the erotic eye and its nude
An inquiry into the vicissitudes of the scopic and the phanic drive by Stefan Beyst
'the ecstasies of eros'
0. Introduction 1. the erotic eye and the erotic senses 2. the erotic appearance of man 3. the eye's seizure of power: the visualisation of the erotic appearance 4. revealing and concealing 5. the nude clad 6. clothes and the metamorphosis of the erotic appearance 7. the taboo on exhibitionism and the orgy 8. the nude captured in the image 9. the transfiguration of the nude in the image 10 in the beast with two backs' den 11 the sacrifice of the nude 12 the taboo on erotic imagery bibliography
INTRODUCTION THE IDEA
Judging from the massive production of erotic imagery in photo magazines, films, television, video and internet - not to mention the universal practice of 'girl-watching' - voyeurism and exhibitionism must occupy man's mind, if possible, far more than sexual commerce in the strict sense of the word. That does not prevent people from invariably feeling embarrassed when the subject is mentioned. Even researchers, who otherwise do not refrain from exploring even the most remote corners of the human psyche, all too eagerly evade the study of the most practiced erotic pastime. I increasingly had the impression of entering an unexplored territory. It was extremely difficult to make a somewhat substantial bibliography. Most contributions are part of books on more encompassing subjects. The few books exclusively devoted to the subject are either purely (art)historical (Clark, Linda Williams) or moralising (feministic literature). As a rule, they restrict themselves either to the erotic eye (scopic drive), or to the (representation of) the nude that exhibits itself (phanic drive). Especially psychoanalytic literature excels in its silence on the subject. In the index of Freuds collected works, there are a mere five references to 'voyeurism'. Also the image is utterly neglected: in the ‘Interpretation of Dreams’ dream, images - that are anyway merely accessible through verbal rendering - are reduced to 'dream- thoughts'. Apparently, as a true heir of Moses, Freud was far more interested in the ear that listens than in the eye that indulges in relishing the (nude in) the image. Reasons enough to write a book on the phanic and the scopic drive. THE ILLUSTRATIONS Whoever wants to write a book on the erotic eye and its nude cannot restrict himself to the written word: there is an abundance of often very beautiful images. But the existence of something like copyright is responsible for the fact that we cannot show the best examples from sculpture, painting, prints and photos. In this Internet version, we had to content ourselves with the photos of living photographers who gave us the permission to use their work. But this restriction is not the main responsible for the sometimes poor quality of the images in my selection: if we could have chosen freely, the number of high quality pictures would certainly have increased, but that would
only have emphasized the surprisingly poor quality of the overall production of erotic imagery. Precisely the argument of this book will explain why. Within these limits, the choice of the photos has been made according to two criteria. Our first concern has been to find a fitting illustration for each topic in the text. Only when we had the choice, we could select according to aesthetic criteria. For some topics, we could not find any fitting illustration at all, because it either simply does not exist, or because we could not find an image with the required aesthetic standards. That explains why high quality pictures often go side by side with minor works. It is our intention to gradually raise the artistic level, so that 'the erotic eye and its nude' will eventually become a kind of touchstone for erotic photography. Suggestions are always welcome. THE THEORY In this book, an entirely new theory is presented on what is traditionally referred to as 'voyeurism' and 'exhibitionism'. In our opinion, these isolated 'partial drives' are merely two particular forms of the more encompassing scopic and phanic drives that form in principle an undivided unity: both drives elicit each other. We will describe the manifold manifestations of the scopic and the phanic drive and explain how and why they develop. This theory on the scopic and the phanic drive is situated within the broader frame of a general theory on love, as it is unfolded in 'The ecstasies of Eros'. In 'The erotic eye and its nude' I only present my own view on the subject. Discussion with other authors have deliberately been omitted. What is thus gained in clarity and accessibility, will be lost in academic charms. More than often, an unusual thesis will be advanced without further comment, while, conversely, seemingly obvious points of view are in fact rather controversial. But all these disadvantages do not measure up to the advantages: a concise and clear text. Other theories will be dealt with elsewhere on this site (section 'reviews'). The text of the book is written in a rather neutral tone. It was my intention to have the images play an important role in conveying the more 'emotional' freight of what is meant. No doubt, the eloquence of the images will seduce the reader to a cursory reading of the book. Needless to say that a close reading of the text is necessary to follow the development of the argument.
smelling each other's odours. it cannot refrain from looking at the ever changing – and often surprising – shapes in which the erotic nude appears. also parents develop a need to always remain within each other's reach. In order to secure the well-being of their offspring. the ‘erotic appearance’ is developed which
. B. Brecht. it is important that parents and children are staying nearby each other. Parental love is extended to sexual love when male and female begin to cooperate in view of the bringing up of their offspring. This need is the primeval form and the kernel of love: loving partners are always looking for each other and trying to stay in each other's vicinity. Why can lovers not stop looking at each other's body. The evolution of erotic senses is a side effect of the evolution of love. hearing each other's voice. The oldest form of love is love between parents and children. Dreigroschenoper. To satisfy this need. even when there are no immediate needs to be met. Fascinated as it is. That is why they want to permanently perceive each other.Chapter I of 'The erotic eye and its nude'
object de désir 2
THE EROTIC EYE AND THE EROTIC SENSES eros' see also: 'the ecstasies of
In this first chapter we want to dwell on the erotic eye itself. da will auch ich sein’. feeling each other's skin. let alone enjoying each other's orgasm? Why are there so many erotic senses and how do they relate to each other? (1) LOVE AND ENDURING PERCEPTION ‘Wo du hingehst. To be able to help each other always and everywhere.
and parts of it are even more sensitive: the hands that touch. is to suspend the need for erotic commerce until interaction with the outer world is no longer necessary. we want to enjoy it forever. Touch is predisposed for such adaptation: to be present is in the first place literally being nearby somebody. two problems arise: how to warrant normal interaction with the outer world. (2) THE EROTIC SENSES Erotically sensitive senses develop through the transformation of existing senses or organs. and how to enable sleep? The most appropriate way to solve the first problem.will interest us in the following chapters. And falling asleep is made possible through the building in of a climax – the orgasm – which temporarily suspends the need for erotic commerce. the visual and auditory contact with the loved one is taken over by touching and embracing. orgasm. the need to perceive one’s partner and to interact with the world resurges. While in the beginning all the erotic pleasure was concentrated in the eye. ear and nose – are sensitive to the perception of an erotic appearance that can be perceived from a distance. When touch takes over and the lovers proceed to kissing and fondling. the naked skin as a whole is erotically sensitive. Rather than avoiding it. In the meantime.
. they seek each other's presence again. The whole cycle starts all over again. odours. the eyes tend to close. With humans. which we want to get rid of as soon as possible. the erotic senses give way to pure genital sensation. the whole visual world now implodes in the orgasmic flight. we are looking for it. When all their needs are met and all the dangers have disappeared. (3) THE TENSION BETWEEN THE EYE AND THE GENITALS As soon as interaction with the outer world is no longer necessary. softness and warmth. Since erotic congress wants to endure. That is why also and foremost the distance senses – eye. But lovers cannot always remain in physical contact with each other. The erotic appearance of humans consists of specific patterns for the diverse senses: form and colour. sound. When the genitals take over. In contrast with the perception of needs and obstacles. It is worth while to describe this implosion in some more detail. To gratify their needs and to avoid dangers. they try to stay in contact at a distance. And when we have found it. they have to give up bodily contact. One after another. the lips that kiss and the sexual organs that penetrate and contain. touch gives up its contact with the skin: hands and arms are now merely holding and sustaining the loved body. the perception of the erotic appearance is pleasurable. After sleep.
To the eye. but the olfactory erotic appearance is no longer situated on a fixed point in space: rather is it an enchanting cloud that comes to envelope us and penetrates our body. Which did not prevent artists from trying to visualise it nevertheless. The last remnant of space . the voice still seems to emanate from a given point in space. the penis is filling the vagina that envelopes it. we are still moving in a visual space. There are no illustrations of this sensation: it is simply not visible and situated in a dimensionless world at that. No longer are we moving between discrete objects. Seen from without and interpreted in terms of the three-dimensional space of the eye. And when the voices are vibrating in consonance with each other or are merging in unison. space is further reduced to a one-dimensional ‘against’. The involution is completed when the world finally implodes in the orgasmic experience. that space is no longer centrifugal but symmetrical: it consists of two mirroring halves. non-erotic world is structured around the perceiving being. the orgasmic feeling seems to permeate an infinite ethereal space. provided our erotic interaction is reciprocal. It seems permeated with sound. The structure of erotic space is totally different. Certainly. embracing each other. from which space radiates in its three dimensions. this comes down to an implosion of the whole world into one single feeling sensation. In such ethereal space. rather a vibrating aura that emanates from a kernel.a dark awareness of something unattainable behind the skin totally disappears when the radiation of warmth invades our body. odour emanates from the loved body. As soon as we are dealing with visual beauty. also this space becomes symmetrical. In that sense the idea of melting and dissolution – summoned up again and again to describe orgasm – is not a metaphor at all. and their mutual embrace elicits the synchronised contractions of orgasm. Just like sound. Since there is no longer any feeling of confinement within the skin. the ear and the nose. It is founded in the process of the gradual sensitory reduction that we come to describe. They
. Space dissolves still further when we switch over to odour. When the lovers echo each other. Sounds further corrodes the already symmetrically restructured space. but the space in which it resounds is no longer empty. Symmetry begins to dissolve into identity. the body no longer is a volume with a surface. To the inner sensation of the genitals themselves. we are leaning against each other. In the world of touch they begin to merge: feeling skin feels feeling skin. perceiving and perceived being are discrete. but. the two symmetrical halves seem to permeate each other. From within that centre. When switching over to touching.The everyday. the eye scans space perspectivally.
have a breeze gently blow around the lovers or have some radiance permeate their bodies. handing over the torch to each other.and of orgiastic communality as well. Loving eyes give up their reciprocal gaze only in exchange for the sight of the visual beauty of the face and the body. Not seldom do we seek solace for the depressing experience that we have now become bodies again. a space where not things are gazing at us. Another method is letting a kind of streaming movement pervade the bodies or their draperies. and the hands stop touching when the genitals are getting ready for orgasm. Ordinary needs soon drag us back in the real world. The erotic sensitivity. Such ethereal worlds. The erotic senses behave as runners in a relay-race. In contrast with visual bodies. Music is the medium par excellence for the representation of orgasmic merger . So heavily do the erotic senses cling to their appropriate erotic appearance. it is the
. Such are the methods to translate the dimensionless orgasmic feeling in a world where the bodies find themselves separated in visual space. Such experience is a transfer in non-erotic space of the way in which we experience erotic space. over seeing and smelling. is eventually concentrated in the genitals. Wind nor radiance have a surface. until at last the orgasmic fire can be lit. in the abyss of the oceans or the fathomless depths of the skies. Only in such world applies what Lacan (1981:72) after Merleau-Ponty asserts: that the things are gazing at us. to touching and orgasm. (4) THE PERVERSE MOVE During the centripetal move from hearing. the intensity of the erotic feeling is gradually increasing. derive their charms from a transfer of the orgasmic feeling in the three-dimensional space of the visible world. spread over the entire body as long as it is dealing with the world. and radiance knows no obstacles. Only in music is it possible to render the orgasmic feeling in a more appropriate way. that they try to postpone the handing over of the torch. but lovers at each other. The ear becomes deaf when the eyes begin to look. There. Wagner). We find it in the transparency of fire. totally exhausted. After having handed over the torch. we are soon confined again within the limits of our bodies from which we look at the objects surrounding us from all sides. audible bodies easily merge in consonance (Isoldes Liebestod. in which we all too eagerly free ourselves from our bodies and the real world. When they eventually switch over to touching. The eyes are closed when the hand begins to touch. orienting themselves in a perspectival space. they sit down at the border of the road.
Above all the distance senses – first and foremost the eye – are predestined for such postponement: they have been developed in view of the restoration of erotic contact when the bodies have to deal with the outer world. seeing is the most common way of being erotically sensitive. imposed by the sense of touch.
.the positive ones included: the perverse move reverts the natural unfolding of love only in view of tapping new sources of pleasure. they are pervaded with the ever increasing intensity of erotic sensation. the perverse move can be described as an endeavour to aestheticisation in the sense of 'becoming a goal in its own right'. From a positive point of view. Aestheticisation is also an appropriate term. they try to postpone the climax through slowing down the movements that will bring about the explosion. the term ‘perversion’ is charged with moral connotations.a subordination under the primacy of the scopic drive. The senses are freed from their subordination under the ‘primacy of genitality’. until. In the end.hand that cannot stop from touching and stroking. the greedy eye threatens to prevent the unrolling of the whole process. The eye only gains when it refuses to hand over the torch: the increasing emotion of an ever more aroused body is an enchanting spectacle indeed. the pull of the orgasm is strong enough to counteract every endeavour to prevent the unfolding of love. since it is the more aroused the more the admired body becomes exalted. Inevitably. since it is derived from ‘perceiving’. For the time being. The erotic senses’ aspiration to autonomy is traditionally – and rightly – called ‘perversion’: ‘pervertere’ means to deviate from an original goal. But. The unfolding of love is transformed into a spectacle for the eye. Rather than avoiding moral connotations and adopting a purely technical stance. quasi motionless. But is does not help to try to prevent this through coining a new term such as Money’s ‘paraphilia’: the problem will repeat itself. But such refusal initiates the ‘fall’ of the eye: the eye breaks the ban on looking. Whence the endeavour to postpone it. And since such commerce happens to take up practically the whole duration of our waking existence. then. it eventually has to yield to the pull of orgasm. The perverse postponement and eventual cancellation of orgasm comes down to a visualisation of love . When the lovers are finally about to merge in orgasm. we should acknowledge the moral implications of the phenomenon . The irrevocable advent of the orgasm brings an end to the feelings of pleasure. In the following chapters we will describe the take-over of the eye and its eventual triumph over genitality.
The beautiful body as such. are obviously derived from maternal care.. will duly be dealt with in the following chapters. The presence of a fertile
. But the genitals relate rather ambivalently to the erotic eye.Chapter II of 'The erotic eye and its nude'
THE EROTIC APPEARANCE OF MAN also: 'the ecstasies of eros'
After having introduced the erotic eye in the first chapter. The erotic appearance of man has everything to do with reproduction. historic and social – context (1) BEAUTY AS THE FOUNTAINHEAD OF LOVE ‘.toutes les hideurs de fécondité’ Charles Baudelaire (Les Fleurs du Mal). That is why the often impressive vaginal swellings of apes and primates shrink to the rather modest labia in the human female. but hardly anything with the strict act of copulation. With humans. as rather to provide the pleasure of orgasm. No doubt. the soft rounding of the breast to hold. and not least the lips to kiss.. and disappear between the legs as a consequence of bipedalism (walking upright) and neoteny (the persistence of foetal characteristics in the adult organism). that go hidden behind the pubic hair. In this second chapter we first want to situate the erotic appearance in a broader – evolutionary. the female reproductive organs no longer signal the fertile period. though. the warm and soft skin to touch. also the reproductive organs play an important role as a kind of ‘sixth sense’: the act of copulation is not so much meant to fertilise. Rather is it parental care that lies at the base of the erotic appearance of man: the eyes to look in. we should now concentrate on what that eye is so eager to see: the beautiful body.
That is why non-informed onlookers often interpret the vaginal swellings of primates as wounds. Menstrual blood only enhances that effect. The opposition between the unabashed exposure of the vaginal swellings by a bonobo and the modest gesture with which the Venus of Urbino covers her genitals speaks volumes. The slimy surface also conjures up associations with the archaic skin of reptiles.cycle is only betrayed through menstrual blood. And not for nothing does Baudelaire refer to ‘the sheer ugliness of fertility’. the form and the colour of the eyes. or the heavy pink. begin to touch and kiss each other. also the colour of the genitals reminds of a wound: red is the colour of blood. The whole shift in the array of forms and colours explains why we often recoil when unexpectedly exposed to the sight of genitals. but at admiring the beauty of the naked body and its face. That is why they remind of openings in the human skin. The
. The beauty of that naked body consists above all of qualities that allow to visually anticipate the pleasures of touching: the undulations of the body. if not of the threatening mouth of predators and the corollary wounds or raw meat. The whole shift from reproductive organs to naked skin is enhanced in that the sight of the reproductive organs reminds of rather negatively charged phenomena. and why a certain reluctance – the primeval form of shame? . if not as cancers. the erotic eye of man is sensitive to a wholly different kind of visual beauty: the optical qualities of the naked body replace the attraction of the vaginal swellings. nipples and fingernails. The human erotic eye. is not out at seeing the reproductive organs. molluscs or fish. which are slimy at that. and of the blush. Also the smells that signal fertility are nearly perceptible with humans. remind of the preliminary archaic phase.compels us to hide them from view in one way or another. the softness and flawlessness of the skin. does the arousal of the sense of touch elicit the readiness of the genital organs. hence. such as the inner side of the eyelids or the lips. attracted by each other’s visual beauty. only enhance the already mentioned efforts of nature to hide the signals of fertility. Not only the form. And these qualities are totally different from the rather repellent wrinkles and folds on the genitals. the genital organs protrude from an opening or fissure in the fleece. red or purple of the vaginal swellings and the erect penis. Not for nothing do children lower their eyelids or protrude their tongue when they want to show an abhorrent face. were it not for the beauty of the human face – think of his Mona Lisa. that mankind would have died out long ago. With most mammals. The deep-seated reluctance to lay eyes upon the genitals and the corollary propensity to hide them from view. Only the colour of the lips. There is some truth in da Vinci’s saying that the act of copulation and the reproductive organs are so repulsive. As a consequence. Only when the loving partners. They equally explain the propensity to overlook the vagina and to read it as the sheer absence of a penis.
Males. in the animal world. This only enhances the importance of the father: only from his father can a son learn his role as a male. And the reluctance also comes to encompass the odours of secretion. conversely. as is apparent from the old dictum ‘inter urinas et faeces nascimur’ (‘We are born between piss and shit’). Quite the contrary: the sight of the genitals exerts an often irresistible attraction on the devotees of the erect penis or the aroused vagina. That is worlds apart from phrasing . above all in children. the female has to compete. That is why they are far less selective and far more competitive (Schopenhauer. not only for the best possible fertile partner. does not mean that they have become obsolete as means of seduction. it is predominantly males who are the beautiful sex. It comes to encompass the feeding and the education of the children. only enhance their reproductive success by fertilising as much females as possible. The role of the father is no longer limited to fertilisation. (2) THE RECIPROCITY OF HUMAN SEXUAL SEDUCTION ‘Eiusdem libidinis est videri et videre’ ‘The desire to see and to be seen is one and the same’ Tertullianus In the animal world. Trivers). The increased competitiveness between males and the corollary selectivity of females makes that. the reproductive investment of the father shifts from unrestrained copulatory efforts to economic care and education. Apart from exceptions – such as the meanwhile legendary sticklebacks or sea horses – it is mostly females who invest most in their offspring. Human males play a considerable role in parental care. And the genitals only unfold in all their glory when they are sufficiently aroused by the activity of the eye. The reluctance can extend to bodily odours as such. Which sex has to compete. Henceforth. but also for an economic
. The sex that invests most in the offspring is the most selective: it does not waste its energy to the bearers of inferior genetic material. We take a similar stance when unexpectedly exposed to sexual smells. Thus.association with a wound provokes a further misreading of such absence as the result of castration. which lies at the base of the use of perfumes. Father and mother proceed to a division of tasks within the frame of the ‘sexual division of labour’.with Bataille – that the essence of the erotic drive consists in desacralising the beauty of the face through the exposure of the repulsive genital organs. That the visual appearance of our genitals is an avatar from our evolutionary prehistory. depends on the division of parental care. that it is prepared to value the beauty of the genitals. beauty is the privilege of the sex that has to compete for access to the other sex. But it is only when the beauty of the body has sufficiently aroused the eye. That is why they are far more selective than males.
males are out at breaking the power of the beautiful woman that tries to subjugate them
. This leads to an increased competition between women and an increased selectivity of males. Sexual and economical coitus elicit each other and become each other’s expression: humans have the irresistible propensity to sexually gratify their economic partner and. human seduction is no longer one-sided: it has to be reciprocal. to the extent that we can rightly speak of an ‘economical coitus’. Since time immemorial. the number of sexually attractive males is considerably larger than the number of available females. But. and it decreases with the number of pregnancies. Since a woman that is pregnant or lactating is not precisely attractive to a man. until recently. that human females pass for the beautiful sex tout court. the beautiful woman is surrounded by a host of males that are busy competing for her favours. feeding and educating father. This drastically reduces the number of available women. to also economically gratify a gratifying sexual partner. garder son âme’ How is it. Also reciprocal help . female beauty is far more transient. fertile females used to be mothers that were either pregnant or lactating.‘economic’ care becomes an expression of love. Moreover. Equally since time immemorial. As a consequence. And there is more. from primeval times onward. which already puzzled Darwin. and it elicits the phanic drive in the lover that elicits the scopic drive drive in the beloved in a wholesome self-inducing circular dynamic. Only in principle is the number of available males equally reduced in that they become fathers: a father is not visibly affected by fatherhood. conversely. The evolution of the beautiful woman is the counterpart of the evolution of a protecting.partner and a father that will be willing to educate his children. female beauty is in the focus of attention. there are as much fertile males as females. that governs the one-sided behaviour of many a primate (Symons)* (3) THE EXCHANGE OF BEAUTY FOR BENEFITS ‘Donner son corps. Seduction elicits seduction and admiration The enamoured eye only gets to see the beauty of the beloved body when it is looking from a body that emanates beauty itself. except for the father of her children. with humans. Such relative scarcity of female beauty explains why. while male beauty all too often seems to escape female attention? As opposed to many other species. That is worlds apart from the so-called ‘sex for meat’. then. Or to put it more technically: the scopic drive in the lover is elicited by the phanic drive in his beloved. Whence the rather exceptional phenomenon of two equally beautiful sexes in humans.
(4) THE ADVENT OF VOYEURISM AND EXHIBITIONISM "Here I am. a fundamental asymmetry comes to govern sexual relations: the exchange of beauty for wealth . a voyeur is only out at admiring. I shudder as a wave of shame sweeps over me. Somebody has seen me". length.at least as far as marriage is concerned: male beauty and male sexual prowess are still appreciated. suggest otherwise. an exhibitionist is only out at being admired. introduced by Krafft-Ebing and popularised by Freud. whereas economic or political power only increase with it. Through subordination of other men. Jean-Paul Sarte in 'Being and Nothingness' Let us introduce the terms ‘voyeurism’ and ‘exhibitionism’. Conversely. In primeval times.through her sheer beauty. bent over the keyhole. She is not at all inclined to admire the beauty of her admirer – let alone to yield to his advances. which in many parts of the world still determines the relation between the sexes. or a capitalist and a proletarian. Reciprocal sexual attraction and economic cooperation are no longer the foundations of love. Only this development explains why so many a woman leaves the beautiful male in the cold . is the exchange of beauty for benefits
. He does not even consider the possibility that the admired might admire his beauty in her turn let alone admit him within the confines of the temple. the importance of purely external signs of economic and political power goes increasing. It suffices to compare a pharaoh and a peasant. They did so by increasing their economic and political power. as long as no enduring relation is at stake. suddenly I hear a footstep. the economic and political power of a minority increases. But since the advent of the ‘social division of labour’. to the detriment of an ever growing majority. we are merely dealing with the one-sided descendants of the originally mutually dependent scopic and phanic drives. a feudal lord and his serfs. Hence. since physical beauty only decreases with age. Bodily beauty is pushed to the background. This dramatically affects the nature of male beauty. sexual and economic prowess found their natural expression in pure physical beauty – muscle. Only after such reduction is the complex and reciprocal relationship between lovers reduced to the sheer exchange of ‘sex for meat’. As opposed to the lover who admires ànd seduces her lover. The first lever that dislodges one-sided voyeurism and exhibitionism from their original reciprocity as mutally dependent scopic and phanic drives. agility and skill. Although these terms.or benefits of all kinds. This is the more so. The rather egalitarian economy of the tribe has gradually been supplemented and finally been replaced with barter between partners who are no longer affiliate through marriage or descent.
the more such differences catch the eye. carriages and sport cars. Differences in beauty have a more devastating effect. pah! Shakespeare. monopolised by a minority. stench. but only his economic and political power elicits female exhibitionism. Under such regime. man only admires female beauty. Only the most prestigious man can get the most beautiful woman. parks and swimming pools. Conversely. the nude body comes to replace the seductive role of the genitals. but provides no firewood. while woman has only eyes for his economic power. Fie. Until recently.of all kinds. male genital organs remain visible. The desired body does not desire. whereas female organs are by nature concealed. fie fie! Pap. Women are not equally beautiful. not for his beauty. uniforms and titles or other attributes of male power. as long as the corollary reduction of man to his economic and political power is not overlooked. there’s darkness. For centuries. The reduction of man to purely external attributes is if possible worse than the reduction of woman to her body. There’s hell. Thus. they have to content themselves with the purely visual enjoyment of their beauty. the shift
. (5) MALE ORGAN VERSUS FEMALE BODY ‘But to the girdle do the gods inherit Beneath is all the fiends. Which certainly lights the fire. male admiration is reduced to pure voyeurism. a majority of men is doomed to only voyeuristically enjoy the beauty of a handful of scarce women. King Lear. Since not his physical. The less mighty and less wealthy must be satisfied with lesser beauties. In the following chapters we will describe how the beautiful woman becomes still more unattainable when she appears in the image. and in our era many a rich man is cuckolded by his gardener or porter. scalding. In such soil is rooted a structural voyeurism: under the regime of the exchange of beauty for benefits and of differential beauty. It can be justifiably said that man reduces woman to her body. consumption. the keepers of a harem had to protect their treasure by an army of eunuchs. In the real world. The display of female beauty is turned into a pure exhibition that only masks the reluctance to really surrender. women have been turned on by the sight of crowns. The more contacts between people are increasing. Still. such as castles and villas. and the desiring body is not desired. They may find solace in the idea that this minority cannot consume the firewood either. Not only the asymmetry of the exchange of beauty or benefits dislodges voyeurism and exhibitionism. he cannot make love with a sexually excited partner. With humans. They can only dream of the most desirable women. there is the sulphurous pit Burning.
many a woman prefers the muscled body. the mane abundant.female body. of which the penis is after all still the instrument…
. nude body of the female. since many a woman prefers prestige to orgasm. but above all the external signs of wealth and power – the sceptre in the first place: it never fails to stand upright and has a far but archaic appearance. with the in essence female beauty of the body catches the eye all the more. muscle and bone. Even when the erect penis is not entirely devoid of aesthetic charms. as rather the negation of female beauty. Even when the power of an erection cannot fail to elicit desire.nude . But this cannot prevent the penis from remaining exposed.from genital organs to body is far more completed in woman. let alone fertilisation. These two oppositions are often condensed in the one fundamental opposition between the hard. Since male beauty is in this sense not so much the opposite. The beard and the bald skull of the old man are the sheer negation of the beautiful mane and the naked chin and cheeks of the young girl. The archaic nature of the penis makes it unsuitable for purely optical enjoyment. womb and buttocks…. It comes as no surprise that male beauty is often modelled after the female model: the chin is shaved. The beauty of the female body is further enhanced in that male beauty is in many respects the opposite of female beauty. nude undulations. while the erect frontality is replaced with the charming slight deviations of the vertical and horizontal axe. But the eye also sees the delights of touching. above hurting on hard muscle and bone. and not only children prefer nestling between warm breasts or in a soft womb. The rumour goes that Spanish queens delighted in being accompanied by apes in order to highlight the beauty of their faces. hair. One can measure the effect of the hairless smoothness of the nude by imagining a woman with hair on her breasts. womb and the buttock on the body – the male body only shows up a beard and hair. And that makes the difference. many a female beauty prefers an ugly man: it only enhances her beauty by contrast. muscle and bones are mere equivalents of soft. the skin hairless and the flesh soft. the breast. From the point of view of visual beauty. cheeks and lips in the face. especially when aroused. Especially with white men. the contrast of an organ that is not precisely the paragon of beauty. and the male body as negation of the female nude. The shift from penis to body to attributes is the more welcome. A soft cheek is worlds apart from a unshaven male jaw. From a purely optical point of view. Where the female body shows its utmost treasures – the eyes. veined penis of the male and the soft. the haired male body strongly contrasts with the alluring beauty of a completely hairless . That is the truth in the story of the beauty and the beast. the opposition between male and female crystallises around two oppositions: the female genitals as negation of the penis.
the body is unabashedly exposed. B.
. So gehft es bei den Tieren. but the gaze goes hidden behind lowered eyelids – which enables the curves of the face to echo those of the body. Where beauty is exchanged for wealth or prestige. Soul and body are no longer two subsequent manifestations of one and the same being. the curves of cheeks. This becomes manifest in the opposition of the portrait in which the eyes as the mirrors of the soul are seated. they can now finally sexually enjoy each other's body. under the regime of the exchange of beauty for wealth and benefits. Die Häupter sind verschieden. Manet’s Olympia is looking at us with a gaze that forbids any undisturbed enjoyment of her body. accuse or defy the onlooker. containing the gaze that does not want to become appearance. Die Knie sind alle schwach. the eyes and the face are eventually submerging in the overall erotic appearance of the body. Ideally. Titian’s ‘Venus of Urbino’ is willingly displaying herself before our gaze. sexual and economical coitus reinforce each other. They continue to gaze at us: they question. That is why. an opposition between ‘homo economicus’ and ‘homo sexualis’ is installed. Only when the erotic incarnation is forced or faked do the eyes refuse to submerge in the erotic appearance. Baal.(6) THE FACE AND THE TRUNK ‘Du bist eine Frau wie die andere. Compare four nudes. and the lesser beauties are secretly longing for a better partner. and the nude. Where body and soul are continuously transformed into each other as two manifestations of one and the same being. Sexual attraction is an expression of the overall reciprocal dedication of the partners to each other. eyes and lips come to echo the curves of the exposed body. they come to be opposed to each other as two irreconcilable antipodes. is the experience of sexual surrender as a loss or a destruction of the soul or the person . With Giorgione. is bluntly zoomed out. In Titian’s ‘Venus of Urbino’ above. The face. The incarnation has become an ‘embodiment’ in the literal sense of the word.a mere trunk. The desiring expression of the face only confirms the willingness with which the body is displayed. The inner counterpart of the appearance as a body without a face. Brecht. many an erotic eye prefers its nude to be faceless .genuine lovers only experience a thrill when. And in Courbet’s ‘Origine du Monde’ we lay eyes only upon the trunk with its legs spread wide. after having cared for each other economically. or are turning away or hiding behind lowering eyelids (see chapter IX).
Thus we have come full circle. not because of her personality.The echo of such opposition between face and trunk is the complaint of many a woman that she is only loved because of her body. And the woman. The decapitation of woman and the en-oculation of man are merely the prelude to the epiphany of the all-seeing eye of God.is merely the representative on earth. delivered to the leering look of a sovereign male subject. Hokusai’s octopus with its greedy eyes and voluptuous tentacles is an unsurpassed representation: it even has two eyes on the tentacle that kisses the mouth. that she is reduced to a pure object. Of such unhappy encounter. The very woman that is reduced to a body conversely refuses to let the male body appear. Moses – with whom we will have to deal extensively in chapter XI . The entwining of the loving couple is transformed in the unhappy encounter of an eye without a body. That complaint is justified as long as the complementary rape of the male being is not overlooked.
Chapter III of 'The erotic eye and its nude'
objet de désir 7
'the ecstasies of eros'
. Of such God. that is doomed to gaze at a body without a face and that is directly connected to an erect penis desperately seeking a womb wherein it could come to rest. Male embodiment is restricted to a pure descent into the eye: the ‘en-oculation’ of man as the counterpart of the ‘incarnation’ of woman. From heavenly heights it looks down to the en-oculated being that peeps through the Sartrean keyhole at a body without face lifting the eyes up to heaven. is supposed to enjoy the proceedings. turning her face backwards.
and it is often consolidated through language (think of the ‘labia’). or a muscled and veined arm of the penis. The bones make these elongated members stiff. there is the neck: the larynx moves back and forth under the skin just like the glans under the foreskin. there are the fingers and toes. which can only endorse the evocation of the force of the erect penis. finally. Also the nose reminds of the penis: it secretes slime. Thus. the attempt to soothe the anxiety provoked by the idea of the lurid wound. especially when the head is thrown backwards and the neck is ‘erected’: Not only the penis. The most obvious
. which have the colour in common with the glans. Sexual arousal makes the veins swell under the skin. (1) THE AESTHETICISING OF ARCHAIC BEAUTY In the previous chapter we have seen that the genitals appeal to a rather archaic sensitivity. Rather can it be compared with a text in which the words have more than one meaning. also the vagina is substituted with more aesthetic parts of the body in the periphery. we will show that the whole movement of displacement is above all the result of the coordinated effort of three forces: the attempt to aestheticise the archaic sight of the genitals. in this chapter. but muscled as well. Purely visual similarities play a crucial role in this process. That elicits the attempt to replace them with more aesthetic substitutes. while a moustache is an obvious substitute for the pubic hair. But. and they are crowned with nails. The erotic charge of one element is often displaced to another. Especially the last move comes down to a veritable seizure of power: it leads to the utter visualisation of the tactile and genital appearance. its back reminds of the shaft and the nostrils of the scrotum. And. as does the blood in the erect penis. There are many parts of the body that are apt to meet the aesthetic demands of the eye. which culminates in the emergence of the phallic woman and the vaginal man. the lips often remind of the vagina. the effect of which is visible foremost on the back of the hand or the foot. To begin with. That is why the single finger is often replaced with the whole hand or foot. Also arms and legs are not only hard and veined. but foremost the eye’s attempt to take the place of touch and genital feeling. just like fingers and toes. but not the slimy sight.THE EYE’S SEIZURE OF POWER: THE VISUALISATION OF THE EROTIC APPEARANCE INTRODUCTION The erotic appearance of man is far from unequivocal.
as in Brancusi’s ‘Torse de jeune fille’. The spinal column is an extension of the anal cleft. Further backwards.substitutes are the lips. the genitals are no longer bound to a sexually determined body. (3) THE VISUALISATION OF TACTILE AND GENITAL PROCEEDINGS Under displaced form. The auricle is a hollow surrounded by folds reminding of the labia. especially those of the pressed thighs. The armpits are a fold surrounded by hair. Also the anxiety provoked through the interpretation of the vagina as a cut plays an important role. Worse still: the body of the other sex is
. but not cut. the eyelashes or the eyebrows remind of the pubic hair. continue to remind of wounds. the eyelids remind of the labia. Especially the displacement of the vagina to the back is very appropriate to remove any reminder of a wound. without being slimy. the fold of the buttocks is dissolving into the even. undamaged surface of the back. This holds especially true for the fold formed when the thighs are pressed together. is altogether replaced with the undamaged. where the little hairs cannot fail to remind of the pubic hair. Also the parting of the hair on the head is often read as a vagina. (2) THE HEALING OF THE WOUND Not only the archaic sight of the vagina unleashes the centrifugal displacement to the peripheral parts of the body. Even more appropriate to deny the idea of a wound are the hollows and folds that are formed when parts of the body are pressed against each other: the undamaged skin neutralises the slimy and gory sight of the labia. shape and structure in common with the labia. On both sides are two bundles of muscles that function as substitutes for the labia. Only its symmetry reminds of the wound. toes. and also a man has a mouth. while the whole is covered with undamaged skin: hollow. The healing move comes to its apogee when the cut. The effect is continued in the two bundles of muscles in the neck. may appear from the fact that they are often wrapped with cloth. and they have the odour in common with the vagina. The slimy and gory wound is replaced with the undamaged fold of the buttocks. The healing move is completed when the seam grows together. With the eye. legs and a nose. opening up into the hole. How much these folds. Foremost the navel is apt for such displacement. the tear gland of the clitoris and the pupil of the vaginal opening. folds and hollows. and a back. arms. These have colour. But many other parts can serve the purpose. A healed wound on a more neutral part of the body soothes the anxiety and serves the aesthetic move as well. as with a mermaid (see chapter VIII). convex womb that surrounds it. Also a woman has fingers.
How eloquent these expression may be. Stubbornly clinging to its desire for visual pleasure. it is so easily betrayed…. We easily overlook this fact. the heavy breathing of the chest. introduced in the first chapter. it will have to prevent such merger and the impending advent of orgasm (see chapter I) Such seizure of power trough the eye comes down to a veritable ‘castration’: seeing forbids genital feeling.often far more appropriate to attract the displacement. because one cannot see the contractions of the vagina. There are lots of examples that evidence this rule. especially when she holds that the female orgasm is invisible. When the hands are exalting the body. When this compelling rule is so often broken. but also of the sense of touch. the twisting of the body. not orgasm itself. they close their eyes. The blindness for the ‘castrating’ effect of the eye is so general. the female orgasm is all too visible – how else could women fake it so readily for the male gaze? Precisely because the eye depends on signs. without being slimy. the eye only grants it its pleasure because it elicits new signs of exaltation on the body. male and female ejaculations. But when these are allowed to do as they please. will forever remain invisible. When lovers are kissing each other. the voluptuous moaning and ecstatic crying. A voice sounds differently when is it supposed to belong to a female or to a male person. But the eyes want to continue enjoying visual beauty: the lovers want see the exalted face instead of feeling it with the lips. and with the nose we smell the often dizzying odours. But the displacement of the penis to the female body is not obvious. Only the genitals can feel it. When the eye is not prepared to give up its pleasure. the eye would like to witness even the merger of the genitals. Driving force is the ‘perverse move’. we only see signs of the orgasm: the blush. the grimacing of the face. they are mere outer signs of orgasm. Orgasm. Think of the female nipples. the eye equally sees only the signs of that exaltation. With the eye. how deeply it might move us. which are larger than male ones. strong forces must be at work to counteract sexual stereotyping. And when the hand begins to touch. It is a mistake to assert – with Linda Williams – that one can see the male orgasm. because the hands continue feeling while the eye is looking: while the eye relishes
. The perverse desire to continue looking runs up against a threshold that can never be crossed. The greedy eye then scans the body. With the ear. we hear the heavy breathing. the penis inevitably will disappear in the vagina. the erection of diverse parts of the body. As a sign. the ultimate signs of exaltation. that it is not superfluous to remind of the difference between visual and genital perception of the orgasm. become erect like the penis and have the same colour. until it finally comes to rest at the sight of the erect penis or the aroused vagina. That holds not only of the orgasm. It goes counter the ineradicable propensity to conform all the characteristics of a body to its sex. the kernel of the erotic proceedings.
resurrect in the desired body. (4) THE HERMAPHRODITE BODY (1): THE PHALLIC WOMAN The take over of the eye has an unexpected consequence: in that the greedy eye neutralises the penis. Inadvertently. in which the lovers reciprocally admire each other’s display. to testify to its arousal.the sight of the erect nipples. is transformed into such a hermaphrodite body. The seizure of power of the eye. Such visualising leads to a grandiose unfolding of the array of visual appearances of the body beautiful. The eye is not only out at enjoying purely visual beauty. It is transformed into the spectacle of a loving couple or of a body exalting itself before the eye of a third onlooker. or a third party to take over the role that it forbids its own body. the greedy eye wants the desired body to bring itself to orgasm. The vicissitudes of the eye and its nude along this path will occupy us in chapter X. has the desired body transformed into a hermaphrodite in the real sense of the word: a being that possesses both sexual organs. Here. which comes down to an elimination of the genitals and the hands. Thus. There is. Visual exaltation is apparent in the pure fact of displaying one’s beauty. because here ‘feeling’ is ‘seeing’. a real gap between being enchanted through the intrinsic visual beauty of a face. It is not difficult to understand how a body that is no longer involved in a reciprocal process of displaying and admiring. We understand at the same time that the aestheticising and anxiety-soothing centrifugal move away from the genitals described above. Then. the erotic appearance is no longer a part of the more encompassing whole. In a first attempt at solving this problem. Only in the preliminary visual phase of seduction are seeing and feeling one and the same thing. More often is it eager to lay eyes upon the visual signs of tactile and genital exaltation. is prepared by a far more fundamental move: the ‘perverse’ move from tactile and genital feeling to the visual signs of it. The signs of arousal par excellence are the erect genitals. in which it refuses to metamorphose. the hand feels the warm swelling of the breast. hence. Which only fuels the desire to lay eyes upon the signs of arousal on the desired body. let alone penetration. Only in its own domain can the eye witness exaltation. we are interested in a third possibility: how the eye that forbids the advent of the penis. Such projection pays: the eye can see at the same glance desired and desiring body. transforms the eye into a pure voyeuristic eye: it merely looks and does no longer arouse the desired body through touching. as it is displayed in the reciprocity of showing and looking. the eye must have the erect penis. precisely the acme that it so dearly wants to see cannot take place. or becoming exalted by gazing at the signs of exaltation or of the invisible orgasm on that very same face.
. the exalted beauty is turned into a frigid beauty.
Also braids and locks can embody the desiring penis when radiating centrifugally from the trunk enclosing the desired void. The labia maiora are the counterpart of the male scrotum. the labia minora of the shaft. The vagina can also be displaced to the hand(s). Such reversal makes the hermaphrodite body differ from the body that arouses itself. In fact. to let the excluded penis protrude from within the void. As a result of this process. on arms or legs. the hermaphrodite only appears after the displacement of both penis and vagina. The idea of a resurrection of the penis from the void is rooted in the presence of the cervix in the invisible hole. fingers and toes or by the overall erect stature of the body. It is obvious. In second variant. But the opposition only becomes manifest when it is additionally charged with the phallic desire of the castrated voyeur. Protruding labia minora are an obvious substitute for the protruding penis. Rather than denying it. fingers ànd toes. the female genitals are so represented as to resemble the male ones. can be read as the glans on the shaft of the neck. the castration of the desiring body is made undone. What the eye gets to see then is the vagina as a mere void – sheer nothingness. the projected penis is displaced to the more aesthetic fingers and toes. In a second phase. arms and legs. the female body is eventually turned into its very opposite: erect protrusions have taken the place of hole. then. Triumphantly. and the clitoris of the glans. And the phallic charge of the body is anything but completed. The reversal of the direction of the penis betrays that we are dealing here with the desiring penis. where the substitutes of the penis are turned inwards. they radiate from the (implicit or emphasized) void. Also the pubic hair can serve the purpose when it has an appropriate shape.Through such transformation of the desired body into a hermaphrodite. When the vagina is displaced to the lips of the mouth. on both arms and legs. For. finally. The emphasis may be on fingers or toes. they enhance its effect through contrast. in a third phase. And the head. There are many ways to work that miracle. he used to hang a leaflet on the door
. A good example is Rodin’s ‘La cathédrale’. where fingers and thumb come to be opposed to the void contained within the palms of the hand. The élan of the nipples may be joined by that of arms and legs. hollows and undulations. Starting point of the projection is the very void that is created in that the eye forbids the penis to penetrate the vagina. arms and legs. the elusive penis resurfaces in the protrusion of the tongue. the female body is from the beginning constructed around the contrast between hole/rounding and protrusion: the long legs and arms lend the female body an additional charm. or on fingers and toes. The desiring penis may also be displaced to erect breasts and nipples. When this artist retired himself with his models.
We cannot but expect the phallic body to yield to the temptation of penetrating itself. which will be dealt with in chapter X. which provides. also a new opening: the navel.
(5) THE HERMAPHRODITE BODY (2): THE VAGINAL MAN In principle. There are more possibilities when not only the vagina. The vagina is then replaced with the undamaged skin of the womb that contains it. together with the arousal of the body through a third party. under the regime of the exchange of beauty for benefits. This holds especially for the mouth. but also the penis is displaced to more peripheral parts. A fascinating version is Ingres’ ‘Grande odalisque’. which reminds of a hungry child that must be satisfied by introducing the nipple of the breast. The phallic charge is further opposed to the confining womb to the protrusion of arms. Only the mouth of the penis and the opening of the foreskin are candidates. In the representation of the Medusa the vagina is displaced to the mouth and the multiplied penis to the locks turned into wriggling snakes. besides a multitude of folds. Add to this that the expression of an aroused vagina is far less speaking than that of an erect penis. eye. whose shield only echoes the rounding of the belly. From this centre the elongated arms and legs radiate and end up in a profusion of fingers and toes. But the male body offers far less possibilities to oppose the hollow to the penis. finally. folds. And. Both motives – the replacement of the archaic mucous membranes with undamaged skin and the soothing of anxieties about the cut – often work together. The armpit reminds of the fold between the legs. the desiring eye of the female (or of a feminine man) can equally project the excluded vagina on a man. The male organ provides practically no clues for the projection of labia or vaginal opening. In the immediate vicinity of the penis is the anus. Excessive eating leads to a fat belly. legs and head. We are then witnessing all the forms of masturbation. But the feminine investment of the male body is not altogether absent. only the male is the desiring party. mouth.with the words ‘L’artiste visite la cathédrale’. The anus may be opposed
. All this makes the projection of the desiring vagina on the male body far more scarce than the converse projection of the penis on the female body. but the cut is denied through the emphasis on the convex breast. Also the male body provides many an appropriate substitute for the vagina: anus. where the emphasis on the open mouth and the navel is accentuated by the eyes and the mouth of the tortoise. we should not forget that. as in the statue of the dwarf Morgante in the gardens of Boboli. But the point of view from which the anus is seen hides the shaft of the penis from view.
there is also a ‘vaginal man’ or – to account for the displacements – the ‘vagoral’ or ‘vaganal’ or ‘wounded’ man. As we have seen. the isolated scopic drive in the male comes to be opposed to the isolated phanic drive in the female. and since she cannot but conceive of desire as of male desire. With Jupiter. locks or horns that centrifugally radiate from the opening of the mouth. especially when there is a beard and a moustache. as in Hokusai's print. But it is probably better to speak of the (male or female) hermaphrodite: this term has the advantage that it emphasizes the process of projection and displacement. the beard. the restorative move results in the construction of the desired female body with the desiring penis. The entwining of the bodies is replaced with the closed circle of the eye admiring the beauty of its own body. That cannot but stir the desire to restore reciprocity. the desired female wants to desire. The desiring male wants to be desired. the mighty limbs and the staff frame the mouth surrounded with a moustache. This image . A remarkable encounter of male and female hermaphrodite has been painted by Ingres in his ‘Jupiter and Thetis’. he fills the empty space between desiring eye and desiring penis with the corresponding parts of a desirable female body. The role of the penis can be played by the tongue. and since he cannot but conceive of desirability as of a female beauty. the eye conjures up the excluded genitals on male and female body alike. Far more appropriate is the displacement of the vagina to the mouth. With Thetis. Also the scarcity of female beauty plays an important role. the points of the moustache. as with the devil. The reversal comes to its apogee when the male ‘vagina’ is fingered through female ‘penises’: (6) THE HERMAPHRODITE BODY(3) Not only the perverse move is responsible for the transformation of the erotic appearance into a hermaphrodite. The beautiful young boy enjoys the beauty of his own body that makes him independent from the unattainable woman. she completes her desirable body with a desiring penis. the nose. In both cases. In the end. while the vagina is concealed. it leads to an indifference towards male beauty. the emphasis is on the protrusions. and that it can be applied to the displaced forms. Next to the ‘phallic women’.as if it were the sequel to Hokusai's
. which is essentially the same in both sexes. Conversely. Thus.to put it somewhat more graphically: the greedy eye and the erect penis of the male are confronting the beautiful body of the (frigid) women. A good example is Donatelo's David.to a tail. the fold of the navel and the hollow between the toes. or . which is only increased through the exchange of beauty for benefits.
or to be more precise the part of its body that belongs to the other sex. since a real hermaphrodite has the sexual organs of both sexes. he looks at the aroused appearance in the mirror. (7) THE EYE AND ITS FETISHES So strong is the ‘perverse’ desire to witness the tactile and genital exaltation. the emphasis is on the desiring penis. In both cases. They are worshipping an
. the arms hold their own head and the legs are cut off. the upper part of the body is adorned with female breast. the eye resembles the devotees of the golden calf: they take the representation for the invisible original. Or the enjoyment is mediated through the eye of a third party. Real hermaphrodites are the representations described above. Only the angularity of the skinny body are the last testimonies to the dissolved masculinity. through projecting its own showing and looking: from within his own body. The preliminary stages to such transformation can be seen in the painting where Schiele is looking into a mirror over the shoulder of his model.embodies the complete visualisation of genitality: the penis that was out a penetrating the vagina is replaced with the eye admiring its own body. The visualisation is completed when the identification of desiring body and desired body eventually leads to the replacement of the desiring organ itself. The eye can look directly to its body (David). the eye should above all not remember that those signs only refer to what is doomed to remain invisible forever. but more often it prefers to resort to a mirror or an image. The counterpart of such 'feminine' self-sufficient retirement in itself is the aggressive triumph of the 'phallic woman': desirability and desire in one and the same body. as is the case with the transvestite (see chapter V). whereas our 'hermaphrodite' has only that desirable body of one sex. that the erotic eye all too easily overlooks that it is merely enjoying signs: to maintain its position.octopus . the eye enjoys its own body. Therein. and the desired female in the desired male. the abdomen is transformed into a womb. In all cases the voyeur tries to restore the broken reciprocity of showing and looking. Also the merger of desiring penis and desired body can be described as a hermaphrodite body. Unjustifiably though. from where his own gaze is summoning up the transport of his own body. the entwining of scopic and phanic drive. Here. no member is to be seen. That is the case when the male wants to be transformed in the desired female. not by accident a pubertal girl that nearly shows the signs of feminists. not otherwise than the penis. An illustration is the self-portrait of Schiele: a gory seam runs over the scrotum. and the desiring organ of the other.
it shows only its one side to hide the other from view.
Chapter IV of 'The erotic eye and its nude'
objet de désir 5
'the ecstasies of eros'
THE DISPLAY OF BEAUTY: REVEALING AND CONCEALING INTRODUCTION The body is not always flaunting its attractiveness. What is supposed to disappear in it. erections
.idol . the primeval fetish becomes unrecognisable. Even when it openly seduces. make the original representation move centrifugally to the periphery. That is why a whole range of erotic gestures and poses haven been developed to display erotic charms that are normally hidden or perhaps even non-existent. as is the case with the widening of the pupil. The propensity to aestheticise the genitals and the attempts to soothe the anxiety about the wound. The further vicissitudes of fetishism will be dealt with in chapter VI. Again like with the golden calf. when one leg is crossed over the other. voyeurism is the mother of fetishism. resurfaces from within.a fetish. Thus. blushing. also these fetishes of the second generation use to be worshipped with a devotion that is meant for the original that goes hidden behind an aesthetic veil. It goes hidden behind ever new fetishes of the second generation: fetishes of the fetish. and many an attractive part covers another one: as when the arms are crossed over the chest. when the hair covers the neck. the erotic eye creates the very void that is doomed to remain empty forever. Natural display can be involuntary. Through forbidding precisely what it wants to see. Out of this move is born the primeval fetish. Thus.
Things come to their apogee when the nude fully reclines. Pulling the hair up is even more enchanting than the sight of the uncovered neck. presenting the breasts. running away and pushing back . that expression often unfolds to a nearly concealed kiss. to withdrawing. not to mention adopting a supine or prostrate position and widening the thighs. (1) SEDUCTION Seduction begins with the gaze. lifting the legs or turning the back. In all cases. but more often. especially when one eye goes hidden behind the hair.not to mention slowing down and restraining when eventually the two bodies are entwined. with its arms lifted up and its legs spread wide. a gaze from a gently turned away face looks even more inviting. It can look straightforward from a frontal face. stretching the body. the relish of which only adds to the charms of the beauty displayed. When the face is gently thrown backward. or the secretion of various smells and fluids. Such is the case with smiling.of various parts of the body. Or the expression of the lips is all the more promising when their intentions are concealed by hands that cannot refrain from grasping themselves. Let us have a closer look at these manifold manifestations of the phanic drive. The act of presenting the breasts or the buttocks is even more seducing than the sight of what is put on display. (2) THE ALLURE OF THE GESTURE OF DISPLAYING Putting one's attractiveness to display becomes an erotic gesture in its own right. But it can also be voluntary. but tries to catch the gaze of the beloved. That is why erotic display has come to include an endless array of tantalising manoeuvres. Hypnotising with the gaze is merely an advance to mesmerising with body. the nude comes to endorse the erotic eye's complementary desire to linger over the relish of visual beauty. Splaying the thighs wide only enhances the appeal of the body exposed. The move is inaugurated by a subtle shift from the face to the breasts until finally the whole body is put on display. It no longer idly flutters around. Even more tantalising
. In lingering over the display of erotic charms. forward and/or sideward. To begin with. These range from inclining the head and lowering the eyes. the face is gently inclined. (3) THE CHARMS OF CONCEALING Add to this that the effect of displaying can be heightened by teasingly concealing erotic charms before eventually unravelling them. over folding the hands across the chest. the mouth is relaxed and the lips are somewhat parted.
Displaying one's beauty. The effect of concealing is even further enhanced when it is combined with putting other alluring parts on display. especially when the half-parted lips cannot but betray the readiness to kiss. especially when also the knees are lifted up or when the nude turns its back on us at that. Needless to say that the game of concealing and revealing only folly unfolds when clothes are allowed to enter the picture. is not a matter of simply exposing oneself before the gaze of the seduced. The sight of the back cannot but all the more stir the desire to see the hidden beauty of the front.is the lowering of the eyelids in a turned away face. Humans have always been trying to artificially increase their erotic attractiveness through a
. then. then. Time has come. That holds especially true for a dorsal display. It is of necessity always a process unfolding in time. But even when the face does not at all conceal its intentions. the tension may be heightened by crossing the arms over the breast. to examine their influence on the development of voyeurism and exhibitionism.
Chapter V of 'The erotic eye and its nude'
objet de désir 4
see also: 'the ecstasies of eros'
THE NUDE CLAD (1) CLOTHES Erotic display is far but restricted to natural ways of concealing and revealing the body's appeal.
prostheses. Clothing. it enhances above all the nudity of the parts left uncovered. they are intended to cover nudity . The lustful eye can't help regarding the parts left uncovered as all the more valuable delights. sheer nakedness . and at the same time the most intriguing. In real life. That is why dressing enriches the natural range of erotic display with that most alluring of all seductive procedures: stripping. jewellery. sheer naked body. But also the taking off of shoes. It is apparent. Nudity only appears in an exalted body. the undoing of stockings or the lifting up of a smock exert an often irresistible spell.whole array of artificial means: clothes. On the contrary. On the other hand. There are countless variants.in much the same way as the body clad . therefore. the body has to yield ever more nudity. tattoos. people do not depend on clothing to hide their nudity . they also make all the more desirable what they conceal .it suffices to be naked. To begin with. the state of dress is always a state of undress. Very fascinating is the uncovering of the breasts. not only stirs the desire to uncover. clothes tend to stir a yearning to uncover what lies beneath. Especially the uncovering of the back is most exciting. as when the skirts are becoming shorter or the neckline is lowering. since what we get to see is only an advance to the splendours on the front. half-exposed.only ignites the desire for nudity to appear. (2) CLAD AND NUDE Since no garment can possibly cover the entire body. The formerly covered parts now seem all the more
. Dress is the most conspicuous of these techniques. Due to habituation.which is quite a different matter.as in the very paradigm of clothing: the half-clad. because it seems to be counterproductive through hiding the beauty of the nude from view. that clothes are not originally meant to conceal nakedness. that leaves the breasts half-covered. hormonal or genetic interventions. That is most poignantly exemplified in the low neckline. then. Clothes not only stir the desire to uncover. half-naked bosom. make-up. it can also teasingly postpone it. not to mention chirurgical. That does not prevent dressing from being a very effective and sophisticated device for widening the range of erotic display and intensifying the pleasure of natural erotic charms. Neither does the body lose its appeal when it is always naked. There is no point in stripping if what is revealed is merely an indifferent. In this sense. covering of necessity equals leaving uncovered. the impulse to bluntly denudate a dressed body is repressed through the presence of a gaze: the gaze not only spiritualises or forbids any erotic relation.
But at the same time. everything is left uncovered. That cannot but elicit up a countermove: the tendency to cover what has previously been allowed to remain nude. Everything is left uncovered. an ever extending array of possibilities is developed. first the feet are left uncovered. In the downward sense. the charms of concealing are lost. The same process affects also single parts of the body: the veil covers only the hair instead of the whole face. the front is covered and the back left nude. everything is left uncovered. loses its additional charms. except for a necklace or a bracelet. The latter regain their appeal precisely because they are now concealed. The bra may be reduced to a mere frame around the breasts left nude. the shoe leaves ever more parts of the foot uncovered. or arms and legs. In the upward sense. except for the head and the feet. than the ankles and the lower legs. as when the
. The reversal is also most cherished in the parts. the upper arm and eventually the shoulders. and a whole array of seductive gestures irrevocably evaporates: the removal of the veil. mostly the peripheral parts are left uncovered. There are several variations on the theme of reversal.desirable. The neckline on the back may be lowered until the whole back is exposed. In accordance with the natural propensity to conceal the genitalia. In the sideward sense. and sheer nudity. What is allowed to be naked. The covering of the waist may be reduced to a mere ribbon. the denudation of a leg. Eventually. except for the vagina. or vice versa. or the pants to a mere string that all the more accentuates the nudity of the buttocks. the fingers show up through a glove that merely covers the palm of the hand. only the left of right side of the body is covered. then the thighs. A tantalising effect is derived from a complete reversal of this scheme. first the eyes and the face are exposed. and covered where it is normally nude. or the sleeves and/or legs are reduced to a cover around the elbows and knees. leaving only the genitals covered (Kroeber). everything is covered. except for the hands and feet. Which only increases the desire to eventually restore the body in its full glory. or the cups of the bra are reduced to a mere strip over the nipples. when the body is nude where it would normally be covered. Very exciting is also the contrast between a body naked and a body clad. first the hands are exposed. The movement can also proceed from the waist until only the breasts and the genitals are covered. the taking off of gloves. So does the erotic eye regain the paradise lost to garment. only the upper or lower part of the body are covered. It is obvious that the splendour of the habitually covered areas of the body is heightened by contrast with the clothes on the habitually exposed parts. ranging from the utter concealment of the body leaving only the eyes and the hands uncovered. except for the waist. everything is left uncovered. then the hair and the neck. then the forearm. then the shoulders and the bosom.
as has been customary in the many pietas and Manet's well-known 'Déjeuner sur l'herbe'. Whereas hand-made lace used to be an outer adornment. The chemise. or the ribbons or the edges of the bra. especially when the onlooker is suddenly confronted with uncovered genitals in an otherwise completely clad body. such as the cuffs of sleeves.the softer the undergarment. The same is true for lace and satin. for centuries the sole basic undergarment for all European women (Hollander) has been gradually replaced with lingerie consisting of many parts: underpants. machine-made lace has become a favourite for underwear (Hollander). The more specialised a layer. the outline of the underwear may appear through semi-transparent fabric.completely dressed lover holds his utterly nude beloved. corsets and bras. underwear peeks out from beneath an outer layer. the rougher the outerwear. (3) LINGERIE A new impetus for playing the game of concealing and revealing is given when the body is covered with more than one layer. Even more effective than adding up identical layers is the heightening of the contrast between the layers. Furthermore. When the reversal is too drastic. it resorts a reverse effect. the greater its specific appeal and the greater its autonomy. Also when nude breasts are isolated. In every stage of its unfolding. That is most apparent in the appeal of that
. Undressing develops into a continuous metamorphosis. Fabric itself comes to be reallocated. the greater their propensity to become an autonomous component with increasing internal specialisation and organisation. The introduction of a layer of underwear ensues a kind of reciprocal specialisation: the more transparent and intimating the underwear. the more concealing the outerwear. every intermediate appearance tries to substitute its own splendour to the detriment of the next stage. every other layer has to hint at the presence and reveal the nature of the next. In the same vein.in which resides the secret charm of the performance of the exhibitionist (in the strict sense of the word). The more specialised the layers. Salomé had herself wrapped in seven veils in order to prolong her unveiling. or its relief may show through a tight-fitting dress. Such specialisation also affects texture . Far from merely referring to the next stage of undressing. where the effect is obtained through letting the body submerge in shadowy areas. a new erotic appearance with its own merits is revealed. Only when the onlooker has been previously turned on by the sight of more peripheral parts is the eye prepared to enjoy the sight of the genitals. Preferably. they often exert a threatening effect as with Ingres. where the task of revealing the body's contours is relegated to underwear. garter belts. That is why blunt exposure cannot fail to provoke revulsion .
Getting dressed is only a prelude to.new kind of intermediary stage between clad and nude: the body clad in a swimsuit or lingerie. Finally.in sharpening the contrast even further appearing completely naked underneath a thick fur coat. dressing cannot be an end in itself. STRETCHED 0R TRANSPARENT But there is more. Additional elasticity makes the dress perfectly court the undulations of the body that was supposed to conceal. the wearer my have the wind blow against his body or water make the fabric cling to it. and the revealing of the body under the lingerie. they cannot but court the shapes of the body.
. This type of shortcut not only pleases the erotic eye. More efficient is cutting up the fabric so that it comes to court more intimately the shape of the body. Emma Bovary. A most alluring effect is achieved when the body is naked but nevertheless covered with paint. as with tight-knitted dresses. Already draped dress produces a contrast between the fall of the folds and the undulations that show through. Although clothes hide nudity from view. Here is another way in which concealing can be transformed into a refined way of revealing. formal attire. nylon stockings and latex. To begin with. a pure reminder of clothes has to suffice: think of the white imprints of articles of clothing on a body that has been exposed to the sun. The desire to lay eyes upon what is concealed can become so urgent that even cutting up does not suffice. CUT. The habitual presence of underwear also allows for more sophistication in the techniques of unveiling. The covering is shortcut altogether when the fabric itself is transparent. To accentuate such contrast. (5) LINGERING OVER SEDUCTION ‘Puis. But also other refined ways of heightening the erotic tension emerge. if not a means of postponing the forthcoming denudation. A kind of shortcut can be achieved when a naked body shows up where an intermediate of underclothing was expected. or . elle faisait d’un seul geste tomber l’ensemble de ses vêtements’ Flaubert. or heavy working apparel. or when the surface shrinks into a mere ribbon or strings. Exciting though garments can be. new forms of undressing emerge: the revealing of the underwear under the outerwear. (4) DRAPED. There is a special thrill in wearing a garment over naked breasts or walking around in a skirt without a slip underneath. The ultimate destiny of clothes is to be laid off. There is no purpose in heightening the appeal of the body when it is no longer revealed. but foremost its nude.
we are dealing with totally different phenomena. the appeal of the bra in its undoing. In fact. whose very number structurally prevents them from ever gaining access to her body. which is determined by the ease with which they are laid off. The charm of well-fitting trousers resides in opening the zipper. Although these devices are often put on the same footing as clothing. without being prepared to disappear in the marital bed. cosmetic surgery. let alone the childbed. nothing compares to the beauty of its nude when finally uncovered. whereas a genuine willingness arises only where there is a reciprocal attraction and a readiness to engage in a more encompassing relationship. some of these artifices can be laid off like clothes: think of make-up. (6) CLOTHES AND THE ECLIPSE OF THE NUDE ‘L’homme nu est un mollusque’ Lacan. the charm of a blouse in its unbuttoning.That becomes all too obvious when we compare clothes with the whole array of other artificial means to enhance the erotic appeal. That is already apparent from the structure of clothes itself. from unawares letting glide a ribbon over the shoulder. clothing can even compensate for. Erotic attire may only advertise an apparent readiness.if not an unconscious unwillingness . To be sure. The difference is between objectively adding to the beauty or concealing shortcomings on the one hand. a set of dentures or a wig. as opposed to a complete willingness. it often serves the opposite goal of creating deceit. the use of all kind of prostheses. epilating and shaving. garments can be disposed of at will. Inevitably. Worse still. and what have you. However much al these refinements may stir the erotic eye. And there is a whole array of refined. by suggesting that there is something more or better than what actually exists. Such seeming dishevelment betrays an overall readiness or helps to conjure it up. buttons. hooks. or mask an inability . ribbons and laces. to leaving the collar unbuttoned to show some chest. such as make-up. wigs. The model specialises in displaying her body before a host of admirers. Although clothing is a sophisticated method of seduction. and subjectively increasing the erotic appeal on the other hand. This attitude is quite common under the regime of differential beauty. the secret of the corset in its unlacing. false eyelashes.of the body to display itself in the nude. and what have you. where many a beauty flaunts her appeal. Such purely exhibitionistic attitude is epitomised in the model with whom an increasing number of women identify themselves. But their removal only lays bare hidden shortcomings instead of hidden charms. over leaving one or more buttons undone or a zipper open. the staging of seduction is transformed into a mere performance of
. nearly concealed tricks of seduction. One could write a whole erotica on zippers.
. Genuine display as the expression of an unlimited willingness to surrender. may be just as rare as a perfect body. over Baudelaire's make-up. Unveiling and solely unveiling . stripping withholds intercourse. We cannot escape the impression that the emphasis on the envelope is merely a new manifestation of the age-old contempt for the body: from Tertullianus' 'templum aedificatum super cloacam’.they may thus serve the egalitarian purpose (Alain). theatrical quality of the performance in which touching . In expectance of a generalised genetic manipulation of bodily beauty . That does not prevent that matters can be looked at more positively.and in classic striptease: showing the genitalia . Their increasing autonomy finds its counterpart in the gradual shift form body to clothes. Even accomplished stripping may be diverted from its true destiny.even when this fairy-tale learns that real beauty will always win at last..is excluded. Clothes maintain the illusion that it is they that make the man or the woman.. Merleau-Ponty's 'chair'.. Thus.exhibitionism on the catwalk. This is evident in the highly ritualised. This attitude is quite common in every day life . Not for nothing does many a man prefer a half-clad body or a body in full erotic attire . No wonder that it is often proclaimed that erotic appeal derives not from the body. The contention is only justified when the nude is not able or prepared to hold its promise.on beaches and at parties . They help to flatten the differences in beauty and help to tip the balance in favour of the lesser beauties. but from the body clad or from its unveiling. In granting the nude.it might utterly fail when it finally surrenders. This occurs when it becomes a mere substitute for complete seduction by the eventually denudated body.but it comes to its apogee in staged performances such as the belly dance and the strip tease. Clark's 'sack of potatoes' to Lacan's body as a mollusc. and the spell is broken when the last veil has fallen. the performance of the stripper is doomed to be reduced to mere exhibitionism.has become the crux of its pleasure. as in the story of Cinderella . Just as in the performance of the model on the catwalk. not to mention photographic images of a nude.
. voyeurism and exhibitionism are further isolated from the tactile and genital sequel of visual seduction.
It suffices to have the typical silhouettes from diverse places and different periods pass the review. Tailored clothing shows all the separate parts.Chapter VI of 'The erotic eye and its nude'
objet de désir 1
'the ecstasies of eros'
CLOTHES AND THE METAMORPHOSIS OF THE EROTIC APPEARANCE (1) DIVERSIFICATION OF THE EROTIC APPEARANCE 'J'aime le souvenir de ces époques nues'' Baudelaire. Precisely because clothes tend to confine the natural agility of the body.Correspondances. Dress not only widens the repertoire of concealing and revealing. but equally for its movements. wearing high heels (or having bound feet) or slippers. over the middle or over the thighs. it also changes the overall appearance of the erotic appearance itself. although a skirt might synthesise the thighs and the legs into one single whole. shirts and jackets may be wide or tight-cut.V. An attribute like a plume or a cigarette mouthpiece drastically changes the overall attitude and dictates new movements (P. The movements of the body are totally different when it is clothed in draped or tailored clothing. Les Fleurs du mal. their removal often leads to an outburst of energy: the liberated body frolics around or stretches its limbs triumphantly. So does men exchange his natural appearance with an increasing diversity of often totally opposed profiles. The cut has also its impact on the mutual relation of the parts: the girdle may be under the breast.
. Draped clothes synthesise the body into one whole. That goes not only for the shape of the body. Schilder). clothes draw the attention on different parts of the body. The cut may change the shape of the parts: trousers and sleeves. from which only the head and the arms protrude. to become aware of that phenomenon. a tight-fitting dress or trousers. Just like a close-up.
Far from harming the appeal of the body. But there is no doubt: in the future we surely will witness still more amazing miracles. male garment only comes to enhance female attractiveness. the body of the young boy shows up many female characteristics. As a consequence of diets and the avoidance of pregnancy and breastfeeding. that we no longer notice the anomaly. both genders meet each other in the quasi hermaphrodite body of the adolescent. Up to the nineteenth century. In the limit. Under the regime of the exchange of beauty for benefits. the slender. such natural ambivalence often only heightens its charms. the opposition extended to underwear: women used to wear long smocks. the wearing of clothes of the opposite sex can become a means of acquiring a new body. The body is increasingly masculinised. who can acquire often magnificent breasts. we are still familiar with the opposition of trousers and skirts. Conversely. the desired effects are obtained through surgical. the surplus gained from the annexation dwindles: women wearing trousers have become so common. Male transvestism is foremost fuelled by exhibitionistic motives. in a given culture. A rigid opposition between male and female dress (and other means of adorning the body. An impressive example is the strong opposition of male nudity and the richly draped female body in ancient Greece. In opposition to the maternal body. There are countless other examples … Garments can also enhance the natural ambivalence.
. are supposed to be male or female. muscled body of the girl is gradually replacing the mature female or maternal body. As women have always known. Today. This leads to a continuous reciprocal annexation of the privileges of the opposite sex. Nowadays. Increasingly. hormonal and genetic manipulation. the girlish look can also be read as ‘male’ (‘boyish’). tend to be rather randomly distributed over genetically male of female beings. how beautiful it might be. while his own body is left in the cold. they are quite impressive with the male. Especially when there is a sufficient initial natural ambivalence. in strong contrast to the eighteenth century. man is doomed to forever admire female beauty. Female transvestism is not restricted to clothes and attributes and is not exclusively fuelled by erotic motives. Up to now. Eventually. such as make-up and jewellery) helps to remove the ambivalence. and it is only from the middle of the nineteenth century onward that specialised underwear was introduced.(2) THE HERMAPHRODITE BODY (4): TRANSVESTISM There is a natural ‘transsexuality’ in the sense that characteristics which. make-up is still a female privilege. This is all the more so when what seemed to be a man turns out to be a woman.
Here. they all the more feed the desire to find the becoming substitutes. The whole scheme of concealing and revealing is centred around the genitals. The most important substitute is underwear. they are often introduced in view of that function. like the angels of olden times (Claude Cahun). But there is more. while at the same does replacing the pubic hair and the mucous skin through shining cloth. But also the clothes themselves are eager to welcome the banned genitals. why the pubic hair resurges as fur. stockings. It is not difficult to understand why the disappearance of the vulva celebrates its resurrection in the folds of drapery. jackets and coats. clothes come to endorse that move: in hiding the centre from view. In chapter III we already provided ample illustration of centrifugal displacement of the genitals. The more they refer their intimating function to the inner layers. and how the covering of the nude is short-circuited through transparency.Finally. In the first place the parts left nude are obvious magnets for the hidden treasures. That goes especially for the more archaic parts. That is why it often imitates the evenness of the skin and why it preferably courts the shapes of the body. No wonder that it wants to regain that paradise lost. panties) echoes the triangle of the mound of Venus. We already mentioned how changes in the scheme of denudation tend to surrender the zones previously covered with garment. (3) THE BODY AND ITS DOUBLE: THE EYE AND THE PERVERSE MOVE Clothes deprive the erotic eye of the sight of its nude. preferably at the fringe of collars. the more the eyes feel deprived. in collars or cuts in sleeves. Also and especially the outer layers imitate the body. And since clothes come to cover not only the genitals. the shape of the (slip. cuts and
. underwear preferably takes the function of intimating nudity. In that centre originates the centrifugal quest for more aesthetic and less anxiety-arousing substitutes. also these begin to displace themselves. They show up many formal or functional similarities or analogies. Due to the reciprocal specialisation between the layers. and where these are missing. which can easily be aestheticised by clothing. or the shape of the foot that of vagina (China). and the stronger the outer layers are invited to resemble what they are supposed to conceal. clothes and other artificial interventions remove every sexual difference: we get to see a sexless being. more attractive parts of the body as well. we only have to add that the characteristics of the host parts are often read as indicators of the characteristics of the originals: as when the length of the nose is supposed to indicate the length of the penis. Not seldom does it also take the colour of the skin or enhance it through contrast. Thus. but other. In progressively covering the body.
leather or latex. a phenomenon that is already familiar to us from chapter III. and epaulettes augment the width of the chest. The corresponding change in display of beauty is the exhibition of underwear. why the breasts reappear as cups and the nipples as buttons. The erotic eye’s quest is then diverted to a new goal: laying eyes upon the underwear. The eyes’ seizure of power leads to an increasing desire to lay eyes upon the nude body that goes hidden behind the clothes. And that is all the more true. This culminates in the catwalk and its less profane counterpart in the church: the wedding dress in which the bride appears before the altar. The hidden beauty resurfaces even in the armour destined to protect it in battle. since the admired body has become a body dressed. Since clothes also happen to offer more aesthetic substitutes (in the clothes themselves. The admired body is no longer tactilely or genitally aroused: the potential lover is reduced to a voyeur. (4) THE HERMAPHRODITE BODY (5): FETISHISM In the previous chapter. why the thighs or the hips are accentuated in crinolines. Thus is born one of the most elementary forms of a new kind of fetishism. especially since dress tends to offer fascinating substitutes for the sense of touch and the genitalia. who have rather denudate the breasts or the vagina than the feet. as well in the parts of the body left nude) they threaten to turn postponement into cancellation. that the central parts are more easily denudated than the displaced ones: think of the Chinese. as in the muscled cuirass. The intermediate layers can take the place of the ultimate goal: the nude. This new form of fetishism is further developed in that clothes postpone the transition to tactile and genital contact and thus tend to reinforce a voyeuristic stand. The effect of displacement is often so drastic. we already described how the body is wrapped in ever more layers. puff sleeves intimate the volume of muscle. Also for this projection does the body
. In that capacity they have not failed to play their secret game under many a table (Think of the ‘poulaines’. The display of the body is increasingly replaced with the display of clothes. why the hidden skin resurfaces as silk. the eye’s seizure of power leads to the disappearance of signs of tactile and genital arousal.openings. Also with the male do hats enlarge the head. More often though. introduced by Fulk Rechin of Anjou in the eleventh century). cherished from the Greeks onward. or of the stripper and her high-heeled shoes. A stylised form of this new kind of display appears as soon as the French can-can. that the eye wants so eagerly to see. That cannot but reinforce the propensity to project the excluded organ of the voyeur on the body of the exhibitionist. Especially shoes are destined to embody the penis.
Thus. we find an abundance of phallic forms: arms and legs. Such phallic profusion asks for female envelopes: stockings. on the downward path.dressed offer the required clues. finally. ankles. the new entranceways offer new clues for the centrifugal movement and the projection of the genitals. which naturally hides the charms on the front from view. and thus can be denudated at lesser risks. is the natural entrance gate to the sanctuary of the body As soon as the hem reaches to the ground. silk is equally an example of displacement for aesthetics sake. In the end. feet. betrays the central origin of such a fetish. is turned into a playground for displacement and projection when dressed. knees and thighs impose themselves as new stops on the path leading to the centre. But also the clothes themselves offer plenty of clues for the staging of the hermaphrodite drama. fur or the sight of latex. but also other qualities of the skin: think of the feel of silk. without being slimy. there is also the dorsal approach of the back. Optic and tactile qualities are often intertwined. Also smells join the fetishist feast. arms and shoulders (Emma Bovary). Whereas. the wearing of clothes accentuates one or another part of the body. The most obvious example is the point of the foot penetrating the hollow of the shoe. The displacement to the parts left uncovered goes often hand in hand with the displacement to dress. or of sleeves lays bare the charms of fingers. Also the tactile qualities and smells of clothes offer many a clue for the game of displacement and projection. which is hairless like the female body. which. Things come to their apogee in the fly from which the penis protrudes. silk not seldom shares its colour with the labia minora. The attention is not restricted to the face. The same goes for fur. which in its natural state provides only scarce clues. whereby male and female genitals unleash each other as in a chain reaction! Also the body of the male. gloves. Therefore. Sleeves and gloves disclose a new sideward entranceway: the removal of – especially long – gloves. The movement is continued when the high-heeled shoe develops into a boot with bootlaces or a fur collar. fingers and toes. the vagina can nestle in the male body at random. the ‘second skin’ is turned into the ‘first skin’. In general. toes. In a second phase. only natural fetishes of an obvious female nature are to be found. just like fingernails. which cannot fail to remind of the pubic hair. A veritable escalation. Leather. At last. and reminds in any case of its evenness. Especially collars and splits play an important role. which ends itself in a point and is armed with a high heel at that. And that goes especially for shoes. The exclusive focus on the one part among countless others. is also cherished for its smell (not to mention its sadistic overtones). In a first phase clothes intensify the appeal of the parts left nude. and shoes. which combine
. wrists. Not seldom does the fabric of clothes surpass not only the evenness. in an uncovered body. satin. on the sideward and upward pathways. hands. And.
especially of its central parts. Already more difficult is it to understand why one might be mesmerised by the sight of a leg. Things are further complicated in that pieces of cloth may be isolated from the body from which they derive their appeal. in a second phase. clothes come to play an increasingly important role in erotic life. no obstacles whatsoever can spoil the fun: a shoe cannot possibly be a source of troubles…. Which does not prevent that the phenomenon can only be understood when we take the more obvious preparatory stages into account. Unlike genital intercourse. In the end. And that holds all the more true for shoes. (6) THE FETISH AND THE NUDE The fetishist displacement comes to its apogee when it courts the reversal of the normal scheme of denudation (see previous chapter): when the erotic charge is displaced to garment in the periphery. whereas a fetish can be bought and possessed at will. perfume it and kiss it for hours. any desiring body can adorn itself with the charms of the desired body – also the less desirable body. Such depersonalisation and objectification of original the erotic appearance is all the more welcome under the regime of differential beauty and the exchange of beauty for benefits. the relation with a fetish has no inbuilt end. Under such regime. Here originates the very fascination of many a fetish. its appeal can be contrasted with the nudity of the body. or the body that is not prepared to surrender. Through their propensity to usurp the erotic appeal of the body. But it is only when one is rapt in ecstasy when touching a piece of silk. the objectification and the visualisation allow for an unlimited enjoyment. that we have to summon up all our interpretative powers. In a first phase the central opening in the nude is covered by other parts of the body itself. The sometimes subtle displacements from diverse sources are often intertwined in an eventually inextricable jumble. Especially in such cases do the displacements of erotic appearance take the shape of a veritable ‘fetish’. the centrifugally displaced fetish is directed against the central origin which it negates. and the mystery as well. (7) JUWELLERY ‘There is more to sex than intercourse…’ Also erotically neutral objects become entangled in the game of
.the smell of leather with those of the foot. or at the sight of a body laced up. the desired body itself becomes obsolete. A fetishist can denudate and wash the feet of his beloved. But. At the same time. It is not difficult to understand why one should be aroused by the sight of half-parted lips. many a real person is no longer prepared to engage in a more encompassing personal relationship. And such enjoyment is not only unlimited. Since clothes can be disposed of at will.
Already in chapter V. The attention may be diverted directly from the vagina through jewels or peircings in its immediate vicinity. Conversely. through the real eye in the mirror. In wearing the clothes of the desired body. Originally. it is also a pretext to catch a glimpse of those other treasures. However erotically neutral it might be. all kinds of props serve the purpose of aestheticisation (the aesthetic move). the desiring body is released from the task of projecting itself on the desired body. which is already an aestheticised displacement of the vagina. The plumes. Many a women enjoys the feel of loose. tightfitting clothes may be the source of a pleasure akin to bonding: in this case. it becomes entangled in the game of concealing and revealing.if not: especially . soft cloth working against their skin. especially when they are made on a part of the body that otherwise is not allowed to be uncovered in public. they divert the attention from the erotic appearance. most jewellery serves the function of indicating rank. textiles and jewellery worn for purely aesthetic reasons. pleasure is derived from looking at oneself – either through a kind of spiritual eye. even when – or precisely because – the wearer has no intention to unravel them before the eyes of strangers. The sheer awareness of being attractive.on the naked body. clothes are replacing a lover in flesh and blood. Also the wearing of lingerie may produce a special sensation. Just like clothes. Also flowers. the openings in the nose and the ear. or the mouth. or the pure idea of seduction may suffice. In these cases. they can also give the wearer an advance to impending sexual gratification. we mentioned the fact that the fingernail is a negation of the slimy and wrinkled flesh. or they divert the attention from the navel. But also . functions and other distinctions. They spare the erotic eye the non-aesthetic and anxietyprovoking sight of the genitals and other unappetising parts such as the nipples. status. through functioning as an advance. or through the vicarious gaze of a third party. The understanding of this process is obscured by the fact that fetishism tends to obliterate the origin of the fetish in the desired body. Also tattoos or piercings have the same effect. with which women are fond to adorn
. THE DIVINE HERMAPHRODITE Garments are not only meant to give the onlooker an advance to the splendour of the nude. Often this enjoyment can lead to overt self-caressing which is a theme often developed in erotic imagery. compete with the beauty of the body. Such self-satisfaction is further developed when the fetishist uses clothes charged with the erotic appeal of the desired body. The expensive jewel not only diverts the attention from the beautiful breasts between which it is hanging. But precisely their erotic neutrality makes them function as an excuse: as when the expensive or splendid fabric of a dress becomes a pretext for admiring the wearer.concealing and revealing.
If we take the origins in the desired body into account.from way back a male prerogative (Emberley) – not only reminds of the pubis. that in a first phase turned the poor mortal into a sexually individuated being – a being that refuses to let itself submerge into the animal with the two backs – eventually transforms that very sexually individuated being into the self-sufficient. the desired body. who wraps himself in silk underwear or in nude leather. denied to the voyeur by the perverse eye. he now can wrap himself in the very envelopes in which the desired body has incarnated itself. Fur . is eventually reconstructed on the desiring body itself through a reversal in the mirror (transvestism).themselves. tactilely enjoys the skin taken from the desired body. but above all of the haired male body. We will come back to this in chapter X. The fetishist. are derived from male birds. This move is completed when he also masturbates himself with the fetish or with a hand replacing the vagina or a finger replacing the penis – even when lingering in the visual and tactile preliminary stages is far more becoming to both in essence visual perversions. the perverse eye. In the end. the differences between fetishism and transvestism tend to be blurred: while the fetishist originally projected his own desiring body on the desired body. He thus becomes a transvestite who – with his mind’s eye. and through wrapping itself in the desired skin detached from the desired body (fetishism). Thus. Conversely hairless leather derives its charms foremost from the nudity of the female body. divine hermaphrodite. in the mirror.
Chapter VII of 'the erotic eye and its nude'
objet de désir 6
'the ecstasies of eros'
.enjoys the sight the desired body in his own. or through the eye of a third onlooker .
THE TABOO ON EXHIBITIONISM AND THE ORGY It will be superfluous to remind of the many other factors that lead to the introduction of clothes. To begin with, there is the necessity to protect the body against extreme temperatures. Also increasing wealth induces men to cover his body with ever more layers of fabric, or to wear jewellery and attributes testifying to his wealth. Thus, social stratification is often expressed in erotic terms: infringement of all kinds of rules and the adoption of an appearance that is irreconcilable with hard labour (long nails, white skin...) are often signs of power or wealth. And the flaunting of wealth is only a special case of the general propensity to adorn the body with signs of all kinds of identity. In this book we should focus, however, on clothes as an expression of modesty. (1)THE TABOO ON SEXUAL DISPLAY ‘Sous aucun tropique ne persiste la nudité intégrale offerte par la naissance’ F. Borel When stumbling on a loving couple, most people have the feeling of having crossed a threshold. Conversely, many lovers feel disturbed when they know they are being observed. The concomitant feeling in the lovers as well as in the onlookers is shame. Shame is the feeling of having exhibited or witnessed something that is not meant to be exhibited or witnessed. Shameful is not sexual behaviour as such, but the fact that it has been witnessed by outsiders. The same lovers that indulge in relishing each others beauty, feel inhibited when strangers are around. And the same witnesses that feel embarrassed when stumbling on a loving couple, feel completely at ease when they admire the beauty of their beloved in the private sphere. Since shame is an unpleasant feeling, we avoid behaving sexually in the presence of others. The feeling of shame elicits an attitude: modesty and reserve. Such attitude induces lovers to withdraw in private and outsiders to grant them their privacy. Thus, a natural feeling of shame is not a hindrance, but rather a guarantee for the undisturbed unfolding of reciprocal seduction and the surrender of lovers, as parents with children know all too well. Other factors come to endorse such natural modesty. Just like we stop working and talking when proceeding to intercourse, just so do we stop making love when proceeding to every day business: we neutralise our appeal and avoid looking at the erotically charged parts of the body. Conversely, with the most kinds of work or with non-erotic commerce, we only need the eyes and the hands. That is why work attire or apparel for normal commerce mostly leave only the hand and the face uncovered.
Add to this that sexual seduction is a process that unfolds in many phases: the strongest assets are only played off when first the tip of the veil has been lifted, and precisely such postponement makes the whole process exciting. Such unfolding is unthinkable if modesty were not the starting point. Conversely, we already mentioned the deterring effect of unexpected exposure, not only of the genitals, but also of the breasts. That is why, also in milder climates, the genitals are always somehow covered or neutralised. That holds also true of sculpture: the Greeks provided their sculptures of males with a rather minute penis, which especially catches the eye with the giant Hercules. In erotic pictures, conversely, the emphasis is on an often oversized penis. The archaic sight of the genitals only enhances the propensity to hide them from view. Clothes, or other props like penis-shafts or bows around the foreskin, help to spare the eye this repulsive sight. That holds by extension also for other parts of the body: the lips, the nipples. Even the completely nude Greek boys in the palaestra wore a bow around their foreskin, and they retired when they proceeded to making love. Finally, sexual seduction is selective. When lovers engage in an enduring bond, they only proceed to seduction when they want to renew their bond. As long as they love each other, they do not flaunt their charms before the eyes of strangers. Thus, the natural taboo on sexual display is not so much the enemy of pleasure, as a guarantee for its uninhibited unfolding. A furtive glance on sexual behaviour all over the world and throughout history suffices to convince oneself of the fact that shame is a universal phenomenon that does not at all increase with the degree of civilisation (Duerr). No doubt, religious or political authorities may enhance and generalise the feeling of shame, to the extent that sexuality itself comes to be considered as shameful. But that does not prevent the original shame from being a natural and useful feeling. Although there is a considerable variability as to the extent in which sexual seduction is experienced as shameful, the feeling that sexual commerce has somehow to be hidden is nowhere totally absent. And it is not because in many cultures people unabashedly walk around in the nude, that they do not have a feeling of shame. The feeling often appears only when they proceed to kissing, embracing or copulating. They do not hide their body, but sexual intercourse itself (Lévi-Strauss). There is, finally, a difference between leaving parts of the body uncovered - being naked - and seductively exhibiting the body being nude. The reports of anthropologists are often biased in both directions, and many a photographer arranged his photos to please the Westerner (Duerr). (2) EXTENSION OF THE TABOO
To assert that shame is a universal phenomenon does not mean that beauty is never displayed in public, quite the contrary. Already with animals, potential partners are meeting on a common 'arena' or 'lek' so that all the possible partners are within reach and easily comparable. Also man has special places and times when foremost younger people are meeting: the village square, dance halls, beaches and baths. Comparison rather than seduction is the aim of the performance. And, in so far as seduction comes into play, it is not really public, but aimed at a specific addressee: stealthy looks and the initial phases of seduction are only meant for a chosen partner. When the partners have selected each other, they withdraw from the public sphere, although things might change sooner or later. For, as a consequence of the differences in beauty, not all the partners can obtain the partner of their choice. A majority has to content themselves with a less appropriate candidate. Or the position of the partner might change in the course of the relation, so that many a partner begins to look out for a better partner and resumes his seductive efforts. That cannot fail to provoke a corresponding reaction. The excluded partner might try to deter his competitors. But it is far more effective to curtail one's partner: to claim rights of ownership or to impose modesty. Here originates the widespread ambivalent attitude towards sexual display. Everybody is inclined to enjoy the erotic display not only of his own partner, but equally of strangers. At the same time one objects to the display of one's beloved before strangers, and tries to prevent strangers from enjoying it. That can amount to imposing the wearing of a veil or enclosure in a harem. The less attractive partners are caught in a further ambivalence. On the one hand they are all too eager to relish the beauty of the chosen ones. But, since they themselves are not attractive enough, their admiration will never be reciprocated. They are doomed to merely admire. Such reduction to pure voyeur hurts their feelings of self-esteem. That calls forth feelings of revenge against beauty, in the rejected men as well as in the eclipsed women. The widespread indifference of woman for male beauty only enhances the feeling of rejection in men. The rejected men can retire in the hermaphrodite opposition and become indifferent to female beauty. Another common reaction, with males as well with females, is the rejection of erotic beauty as mere titillation of the senses, which is supposed to reduce the loving partnership to a mere sexual relation. Or the rejected majority can turn its back on love as such and devote itself to some ascetic ideal - making a career or earning as much money as possible. In chapter XI we will demonstrate how it can also lead to an urge to destroy the beauty of the other sex. Religious and political authorities can easily capitalise on such widespread feelings of resentment. (3) THE AMBIVALENCE OF CLOTHES
how discouraging the accompanying behaviour might be. it suffices to be merely naked. the stealthy looks over the shoulder betray the intention of teasing. When the beloved runs away. Every encounter with a potential lover suffices to make it clear that the seeming modesty is only feigned. In principle. Such compromise paves the way for a new kind of deception: instead of displaying readiness masking insufficient or absent arousal. Modesty is merely imposed. Clothes. where everybody is everybody's supply and demand. every ascetic project resorts to clothes. The whole undertaking cannot but shortcut itself. It is as if modesty has disappeared and has become obsolete altogether. clothes can also hide real arousal or seduction behind a seemingly modest appearance. A better compromise is using one and the same concealing dress. But. That is why every natural or artificial gesture of withdrawing is from the beginning ambivalent. as in Hinduism. This method is rather contra-productive because of the unintended. but therefore no less considerable increase in the attractiveness of the hidden treasures. she cannot help strangers to join in the feast. It also bereaves the lovers of their natural pride. In the end. clothes have to completely hide the body from view. With natural gestures. Under the regime of difference in beauty and wealth . since even a naked body reminds of a possibly aroused body. A solution is a strict separation of the public and the private sphere. the whole system collapses. cannot be disposed of at will. When the mistress is getting ready for receiving her lover. Enters the free market of love. the covering of the body can also serve to ban eroticism as such. Men can forbid access to the outer world through enclosure. Whence the rather ridiculous effect of fascinating eyes looking from behind the fissure of a veil. now as a means to be reticent.The very behaviour that is meant to teasingly conceal the charms for the eyes of the beloved can also serve to not raise false hope with strangers. or the shimmering through of seductive devices under seemingly decent apparel. the justified rejection of artificially imposed modesty tends to the denouncement of modesty as artificial. and the concomitant feeling of modesty is only pretended. since nobody belongs to somebody and everybody to everybody. the ambivalence is rather low. (4) MODESTY PERVERTED INTO A MEANS OF NEUTRALISING SEDUCTION Of course. the imposition of ascetic dress or a veil. That only prevents a right understanding of the universality of natural shame. and then as a means of stirring desire.
. on the other hand. to the destruction of bodily beauty as such. or. Henceforth. In the meantime.the regime of erotic scarcity such is the rule rather than the exception.
The intention is that everybody gets involved. Neutralising the erotic spell. state. Just as sexual love expresses itself in copulation.. religion. While lovers withdraw from the group in the private sphere. The desire to engage in sexual behaviour is contagious and involves every member of the community. and even collective copulation in all its forms.contact with the group. Not every form of sexual behaviour is equally appropriate for the sexual feast. To begin with. Either all the members of the community perform the same action successively. is not an easy task. As soon as the couples proceed to copulation. And. (5) THE UNIVERSAL ABSENCE OF SHAME IN THE ORGY ‘Niet om in de armen van een enkeling te verwelken. Also dancing provides ample opportunities for diverse forms of tactile and visual contact within a broad array of social patterns.foremost visual . or of the sexy sister. Copulation has some inbuilt shortcomings. Most
. only enhances the tension between revealing and concealing. or the emphasis is on simultaneity. aged or married women. fighting. over displaying beauty. to eradicate every reminder of what goes hidden beneath the clothes. most orgies join the perverse move. The contrast between the repellent attire and the beautiful body that goes hidden behind it. language. The collective indulging in masturbation can be communicated on a rather large scale.). they threaten to dissolve into single pairs and to lose the . especially with women. so that are no longer identical. A solution is to collectively make love to one single partner. village. but foremost in behaviour borrowed from sexual love: from collectively singing. as with group rape. though.. That explains the sight of the habits of priests and monks. There is also love between parents and children and especially 'communal love': love between members of the same community (tribe. For all these reasons. as is apparent from the theme of Joan the Baptist and Salomé. which means that all the partners have to perform a different kind of behaviour. and the clothes themselves are made of textile that is utterly anti-erotic (rough surface and erotically neutral or repellent colours). By far the most important handicap is the rather poor orgasmic potential of men: male orgies tend to be rather short. we will see how even a body smeared with dirt can exert an unusual attraction. to dancing.to utterly desexualise bodily appearance. in chapter VIII. nuns. only the preparatory stages can be collectively performed. members of the community gather in a public place. heeft de natuur de vrouw met al haar charmes getooid’ (Bachofen) Sexual love is not the only form of love. just so is the community celebrated in some form of communal activity: collectively indulging in excessive eating. drinking.
boulevards. and the equally irresistible urge of many a beauty to display her charms before the eyes of the entire community. market places. A heavy taboo weighs on the orgy. not to mention the belly-dancers. terraces. We should remind that the collective enjoyment of the image often goes hidden in the guise of sexual education: it suffices to refer to the amply illustrated erotic manuals of the East. which was painted and modelled after the widely admired hetaire Phryne. stations and metros. Although all the members of the community may flaunt their charms. With the thumb and the index.appropriate for orgiastic purposes. Foremost the fetishised body lends itself for orgiastic purposes. operas. and above all of the collective enjoyment of performances of films. theatres. Today. Only against such orgiastic background are we able to understand the often irresistible urge to share erotic transport with the whole world. lotus seeds were propelled in the shoe. It suffices to refer to the mannequin and the stripper. While one shoe was going around as a goblet. This kind of profane community gradually replaces the religious and ritual orgies. In the Japanese whorehouse. But it is above all the nude in the image that is predestined to bring the visual orgy to its apogee. Nowadays. An early example is Praxiteles' Aphrodite in Knido. the other was placed in the middle of a circle. Increasingly. are voyeurism and exhibitionism: the erotic appearance is public by nature. That is why it often
. but also the body entwined. more often only the most beautiful ones who exhibit themselves before the eyes of the lesser endowed. Not only the seductive body is relished collectively. A most cherished form is 'girl watching': the visual orgy on beaches. These adopt a voyeuristic stance and communicate their collective enjoyment. churches. though. the secret peep-holes of olden times are replaced with peep-shows. The winner was rewarded by the concubine. Granted: that lasts longer than a mere orgasm. The transformation of erotic seduction in a purely exhibitionistic performance guarantees an enduring arousal. Images tend to replace real partners: think of the pin-ups in barracks and workshops. videos and images on the internet. the orgy is above all performed in mega-dancings. members of the 'community of the Lotus' used to uncover the feet of their chosen concubine. the partners communicate their erotic pleasures privately. bayaderes and actress es. For a long time it has been a good custom to collectively peep through secret peep-holes. which is channelled in communal love.
where the kick of the orgy is joined with the kick of transgression. the joy of exhibitionism regained is joined by the pleasure in the transgression of the taboo on exhibitionism. In essence.resurfaces under a repressed form: the irresistible urge to denudate oneself on desolate places. The transgression of the taboo on infidelity can also be reinforced with the transgression of the taboo on forbidden forms of sexual intercourse. is turned into a transgression. where one is in principle visible for many secret eyes. And under the regime of differential beauty and wealth. Sexuality is only a means of communicating each other's pleasure. That holds in the first place of the already mentioned pleasure with which the body frees itself from the fetters of clothing.
. precisely as a consequence thereof.charms. The theoretical confusion of orgy and sexuality mirrors the generalised confusion . which is above all the case in an urban context. orgiastic contagiousness all too often serves the purpose of summoning up the energies that fails with waning love. Most cherished are desolate places in nature or the ruins of public places . foremost the production and exhibition of erotic images: not entirely unjustified. The potential onlookers are often represented by houses in the distance or by windows through which they might peep. The sensation increases in proportion with the chance of being caught.if not replacement . That does not prevent the genuine communion of sexual arousal to enhance and maintain the sexual receptiveness and to effectively check every endeavour to bereave life of its real . In a culture of exaggerated shame. the orgy is not a sexual happening.churches or cloisters. The sexualisation of the orgy is probably responsible for the often vehement rejection of public sexual behaviour.erotic .of the collective enjoyment of communal behaviour through the enjoyment of the sexual act itself and of what. The desolation is the reversal of the countless onlookers for whose eye the exhibition is meant: that betrays itself in the nearly contained anxiety that someone might look on nevertheless (see the dream of nakedness with Freud). the excluded often regard the orgy as a kind of infidelity and depravity. Also banquets and drinking bouts are not meant to satiate hunger or to quench thirst. if not to escape from the confines of loveless relations.
Before tackling the more obvious and better known effects. precisely therefore. In short: the erotic eye not only deprives itself from the tactile and genital interaction with the body. the eye’s approach of the nude turns out to be rather frustrating: the eye can never really come to grips with it. seeing has its inherent shortcomings: the eye gets to see merely one side of the body. and it cannot but enjoy merely a single moment of the process of the unfolding of beauty. The desired body has to display itself in an endless succession of ever new facets: erotic eye and nude are doomed to dance and endless pas de deux. it all the more painfully becomes aware how much it must resign from enjoying the surface of the body and what it contains. it lays bare its own inherent blindness. it cannot catch the whole body and its beautiful parts in one glimpse. we should now concentrate on the way in which the image transforms the whole process of looking and showing. For. How dearly would the eye want to multiply itself to be able to
. and how. The insufficiency of seeing is further enhanced through the eye’s seizure of power: in that it is out at taking the place of the hand and the genitals. the erotic eye is doomed to circle around the body. we want to draw the attention on a less familiar. precisely by doing so. To remedy such blindness. to look at it from ever different angles.Chapter VIII of The erotic eye and its nude'
'the ecstasies of eros'
THE NUDE CAPTURED IN THE IMAGE (0) INTRODUCTION After having examined the influence of clothes on the erotic appearance. it also feels called to make them undone. To begin with. it only sees that aspect on which it focuses. to approach it from ever changing distances. but therefore not less important phenomenon: the way in which the image lays bare the inner shortcomings of seeing. on a closer look.
but omnipresent as well! The image is a most powerful means to achieve this goals. From an evolutionary point of view. Or different surfaces may be allocated on different parts of the body: the front. the belly. bodies have a front and a back. the vagina disappeared between the legs. What is more: they show their front only by hiding their back. but the problem repeats itself. (1) THE FRONT AND THE BACK In the visible world. The buttocks had to take over the function of seducing the male. we lay eyes upon the hidden side. to be granted the pleasures of touching.with the striking exception of the cross formed by the cut between the buttocks and the fold that separates them from the thighs. its breast. if not the penis or the vagina. the vaginal swellings of apes and primates. A solution is to change one and the same surface: through opening the mouth. foremost on the face. especially on the face. a formerly friendly face can be changed into a threatening one. the sign of the cross indicated where the vaginal opening had to be found. the baboon displays its face. The four arms of the cross are like arrows pointing to the opening in the centre. most expressions are displayed on the front. the dorsal approach is the older one. the human body may be approached from the back or from the front. they have to show more than one surface. let alone the all-seeing God! And on top of that: how dearly would it become a hand. Most apes and primates . when copulating its rear. Dependent on the kind of interaction. To seduce her partner. That has an often unnoticed effect on the structure of living beings. the female displays her vaginal swellings. the back. a face. to be able to expand in the endless space of orgasm. from all distances and at all moments! How dearly would it equal the thousand-eyed Argus.admire the desired body from all sides. Also the sides provide some information: think of the profile of the head and the body. Henceforth. The reverse side only becomes visible by hiding what was previously visible. the animal can display one of its many surfaces. As soon as man began to walk upright. the flanks. With humans. Certainly. Since animals have mostly more than one kind of interaction. Add to this that all the relevant information about the partner is visible on the front. And. That does not prevent the vagina from being more accessible from the front. what is perhaps even more important. not otherwise than the concentric stripes in many a calyx. No relevant information is visible on the back . by turning around the body. How dearly would it want to be not only all-seeing. When fighting. During sexual encounter. that a frontal approach
. when lactating.with the exception of the meanwhile legendary bonobos – approach the female from the back side. They are out at concentrating all the relevant information in one single surface that can be scanned in one glimpse: think of the calyx of a flower.
Conversely. in real bodies. As a counterpart to the cross on the back. Be that as it may. It has become a real body again: a three-dimensional object with a front and a rear that hide each other from view. sexually unequivocal clothes (a bra. This leads to a final ambivalence: the dorsal approach of a body easily paves the way for dominant behaviour. spiritual and physical. always paying the gain of the one beautiful sight with the loss of another. the erotic appearance tries to remedy the inability of the eye to overlook it from all points of view at the same time. buttocks and waist or the proportion between fat and flesh can make the difference. since the turning of the back is often not so much a means of displaying the beauty of the buttocks. A series of secondary adaptations comes to cement the shift to the front. genital and anal. When the lovers proceed to copulation. Seen from the back.allows the whole complex of maternal interaction to be integrated in sexual intercourse: think of the sight of the eyes and the feel of the breasts. as to hide the front from view. That is why the dorsal approach is often experienced as bestial as opposed to the more human frontal approach. Which only confirms the importance of the shift of the whole proceedings to the front. Another method consists in giving an advance to the treasures on the front.mostly frontal . with the female also the vagina can be meant. This is the more efficient. Technical difficulties in the rendering of hairs. the back does not show up an unequivocal opposition between male and female. A second ambivalence comes to join the uncertainty about the genital or anal nature of the solicitation. can only enhance the ambivalence. it is not always easy to tell a male from a female. it is no longer possible to set eyes upon the various sides one after another: the intertwining of the bodies confines the erotic appearance within the limits of a . the human body is no longer a single surface that can be overlooked in one glimpse. especially in sculpture. A solution consists in so turning the body that it shows up as many treasures as possible. the difference is not always sufficiently outspoken. individual and collective. Through such complex adaptation. with the male. The back side of the body does not show up expressions or clues for individual identity. This
. While. always revealing one side by hiding the other from view. artists prefer the view from the back when rendering a hermaphrodite. Only the proportion between shoulders. as if the diverse phases of the erotic display are condensed in one single posture. Thus. human and bestial. the cross can only refer to the anus. a hairy triangle indicates the place of the hidden vagina on the front. lingerie) or props. Whence the importance of strong secondary clues for sexual identity. But.view. The abortive frontalisation of the human erotic body is responsible for the fundamental ambivalence of the back. love and dominance. such as long hair or plaits. The female has to display her beauty by turning around or being turned around. Or it is the male that has to circle around his beloved.
In photography. the same effect can be achieved through series of photos. Such dispositions exerts an often irresistible spell.leads to a reverse shift to the back: the sight of the buttocks comes to compensate the invisibility of the breasts. The artist may extend this method into summoning up an entire harem with nudes in the most diverse postures. but also an underside: the palms of the hand.
. the genital fold and foremost the anus. A classic procedure – already recommended by Alberti – is to show the body from three different perspectives. The erotic eye may also resort to the mirror. and the other from the side.a sure sign that they are not meant for eyesight. By placing a mirror behind his beloved. Only in reciprocal erotic display can we reconstruct our own attractiveness in the arousal of our partner. the soles of the feet. They belong to the ‘pudenda’ and are banned from the image (think of the well known stories about Van Eyck and Carravagio) – unless they are explicitly brought in the foreground to enhance the effect of the original. Not only technical restrictions are responsible for the fact that above all the face is admired in the image: apart from our back. the lover can set eyes upon the front and the back at the same time. That the body has no upper side does not prevent it from often being photographed from above. The body has not only a front. since it is the view of the breastfed infant. it hides our own body from view in the first place. The classical procedure here is to display the breasts so that one breast is seen from the front. Only the image provides more satisfying solutions. or multiple exposure. Since there are two breasts. The hermaphrodite gaze uses the mirror to project his own image in the other. The soles of the feet have the wrinkled skin in common with the genitals . especially since breasts have only a front side and a profile. where one can see his own body as the others do. we can see all the other parts of the body without a mirror. although from a rather unusual perspective. The intention then is rather to stress the profile of breasts and buttocks. man-sized mirrors move from the mirror-hall to the private sphere. Not for nothing has the mirror been declared the very paradigm of the image. as in the ordeal of Paris. The artist can so twist the body that many beautiful elements can be overlooked from a single point of view. the armpits. a back and a side. Perspectival sight not only deprives us of the sight of the hidden side. the artist need not resort to repetition. There are two versions: either the front or the back are turned to the mirror. collage. More willingly do we resort to the mirror. From the nineteenth century onward. a device that is older than the image – at least as the surface of the water in Narcissus’ pond. as in a veritable erotic panoptikon. Also the upper side of the back gains in appeal when the shoulder blades or the shoulders are read as breasts.
the nude used to appear as a hole body – and that is still the case in standard photography (think of the centrefolds). and the buttocks the two lobes of the glans. as when the labia are read as the body and the clitoris as a head. A first method consists in condensing various parts. There is also the phallic bust. Since the field of vision has the form of a cone. Parts of the body have to be delineated as new figures against the background of the body: think of the face. whereby the head plays the role of the glans. we see the whole and lose sight of the parts.(2) THE PART AND THE WHOLE Living beings isolate the relevant objects in their field of vision as separate wholes: as figures against a background. Isolated parts of the body can only be found in studies. Only clothed bodies were allowed to appear as busts or mere faces. From nearby. the genitals. The process repeats itself: also the face becomes a background against which the eyes. In a variant of the phallic torso. Courbet’s ‘Origine du Monde’ is perhaps the first nude showing only a fragment of the body other than the face or the bust. And. the nose and the ear are delineated. For a long time. the camera focuses on ever smaller parts of the body. In a first phase. or when the torso is condensed with the face.
. Such layered structure of the visual appearance delineates new forbidden zones. And. as when the torso is read as a face. but also of the breast. there are the numerous cases of displacement we dealt with in chapter III. the eye can only see the object as a whole when it is sufficiently remote. it is turned into the desire to see the central part in the whole: the phallic torso. it is not ready to give up the relish of the other parts. finally. of course. Another possibility is capture the various parts in one single image. we lose sight of the whole and the other parts. it is the phallic woman that appears in the guise of the phallic torso. Foremost from Stieglitz onward. the traditional reduction of the body to the bust is extend to the headless trunk and the pair of legs. When this method joins the desire of the eye to see the desiring organ in the desired body (chapter III). the whole may be condensed in the part. The image traditionally solves the problem by showing a whole in which the parts are clearly discernable. In an second phase. the ‘close-up’ is a most cherished device in erotic photography. But especially loving bodies tend to approach each other. the neck of the shaft and the breasts of the testicles. the buttocks. It may flutter about from one image to another. or a part and the whole. Whence a second form blindness inherent in erotic seeing. However much the eye might enjoy an isolated part. the mouth. the reversed back embodies the shaft. Also other parts of the body can be condensed with the whole. When this method joins the centrifugal move away from the genitals (chapter III). From a distance.
when the environment is allowed to enter the picture. All too readily is the visible world conceived as a photo on which everything is sharply defined. the urge for overall high-definition has not subsided. the eye must shift its focus. or. Because of this.utterly deprived of a global perspective on the whole meadow. submerge them in a promising ‘flou’: There is also the reverse strive to clear up the entire field of vision. The erotic eye is reluctant to confine itself to a single vantage point. This is another form of the blindness inherent in vision. Not only does an overall sharp focus look artificial. it only reveals itself through focusing eyes converging towards a given point in space. overall sharp focus gives the impression that the nude is utterly disposable. the eye is destined to desperately flutter about. bringing into sharp focus only what is supposed to stand at the centre of attention. relishing one flower after another . In paintings and drawings. No surprise then. As soon as the techniques of representation became aware of the unrealistic effect of this procedure. Nevertheless. it is often appalling. it was counteracted by a deliberate blurring of peripheral and distant objects. Since the introduction of the camera. it drags its hazy aura with it. The most obvious way of achieving this is to omit irrelevant details or objects in the foreground. It hurts the sensible eye. which culminates in the typical loving gaze. let alone the loving one. it eagerly wants to penetrate even the remotest corner of the image. as in an icon. A single aspect of the visual world is grasped at the expense of the surrounding zone. by shortening or widening the range of blurring.(3) THE CENTRE AND THE PERIPHERY ‘Details are always vulgar' Oscar Wilde. it is simply the natural propensity of the eye to focus on what it is doing. the background. Many images adhere strictly to the principle of binocular vision. which becomes blurred as the eyes focus on the target. ‘The Portrait of Dorian Gray’. Alternatively. To clear up the mist. that
. may centre the attention on the most relevant parts of the image. A contrast between parts of the picture rendered in sharp focus and areas which remain in soft focus. it tends to be blurred. the layering of an image can be achieved through approximating the real range of sharpness (in depth) or on the contrary. Blurring the periphery is done by preparing the lens. Such loving gaze is no longer able to discern sharply delineated shapes. and the periphery. In fact. but wherever it moves. that causes the painter to render everything in sharp focus. A well know procedure is the ‘colour-perspective’ which was introduced in painting by the Flemish school. In meeting the demands of the greedy eye. conversely. It is as if the world is wrapped in a kind of mist. It is well known how the pupil of the enchanted eye tends to widen.
also when moving. Also postures that are a culmination of movements. like in a tableau vivant – or in Fourier’s ‘musée imaginaire’. or the patterns of movement in dance. the movements of the body often come to a standstill in some expressive gesture. The image. photography has developed its own devices to get rid of too much focus. in the real world. But the overall blurring of an image must run counter the cravings of the eye. Here originates the conflict between the desire to linger over transient splendours and the yearning to discover the nude’s entire range of ever-changing erotic delights. where the most beautiful men and women were supposed to display their charms before the whole community. however. These furtive movements can be prolonged by ‘adopting a pose’. the erotic appearance has to unfold as a book. But such natural procedures are only a poor substitute for the
.many a photographer chooses to dismiss sharp focus altogether and gently wraps the image in the gauze of a ‘flou érotique’. or movements that are beautiful within themselves. or to diverse forms of manipulation.while we nearly have the time to read. (4) THE TRANSIENT MOMENT So spoiled are we by the abundance of images. by discovering a new range of erotic imagery that lays bare the smallest details of the body. But it is worth noting that some painters and photographers make a virtue out of need. that we all too easily forget that. and witnesses. But. Whence the overwhelming predominance of high-definition nudity in erotic photography. can be made enduring through repetition: think of the wiggling of hips. posture or position. through wrapping the nude in transparent cloth. despite the broad range of techniques available for rendering details in the sharpness of an image. the forever impossible unfolding of love in the image. page after page . through resorting to grain. cannot keep that promise. Similarly. That is why it soon demands that the mist be cleared up. through immersing the nude in water. this may lend an unknown appeal to the virginal body (see Wantuch's close up above). One cannot escape the impression that the unrelenting urge to uncover the nude and its proceedings in its minutest detail simply compensates for. digital or other. If the skin is flawless. The soft focus congenial to painting has the additional advantage of concealing the minor imperfections of the body. In every real erotic encounter the emergence of natural ‘flou erotique’ preludes the eye’s imminent closure and the advent of tactile and genital interaction. Thus the eye is doomed to continue looking. There are natural ways of disrupting the course of time. The nude obviously does this when resting. Blurring can be achieved through moving the camera or the nude.
And only in the society of slaves could an artist like Parrhasios have a slave killed for the sole purpose of being able to catch the anguish of the moment of death. it cannot satiate the craving of the erotic eye. Precisely by disclosing the enchantment of the transient moment. Marey introduced the technique of multiple exposure. the veritable ether of the erotic eye. freezing a phase in a process or a movement conveys a certain feeling of immobility. It is quite another to catch the culminating points of movements or the beauty of the movement itself. Such shortcomings of memory have driven the unrelenting human quest for techniques to overcome them. And this is precisely why there was such triumphant welcome for photographic techniques which shortened exposure times and made it possible to obtain fixed and clearly defined images of moving objects.image’s unrivalled ability to transform the moment into eternity. It continues to be a popular technique in contemporary photography. How much the immobile image might satisfy the desire to submerge in the eternal moment. Rodin maintained that the only solution was to combine two different phases of the same continuous movement in one pose. Duchamp and the Futurists adopted this technique in painting. eventually. With this development. Only the image has the capacity to meet the erotic eye’s deeprooted longing to encapsulate the fleeting glimpse into an everlasting immobility. even it is only for as long as it takes before another supreme moment can be frozen. the one and holy cherished moment. However. the immobile image only stirs the desire for the other splendours to be admired. photography could at last decompose the passing of time in its constituent movements. one after the other. According to Clark. it is one thing to catch positions of repose or naturally immobile expressions and postures. amidst the proliferation of meaningless shots. Ever new facets of beauty’s unfolding are fixed. We must surmise that the explorations of Muybridge and Marey were fuelled above all by the desire to catch. where it is refined through variations in the number and the timing of the exposures: However. until. the steady natural flow of the erotic display breaks up in the accumulation of its highlights. A composition like the dance of the three Graces might well be read as the simultaneous display of three successive phases of one and the same woman. if not to resort to convention. which can be combined in one and the same image through various photographic and artistic techniques. To dispose of this macabre flavour. The same impulse is at work when people watching erotic videos slow down the motion of the film to catch the supreme moment. artists and photographers often resort to a more convincing means of suggesting the elusive moment. The eye soon feels deprived by one single image and implores time to resume its course. It has to be plainly admitted that the immobile image is the medium of voyeurism ‘par excellence’. For a long time artists were forced to rely on memory and intuition. this was also the solution adopted by Miron
only muscles and intestines. With the only exception that the peeling cannot go on endlessly. however. Velasquez marks the introduction of the technique of blurring the contour . “More”! he ordered.
. Alphonse Allais has the story of the pasha who sent for a virgin. Painters also made the dynamics of the rectangle endorse the feeling of movement. the desire to overcome the limitation of the surface and enter the forbidden zone of the interior can be directly ignited at the visual perception of the skin itself. as in Salomé dance. It suffices to conceive the body as a layered structure.in his discobolus. never their inside. And it is only in this discrete and vectored world that the vaginal cave appears as an inside that the eye wants to penetrate. to the pasha’s ordering: “More”! “More”! Finally the virgin stood naked before the pasha. In photography. the skin may appear to be just another cover that can be removed. In crossing the threshold of the skin. It is not only the nude that moves before the eye. (5) THE SURFACE AND THE INSIDE ‘Templum aedificatum super cloacam’ (Tertullianus) The eye reveals only the surface of objects. as though it was an onion. Only to the genitals is the inside of the body naturally revealed. this effect can be easily achieved by reintroducing a prolonged exposure time. Also the way in which the eyes zooms in on the centre of the proceedings can be rendered. And this gives birth to the final type of blindness inherent in vision. again and again. The passion of unveiling runs up against the barrier of the skin. Only when a preliminary level of erotic arousal has been achieved do the splendours of the vaginal cave appeal to the eye. they disclose a dimensionless world which is quite different from the three-dimensional world of the eye (see Chapter I). To the craving eye. The guards cut off her dress. And what is more. in much the same way as the mucous membrane of the genitalia. the desire to see what is hidden behind the surface can be satisfied. eventually the skin appears. Instead of being fuelled by the genital urge to penetrate the body. however.as if a limb was dragging a kind of veil. Genitals. These organs have a surface too. the body perfectly fits this idea. When veil after veil is lifted. do not see: they feel. There it stumbles on the sight of the mucous membrane which appeals only to an archaic erotic sensibility. Not another delightful surface is laid bare. And the guards set about skinning her. also the eye moves around the nude. Because it is mostly covered with several layers of clothing. but it is not destined for eyesight. By peeling the onion. a heavy toll has to be paid: the realm of pure ugliness has been entered.
undulating surfaces instead. as does the transposition of the all-pervading orgasmic feeling in three-dimensional space. Or of the idea that the body can be opened and closed at will with a zipper. Conceiving the surface as being transparent is another way of trespassing on the forbidden zone imposed by it. particularly when it uncovers a foetus in the womb as shown by the famous drawings of da Vinci. But only x-rays and scanners fully realise such fantasies. the transparency does not stop at the threshold of the skin: the entire body is affected. which are equally concealed by the foreskin or the labia. Many people dream of possessing a device that could make clothes transparent. first and foremost on the soft belly. so the genital urge can court the eye’s endeavour in desiring to lay bare the interior of the body. proves to be its ultimate frustration. as we do when preparing to eat animals. Skinning is then transformed into ripping (as in the famous cases of Bertrand and Jack the Ripper).What promised to be the ultimate satisfaction of the voyeur. it dearly deplores the sacrifice of the precious beauty of the skin. The substitution of the intestines through the vagina is endorsed by the interpretation of the vagina as a cut or of the cleft between the buttocks as the result of previous splitting. or the fascination with seams (in nylon stockings for example) may hint at such kinds of obsessions. which is now all the more enhanced against the sight of the repulsive flesh and intestines. Here lie the roots of Aristophanes’ idea that people originated from the splitting of a four-legged and fourarmed double-being. This may explain the obsession of da Vinci and other men with exploring the intestines. Therefore. which only adds to the charm of transparency. Unless the greedy eye starts to savour a new relish: the enchantment of the beautiful surface is broken and the sojourn of the intestines forever cures the eye’s insatiable appetite. Since the moist gleam of the intestines is a compelling reminder of the mucous membrane of the genitalia. Transparent clothes make this fantasy real. as though skin were another garment. The obsession with scars on the skin. Just as the eye may try to penetrate the vaginal cave as though it were a penis. Yet again. They provoke the desire to cut them open. The contrast with the harsh structure of the skeleton only adds to the enjoyment of the softness of the transparent flesh. the various folds and axes of symmetry in the body (belly and back) are often conceived as cutting lines. We discover a range of delightful contours which outline soft. We will further examine the close relationship between voyeurism and sadism in chapter XI. ripping the belly open with a sharp knife might become an elevated form of opening the labial crease. With hindsight. In the same vein. This time we do not hurt on the ugly surfaces of the internal organs. The luxurious eye destroys the splendour by its own greed. as much as the mirror
the more he has to resign from feeling the warmth of the cheek. they tend to be perceived as pure red. a last and more fundamental paradox ensues: the more we indulge in pure visual enjoyment. the idea of transparency and ghost-like permeability may be conveyed through the superposition of negatives or multiple exposure. x-rays compensate for the invisibility of the inside. They come to be part of what we could call the fundamental erotic chord: whitered-black. If the eye wants to continue enjoying visually. the eye may try to read the clues no longer as promises of impending tactile delights. The blush not only signals sexual readiness. In the
. those clues function as a promise for the impending tactile delights. Thus. Next. In photography.and. To fully appreciate such transformation. but as visual beauties in their own right. glans and labia minora. When the body is sexually aroused. we first catch the contours of the body. Colour betrays the temperature of the skin. there are the countless variations of a more or less pronounced red .compensates for the invisibility of the rear. the more we have we to resign from the promised tactile delights. texture. or the emphasis on the skeleton reminds of the transience of beauty. A predominance of red lends the chord a strong erotic freight. the attention shifts to the tactile qualities of the body: volume. it also allows to visually enjoy the warmth of the body aroused. (6) SEEING AND TOUCHING: Visual beauty consists in essence of clues for originally tactile qualities. the effect is more aggressive. colour.is revealed to the eye through variations in light and dark (tone). Through contrast with the white of teeth and eyeballs and the black in the throat. but also on nails and nipples. not only is there an inherent blindness in seeing. When approaching the body. The female body appears as an amphora-like figure or as a silhouette from which breasts and buttocks protrude in opposite directions. When love can develop undisturbed. The more the lover loses himself in the relish of the blush. Such not only increases the pleasure of the eye. evenness or roughness through the continuity or discontinuity of these transitions. When the emphasis shifts to the opposition between black and white. it also compensates for the resignation of the promised tactile delights. From a distance. blood is spreading over its entire surface. Volume . softness through the gentle transition from light to dark.appearing on lips and tongue. But also here can the fun be spoiled by the sheer ugliness of what we get to see. it is important to further analyse the structure of visual appearance. as we have seen also genital resignation.or to phrase it more precisely: the feeling of rounding and undulation . seeing itself comes down to a more fundamental tactile . To remedy such fundamental shortcoming. not so much its volume or its undulations.from pink to purple .
Even if these colours are purely visual. it turns out that the possibilities to manipulate colour turn out to be far more reduced in photography as compared with hand-made painting. they cannot but be integrated in the fundamental erotic chord. over green. but foremost the image objectivate such subjective stance: one and the same figure may be rendered through outline our through colour and tone.basic chord. The pure outline seen from the distance asks for being filled in with colour and tone. Green eyes enhance the red of the lips and the blush. especially when the pupil is widened. the technique of the ciaroscuro was introduced and methods were developed to get rid of the outline through rendering volume through tone rather than outline. Tone and colour are far more difficult to render than mere outline. a veritable erotic theory of colours could be developed. The pink blush on an exalted skin is enhanced through the contrast with the blue of the blood in the veins. These colours join to a new chord of red. yellow and blue. The same goes for the colour of the eyes. The emphasis on colour and tone compensates for the postponement of tactile contact when the erotic eye wants to prolong the relish of the purely visual appearance. it acquires additional charm through reminding of the colour of the eyes of a newborn baby.non-tactile . We would have expected that the force of tone and colour would now compensate for the resignation of tactile contact. Against the background of the duality of optically detected tactile qualities and purely optic qualities.nature is the colour of eyes and hair. the possibilities created through the elimination of variations in
. Of a more purely optic . in the armpits and on the pubis is a purely visual sign. As a consequence of the similarity of tone. This conjures up celestial and ethereal figures or the austere beings in black and white. Since the veins are seldom depicted in the image. and come to resonate with the red of the lips and the white of the teeth and the eyeball. an outlined surface used to be filled in with one single colour in one and the same tone. Once these techniques have been widely accepted. The hair on the head. For a long time. they also attract the yellow of blond hair. From the Renaissance onward. in practice. Brown eyes tend to submerge in the black of the basic chord. In real life the eye can realise the shift is realised through the naked eye. Alongside such coordinates. the blue can be integrated in various other ways. The effect is the more pronounced when the hair is dark and contrasts with the white of the skin and the red of the lips. But only in photography can the rendering of colour and tone easily be combined. we understand the transition that takes places when we approach our beloved. which varies from brown. to blue. But. the colour of the white skin can be replaced with that of a sun-burnt skin. Blue eyes contrast with the pink and red of the basic chord. If it is blue. Clothes.
sculpted by Praxiteles after the model of the desirable Phryne. For the same reason. finally. A particular effect is obtained through the projection of the silhouette on a transparent cloth. The (scaling) of the transition from light to dark leads to a neutralisation of the feeling of volume and eventually to an utter flatness. Unjustifiably so: of the Cnidian Venus. which can be heightened to a crude opposition of black and white.colour and tone were rediscovered. this mostly induces a cool. While tone and colour suggest nearness and intimacy. In an endeavour to eliminate the feeling of distance.). which produces a convincing effect of intimacy. The silhouette further abstracts from tactile qualities. merely optic effect. since it was painted. Since outline is in the first place a quality perceived from a distance. many an artist has the nude emerge from the dark. sculptors deliberately resigned from rendering colour. In a first phase the transition from light to dark is divided in three steps: light.line-drawing.be appreciated for their own merits (Manet. the artist bereaves the body of its erotic temperature. A sophisticated variant is high-key of low-key photography and related procedures. as in Matisse's papiercollé’s. Reduction to one and the same tone and colour. The alluring curves of the contour can be combined with the feeling of intimacy by outlining only one side of the body and letting the other submerge in the dark. the outline is rendered in black lines on a
. In photography. especially if the subject-matter is erotically charged and when other tactile qualities such as the softness of the skin are emphasised. a withdrawal in the austerity of a purely optical approach. Sometimes outline as well as volume are emphasised. A more sophisticated version concentrates not so much on the contour of the body as rather on the borderlines between light and dark on its surface. The elimination of colour can be completed with the elimination of tone. a desire to touch and to merge. From the Renaissance onward. That does not prevent many an image in black and white from being very suggestive. especially when the background is white. Only now could the merits of these seemingly archaic techniques . The appeal resides in the contrast between the feeling of nearness and the simultaneous absence of tactile clues. In the pure line-drawing. even the silhouette can go hand in hand with an all the more stronger suggestion of rounding. silhouette and cloisonné . Also photography kept its end up. no cast has come to us. They referred to ancient sculpture. In photography. their elimination signals a distancing. The effect can be neutralised through introducing stronger shadows. which made it impossible to mould a cast. Gauguin etc. dark and some intermediate tone. a more subtle variant can be found: the use of a limited scale of light and dark tones. That was from the beginning the case in most prints and photos until the introduction of colour-photography. an outline tends to reduce the feeling of volume (Botticelli versus Titian). eventually flattens the surface altogether. By eliminating colour.
it remains a mere advance. Here originates the natural antipathy of the eye for hair and clothes. kissing and embracing. Descartes and Diderot compare seeing with touching with a stick. better still. it is possible to obtain a strong feeling of rounding nevertheless. or when the photographer lights his model. it forever will be excluded from the realm of fragrance.white background and vice versa. with the fingers (Chardin). Such paradigm survives in the speculations about the relation between seeing and the sense of touch (Freud in 'Drei Abhandlungen'). to devour the nude with the eyes. The phantasm is transformed into reality when the painter conjures up the image with a brush . Also a telescopic objective that zooms in on the nude reminds of an erection and penetration. In real life. Through emphasizing the suggestive rather than its discriminatory characteristics of the outline. However much the eye may be fond of enjoying the tactile qualities of the body. Here originates the phantasm of touching the body with rays of light. Although the eye can read and enjoy the tactile qualities of the body.
Chapter IX of 'The erotic eye and its nude'
objet de désir 8
see also: 'the ecstasies of eros'
. Plato fancies that rays of light are moving not only from the object to the eye. as with the Egyptian god of the sun Ra. The image is doomed to forever postpone such unfolding (see chapter VIII). the optical delight paves the way for the feast of touching. especially since such light produces warmth and hence seems to affect the body. but emanate from the eye to the object as well.or. especially with a flash or infra-red. Whence the propensity to touch it nevertheless. think also of the idea of rays ending in hands. The effect can also be achieved through digital manipulation.
vagina). come to disturb the unbroken extension of the body. The only cleft that is to be seen there . More appealing is the sight of a back. penis). the hand can freely move back and forward. texture. More sophisticated is the use of the natural 'low definition' of a painted. It homogenises the skin and creates the illusion that there are no wrinkles or pores. It also reminds of the sweat that often appears during sexual arousal during and after intercourse. Nuba). Clefts (eyes. sculpted or printed surface. a remarkable sense of tactile sensuality can be achieved.can be made undone by lifting the arms. skin with a different texture (nipples. A natural way of solving the problem is to concentrate on the side of the body. A caressing hand appreciates above all the unbroken extension of the skin.the beauty of the nude. A photo can be retouched. the buttocks or the thighs. the little hairs or the minuscule knobs on the skin. Through rendering the little knobs. In this chapter we will describe how the image succeeds in heightening . lips and fingernails). the same effect can be achieved through the choice of the right grain or through digital correction. Also the characteristics of the image itself .its immobility. posture and behaviour so that it can better meet the demands of the erotic eye. openings (nostrils. penis) and foremost hair. the soft female skin used to be opposed to the sweaty or oiled skin of the male (Greeks. many photographers reveal the minor wrinkles. The gaze joins this movement and wants to equally move undisturbed over the expansion of an endless surface. the object to be caressed par excellence. form. mouth.THE TRANSFIGURATION OF THE NUDE IN THE IMAGE (0) INTRODUCTION In the preceding chapter. all kind of irregularities are simply omitted. an oily sheen is also appreciated on the female body. especially on the face and the front. In photography. the frame. The integrity of the surface is slightly broken where the back dissolves into the anal cleft. we have seen how the image lays bare the intrinsic blindness of the eye while at the same time being a remedy for it. over a back. Formerly. Since the use of sun oil and the culture of bathing. the inner structure of its surface . which hides the
. That is why.idealising . protrusions (nose.provide new possibilities. While holding a breast is a rather local pleasure. in handmade images. The artist can change its colour. (1) THE SKIN An even and flawless skin is a powerful erotic stimulus.the fold of the armpit . As a reaction.
Other artists even eliminated the lips. diseased or aged skin. the vulnerable nude is often contrasted with the roughness of bark. the most dramatic contrast is with unhealthy. The skin may be contrasted with dried paint. sand or stone. over the surface of which the hand can go its caressing course. where the head is reduced to an egg. The effect is further strengthened in that skin is the organ that is kept clean par excellence. It is remarkable that in most cases the phallic as well as the vaginal characteristics of the tree are stressed. Ever since Cranach. Soiling it tends to convey a sense of accessibility. as has been obligatory in classic painting and sculpture when the vagina was not covered otherwise. The warmth and the softness of the skin can be opposed to the rough surface of hard metal. undisturbed by protrusions and unevenness of all kinds. The most dramatic way of showing off the even skin of youth is to contrast it with the wrinkled skin of an aged body. Some artists proceed to eliminating not only the cleft. an echo of the contrast between the archaic slimy skin of the genitals and the nude is to be found in the opposition of the skin with the wet vegetation on the rocks. Wherefore the cleft is often omitted altogether (reduction of the pubis to a Y. finally. and above all the belly. as opposed to an aroused one that tends to stand open like the calyx of a flower. That does not prevent the surface on the front from also having its charms: the inner side of the arms. reminds us of the fact that the removal of all obstacles to the caressing hand is at the same time the ultimate fulfilment of the strive to eradicate every reminiscence of the wound. but also the folds surrounding it. But such minor disturbance only comes to enhance the effect of the unbroken extension of the back. The move towards homogeneity comes to its apogee in Brancusi's ' Sculpture for the blind'. Unforgettable is the opposition of the white nudity of the female
. That threatens to contrast too strongly with the slimy skin of the genitals to the skin. A comparison with 'Torse de jeune fille' analysed in Chapter III. The woods or the grasslands provide many a contrast to the nude skin. as used to be the rule in painting and sculpting. The pleasure for the eye is heightened through shaving the hair of armpits and pubis. Most cherished is the opposition between the flawless even skin and the rough angularity of rocks that could hurt it. The homogenising is completed when also the hair on the skull is removed. the breasts. In other cases. see Chapter VIII). especially since soap makes the hands slide over its surface. A similar strive for homogeneity is apparent in the tendency to remove the nipples. Through the removal of the pubic hair the cleft of the vagina catches the eye all the more. That is why a shaved vagina tends to anxiously be closed. And of course. the naked skin of the body is contrasted with objects or an environment.openings of anus and vagina. Also the structure of foam sharply contrasts with the smoothness of the skin. The qualities of the skin can also be heightened through opposition. And.
Which does not prevent that the linearity of such hair only stresses the tactile qualities of the skin for an eye that merely looks. effect which is only emphasized through appropriate framing. (2) HAIR Lettings one's fingers glide through a voluptuous mane of hair is an altogether different tactile sensation than caressing a back or holding a breast. In the female nude. the breast or the whole body. Especially an abundant mane of hair may serve as a natural way of concealing not only a sideward glance. Here. They rather come to disturb the contact between hand and skin. we have only to mention how all kinds of props may intensify the colour of eyes. bones play a role only in the male body. but also shoulders. The contrast between skin and hair may also be transposed to the contrast between the nude and fur. cannot be caressed at all. The ribs on the back heighten the softness of the thighs. (4) COLOUR. (5) LINE AND SHAPE Echoes in the body itself can intensify the feeling of roundness. Both kinds of tactility are often opposed. But precisely the softness of that layer may be enhanced through contrast with the bony skeleton. Also wisps or dark hair may be contrasted with the white undulations of the body. especially when they cling to a wet or sweaty skin. the back. so that their difference is only stressed and enhanced. The undulation of the flesh can also be emphasized by props or the environment. The contrast is often endorsed by that between skin and mucous membrane. hair and skin by making them resound in a more encompassing chord of colours.body with those rosy nipples to the dark gleam of the slimy serpent wound around its belly and shoulders in Von Stuck's 'Sünde'. An example is the lowest rib that echoes the undulation of the breast. BLACK AND WHITE In chapter VIII(b). Especially the ribs make the breasts above them appear all the more soft. on the other hand. the bony structure is covered by a layer of fat. Also the bones in the fingers may accentuate the softness of the breast of the buttocks. Totally different from the mane of hair on the skull is the pubic hair.: (3) THE SKELETON As a rule.
. we have demonstrated how sophisticated techniques of lighting can heighten or diminish the feeling of rounding. Single hairs.
and above all on the elongated neck. Things come to their apogee when the vulnerable nude body is contrasted with cold metal. More often. An unusual perspective may lead to a more drastic metamorphosis. Kertész shows multiple bodies. The majority of the examples of the phallic woman and the vaginal man in Chapter III are only conceivable through the intervention of the image. Foremost the breast seem to be predestined for such multiplication from the ancient Egyptians onward. Parts of the body that approach the lens appear to be larger. Not only breasts. The transformation can amount to the creation of new erotic beings. Louis Duclos used the method for obtaining the anamorfosis of portraits in 1889. The desirable parts can be multiplied. Intelligent lighting and the choice of an appropriate posture. Also a deforming mirror may produce estranging effects. but
. there is the recombination of photographed parts of the nude. The whole body appears as one endless. A well know example is Ingres' ‘La grande Odalisque’. Smooth skin looks all the more sensual when it is contrasted the delicate texture of textile and leaves. the emphasis is on the elongated arms and legs. (6) DEFORMATION The artist need not confine himself to the natural echoes or the use of props. Even the surface of the breast that appears through the armpit is not broken by the presence of a nipple (see Chapter III). undisturbed object of touch. In Brancusi's 'Kiss' the confinement of the figures within the limits of a cube emphasizes the intimacy of the kissing couple (see Chapter I) Also the photographer is not submitted to the limitations of reality. (7) HYBRIDISATION The image allows for even more radical transformations. but it is above all André Kertész who produced the most surrealistic erotic beings with this method in 1933. More obvious is the opposition to angular attributes. especially when it wears a suit of armour and brandishes a sword. They inspired Salvador Dali to his 'melting forms'. This effect may be used to enhance the expressiveness of a gesture or a posture. The photographers disposes of still other techniques. To begin with. may lead to often unexpected effects. Lachaise and Louise Bourgeois. joined to each other like Siamese twins. he proceeds to sometimes drastic changes of the shape of the body.Most effective is also the use of contrast. The theme is further developed by Bellmer. Here. fingers and toes.
The oldest examples are perhaps the surrealistic bodies of Bellmer. But the image possesses above all intrinsic means of concealing. As when the human being is lent the body of a leopard or a bird. That seems strange. but foremost of the hairy male body. (8) NEW WAYS OF CONCEALING AND REVEALING Since the representation in an image is no longer limited by reality. In other cases. are in essence male props. Fur . angel. it is only (parts of) the body which are replaced. the image only shows merely one moment out the whole process of the unfolding of beauty. revealing. the upper part of the body remains human: sphinx. as in the real world. Hybridisation often goes hand in hand with the creation of a hermaphrodite: plumes. Convention only endorses such natural propensity. Such metamorphoses often play with the contrast between human control and unbridled animal sexuality or aggressiveness. To begin with. there are points on the surface of the rectangle that naturally focus the gaze (Theodor Lipps). laying bare. This is especially true of images that only show the back side. the image only stirs the desire to lay bare the concealed parts and moments. Even more efficient is the use of shadow. In fact.reminds not only of the pubis. But the image has also inherent means of attracting the attention. The attention can also be focussed through appropriate lighting. Fur or plumes invite the caressing hand. In most cases. the artist need no longer confine himself to clothes to play the game of revealing and concealing as described in Chapter V. with which woman like to adorn themselves.from way back a prerogative of male power (Emberly) . using unconventional pigments and creating the most inventive patterns (for example through solarisation). He can resort to the most diverse materials to obtain an even stronger effect. In Titian's ‘Venus of Urbino’ the vagina is situated at the intersection of the middle of the long side and the golden section on the short side. the image can solve the problem as we have seen in Chapter VIII. Just like clothes. mermaid. especially when the gesture with which the nude lifts up its arms. a tendency which is strongly counteracted by the presence of threatening sharp teeth or claws. without any hope that we soon will lay eyes upon the other moments.also halves of bodies can be recombined to a new erotic being. since the image rather conjures up the idea of showing. cannot but teasingly remind of the treasures hidden on the front. The same goes for images that imitate the blur around the focus of the eyes and then only stir the desire to penetrate the areas that go hidden in the 'flou' (see Chapter VIII). To be sure. The transformation can proceed to hybridisation with animals. In
. The artist can proceed to colour the body in unusual colours. centaur. But it can also make a virtue of necessity.
Othello (I. But more often does he restrict himself to showing only one part of the body.
Chapter X of ‘The erotic eye and its nude’
see also: 'the ecstasies of eros'
CHAPTER TEN: IN THE BEAST WITH TWO BACKS' DEN 'I am one. revealing us one beauty by bereaving us of the sight of another. the frame. sir. The eye cannot accommodate and subsequently penetrate the formerly dark areas. the nude itself can be staged in all kind of imaginary settings.i) In chapter III we described how the eye’s seizure of power
. we never shall be able to penetrate its darkness. but therefore not less imaginary partners is staged. The artist can use this effect to fuel the erotic tension: how long we might stare at the shadowy parts of the image. finally. so that we can admire one part after another. that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs. That shall be the subject of our next two chapters. But the image is first and foremost the place where relations with less fantastic. The artist can stage the whole body.the image. The effect is further enhanced when the light falls on the clothes that have to be laid off: The most efficient means of concealing is.' Shakespeare. the gradation of light and shadow is given once and for all. (9) THE IMAGINARY WORLD Not only can the qualities of the nude be idealised in the image.
(1) THE LOVER AND HIS BELOVED How. Such double prohibition has far-reaching consequences for the relation of the erotic eye to its nude. lovemaking is transformed into the making of an image. As soon as the lover proceeds to making an image – as soon as he starts manipulating the brush. He thereby not only leaves himself out of the image. In chapter VI. especially since clothes bereave us of free access to the nude. But this time his endeavour cannot fail to run up against technical boundaries. No doubt. Granted.especially the intervention of a camera . Unawares. but this obstacle can easily be circumvented with some skill and devotion. and it resides in a body that is subject to an irreversible decay (Dorian Gray). He then has to retire to a technical vantage point. we saw how clothes completed this movement. to begin with. the lover
. Worse still. The lover might ask his beloved to adopt the required pose. whereby the nude is transformed into the beast with two backs that excludes the third onlooker. Encouraged by the splendour he managed to catch in the image. Not surprising that the eye wants to capture the furtive erotic appearance in an image to be able to permanently enjoy it.depiction in an image will perfectly do. the chisel or the camera – he inevitably has to suspend precisely the seduction that caused the exaltation of his beloved. their equally purely visual . we are only granted to enjoy it as long as our beloved is with us and as long as she loves us. but outmanoeuvres himself as a lover as well. The only way to solve this problem is to stage the whole proceedings. No longer in a position to exalt his beloved. he might even ask her to touch and stroke herself. Given the purely visual nature of these two subjects. if not to masturbate. does the introduction of an image influence the relation of the lover to his beloved? Beauty is but a furtive moment in the ever changing unfolding of erotic display. the vantage point from where the delight of the exaltation happens to be relished. This transformation is above all elicited by the capture of the nude in the image.transformed the nude into a hermaphrodite.might disturb the spontaneity of erotic display. Time has come to describe a second series of transformations. the lover may feel inclined to catch further stages of seduction. does not necessarily coincide with the optimal vantage point from where the camera can shoot it. the lover into an artist and his beloved into a posing model. The most obvious subject matter for such an image is the overall appearance of the body. if not the beauty of an exalted body. especially the beauty of the face. the making of an image . which consolidates the eye’s seizure of power: the image only renders the visual aspect of the appearance and forbids any tactile or genital contact.
the reverse is supposed to happen in the relation between the artist and his model. leaving the message: 'The artist is visiting the cathedral'. Susan Sonntag’s contention that photographing is in essence an act of nonintervention – a step further than Benjamin’s contention that photographing equals taking in possession – reflects the estranged awareness of this more fundamental change. quite the contrary. or that he never would proceed to sexual intercourse. who was modelling her while dancing naked. however. it is obvious that. (2) THE ARTIST AND HIS MODEL Ironically. his chisel or his camera. But his looking is not so much the gazing of the voyeur. Anyway. that the artist as such has no intention of approaching his model erotically. quite the contrary. how he will frame it. And the dancer Isadora Duncan has the story how Rodin. and her inner state does not necessarily correspond with her appearance. He has to decide which pose the model has to adopt. he has to look at the model.can afterwards all the more indulge in the plain voyeuristic delight of the spectacle that otherwise would have escaped him. when he starts working. They continue flourishing. He is out at making and image: he is looking for his brush. In traditional painting. the wildest fantasies are conjured up when the layman imagines what is going on between those allegedly privileged mortals. the artist has given up his creative stance: the fire that should have fuelled his endeavour is burning out. They date back at least to the Ancient Greeks. the appearance. who told the story of Praxiteles and Pharynx. Real seduction is transformed into the mere staging of it. The model only has to provide the necessary clues. It is apparent. as the scrutinising of a technician. filmmakers and couturiers.
. as a voyeur or a lover. To be sure. moreover. what colours or what kind of films have to be used. Ever since Antiquity. Neither does the model take an erotic stance. It is well known how Rodin used to go offstage with his models. Similar stories are legion. suddenly approached her body and began to mould its flesh with hands aglow as if it were wax. the whole procedure was often a two-tier affair: Leonardo de Vinci recommends observing people in action and using models as a reminder later on. To seduce a lover is quite a different matter. She has to know how to display herself in an appropriate way to be painted or photographed. Again – and especially here – visual appearance is transformed into a fetish. She merely prepares for being converted in an image. and so on. although painters had to leave the scene in favour of photographers. They turn up again in the Renaissance and come to their apogee in the second half of the nineteenth century in Parisian Bohemia (Bordello). At a great cost however: the gratification of looking replaces the gratification of doing. The model merely adopts a pose. This is not to say that the artist might not relish the charms of his model.
Certainly.or Isadora Duncan herself. Or the model can try to solve the problem by hiding her face and eyes: the face is covered or diverted. Or the model intimidates the photographer with her gaze (like on Manet’s ‘Olympia’). as was also the case with lovers. A popular solution is to let the model sleep. Also the model can use her excitement either to make her exhibition more convincing or to seduce the artist. if not the gaze of the photographer: The photographer can solve the problem by choosing a situation in which the model is allowed to closes her eyes. And. adopting a seductive pose . the body exposes itself without any overt defence. if not the arousal. When the model is excited nevertheless. The artist has to explain which pose the model has to take. After all. this development is completed through letting the model have a dream. or she might imagine herself seducing some imaginary lover. a cloth. In most photographs. who while willingly putting her charms on display . It can justifiably be asked whether it was Rodin who . a piece of garment.while inviting Diaspora Duncan to dance in the nude . Either way. the artist hides the reluctant face behind a mask. If the model succeeds.if not already the sheer state of undress . it is not always the artist who elicits the transport.might induce erotic feelings in the model. She may throw her head backwards: this posture suggests transport. In the real world. model and artist have met for technical reasons. Also death is an obvious solution. Or she feels the irresistible urge to caricature the pose she is supposed to take. the model is not excited at all. things are far more prosaic. like having the nude perform some neutral activity. of the facial expression in particular. this is not much of a problem: they can fill the gaps themselves. On the contrary: precisely the artist’s technical stance might induce the model to anticipate her being admired as an image. and love triumphs over art instead of serving it. the artistic procedure is broken. when posing is transformed into seduction. ever since Fuessli.created the opportunity of which both took advantage. In that case. the widening of the pupil. not to mention a general artificiality of the demeanour. the failure to feign the corresponding transport is all too apparent in the absence of involuntary signs of excitement. she often fails to feign the corresponding transport. such as the erection of the nipples (or the penis). If he does not altogether frame it out (the headless trunk). then at least its continuation. the technical setting will prevent. or resorts to all kinds of subterfuges. or the hands or the arms. The models can remedy this by adopting a whole range of conventional poses. while at the same time hiding from view the very face that might betray her lack of transport. the eyelids are lowered or closed. For painters. In still other cases. But even when the model is excited. however. Mostly. In that pose. the model displays
What you see is what you don’t get at all. in the image below is incestuous at that. It is only the spark that ignites the fire of desire. the model has to avert the eyes. since the nude displayed in the image is not an end in itself. if not to close them. In order to feign her arousal. which is all the more regrettable. if not abandoning herself to masturbation. has the invaluable merit to exhibit before the eyes of the onlooker a heightened beauty. and transforms the potential seductress in a merely posing model. Here originates the desire to breathe life into the nude depicted: that it may come to life. (3) THE ADMIRER AND THE IMAGE We can only hope that the sacrifice of artist and model alike will be justified by the production of an image. beauty in the image is doomed to be merely admired. which. But such desire can never been fulfilled. but her gaze is vacant or her eyes are closed (see above). and that it permanently makes present what is otherwise doomed to transience. What presents itself as a sophisticated form of lovemaking. the image. handling paint and brush or a camera instead of cherishing a body. if possible. which surpasses a beauty that is perhaps already unparalleled in the real world. But. And the fate of the photographer is. but resignation presides over the creation of the image. Or a third party might join the nude. what is generously granted by a real body. or the equally most cherished lesbian scene. embraced and eventually possessed. After all. Precisely because the
. The nude displays itself precisely because it is driven by the desire to be kissed.all signs of excitement indeed. turns out to be a mere caricature of it. A variant on this intermediary phase is the popular theme of the twin. How much the photographer resents his expulsion from the image is apparent from the many endeavours to introduce himself in the image again. There is no way out: the very making of an image reduces the potential seducer to a technician. That does not prevent that an image is only there for the eyes of the beholder. touched. this is worlds apart of what is usually imagined. Also the couple making love before the camera cannot but stage sexual intercourse. Not lust. as in the story of Pygmalion. or to plainly offer herself to her own or a third party's gaze or embrace. is the model admiring or kissing herself in the mirror. must forever be refused by its image. still worse. apart from the fact that it is always at our disposal. This may be a voyeur: or a lover who proceeds to overt lovemaking. Admittedly. Not unlike Narcissus' mirror image in the water. A transitional stage between the reluctant exhibition before the photographer and overt intercourse with a lover in the image.
its consumption. the admirer is transformed into a mere eye. That is not to say that the reduction of the model to a mere image to be contemplated does not have its secret charms. Worse still: he might lend to the appearance in the image his hands as a substitute body. Which comes down to a betrayal of the image: it served as merely a bridgehead to a sheer substitute reality. Thus. this is from the beginning excluded by the admirer's looking at an image.image transforms the nude in to a mere appearance. however. That is all too apparent from the fact that the image inevitably transforms the nude that was originally meant for the onlooker. In showing what it withholds. the image allows the eye to freely wander over every detail of the body. But a heavy toll has to be paid for this privilege: the beauty in the image cannot possibly reciprocate the advances of her admirer. the image inherently partakes of the forbidden. the image not only annihilates itself. the image unequivocally speaks out the ban that was merely whispered in the studio: Noli me tangere! Don’t touch me! Thus. without fear of rejection or ridicule. Thus is articulated the fourfold progression of castration by the image: the production of the image. In order to keep the fire burning. finally. the subject it was supposed to depict. Whereas the lover taking pictures of his beloved might find solace in the arms of his mistress. the voyeur. a new problem arises: the image equally leaves the poor voyeur abandoned to himself. (4) THE IMAGE AND THE VOYEURISTIC PRIMEVAL SCENE The staging of the nude in the image inevitably leads to its transformation in the self-sufficient hermaphrodite or the beast with two backs. might proceed to masturbation as did Pygmalion and many a Greek. in the studio. his skin and his genitals. he is also bereft of his hands. the artist and the model in principle could proceed to sexual intercourse. without providing the firewood. they all partake of one and the same refusal. and whereas. Thus. The forbidding image comes to stage the forbidden: a beauty that turns away from the admirer to offer itself to a third party in the image . The very merit of the image thus proves to be its deathblow: it shows only to withhold. resorting to an image equals castration! That is why especially the admirer wants to see a third party appear in the image: that spares him the pain of eternally having to gaze at seduction. We cannot help being reminded of what has
. but also the real world. Apart from transfiguring the nude. the very structure of the image and. in the beast with two backs.or its counterpart: the self-sufficient divine hermaphrodite. castration is now really completed. It ignites the fire. Together with his tangible body. At the same time. Precisely therefore. not hampered by the chilly stone of a statue.
the exalting male is mostly merely hinted at.very popular position of the voyeur standing at the head of a nude lying prostrate before his eyes. while at the same time failing to really make us feel invited. Perhaps we finally understand why in many a picture the frontal approach. And is not every position where not only the eyes and the face. dreaming. adopt such a position. especially with the thighs splayed wide before us.male and female alike . is deliberately stressed. writing letters.meant for some third party? Veil after veil on the primeval scene falls dawn. This sheds a new light on still more obscured shapes in which the primeval scene may go disguised. Is this not a most marvellous erotic landscape? Why. but first and foremost the place to be is directed away from us .sidelong or backwards . she is ready to receive her lover from the back. Take the . making her toilet or washing herself or being engaged in other supposedly neutral activities: these only betray that the nude is preparing herself for someone else.ever since Fuesli . We need only recall that even when the nude is exalted . Could it be that this overemphasizing merely has to help us repress our innermost feeling of rejection? A merely implicit or hinted at presence of the nude’s real lover is by no means an exception.that cannot but feel utterly excluded. This is merely the prelude to a far more ‘primeval’ scene: the ideal couple showing off its beauty and sexual prowess before the eyes of the poor average mortal . On the contrary. This formula owes its charms to the fact that the nude is not shown while fully surrendering. only the voyeur enjoys the privilege of being able to lay eyes upon the desired beauty.feel compelled to enviously disturb their entwining? Also the hermaphrodite is experienced as an embodiment of the primeval scene: it is as if the desired body is already possessed by another phallus. if not to witness the imminent embracing of the lover for whom the thighs are splayed wide? When the nude is bent down before the voyeur. Freud introduced the term to indicate the spectacle of the parents entwining before the eyes of the very child that imagined being loved by one of them. I guess it is the most favourite way of depicting the (voyeuristic) primeval scene. which makes it plausible that everything is still possible. phoning.been called ‘the primeval scene’. Do they not . This is from the beginning so when the nude is shown fantasizing. The obliteration of the competitor has the additional advantage of soothing the pain of exclusion and rejection.just as the helpless child looking up to its all-mighty parents . Our contention that the logic of voyeurism culminates in the depiction of the primeval scene may be obscured by the fact that the primeval scene is not always depicted in all its clarity.the precursor of the completed primeval scene . however. of being reduced to the status of mere onlooker: at least for the moment. and precisely such possibility may stir the desire of a presumed conqueror.
the ‘fort-da’ can function as a visual fetish for the invisible orgasm (whether or not culminating in the ejaculation out of the vagina). And there are aesthetic motives as well: the spectacle of the united genitals is. if possible. No wonder that the eye recoils in horror and prefers the far more appetising sight of bodies entwined. as when a woman rides the man. the erotic eye often joins the hand that is caressing the body. More congenial to the image is the rendering of copulation after displacement to the mouth. Although the theme is not altogether absent in the still image. the penis is disappearing in the vagina. in fact. still more repellent than that of the separate genitals. (5) THE BEAST WITH TWO BACKS (1) The attentive reader may have wondered why we did not yet mention the most popular and most controversial way of depicting the primeval scene: the image of the penis in the vagina. There are still more possibilities when only the preliminary stages to intercourse are rendered. But. the situation is even more problematic. it is rather the main dish of many a film. That goes especially for caressing. With hindsight.An interesting reversal of the primeval scène is when the third party is as it were presenting the nude to the onlooker. and that is not precisely an enchanting spectacle. But the artist can also maintain the entwining and try to arrange the bodies in a surveyable symmetry. in a film. The reason might be that. of course.
. But the erotic eye now runs up against new problems. the upward and downward movement rather obscures the fact that. in the film. the disappearance of the penis is not the main reason why the primeval scene is more often depicted as the intertwining of entire bodies than as the merger of organs. but nestles himself in the appropriate organs of the desired body instead. The shift to the body spares the voyeur the painful sight of the ultimate proof of his exclusion. A more obvious solution is replacing genital intercourse with cunnilingus of fellatio and the like. (6) THE BEAST WITH TWO BACKS (2): SELF-CARESSING AND MASTURBATION A second solution is found when the voyeur no longer projects his own desire into the desired object (see chapter III). Also in real intercourse. we understand why the loving couple is often rendered with the male in dorsal approach or with the upper parts of the bodies separated. The legs are entwined in an often inextricable tangle. Therefore. The focus on the genitals between the symmetrical pair of legs can be avoided through replacing the merger of genitals with that of more peripheral organs. When the couple lies down. Not for nothing is the couple entwined called the beast with two backs: the enticing fronts of the body are hidden from view.
We now can add that the introduction of the image only cements the onesidedness of these offshoots and decisively cuts them off from the further phases of love’s unfolding. We have already seen how. can be restored to full reciprocity at any moment. In utterly forbidding love’s unfolding. Isolated exhibitionistic display. The merger can also be staged after the displacement of desiring and desired organ alike. albeit it the privilege of the ever diminishing minority that is allowed to appear on the scene. and that thereby eclipses an ever increasing majority or henceforth lesser beauties. but does not see. (7) VOYEURISM’S AND EXHIBITIONISM’S COMING OF AGE. though. the displaced penis is moving toward the vagina. It thereby inevitably paves the way for the representational fetishising of the object of voyeurism: the self-defeating desire to lay eyes upon what can only be felt. the voyeur is forever released of the task of seducing. Isolated voyeurism thus becomes the main preoccupation of an ever-increasing majority of males. no restraints whatsoever forbid the access to the image. the image drives a final wedge between the admirer and the object of his desire. The caressing can be delegated to the hair of the beloved. The devotion of the voyeur to the alienating image is only stirred by the dramatic extension of the range of a henceforth purely fictional meeting ground: only the most beautiful women. sexual display is reciprocal in principle: it is essentially the simultaneity of the displayer’s admiration and the admirer’s display. In real life. in humans. and allows even the most abject male to enter the exhibitionistic amphitheatre of the image. he can let the hand of the desired body stroke the desired body in his stead. In a first phase. Since. be it through the display of power or bodily beauty. which comes to display their transfigured beauty before the eyes of millions.
. We have also seen that differential beauty and the exchange of beauty for power made reciprocal display and admiration fall apart in two opposite offshoots: voyeurism and exhibitionism. on the other hand. are allowed to appear in the image. or it penetrates the vagina. as epitomised in the witnessing of the primeval scene.This move begins with the hand. When the lover does not want to resign from looking. the merger of the genitals itself can be staged on the scene of the desired body. moreover. the generalised one-sidedness of erotic display on exhibitionistic meeting grounds such as beaches or parties. As soon as the arousal approaches the genital phase. becomes a female privilege. We already described the onset of this move in chapter III. selected from all over the world. The hand feels. This movement is completed when the desiring organ want to merge with the desired one. since the image is first and foremost cheap.
The combined effect of increasing differential beauty. to the extent that they come to pass for their primeval forms. the introduction of clothes and foremost the development of the image. the visualisation of love’s unfolding remains precarious: beauty does not stop stirring the desire for a complete unfolding of love.
Chapter XI of ‘The erotic eye and its nude’
objet de désir
see also: 'the ecstasies of eros'
THE SACRIFICE OF THE NUDE
. Only by being cast in an image is the former seductress transformed in an epitome of the intangible Venus . Only when we proceed to the analysis of sadomasochism will be revealed a this time more stable form of visualisation of love. is that exhibitionism and voyeurism become the dominating forms of seduction. Granted.which has become crowded indeed where he is immobilised and doomed to stare at the mere shadows of beautiful woman exhibitionistically parading out of reach behind his back. the exchange of beauty for benefits.The birth of the image thus seals exhibitionism’s and voyeurism’s coming of age. And only by yielding to the spell of a mere image finds the potential seducer himself seated in Plato’s cave . to phrase it with Angela Carter ’a whore dispensed with the obligation of delivering the merchandise. virgin though raped by billions of eyes’. as long as it takes the shape of voyeurism.or.
scratching. equally mock-aggressive coercion. Which also provided him with the orgasmic sight of the empty gaze or rolling eyes. There is also an undeniable affinity between the expressions of love and aggression themselves. And suffocation. and it might sometimes very difficult to tell orgasm from death-anguish. In love as well as in aggression. from intensely stroking to pinching. such sudden change is facilitated through to the morphological proximity. This only
. but also calls forth a rampant erection: hence the desire of the insatiable mistress in ‘The empire of the senses’ to strangle her lover. No doubt. It matters to understand why.or of pain in pleasure. The same effect is achieved through inspiring fear. which reminds of the voluptuous moaning and heaving of orgasm. More often does it stage the maltreatment of the nude. not only makes palpable the enticing movement of exalted breathing. Already the eye of the little child transforms the loving interaction of its parents into the enactment of rape. Further. just like hanging. from eagerly embracing to strangling. exposure to cold. many a form of teasingly pretending to withdraw or resist. from penetrating to ramming. since the child wants to save the mother. (1) SADISM AND MASOCHISM Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast. naturally calls forth the corollary. if not some ritual murder. Spanking makes the skin 'blush and suffocation makes the victim gasp for breath. That goes especially for the images of these expressions: artistic conventions – or the inability to catch the precise differences between nearly related expressions such as crying and weeping – obscure the often nearly discernable real differences. if not the considerable overlap between sexual and aggressive behaviour. slapping or spanking. and so on. it is but a short leap from intensely kissing to biting. Not for nothing does the child often confuse its parent’s loving embrace with fighting.‘With lovers like men. the distance normally kept between interacting organisms is given up to enable erotic or aggressive entwining. To feel for ever its soft fall and swell John Keats The image does not always show the nude – or the metamorphosis of the nude into the hermaphrodite or the animal with the two backs. No wonder that Gilles de Rais timed his orgasm with the last breath of his young victims. Moreover. But especially the image seems to be fond of such transformation. who needs torturers?' (Kappeler). to discern cries out of pleasure from cries out of pain. Sadomasochism is often understood in terms of a sudden change of love in aggression . And it is known all too well how the outer signs of sexual arousal may be produced by non-sexual causes. It is difficult to distinguish panting with anguish from heaving with pleasure.
heightens the effect of the posture of surrender. not only threatens without obvious reason. It is as if the animal that would like to deter a competitor. It is merely a ‘symbolic’ threat that subsides as soon the threatened adopts an . It is not difficult to understand why many an ardent lover suddenly feels compelled to bite. Genuine aggression. things are put upside down. to explain sadomasochism. but merely a means of heightening the erotic attractiveness. it is rather inaccurate to understand sadomasochism in terms of aggression: that would come down to a confusion of morphology and function. sadomasochism also distinguishes itself from mock-rape. Sadomasochism. So. It is possible that their appearance is motivated through aggressive feelings. in animals as well as in men. The sight of the expression elicits the urge to heighten it. This approach makes clear why the overlap comprises not only the expressions. the motivation is no
. Even when in both cases the same organs are used. During this process. Furthermore.equally symbolic . stops short of mutilation or killing. however. When the arousal has reached its acme. The similarities can only explain why love may suddenly change in aggression. stroking and embracing can be replaced with biting. This does not suffice. on the other hand.attitude of submission or really yields to the demands. it may be considered as a ‘desymbolisation’ of aggression. to paraphrase Freud. let alone seducing! And since the ultimate goal is the implementation of the threat. at least the outer appearance of it – the expression – is obtained through the infliction of pain. Rather do morphologic similarities enable the integration of elements from the aggressive repertoire (fight/flight) in a sexual context: the ‘subordination under the sexual primacy'. would proceed to real biting instead of merely showing its threatening teeth. kissing. feigning is replaced with unbridled sexual surrender. to pinch or to spank. Precisely because the expressions of love and aggression are not always clearly discernable. not why he continues to do so or why he is from the beginning out at such maltreatment of his beloved. rather than prevented through showing submission. the behaviour is totally different from a functional point of view. In sadomasochism. where the staged refusal is not an aim in itself. but the corollary actions as well. In that sense. the aggressive components undergo the required changes: think of the ‘de-symbolisation’ of threat. there is no transformation of love in aggression. That can only be realised through further infliction of pain. though. But once they turn out to produce the desired effect. pinching. Aggression is elicited through staging refusal. The morphological similarities. it also deliberately carries out the threat. just like with a real expression. spanking or suffocating. caused by the inability to produce the desired reaction. are the key to a genuine understanding of sadomasochism: failing genuine and reciprocal sexual arousal. not why the ‘aggression’ is continued or is from the beginning intended.
their advent seems to have become unstoppable. spanking and suffocating. It has a remarkable predilection for instruments that enhance the effect of natural behaviour or that enable the sadistic version in the first place. Compare with the impatient baby that bites in the nipple of his absent-minded mother.longer aggressive. where one is inclined to love. (2) THE SACRIFICE OF LOVE THROUGH THE DESTRUCTION OF BEAUTY "Je n'ai pu aimer que là où la mort mêlait son souffle à celui de la beauté. Once the instruments have been introduced. and continues biting when it finds out that mama is finally looking and talking at him. penetrating is heightened to stabbing and the release of sperm substituted with the sprinkling with hot wax.is the mitigated form of stabbing. where one ought to love but no longer does. the effect of moulding is obtained through the binding up of breasts or buttocks. if not heightened to piercing or pricking with pins. heaving is enhanced through gasmasks. pinching. Ever more spectacular versions are introduced. keeping in check is relegated ropes and belts. slapping or spanking is heightened to whipping or flogging.as is already apparent in Proust’s piercing live rats with hatpins until they died . but sexual. Pinching is relegated to stickers. The integration of elements borrowed from the aggressive repertoire in an erotic context is provoked by the inability to be aroused in a genuine sexual way or by the refusal to surrender sexually. The introduction of instruments paves the way for a further development of sadomasochism. And these factor are in their turn responsible for a more fundamental disturbance of the mechanism of arousal: the falling apart of reciprocal seduction in one-sided voyeurism and exhibitionism. Sadomasochism is not confined to natural behaviour like biting. the tamer’s whipping of the
. under which a majority has to content itself with a second-hand partner. but also in extra-marital relations. This situation is the rule under the regime of the exchange of beauty for benefits and differential beauty. Such refusal or inability is found not only in many marriages. pincers or nipple clamps. Instruments also allow for the combination of diverse sadistic impulses in one and the same action: pinching and penetrating are combined in pricking with needles or pins: cutting and containing are joined in bonding with cutting wire. until even the penis is instrumentalised. Piercing . which have the additional charm of covering the face that could betray the reluctance to surrender (see Chapter II) and accentuates the take over of the impersonal drive. but ought not to surrender." Edgar Allan Poe.
if they are not reduced to some sophisticated form of foreplay to habitual intercourse altogether. But not always does it get so bad. Not surprisingly. dagger and sword and the suggestive bandages or trails of blood. the transformation of pain in sexual arousal turns out to be a mere foreplay for the sacrifice of love on the altar of aggression. but first and foremost in the pegging out of the body on a metal frame or a cross in many a sadomasochistic setting. to phrase it with Angela Carter: even when the body has many openings where the penis might penetrate. that are readily read as cutting lines or seams. Nude warriors fighting with knives or swords – think of the Celts or gladiators – only fuel such fantasies. whipped her. but by genuine ‘grand death’ .butcher’s cutting or chopping up. when two women let themselves crucify in public. The substitution of pain for sexual arousal merely initiates the move toward the utter destruction of the beautiful body .by which the sadomasochistic frenzy is appeased at last.the fountainhead of love . In the image. in an effort to bring the voyeuristic endeavour to its acme. this is reflected in the presence of a kind of aesthetic veil over the proceedings. the arousal of the skinner or ripper is released by being plunged into sheer vaporous ugliness. The shift from merely suggested to overt mutilation is fed by the displacement of the vagina to the virginal surface of the skin or to the folds and axes of symmetry on the body. Thus. is brought about not so much by ‘la petite mort’ of the orgasm. when he tied up Rose Keller. these soon subside to some form of forced intercourse (mock-rape). Sadomasochism is essentially the sacrifice of love through the
. cut her with a knife and dropped candle wax into her wounds. and the handling of cigarettes and candles of the burning of the entire body altogether (Die Flambierte Frau). Or. The destruction of the masochist at the same time releases the tension caused by the expression of pain and the experience of pain that caused the expression. Such drama on Easter is surely an echo of that other drama on Good Friday in 1759. the ultimate release of both pain and the tension caused by its alluring expression. In completed sadomasochism. We need only recall how. the relation of the knife with the flesh is far more arbitrary: it can penetrate everywhere. in the wake of the Jansenist craze of the flagellants (Zanker 58ff). The paradigm of such primeval sadism is Sade’s outburst on Easter Sunday 1768. This dormant or repressed proclivity to mutilation is betrayed not only in the appearance of knife.exemplified in Gilles de Rais' timing of his orgasm with the death of his victims. however. The majority of sadomasochistic procedures stop short of genuine mutilation and content themselves with the mere flirting with the anxietyprovoking idea of torture.
(3) THE DESTRUCTION OF BEAUTY AND CASTRATION Ich will deinen Mund küssen. Thus. Such sacrifice is far more effective than castration. an armed woman cannot but stir male aggression. Whereas the beautiful woman naturally enslaves the male with her mere beauty. of which it nevertheless may be an adequate symbol. The threat of an armed woman may only be effective when beauty first disarmed the poor male. she can enjoy his eager eye as well as his erect penis. Jokanaan! (Oscar Wilde. The femina dominatrix may endorse her dominating gaze with whips or other attributes. The sacrifice is the veritable mortification of the ‘will’. will your dick squirt without playing with it?” (Money).sacrifice of beauty. It would be a mistake to consider the sadomasochistic sacrifice as some derivative of castration: castration. while refusing to sexually gratify him accordingly: the Venus Frigida. With her. Keyes lets his dominatrix complain: “If I tease you enough. no tension has to be discharged. she heightens the tension to the point when the man ejaculates without touching himself or her body. However much this version might stir deep-rooted male anxieties. But we should not overlook the specific accents of female sadism. is a mitigated form of the sacrifice. on the contrary. as propagated by Schopenhauer and depicted in Wagner’s Parsifal. As long as he merely looks. that continues stirring the desire. Noli me tangere! Don’t dare to touch me! Another version of the femina dominatrix stages rather the economic foreplay to this sexual interaction: the female who lets the male slave. Far more
. only the male is addicted to female beauty. Richard Strauss) Also the female can resort to the techniques described above to remedy failing arousal. She is rather out at enjoying the male’s arousal. while the female remains rather indifferent. Ideally. it has something hilarious about it. whose blessing we amply described in ‘The ecstasies of Eros’. This form of female sadism is rather out at keeping the male at a distance – at fixating him in his status of a mere eye. And that explains why the behaviour of the genuine ‘femina dominatrix’: in the full possession of her beauty the spell of her gaze dissuades from approaching. while remaining cool herself. The problem is rather how to prevent the discharge of tension in the male: orgasm temporarily suspends desire and breaks the spell of female beauty. Under the regime of differential beauty and the exchange of beauty for benefits. Castration only bereaves of the instrument of love and leaves the potential lover hopelessly at the mercy of inexorable beauty.
but he himself cannot move. The heightened beauty of the female can only survive in destroying that of the male. being devoured by a shark of a whale. were it not for the pain. who with the destruction of female beauty also annihilates his own desire.convincing are teeth and claw: when the male throws himself in the arms of the female. that would have him lose all attention for female beauty. Already the use of weapons reduces the sovereignty of her pure beauty. There is nobody left. As opposed to the male. representations of female sadism accentuate the castrating female rather then the castrated male. the female is utterly left in the cold after having castrated with her beauty. the swallowing black of the vagina). and not so much the release of the sadistic urge. To maintain her power – and to block the unfolding of love with herself as well as with the male – the female might feel tempted to castrate the man. On the one hand. he is vulnerable by those weapons indeed. the figure of Salomé has gradually condensed with that of Judith. the more the beauty of the ‘femina dominatrix’ arouses it. The counterpart of the woman that reciprocates male dominance with a whip of her claws is the tied up male: his eyes are allowed to see and his penis can stand up. The reason is that Salomé prefers to relegate the job to an executioner. Representations of castration itself are rather scarce. Furthermore. on the other hand. That is why female sadism often comprises a final phase in which the femina castratrix incorporates the penis. contains a double danger. to admire female beauty. The most refined version of the castrating woman is embodied in the Salomé of Oscar Wilde and Richard Strauss: as the price for the denudation of her beauty. then. She is thereby transformed into a female hermaphrodite. Female sadism could suffice with these variant. and it is all the more out at releasing the tension. over the course of history. who decapitates Holophernes with her own hands (Panowksy). Salomé demands that the one man castrates another. She is a mere onlooker on the proceedings: the triumph of female beauty as the prime mover. however. While representations of male sadism preferably stage beauty destroyed. That is why the destruction of the penis is rather a removal leaving the penis intact in view of its impending incorporation. The erect penis. they stir deep-rooted oral anxieties (catwoman. A variant is the male torso bereaved of the legs allowing him to approach the female and of the arms that threaten to embrace her. Castration would have turned the male in a mere gazing eye (Dahl). it threatens to ignite the frigid beauty of the female. Such condensation allows the artist to depict Salomé with the sward
. Even stronger is the power of beauty when the male is castrating himself for the sake of woman (Kybele) That does not prevent that.
that he can have clean hands. to all the more enjoy the ensuing intensity with which their children come to seek security in their arms. Nevertheless. the aim is the destruction of the object of jealousy. Thus. which are expressions of love nevertheless. the adepts of sadomasochism have a bad conscience about their proceedings. although this time. Add to that the willingness to make sacrifices or to suffer deprivation for the sake of each other’s gratification. In the ideal case. (4) THE ELUSIVE SADIST Sadomasochism originates not so much in some mysterious transformation of pain in pleasure. Not for nothing do lovers endlessly repeat that they would go through hell for each other. paradoxically enough. That explains why. But it is only when the sadist transfers the handling of the instruments to an ‘instrumental sadist’. he can pose as the one who comes to the rescue. He thus can regain the love of his beloved. Here originates the classic ‘masochistic’ attitude of the helpless. Parents are using the same trick. She is driven by the revenge of a minor beauty that feels eclipsed through the splendour of her victim. Lovers not only are looking for sexual gratification with each other. it is not always physical maltreatment that fuels the sadomasochistic enterprise. it leads to the destruction of beauty as a means of releasing the sexual tension. which is an unmistakable sign of love. Already the predilection of instruments betrays a propensity to transfer the execution of the sadistic impulses to instruments. if not ugly. Not seldom. poor or ill woman (‘La traviata’). Another way out is to switch to less painful substitutes. There is also a form of ‘lesbian’ sadism that complies to the male scenario: generally an older and mostly not so beautiful. That is why they not seldom are conjuring up the most diverse evils
. a lover can feel driven to harm his beloved: in a second phase. or as a means of blocking the arousal as well as the approach of the male. This variant of female sadism perfectly fits in the conception of sadomasochism as the sacrifice of beauty. The paradigm of sadomasochism is the infliction of physical pain and the enactment of physical destruction. as Salomé to the executioner. when they frighten their children by telling fairy tales. but rather in the integration of elements of aggressive behaviour in the repertoire of love: the expression of pain as a substitute for the expression of erotic transport.in her hand (Caravaggio). asking for help can be a way of asking for love. There are lots of possibilities. but also for reciprocal help. woman takes the place of the male and destroys the beauty of her victim.
who is only interested in obfuscating the sexual origin of his proceedings. and not with an enactment of power relations in society. It only appears when the power of sexual attractiveness is waning and leaves room for artificial forms of domination or submission. over Gebhardt and Fromm. the non-sexual submission of the masochist can compensate for the lack of real sexual slavery. to Foucault and Carter – will have it. as many an author – from Bloch. And. and she does so because she is not or no longer able to exert real sexual power over her lovers. tattoos. bound feet. (5) BEAUTY BORN OUT OF PAIN ‘N’ajustez jamais la robe au corps. Elsa Schiaparelli. There is also a non-sexual version of the femina dominatrix. In either case. Conversely. plastic surgery. The amount of pain inflicted or endured can be a measure for reciprocal dedication. In their urge to fathom the darkness of the sadomasochistic universe. the most subtle version of which is of a purely spiritual nature. mais disciplinez le corps pour qu’il s’accorde à la robe’. is only seemingly of an aggressive nature. the elusive sadist also summons up disobedience – or to phrase it more philosophically: transgression – in the service of love. non-sexual forms of exercising power. It can also call forth the desire to come to the rescue. he covers up the traces of the initially sadistic enterprise. That the infliction of pain is only a means of heightening beauty. When the executioner afterwards comes to take pity on his victim. The ultimate symbolic proof of love is the devotion to the most repellent excrements of the beloved one (Last Tango in Paris). seems to clear such sadistic intervention of any suspicion: beauty must suffer. 115) Many interventions meant to heighten erotic attractiveness have an unmistaken sadistic overtone: carvings. they involuntarily are turned into the accomplices of the elusive sadist. The dominatrix then revels in seemingly aggressive. That sheds a new light on some secondary aspects of the original sadomasochistic procedure. Very efficient is threatening to withhold love or to give it to a third party. clothe and shelter each other. finally.from Pandora’s box in the name of love. That is obvious from the less drastic performances where the partner has to behave like a dog eating dog food. inherent in the infliction of pain. we are dealing with a sexual relationship.
.’la grande dame de la couture surréaliste’ (Borel. But these are merely extreme manifestations. Also the pleasure in the act of submitting. even when the emphasis on food and drink betrays that this behaviour is derived from loving behaviour: lovers are supposed to feed.
. The construction of seeming beauty is preceded by an overt destruction. Its sadistic origin is also betrayed in that its in essence abhorrent effect is heightened through a kind of negative exhibitionism: making grimaces is obligatory in the corollary magazines. Also the ‘horror vacui’ speaks volumes: in the end. And many an uplifted breast has lost its natural suppleness. The unvarnished versions of tattooing are the application of burning cigarettes or hot candle wax. such staging allows for letting the pain pass for a surplus of sexual tension that has to be released in orgasm.horror of the void as horror of sensuous luxury. The heightening of beauty is in many cases a mere pretext to indulge in sadistic pleasures: the destruction of beauty in the guise of its construction. That also explains why the repressed resurfaces. This time. Also the assistant can enjoy the expression of pain that he at the same helps to mask as an expression of sexual pleasure. The bad conscience about tattooing is betrayed even in the contention that the marks would heighten the pleasure when stroked (compare with the justifications of circumcision). What presents itself as heightened beauty. Piercing stems from the sm-scene and has become an innocent prop. The question remains whether carvings or tattoos really heighten the beauty of the skin. the sadist eludes us in time: in the past that has merely leaves its marks – not otherwise than the executioner that afterwards come his victim to the rescue. turns out to be its mere negation: Thus. Also frightening and deterring. again and again. Many a scarf is re-opened and many tattoo is renewed (Kafka). as when the master has his disciple have intercourse in view of making the skin even more sensitive to his sadistic intervention. it appears that the heightening of beauty has merely to avert the attention from its destruction. which makes already its mere sight to a painful experience. The screams are often shouted down with a the beat of drums.But things are more complicated. Far more refined is the sexual justification of the screams. Tattooing is a form a sadism that wraps itself in honourable veils. For they only come to break the evenness. These have their partner tattooed by an ‘instrumental sadist’ in order to be able to fully enjoy her suffering. A further stride is the so-called tattooed without tattooing. that they exert an irresistible effect on the onlooker. there has been a wound. For it cannot be denied that tattoos are in essence marks. Carving the skin and tattooing are a gory spectacle. have in common with the beauty they negate. the skin is overgrown by tattoos . Where there is a mark. and replace its sensuous appeal with its very opposite: signs. At the same time. Also the continued use of make up can deteriorate the condition of the skin. just like pain. to the extent that only the disease can be the remedy. the smoothness and the extension of the skin. just like the ‘spiritual’ versions of sadism.
Auto-castration precedes the destruction of beauty. dressing and sunbathing. And that goes equally for the danger of infection with tattooing and piercing. The real pain and the actions through which it is inflicted. take an auto-sadistic (’masochistic’) over tone in this context. the intense pains and deprivations imposed to become beautiful. combing. Sexual interaction can easily be performed in the dark. Not only fitness-centres. earlobes and labia minora – cannot but remind of the torture chambers and sm-cabinets. Also the heavy efforts. are of no further concern. in the long rung high heels deform the feet and corsets the chest. The visual aspect is fundamental. Granted. the competitors are driven off the scene. elongating necks. lips. The same goes probably for the endless making oneself up. Many endure the pain because it equally alleviates the feeling of guilt. Even when it cannot be denied that many an effort pays in the short term. dieting degenerates into anorexia or bulimia and excessive sun-bathing leads to premature ageing of the skin. But a sadomasochistic relation is unthinkable without
. The kernel of sadistic pleasure is in essence voyeuristic: the sovereign contemplation of the destruction of the fountainhead of love – the beauty of woman reduced to her body or man reduced to his penis.This sheds a new light on the contemporary aesthetic surgery and the fitness-culture. It begins to dawn on us that there might be a near relationship between sadomasochism and voyeurism/exhibitionism. From the sadist’s point of view it suffices that the masochist provides the necessary expression. the heavy and often compulsive efforts are not seldom supposed to release sexual tension. in which seldom the secret appeal of the whole proceedings resides. By putting themselves in the spotlights. (6) VOYEURISM/EXHIBITIONISM AND SADISM/MASOCHISM Only seemingly is sadism a question of muscle and instruments causing pain. But we shall soon understand how sadomasochism knows to eliminate also this last obstacle. And only seemingly is masochism a question of pain. The crux of the sadistic pleasure is the voyeuristic enjoyment of the exhibitionistic performance of the masochist. the dark prototypes of the white hospitals. Especially with fitness. This time. Suffering for beauty can thus come to function as a kind of self-punishment for the seizure of power and as a kind of means of transferring the guilt to the eclipsed: they should have been prepared to do some effort for it. but also the operating table of the aesthetic surgeon – not to mention the apparatus for deforming skulls. the real destructive nature of the undertaking becomes only visible afterwards. to the masochist the pain is all the more real. if not to cancers.
. the greedy eye provokes the transformation of a dual relation in a triangle: the animal with the two backs or the sacrifice of beauty. the destruction of beauty is the black hole that swallows the orgasmic expansion of love. In its most primitive form. That leads to the sadomasochistic triangle: the master commanding the executioner or the dominatrix having the castration of her lover executed through a third admirer. We have already seen how sadomasochism is fundamentally the sacrifice of love through the destruction of beauty. sadism is unfolding to a variant of voyeurism. what amounts to the same. The elusive sadist already transferred the infliction of pain. On the other hand. to be able to contemplate undisturbed. the sexual arousal it ignites. The same goes for the sadomasochist. voyeurism came down to a de facto castration: the voyeur as well as the exhibitionist resigned from every sexual gratification through confining themselves to a pure visual relation. the audible aspect. In both cases. The sadist. voyeurism can only fully develop into a fully gratifying – and no lo longer a castrating – experience through its transformation in sadovoyeurism. That reminds us of the lover that had his beloved make love to her lover. sadovoyeurism is fulfilling the real destiny of the perverse move: the selfannihilation of love. on the other hand. By joining the already mentioned tendency to a generalised visualisation of love and through completing it. can fully be gratified. and then to the manipulator of the instruments. it would be a good idea to coin the term ‘sadovoyeurism’ and ‘masoexhibitionism’. While beauty initially was the spark that made the fire of love ignite. it is dead that releases him from the pain (Schopenhauer). Not for nothing does sadism feast its triumph in the two cultures that most resigned from real love through the development of a high culture of the image: Europe and Japan. but foremost to free the hands of any activity that might disturb the contemplation of suffering. precisely because he visually witnesses the destruction of the source of sexual arousal. To give account of this profound affinity between these two perversions. not otherwise than Kronos devouring his children. We now can add that this is precisely the reason why voyeurism and exhibitionism of necessity have to develop into completed sadovoyeurism and maso-exhibitionism. Only as a pure voyeur can the sadist contemplate the proceedings of the instrumental sadist in all sovereignty. What is more: sadism can only come to its apogee when the contemplation of the suffering of the masochist becomes really sovereign. and the genital release of it. he pays a heavy price for such privilege: his gratification comes down to the ultimate resignation from beauty.the visual aspect – or. That is not only a mechanism to obtain clean hands. Thus. Granted. first to instruments. the fountainhead of love. He no longer is consumed by a desire that cannot be satisfied: in the end.
it only enhances the exclusion contained in the primeval scene depicted in it. the image disposes of purely intrinsic means of gratifying sadistic impulses. the image counteracts the elusive sadist’s endeavour to render his undertakings more respectable. Ever since Rodin was struck by the sight of his study for Saint John the Baptist . Things are totally different in the image. Roman gladiators) and milder forms of cruelty like bullfights. Finally.a decapitated torso without arms and with deep marks – the decapitated torso without arms and legs has become a cherished subject in modern sculpture (Rodin’s ‘Iris messagère des dieux’ as the counterpart of Courbet’s ‘L’origine du monde’). Such restraints are imposed by culture. Reality exercises severe restraints on the sadomasochistic enterprise. nobody objected nearly related phenomena: all kinds of torture.(7) THE IMAGE AND SADOMASOCHISM’S COMING OF AGE The image is the main catalyst in sadomasochism’s coming of age. there is set in place a whole system of signals indicating which thresholds should not be crossed. Therein. the image has an outspoken predilection of the literal sadism of pain and wounds: the more concealed spiritual forms are invisible. Greek sculptures are often mutilated: arms or legs are failing. let alone be tortured to death. ‘La petite mort’ triumph over ‘la grande mort’. Secret charms emanate from such mutilated sculptures. But there is more. Since. the proceedings are merely staged and faked. ritual cruelties (Azteks. the destructive frenzy that otherwise would culminate in a fully-fledged sacrifice. The mere adoption of a voyeuristic stance as such already comes down to a kind of destruction of the object: the reduction to a mere visual appearance equals the obliteration of the tangible body. More and more. nothing can prevent the mitigated real performance from culminating in staged outright sacrifice (Titian’s Martias). This double frustration may be the main catalyst in the transformation of the representation of intangible beauty (or the primeval scene) in the staging of the sacrifice of beauty. triggered through erotic releasers. The destruction
. the aggressive frenzy. Furthermore. Also in a twodimensional image. In every sadomasochistic setting. that eventually culminates in the sexual release it was meant to eradicate. is mitigated to a ritually contained sadomasochistic performance. Since this will not suffice. the artist can use the frame or digital manipulation as a means of mutilating the body. In former times. has to be additionally contained through a compulsory ritualisation of the sadomasochistic performance (cfr compulsory neurosis). cruel punishments (crucifixion). in the image. The sacrifice must not be seriously injured. That is only sealed in the image: since it merely renders the visual appearance of the nude.
The obstacles to an unhindered development of the sadomasochistic enterprise are only totally removed when an animal replaces the human sacrifice. Only in the image can the inbuilt trend of love to dissolve itself in a pure visual experience come to its apogee. but was all the more real to the masochist. a mere appearance. where animals are cut open instead of naked women: For the same reason. The same image. The full sadomasochistic triangle can be replaced with the dyad of sadovoyeuristic onlooker and his victim. We already mentioned how the suffering did not concern the sadist. that forbids the orgasmic unfolding of the very beauty it reveals. It is the natural habitat of the sadomasochistic endeavour.. Not only exhibitionism and voyeurism. But since. The Old Masters.of the body often goes hand in hand with a destruction of the image as such. Only the image enables the full development of ‘la grande mort’ in making abstraction of the merciless pain that will forever be felt because the desire to be released by ‘la petite mort’ cannot be satisfied. The pleasure of torturing originates not so much in the activity itself. the image enables the full visualisation of sadism to pure sadovoyeurism. but foremost sadomasochism completed to sadovoyeurism owe their completion to the image. While the sadist is transformed in the sovereign sadovoyeur. as in the expressions it produces. then. the masochist evaporates into a mere appearance. and at its highest intensity at that: as the orgasmic frenzy of death-anguish.
. That does not prevent that – apart from snuff-movies and real murder – the examples are rather scarce and foremost male. The required expression can directly be conjured up by the image. as in the Nitsch’ ‘OrgienMysterien-theater’. We soon will understand why.. (8) MODES OF THE SADOMASOCHISTIC SACRIFICE About suffering they were never wrong. This is the truth in Steiner’s contention that there is a secret affinity between the total freedom on uncensored erotic imagination and the total freedom of the sadist. for the sadovoyeur the victim has only to produce the necessary expressions. as it did of the actions of the instrumental sadist. the image can easily get rid of the feelings of the masochist. utterly gratifies the purified sadomasochistic greed without any restraint. The sadist can confine himself to a purely voyeuristic stance and dispense with mere instrumental sadism. Also the masochist is transformed into a pure exhibitionist.
sadomasochistic impulses have undoubtedly stimulated the refinement of the methods used. The punishment may range from an innocent smack in the face to the sovereign contemplation of two prisoners killing each other. as with the gladiators in Rome. The transgressor can try to get rid of his feelings of guilt through ascribing them to the machinations of a seductress and then relieve his feelings of guilt by punishing
. the triangle unfolds to a quadrangle: the onlooker is split over two protagonists in the image. but also in female masochism. the triangle is depicted in the flagellation of Piero della Franscesca. pain is inflicted as retaliation for the real of symbolical pain inflicted by the punished one. not to elicit sexual tension. conversely. All kinds of torture have been real midwifes of sadomasochism and. The similarity of the techniques. The reverse is equally true: also erotic feelings can conjure up the need for punishment. Just as there is a voyeuristic triangle. That is not to say that the more sophisticated forms or punishment cannot stir sadistic impulses. Here. The completed sadomasochistic sacrifice is enacted through the sinister triad of the sovereign voyeur. Under the guise of a punishing torture. All these forms of inflicting pain or killing are intended to gratify the feeling of power and retaliation. A bad conscience about the sadomasochistic proceedings can be an additional motive to expel also the instrumental sadist from the image. Just as the display of beauty can go hidden after some seemingly neutral action. The ordinary voyeuristic triangle is often obfuscated in an attempt to mitigate the pain of having to relegate one's role as a lover to a third party. Under the regime of compulsory marriage a passionate relation is always forbidden. the instrumental sadist(s) and the masochist. should not make us overlook the distinction between the sacrifice of beauty and the diverse forms of punishment by political or parental authorities. as in the genuine sadomasochistic torture. The projection is masked in that the role of the instrumental sadist is relegated to an animal or a monster. not only in male.as the implementation of a punishment (to be distinguished from the scenario where the sinner is punished for his real sexual sins). With punishment. The next step in the process of projection is that the sadovoyeur poses as the one who comes to the rescue.Auden. But the triangle is often emphatically restored. and staging merely beauty destroyed. This is a cherished procedure. Transgression cannot fail to conjure up the corresponding fear for punishment. The staging of the instrumental sadist allows the projection of the sadism of the sadovoyeur. there is also a sadomasochistic triangle. Ideally. the sadomasochistic triangle is shortened into the dyad of the sovereign sadovoyeur contemplating the masochistic appearance. just so can the ritual sacrifice of beauty be disguised – and justified .
The obvious answer is that the same woman. but also the raped body naturally takes the form of an X. Guilt can also be alleviated through transforming the desired woman in the punishing – castrating – woman. Not for nothing are religious. the threat with punishment. the nude is as defenceless as in the image. The association of crucifixion and copulation is strengthened through the fact that Jesus Christ has been penetrated with a lance. The sacrifice of beauty can then be justified as a punishment for an indecent provocation. The punishment is a mere justification. Especially the fact that the martyr sacrifices himself for a higher cause and that he rejects the indecent proposals of his torturers. (This element can add to the charms of transgression as described above). but also political martyrs a most cherished subject in painting. It begins to dawn on us why the open depiction of the sadomasochistic primal scene is so scarce. This is reinforced by the fact that not only the surrendering body. does not object to be aroused by the sacrifice of a male under the guise of punishment or martyrdom. which pave the way for a genuine sexual transport. It remains to be understood why the beauty destroyed is predominantly male. that seems to have her problems with the overt enjoyment of an erotic male nude. The disguise as punishment explains the introduction of many a form of torture in the sadomasochistic universe. The executioner of the punishment can only get rid of his arousal by destroying the beauty that provoked it. Here originate the secret charms of the torture of Jesus Christ and the countless Christian martyrs like the Holy Sebastian. makes martyrdom resemble the sadomasochistic triangle. but to the provocation of the punished. Although crucifixion has become obsolete as a form of punishment. The propensity of sadomasochism to disguise itself as the infliction of punishment also facilitates the enjoyment of real punishments as a displaced sacrifice of beauty. it remains a most cherished sadomasochistic procedure. comes to serve as the justification of sadomasochism: the sadist as well as his victim do not longer feel involved in a dark destructive undertaking. The same goes for the flagellation of Christ – imitated by many a monk or nun castigating themselves for their sins of the flesh – a practice that survived in many a brothel of the eighteenth century and the secret sm-room in many a modern house. that initiated the displacement of sexuality to sadomasochism. A speaking example is the crucifixion of Christ. since they cannot but summon up feelings of sympathy. since it does not apply to the sexual arousal in the punisher. exemplary in the
. The ‘femina castratrix’ has the castration performed by an executioner or the sinful man itself. Victims of torture and punishment are even predestined to such displacement. the Andreas cross: on the cross. The sacrifice of the nude can also go disguised in medical attire.her. and not only in Western art. Thus. as well in male as in female sadism.
crucifixion of Christ, or by the sight of man that have been deformed or disfigured by blind fate. The theme is the more cherished since it allows sadism to go hidden behind the veils of motherly care. This is all too obvious with Maria and the nude maltreated body of her son on her lap, as in Michelangelo’s very suggestive Pietà. As soon as, under the auguries of feminism, women begin to produce erotic images, they soon proceed to overt depictions of the mutilated male body. All this – apart from the fact that women are more interested in the signs of wealth and power than in the nude body - has to be taken into account when the female attitude towards erotic imagery is compared with the male. (9) THE TRIUMPH OF SADOMASOCHISM AND THE END OF ART At first glance, the completion of sadism is sadovoyeurism saves the image. Merely contemplating the seductive nude is a castrating experience, which makes the voyeur turn eventually his back on the image. The sadovoyeuristic contemplation of the sacrifice of beauty, on the other hand, is, especially for man, a completely satisfying experience and its depiction in the image does justice to the image as a purely visual medium. It comes as no surprise, then, that the inherent logic of the image leads to the transformation of the representation of the nude in that of the sacrifice of beauty (with the hermaphrodite and the beast with two backs as intermediary stages). The unfolding of perversion thus comes to join the unfolding of the image. The image is no longer the forbidding forbidden, but the gratifying gratification. But the simultaneous unfolding of perversion and image is at the same time their ultimate self-annihilation. The unfolding of love is reversed and swallowed up in the pure visual experience of sadovoyeurism, the negation of precisely beauty that is the spark that ignites the passion of love. And the image turns out to be precisely the contrary of what it intended to be: to reveal a heightened beauty. In a first phase it revealed a heightened beauty, that it at the same time made inaccessible by bereaving it of its tangibility. In a second phase it staged a fully accessible perfection, but a perfection that only contains the destruction of the initially promised ideal. Through enabling and enacting the destruction of what it originally was meant to reveal, the image comes to resemble what it represents: from a means of revelation it is turned into a catalyst of destruction. In that sense the shroud of Turin – Magdalene’s veil – may pose as the paradigm of such development. The void of love in the image as a void: truly, this is the veritable black hole, of which Malevitch’s black square on black background, meant to seal the end of figurative are and to herald the advent of abstract art, is only the faint afterglow. Through such sinister a diabolic dialectics, the image speaks
out a ban against itself. In the end, it has become the forbidding forbidden again, but now in a far more profound sense: by forbidding love, it finally also forbids itself. Time has come to tackle the mimetic taboo.
Chapter XII of ‘the erotic eye and its nude’
'the ecstasies of eros'
THE TABOO ON THE EROTIC IMAGE (0) INTRODUCTION We should finally concentrate on a far more mitigated form of the destruction of beauty: the resistance against the erotic image. from way back, erotic images have been subject to often fierce taboos. It is an illusion to think that those taboos have been gradually overcome over the course of history. Quite the contrary: the forces opposing the ‘frenzy of the visible’ (Williams) are growing stronger with the introduction of every new technique of production or reproduction of images. From Moses, Plato, Buddha and Confucius, over Mohammed, Savanarola, Luther and Calvin, to Dworkin and Khomeini, an ever increasing choir of iconoclasts have been fulminating against the growing tidal wave of erotic imagery. It is not our intention to write the history of that opposition. Rather are we interested in the attitude of the artists and the art lovers themselves. For, their stance on erotic imagery is not always positive. In the silence of their workshops, they often wage a fierce battle against the allure of erotic beauty and the fascination of its destruction, just like Saint Anthony in the desert. Long before iconoclasts engage in their destructive undertakings, they often have expelled themselves the devil
from many an image with their own hands. (1) THE TABOO ON EROTIC IMAGERY Cet homme (Boucher) ne prend le pinceau que pour me montrer des tétons et des fesses. Je suis bien aise d’en voir, mais je ne puis souffrir qu’on me les montre’ Diderot. The taboo on erotic imagery is an extension of the natural and culturally enforced taboo on the display of the erotic beauty of real bodies, which we already examined in chapter VIII. There we described the natural propensity to hide the genitals from view, the propensity of lovers to retire, and the avoidance of seduction in everyday commerce. The image only makes things worse. It elevates beauty to unknown heights. That induces many a lover to look for an afterglow in the real world. There, he has often to conclude that he does not qualify. He then resumes his commerce with the image. Which is not difficult, since the beauty in the image surpasses the beauty of real bodies. This cannot but strengthen the feelings of inferiority and the frustration in the poor onlooker, and therewith also his resentment, not only of the beauty in the image, but also of the image itself. The same feelings are stirred in the lesser beauties, who feel eclipsed by the heightened beauty in the image and feel utterly excluded. That does not prevent the image from providing a visual pleasure which the real world cannot but withhold. In real life, voyeurism is by nature confined to the contemplation of the face and those parts of the body left uncovered or intimated through the clothes. In the image, the voyeur can lay eyes upon the whole body, excited genitals included. That makes it all the more difficult to resist. This turns out to be a poisoned gift: it is impossible to have intercourse with an image. The image transforms the onlooker into a castrated voyeur, looking at the hermaphrodite body (chapter III) or the beast with two backs (chapter X and XI). That cannot fail to stir feelings of resentment against the image and what it depicts (Kappeler). As we have seen, that leads to the ultimate destruction of beauty and the image alike. (2) THE AESTHETICISING OF THE EROTIC IMAGE There is, however, another way out, which we deliberately left out of the picture in our description of the erotic themes in the preceding chapters. What has to appear in the image, has to adapt itself to the nature of the image. The image forbids tactile and genital commerce and hence is only appropriate to the pure visual
she would no longer so graciously balance on the rope between revealed visual beauty and merely promised tactile or genital gratification. it should rather use sexual arousal to create a kind of visual perpetuum mobile in focussing on the formal beauty of the erotic appearance – the proportions and the composition of forms and lines. In order to remain faithful to its destiny. At the same time. Such pleasure can join the erotic allure and at the same time propels the erotic arousal along aesthetic pathways. Not for nothing are the highest achievements of the visual arts to be found in the domain of erotic imagery. This is a purely sensual – aesthetic – pleasure. they also enable a far more severe formal containment of that heightened beauty as well. but generously grants full visual pleasure. like the headless trunk in Courbet’s ‘Origine du Monde’. it is no longer the embodiment of a fourfold taboo. And it is no longer doomed to enact the forbidden: no longer does it stage the arousal through a third party – the primal scene – but an erotic appearance that is freely allowed to capture us. the formal containment of erotic beauty transforms voyeurism into an
. formal beauty resembles clothes that heighten the erotic tension in prolonging denudation. As soon as the image formally contains the erotic appearance. Not for nothing have artists from way back been obsessed by the challenge of catching erotic beauty in the image. black and white. It no longer forbids tactile or genital pleasure. there is also a taboo on the erotic representation emanating from the very nature of the image itself. let alone genitally consume. And that taboo is in line with the natural taboo inherent in vision itself: senses of the distance cannot feel. Thus. formally aestheticised erotic appearance invites us to submerge in it. It is as if an invisible veil is woven over the erotic charms. Were she to splay her legs wide. colours and materials. The subtle gesture of Titian’s Venus saves the erotic eye from the traps of the visualisation of the genital. It becomes the image to be somewhat reserved about the allure of what it conjures up. No longer has it to look on sadly how the erotic appearance is dissolving into the hermaphrodite or the beast with two backs.initial phase of erotic commerce. It is just as too well that Titian’s Venus hides her treasures with a subtle gesture of the hand – a reminder of the ‘noli me tangere’ of the immaculate virgin. And not for nothing are the most beautiful examples in this book often hand-made pictures: not only do they warrant a continuous heightening of beauty. Formally contained erotic beauty is the highest form of visual beauty. The erotic appearance is then the starting point of another kind of pleasure: the ease with which the appearance can be comprehended. whereby the pleasure in the ease is in relation with the complexity of the task. The curtain before Courbet’s picture in Khalil Bey’s palace cannot conceal that the image has become a fetish and has thereby betrayed its true destiny. Instead of being the spark that ignites the erotic fire. Therein.
that desire is neutralised. an often breathtaking beauty is coaxed from the in essence repulsive sight of what we get to see then. Although such beauty is isolated from what has been a beautiful body. and the exhibitionist in an erotic performer. Time and again. though. the erotic image capitulates for the call of genital release. Only then is the voyeur transformed in an artist or an art lover. precisely when the destructive impulses are given free rein.aesthetic attitude. (3) THE DE-EROTISATION OF THE EROTIC IMAGE Conversely. What has been a means of destroying the sexual urge is thus transformed into an effective means of letting the pleasure in beauty remain purely aesthetic – a purely visual enjoyment that no longer asks for its completion in an act. but the urge to destroy its fountainhead: beauty. it also enables the image to fulfil its true destiny: the revelation of beauty. at least for as long as we continue looking. So urgent is sexual scarcity – not least as a consequence of the fact that beauty in the image eclipses real beauty – that many a potential lover prefers to let him castrate by the image. lifts the ban on the completion of the full sadomasochistic sacrifice. with the former. rather then being disillusioned or rejected
. that. where. Such aestheticising is often far more effective than that of bodily beauty: with the latter. although it is not the unfolding of love that has to be checked here. beauty saves the image also when it stages the destruction of the nude. Such completion of the perverse move effectively checks the transformation of voyeurism into sadovoyeurism. Sadomasochistic literature obtains the same effect by providing elaborated and often endless details about what. But. That is probably why beauty in art so often goes hand in hand with ugliness. since the nude is now destroyed. it seems far more difficult to maintain a proper balance between aesthetic and erotic beauty. it cannot but stir the homesickness for the immaculate nude. In that sense. the destruction of beauty does not require formal containment: the source of arousal is drying up. but. when and why: this diverts the attention from what is really happening. The same image that asks for the formal containment of erotic beauty. That is betrayed in the often meticulous composition of the mise-en-scène. any attempt at proceeding to touching is checked by the ugliness of what then looms up. As opposed to the enactment of erotic beauty. Sexual arousal is consumed in the creating or discovering of formal beauty. the goal is within reach. while. The marriage of erotic and formal beauty not only seals voyeurism’s coming of age as an accomplished aesthetic pleasure. Only the mitigated versions of the sadomasochistic performance ask for formal – ritual – containment. It is not difficult to see why. on the contrary. continue looking with fascination. It will not have escaped the attention of the reader. To the effect that we no longer avert our eyes in disgust.
. To begin with. The artist can also devaluate the nude. formal beauty only diverts the attention. it comes to express the political and economic import of the person. It will be superfluous to insert that kind of images in our text. break the magic of colour through resorting to black and white (or white marble) of neutralise the undulations of the body through reducing the body to a sheer circumference or a surface. 6. Gradually. When the image has to titillate. it was overwhelming in the official Christian art of the Middle Ages. Such anti-idealistic trend can already be observed in Hellenism. culminating in the snapshots of photography. after the advent of erotic photos in the middle of the nineteenth century and in the wake of feminism in the twentieth century. got new impulse after the restoration of the rights of the body in the Renaissance. when cheaper forms of images were introduced. That is why many an artist tries to ban the erotic image from the image. we see ever more profane subjects replace the heroic feats of rulers and saints. Although it cannot be denied that many of these images exert the necessary charms. Neads – inspired by Derrida’s predilection for what is outside the frame – pleads for the depiction of what has hitherto been excluded from the image: the vagina and her menstruation. It is these images that call forth the antierotic resentment. Thus. In the beginning we are dealing with religious or historical scenes. He then stages mere naked. We have illustrated this in chapter VIII. The most beautiful women display themselves in the most alluring poses. The focus is on purely erotic releasers. In other images. to deformed or mutilated bodies. An obvious solution is to play off the medium.in the real world. The focus is shifting to transient. over modal bodies with all their natural shortcomings. there is the portrait.political and economic . The artist can replace the softness of the skin with strokes or grain. the focus is shifting from reciprocal seduction to competitive or productive action. rather then to destroy it. if not non-ideal nudes: from the pre-pubertal girls of Shiele. if not corpses.and erotic commerce. it is predestined to initiate the move away from the nude. At the hinge between nonerotic . (4) CIRCLING AROUND THE NUDE "The nude is for the artist what love is for the poet" Paul Valéry Far less obvious is the replacement of the nude with subjects that centrifugally orbit around it. peripheral events. Instead of being the prelude to the submerging of the face in the overall erotic appearance.
which is totally indifferent for human strivings or which immeasurably rises above it. man is only represented through signs: the buildings or products testifying to his wealth or his poverty. After all. the focus is more on the action than on the environment. Bryson is right in arguing that. as rather of the goal of any action. And that cannot but lend an additional charm to the centrifugal movement away from the nude: a sojourn in the distant realms where the human fate is shaped has at least the advantage that it can keep the fire of hope burning. Unless we prefer to resign in the sight of unspoilt nature. After all. But.nevertheless are peripheral subjects. that every depiction of sexual relations cannot fail to leave a nasty aftertaste. just like the painters themselves. the more fundamental opposition between erotic and non-erotic escapes the attention. the logarithmic spiral is rotating around a black void – the counterpart of the black square on white background of Malevitch. instruments and products of labour are destined to enter the economic exchange between man and woman. competitive or productive action is performed in an environment: an interior or a landscape as the scene on which human action unfolds. the landscape negates the competition that used to appear in the centre of attention. Although we should remind that – just like the spirit in the eye – also the erotic appearance disappears in the hole. who not for nothing also placed a black cross in the centre: Such genealogy of iconography – Hegel somewhat on his head – demonstrates that the nude is the real vanishing point of all subject matter. in the still life. hence. if not to the idleness of human endeavour: And that reminds us of the fact that it is precisely political and economical relations which are responsible for the fact that loving relations cannot develop properly. Initially. who feed each other and their children. The still life is not so much the negation of human action. Beyond the opposition between human action and instruments and products. also the theoreticians seem not to be aware of a more fundamental negation. In a first phase. Human action can also be replaced with the depiction of man’s weapons and tools or the products of his labour. but gradually the environment takes over. to finally push the action aside. the apogee of the Albertian painting is missing: the vanishing point (69) While. That goes especially for the flaunting of power and wealth: the Trojan War was in fact a war for Helen. in Cotan. Such mediated. men as well women are economically and politically active only in view of acquiring sexual gratification. In all these cases.
. in the geometric centre of Titian’s Venus of Urbino the vagina is shown. Not surprising.
(5) FROM THE TABOO ON EROTIC IMAGERY TO THE TABOO ON MIMESIS There are also more formal solutions of the problem. Mimesis is transformed into semiosis (See: About the realtion between philosophy and art). In fact. Through such negation. Needless to say that a heavy toll has been paid for such antierotic trend that extends into a veritable anti-mimetic crusade. The taboo on the image in the traditional art of the past century is only the most recent of a long series of anti-mimetic upsurges that from way back are wreaking havoc in the world of the image. the feat of ‘conceptual’ art in all its variants. We already described how that called forth the propensity to arrange the bodies in often rigid symmetries that. Far more consequent has been the complete rejection of mimesis as such. In real life. they are often mingled up in an inextricable knot. Instead of transfiguration the world – in essence: erotic beauty – in the image. these are merely the double negation of the nude: they are monolithic objects. are rather uncomfortable straitjackets. What art gains in formal beauty – and the artist in respectability
. The anti-erotic impulse is the extended to an all-encompassing anti-mimetic crusade. In a first phase. The body becomes increasingly unrecognisable. abstract art unwillingly betrays its real origin. this move results in the development of abstract art in the first half of the twentieth century. which originally was meant to merely contain erotic beauty. it is banned from the image through hanging signs on the wall. nonobjective art be that it cannot be pornographic’. for real bodies. ‘Figuration’ as such is rejected and the artists resort to a purely formal play with geometrical forms. colour. Also the bodies entwined do not escape that fate. many an artist focuses on formal beauty. This seals the end of art. Sometimes the artists go so far that they reject the importance of the – in essence erotic .subject matter altogether. Only Steiner (1965) negatively asks the question: ‘Would not one of the definitions of abstract. The anti-erotic character of the early abstract painting has hardly been recognised (see also 'Mimesis and abstraction'). as opposed to the body that is a harmonious whole of diverse parts. The same impulse will have laid on the roots of the imposing of a generalised taboo on representation by Moses that has been taken over in the Islam and led to the bloom of abstract art in all those religions. or texture. as opposed to the round and undulating surface of the body. And they are flat and angular. In an endeavour to ban the nude from the image. and try to get rid of mimesis as such. that only refer to a world outside the picture. They submit the body and its parts to some formal pattern: they reduce the organic forms to geometrical schemes or translate them in purely formal compositions of black and white. if it is not reduced to a pure abstract scheme.
we have described the secret charms of the destruction of beauty. the repressed erotic pleasure resurfaces in the often obsessive realism and the fascination through transparency. We already mentioned how the depiction of scenes of torture is often a nearly concealed alibi to satisfy sadistic impulses. where everything can be found in plenty. Also the many ‘historic scenes’ are mostly a mere alibi to stage nude bodies in all kinds of poses. things take the shape of the repressed nude or engage in often nearly concealed orgies. The corrosion of erotic appeal through grain. if not necrophilia. But the fruits in paradise are the nearly concealed substitutes for the real fruits that can be harvested after hard work. The erotic devil even knows how to provoke the elusive erotic beauty out of the landscape or the still life. Elsewhere. wherefore man has to labour hard. reflection and the like. That is foremost the case with scenes of battle. efebephilia or gerontophilia. Also photography developed countless. the secretary on the ladder. And these often shimmer through in the contours of many a landscape. There is something like the return of the repressed. And in the previous chapter. In general. over the Turkish Bath of Ingres. the nurse and so on. Human action is negated in the representation of nature as a lost paradise. black and white or the silhouette discloses often unexpected charms. (6) THE RETURN OF THE REPRESSED The erotic devil does not let himself expell so easily. zoophilia and the like. that characterises many a landscape or still life from the Romans onward. The erotic devil also joins the centrifugal move away from the nude. rather modest variants: the visit of the doctor. or satisfies a whole array of ‘paraphilias’ such as paedophilia. that often acquire an erotic freight as a consequence of the similarity between fighting and copulating. All these trends converge in Duchamp’s ‘La marièe mise à nu
. Also more prosaic activities often allow for indirect sexual gratification. Most cherished is the theme of the individual or collective bath: from the countless Bethesda’s in the bath. to the many ‘bathers’ in modern art. The staging of repellent nudes feeds the resentment against the unattainable beauty. And of course above all the objects on the still life can all too easily be read symbolically: the image is then debased to a mere sign that has to conjure up erotic associations in the dark chamber of the skull.– it loses in appeal.
finally. Consecutive tidal waves of erotic imagery have flooded the world on an ever
. After interpretation. Or the symmetry of the composition betrays the nearly concealed desire of the bodies to entwine: geometry is turned into a symbol of bodily interaction. the geometric volume of the cube is suddenly turned in what it negates: the smooth. As if abstract art would be one gigantic orgy. testifies to the repression. That betrays how strong the appeal of what has been condemned continues to be. At first glance. however. It is no accident that this prelude to ‘conceptual art’ is the product of an artist who was known for his rejection of mere sensual titillation of the retina. Lucy-Smith does not hesitate to read Mondrian’s crosses in terms of copulation. even the most consequent abstraction. And. round. which extends to a general anti-mimetic crusade. that are meant to hide the nudity of the models. Often the repressed returns only in the mind of the beholder. brim over with abstract motives with overt erotic connotations. it is only a heap of meaningless objects – a kind of synthesis of historic scene. as when Brancusi catches his lovers within the confines of a cube. begin to resemble other objects. Already in Klimt do the clothes. when they do not engage in sexual life altogether. Or it is transformed into a symbolic comment on what it contains. that in their turn symbolically refer back to what has been hidden from view. continues to speak of art notwithstanding all its anti-mimetic fervour. (7) ETERNAL BEAUTY Needless to say that there is a big difference between the return of the repressed and the cautious balancing on the chord between erotic containment of erotic appeal. that have become unrecognisable through abstraction.par ses célibataires même’. With Eva Hesse. It suffices to compare the images. last but not least. And geometric discipline necessarily reminds of the frames in which sadists use to hang their victims. it cannot but conjure up rather obscene representations in the mind. The reach and the impact of the ant-erotic impulse. Thus. can shed a new light on the production of artistic images as such. who descries an erotic charge in even the most abstract representations. Also the geometrical straitjacket. often only enhances its secret erotic charms. A voluptuous pose may lend its momentum or its justification from it. Also the predilection of iconic signs instead of purely abstract verbal signs. in which the nude has been contorted. Conceptual art. organic hole of the womb. landscape and still life. or even the most fervent conceptualising of art cannot clean art from its erotic stains. Often precisely those parts of the nude.
We think that. which also produces the illusion of an ever increasing freedom. in the image in the first place. the image seems to push toward the centre an on ever increasing scale. we took only sexual . Also the desire to meet collective standards and the desire to share beauty lie at the roots of the production of erotic imagery. which calls forth ever new and ever more drastic anti-mimetic reactions. the propensity to catch everything in the image. in the middle of the nineteenth century. is determined by the development of mimetic techniques. opposite forces have been at work: on the one hand the frenzy of the visible. from the beginning. more easily lend themselves for private use. as opposed to the tendency to centrifugally move away form the erotic beauty. A fresco or a marble sculpture are more suitable for public use. It is apparent then. Images last. How such dynamics unfolds historically. While musicians have always to reinterpret existing scores. In addition.motives (see also: 'The orgy'. more centrifugal themes explored. For it is not by accident that the anti-mimetic fervour of modern art originates at precisely the moment when.orgiastic . And. techniques that are not so labour-intensive. that these tidal waves are not some undercurrent that has not connexion whatsoever with 'genuine' art. The anti-mimetic impulse in modern art is only a particular example of the increasing anti-mimetic fervour that. erotic photos have been exported by the shipload to every corner of the world. With every increase in productivity.increasing scale and in ever more broad layers of the population. from the very beginning of the production of images has been opposing the profusion of erotic imagery. since the development of mimetic techniques is characterised by increasing productivity.voyeuristic . Many a commentator either looks back with home-sickness to the freedom of times bygone or places far away. Labour-intensive mimetic techniques are predestined for prestigious centrifugal subjectmatter: erotic themes are more easily depicted in a print than in a marble sculpture. (8) THE CULT OF THE IMAGE AS AN ORGY Up to now. The discoveries in Pompeii may give us an idea of the huge quantities of erotic imagery that may have been destroyed in the course of the centuries. As soon as the handling of the most obvious subject matter is saturated. and hence cheaper. visual artists and writers are compelled to tackle ever new subject-matter.
. or sketches a history where ever new taboos are lifted. Time has come to introduce another factor that fuels the development of the image: communal .motives into account. On the other hand another characteristic of production is responsible for the fact that ever more eccentric subject matter is dealt with. the development of subject matter seems to steadily move towards the erotic centre. a print or a photo for private use.
French. however. the benevolent effect of the communal enjoyment must be stressed. It has to be admitted. bodily beauty is unequally distributed over a given population. It cannot be denied. German or Dutch): stefan. that erotic imagery eclipses the beauty of real bodies and real sexual behaviour. should rather develop other qualities – as the minor beauties have done from way back – instead of hindering the happier ones to enjoy their beauty and to display their charms. that can be improved and more fairly distributed. As opposed to material conditions. The same goes for the sexual habits. In the meantime. How benevolent this effect is. The solution has not to be found in forbidding the display of beauty (especially when a proper distinction is made between communal seduction and sexual seduction.be. © Stefan Beyst.
Stay informed about new texts: mailinglist. which may be asking too much). due to the vehemence of the erotic earthquake caused by the increasing wealth of ever new layers of the population in the industrialised world. On the other hand. can be measured by the overall appearance of members of ascetic cultures condemning every orgiastic feeling in view of some spiritual mission.beyst@pandora. that not everybody can meet the standards of the universally acclaimed embodiments of beauty and the athletes of sexual prowess. 2000-2003
Your reaction (in English. Although many techniques allow for some correction.
. What Foucault considers to be an increasing control. Precisely therefore. Just like erotic clothes eroticise the body. the ideal of erotic egalitarianism will certainly remain an illusion forever. however. ascetic clothes induce a general degeneration of bodily beauty. it must be granted that the quasi omnipresence of erotic imagery has furthered the diversity of sexual commerce and has made short work of the negative effects of centuries of sexual repression. This explains the spread of a refined sexual culture in ever more layers of society. A common sexual standard is imposed on the whole community and stimulates every member to cultivate his beauty and his sexual prowess. those who feel eclipsed. in the first place due to the material conditions of the masses that had to produce the wealth of a minority that was allowed to enjoy full sexual freedom. is in the long run only a superficial and transient reaction. the communal consecration of beauty threatens to restrict itself to the chosen few.In view of the relentless and often fierce opposition against the ‘increasing’ sexual freedom.
'the ecstasies of eros' referrers assosciation of erotic artists
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