Let's talk about voyeurism and how it relates to art and how it relates to sex and how it relates to being alive.
The astounding thing about pornography is the amount of repetition and how little variation is needed to stimulate response.
In Episode 2 of I Love Dick, there's a great sex scene right at the beginning that works on several levels to capture a "female" gaze from both within the scene and external to the scene. It's interesting that the word "scene" is often used in S&M play to delineate the borders around fantasy and reality. A scene has parameters, and it has a clear beginning and an ending with characters "acting" out their roles. This fact is crucial. Within the anatomy of the S&M scene, there is at once the person and the role played by the person, a duality from which pleasure is derived on a single body.
Take note: This is art. This is the body. This is the body. This is art.
We as viewers of the scene in I Love Dick interrupt. We have not been made privy to the rules of the scene. We know the players, but we don't know the guidelines. Film creates a heightened sense of the role of the voyeur more so than almost any other medium. Here we are in the bedroom while Chris and Sylvere fuck and while a fantasy Dick watches, and we watch. The artist aware always that the art we make is subject to an audience we will never meet. And so we watch the watcher watching and even here now, as you read this, find yourself the watcher watching me watching Dick watching Chris.... it's an endless gaze.
Not a male gaze.... an endless gaze. For what is sweeter than the thing itself is sometimes knowing the witness is there to absorb your pleasure, to record and take note of your experience. It's why children look to the gaze of the parent. I both experience the world and I experience the world through that which adores me... my experience witnessed. It's the appeal of social media, the root of all religion. The gaze. We are never alone. We are so precious as to elicit the desire of a constant gaze.
There is no couple that does not triangulate. Here the scene is literally made flesh through Chris' desire. It's the woman's fantasy, and yet it still pivots on the standard roles. Dick is bad daddy. Chris is the bad girl. Why does this get repeated so often? Role Play like pornography seems to be suspended in its own repetition, an ouroboros of caught langauge, a script from which we enact and reenact the Freudian theater of childhood abandonment and desire for total union. Dick, with Chris' letter in his hands is actually taking cues from Chris. She is calling the scene and it is as if Sylvere is not there at all.
Classic Cuckold S&M game:
In 1966, Lenore Kandel wrote a small pamphlet of poems called "The Love Poems." It was seized as pornography and the book declared obscene.
from God/ Love Poem
I love you / your cock in my hand
stirs like a bird
in my fingers
as you swell and grow hard in my hand
forcing my fingers open
What is it about a woman's desire that is most monstrous? Most ob/scene?
Etymology of "obscene":
1590s, "offensive to the senses, or to taste and refinement," from Middle French obscène (16c.), from Latin obscenus "offensive," especially to modesty, originally "boding ill, inauspicious," of unknown origin; perhaps from ob "in front of" (see ob-) + caenum "filth." Meaning "offensive to modesty or decency" is attested from 1590s. Legally, in U.S., it hinged on "whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to a prurient interest." [Justice William Brennan, "Roth v. United States," June 24, 1957]; refined in 1973 by "Miller v. California":
The basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be: (a) whether 'the average person, applying contemporary community standards' would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
Who is the average person? Who decides if a work lacks literary or artistic value? Can we even allow for the average person to have any parameters for what constitutes artistic value?
Dick tells us when to CUM. His hairy chin is the average chin of an average man demanding a woman's pleasure be performed for him, and we are watching to see if language has that power. What can a word make you do?
From To Fuck with Love Phase 1
positions and pleasures of need my body
transforms into one enormous mouth
between my legs
suckfucking oh that lovely cock
When does pleasure turn to pain? When does desire make us suffer, and why can our bodies sometimes not distinguish the difference?
From To Fuck with Love Phase II
my cunt is honeycomb we are covered with come and honey
The best moment in this scene is when Chris throws Sylvere off of her to make herself cum. She takes over the whole scene. She is the sub and the dom/domme, she is the writer and the actor, the bad girl and the daddy, she is the alpha and the omega. That is the core of this scene.
From To Fuck With Love Phase III
I kiss your shoulder and it reeks of lust
the lust of erotic angels fucking the stars.
There are just four poems in Kandel's obscene pamphlet The Love Book. While I think censorship is horrifying; I must admit to a kind of romantic notion that is fascinated that four poems about a woman extolling fucking and the pleasure it gives her as being seen as a threat to society. What did the average person find offensive then and what does the average person find offensive now? Are we post-obscene? Is violence the only obscenity left to us that we hunger to consume?
"There are no barriers to poetry and prophecy; by their nature they are barrier-breakers, bursts of perception, lines into infinity." L. Kandel, 1967
"...you eroticize what you''re not, secretly hoping that the other person knows what you're performing and that they're performing too." -C. Kraus, I Love Dick
Does the artists know the space between making art and living? What is that space called? When does one begin and one end? What is the scene and what are the roles assigned?
I have nothing but questions tonight, Chris.
Collected Poems of Lenore Kandel by Lenore Kandel, (North Atlantic Books, 2012)
I Love Dick by Chris Kraus, (Semiotext(e), 1998)
Sidenote: I could write a whole other blog post just on the spelling and usage of "cum" vs "come." I prefer cum when talking about sex, so that is what I always use.