From The Archive
Slavoj Žižek
No. 22  April 2013

Camera Shy, Blah, Blah, Blah

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My basic idea is that our times are weird times. On the one hand, they are superficially permissive. You get all the hardcore you want on the net, you can participate in orgies, blah blah blah. But at the same time it’s not even true consumerism. You have this obsession with safe sex, and so on. I think the only true consumerists that we have are, if you ask me, drug addicts, those who say, “Fuck it, I want to go to the end, I don’t care.” No, our consumerism is not dead. It’s a very strategic, calculating consumerism.

Isn’t there an Indian guy [Pranav Mistry] in Cambridge who developed “SixthSense”? A simple mechanism: you have a camera, a small one, digital, on your head. You have a kind of a projector on your breast, and you are connected to the net through a cellphone in your pocket, and it works like this. The camera identifies the object in front of you. Because it’s connected, the computer can identify the object. And then immediately the Internet gets the data about the object and projects them onto any plain surface. You interact with a real object, but at the same time you can project on it all the data. And I think it’s an interesting thing because the effect is a kind of magic. Objects answer you, telling all about themselves.

You can imagine my first reaction: it must be wonderful to do this in seduction. Okay, it holds also for women, but from my male chauvinist perspective, I look at the woman, and it’s projected on her. She likes anal sex, she likes her breasts pinched, she likes this music, she likes that. You get instant data on the girl. This is ideology at its purest. And isn’t it how our real lives are structured? Let’s say you are an anti-Arab, anti-Jewish, or anti-black racist. Isn’t it exactly the same as what happens when you see a real Arab or Jew or black guy? It is as if you project on him all your implicit racist knowledge. You see that he’s evil, a danger to you, or whatever, blah blah. I think it’s a perfect metaphor for our spontaneous ideology.

Pornography is the most censored genre you can imagine. First, you notice how totally regulated it is. In standard heterosexual porn, what happens? First, you have some fantasizing, masturbation, cunnilingus, fellatio, then full sex, then maybe an orgy, whatever. It’s absolutely codified.

But more important, I absolutely disagree with Laura Mulvey, the cinema theorist, that in heterosexual pornography, the woman is reduced to the object of the male gaze. Not at all. Do you notice how the woman being fucked is allowed to break the basic rule of fiction movies and look directly into the camera? Men, no. You don’t identify with the man fucking the woman. He is a pure instrument. If you are a hetero guy observing a hardcore movie, what you are looking for—and this is signaled to you by the woman—is some confirmation that the woman really enjoys it. The true object is the poor guy, usually some poor sailor fucking her. Which is why the woman, as a rule, has to make all those sounds all the time.

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The second aspect of censorship in pornography I noticed when I was young, when I saw my first hardcore movies. When you have a full hardcore movie—like one hour, one hour and a half—of course you cannot just fuck all the time, there has to be a story. And how openly ridiculous the story is. It’s so humiliatingly stupid. I mean, even now, I am shocked. I remember one of the early movies: a plumber comes and fixes a hole in the kitchen. [And she says], “But I have another hole down there, can you also fix that for me.” And then it came to me. My god, it cannot be that they are so stupid. This is censorship. The idea is, you can either be totally emotionally identified [as in mainstream films], then you don’t see it all, or, you see it all, all the details [in porn films], but then the story has to be ridiculous, so you shouldn’t take it seriously.

First (she says), your fingers, then put your hand on my breasts. No (he says) put your finger into my ass, not there. You get totally caught in these bureaucratic negotiations.

Now the censorship even goes further. Now the predominant form of pornography is so-called gonzo, where even a story is not allowed. Gonzo means, you know, when actors directly face the camera [and say], “Am I doing this well, or should we do this, that?” I was always suspicious of [Bertolt] Brecht, this idea that the moment you get caught into the story, it’s a kind of bourgeois emotional identification, and alienation is good, I mean, externalization. No! I think that precisely this is censorship. The horror is that you would really fall into this story. It’s spontaneous social censorship. But that’s what makes it so much more mystical. There is no direct censor, and all the hardcore movies obey these rules.

A seduction to be successful has to imply a moment of impotence and failure, in the sense that you playfully acknowledge your limitations. Seduction never works with perfection. People are totally wrong when they think that you should present yourself as perfect, blah blah blah blah.

I talked with a sex adviser who told me, when you have a couple where, I don’t know if the guy’s impotent or whatever, the worst thing to do is to give him some bullshit like, “Don’t think about, just do it, spontaneously.” This is where you kill him. He told me one way to do it—and he told me it works with couples—is to tell them to imitate a purely externalized bureaucratic procedure. Like, you want to make love, okay, sit down with your partner and make a Stalinist plan. First (she says), your fingers, then put your hand on my breasts. No (he says) put your finger into my ass, not there. You get totally caught in these bureaucratic negotiations. And then usually somebody says, “Fuck it, why don’t we just fuck, let’s go.”

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Slavoj Žižek, philosopher and cultural critic, is a madman.

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