Philosophy and Sex have never met, though in some cases they’ve claimed to, Anne Dufourmantelle assures us–and it’s clear she’s done her homework–that they, in fact, have been avoiding this blind date since its conceptual inception.
Aside from being an exquisite writer, Dufourmantelle is best known for the volume she published with Jacques Derrida, Of Hospitality, which is based on Derrida’s lectures in Paris. Of Hospitality, its text, is split, consisting of two texts on facing pages. On the left, Dufourmantelle writes, translates, offers “Invitations” as a response, to clarify Derrida’s “Response” on the right. This act of translating, writing and responding, exemplifies the topic of hospitality that the book spotlights, plays into the dance of me/you, host/guest, oscillating between the two, typifying the dichotomy, asking, transforming hospitality into the question of what happens at the borders, in the initial surprise of what happens with the contact of an other, a foreigner, a stranger, you.
In a way, Blind Date; Sex and Philosophy carries the question further by personifying philosophy, and wondering why, on pains of anxiety, why the immense corpus flees in terror from its silent other, its invisibly conjoined counterpart, sex. Not that sex, she points out, has done anything to keep its appointment with philosophy.
“The meeting was scheduled, they say, three thousand years ago. Officially, at least. Since then, it has been continuously postponed.”
Sex and Philosophy are both too self-involved, wrapped in up the superior euphoria of their own being, in their mutual chase for the height, the decimation of desire. Both exist in and of their own right, and outside the confines of language. Both are complete, lack any distracting object (as Lacan says, there is no such thing as sexual relations. And thinking is a masturbatory act, a groping for “Truth”). They think themselves synonymous, both resolute that they’re the defining line of demarcation, separating life from death. In other words, they’re both jealous of each other, blind to the other.
is the term for a meeting between two beings who do not know each other, who may be able to love each other–a meeting organized by someone else who knows them both and who will not be present at the encounter.
Blind, this is what hides in the shadows, in the margins of the encounter between sex and philosophy. Blind, the lack of sight, a shade, a veil, curtains, darkness, an obstacle, a barrier between seeing and not seeing. Both sex and philosophy are blind to one another. Have never noticed each other. Pretend the other doesn’t exist.
begins with astonishment (Aristotle), declares itself the science of being, hopes to provide for the soul, finds its etymology in love of wisdom, imagines a spiritual education as its vocation, rights itself into a logic of propositions, lingers in schoolbooks, is written in all languages but is thought to think in just one,
is quietly dying out.
“To philosophize about sex” she writes, “is to think of its philosophical preliminaries, its margins, its surroundings, its subterranean periphery, its steep slopes, its white lines.” Because sex is outside of language, slips out of its grasp as a pure event, nothing more, how can one begin to define its boundaries, its borders, what jouissance exactly, precisely, is? Philosophy, thinking, requires language, lives in the world of words, of precision, in the pursuit, the love of wisdom. Philosophy experiences what it thinks, because it appears only in and through the act of thinking.
Upon reading in Levinas, reading about the infinite distance between two people, one thinks, one ponders then the impossibility of seeing and thinking outside of one’s subjective experience. How we see things as we are, not as the things themselves are. The same goes with people. I see Jil, I interpret Jil, I make assumptions on Jil’s behavior because of past experiences I’ve witnessed in Jil, by the patterns she exibits, by what I already know about her personality. But I have no idea what Jil is really thinking when she talks about her mother, outside of the language she uses to tell me, and that language, those words, are never enough. They never convey the thousands of images blurred together of her mother, the various instances, memories of her mother, the emotions surrounding her mother, the sundry feelings that well up at this conjuration, the infinite possibilities that surround their relationship, etc. I know what her mother looks like, I know some of the relevant and important stories that Jil has shared with me, but I have no idea what’s in her head.
This is always felt most painfully with lovers.
In Plato’s Symposium he says, “Now, when our first form had been cut in two, each half in longing for its fellow would come to it again; and then would they fling their arms about each other and in mutual embraces yearn to be grafted together, till they began to perish of hunger and general indolence.”
This cutting, sings Hedwig, is the origin of love.
ends only when explanations are required, comments on itself only as it disappears, disrupts any script that seeks to isolate its effects,
is present everywhere, all the time,
is absent everywhere, all the time.
Sex allows us to experience what is untouchable in the Other. It collapses as much of the infinite distance between two people as possible, it is the closest we come to feeling whole, to shedding our isolation, our being-toward-death. Sex is outside of time as well, or rather, because nothing is really outside of time, sex is inside a time that pretends it doesn’t exist. Sex lives inside an instant, a time cancelled out or wholly given over, a time fully accomplished. “Considered in this light,” she begins, “sex answers to our anguish at being in time through the rediscovered grace of instants miraculously spared from any duration.” Sex is the antidote to metaphysical insecurity, to ontological anxiety. It is an exchange of saliva, flesh, words, scents, oils, betrayals, distances, jealousies, emotions, caresses, memories, penetrations, humors, traumas, parents, ghosts, desires, love.
Sex is a pure quest for jouissance, for the pleasure that culminates in orgasm and annihilation, reducing everything else, the world, including me and you, to oblivion. It is a miniature death, reminding us, that every instance of death begins with an act of sex.
Eroticism, Bataille had said, is the assenting of life, to the point of death.
Sex is our only true response to the anguish of death. Making love makes us forget that life is always on the verge of ending and that the body itself belongs just as much to death as to life. Making love recalls us to death insofar as death is only conceived on the basis of life, and indeed that is what makes it always unreal to us; what fascinates us in death is its total opacity. Until the end we think within life, with death but outside of death. Sex holds me at the edge of the certainty that one day I will disappear.
Ripped away from our mothers, beyond what makes us human, this original separation affects us forever until death.
This is (wo)man’s plight, being born of a separation, an unthinkable solitude from which we will never recover.
This is also the reality of love, the origin of love.
Love, from which all life, all suffering, all existence is based. Love is the genesis of everything. Love in motion. Love of reason. Love in thought, love of thought. Love in matter, love of matter. Love of love.
And the catastrophe if it ever disappeared!
She says the encounter will never take place.
In other words, it has already taken place in the two protagonists’ lack of awareness, their failure to recognize that they knew each other (already), loved each other (already), had left each other and forgiven each other (already), and had finished, perhaps, with the fatigue of meeting. Of remaining only in the suspension of an unhoped-for encounter.
Beautiful, experimental, comprehensive, embracing, obscure, sexy, the kind of book that excites you to read another, to devour as much as you can, to write.