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Kipnis.adultery

Kipnis.adultery

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AdulteryAuthor(s): Laura KipnisSource:
Critical Inquiry,
Vol. 24, No. 2, Intimacy (Winter, 1998), pp. 289-327Published by:
Stable URL:
Accessed: 10/10/2010 20:27
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Adultery
LauraKipnis
Aspectreishauntingthe nation-thespectreofadultery.
LyingDown ontheJob
"Wouldyouliketo dance?" You'vemusteredallthe studied casualnessyoucan,momentarilyconvincingyourself (self-deception beingthe sinequanonofmoments such asthese)thatyourheartis aspureas thegoldofyourweddingband,yourvirtue asthickasyour mortgagepaymentbooklet.The rest of the crowd isflailingaroundwildlywithsuchgracelesspseudoabandonthat itgivesthephrase "repressivedesublimation" awhole newmeaning.'(What'sthatjokeabouttheacademicbodybeingabadly designed life-support systemfor anoverweeningcerebralcortex?)Yourtorpidmarriedbodynowpressednervouslyagainstthispersonwho'sbeencastingwinsomeglancesinyourdirectionallnight,a muffledbut familiarfeelingseemsto bestirring deepwithinyou,adistant rum-
MygratitudetoLauren Berlant forsage editorshipandmany insights(pluscollabora-tionandhilarity),andtoMichaelBerube,whoverykindlyreadandconferred oversucces-sive drafts ofthisessay.Thanksalso toBillBrown,NancyFraser,andEliZaretskyforcommentsanddiscussion,andtoAeron Hunt forcopyeditingwithpanache.1. Thetermrepressiveesublimation,meaningsexualliberationinthe serviceofsocialcontrol,isHerbertMarcuse's. See HerbertMarcuse,One-DimensionalMan: Studies n theIdeol-ogyofAdvanced ndustrialSocietyBoston,1964),pp.72-78.See alsoMarcuse,Eros and Civili-zation:APhilosophical nquirynto Freud(Boston, 1955),pp.197-221.ThisessayleansheavilyonMarcuse'sgeneral critiqueof socialdomination and thereduction oflife to work.
CriticalInquiry24(Winter 1998)?1998byTheUniversityofChicago.0093-1896/98/2402-0008$02.00.Allrightsreserved.
289
 
290LauraKipnisAdulteryblinggettinglouder andlouder,likeaherdofelephantsmassingonthebushveld-ohGod,it'syourlibido,onceanoted freedomfighter,now asorry,shriveledthing,from sixties outlaw to ninetiesupstandingcitizen,Janis JoplintoTipperGoreinjusta few shortdecades;successfullysubli-matedintocareerandfamilylife,pledgedtoyourmarriageascommunity property,still summonedoccasionallytoperformthoseincreasingly predictable conjugal interchanges,but with-let'sfaceit-somewhatflaggingardor,agradually droopinginterest.(Whendid sexgetsoboring?When did it turn into thisthing you're supposedto "workat"?Embarrassingisn'tit,howlongyoucangowithout itifyoudon'tremember to haveit,and howmuch moreinvitingagood night'ssleepcan seemcomparedtothose overrehearsed acts.Eventhoughit used tobepretty good-ifmemoryserves-before therewas all that sarcasm. Ordisappointment.Orchildren. Orhistory.)So hereyouare,boppingto the beat(you hope),awashin anexoticsensation. Isitenjoyment?Alongtimesincesomeonelookedatyouwiththatkind ofinterest,isn't it? Variousbodilyand mentalpartsarestirredto attentionbythisclose encounter withabodynotyour spouse's,who'sconvenientlyout oftown,or didn'tfeellikecoming,ormaybeyou'recon-venientlyout of town and...Quashthatthought, quickly.Thatis,ifyoucancall what'sgoingthroughyourmindthinking.Willall theadulterersinthe roompleasestandup?This means allyou cheatingwives andphilanderinghusbands,past, present,andfuture.Whileadultery'sparadigmaticformrequiresthecontext ofastate-sanctionedmarriage, any long-term public couple arrangementbased ontheassumptionofsexualfidelitywilldo for ourpurposes: gayorstraight,anywherethecommitment tomonogamy reigns, adulterywillprovideitsstructuraltransgression,andyoucancommitit withanysex orgenderyour psychecanmanagetoorganizeits desire around(whichmaynotalwaysbe the sameonethatshapes your publiccommitments).2Thosewhohave fantasized about it alot,pleaserise also. Somaythosewho haveeverplayedsupportingrolesintheadulterymelodrama: "otherman";"otherwoman";suspicious spouseormarital detective("Icalledyour officeat3 andtheysaidyou'dleft!");or,least funofall,the miserable cuckoldor
2.Thepointthatadulteryis astructuraltransgressionofmarriageismadebyTonyTannerinAdulteryn the Novel:Contract ndTransgressionBaltimore,1979),pp.3-11.
LauraKipnisteachesinthedepartmentofradio,television,andfilmat NorthwesternUniversity.She isthe authorof BoundandGagged:or-nographynd thePoliticsf FantasynAmerica1996)andEcstasyUnlimited:OnSex,Capital,Gender,ndAesthetics1993).

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