The pathology of perversion
Modern society is perverse, not in spite of its puritanism or as if from a backlash provoked by its hypocrisy; it is in actual fact, and directly, perverse.
(Michel Foucault: Will to knowledge)
Perversion is a penetrating aspect of modern society – to the extent that the concept itself has been perverted, since debauchery has become legitimized as a personal right to self-realization. The fact that debauchery is considered a right contradicts the very source of debauchery, the well from which the jouissance of perversion is nurtured, thus constricting it and rendering the subversive potential of perversion harmless. The permitted and private excess doesn’t really challenge the established order, which, as we all know, is the order of the ruling classes, who on their part can capitalize on the individual deviant’s characteristics. The question thus remains: Is our society sufficiently perverse?
Perversion is originally tied to the active turning away from truth itself; a corruption and distortion of man. In the 13th century, where we first encounter the concept, this implies a refusal of god, since man’s nature is inseparable from a god-fearing determination. Anyone who was an enemy of the established and current truth, anyone who infused with lust for knowledge, engaged in the alchemic quest for ennobling the spirit or gave in to passions that could not be reconciled with an ascetic worship of god, any heretic, heathen, eroticist or witch was, by the very nature of things, a pervert. By the end of the 18th century, perversion is specifically used to denote deviant erotic behavior which would differ from a common conception of heterosexual, procreative behavior. That is: sodomy. Freud later concluded that every man is perverted, and that the perversion is rooted in the infantile sexual development. Where perversion was once something to be condemned and punished, it became something to uncover, diagnose and treat. Thus, perversion was still in opposition to the real and thus a diversion from a new version of the truth. However, condemnation was to a large degree still tied to perversion, and, in an attempt to correct this, John Money introduced the so-called neutral concept paraphilia. Politically motivated by a wish to embrace sexual diversity and the individual right to self-realization, more and more have condoned this legitimizing notion. From a purely conceptual point of view, the notion is all right. Paraphilia: a deviant, contrary, beyond (para) tendentious love (philia). From an impure conceptual point of view, it lacks the transgressive aspect we find in the concept of perversion.
It is in the original notion of perversion, the pathological, condemned and accursed notion, that we recognize a progressive and subversive potential. According to the original notion, the pervert is a man who actively turns away from god, transgresses any nature-given determination and finds pleasure in a behavior which does not have utility and functionality as its object. In other words, the pervert aims at the dissolution of the constituted structures and dynamics. Such dissolution is the immanent core in any form of eroticism if it is taken to the limit. Perversion thus contains a deeper existential and philosophical quality in its abyss, which challenges god, nature, the established order and the structure of society. And the question is, when we seek to introduce perversion in the sphere of legitimacy, whether we are not then losing track of and perverting the very understanding of our own abysses, existential depth, perversion itself and the odd jouissance one find in the bond between horror and joyous ecstasy. Must we castrate our minds and our eyes in order to adapt our passions to the optics of legitimacy? If the task following God’s death is to reevaluate all values and turn existence inside out, who then is sick?
The excremental universe
For the power of destroying matter is not granted to man: the most he can do is to vary its forms. And since every form is equal in the eyes of nature nothing is lost in changing them. Change continues her power and maintains her kinetic energy . . . Ah! what does it matter to her ever-creating womb if today matter is flesh and tomorrow worms!
Nowhere else is the destructive character of perversion more obvious than in the works of Marquis de Sade who again and again stresses how the social, moral and divine order must be undermined, not necessarily to attain the total destruction but rather to equalize any difference, thereby creating a chaos from which the pervert can arise and create the world anew. We are presented to numerous orgies where any difference is being undermined, mocked and decomposed at a material as well as a symbolic level. Some protagonists of his are fantasizing about being Etna; this mouth of hell, that melting pot, which can recreate, mix and reject anything. Etna, into which the philosopher Empedocles threw himself, so as to return to the elements and arise as a God. Yet, a God acenting from such a crater might be sacred but is in no way the heavenly God, who by his first act of creation separates light and darkness, then sea and earth, the species and mankind, and who through and through builds on principles of distinction, division and differentiation. The pervert seeks the undifferentiated, the limitless, where the goal is the destruction of the differentiation between sexes and generations(Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel: Creativity and perversion). Sade is demonstration this again and again, making his protagonists mock the ruling institutions and conventional norms. He discloses a perverted logic that legitimizes debauchery by taking a point of departure in the character of nature, religion and the conventions, thus turning them against themselves. Not that legitimacy is needed. Rather, he does this in order to again to mock and undermine the constituted structures.
Bodies are combined across gender, status and age in every conceivable and inconceivable way. Everyone penetrates and is penetrated, flogged, defieled and so on, and should one run out of holes to fill, the knife will do the trick. In the end everything is decomposed and mixed. The annihilation of any difference, the descend into being, assumes an excremental character. The terrestrial globe is covered with volcanoes which serve as its anus (Bataille: Solar Anus). Enormous melting pots that devour and even-out, so as in time to throw up its waste and defile the outside world. It is the universe of the sullifying blasphemer where everything that separates, all that is taboo, forbidden or sacred is devoured by the digestive tract, an enormous grinding machine disintegrating the molecules of the mass thus obtained in order to reduce it to excrement (Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel: Creativity and perversion). The pervert makes the sacrament excrement, mocks the law and belittles fate. The all too human God who ascended from the depths of a volcano is the creator Maldoror sang about who sits on his throne of excrement and gold, high above the earth and, to Jung’s great horror, defecates all over the world (Jung: memories dreams reflections & Lautréamont: Songs of Maldoror). This is why Artaud can state: where it smells of shit it smells of being (Artaud: To Have Done With the Judgement of god).
By recognizing the excremental character of being, the abyss of this existence, the pervert adds the peculiar joy -horror’s pact with the thrilling ecstasy – that can follow upon gazing into the abyss . The aim of the perverse activity is not transcendence, the transcendent, the gift of mercy, but rather transgression as over-stepping that annihilates any difference between genders, bodies, experiences etc. The outermost aim of the pervert is the limitless, the cessation of distinctions and separation, but paradoxically, in order to be able to find enjoyment in this, the pervert must recognize ‘him-’ or ‘herself’ at a distance from the desired object. The point of departure of the perverted debauchery is, in other words, the awful paradoxicality of existence, which is not denied but rather serves as nourishment to the exalted transgression. It is important to underline that when we talk about the pervert, the pervert is one who takes perversion to its extreme and not just someone who cherishes particular and personal enjoyments but otherwise complies with cultural conventions. Viewed from the perspective of normality, the pervert is sick, but this notion of health rests on amnesia concerning the excremental character of the world; the world that continually oscillates between birth and chaos, creation and destruction (Nietzsche: Will to Power §1050), whose excrement is its nourishment (Nietzsche: Will to Power §1066). The totality of the pervert’s perspective does not exclude that which cannot be digested and transformed; the useless, the excremental, the daimonic, but finds pleasure in ‘hers’ or ‘his’ illness, in the fever of matter that has been aroused to sensitivity… aroused to pleasure of the organic, the rotting-living matter itself, the fetid flesh, and has become perceptible to the arousing one.
With pleasure, the pervert mocks, taunts and exhibits the very notion of health. Accursed and crucified to the earth by the healthy being of resentment, the perverted being of jouissance exclaims in contempt: I killed my father, I ate human flesh, and I quiver with joy. As Caligula, the pervert wants to drown the sky in the sea, to infuse ugliness with beauty, to wing a laugh from pain (Camus: Caligula).
The parodic cosmos
Those lacking imagination take refuge in reality
(Goddard: Goodbye to Language)
There are various eyes. Even the Sphinx has eyes: and as a result there are various truths, and as a result there is no truth.
(Nietzsche: Will to Power §540)
It is clear that the world is purely parodic
(Bataille: Solar Anus)
The pervert is confusing the falsehoods for truths, according to psychoanalysis. The conventional norm considers the pervert immature and self-deceptive, and according to religious dogmatism, the pervert has turned away from God. However, something entirely different seems to be the case. The pervert has abolished truth and replaced its singular form with a diversity of perspectives. Rather than pledging allegiance to one singular truth that denies all that cannot stand in the service of the one truth, all that is insufferable and useless, the pervert mocks the flimsy conceptual cathedrals in which the truth-lover seeks refuge. The “truth” and the established order thus show their parodic character, the boundaries are blurred and everything may soon morph into a new and different thing: an eye, an egg, a sun, a bull’s testicel. This does not mean that the pervert agrees with the constructivists or the nihilists who exclaim “Everything is allowed”, not even the absurdist remark “Everything is possible”(Lev Shestov: All Things are Possible). After the death of God and the collapse of the great narrative, the pervert maintains the only truth that remains – an experimental, mocking, and parodic truth: everything is perverse. Furthermore, the pervert claims that those who do not acknowledge that they carry within themselves their own contradiction and abyss live half lives. Schopenhauer taught us that the world is our imagination, an open eye that sees and divides the world according to the conditions of the imagination – in object and subject, in time and space – and as a result, matter flows in a never ending unfinished stream. Also, the world is entirely will, nature as it is in itself, Immanuel Kant’s das Ding an sich, Marquis de Sade’s boiling pot, the mouth of Etna, whose hidden character the pervert has determined as excremental. That is, the world is blind will, excrement and endless overflowing. Matter flows like the tears of suffering from the inflamed wound that the open eye inflicted on the world. But rather than despairing in awe of this existential condition, the pervert strikes a tearful laughter and finds a joyous jouissance in the futility, mutability and boundlessness of everything.
Ontology of the ass
That night he dreamed that he had to expel the universe out of his anus
(K. Abraham: The Narcissistic Evaluation of Excretory Processes in Dreams and Neurosis)
When you will have made him a body without organs,
then you will have delivered him from all his automatic reactions
and restored him to his true freedom.
They you will teach him again to dance wrong side out
as in the frenzy of dance halls
and this wrong side out will be his real place.
(Artaud: To Have Done With the Judgement of god)
If the progressive potential of the pervert is to be redeemed so the pervert can call herself free, it is not enough to dwell on destructive aspects of perversion. Should flowers not be able to sprout in the compost of being? When all differences are equalized, when everything is reduced to the excremental essence of being in the belly of the volcano; the pervert has set herself free from any convention, moral obligation, truth, god and the compulsion of culture and can thus recreate herself out of this undifferentiated mass. Since the sexes have been abolished and devoured, the ass can now take the place of the sex. The ass is the neutral and common gender of the newly created body that unites everyone, and with its mere presence, the ass mocks and parodies the utility, the purpose of procreation, the mouth and the word.
It marks a new ontological paradigm, where the ass is the melting pot that can transform everything and produce what Artaud called “the body without organs”; this true freedom, that makes it possible to sew yourself back together into a whole without the god who assimilates you and produces you, as if you produced yourself … out of nothingness and against Him; beautiful as a Chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella (Lautréamont: Songs of Maldoror). In other words, the pervert’s potential consists of opposing the prevailing order, breaking it down, such as to re-create herself out of this chaos. To thrust the universe out of its anus in enormous explosions, Big Bang, gigantic prolapsing stars, which turn the inside out of being and send interstellar gas clouds out in the very galaxy to condense and merge into new solar systems, galaxies and worlds. In the end is the word. It means nothing. And one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star (Nietzsche: Thus Spoke Zarathustra).
Perversion and revolution
The pervert will thus throw herself into the volcano and repel and eject to become a creator herself. When this potential is taken to its limit, the pervert will become subversive and a revolutionary. And what is more perverted than the love for the rejected with its mockery and parody of the prevailing order, the petty-bourgeois complacency and self-sufficiency – a mockery that is in the mere presence of the rejected. Can you think of anything more offensive, a greater scorn against the ruling decency, than poor people, boat refugees, insane people, losers, whores, drug addicts, the outcasts of society?
The pervert finds delight in this mocking scorn, finds the revelation and embarrassment of the exposed decency ridiculous and exclaims: Arise, you damned, ostracized, deferred, expelled from this earth. Become an undifferentiated mass and spill all over the laced, self-righteous social order. Like Nietzsche just before he went mad, we will embrace a horse, and like Caligula, we will appoint it a consul. It will lead to our advancement.
And when we lie wounded, after the revolution has betrayed itself, I will lick your wounds. Not because they are orchids or roses, but because they are an opening in your body where all that is life and death flows like the tears of matter from the wound that the open eye inflicted on existence. Rather than devouring your flower, I will permeate in the soil, open my mouth and allow you to set root in it, so that you can grow, germinate and sprout above the surface from my open mouth buried beneath you (Eugenie Piegnot: Posthume writings).
And was I to be buried face down, you would have to find another opening in which to set root.
The text above is a translation of the first ever publication by Mycelium from 2016. All paintings and drawings: Andre Masson. It exists as a limited edition poster, that was handed out at the Transgressive Culture Conference at The University of Chicago Center in Paris, 2019. Reference: ISSN: 2445-9879.