have been very few studies on orgasm during rape, but the research so far shows numbers from 10% to over 50% having this experience. In my experience as a therapist, it has been somewhat less than half of the girls/women I've worked with (Arousal popsci)
The question of orgasm [and more specifically, of ejaculation] as an undecidable signifier [one of many] in the discourse of sex, that which economizes and makes fluid the activities of sex, will be taken up in the final section of the essay while discussing the various significations of the linguistic neographism c[u-o]me. The experience of orgasm in rape victims who have otherwise been traumatized by the violence that they have suffered at the hands of their attackers is evidence that in contrast to judicial laws and moral ethics, violence and pain are not extrinsic but rather intrinsic to the experience of sex and sexual practice [a kind of sexual practice that lies prior to or beyond the binaries of legitimacy and illegitimacy; sex here as bodily experience and not an overly psychological one]. Violence and rupture has always been a part of sex17, a controversial part that has been repressed, marginalized and excluded from it over centuries in order to create a sex that is not sex but a socio-culturally approved image of the same, a regulated simulacra .
This regulated exteriority is not restricted to the experience of sexual violation or pain only but extends to a chain of signifiers that have always been thought of as being secondary or tertiary to the experience of true or pure sex [if there is indeed such a thing]. These signifiers have developed into what Freud calls the ‘polymorphously perverse’, or Judith Butler would go on to call ‘supplementary acts of pleasure and sexual gratification’, that merely substitutes or stands in place of normative [reproductive] sexual practices: masturbation [both male and female], prostitution, sodomy, fetishism, use of sex toys, performance enhancers have all contributed to this chain of signifiers marked as sexual supplements. In the final section of his book Of Grammatology titled "The Supplement of (at) the Origin" Derrida emphasizes upon the fact that this privileging of the thing [as the transcendental signified] at the expense of the supplement(s) or the substitute(s) has been the primary grounding mechanism behind western philosophy and politics, but a mechanism that is not an evocation of truth but only an effect of power. Derrida claims that in a space of non-privilege, the thing [normative sex] has the same status as the supplement [illegitimate sexualities: masturbation, rape, prostitution]. Or in other words, what was/is privileged was/is always already a supplement [and hence violent and illegitimate] to begin with: "One can no longer see the evil in substitution when one sees that the substitute is substituted for a substitute" (Grammatology 342). Sex and the language of sex [the sex that was before, or the sex that is to yet arrive henceforth], before it was divided into what is permissible as normal and prohibited as abnormal was therefore always already in a state of multiplicity and différance: invariably changing, under flux and with a meaning that is repeatedly deferred.
The Language of [Post-]Sexual Dialogue and what is to c[u-o]me
This language of dialogue as indicated by Derrida [although the predominant binary Derrida deals with is that of writing and speech] is marked by undecidability, absence of a singular truth and différance, a language that can only be formulated as a trail of traces: "the labyrinth, the palintrope in which logos is lost; the way of meaning and the way of nonmeaning; of Being and of non-Being" (Cogito 76). Like the structurality of Derrida's neologism Différance [which is a variation upon its homonym difference, and a conflation of two meanings: ‘to differ’ and ‘to defer’], c[u-o]me indicates the presence of a linguistic structure [made up of the homonyms ‘cum’ and ‘come’] that is a non-linear multiplicity. C[u-o]me is a linguistic portmanteau compound made up of the Latin ‘cum’ and the Old Norse ‘come’. The word 'cum' in its original signification indicates the possibility of a double and is used to describe a thing with a dual nature or function [a study-cum-bedroom], making signs that are otherwise different or even opposite come together; it is the hyphen on either side of the word [-cum-] that helps it to glue opposites or differences together somewhat [rape-cum-sex, incest-cum-sex, victim-cum-violator, pain-cum-pleasure]. This logic of hyphenation is reproduced at the level of the compound [ c[u-o]me ] itself, where the vowels 'u' and 'o' of cum and come respectively is conjoined at an approximate center, a center that is marked not by a singular presence but by this hyphenated dialogue [a center that is double; therefore the absence of any focal point within the compound as such; a negotiated and moving center]. Differently, 'cum' in its modern etymology [which is not connected to its Latin roots] signifies both the act of ejaculation as well as that which is ejaculated [the seminal or the vaginal fluid]:
It is a variant of 'come in the sexual sense' that originated in pornographic writing, perhaps first in the noun. This "experience sexual orgasm" slang meaning of come (perhaps originally come off) is attested from 1650, in "Walking In A Meadowe Greene," in a folio of "loose songs" collected by Bishop Percy.
They lay soe close together, they made me much to wonder; I knew not which was wether, vntill I saw her vnder. then off he came & blusht for shame soe soone that he had endit; (Etymology cum)
In its orgasmic sense the verb cum indicates a movement that is both visible [in the form of what is ejaculated] and invisible [the movement of fluid inside the body], both male [seminal] and female [vaginal], and therefore always in the form of a double. As ejaculation 'cum' is also related metonymically to the sex hormones [testosterone, estrogen and progesterone] and therefore to the emotive and the psychological aspects of the body, establishing a connection [a hyphen] therefore between the body and the mind.
The word 'come' on the other hand signifies both a variant of the term 'cum' [as remarked] as well as ‘a calling’. It is a verb of address. It can refer to an order [come here and sit down], a request [please do come home], or a calling for a dialogue or discussion or commerce [come let's talk; come, let's go together;]: 'come' is the calling for an alliance between two parties on grounds [dominance-subservience, equality, play] that shall always remain in a state of multiplicity. But 'come' is also and always a 'to come', that is, it is a calling for commerce or union and not the union itself. In other words, come is only the possibility of union: it is the ground of dialogue. This dialogue is never here in this language of 'come' [or c[u-o]me ] but always approaching, an always "to come" in a distant or not so distant future. Intransitively therefore come is an invitation for openness, a dialogue of openness, of constant negotiation for a future that shall never present itself as such [for such a negotiation based on sex and violence is an endless one], an endless commerce without a telos or a point of end [I ask you to come; I invite you to a conjunction, a commerce, a dialogue].
Much like 'cum', which lies on the other side of 'pleasure and pain', or of 'sex and violation', of 'enjoyment and shame' [it has no morals, no ideology and no boundaries; in fact it does away with boundaries and divisions altogether], come belongs to an economy that rejects any sexual focal point or exclusions on the basis of jurisdiction, religion or culture and therefore puts the whole history of sexuality under erasure. This language of threat and rupture is found in the daily commerce of prostitutes, children, perverts, porn-stars and others who are barred to the peripheries of sexual discourse. But this language is also an economy18, because as stated earlier, this language de-centers the possibility of any focal point, any transcendental signified, and introduces a silent play that is not silent but arousing, seductive, celebratory and profane, economizing all these in a play of pleasure and pain, of sex and a rupture from sex [a sex that is non-identical to itself; the movement of sex breaking out of itself]. The sexual act [in its most democratic form] therefore always has an economizing function [ this economizing function]. It dialogues, negotiates, balances and plays with chains of signifiers along with the individual signifiers themselves on a plane of non-privilege and non-Being.
Coming to the structurality of the neologism c[u-o]me, as mentioned earlier in this section of the essay the graphic center of the compound is marked by the hyphen (-) and therefore implies the activity of dialogue and indicates a kind of fluidity and movement [here between the two terms 'cum' and 'come']. The presence of this bridge not only brings the two counterparts of the compound c[u-o]me together through the portal of a mark, but also therefore establishes the relationship between any two individual signifiers that are brought together [either symbiotically or antagonistically]: a relationship of dialogue, economy and commerce, or a play of detached affinity. Moreover [u-o] points to a logic of inclusion that is only possible in writing [and hence graphic] and not in speech [ cum and come as homonyms are inseparable in speech]. Apart from this function of addition the structure of the neologism is also marked by a subtraction or a negation: the 'e' at the end is put under erasure. This negation at the end, this mark of erasure and therefore of incompletion at the end of a discourse on dialogue and sexual commerce is the only necessary end that is available to a practice and a set of activities that are always under rupture, always breaking down, always expanding and becoming something else, becoming the perverse or the illegitimate [becoming the other ]. This mark of deference therefore addresses, invites and calls for the coming [or the c[u-o]meing ] of a dialogue without end, without division and without the exteriority of exclusion: a dialogue that is always different to what it was or had seemed previously and one that is repeatedly deferred to an end without end.
The plurality of c[u-o]me and the structure of multiplicity and dialogue that it espouses, inaugurates a chain of signifiers that must be invented and explored in the coming future, either distant or immediate. But to add on to and to carry forth what we have established [successfully or not] in this essay, one must be willing to go beyond [by inclusion and not by ignorance] the history of sexual violence or the contemporary debates regarding the oppositions of pleasure and pain, of enjoyment and rape, of sex and perversion, of victimhood and assault, and every other binary formation that has made dialogue impossible by engendering an absolute and untrespassable space of division.
One may turn to the speech of the socially [and morally] excluded, the language of poetry or a repressed and minoritarian rhetoric, to the lingo of Afro-American jazz and black rap, to the jargon of porn; to the dirty, the profane and the sacrilegious in all standardized culture [and even to a religion or cult]. Anything that answers a certain calling or a certain coming/cuming [ c[u-o]me ing], taking us further along its vocation to a non-place that allows for [by not allowing, by abandoning completely19] any kind of discursive sexual practice without delimiting it within the borders of domestic walls or moral divisions.
This language which makes all soliloquies [both of victimhood and delinquency] impure and corrupt and renders every individual testimony that doesn't include the word of the other [by discouraging dialogue], moot, must be embraced in all of its perversities and multiplicities, even if it speaks of things unscrupulous, debauched and licentious without any visible restraint [for these are what make post-sexual dialogues possible]. For this language of c[u-o]me not only short-circuits the moral code and the word of the law, but also exposes and reveals the many possible expressions [which has been kept hidden behind the image of culture and jurisdiction] that sex and sexuality has the power to engender and perform for the pains and pleasures of the material body.
Notes and References
1. These terms/signs/signifiers are loosely connected to each other through contiguity [and not synonymity] and belong to the discourse of illegitimate sexual activities.
2. Unlike the discursive spaces of legitimate and illegitimate sexualities which are based on hierarchy, privilege and marginalization [of practices belonging to these discourses], this heterogeneous signifying plane is a decentralized space without either depth or height, and therefore inclusive of oppositions, differences and contradictions. This is a space of difference [or différance ].
3. According to Homi Baba's theories of dissent, the third space can be conceptualized as a place where the oppressor [here, legitimate sexuality] and the oppressed [here, illegitimate sexualities] can come together [maybe even momentarily], [a space that is itself free of oppression or privilege,] for the sake of dialogue and interaction.
4. A neologism coined by Jacques Derrida by combining the older and Freudian Phallocentrism [the idea of privileging the male phallus] and logocentrism [privileging of language].
5. Feminine Writing. "Hélène Cixous coined this term in the widely read essay 'Le Ride de la Méduse' (The Laugh of Medusa) to describe kind of writing that is outside of the masculine economy of patriarchal discourse" (Buchanan 145)
6. Here not an absolute otherness but a radical otherness that exists [and has existed] between the respective voices of the two sexes.
7. Usually taken to be the years between 1770 and 1850, a time when a lot of revolutionary movements took place over Europe and in America.
8. Shakespeare's poem draws its material from both Ovid's Fasti and Titus Livius' History of Rome.
9. Sophocles' tragic play about Oedipus the king of Thebes who blinds himself after realizing that he had slept with his own mother (Jocasta) and killed in own father (Laius).
10. The third play of Aeschylus' Oedipus based trilogy [ Laius and Oedipus being the first two].
11. This loss of language and the resort to verbal violence [a violence that is inarticulate] at the very moment of communication illustrates the absence of parity, dialogue and understanding at the center of the dialectical divide between rape and sex or the rapist and the victim.
12. Like the binaries of legitimate and illegitimate sexualities, Derrida in The Cogito and the History of Madness explains that Foucault's division between madness and reason is also traceable to the question of logos and the fact that language is grounded upon binary productions.
13. Subject position [either of the two] within the dialectic.
14. A combination of two words: cum and come, and two functions: conjunction and negation [erasure]. C[u-o]me is an undecidable trace term that has multiple [and sometimes opposite] significations.
15. This kind of agendered [sexual] brotherhood between two individuals who are otherwise bound by law and social regulation, is characteristic of sexual dialogue and the language of C[u-o]me. This kind of secret association between two individuals is also typical of secret societies such as the Illuminati, the Ordo Templi Orientis and the Rosicrucians, many of whom used subverted sexual practices as rites of initiation or incorporation.
16. The dialogue of sex [the sex that is beyond the legitimate/illegitimate divide] historically has always been marked by this kind of a secret or discretion.
17. This logic is consistent with Jacques Derrida's idea of différance which he defines as the becoming space of time and the becoming time of space. The differential nature of sex and sexuality would mean that it is always becoming something else [occupying a different space] in time. The economy of violence and rupture, a rupture that breaks down the structure of sex and sexuality is thereby an integral part of its overall structurality.
18. In the sense that one constantly needs to improvise, balance, budget, regulate and modulate linguistic [or even bodily] performance.
19. As within this economy of c[u-o]me sex or sexual practice(s) is no more discursive in the Foucaudian sense of the term [as this economy is grounded on the absence of any ground at all; it is grounded on différance ].
Chakravorty Spivak, Gayatri. Of Grammatology. By Jacques Derrida. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2016. Print.
Cixous, Hélène. "The Laugh of the Medusa."Signs 1.4 (1976): 875-893. Print. "cum."Online Etymology Dictionary. Online Etymology Dictionary, n.d. etymonline. Web. 2 April, 2020. <www.etymonline.com>
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De Sade, Marquis. Incest. Trans. Andrew Brown. Surrey: Alma Classics Limited, 2013. Print. 120 Days of Sodom. New York: Start Publishing LLC, 2012. Print.
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Morber, Jenny. "What Science Says About Arousal During Rape."Popular Science 13 May, 2013. Web. 28 March, 2020.
Morgan, Richard. "My own rape shows how much we get wrong about these attacks."The Washington Post 1 July, 2014. Web. 26 March, 2020. <www.washingtonpost.com>
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Sussman, Les and Sally Bordwell. The Rapist File: Interviews with Convicted Rapists. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1981. Print.
WTNH News8. "Rape victim speaks out about attack." Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 14 June 2012. Buchanan, Ian. A Dictionary of Critical Theory. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.
- Quote paper
- Arindam Nandi (Author), 2019, The Plurality of c[u-o]me: Transgressing the Soliloquies of Rape and Sex towards a Language of [Post-]Sexual Dialogue, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/921312