waifus and the perverse super-ego

The Guardian has a pretty good article about men choking women as a porn trend people practice IRL, and how “she was asking for it” is a convenient excuse when you choke a woman to death. I thought this passage was fascinating:

Lust points out that if sex education is inadequate, “young people will go to the internet for answers. Many people’s first exposure to sex is hardcore porn”. This, she says, teaches kids “that men should be rough and demanding, and that degradation is standard.”

One young man who spoke to the Guardian for this piece said he chokes his girlfriend, and has done for several years, “because she likes it”. Days later, he got in touch again. “I thought about our conversation and asked her about it. She said she doesn’t actually like it; she thought I liked it. But the thing is, I don’t: I thought it’s what she wanted.”

In keeping with the blog’s recent Baudrillard theme, sex lives themselves are now simulacra.

My social life is minimal, so it’s hard to judge if anecdotes like this are representative. But maybe Lacan was right that there are no sexual relationships. It says this couple was having bad sex neither of them wanted for years. You’d think close physical contact would facilitate theory-of-mind, but neither one could feel or hear any signs of discomfort from the other person?

Choking is a common scene-ruiner in porn. I’m autistic, which I’m told means I’m bad at this, and I can tell it’s almost always unwelcome. They instinctively grab the guy’s wrist. The enthusiasm goes up when it’s over. Maybe they’re both really amazing actors?

Women go along with it because “guys like it.” But why? What is it about it? Where’s the aggression coming from?

If neither of them were into it, how did it become a staple of their sex life? Obviously because someone told them that’s how you spice things up in bed, and they felt pressure to be GGG. This is the perverse super-ego Zizek talks about. You must enjoy.

It’s a sad story. Their desires weren’t connecting. They were inward-focused, trying to play their role properly, based on projections that didn’t match their partners. Dissociative and imaginary.

The porn consumption is driven by horniness, but also by loneliness:

When people experience affection deficit, they seek out substitutes that can help reduce feelings of loneliness. For example, consuming substances like chocolate and alcohol can at least provide dopamine rushes that make lonely feelings go away for a while. Substance use isn’t necessarily problematic, especially if it doesn’t negatively impact the user’s quality of life. Nevertheless, there’s ample evidence that substance abuse stems from severe affection deprivation, especially in early childhood.

Another means of alleviating affection deprivation is the creation of what’s called a parasocial relationship. This is an imaginary affiliation with a fictional person or a celebrity, and it’s speculated that engaging in these can lead to the release of the same pleasant and soothing hormones that real affectionate relationships do.

Parasocial relationships are quite common. Teenage girls work themselves into a frenzy at the sight of their favorite male pop singer, and many women turn to romance novels to soothe their feelings of affection deficit. In recent years, popular TV series such as Game of Thrones, with the actors’ beautiful bodies and steamy sexuality on full display, provide both men and women with ample opportunities for forming parasocial relationships.

I think this is generally overlooked in discussions of porn. The problem is that, to produce porn, you have to find people and have sex with them IRL, which introduces a lot of trauma and grossness. You’re watching a fantasy and also someone being degraded, simultaneously.

On the other hand, manga and anime are purely fictional. There’s an amazing book about this called Beautiful Fighting Girl, written by Saito Tamaki, coiner of “hikikomori” and Lacanian psychoanalyst. When that dude was choking his girlfriend and they weren’t into it, it’s almost like they were interacting with fictional characters in their own heads instead of each other. This is the horror of objectification. As a Lacanian, Saito Tamaki says all relationships are fictional anyway, so what’s the difference? There are no sexual relationships.

We do not enjoy fiction because it is a form of virtual reality. We enjoy it because of its status as another reality, one that demands a rearrangement of the subject.

However, to maintain this space, this other reality that is apart from everyday reality, we often require the help of the magnetic field of sexuality. Of all our various desires, sexual desire is the most resistant to fictionalization. Sexual desire is not destroyed by fictionalization and can therefore be easily transplanted into a fictional space. This is because human sexuality, which does not require a biological basis, has a fundamentally fiction-friendly nature. Fictional, or “drawn”, money and power do not activate our desire. But when it comes to a drawing of a naked body, things are quite different. Even though we know it is drawn, we have a powerful, sometimes even corporeal, reaction to it. Our reaction is so predictable, in fact, that we really have no right to laugh at cats who pounce on toy mice. Sex is certainly not an instinct, but it is something so fundamental that it looks like one.

For the world to be real (riaru), it must be sufficiently electrified by desire. A world not given depth by desire, no matter how exactingly it is drawn, will always be flat and impersonal, like a backdrop in the theater. But once that world takes on a sexual charge, it will attain a level of reality (riariti) no matter how shoddily it is drawn. This is one thing that the popularity of pornographic comics teaches us.

The phallic girl is a point of connection to the desire that gives reality to fictional Japanese space. The desire directed toward her is the source of the power that maintains the reality of that world. In this sense she is similar to a lure or a decoy. Moreover, as a superficial entity that absorbs sexual desire she is also hysterical.

This quote is funny, too: “I am saying that you can tell an otaku by whether he is able to use the image of a female anime character as an aid to masturbation.” He includes a long, self-reflective email from an otaku. This part is about figurines:

Second, you create the Momoko you prefer inside your head.

At that time, it’s like the image of the figure itself both does and does not have a material reality. When I am really turned on, I can convince myself that my Momoko can do things that a figure could never do, like caress my hair and whisper “I love only you.” At that moment, the owner becomes an “all-powerful god” and can control the character completely. So it’s not like you get release with the figure just as it is. That is only possible once you have added your own personal bits of drama and performance.

Here the parallel with the 3D world is made explicit:

Let me say a little bit more about the hysterical status of the phallic girl. First of all, what exactly is hysteria? It is the name for one of the structures of our desire (and hence of reality)…Lacan…postulated a structure of hysteria that exists within all of us. This is most evident when, for example, we desire a woman.

When our desire is directed toward a woman in the name of “love”, it is safe to say that we are always hystericizing the woman. When we are attracted to the outward appearance of a woman, we try to convince ourselves that what we are attracted to is some invisible essence of the woman in question. The first meaning of hystericization is this process, in which we set up a gap and an opposition, themselves baseless, between the visible exterior and the invisible essence. At the same time, the essence of the woman here is in fact equivalent to the “traumatic.” What captivates us in the woman is in fact her external trauma. There are all sorts of traces of this in popular culture. The “injured woman” is loved precisely for her trauma.

He doesn’t think feminist analysis of the issue is very interesting, for interesting reasons.

The icon of the beautiful fighting girl is an extraordinary invention capable of encapsulating polymorphous perversity in a stable form. She radiates the potential for an omnidirectional sexuality latent with pedophilia, homosexuality, fetishism, sadism, masochism, and other perversions, yet she behaves as if she were completely unaware of it all. She will probably continue to be seen as the companion to the boy hero character and protected as a feminist icon. Anyone boorish enough to point to her perversity can only bring on himself or herself the scorn typically heaped on psychologists and psychiatrists these days.

The reception of the beautiful fighting girls, they say, perfectly symbolizes the conditions of today’s society, particularly that of women. This is true in part, and books written from this perspective are certainly given a warm reception. But I cannot bring myself to find much interest in this kind of analysis. At this point any analysis naive enough to see a direct reflection of reality (genjitsu) in a fictional construct is itself a typical example of confusing fiction and fact. As long as we remain at this level, we will never be able to decipher the dissociative sexuality of the otaku.

Dissociative as a response to social conditions. This book is 20 years old, predating the moe revolution. We’re all so lonely that we just want to watch cute girls doing cute things, or normal people living everyday life without a plot. It’s a fitting time to bring up Kyoto Animation:

In Lacanian terms, addiction is turning away from the other as a source of jouissance. Decoupling reward from the contingencies of the external world.