|Cybernetic culture research unit|
What is seduction? What is it to be seduced? It is not to be outwitted, deceived or overpowered; there has to be complicity. One does not seduce; it's always a question of two, of the duo and the duel. Never a simple matter of domination, whatever the seducer may think. "Doesn't the seducer end up losing himself in the strategy, as in an emotional labyrinth? Doesn't he invent that strategy in order to lose himself in it? And he who believes himself the game's master, isn't he the first victim of strategy's tragic myth?" (98)
And isn't that what happens to Baudrillard? .....
Seduction (the book) emerges as a turning point in Baudrillard's career. Whilst engaging with the themes established in his work up until Symbolic Exchange and Death (which immediately preceded it), Seduction marks a decisive advance by taking seriously - which is to say, frivolously, ironically - the possibility of practising critique beyond the strictures of academic theory. It is a book that no longer pretends to be a secondary commentary or a straightforward description of the empirical, but which presents itself as a challenge - diabolical, clever, playful - to what it identifies as the hegemony of the political and its heavy Spirit of Gravity. Seduction marks the move from a still- ostensibly academic "sociology" to a fully fledged theory-fiction.
As a strategy invented to consume the elements by which it was first constituted, the text constantly evades itself, setting up mobilisations and effects beyond those which it intends to describe. It is a text which sometimes loses itself in the Process; like any body caught in the throes of passion, it occasionally inhibits itself from the power to act or to think. Seduction, then, is itself a seduction "...a mode of circulation that is itself secretive and ritualistic, a sort of immediate initiation that plays by its own rules..."(81), an attempt to lure theory away from what Baudrillard thinks has seduced it: the political, significatory and libidinal economies of depth and meaning. "[S]eduction's enchantment puts an end to all libidinal economies, and every sexual or psychological contract, replacing them with a dizzying spiral of responses and counter-responses..." (83)
Baudrillard's earlier work was an attempt to extend and develop into contemporary social theory the Mauss-Bataille critique of "bourgeois utility" . His ostensible animus is always Anthropol: politics, rationalist anthropology and psycho-logos, the key players in a contemporary mythology of the subject and its pathologies that, Baudrillard thinks, is a Core Master Class projection. Far from being the teleological endpoint of history, the subject and its privatized unconscious, are, Baudrillard claims, the expression of capital's systemic interiority, as embodied in the law of equivalence. Exteriority is located way back - in the aboriginal socius and its practices of potlach and kula (symbolic exchange), and at the limit points of the social and the psychological, where white-man face subjectivity is voided, in death. Baudrillard thus develops what is in effect a reverse anthropology, in which a simulated-primitive gaze observes the mean rituals of civilization, comparing the dull, white magic of Oedipus with the shamanistic frenzy of symbolic exchange.
If symbolic exchange has largely disappeared from Seduction's vocabulary, it's because, by now, the concept of seduction has absorbed its role as the embodiment of Baudrillard's beloved principle of ambivalence. Seduction emerges as an alternative, not only to the reality principle, but also to what Baudrillard sees as its doubles in machinic materialism and feminism: the concepts of production, Desire and power, all of which merely hold up a mirror to bourgeois utility, a mirror, moreover, which reflects a stage of capitalism that is now superseded: the industrial. This is "second-order simulacra", an order, Baudrillard explains in the essay "Simulacra and Science Fiction" - written almost contemporaneously with Seduction - that is "productivist, founded on energy, force, its materialization by the machine and the whole system of production - a Promethean aim of a continuous globalization and expansion, of an indefinite liberation of energy (desire belongs to the utopias related to this order of simulacra)." (SS 121)
Baudrillard's thinly-veiled attack on Deleuze-Guattari here goes hand in hand with his critiques in Seduction of becoming and the nomadic (directed against Deleuze's Logic of Sense, but also making a pre-emptive strike against A Thousand Plateaus). But no-one is spared: Seduction also makes peremptory dismissals of Irigaray and Foucault. All are seen as continuing what he characterises, in his essay "On Nihilism", as the essentially "nineteenth century revolution" of "the destruction of appearances", a project that, thanks to capital, has long since been achieved, paving the way for a "postmodern" stage dedicated to "the destruction of meaning", (SS 160-161), a stage commensurate with a systemically self-compensating cybernetic capitalism that is not only immune to the old tactics of the political; it functionally requires them as its motor of innovation. The system cannot be challenged by radical indifference to meaning, value or limits in general; it anticipates mockery and is thus well stocked with recuperative counter strategies. How, after all, can nihilism continue to exist in a system which condones it, radicalises it to such an extent that it becomes unsustainable? It reverts, neutralises, disappears in the Process, predictively producing simulations of its own redoubling, reversible limits.
Deleuze-Guattari, Irigaray and Foucault are, Baudrillard says, still duped by the political and its assumption that there is something behind or beneath appearances waiting to be liberated. Thus feminism, for instance, becomes complicit in the order of power, when previously it "mastered" the order of the symbolic, the realm of appearances where, according to Baudrillard, anything that matters really happens. Baudrillard's position is not motivated by epistemological concerns, as is often thought: it is not that he thinks there is no external reality ( he is not interested in such facile neo-Cartesian debates, which, anyway, belong at the level of first-order simulacra); it is that he thinks reality is fundamentally ambivalent, fatal, and given over to the artificial. In other words, it is already, he wants to say, "feminine".
Two: The Horror of Nothing to See
The elision between the feminine and the female that runs through Seduction means that in the end, Baudrillard doesn't need actual women. The accoutrements are enough; the make-up and make-believe that is more than fantasy but less than a matter beyond his control. Seduction wants things covered up; starting with the female body, which, following Barthes on Striptease, it thinks is "desexualised at the very moment when .. stripped naked" (M 84). So instead of pursuing a futile quest to possess what he thinks he has unveiled, Baudrillard develops a reassuring ache for what he knows he can never have. Like the customers of Gibson's high-tech prostitutes, the meat puppets, he wants "to have it both ways" (BC 220), feeling "torn between needing someone and wanting to be alone at the same time, which has probably always been the name of that particular game ..." (BC 220)
But the game he wants to play is a question of semiotics, not carnality. He wants to be alone with his signs, affecting disdain for her body, needing it only as a clothes-horse. I'll dress you up, make you up, he says to her: you'll be my ideal but you, you have the real power because you know you are not as you appear to be. The blinding coverings of cosmetics and projected make-believe provide the assurance of the masculine and also the allure of the unrealised power of the feminine. "The masculine is certain, the feminine is insoluble." (11)
Get too close and this whole scene disappears. Terrified of the threat posed by a "[n]earmess so pronounced that it makes all discrimination of identity ... impossible" (TS 31), Baudrillard keeps his distance. Like all real Casanovas, he's bored by consummation, adopting what he sees as a tasteful restraint when it comes to bodily fluids (dim the lights, you can guess the rest). Always preferring the thrill of the chase, he's turned off by too much technical detail. He calls this predilection for the unflattering epidermal blow-up, for extreme proximity to female body parts, obscene. It is a phenomenon which extends beyond sexuality, beyond pornography. Any way, pornography, he says, has little to do with "sex" but is part of drive towards a perfect, high fidelity, high resolution realism ("Stereo-Porno") (28-36). Pursued to its limits, this drive for "perfect realism" brings specular male Desire into an impasse that Baudrillard encounters in the "Japanese vaginal cyclorama." He describes the scene: "Prostitutes, their thighs open, sitting on the edge of a platform, Japanese workers in their shirt-sleeves ..., permitted to shove their noses up to their eyeballs within the woman's vagina in order to see better, but what?" (31) Baudrillard is fascinated, but ultimately repelled, perplexed; since, for him, "... her sexual organ represents the horror of nothing to see. ...A 'hole' in its scoptophilic lens." (TS 26) Why look into it?
He asks, because not only does he think he's seen everything there is to see, he thinks that if it cannot be seen, it must be nothing: a zero that is still the zero of castration, that must - knowingly, cynically, sentimentally - be covered up. Let's pretend, he urges, fog up the lens a little, forget ourselves.that if it cannot be seen, it must be nothing: a zero that is still the zero of castration, that must - knowingly, cynically, sentimentally - be covered up. Let's pretend, he urges, fog up the lens a little, forget ourselves.
In looking and seeing nothing, he is content to know that all that he seeks is neatly concealed within a box - finite and belonging to the past. However, the contents were never secreted from his eyes only - his visual system was never the intended arbiter of perceptibility. Indeed his short-sightedness was to her advantage. His demands that women perform the rituals of seduction as webs of appearances allowed the rules of camouflage to be written. Baudrillard's challenge does not, after all, prove to be a tall order. He may think he fills the gaps, his voids with the technics of seduction, but such holes will always elude themselves. When she is not appearing, she is signalling - to herself even. She is keeping the breaks in the circuit open, for when the crucial moment arrives.
The secret which Baudrillard knows he cannot see can helpfully maintain his status quo. However the secret that he does not know that he cannot see, due to blindness beyond the visual and a lack of perceptual experimentation, takes the signs of his appearances and turns them against themselves, converting the modes of meaning and non-meaning into passwords, true names and female signals which proliferate without syntax and semantic. By converting simulation into Process, they will produce a different set of effects commanded by their capacity to effectuate and not by their capacity to mean.
For as long as Baudrillard refuses to experiment with his hands, to develop orientation skills dependent on the malleable, proximate, tactile, contiguous, he will not be responsive, or even able to register a set of communication procedures which will always continue without him. He will fail to see that apparently finite contents are in fact infinite forms, and even then of a highly specific kind. Well defined contents traced by relative positions and defined perspectives can also behave in the most nebulous of fashions - de-localising themselves, constructing fine and diffuse webs of escape.
For as long as he thinks that he was the only One worth concealing the secret for, he will continue to see no other explanation for Processes which are not simply about the play of appearances, than that of 'anatomy is destiny'; the explanation handed to him in the first place. Those who will not play him at a game for which he, at least in the beginning, set the rules, will therefore be doomed to mechanisms of containment in which they have already become familiar - those of the constructionist/ essentialist debate. Baudrillard likes things in containers. There is after all a place for everything. If she will not play with the appearances which he can see, she will be swiftly returned to where she will be seen - to the harsh and floodlit zone of assumed female essentialism. To where he can keep an eye on you.
Three: Closed Circuits (the Mirror of Psychoanalysis)
Baudrillard's indifference to the female body also blinds him to the specificities of his own. Or rather, seduction as he describes it becomes a way of dealing with the tristesses of a male libidinal economy that won't move "beyond erection and decline. Beyond high and low, and their hollows and abysses." (ML 37) To compensate for what happens after coming he defers contact, perpetually if possible. This economy, concealed in the act of looking, finds itself reflected everywhere.
"I'll be your mirror," he says, "reflect what you are/ in case you don't know." Which also means that, inevitably, everything will reflect what he is.
"Seduction/ simulacrum: communication as a functioning of the social in a closed circuit, where signs dupilcate an undiscoverable reality." (163) Baudrillard's circuitires are tightly sealed, cannot be transcended, dialectically negated or apathetically challenged. They simply implode continuously, drawing information into black, involuting holes and releasing none in response, producing gaps in the Process which Baudrillard hastily fills with seduction before something far less identifiable creeps in. All contingencies are strategically prepared for in advance, reality is diagnosis, predestination is rife.
Doors with known other sides, boxes with finite secrets; these coquettish flirtations with the Outside are soon recuperated, "...as the functioning of the social within a closed circuit, where signs duplicate an undiscoverable reality" (163). Baudrillard knows that there exists sensation which he cannot accommodate for as long as his body is sealed from the openings which he has not yet found. Yet these intrusions are the counters of another game for which he does not know the rules for as long as they are constituted by what he disparagingly calls carnal or physical Desire.
From the other side of the mirror, Irigaray often poses a question: how has the woman found herself within the confines of his obsessive, self reflecting motions, with no apparent point of entry in what is clearly a circular argument? She has always been attuned to the detection of a sealed loop - to the observable tendency of a protectionist system "...to turn eternally in its own orbit, forever to return to the same point in the circle where it would always already have been placed in order to keep every system in order, including, paradoxically, its own..." (S267)
Although Baudrillard often gestured towards it, the final dissolution of the subject and the object into the circuit is always blocked. 'The feminine' operates as the circuit-breaker: still the object of process that, although ostensibly interminable ("without terms", as the later Baudrillard would have it) perpetually back-projects man as subject. For Baudrillard, "as long as there is seduction, there must be a subject to be seduced. And this subject is masculine, as Baudrillard is quick to admit and happy to assume, while that which seduces is its 'missing dimension', the feminine." (ES 90) So that's who he is. She says: "You want me to confirm you endlessly in your own form so that you can lose yourself over and over again..." (ML 56) Her function is always "to deliver the male to himself," (SG 115) to turn the supposedly open game into a closed system of self-reference, indexed to a (male) subject asserted even as it affectssurrender itself in supine bliss-out. He wants to watch himself disappear. Forever. Fatal strategies: homeopathic doses of self-cancelling annihilation. "My death is everywhere, my death dreams." (SymD 158)
Baudrillard's insistence that seduction should never be the result of hysterical attraction or the conjunction of affect is a clever strategy which will ensure that his cards are kept firmly to his chest. With his inherent blindness to the unpredictability of his environment, many of her moves will apparently abide by his coarse and overlaid categories, but for those which refuse to make sense and fail to announce their intended non-meaning he has constructed another category, "...the void - the hole that, at any point, is burned out by the return of of the flame of any sign, the meaningless that makes the seduction's unexpected charm - (it) also lies in wait..." (84)
In Seduction, Baudrillard's earlier dances with death become a flirtation with this void, a not-quite fatal fascination with the complete white-out of subjectivity. It is a long familiar tactic which saves him from the trouble of goal posts which move on their own - it is a means of charting territory; for if it should run out, at least he knew the terror of the dark interior long in advance of his arrival.
So, covering up the dissolution into pure Process (the Absolute as Not One, haptic blizzard of imperceptible contiguities), Baudrillard still has "to believe in 'objects' that are solidly determined ... accepting the silent work of death as a condition for remaining indefectibly 'subject'." (TS 115) His deep commitment is to a tragic cybernetics of equilibrium, whose limits he invests in as a fatal strategic check to the purportedly boundless energetics of "Promethean" man. Yet Baudrillard's model of systemic compensation, object revenge and the accursed share - his favoured strategy of reversal - always keeps him within the terms of what he is critiquing, remaining at the level of passive nihilist mockery rather than ever effectuating active nihilist anti-oedipal practice (the first and second positive tasks of schizoanalysis are effectively coterminous, Deleuze-Guattari point out, you can't destroy Oedipus without at the same time creating relations with the Outside).
Baudrillard is aware of this critique, but responds by targeting its producers. "New diagonals of meaning, new sequences can be engendered from the untamed flood tides of Desire - as in certain philosophies, the molecular or intensive philosophies, which claim to undermine meaning by diffraction, hooks-ups and the Brownian movements of Desire." ( 138) "At One moment I truly wanted to write a kind of Mirror of Desire as there had been the Mirror of Production ... " (BL 58) But in spite of himself - or because of his self - it's still the mirror of psychoanalysis that Baudrillard presents. Without Desire, what is seduction but a perverse reflection of the three psychoanalytic principles: "Pleasure, Death and Reality"? (TP 154) Like the psychoanalysts, Baudrillard entertains the possibility of an erotics "not subordinated to procreation, or even to genitality", but also like them, he "retained the essentials" (TP 155): the "principle of constancy" (TS 114), appearing not now as pleasure or death but as ambivalence and reversal, the equivalent of a reality principle whose mode of regulation has become the ironic and the tragic.
In the end, though, the familiar tracking of a circuit around pre-set points can only be accomplished by a uniformity in speed and the attached constancy in pressure. It is to a woman's advantage that the revolution of a cycle is soon proximate to a spin, for then it may take on a life of its own, gathering the momentum which Baudrillard stifled with mere thoughts of seduction. "Speculation whirls round faster and faster as it pierces, bores, drills into a volume that is supposed to be solid still." (S 238)
Yet what of seduction itself? For as a Process it is far in excess of it writings. For Irigaray, these circles which constantly return to the point at which they first began are not what they appear. For the female zero, vulva, circle never finally closes up in the shape of a ring. Consequently, her nothing is in fact his everything. Indeed, the severance of the suppression must surely be evidence of the magnitude of her posed threat. As she waits, fills, reflects his image, she is concocting the mannerisms of a different seduction - that which extends beyond the stakes of Baudrillard's flutter.
He "watched zeros pile behind a meaningless figure on the monitor..." (BC 217)
Ultimately Baudrillard is coaxed into the circuitries which proliferate beyond those in which he himself is looped - for they have always set him a challenge which he cannot, in the end (as he predicted) fail to take on. He had foreknowledge of his destiny: "And he who believes himself the game's master, isn't he the first victim of the strategy's tragic myth?" - and yet, for a while, he persists in resisting. He is, of course, too late - like any tragic figure, he has become more and more embroiled in his fated destiny exactly as a result of trying to avoid it. Life is just a lottery. Like any real Casanova he has fallen for her tricks.
Baudrillard rightly announces that the 'cycle of seduction cannot be stopped' and he momentarily acknowledges the full, corrosive implications of this Process; "There is no active or passive mode in seduction, no subject or object, no interior or exterior: seduction plays on both sides, and there is no frontier separating them..." (81). Yet when faced with the possibility that reality itself may become seduction, that Process may take over previously identifiable parts, he withdraws the circumference of his circuit in order to ensure that the system's energy requirements will be sufficiently low; that it will sustain itself without a connection to the Outside.
Fearful and fascinated, Baudrillard always postulated that the object would take revenge by refusing to be a useful thing - affecting a certain relish at the prospect. But then the object was only One of her many faces - faces "already scattered into x number of places, that are never gathered together into anything she knows of herself... " (S 227) This incompleteness, this ability to continually become something else whilst stalling his every attempt to consider her univocally nothing, is her state of "cyclical discontinuity". (S 230) As the imperceptible source of renewal, the neglected sustenance of Baudrillard's gaming fancies, the cleavage or pause in the cycle, she occupies zones of intensity. The parts of the cycle, menstrual or otherwise, which are not necessarily committed to the reproduction of the One.
It is no wonder that Baudrillard can refuse to notice because the momentary gaps in the cycle, the withdrawals of extension before activity can begin again are synchronised to the gauges of a different space-time - one in which her patient waiting and measured retreats "would open the interval of a future and become swollen with the inhibited energy in a cumulative process of retention; in this way the secondary chronological order would be constituted...." (LE 219) The object turned female may well beat Baudrillard at his own game but she has no interest in returning to the beginning for a second round; she will treat the debris of his failed strategies not as waste to be picked over but as disposables discarded on the way elsewhere, to where new movements and rhythms can emerge instantaneously before polarisation can set in once again.
Taken beyond Baudrillard then, isn't seduction always a matter of programmes which exceed their instructions, of unlocatable women...of Desire? In the end, Baudrillard's dismissal of Desire is found wanting. If Baudrillard constantly snipes at Deleuze-Guattari, it's because he has been hoodwinked by their camouflage. Yet they have used a technique whose operations he has himself described at length: simulation. Anti-Oedipus simulates the terms of 60s Desirevolution and Marxism in order to take them beyond themselves, just as Irigaray simulates the terms of essentialist feminism for similar purposes. In both cases, Baudrillard is taken in by appearances, confusing a complex fluid dynamics with a naive celebration of the aleatory that he can easily dismiss: "...the idea that the world of things is subjected to a molecular and objective disorder - the same disorder that is idealised and glorified in the molecular vision of Desire - this assumption is insane." (146)
"It is not from some libidinal investment, some energy of desire that th[e seductive] passion acquires its intensity, but from gaming as pure form and form purely as formal bluffing." (82) Indeed; but only when it is captured, turned against itself, does Desire invest. Just as Baudrillard wants, Desire plays, games. And the matrix or plane of consistency is a grid on which Things hatch; "defined by axes and vectors, gradients and thresholds", it is a "row of doors", not a "homogeneous surface" (TP 508) Desire, as Deleuze-Guattari repeatedly insist, is never an undifferentiated libidinal flux waiting to be set free, just as production is not the production "of" an object. Fundamentally, desiring-production describes the reverse: the deconstitution of objects into Process. Schizoanalytic Desire does not seek release: it is tension-in- itself, cybernetic poise.
And so is seduction, once it is delivered from Baudrillard's subjecitivist reterritorializations. The challenge is set, but never by pre-defined contract - it will set its own tasks, issued consecutively by tauntings and coaxings to which One cannot help but respond; "why does one respond to challenge? The same mysterious question as: what is it seduce?" (S 82) Always really a matter of desubjectified complicity, a type of compensation that isn't equilibrial, but which produces "continuous regions of intensity constituted in such a wayexternal termination, any more than they allow themselves to build towards a climax..." (TP 158), seduction is inevitably a question of Cyberotics. It must really be an open game, with immanent rules, where "the slightest caress may be as strong as an orgasm" (TP 156) . Instead of being a "game" that "ceaselessly ... bring[s] the outside inward" (ML 12) seduction would then become a "field of immanence [that] is not internal to the self, but neither does it come from an external self or a nonself. Rather, it is the absolute Outside that knows no Selves because interior and exterior are equally part of an immanence in which they have fused." (TP 156)
"Only rituals abolish meaning," (158) Baudrillard insists. Yes, but beginning with the equation the Real= the artificial, it is Desire that is always producing rituals, "manners of being or modalities as produced intensities, vibrations, breaths, Numbers." (TP 158)
Similarly, Irigraray mimics his rules for the purpose of removing him from the debate. Boxes can be seen to contain secrets even when the contents escaped long ago and found their way to the future. This is the beauty of the play of appearances. Just as such escapades need methods of decipherment, methods of simulation which act as One thing and then do another, they also require particularly adept bodies - bodies of which Baudrillard, with his dislike of the tactile and his fear of the carnal, cannot possibly conceive. These bodies are not cosmetic for the purpose of appearance and play, nor are they invested in the destiny of sexual organs, even though, as Baudrillard himself acknowledges, these are already many more complicated than the One. Instead, they build decoys, blatant falsities, process alternate signalling systems and convert their every surface into zones of eroticism.
Five: What can a Female Body do?
All of this Baudrillard misses. Now, when a crass blatancy of specular male sex is proliferating across the screens of contemporary culture, Baudrillard's lament that "the sexual has triumphed over seduction" (41) has a certain power. But having identified, in Symbolic Exchange and Death , the phallus as "general equivalent" for all specular representations of the body, (SymD 101-4) Baudrillard cannot see that to evade phallic tyranny would demand abandoning his empire of signs, the only level at which the phallus can ever achieve domination.
Continuity demands that Baudrillard recognise It has always been the Matrix - "nonstratified, unformed, intense matter ... fusionability as infinite zero" (TP 153, 158) - yet he doesn't want to know, even if sometimes he is drawn out here, positing, outside Seduction, an eroticism decoupled from reproductive sex, (SymD 158) and "a body without organs and the pleasures of organs" (SS 111). But in the end, he is always drawn back to the signs. Bataille, he complains, in Symbolic Exchange and Death, is "too biologistic" (SymD 158), just as Irigaray is censured, in Seduction, for supposedly reviving the Freudian formula, Anatomy is Destiny. (9)
But it is never a matter of that. Far from it: Destiny, the judgments of God, has traditionally decreed the somatization of the female body into idealist specularizations. In the end, it is Baudrillard whose neuromances depend upon a certain biologism, since even his semiotics are built upon a meiotic reproduction for which they simulate disdain. Irigaray's delicate probings, meanwhile, make theory responsive to a body that is only just opening up.
It is rarely asked what a body can do. Even less has been inquired of the capabilities of an already rampant and stirred female body. It is almost too much to entertain the possibilities of cosmic activity within the five to seven days of an exposed menstrual cycle or of the unresolved sensations of a female Desire unconnected to the production of issue. But the ceremonial subsuming of Baudrillard beneath the flows of his own escaping system suggest that these questions can only be answered, not in theory alone, but in an experimental practice, a Cyberotics whose program is the transformation of unfeeling perceptual-conscious crust into sensitive sampling tissue.
Though he would be the last to recognise it, there is a Desire named Baudrillard; it is something a little like masochism in its fascination with pacts, rules, artificial constraints, in its recognition that "Pleasure is ... something that must be delayed as long as possible because it interrupts the positive process" (TP 155): any way, it seeks out plateaus. Baudrillard himself articulated the pointlessness of assuming final causes, of games that, to the disappointment of the participants, would find an apparent end and need to be started again. The games he prefers go on forever and cannot be confined to chosen social bodies. Their resources and playing fields are non-localised and responsive to virtually any element which crosses their path. Such universal gaming makes impossible the explanation of social behaviour in terms functional or teleological. If means are taken to occur without a view to their ends then like any unfinished job, sex must be taken to occur without a view to reproduction. In Seduction, Baudrillard unleashed activities of which he may still remain unaware - open systems which never close, women who never reach his chosen ends, woman who will never await his lingering gaze. Preferring, instead, to stay in, switching themselves on, running auto-affection.
And when Irigaray invokes female-to-female Desire in "When our Lips Speak Together", this cannot be simply dismissed as a call for female separatism. Rather, by defining Desire as the flatlands where the body with organ cannot go, she radically inverts the phallic stupidity of molar sexuality's puzzled interrogation: "What do lesbians do?" This is not a matter of keeping men out, but of demanding of them that they become something else, that they lose the pleasure of the organ in order to find a Desire that can never belong to them, or to any One. essentialism which Baudrillard holds against Irigaray - as if woman could be isolatable as an abstract quality to which she must aspire and then maintain - with a wanting man following shortly behind.
Yet its practice is a continuous operation, never resolved, never frozen for long enough for such identifiable abstraction to take place. Irigaray's woman, always the tactful mimic, is able to mobilise the female stereotype to the point where it may spin back in a white man face - to where it escapes the socius in which it presently functions in order to re-infiltrate, on an as yet uncharted trajectory via a non-identitarian zone of potential.
In a body in which a womb is free to wander, Desire need be committed to neither sex nor pleasure. She will instead invent a new erotics no longer confined to the bed or the marital home. Her supposed essential identity finds no place to reside in a body refusing definition by its form, its function or organs. It becomes an estranged object like any other piece of debris from a molar socius, detached from a body creative and productive, from a body both unfixed and unknown since it refuses to remain stable across time. The potential cannot be predicted because it is only partially observable amidst the ongoing interactions which occur between the body and the environment which constitutes it. The essentialist allegations against becoming woman are thus immediately allayed - for inherent to the Process is an absolute dependence on specific conditions. There is therefore no essential female beyond the circumstances which act upon her.
There are sex organs more than those of One but there are also erogenous zones that are not "sexual" - terrains of the body in which an eroticism decoupled from issue can grow. This is a distributive female body, committed in entirety neither to pleasure, procreation or means with an end; a body graded according to the assimilation of broken particles. Neither essentially female (its resources are far more than that of a recognisable woman) nor about the play of signs. A glitch in the system, a break in the circuit, an exemplary volume without contour. No wonder Deleuze-Guattari were so confused; "There are women, on the other hand, who tell everything, sometimes in appalling technical detail, but one knows no more at the end than at the beginning: they have hidden everything by celerity, by limpidity." (TP 288)
Infinite secrecy, but no more cover-ups, no male-ordered mystique. A labiarinth. A mazing, coiling vortex. New flesh. Can you feel it?
Page numbers in brackets refer to Baudrillard's Seduction. trans. Brian Singer, St , New York: St Martin's Press, 1990.
BC - W. Gibson, Burning Chrome, London: Grafton, 1986
BL - M. Gane, ed., Baudrillard Live: Selected Interviews, New York/ London: Routledge, 1993ES - Plant, "Eve of Seduction: Baudrillard's Woman", in Chris Rojek and Bryan Turner ed., Forget Baudrillard? London: Routledge, 1993
LE - J. Lyotard, Libidinal Economy, trans. Iain Hamilton Grant, 1993
M - Barthes, Mythologies, selected and translated by Annette Lavers, London: Paladin, 1985
ML - Marine Lover: Of Friedrich Nietzsche, trans. Gillian C. Gill, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press:, 1987
SymD - J. Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death, trans. Iain Hamilton Grant, London/ Thousand Oaks/ New Delhi: Sage publications, 1993
S - L. Irigaray, Speculum: Of the Other Woman, trans. Gillian C. Gill, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press:, 1985
SG - I. Penman, "The Shattered Glass: Notes on Bryan Ferry" in Angela McRobbie ed., Zoot Suits and Second-Hand Dresses: An Anthology of Fashion and Music, Houndsmills and London: Macmillan Education, 1989
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