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On Love

4 min

“Pero el amor, esa palabra“ (Rayuela, by Julio Cortazar, born on August 26th, 1914)
When I think of Love, I could think of a very other Love than the one you just pictured. Images-of Love-Industry: Making Love. Sitting at a Table in agreed silence. People in heavy arguments. „They don´t live up to what is expected from them?“ What exactly do you mean? The images on love we create or the expectations the ones we love impose on us?
What about the invisible aspects of Love, encounters that pull us into somebody´s path of life and reflects his in ours? The kind of Love that turns somebody formally nobody into a reference on who you really are… There is a scene in Max Frisch´s „Stiller“ where a female character says something like: „I don´t want to be a woman for you. I want to be your woman. Like your father is not a father.“ How do we become that crucial to each other? How often does it happen? And what is it that happens between A and B so that they feel or long to feel that connected? That doomed to each other that they share aspects of life that are rarely pictured in the Love-Image-Industry? Don’t you think that feeling of Love ruining something is a feeling of people who don´t have that kind of connection? Of people who actually think of happiness when they think of Love rather than connection?
When the two of us started our conversation on Twitter what pulled me in was this difference in viewpoint. We tweeted a few little lines about Zadie Smith´s essay on the loss of her father. I saw a life-rooting Love reflected in that essay. After reading it I was left with the Impression that her father must have contributed in inexplicable ways to place her here on earth. They seemed to have had this connection; whereas you saw a lack of space for another Love in her immense attachment. I hope I got it right. Your position made me wonder. It was so completely new, not to say alien to me. It´s not that I haven´t heard of psychoanalysis, but I have only ever thought it not felt it as a concept of my life. It had simply never seemed plausible to me: only because one branch of our selves is rooted in one person why should it disturb another branch, the ones for lovers, kids, whatever… It´s like forcing a tree to root like a broomstick.
And now to your lesson on the narrative -I appreciate, by the way;) But because I have written a novel without writing a story, kind of an anti-novel, I have come to the conclusion that the non-story-telling will always be measured by the story-telling – not only by readers. Also by creators. Even the latter will feel the joy of disturbing an order. It is very tough to come to a point where you feel you are simply creating a new order – but even then critical and uncritical reception places you aside from the regular and thus again into order…. Even if you tell a contemplative story, tell them a story, Paul Auster once resumed the secret to his success in an arte interview. When you leave the story out, completely out, there will be only few people left who stick to it. Very few. For most of us thoughts and feelings in writing have to be contained to be bearable. I´m afraid it is the same with Life. It has to be contained in Love. And certainly the other way round. When I speak of Love I don’t like to mess it with addiction. I sometimes don´t even mess it with making Love. I simply mean the way certain people intertwine with who we are. Like Julio Cortazar – who this week would have turned 100 – wrote in Rayuela (the holy book of the non-narrative) about the way Maga questioned everything his protagonist thought about Life. Cortazar destroyed the narrative. But he placed Longing for Love and Reflections on Love and Life there. And thus created a thread, a timeline on Love and Life, Art and Philosophy… Feels like we are entering difficult ground…

Groin Gazing

6 min

How do our preconceptions shape the images we respond to, and the way we frame these images? We can frame images to challenge or reinforce prevailing perceptions of reality. The function of ideology is to legitimize a way of seeing – I will come back to this in connection with the Völkerschauen. Mainstream media present a subliminal text: female sexuality as passive, submissive; male sexuality as predatory – with the whole attention focused on erection and ejaculation.
I think this goes to the heart of what you say about a non-erect penis – it arises from a way of seeing male sexuality. Concerning your comments on Walk Hard and the lie it gives to rock ‘n’ roll’s sexed up image, I recall Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful’s comments that further gave the lie to this image. Even though masculinity presents itself as a monolithic image, with men being pressured to perform, being pressured into the mindset that they must manufacture an erection every time, male sexuality also involves a sometimes absence of desire, an inability to manufacture a “hard-on.” (The manufacture of viagra further increases this pressure.) Fifty Shades of Grey testify to the tenacity with which even women cling to these very conceptions of their own, in relation to male sexuality.
Thus, when I say that femaleoriented porn is a running away from real sexuality, what I mean is that, like male-oriented porn, it’s a lie against itself – in the sense that they both lie about the nature of sexuality; in the sense, that pornography, both male and female-oriented, presents a distorted image of male and female sexuality. It becomes an ideological imposition on male and female sexual feelings, expression and behavior.
How true is the underlying message of female-oriented porn’s focus on romance and relationship: there are not women who actively seek one night stands, women with high partner turn-over? Is not the underlying theme a reconfirmation of a mindset: men’s nature to “thrust,” women, to “open up?” (You’ll have to help me here, as I’m more familiar with mainstream porn than – to my shame as a filmmaker/ critic – with female-oriented porn.) It is possible there is something to say for Milbrath’s photos? It is that it privileges the female look. In this sense: even in these so-called liberated days girls can still be labeled “promiscuous,” few women could openly look at a man sexually – the way the man could look at her, approach a man sexually the way a man can approach her.
It seems there’s, in all of us, a more or less conscious residue of moral condemnation of female sexuality. “Groin Gazing” offer women the thrill, even if vicarious, of gazing at male penises without embarrassment.
But, like you so astutely observe, this gaze is framed by the pervasiveness of sexualised violence (usually directed against women.) The thing, as regards male sexuality, is to go beyond this one-sided sexual frame, to question assumptions: is a non-erect penis not part of male eroticism? I find what you say about German women looking at African men at the Völkerschauen interesting.
On the one hand, you have the public display of colonized people in a performance of Otherness. On the other hand, this performance offered a female spectate a frame through which to gaze at male sexuality.
When the German woman, herself the object of German male gaze, gazed at the African men (from a culturally superior position), she, quite apart from the voyeurism, de-objectified herself by exercising over them the same power exercised over her in her own culture – a one-sided gaze.
Here, before her, was that which had been denied her in her own culture: a male body to gaze upon and openly desire, to fear and fantasize about. (In a way, I’m reminded of Lupita and Fassbender’s characters in 12 Years A Slave: he – a white plantation owner – loves and desires a female black slave.
Yet, to deal with this transgressive love, he’s compelled to whip her.) It was, thus, only through their encounter with a culturally different male that these German women were able to openly affirm their desire and assert themselves – with regard to German men – as a subject.
In this lie the opposition of the German male: the German women’s gaze (at displayed African men) provoked fear and fantasy and was, literally speaking, a blow below the belt. A symbolic castration was, thus, projected on black sexuality: savage, threatening, animal-like.
As an aside, is it accidental (correct me if I’m wrong) that Milbrath’s photo series does not feature a single black model? Bourgeois society, through its myths, has produced an image of male and female sexuality that deprives sexuality of its humanity and fetishizes it.
(Pornography constitutes the clearest expression of this fetishism – with sex as the fetish.) These myths determine people’s definitions of themselves and others, and mutilates the feelings, desires and relationship possible between them.
One can safely say, to borrow from Wilhelm Reich, that bourgeois society is ideologically producing men and women who are incapable of tenderness and real sexual love because it needs such people in order to perpetuate itself.
Men and women are encouraged to define themselves in a culturally created way which they believe is natural. I’m reminded of French photographer, Scarlett Coten’s photo-exploration into reimagining the image of the Arab man.
Coten’s work was a role reversal (trying to unveil men in regions where most of the time, the attempt is to unveil women), trying to look beyond the accepted stereotype, exposing a more diverse, and perhaps softer image of the Arab man especially in intimate situations they don’t get to be seen.
In a way, this is what I mean by “Who is the looking woman?” Is she a woman trying to re-affirm a theses, a mindset, or a woman trying to shake the framework of her conditioned perception, trying to reconstruct her subjectivity? Of the two, I prefer the latter.

Groin Gazing

4 min

I was similarly attracted and disappointed by Milbrath’s photos, because they didn’t widen the possibilities of the female gaze, like you describe so well.
Indeed by only focusing on erect penises, for some women, especially if they had experiences with sexual harassment or rape – which, let’s not forget that 1 in 4 women have – it is not just desiring but also observing something that could harass you. On the other hand men seem vulnerable and needy, when you focus on their penis, which can be attractive as well as appalling; again, when they force their neediness on you – all of this also depends on the relation you have to this specific man, you look at and it is not easy to generalize the capacity of that gaze. I also wonder if herein lies one reason why male penises are hardly shown in films and on photos: they cannot hold up to the idealized image we have in our minds.
Non-erect penises look weak and defenseless and are in opposition to the powerful ideal they should culturally represent in our patriarchal culture. There is this scene in the film Walk Hard, a kind of persiflage on Rock’n’Roll life, where male musicians are shown with groupies in a hotel room.
They prominently walk by the steady camera half naked with non-erect and therefore harmless and powerless looking penises again and again, in order to scrutinize and challenge the intense Sex Drugs Rock’n’Roll cliché. So I think the gaze on the sole penis or on the whole male body differs in meaning. I fully agree with you on the scope of limitations that the acceptance of the male gaze leads to a personal and professional dead-end. We have to learn new forms of depicting men as desired and give men a chance to explore that, without being scorned.
The positive side of the desiring gaze is that being exposed to someone you trust can be very nice, comforting and giving. And men should be able to enjoy that like you and my boyfriend did. But I feel we are still far from that: One signifier of that is when men are staged in positions normally taken by women in commercials, they at times look ridiculed in an objectified way.
There was a Photographer who staged men in the exact same position like women are shown in American Apparel ads. These pictures make very clear how limited our viewing habits are: (besides that one should question the sexualized language of commercials altogether) they just don’t work, because we are not used to seeing men in these positions and most pictures made them look simply belittled – a belittled position we are used to seeing women in.
In that regard it would be interesting to discuss in detail how you think female-oriented porn also runs away from real sexuality into objectification and stereotypes. Which images or films do you have in mind? Another thing comes to my mind here, which is also an interesting topic in a discussion between a German women and a Nigerian man. Women looking at African men at the Völkerschauen, which took place until the 1940s in Berlin were criticized and ridiculed by the German press. These women were depicted as weird horny old maidens misguided by an exotic desire.
I find it remarkable that it was one of the first times when women looking at men was made an issue in modern times. Maybe it reflected the intimidation Germans felt towards African masculinity, so the desire towards them had to be belittled in public altogether.
One more question, what do you mean by “who is the looking woman”? You mean in our culture we have to create her subjectivity, for it is still unknown?

On Love

2 min

There is love, of course. People passing each other on the street with the sudden insight that life could be so much different if this moment did not pass. People sitting across a table not saying a word but knowing why they are there. People drifting apart and meeting again because without the other there is no room small enough not to feel empty. People fighting for nothing or just to make up for it. People making love. People sitting on a couch and reading and hearing the other breath and after a while one of them will move and the other will look up and not say a word and not smile and not move just because there is not need for that. Of course, there is all of this and much more. But there is also Love, the system, the pattern, the ideology that rules people*s lives and ruins people*s because they feel they do not live up to what is expected from them. It is like a writer forcing a narrative on something which cannot be bound by a narrative. I agree that this narrative might be necessary to get out of bed in the morning. Still, it helps to be suspicious of the motives behind it. Just as it helps to question the narrative necessity in novels, by the way.

Post Apocalyptic Psychology

9 min

–         Kid

–         Hey, what’s up?

–         Writing some. You?

–         Studying a bit.

–         Do you dare come home? I’ll pay the cab, I’m high and really lonely, and tomorrow you join me to Chinatown where I have to buy some stuff.

–         I’m studying and have school tomorrow.

–         Tomorrow there’s a national strike, come, I wanna play the guitar for you, I fetched it today from the luthier’s.

–         No, buses won’t join the strike.

–         They are going to after a few get burned by Moyanists.

–         Yeah but that won’t happen in my way to school because it’s pretty close to my area, which is residential, not downtown.

–         Aight, good luck with that, if you don’t go you tell me.

–         Alright, it’s nice to do stuff when the sun is out as well.

–         The sun goes out every time I smile, if you come I will take care of you and teach you that it’s always daytime somewhere…

–         You’re calling me so I take care of you.

–         No, so you have fun and dare to be more than you think you can… Taking care of you.

–         How would that be?

–         It’d be sexual but nothing sordid, but it doesn’t matter, if you don’t want to it’s not to be forced.

–         I don’t know, I haven’t seen you in ages, I don’t know if you turn me on. And being more than what I think I can is fucking with you?

–         Not if you see it that way… There’s a lot more and I need you to understand it, maybe it’s not meant to be yet, I had to try.

–         I don’t see it in any way, maybe you should elaborate on it.

–         It’s late, I know, maybe another day you dare, I wanna see you but it just never happens… It doesn’t matter… God only knows.

–         If you don’t talk to me and don’t elaborate on it, then no. It’s not late to talk. You are awake, I’m awake too. Show me the astral trip.

–         I have to kiss you for that.

–         You can try to explain a bit with words how is it that I’d see beyond with you.

–         Oofff! You’d see that nothing is just what you see… At least with me… At least now that I wanna see you, that you are more of a woman, more alive/sharper… Bah… I don’t know… I don’t know I don’t know…

–         More alive or sharper?

–         It’s the same.

–         No, you can be alive full of everything and it has nothing to do with sharpness.

–         It doesn’t have to do with words in a chat window… I assure you.

–         Word are beautiful.

–         Caresses are much more beautiful.

–         So all this time you were waiting for me to become a woman?

–         I don’t expect time, I expect sympathy.

–         There was a lot of sympathy before.

–         Before there were dangerous illusions, now I believe understanding and comprehension are possible. But maybe I came too early.

–         What kind of dangerous illusions?

–         Yours.

–         Those were illusions, not dangerous. A teenager’s illusions.

–         That’s why, nothing more dangerous than a teenager with illusions towards a teenager with no illusion.

–         Yeah, only you weren’t a teenager anymore, you just stuck with the teen angst. It wasn’t dangerous because it was fleeting as every teenage illusion, or most of them.

–         Men stick to the teen angst till he dies or remains alone.

–         No, not men.

–         Anyway, you’re right… Better during the day…

–         You cook on a high flame, women are slow cooked, teenagers are cooked on a high flame.

–         Haha. Let’s not generalize anymore, you don’t want to, I won’t insist. I’ll touch myself a bit and sleep with my guitar.

–         No, clearly you don’t want to.

–         No, I want almost everything, except bother someone else… I won’t bother you anymore.

–         Sex ain’t McDonald’s. You want to say “ah” and form to immediately get on a cab to your house when I haven’t seen you in ages.

–         I just love women, if it’s sex, it’s a thing of two, if it’s love it’s taking a lot of care.

–         You even had a daughter, that’s how long I haven’t seen you.

–         Sex moves me but it’s not my goal. I wanted to play for someone.

–         You have really specific times for that. If we were Anne Rice’s vampires it’d be more suitable.

–         To me, time is a farce of the human’s mind. All this happened already.

–         I know it already happened.

–         We are what we can be.

–         But in this dimension there’s time as a measure. People can be even more than what they think possible.

–         Then we see each other in this dimension, in another time… I’m good. I wasn’t before and that’s why I didn’t mess with you.

–         However, you used to ask me to go to your house because you were alone and high after the witching hour before as well. I went once. What changed between those times and this one?

–         I’ve never respected any girl as pretty and appealing as you, because there weren’t any, but now I have more to give and less to confuse…

–         OK, that’s good.

–         I take care of everyone now, including me.

–         Thanks for the “pretty and appealing” part. Maybe I should witness it, I don’t know, I don’t imagine you that way.

–         That’s why your illusion is no longer dangerous.

–         Because there is no illusion.

–         There always is.

–         But if the way of seeing how you can take care of me and how you changed and how good you are now is, just as when you weren’t, telling me to go at 3AM, only now you would fuck me, how is that taking care of me?

–         I wouldn’t do anything that I wouldn’t be able to confront tomorrow, being as loving as when I gave you that beautiful bath.

–         To fuck I need to trust and I haven’t seen you in ages.

–         Sex is for monkeys, I’m a wolf, I won’t want to fuck you if I see you are not eager, I haven’t done it before even though you were easy. And another thing, I don’t change, I learn.

–         We all change.

–         It’s a way of saying it, I’ve never taken advantage of you.

–         I know.

–         Are you still a virgin?

–         Pff no. How funny. I was a late bloomer but I made up for lost time. I wouldn’t have held on it that longer.

–         Time is not lost… I’m sorry I asked, I guess I’ll always want to take care of you but I don’t know if from me.

–         From you what?

–         I don’t keep you away from me because I’m not scared of hurting you anymore. Well, that’s it… I leave you alone… For now…

–         OK. Did you continue seeing J? I remembered the time we went to his place.

–         No, but we appreciate each other. J is a nice boy.

–         What does that have to do with anything? I just asked because I’ve never seen him again.

–         Did you make-out with him? Do you like Adventure Time?

–         We kissed once, everybody wanted me to be with him but I didn’t like him.

–         Everybody who… The ones who are never around?

–         R, C, that group.

–         Old people.

–         It was funny because he wouldn’t dare because R told him that if he wanted anything with me it had to be serious, he couldn’t fool around with me, R took care of me. But I didn’t want anything with J. He was cute, though.

–         L fucked him and I don’t know why I know that, but I know it fucked him up. Hehehe… How nosy I am.

–         Everybody knows L fucked him.

–         I don’t know if she could, but why are we talking about this?

–         About her traumatizing J? I don’t know, it’s funny.

–         I asked you if you like Adventure Time.

–         Adventure Time is good, I like Regular Show better.

–         Mordecai.

–         Yeah and Rigby. Genius.

–         Totally, those toons are the best thing ever.

–         Yeah, totally.

–         Pops.

–         Pops is amazing.

–         Muscle Man hahahaha

–         My mooom.

–         Benson?

–         No, Muscle Man.

–         I don’t know, but this is what we could be talking about in person, I was a fool to scare you with my sexopathy. Hi Five Ghost.

–         If you’d tell me to hop on a cab to talk, I would still have school tomorrow.

–         OK, then study and rest.

–         I’m studying while we talk.

–         OK… BMo it’s the best of Adventure Time.

–         I haven’t seen much, I should watch more Adventure Time.

–         Studying Post-apocalyptic Psychology.

–         That too.

–         And Princess Bubblegum is so B.

–         There are Regular Show emojis, this is amazing!

–         I love Marceline.

–         Yeah, Marceline is great.

–         She plays an axe bass like Kiss’ Gene Simons.

–         Yeah, she’s great.

–         I’m off. I’ll insist another day… That’s what women like, right? Hahaha kidding.

–         Hahaha funny.

–         Kisses, beautiful.

–         When you let too much time go by, we forget. Bisous!

–         I wish I could forget what’s good for me to forget about.

–         It’s not good to forget, it’s nice to remember. The brain keeps in its depths the things that truly affect us. If you remember, you can overcome it. I meant something different, anyway.

–         We’ll see… Take a lot of care. I appreciate you very much, I want to see you soon in whatever plan we can.

–         You’ll say.

–         I’ve said too much already.

–         No, you spoke about some topics, you didn’t make any plans.

–         Muack!

–         Hahah, you’re funny. Anyway, this time in the middle of the week, if you want to chat, great, but I don’t think I can go to your house and listen to you play the guitar, that’s what I meant. In more daily-life-friendly hours or if it’s the weekend, but I live far, so not too late.

–         Alright… I’ll try.

–         OK.

–         It’s just that I’m always running… Well, it will happen eventually. Kisses, kisses and more kisses.

–         Well, when you know you’ll have some free time not so spontaneously. Bisous!!

On Love

2 min

I’m a writer and though I don’t have to tell a story every time I write I love to tell one every now and then. There is a sense of coherence a story gives us, call it comfort from all those unfnished threads in our lives. Love can set characters in motion and thus creates action. I believe it does the same to our lives. It makes us move, boast, pretend, yearn, laugh, fear and cry.  It makes us want to come closer. Or away from it. Sure, what you say is right: there would be no lovesickness, no unfulfilled longing. There would be no fear of loss and no fear of pain, no fear of dependence and no fear of being humiliated by the ones we love. No fear of abandonment and one-way-love. And yet, to deconstruct Love in a way you would deconstruct Christianity feels utterly wrong. Yes. We do have an academic-intellectual narrative about the ways we invented Love, above all Romantic Love. The One you might compare to Christianity, today’s neurosis, played out best as a marketing instrument for whatsoever, particularly our lives. But only because there is a nausea in certain manifestations of Love doesnt’t mean that Love in itself is. I know this sounds like Old Communists’ Rhetorics, claiming just cause Russia failed doesn’t mean Communism failed. But to rid us of Love is to rid us of our most human aspect: our vulnerability towards others, most of all the ones we love. Would this leave more space for action? Maybe. But I am not sure at all whether I would want to live in a world inhabited by human beings acting free from Love. Fear can make us better. And what if we are not yet at a level where we live Real Love. What if we lived out Bad Love most of our days…

On Love

1 min

This is the interesting thing about Love, as you say, because like a lot of ideologies and religions it produces the suffering it pretends to do away with. Without Love there would not be lovesickness. Without Love there would be not unfulfilled longing. There might be more action without love and less fear. Less doubt. Less self-hatred. It reminds me of christianity creating the sins it pretends to forgive.

On Love

1 min

So this is asking me to be the Advocate of Love…. The only bourgeois thing about Love is to believe that Love is bourgeois, just construction, invisible, wish. Sitting by the ocean I see Love in little gestures, gazes, in the tense bodies of fathers watching their kids playing and fighting with the vastness of mediterranean elements – though most of the beaches neatly tailored for tourists… I see Love mostly where it isn’t cause you see longing eating up the unloved bodies and eyes…

On Love

1 min

Love is such a bourgeois subject. Is it even real? We talked – briefly, on Twitter, tentatively, but with a strange confidence – about two kinds of love, the lover*s love and the other love, a son, a father, a painting maybe even. But, very simply put: If love were real, why is it so hard to find, to see, to communicate, to hold on to? Is love ever more than just a trick of the self to believe there is some sweeter form of reality?

Groin Gazing

3 min

I had this girlfriend, our intimacy involves her watching me make love to myself. I had to learn this, get used to being (aroused from being) looked at this way. In a way, something about this transgresses the construction of masculinity.
(I will come back to this.) There is, to quote art critic John Berger, a “lived sexuality” in these looks – in the sense of, to go further with Berger, the state of being naked as opposed to being nude. In this regard, it’s instructive to note that Adam and Eve’s shame, after eating of the apple, was not from each other – they were not ashamed to look at each other, their shame was from a third party looking at them. When sharing a look with someone you’re intimate with, you’re naked, you’re yourself without disguise or artifice. There is, on the other hand, a cultural way of looking, viz., how men and women are culturally represented.
I will deal with this presently. To go back to the construction of masculinity: how do men encourage women to look, to desire them? How do women look at men – that is to say, who is the looking woman? Generally speaking, men do not encourage women to look at them, to desire them in ways that reimagines masculinity.
So, all too often, when a woman looks at a man, it is a man, a type of man, looking through her. This brings me back to Milbrath’s photos and the cultural representation of men and women. What you say about the male gaze’s relation to power, its need to dominate, to make women’s evaluation of self male-dependent is absolutely true.
It remains to state that too many women have internalized these power relations and evaluation of self. Milbrath’s photos testify to this: it reproduces masculinity as a phallic force. The photographed phalluses are in attack position, they are photographed in relation to what they can do, what they are about to do. When men, on the other hand photograph women, women are photographed in a submissive, expectant (in the sense of what can be done to them, what they expect to be done to them) position. These images of domination and submission find their sharpest expression in mainstream pornography. In agreeing with you on this, I align myself with Shere Hite.
I do think, however, one can offer a critic of male-oriented porn the same way one can criticize a female-oriented one: they both express the same thing – a running away from real sexuality into objectification and stereotypes. (I am, of course, opposed to right-wing moralists and anti-pornography feminists.) I agree with you on the need to de-objectify the look of desire.
If I say, in response to your question, that acceptance of the male gaze leads to a personal and professional dead-end, what I mean is the tendency of acceptance to stifle, to limit creativity, real sexual love, its tendency to lead to the physical and emotional impossibility of the satisfaction of real sexual desire.
This takes me back to Milbrath’s photos. It seems to me that in her more-or-less conscious attempt to look at men the same way men have always looked at women, she has produced images that testify to men’s sense of self: male notion of potency, in relation to women’s submission to this potency.

On Love

4 min

Groin Gazing

6 min

Groin Gazing

4 min

On Love

2 min

Post Apocalyptic Psychology

9 min

On Love

2 min

On Love

1 min

On Love

1 min

On Love

1 min

Groin Gazing

3 min