Tag Archives: Michel Foucault

Ashley Madison and the Pursuit of Happiness

by Guy Walker

paiting-picasso-sex

“I stretched ropes from steeple to steeple; garlands from window to window; gold chains from star to star, and I dance.” Arthur Rimbaud

I am in the middle of a luxuriant passionate love affair with a married woman. The love is more immediate and valiant than I’ve know before, a sort of semblant ecstasy of familiarity as we swim in the ocean at midnight, naked, laughing uncontrollably on mushrooms, and in our soberest hours we still smile involuntarily just from looking at each other. In a way, it brings a transitory peace to my regular fainéant cynicism, because love is just that: it’s the momentary reprieve from our furious blue minds, it’s a storm of huge dawns filling a dingy moor. But it’s restless and coarse: it’s the oasis in the enormous grim desert, you just hope that when you arrive, the bursting mad gardens are real and not a delusion driven by thirst. Loving a married woman is the spice of life, the forbidden dynamism that keeps us laughing.

At the same time, I know my role in this affair. Her husband is a wealthy clean-cut stockbroker on Wall Street, from a prideful pecunious family with a summer home on Cape Cod. He is stability and security; I drink warm champagne and overdose on GHB with my overweight landlord. I fit the role of her summer spent with a “surfer from California” who drives an old shitty Mercedes-Benz that sounds like a cement mixer. Is it novel to have no economic prospects? Is poverty avant-garde? It’s romantic from a distance, the way the Wild West is romantic only when it has been two-hundred years separated. It’s the reason we prefer the stories of the antihero and the whore to the clean upper-middle class family. Celine, Dostoyevsky, Thompson, Rimbaud, Steinbeck, Henry Miller, Bukowski—we love them because they were braver than we, because the flowering dawns of our youth were never enough, because the madness of emeralds and poison was seen and not forgotten. Those who live in the tame eidolons of domesticity, nudging vicariously for a bit of adventure and peril and storm by reading books of those who did are not all that different from those who carry on affairs with those they will never really have the guts to love. The world is cursed by timidness and phobias; there is too much politeness, not enough heartbreak. To be true, I wasn’t a man until I was heartbroken. No one is, nor ever can be without a bit of misery. But we keep drinking our cocktails, waiting in the dingy bars, yelling at the sport’s teams on the screen, privately wondering if any of this will be good again.

Last week, anonymous hackers published a mass of data containing the private information of 33 million people from around the world, all registered to the website Ashley Madison, which patrons to married people who want an affair. Tinder for the already married—an inevitable construct for those who fucked up by getting married in the first place, and need a solution. If the solution is a full-fledged affair, a single-night motel fuck, or even knowing that you have the option to do so—they are all a gasp of clean air in what seems like a prison. The data of private information released includes their names, email addresses, physical addresses, their personal sexual desires and fetishes, and their credit card purchases. Using the site, a man could pay $259 for an “affair guarantee package,” and women used the site for free  .  .  .  although most of the female profiles were fake. The fraudulent caliginous design of Ashley Madison is acutely perfect, because no one would publicly claim that they got ripped off. The hackers stated that their intent was to expose Ashley Madison as a fraudulent service, suggesting that the hackers may have been registered to the site previously, and were disgruntled with not getting laid. At least two men have already committed suicide due to the release of their information. And predictably, the guilt-shaming has begun with a sort of religious piety, a moralistic self-righteousness that says those who were exposed got what they deserved, that they shouldn’t have cheated in the first place. But it’s the repressive nature of marriage to push men and women to this point, to escape the long wasting ferment with a night of lust and laughter.

In Michel Foucault’s Histoire de la sexualité however, he petitions for us to abandon the “repressive hypothesis,” the notion that modern societies inhabit great sexual repression. He argues that since the 17th century, since the Counter-Reformation, or Catholic Revival, industrialized societies have developed an “authorized vocabulary” to articulate their sexuality, largely through the Roman Catholic Church, as its citizens would be encouraged to confess to their sinful desires and actions. Foucault thought the academic could liberate the sexes. But this reasoning is flawed. The dividing up of sexualities set the tone for repression and prohibition. Homosexuality and heterosexuality for example, were coined at the same time, in 1886, in Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s book Psychopathia Sexualis. This categorization was inevitable with the evolution of language, to specify and detail the world around and within us, but still, it’s enough to wonder if there was more of a sense of “normalcy” or unity with the various sexualities before they were parceled out into their little dark grotesque corners. Gluttony, laziness, nymphomania are all forms of enslavement to “the pleasure principle,” as Freud called it; but if the pleasure principle is repressed enough, the man or woman or entire society will develop neurosis, or an etiolated perversion of health and decency. For example, the two States who watch the most porn are Utah and Mississippi, two of the most religious States in the country. Alabama, another State with a strict religious reputation, had by far the most registered accounts to Ashley Madison. This is more than just accidental correlation. It’s more than accidental correlation that the Catholic Church implemented the most organized and pervasive child rape program in world history, while at the same time they advocate against the use of condoms. In some traditional Jewish practice, after the rabbi cuts off the end of the baby’s dick—as if that is not barbaric enough—he orally sucks off the blood from the baby dick in a sort of nightmarish welcome into this fucked up world; and it’s only now becoming controversial as cases of herpes on Jewish newborns have been rising in New York City. There is female genital mutilation in Somalia, Guinea, Egypt, Sierra Leone, and countless others, both under Muslim and Christian instruction. There is the Christian conservative’s systematic hatred of women, as they obstruct funding for women’s health care. Mike Huckabee, an evangelical Christian, even alluded to using the National Guard to shut down all Planned Parenthood’s across the country if (or when as he arrogantly puts it) he were to become President.

I want to love Foucault, because his intellect of rebellion lit a fire of magnificent curiosity, but as a historian of ideas, specifically in regard to sexuality and it’s liberation, he is incorrect. The world was far less shackled sexually prior to the 17th century. Ancient Egypt had the Festival of Drunkenness, a nationwide orgy to appease the warring goddess Sekhmet—everyone from the richest to the poorest were directly fucking for peace. Today’s equivalent would be in response to ISIS and Putin and domestic mass shootings, the United States devoted a month of orgies and drunkenness. Imagine if Islam was sexually liberated. This is a very serious, yet unexamined point. Sam Harris, Bill Maher and others argue that Islam is an inherently violent religion and should be held accountable, while Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and others contest that it’s America’s endless wars in the Middle East that generates terrorism itself. Both arguments are correct, but what is never mentioned is Islam’s repression of a little guiltless p in the v. ISIS doesn’t actually want a caliphate—they are blowing shit up and kidnapping women by the thousands because they are angry men in the desert who are not getting laid. Dionysus and his debonair theatre were given up for dust and storm and suicide bombs.

Similar to the Festival of Drunkenness, the ancient Celts had the Beltane, a festival for the fertility of the Earth, in which they would fuck in masses in the fields. The Estruscans were notorious swingers, the women were equal to men, sometimes exercising in the nude. Today, orgies are by no means less common than before, but there is a secretive nature to them, a sense of pagan idol worship or sinful desecration that the very moral public has attached to it. Infidelity is no different  .  .  .  it is one of those unavoidable and yet necessary ameliorations of the human condition, signatory of a grim defect of marriage itself. It is deemed by the morally self-righteous as a tasteless betrayal, an unforgivable liaison, the excuse for so much divorce and needless misery. It’s an excuse for divorce, not the actual reason for it, as so many married couples are unhappy, but don’t have the gall to leave the banal asylum of marriage, so they point to one’s natural interest in tasting other pies as vile and indefensible.

What the Ashley Madison hacks reveals is the insanity of marriage. Yet the public has adopted a ubiquitous moral self-righteousness, a puritanical judgment of the men and women who sought or had affairs. The anonymous hackers made the statement: “Too bad for those men, they’re cheating dirtbags and deserve no such discretion.” It’s what Glenn Greenwald has compared to the digital branding of the Scarlet Letter, branding all adulterers with an unforgivable red “A”. But marriage is vile complacency, denial in its most wretched form. It attempts to convert the strong alpha classes into timid sterile Victorians (even though Queen Victoria had a secret sex castle in Scotland). In most marriages, the last remaining drops of pure animal honesty is held only in their most private thoughts, as they wish to run away and disappear into the wild tall fields. As everyone knows, marriage began as a means of diplomacy, a form of treaty between the noble classes. In Marriage: A History, author Stephanie Coontz writes, “You establish peaceful relationships, trading relationships, mutual obligations with others by marrying them.” Marriage never has and never will be about love. Because love is a fleeting masterpiece that will never be tamed.

In Bosnia in 2007, a married couple who didn’t realize they were both in need of an affair, were chatting online, under the names “Sweetie” and “Prince of Joy,” only to realize this when they eventually met on a date. They consequently divorced, accusing each other of infidelity. This can be quickly laughed at as a nescient sordid reason for divorce, but the man and woman were clearly empathetic to each others’ private vulnerable honesties for a more buoyant intimacy. This is true of the masses. Huge legions of married couples want the love that maddens and thrills, the gallant endless thrusts of wisdom and youth. It is their own timidness that has paralyzed their freedom.

The rise in divorce rates have paralleled the rise in education with women. Education, in its ideal form, is power and independence and strength, and most of all, freedom. It ignites the mad theatre of life, the parade of opportunity, and it is reasonable to assume that a modern Enlightenment would be governed with secularism and sexual liberation as the new empyrean acheiropoietons of our era. Nietzsche warned against alcohol, exclaiming that it didn’t allow us to face the uncomfortable darkness that is called life. Marriage is much the same  .  .  .  it’s a dipsomanian fart of escape. Marriage may be a grand perfect affair for a few rare birds in the world, but the piggish unctuous masses are desperate and lonely, and may find their sad compliment in someone, and settle with desperate fetid humping for decades. But loneliness is a wise god, pushing us in our most private hours to think about stars and poetry and death. And I’ve never known a night I did not love.

Iggy Azalea and the Death of Freedom

aeonflux

“The high pool is always steaming. What witch will rise up on the white sunset? What purple foliage will descend? …While public funds flow into fraternal holidays, a clock of pink fire strikes in the clouds.” Rimbaud

An ambrosial heaving sun made the four men sweat, standing and talking amongst themselves on the asphalt atop the Santa Monica stairs. The insignificant veins of shade cast from the many manicured palm trees did not provide any reprieve for the men, but they were strong men so they were tougher than the sun. Their shaven chests were immaculate, perfectly glistened with diamonds of sweat, their iPods velcroed around their biceps, their headphones draped around their necks like loosened neckties. Beside them, a young black guy wearing a headband was playing Iggy Azalea’s Pu$$y on his boom box as loud as it would go as he hopped around on work-out cones. “Pussy, pussy, pussy” Iggy repeated. One of the four men adjusted his cock, just a useless reposition, as if to make certain it was still there. Another uncrossed his arms and then crossed them again. The man wearing Adidas striped basketball shorts cleared his throat and then said “There’s no way they’re real. No fucking way, dude. She’s a tease anyways. I’d let her suck my cock, but that’s it bro.” “I guaranfuckintee they are,” the blonde crewcut one said, “and no, I’d definitely fuck her, I’d just maybe slap her as well.” They argued like this as various libidinal types ascended the stairs, usually moderately young men and women reaching the top of the stairs and then turning back again, returning to the bottom. Everyone repeated this awful hopeless routine like Botoxed automatons, walking up and down again and again until everything was clenched and taut, until their tiny unctuous assholes pulsed in and out with stair-walking fatigue. Hundreds of people here do this every day, pacing back and forth in a way, like a Smerdyakov character lost on a displaced treadmill, kicking the modish dust back towards a desert. A tragedy of adventure, a drunken childhood that never explored a cave. In front, lined $10 million homes, all pruned and maintained by Mexicans—that’s what the owners of the houses called all of them anyways—their lawnmowers and blowers trimming everything into tidy slavish lawns, neat rose bushes that waited like old ladies sitting with clotted lipstick and heavy jewelry, geraniums tired of beauty, a few remaining bees fading away. A chihuahua barked obsessively at a Mexican man digging in the soil around a freshly planted birds-of-paradise. A woman in a purple bathrobe and perfectly combed hair and grossly thin lips opened the stained-glass front door and stepped outside. “Jeremy! Jeremy! Get back in here you adorable little monster!” And the chihuahua turned and ran into the house, and then barked again at the Mexican as the woman closed the door.

The egodystonic fuckery of our banal modern existence did not just appear out of nowhere. The utter triteness of affluent America isn’t merely the temporary prima donnian resolve of an ill-fated Big Bang, nor is it an ontological mess of countless evolutionary fuckups  .  .  .  yes, the four men standing around proud of their sweat are in some ways the horrid face of billions of years of cosmological occurrence, of various colliding supernovae and pulsars, but still, there is more complexity here. There is a demon at work, a heautontimoroumenos of a trite undertaking. Iggy Azalea’s Pu$$y—presumably the dollar bill signs represent ’S’ in the English alphabet, as Iggy repeats ‘pussy’ over and over again—signifies something close to the culmination of universal Self-Torment. In the music video, Iggy licks a few different popsicles, holds an umbrella on a normal dry day, and lays her head in the crotch of a little black boy who was previously riding on a plastic electric horse as he slaps the inanimate object’s ass. The video itself is not anything new or especially provocative—merely a blonde Australian girl with a huge ass supposedly rapping about pussy. But it is difficult to determine exactly what Iggy Azalea is trying to communicate to us—is she in fact rapping about the condition of her pussy, or is she stating that men spend egregious amounts of money and thought on getting any pussy they can, or is she actually claiming that the nomological determinists were correct about Laplace’s Demon, that in fact we have no moral responsibility today because the laws of the universe previous to our birth determined everything that is and everything that ever will be? Let us examine:

It is rumored that if you play the song backwards at the same time you play the audio of Kim Kardashian’s moanings in her sex video, you can hear Kamikaze war planes exploding. I tried it when I was alone and particularly bored, and the rumors lack any serious evidence of such. But the banality of her music video, as well as Kim’s as she imitates a donkey, as well as countless other spectacles of our sexuality in popular culture, represents something of a higher order. Iggy’s song and video is interesting because it is so uninteresting. Perhaps we are desensitized to the mountains of cock and tits that swell over us, but perhaps it is more than this. Aldous Huxley, author of the dystopian classic Brave New World, made the claim that the rise of our sexual freedom coincides directly with our political enslavement: “As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase. And the dictator  .  .  .  will do well to encourage that freedom  .  .  .  It will help to reconcile his subjects to the servitude which is their fate.” Now, the religious folk will predictably applaud such a claim; they still protest that we should not have threesomes, that we should wait until marriage before falling asleep in the same room, that we should wear full-legged knickers over our bathing suits, that women’s panties should be huge. As a child attending Sunday school, I once had a teacher who told me we should all be striving to be like Mother Mary, to give birth to a child without any fornication whatsoever. Here we are caught between two worlds: one that popularizes sex until it becomes an indistinct fustian hunchback of dick, and another that is so afraid of anatomy and pleasure. And even though marriage as a societal institution predates all known recorded history, its original role was obviously never meant as a declaration of love, but as a banal alliance between families  .  .  .  and monogamy wasn’t mandated until the 9th century, when the Catholic Church could declare and enforce law.

The Church has always fucked everything up for us sexually. Dildos for example existed in the Upper Palaeolithic period 30,000 years ago, made of stone, tar, and wood, found in the Hohle Fels Cave in Germany. Didlo-like breadsticks existed in Greece prior to the fifth century. Today, American Baptist preacher Dan Ireland has spoken out against all fake dicks, stating “There are moral ways and immoral ways to use a firearm  .  .  .  There are no moral ways to use [a dildo]. They entice improper and potentially deadly behavior.” It is an interesting argument he makes: guns are good, but dildos can kill people. In some ways he’s right. I know a firefighter very well who found an obese dead guy prone on the bed, with a mechanized dildo still penetrating his ass after at least a couple days of laying dead. I wish I was making this shit up. Dildos are deadly. But then so are Bibles and toothbrushes and catnip. So why is Dan Ireland so afraid of dildos? Was he beaten with one as a child? Did he walk in on his father? In 1998, the Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act prohibited the sale of sex toys in Alabama, and it still stands today. Dildos are only black market material in Alabama. Condoms are another example. They were used at least as far back as 11,000 years ago. In China, in the 1400’s A.D., they would wrap it in sheep intestines, and then pack it into their lover like a marshmallow into a keyhole. The Catholic Church has always been outspoken against the use of condoms, but they are great at covering up child molestation. Religion prospers during war and economic strife, but when exactly does it fade, consequently opening room for further sexual liberation? French philosopher Michel Foucault agreed with Huxley, in that furthering sexual liberation also ushered in “devious and discreet form[s] of power.” But one must remain skeptical of the intellectuals, because yes, Foucault and Huxley are considered by most as smart men, but Foucault was bald and Huxley had a terribly dull love life, and a man is still a man, no matter how strict and revered an academic he is, meaning they were both likely bitter non-alpha types. Wilhelm Reich on the other hand ushered in the sexual liberation to the United States immediately following the second World War, and he did so as a psychoanalyst, and he fucked more women than the most pernicious Lotharios today. So where are we today? Yes, Iggy Azalea does rap about her albino vagina freely, but rates of sex-slavery are also higher today than any point in human history, something not so representative of an era’s sexual freedom. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, illustrates this perfectly  .  .  .  he spent £11,300 on his wife’s hair and make-up in a single year, and she is still fat and repulsive. So we are left wondering: does force-fed improvement actually improve anything? Does the popularization of sex actually make us more liberated? Edward Snowden even admitted the NSA can see all of your dickpics, something terrifying for modern man.

I slept with a Hungarian woman last night. It was fine and all, but I couldn’t help but wonder if we were only fucking because there is drone warfare spread throughout the Middle East, killing innocents who will never receive their justice. Does our gasping from a particularly sordid 69 originate as a direct way of coping with the NSA’s Prism program? Is reverse cowgirl in fact a testament of the disparity of wealth across the country and the world? Aldous Huxley thinks so. So does Michel Foucault. I spend a fair amount of my time and money staring at women in their lingerie as they twirl around a metal pole at Jumbo’s Clown Room, a burlesque bar in Los Angeles, and the dancers’ coquettish physiognomy that follows. Some people prefer to walk up and down stairs in the sun. Some attend church, handing money into baskets as they go by. I sit as the dancers twirl, throwing my money on the stage, drinking beer as California dries up.

God is dead. Iggy Azalea is dead. We are nearly there. The Chihuahua barks one last time then curls next to the woman and closes its eyes. Iggy’s fat ass wasn’t enough to keep the awful night away. She never had the guts to stay alive. Ferdinand Louis Celine said it best: “So many vaginas, stomachs, cocks, snouts, and flies you don’t know what to do with them … shovelsfull! … but hearts? … very rare! in the last five hundred million years too many cocks and gastric tubes to count … but hearts? … on your fingers! …”