The paradox of autoeroticism


The erotic is, by definition, what tends to arouse sexual desire or attraction, as opposed to the repulsive. The absence of either, as usual, gives way to indifference. Now, if the absence of eroticism gives way to indifference, then difference must be at its peak. After all, if we look at it closely enough we find that the erotic, by repeatedly occurring alongside attraction, ends up being generally identified with the different – strictly speaking, with a varyingly specific, varyingly wide and immensely mutable-natured selection from the different. While it could be argued that certain philias involve attraction to the similar or to the familiar, we should not forget that the engines of that erotic dynamics are either the act of discovering similar characteristics in an alien object or the realisation that something we presumed to be similar to ourselves is not so.

I am not including incest among these, for this philia is not concerned with the subject. Attention – attraction – is not targeted at the subject, but it deviates from it. Incestuous eroticism is almost exclusively a psychic practice of environmental stimulation. The other subject is merely a physical medium for his fantasy, the catalyser of the circumstances upon which his sexuality is contingent. We are talking here about a man having intercourse with a concept.

Instead, attraction seems to function from the outside in and the inside out. From something to something else. It can be described as the resulting displacement and redirection of powers that is caused by the interaction of two distinct energies. Therefore, the phenomena of auto-eroticism or auto-repulsiveness can but be explained by a decoupling of the self. A concession of a part of myself to another part (of my own) that I divorce and perceive as unfamiliar.

Hélène Cixous would explain this exercise of exoticization, of auto-mysticism from the standpoint of sexism influences on women: Men’s fear of whole women, unaltered by the verticalization of difference (difference, a puppet for sexism, has historically set its variables in a vertical plane, turning couple’s relationships into a relation of domination and superiority) awakens the urge to hide her from everyone – even from herself. Hence, the mysterious creature, the unknown, unknowing woman, Hélène’s dark continent. What choice has a mystified woman who has been prevented from exploring herself got but feeling different from herself?

Not only have I been stolen from myself – it is a theft rather than a concession – but the part of myself I have been stolen has adopted the inclinations of the theft. As in the legal, that part has undergone domestic implementation: The indistinguishable interests of the fashion industry and, as Cixous would say, masculine economies of contract are, lo and behold, entangled to my own.

I am thus equipped with a capacity to feel both attracted and repulsed by my own body, which now longs for an extra-terrestrial perfection. What I am is different from what I ought to be. My relationship with the body is based on a continuous stare at the mirror, discovering I am more attached to a beauty standard than I am to my own physicality. So much so that it disgusts me not to be able to recognise myself in my present form, and I am pleased whenever I manage to shape it to the whims of some immortal mannequin.

Hélène is whispering in my ear we should not fear the division of our minds, as it is only a symptom of the always triumphant indivisibility of the being: I can host feminine and masculine, beauty and ugly, active and passive, all at once. I can transcend linguistic barriers, reconcile the opposites, and annihilate their incompatibility and that should not imply contradiction or divorce, but a wonderful extension of the self. Although, that extension that endows me with multiplicity should not alienate the divided parts. The body should be a present reality, not a potential aesthetics – if at all, a potential movement, a potential action, a potential pregnancy… And we, devoid of all shyness, indisputable owners of each and every one of its corners.

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