Archive for virtual sex

Why Porn Critics Got It All Wrong

Posted in Posthuman Perversion with tags , , , , , , , on May 16, 2009 by Bonni Rambatan

Porn critics love to say that pornography speaks so much about the misogynistic society we really live in. What they do not know is that by saying this they are masturbating harder (plus-de-jouir) than the simple innocent guys who fap (jouir) in front of their computer screens at home. Is not this “misogyny of the Other” — not the sexual act in porn itself — the ultimate fantasy offered by pornography today?

For whom is this violence staged?

For whom is sexual violence staged?

I get tired of all the sex-negative, porn-negative views that my intellectual colleagues like to prattle on, about society’s true misogyny, and so on. Frankly speaking, I have not met a single person who both watches porn and is a misogyny. All the porn consumers I know (myself included), respect women, supports feminism, is more open to the various ways women think and feel, and so on, while all the misogynists I know hates porn and constantly complains about the degradation of our society. What is going on here?

I remember telling a couple of friends a while ago that I do not believe a single bit the thesis that “porn is the theory, rape is the practice,” telling them that it is essentially a bad name that comes out of the mouths of irresponsible assaulters who are so chicken they need to put the blame on other objects for their actions that the conservative media are only too keen to appropriate for their anti-porn propaganda. Being good young adults, they argued otherwise, although they do watch porn themselves. I asked them whether they have had a single intention at all to rape a women after watching porn, and of course their answer was no.

“Then why do you still believe the theory?” I asked. One gave a perfect answer: “Well, of course, if it is us educated, well brought-up people, it is OK. But imagine how those uneducated people who have never known about sex! No doubt they would go on a raping spree!” It was an a-ha! moment for me. I realized it was not about misogyny after all. The ultimate fantasy in porn turns out to be not a sexual fantasy, but that of class struggle. It was that ancient notion of civilized people versus barbarians all over again.

(A disclaimer before we go on: first, I acknowledge the existence of cases where people gang rape young teens after watching porn, but only as much as I acknowledge young teens go on school shooting sprees after watching war movies. They are exceptional cases and I perceive the excuses as retroactive constructions. Second, I am not talking about extreme fetishes of the long tail market variation.)

Case example. So we watch a porn video of this young girl being degraded, humiliated, violated, and so on. And, to a certain extent, even female-respecting guys enjoy it — why? Precisely because we know perfectly that it is just an act, because the porn stars are getting paid well, and so on. If that fact is obvious, to whom, then, is the drama staged? To none other than he who the porn stars are looking at when they stare straight at the camera — not you or I miserable, individual guys, but the abstraction of our collective being, the Imaginary Other.

The porn critics are wrong when they criticize violence as though it is staged for the enjoyment of the empirical audience. Violence in porn is instead staged for the Other to act as an empty fantasy screen in which the audience can project their true surplus-enjoyment beyond sex (that there exists someone out there who degrades women, is a racist, and so on). This is why, even when we know a “reality porn” is fake, scripted, etc, we not only tolerate but expect the producers to claim authenticity. Appearance is all the more crucial, because when we are no longer allowed to engage ourselves in sexist, racist, etc enjoyments, we need an Other to enjoy for us.

We need an Other to enjoy, like the snowman

We need an Other to enjoy, like the snowman

We come to a paradoxical conclusion: the existence of the (staged) degradation of women in pornography reduces the degradation of women in real life. The libido is already invested out there, in pornography and all its fantasmatic space, so that we can in turn, in real life, be more open towards women.

Thus, the porn critics actually did not get it all wrong: there indeed is a repressed sexism in society (along with racism), of which pornography is a symptom in which it returns. However, precisely qua symptom, its function is to keep at bay its true, traumatic form — raw, unrepressed hatred for the Other. I would even go as far to say that violent pornography is the price we have to pay for political correctness, as the true violence that sustains it. (This is also why it is absurdly easy to find racial stereotypes in pornography, such as “monster black cocks” and “submissive asian sluts”.) To say it in another way: when we have political correctness, we face a longing for violence at its purest.

Then, my obscene advice to countries with high misogyny rates that we think ought to have a better sense of political correctness would be: make more violent porn!

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Orgasms Without Organs

Posted in Posthuman Perversion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan
Exiting the Orgasmatron from the 1973 movie Sleeper

Exiting the Orgasmatron (from Sleeper)

Today we are more and more familiar with the idea that someday we will have fully efficient and working orgasm pills and buttons. The common idea is that by knowing how long the pill’s effect would take to kick in, we can predict our actions before hand, make it synchronous with our activities, we will not have to fake it, etc. And of course there is the idea of the orgasmatron with which we can reach orgasm any time we want — by electronically stimulating parts of the lower spinal column, etc. — the idea being that we can easily get out from our daily boredom and use it in the office while nobody’s looking, and so on. Pleasure has never been entirely mechanized.

Is it just another mode of masturbation, simply another step after we have all those increasingly intelligent fucking machines and interactive teledildonics? There is a crucial difference we must not miss: in masturbation, fucking machines, and teledildonics, our focus is still very much the traditional notion of sex as the “carnal” pleasure. We need sensual touches. One may even say that the entire point of this kind of “roboeroticism” is not orgasm in itself, but the entire fantastic experience with all the thrills of fucking with machine others.

In the instant orgasm technologies, the perception is rather different. Sex is no longer taken as the carnal-sensual pleasure, but reduced to merely this “objective” electro-chemical neurophysiological process. Is it not the same drive that brought us the human genome project? The pervasive idea is that we can always map everything into informational patterns. Is not the fully mapped human genome of myself, one that successfully maps my every little trait, my “objective” Self without Body nor Organs? It is not the Freudian organs, for, strictly speaking, it is not our body but its data. And, obviously, it in itself lacks the Deleuzian Body, for those data in the computer are real, objective, self-contained. But objectively, it is nonetheless my self, in so far as I am conceived to be an informational biological data pattern for the android Other — the self as data-organs.

This (mis)conception of the self as fully integratable in the Symbolic with current posthuman technologies has given rise to a new discourse of sexuality — a fetishistic sexual kernel based on objective, exact scientific mappings and definitions of pleasure itself.

The Lacanian definition of sex is obviously its exact opposite — it is not a discursive construct (as Foucault would put it), but it is the domain where discursive constructs fail, and as such, gives rise to the metonymic chain of desire. Is data-organs a better discourse for sexuality? The posthuman construct of orgasm without organs, orgasm as a series of mappable electro-chemical informational patterns, orgasm in the domain of data-organs, may be merely a new fetishistic obsession of our posthuman sexuality. But with all its new mode of signification and experience, let us not underestimate its potentials to proliferate new desires of the cyborg subject.

And let us not forget its obscene unfortunate superegotistical consequences — it is now effortless, so there is no longer any reason for you not to enjoy it!

Arse Elektronika 2008 Report!

Posted in Announcements! with tags , , , , , , on September 30, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan
Eating My Cake and Having It Too

Eating My Cake and Having It Too

So I was not able to get permission to enter the US for Arse Elektronika, but as host Johannes Grenzfurthner put it, we managed to trick the State department by filming my lecture beforehand and doing a telepresence via Skype connection. Don’t know Arse Elektronika? Check these links out:

Click here if you want yet more links.

And it was wonderful! I kept following Bonnie Ruberg’s twitter-updates on the event and watched as dozens of photos are being uploaded, and of course the MP3 recordings of the talk. You can find all of the MP3s here, but of course, I’ll be generous and provide a direct link to my talk and the massive all-star closure panel, in which I had the chance to clarify certain things I left out in the original talk. Here they are:

Bonni Rambatan — From Computer-Mediated Sex to Computer-Generated Sexuality:
MP3 | Video | Lecture Notes

Arse Elektronika 2008 Closure Panel, featuring all participants:
MP3

There is also a launching of Pr0nnovation? monochrom’s Arse Elektronika Anthology, and of course I’m getting my copy. Get yours here for $25.

And, last but not least, Flickr photos!

But ah, if you also have photos or want to browse more, just join the Arse Elektronika 2008 Flickr group!

So yeah, it was a lot of fun — very sexy, truly geeky, and all the time critical and intriguing. Though I cannot say I fully agree and endorse all the views of the speakers, nonetheless they are smart people worth listening to, far from your usual daily hedonist club. I am very glad that the Skype telepresence and filmed lecture screening went well (not to mention properly fitting the futuristic sci-fi setting!).

The only downside, though (beside missing all the live physical fun), is that it turns out to be pretty hard to predict how long you should talk and how detailed you have to explain things, since I cannot see the audience’s expression. In hindsight, I don’t think I did too well on the Q&A. My paranoid fantasy of me never getting my real point across still haunts. But I guess satisfactory audience understanding is my objet a, much as the electric sheep is the object-cause of desire for your stereotypical android.

UPDATE (10/06): Oh, and hey, there is now a picture of my televised self taken by Mela Mikes. Also, my talk is now available on TPM’s YouTube channel. Go and watch it if you haven’t, TPM readers! ;)

Arse Elektronika 2008 Coming Up!

Posted in Announcements! with tags , , , , , , , on September 6, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan
Arse Elektronika 2008

Arse Elektronika 2008

Hi, TPM readers! I’m excited to announce that Arse Elektronika 2008 is coming up in less than three weeks! If you happen to be either 1) a culture/sex/tech theorist, 2) a sexy geek, or 3) a geeky pervert and are in or near San Francisco in September 25th to 28th, go and grab your tickets now because it will be an event you wouldn’t want to miss out!

Since I am all three above, I am privileged enough to be a speaker, and I’ll be presenting my latest research paper titled “From Computer-Mediated Sex to Computer-Generated Sexuality: An Outlook on the Posthuman Sexual Trope” (abstract available here — scroll down to my name) on the final day (September 28th) at 1 PM. I had a little trouble coming to the States last time (the country won’t let me in), but this time things should (hopefully) work out.

For those of you who cannot come, I will post a download link to my lecture notes in PDF on this website after the event is over. An audio recording of my lecture will also be available at a later time.

Stay tuned to The Posthuman Marxist, and see you in San Francisco!

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UPDATE (09/15): I WILL NOT SEE YOU IN SAN FRANCISCO. IT TURNS OUT THAT I AM STILL NOT ALLOWED TO ENTER THE COUNTRY DUE TO RIDICULOUS INSTITUTIONAL AND FINANCIAL REASONS THEY DEMAND. I WILL BE TELEPRESENT VIA VIDEO PRESENTATION AND LIVE AUDIO SESSION FROM INDONESIA INSTEAD.

And this also means I will be canceling ALL my future appearances in the United States indefinitely. I cannot tell you how this news frustrates me. But I will continue to provide links to resources on this website.

The Deontology of Sexual Relations

Posted in Posthuman Perversion with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan

The Lacanian “there is no sexual relations” realizes itself perfectly with posthumanistic technologies — with sex technologies getting better and better (cybersex, teledildonics, novelty sex toys and fucking machines, etc.), we are made to become more and more aware that enhanced sex is a lot more enjoyable than “vanilla” sex. Hence, the Lacanian notion that sex itself is nothing but masturbation with a living partner is not at all surprising to us anymore — is that not the reason why we are so seduced by gynoids, virtual or real, in science fictions?

Deontological ethics implies an inherent virtue of action, regardless of their consequences or practical functionality. For example, demarcation lines and money are deontic — they function purely in the Symbolic order and are the big Other itself. Of course, in the contemporary age we have less and less of deontology — you may have found yourself laughing at it, since it has become compulsory now to deconstruct everything, and to realize that there is no such thing as “inherent virtue”. While all this is true, we should not forget that Lacan is nonetheless correct in his psychoanalytic formulations; which is why I like to say, you can deconstruct as you may, but in the end be aware that the only deconstructable experience is the Symbolic, as deconstruction is nothing but a play on signifiers.

Of course a total deconstruction of deontological values, the Names and Nos of the Father, would result in nothing short of a social foreclusion and cultural psychosis. Which is why Žižek notes that our skepticism today is a false, ironic one — it is not that we do not believe, it is that we are afraid to believe. Thus, the true deontological ethics of today resides not in an inherent virtue of action, but in an inherent virtue of desire.

What is very strange about today’s sexuality is the sheer number of bizarre perversions proliferating online. My thesis here, what the title of this post means, is that sexual relations, far from being liberated, is instead being more and more regulated, not at the level of practice but at the level of desire: “You must enjoy sex in more and more new ways, because now (with viagra, political correctness, safe BDSM toys, online anonymity, secure cybersex, Photoshop, porn forums…) we have nothing to worry about!”

A wall, as we proceed in history to become more civilized, can be stripped down into an invisible demarcation line that nevertheless retains its social function as a wall. Gold, as we proceed in history to become more modern, can be stripped down into inherently worthless numbers on screens or papers that nevertheless retains its social function as wealth. Sex, as we proceed in history to become more politically correct, can be stripped down into mere exchange of media that nevertheless retains its social function as “let’s make each other(‘s fantasy) aroused.”

The Censorship of Love

Posted in Posthuman Perversion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan

Another Žižek-inspired post I’ve been wanting to write for a while now. I could not agree more when, in many occasions, he mentioned that in this age of so-called non-censorship, where everything is practically visible, we become more and more afraid of showing love. Basically, all kinds of sex is OK, as long as it remains detached and emotionless — which is why we have all those stupid narratives which is necessary to every feature porn movie and those strict non-narrative aspect of gonzo. Ever notice how saying “I love you” to a loved one has to be said more and more with a distance as years go by? Either we tend to say it in metaphors, foreign languages, text messages, under the pretext of special occasions… Practically, it’s not only the use of pleasure that’s controlling the society, but also the use of compassion. Obviously, the society of control takes into account how we internalize social hierarchies into our personal emotions, but at certain points it just gets blatant and ironic when critically viewed upon, with taboos surrounding our very personal, microlevel emotions.

Another thing I find interesting: notice how much sex and porn just gets harder to separate as years pass by? I am of course talking about teledildonics and all the discourse and technology surrounding it. So at the same time, we get sex more and more separated from love, and more and more integrated with porn, and at the same time porn gets more and more pervasive and becomes another leisure ideology, casual and daily. On the other hand, marriage becomes more and more of a horrific thing as bad sex leads to bad love. Now here is an irony: sexual revolution was a thing of the sixties with all the “free love” agenda. Sadly, we only took one aspect of the legacy and forgot the rest. We took the practices alone yet enjoyed ideological dominance all the same, if not even more.

Perhaps that is why we tend to find animals, monsters, and robots sexier and sexier by the day. I am seriously suspicious that at least one of the reasons is that they cannot love (yes, I know people who marry those non-human others, but I won’t develop a discussion on that now). They are purely sexual, non-emotional others — cyborg others, if we are to take the Macy Conferences on Cybernetics as any indication of how the cyborg came to be, as Katherine Hayles noted. Cybernetic organisms cannot love. They can only enjoy. As the society of discipline represses sexuality as an animal-like excess of the human, the society of control represses love as a human-like excess of the cyborg.

Let’s admit it, there’s always a weird exhibitionist dimension in social network profile pictures flaunting love that is different from and exceeds those of online porn. It is because our non-loving avatars have become us. The geek typing in front of the monitor is his avatar.

For a Posthuman Sexual Theory

Posted in Posthuman Perversion with tags , , , , on June 10, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan

I should be delivering this lecture this September at the San Francisco Arse Elektronika 2008 conference, but for the time being I’ll post some stuff here.

The problem I pose is simple: I am doubting all this notion of how the universe of human sexuality is a very vast and unexplored one, that we can never fully understand, and so on. Not in the sense that I am doubting its vastness per se — I am not a total idiot and I know what some people are doing — but in the sense of the “discovery” of such as a natural phenomenon — since when has it been this vast? I am in this sense questioning its very evolution in regards to the experience of embodiment in today’s postmodern bodies that live out more of its social experience in cyberspace. To me, this “vastness” looks more like a postmodern retroactive construction of a larger, almost metaphysical essence our empirical being than a logical scientific deduction. As such, such approach is in fact not grounded so much in openness than in anxiety. Far from being permissive, on the contrary I think it functions greatly as a postmodern mode of sexual control — the shadow of the late capitalist idea for the so-called “unconstrained” consumption. I would even go further and argue that the perception of the “mystery” of human sexuality as such, and the exploitation of this fear of our asexual divinity, is necessary to maintain it as the core of the workings of liberal capitalism. But more on this later.

To me, following Lacan, sexuality is already an effect of this Lacanian primordial difference, and technology a way to handle this difference. With technology, the question is not in what new ways we can have sex, but what having sex means for us — already with cybersex, the line separating porn and sex is blurred more and more. Thus, the proper question to address is not how technology can enhance sexuality, but how it can redefine sexuality, in the crudest way of what we mean when we say the word “sex”. Online paraphilia has always been of interest to me precisely because it is one of the symptoms of the birth of a new 21st century subject. It is not the Internet and Photoshop giving way to perverse desires already inherent in the individual — the perversion is rooted in the very shadow of the system, its own unconcious, structuring the individual’s sexuality from the monitor.