Sunday, July 04, 2010

the lover, becoming amorous, seduction

To qualify as a lover, I do not have to perform love’s perfect advance: by definition no one can promise that, since it depends on no cause whatsoever, not even my will; but in order to be qualified as a lover, I have only to decide to perform love’s advance, a decision that depends solely on me, even though it always plays out at the limits of my abilities. (The Erotic Phenomenon, 91)

In deciding that I love in advance and without reciprocity, without knowing what the other thinks of it, or even if the least other knows anything about it, I have the sovereign freedom to make myself a lover – to make myself amorous. I become amorous simply because I want to, without any constraint, according to my sole, naked desire. (The Erotic Phenomenon, 93

Among the many problems with Marion's book so far is, I think, a problem of level of description. In my view, his account of the lover and the decision to "perform love's advance," remains egoistic and voluntaristic in ways that miss something about the erotic. I'm finding odd points of connection in his account and what I'm fleshing out myself (hah!), but also occasionally exasperating points of disconnect, and this is becoming one of them.

I do like the description of how to become a lover, if what we're talking about is the decision to act, the decision to profess or to pursue, the decision to open to the other. I’m suggesting that, sensuously, we’re already erotically entangled prior to some such “decision.” Consider: how did you decide to become amorous? did you decide? Or did you find an entanglement already underway? I wouldn’t deny we do have to make a choice about what Marion calls “love’s advance,” but I don’t believe I decide to love peaches (I doubt he’d allow that I could love peaches); I believe peaches overtake me. I can forego them, and I suppose I could try to despise them, but at that point, we’re not talking about a decision to become amorous, so much as a decision to act. I didn't decide to desire white peaches, and in that way, I'm at a loss to explain it, to myself or to anyone else. Others who love white peaches just smile knowingly and nod; others who don't look confused and shake their heads.

(That post-decision stuff could be worked out nicely through Ahmed's account of orientation.)

In an earlier section, Marion exasperated me with his account of seduction, distinguishing it from the (proper) erotic reduction by saying the seducer seduces only to a point, the point of leading the other to love, and thus assures reciprocity. Again, don’t buy it. Couldn’t there be such a thing as mutual seduction? And isn’t seduction built into the erotic entanglement of flesh itself? I think he’s smuggling in ethical assumptions about what seduction means or intends and the moral significance of that act’s intent. I understand the goal is to lead to a “decentering” of the ego under the erotic reduction – the move to the other as center. That’s imparting a very particular spin on the entire description, one again drawn from a set of assumptions about proper, moral erotic relations.

In contrast, and more positively, I’m using the term seduction to mean a sensuous relation of flesh to flesh. You, or a peach, or a crimson lily, seduce me – not by tricks and temptations, not to tease, not to beguile me – but by the appeal of flesh to flesh, the responsiveness of flesh to flesh, which has at its heart need and desire, pleasure and pain. I am seduced by and as flesh that would touch/be touched. This is not contrary to the (proper) relation of love that decenters. The peach doesn’t egoistically tease me and then withdraw. The peach decenters me, because the pleasure of eating the peach loses me my control.

So while Marion’s accounts for the motives of lovers – loving to love, loving to the last, loving without limit and without expectation – (1) when we love flesh, this too is expectationless and limitless, and also decentering, (2) when we are seduced by flesh, it draws from us this response, (3) as Marion says of the erotic reduction, it is not objects we love – but (I say) flesh; the flesh of the peach isn’t an object, but a foreign body that I entangle with, by eating, by inviting the other into me; your flesh isn’t an object either, but another foreign body…

See? Egoist, voluntarist. He's addressing how a sovereign I becomes the lover, through an erotic reduction of ordinary mundane life to the erotic realm of experience. He's not talking about my susceptibility to being seduced, because I am of flesh-desiring flesh and always already erotically entangled.

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