Archive for taboo

Semen Cookbook and the Symptom of Political Correctness

Posted in Posthuman Perversion with tags , , , , on November 23, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan

I guess I will continue this month to talk about the meaning of life qua posthuman, that spans already over several categories, posted here and here. What I am going to talk about this time may bring either a “WTF!?” laughter or a lost lunch, or perhaps an erection and appetite gain, depending on your taste. As for myself, I had a shock when I came across this news this afternoon:

Natural Harvest - A Collection of Semen-Based Recipes

If you ever feel like eating cum.

Yes, this picture is the front cover of a real cookbook, which you can buy here. Be sure to read the comments.

So, what are we to think of future food ingredients? Meat grown in labs on one hand and freshly ejaculated semen on the other? Of course, pardon the bad taste and a seriously disgusting joke for most of us. But I asked the question to point to a more serious question; the fact we should address is a much more fundamental one.

The activity of eating, of course, does not happen only at the biological level of need — it works as well on the Symbolic order; we only need to recall animal sacrifice rituals and eating taboos for proof. So, the main question we should ask would be: how is this event possible at all? What are our coordinates of the Symbolic today, in regards to our notion of the self and the meal, that enable this transformation? Of course, beside taste, there is all the defense that semen contains a lot of protein, etc. But the taboo, the disgust, of course, lie in the fact that semen is is a product of a human being. Is eating it not a form of cannibalism, then? Of course, I am here not talking about the sexual context since people do it all the time in sex. But the fact of someone making an entire cookbook out of it proves that semen-eating has taken on a totally different discourse.

How does this shift happen? I think it has a lot to do with our image of the human today. Are we not, practically, with all the information saturation in the media, becoming more and more a being of tolerance and multiplicity rather than a being of flesh? Is it so wrong to eat something we produce ourselves, when we do it already all the time in sex? Is there an objective negative answer to this in the coordinates of our expected ethical stance today? The radical transformation of the state of science and political correctness, our disintegrating coordinates of nature and culture, are all crystallized into a symptom of perversion: the semen cookbook.

There are a couple of curious things to take note of. First, in the book, the entire notion of semen is already radically desexualized, made into a positive fact rather than an embarrassing secret. The injunction behind this is the same as the one driving all the porn-positive and sex-positive arguments: the imperative to make more mainstream a previously deviant idea. The second is how, in the comments, people relate this phenomenon to the “crisis” and the “love for nature”. This book is all the politically correct ideas crystallized into one — what could be a better political correctness than letting a group of energy-saving, nature-loving, sex-positive minorities have their say in the wider world?

Thus, the cookbook is not simply a disgusting artifact, a deviance of culture, a perverted idea of a bunch of sick people. It is rather the opposite: the semen-based recipe cookbook is our politically correct, nature-confused culture at its most elementary.

NOTE: via Digg, the submitter says, “WHAT THE F**K!! THAT’S F**KING DISGUSTING!!” — I say, “Isn’t that what they said about anal sex several years back?”

Cultured Meat and Totem Culture

Posted in Divine Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan
In Vitro Meat (c) DC Spensley/H+ Magazine

In Vitro Meat (c) DC Spensley/H+ Magazine

Let us now go on to discuss further on the issue on how to deal with life (in accordance to this Cat Bag post). It is interesting today to see the debate surrounding cultured meat: meat grown in labs, without any animal being sacrificed. The idea is of course to care more for the animals (which is why PETA would give $1 million to anyone who first come up with a successful way to cultivate the meat), less energy consumption and less pollution by decreasing the number of butcher houses… Basically following the fashionable standard of environmentalist use of science.

It is incredibly hard to miss the Žižekian logic of decaffeinated culture at work here: is not the meat without sacrifice the example of decaffeinated consumption par excellence? But now let us take a moment and look further into the response of society surrounding this very topic: do a quick search for “cultured meat” on the internet, and you will see that most people reject the idea. Why is this? Are we not supposed to celebrate the progressive development of this decaf ideology with joy? In the case of cultured meat, however, even the famed transhumanist RU Sirius commented, “Yuck!”

The answer is not that hard to find: people still find it strange and uncanny to eat meat that was not taken from a live animal. Why? Here we can clearly see the symbolic ideological dimension of a purely biological everyday act of eating, one that Freud has explicated in his Totem and Taboo. In eating meat, are we not also eating the other species’ death? The death of the sacrificed animal is more of a symbolic necessity than an unavoidable fact. This is the reason we have all those kinds of sacrifice rituals and forbidden meals.

What is very interesting, of course, is how this primitive logic of totemic rituals still turn out to play a large role in an age where we are supposed to no longer believe anything anymore. What is the state of affairs of totem and interspecies relations in the world today? Clearly, we are stuck between two conditions: novel technologies enable us to have capacities of which only God himself would be able to do just a little over a hundred years ago — the “divinity of science” that goes with the rapid advancements of quantum physics, bioengineering, and neuroscience — and ancient symbolic necessities, the totem and taboos of our primitive ancestors.

In the end, perhaps Paul Virilio was right: we are caught between the contradicting dromologies: the ecstatic high speed of cyberspace and the slowness of human minds. Or perhaps, Hayles and Haraway was right, that this is not a deadlock after all, and what we need is a new formulation of subjectivity itself. Or, perhaps, all of them are correct in a way, and we need to see — to put it in Kierkegaard’s terms — the primitive totem-and-taboo subject as this new posthuman subjectivity in-becoming instead of its enemy.

What about you? Would you eat meat grown in labs? More ideologies at work you find? Feel free to comment away!

Pornography Between Pedophilia and Rape

Posted in Posthuman Perversion with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan
Airi and Meiri, Japanese pornstar twins famous for their underage look.

Airi and Meiri, Japanese legal pornstar twins famous for their deceivingly underage appeal.

Is it possible that the ban against child pornography condones violent, aggressive, and degrading behavior towards women? Surprising as this may seem, the answer may be a resounding yes.

I have never met anybody in my entire country who is as libertarian, porn-loving, and sexually-positive as myself. That being said, one may find it hard that there are some aspects of pornography that I do not agree with. For one usually accuses me of being incredibly libertarian — so libertarian, in fact, that I am ready to challenge the ban against child pornography.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course, by all means I am against pedophilia. I am even ready to go as far as supporting death penalties for sexual assaults towards children. What I challenge in the ban against child pornography is instead its disuse of logic: are we not today, practically, taking the flimsy age line of 18 to decide whether we can enjoy sex or not? Of course, there are all the standard claims: there is logic behind this, it has been deeply researched, and whatnot, but is it not rather more true that we are taking this rule more as a take-it-for-granted societal taboo which does not necessitate logical reasoning? Is it not rather a rule we follow almost religiously and unquestionably in this so-called age of sexual freedom?

Disuse of logic is always harmful. Its apparent protection always serves more as a symbolic gesture with nothing more than structural usages that we do not like to admit or question — more like a neurotic symptom than clear thinking. Furthermore, as the Lacanian lesson, the fundamental promise of the law is not one that bans but one that allows (“If God exists, everything is permitted!”). What, then, does the ban against child pornography allow?

There is no better site to illustrate this than the famous (totally NSFW) website, who picture dozens of 18-year-old girls in all sorts of possible sexual degradation imaginable. The tagline says it all — “Teen initiations into porn,” and later, “by having the roughest sex they will ever have.” Another basic question gonzo pornographers today ask is of course the obvious one that tries to figure out how many dicks can go down a woman’s body at a single time, or how to make the next innovation after some hundred continuous insertions (with penises as well as bizarre foreign objects), or several dozen creampies by several dozen men — basically, how to do a better obscenely degrading circus act.

What does this have to do with the ban against child pornography? As the above mentioned website suggests, the ban does not at all say, “Do not harm children and teenagers under 18 since they are too fragile!” Instead, it promises, “Let us make a deal and pretend that we are good people who care about children, and in return you are allowed to degrade and be violent towards women over 18 in any way you like!” Is this not why child pornography is elevated as the ultimate crime in the Western culture today: because we want to continue degrading women, but we disturbingly need to continue to pretend to be an innocent nation with this flimsy, almost religious number of 18?

Canon Sensei Tobashisugi (probably NSFW)

Canon Sensei Tobashisugi (probably NSFW)

There is a porn sphere in which child pornography is highly popular and tolerated: hentai. Some hentai (from games to anime to manga) are satisfied with portraying underage-looking characters (as most of the live pornography), but some, such as Gorgeous Takarada’s Canon Sensei Tobashisugi (cover pictured right) are ready to go as far as to explicitly state that the age of the main girl character is as young as 12. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, hentai tolerates so much more of what the West — fetishist long tail notwithstanding — does not, such as incest and love). What do statistics say about the rates of rape in such free nation? Well, Japan has 20 times less rape than does the United States.

The ban against child pornography has always been a very suspicious one, but it is almost a sacred taboo today that very few dare to question it. Of course, it may be structurally impossible to live in a society without taboo, as Freud was already well aware. But when we feel better about seeing a 21-year-old getting force-penetrated by six dicks in a double-anal, double-vaginal, and double-oral scene (not to mention the bukkake and forced semen-swallow afterwards) than a 15-year-old having sex lovingly with her partner, we clearly have something wrong in our sexual libertinism. Perhaps we are censoring the wrong things for the wrong reasons.