As flesh, I take on a body in the world; I become sufficiently exposed so that the things of the world have an advantage over me, such that they make me feel, experience, and even suffer their dominance and their presence.
But, as soon as it is a matter of feeling, and feeling in my flesh not just things, but another flesh, there is no longer anything to perceive, and the flesh can expose itself without translation, immediately to a flesh. And the flesh that exposes itself to another flesh, without a thing, without being, without anything as intermediary, shows itself naked – the nude-to-nude encounter of one flesh with another. This modification of the flesh, which passes from its perceptive functions to its nude phenomenality, eroticizes my flesh and thus radicalizes the erotic reduction. (The Erotic Phenomenon, 111, 113)
More good stuff from Marion, as usual with some other stuff (not discussed here) that I could do without, and missing some dimensions I think are crucial. Marion rightly says that a double passivity eroticizes flesh - I become my flesh when the flesh of the other passively accedes to my flesh, and in so doing, delivers me into my own flesh. But his notion of the erotic reduction is, I think, too specific to a dimension of human experience, as though "the erotic" and love can only be interhuman, and, really, inter-couple. Again, I'm approaching the erotic as the element of our foundational intimacies, of sensation and subjection.
So I would say that we are naked, exposed, feeling immediately the dominance and presence of other flesh always, and that our perceptual competence never fully overtakes or reduces this encounter to active perception and grasping. Not our reach, but our naked flesh exceeds our grasp. Of course, we spend a lot of time and energy covering our nakedness, protecting and preserving our bodies, exerting what we imagine is sovereign authority and control over our persons. But as the saying goes, we’re all naked under our clothes. Some of us are even quite embarrassed by our more intimate and naked pleasures (even more than our pains, is my observation of our typical social behavior). Then again, few people would probably really want to watch me eat a peach in my wanton arousal.
To go even further, I confess to getting a lot of enjoyment from other people’s enjoyments, and, yes, arousal from their arousal. (Usually I express this in socially acceptable ways, unlike, for instance, now.) When you recline in your arousal and pleasure, passively acceding to your flesh and the flesh of the other, you are naked to me – whether or not I am, in that moment, “the other” in the “nude-to-nude encounter;” to be in the presence of your arousal, and to be open to your arousal, means I join in that encounter, too.
This is (a) HoooooT!, and (b) an account of the intimacy of shared pleasures of many kinds. It certainly makes having dinner together pretty exciting.
The thing is, we know this, don’t we? Eruptions of arousal and intimacy happen all the time, all over the place. Some dinners we call “orgies” for this reason, especially more voluptuous dinners, the ones after which we sigh with the fatigue of pleasure. When I described the erotic joy of teaching, what else was I describing but those moments when so many of us in the classroom become nakedly aroused at the contemplation, the sensuous encounter with an idea, especially a beautiful and seductive idea. (And there are beautiful and seductive ideas. Stop looking at me like that.)