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Archive for the ‘Sublimation’ Category

Cruising is Cruising: What Have 15 Years of Digital Sex Taught Us?

In Cruising, Freud, LGBT, Sex, Sublimation on September 25, 2012 at 8:11 pm

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by Diego Costa

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When I was cruising on Gay.com as a young teen in the late 90s and I “ran into” someone who was in his 30s or 40s (quelle horreur!) I remember thinking, or perhaps praying: Damn me if at their age I am still hanging out at such depressing dens for the embarrassingly lonely. It was a mixture of repulsion, pity, and anxiety.  Only an ugly or inept gay would make it to their 35th birthday and still be looking. Only a loser fag would by then be willing to stoop down to that level of desperation (please fuck/love/fucking love me now) in order to find a mate. The compulsion to cruise, to reach out for someone out there in the universe to come along and save us from our predicaments, was sure to be a burden of broke young boys who would eventually master the art of being alone and still alive.

This was a time when queer sex was beginning to enter its hyper-commodification phase. Suddenly we didn’t have to settle for whatever guy happened to cross our paths (a curious cousin, a drunk hetero) and, as in a fluke, not find us disgusting. Even if, at, first, we didn’t have the technology to easily exchange digital photographs of photoshopped selves, we could list our frantic likes (straight acting guys only!) and fascist dislikes (No Fems, Fats, Asians, apparently). Like a database of, in theory, easily available men, we were able to sort through, pick and choose, discriminate and reinforce the inherited prejudices of the general culture. And, somehow, demanding through exclusion passed for getting in touch with authentic desire.

By the time kids like myself, whose sexual lives coincided with the development of ubiquitous computing, got to college requesting an impossibly normative masculinity from strangers who were to commit to fucking us before having met us was part and parcel of what it meant to be a queered human being. Now we could make even more demands: photographic evidence of our potential tricks’ muscles, six-packs and convincingly well-acted straightness ad infinitum (More face pics!). The few who could “host” were lucky enough to be able to script their encounters down to their very details. Sometimes the scripting of these narratives were so pleasurable little did it matter if the countless cruising hours led up to an actual encounter or with one nutting all over the keyboard and calling it a night.

We told ourselves we would exit the chat room in 15 minutes, which soon became 2 hours, 4 hours, the entire night. The faceless screen names became too familiar, the logging on to the same old sites automatic, the disturbed sleeping patterns more constant. But what if we leave and the stranger who is supposed to sweep us off our feet and fix us arrives? It became quite hard to tell if what we were really interested was in the potential lovers the digital seemed to promise or in the endless deferral from ultimately frustrating encounters (butch in the picture, a flamer in person) that it certainly provided us.

Eventually, of course, one of these immaterial strangers would show up at the door and something would happen, generally something you hadn’t scripted or accounted for, a mannerism, an unexpected reply, a certain kind of non-desperate availability, or a je ne sais quoi-like shining on the nose, as Freud would have it, and the endless cruising would flirt with an interruption. The stranger would stay a bit longer and not foreclose the possibility for a shameful moment like this, in which horniness just takes the best out of otherwise normal boys (this is my first time on the site), to become something the straight world recognizes as meaningful. The stranger responds to you. Read the rest of this entry »

Robert McAlmon’s Psychoanalyzed Girl and the Popularization of Psychoanalysis in America

In Freud, LGBT, Literature, Polymorphous Perversity, Sublimation on February 14, 2012 at 1:45 am

Freud (far left seated) and Jung (far right, seated) at Clark University in 1909

by Chase Dimock

A writer, publisher, and a connoisseur of the Parisian nightlife, Robert McAlmon was a fixture of the Lost Generation’s expatriate community in Paris in the 20s and 30s. McAlmon took Hemingway out to the bullfights in Spain that he would immortalize in The Sun Also Rises and he typed proofs of James Joyce’s monumental novel Ulysses. Through his publishing company Contact Editions, he was the first to publish works by such luminaries of the modernist movement as Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, William Carlos Williams, Djuna Barnes, H.D., and Nathanael West. Yet, his own reputation as a writer never reached the heights of those that he helped.

As a bisexual man in what most presumed to be a marriage of convenience to lesbian poet Bryher (H.D.’s longtime partner), McAlmon was one of the first American writers to depict the queer subculture of American expatriates. In Distinguished Air: Grim Fairy Tales, he detailed the exploits of Berlin’s cabarets and in the recently rediscovered The Nightinghouls of Paris, he dished on the queer affairs of the writers that inhabited the bistros and bars of Montparnasse during the famed expatriate period. I have written on McAlmon’s biography and poetry in greater detail in this previous article.

The story below comes from McAlmon’s first book of fiction, A Hasty Bunch. James Joyce himself suggested the title to McAlmon, commenting on the speed with which he wrote the stories and their roughness. By reading just a few sentences of the story, it is apparent that Joyce’s judgment is well justified. “The Psychoanalyzed Girl” should be considered part of McAlmon’s juvenilia as its awkward phrasings search for the more polished voice of ironic detachment and sardonic wit that would come with his later, more mature work.

Nonetheless what I find fascinating about this piece is its place as a cultural artifact of the influence of psychoanalysis on the Lost Generation of American writers. McAlmon’s opinion in this story is none too favorable. He satirizes the hyperawareness and self-centeredness that psychoanalytic therapy causes in his friend Dania, depicting her as perpetually self-analyzing and becoming progressively more alienated from her own reality as she obsesses over self-knowledge at the expense of self-experience.

Written in 1922, McAlmon’s short story testifies to the sudden rise in popularity of psychoanalysis in America in the 20’s. Freud made his first visit to America along with Carl Jung and others in 1909 and gave a series of five lectures at Clark University to both academic and lay audiences. The fact that psychoanalysis would become widely adopted in America in just over a decade after his visit exceeded what he and his contemporaries thought was possible. As Sanford Gifford writes:

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What’s Queer About “The Trip” ?

In film, Freud, Lacan, LGBT, Queer Theory, Sublimation on December 13, 2011 at 12:03 am

by Chase Dimock

To an American audience, I would not have to strain too desperately to prove that there is something gay about a movie featuring two British men touring gourmet restaurants in the English countryside while singing Abba and Kate Bush in the car. Yet, what’s queer about The Trip has nothing to do with any present or latent homosexuality (of which there is none in the film), but rather it is about how heterosexuality appropriates the discourse of homosexuality in order to repress or sublimate its own desires and sentiments. The increased visibility of male homosexuality in the public sphere over the past four decades via the modern gay rights movement changed the way in which heterosexual males view and speak of their relationships with one another. Centuries of male patriarchy that segregated the sexes, created legions of boys clubs among rich and poor alike, and reinforced the sexist idea that truly intellectually satisfying companionship could only come from another rational male mind suddenly became infused with a “homosexual panic”. Publicly visible homosexual emotional intimacy created the fear that others might read heterosexual emotional intimacy as sexual intimacy and thus the privileged bastions of masculinity such as the YMCA, the Boy Scouts, the Friars, and every cigar club this side of Vienna eventually seemed, well…gay. In The Trip, we see a turn in the way in which heterosexual friendship navigates the looming specter of gay discourse. Departing from decades of paranoid disavowal and overwrought displays of cliché gestures of straightness that seem only to parody heterosexuality, The Trip appropriates queer discourse as the two protagonists create a running joke about homosexual desire for one another throughout the film. But, neither of them is laughing. Rather, the unabashed and unashamed references to homosexuality cover up the real intimacy that they share with one another as friends which neither one wants to declare aloud.

In The Trip, British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play fictional versions of themselves. Coogan is hired by a newspaper to write an article about some posh country restaurants and he takes the assignment with the hope of bringing his much younger girlfriend along to show her the North of England where he grew up and to rekindle their strained relationship. When the girlfriend chooses a journalist assignment in America instead, Coogan asks his friend Brydon to come along, who becomes, as Coogan jokes, “his substitute girlfriend.” As the two journey between upscale eateries, the film stages a sharp dichotomy between the personal lives of the two friends. While Brydon is the cliché image of heterosexual domestic happiness, established through a series of calls with his wife in which he impersonates Hugh Grant, Coogan on the other hand is confronted with his failing relationship with his girlfriend, his strained, decidedly unfatherly relationship with his son, and his stalled career ambitions to become a serious, Hollywood actor. The bulk of the film consists of a series of conversations between Coogan and Brydon while eating, driving, or touring the countryside. Rather than directly addressing any of the tension building up in his personal life, Brydon engages Coogan in a perpetual game of celebrity impersonation one-ups-manship as the two of them argue over the finer points of impersonating Michael Caine, Al Pacino, or any of the other actors whose career Coogan envies. Read the rest of this entry »

Queer Before Queer

In Counter-transferences, Instinct for Research, Sublimation on November 22, 2011 at 12:23 am

 

by Diego Costa

It may be easy, for the psychoanalytically uninitiated (those quick to roll their eyes without engaging with the actual literature), to take Foucault’s figures of 19th Century power-knowledge – “the hysterical woman, the masturbating child, the Malthusian couple and the perverse adult” – as a series of jabs at a psychoanalytical project, which, at least partially created these figures. However, that would be to confound psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis into one big homogeneous monster, and mostly, to ignore psychoanalysis’ dynamic, and multipronged, unfolding throughout the 20th Century.[i]

Foucault’s envisioning of that potentiality of desire(s) somehow unbound by a pre-made tautological relationship to objects, free to roam around like flanêurs, against what he called the “deployment of sexuality,” is perhaps the unseen link that can suture both queer and psychoanalytic projects[1]. To insist on not seeing that conduit line may mean to keep on tripping over it, and allowing it to knot up and around the researcher’s own desire for truth of her object of study. For, as we know, any analytical project that demands its truth without accepting its risks is one fated to be a victim of its own perversions. The desire of the theorist, or the “instinct for research” (Forschertrieb) or knowledge (Wisstrieb), whose first signs are known to coincide with the sexual life of children’s “first peak,” is too often missing from queer work’s considerations, although it is never absent. And we would do well in recognizing the desire of the (queer) theorist, always already a (sexual) sublimation vying for some kind of mastery, precisely when it takes the shape of such symbolic reluctance: where is, for instance, the theorist’s dealings with her own “counter-transferences”?[ii]

This is not to say that queer theorists haven’t included their own selves, consciously and not, whilst producing their work. I am suggesting, however, that we would benefit from a more calculated, and strategic, awareness of self-implication in conducting research that is akin to the extensive work that psychoanalysis has created concerning the analyst herself as a desiring subject. The branches of Queer Theory that resist a psychoanalytical approach often reveal a blinding U.S.-centrism in their claims of Austria-centrism against psychoanalysis itself, along with the history of a certain sublimation that comes with “I,” including strategies to control the personal risk inherent to the research, keeping it from contaminating the researcher herself, or exposing an always already contaminated researcher.[iii] The irony, or the kinship, being the way in which Queer Theory and psychoanalysis aim to detect the undetectable…What is most interesting about psychoanalysis if not its inherent queering mechanism? With its constant flow of remembering and forgetting theory, using and misusing theory, setting up and putting on theory into a scene (that is alive), there is no mode of thought/contemplation, inquiry/deconstruction, perception/narrativization, engagement/awakening, intellectualization/being queerer than psychoanalysis’.

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