Thursday, June 07, 2007

'Sex as Communication' defintion

I was attempting to try and make the ‘sex as communication’ theory fly by i) removing the prescriptive element, and making it more a definition rather than a line drawn in the sand, ii) treating these communicative instants as Austinian performatives, as is my obsession these days, and iii) introducing greater ‘social fields’ ala Wittgenstein or even Foucault, to account for the apparent inability to account for solo masturbatory acts or their ever looming ‘aid’ porn. Then it dawned on me that Williams, who I must admit I have a kind of soft spot for, as one of those often neglected but progressive for his style of philosophy philosophers (but maybe that’s just one of my hang ups from undergrad shinning through), didn’t comment on masturbation or pornography because he wouldn’t, by the ‘sex as communication’ analogy, consider such acts as sex. Sexual in nature yes, but not sex. So simple yet it eluded me, the greatest genius ever to have lived ever in the history of man which is of course all that is history, and the author of the Philosopher’s Carnival submission on this subject, who postulated that one of the failures of this method of reasoning about sex is that it fails to account for masturbation or pornography.

I give as an example: if someone has a partner, and they masturbate while being monogamous with that partner, have they cheated? The obvious answer is no. This seems to fly in the face of ‘pornography addiction’ which is perceived as one of the ‘plagues’ afflicting social morality bay many commentators far more widely read than myself.

The thing is that otherwise, my endeavour to expand the theory has been somewhat fruit-full as it is kind of stating the obvious, in keeping with our much beloved Bertie: “The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.” The over analysis only seems to strengthen its cause.

But isn’t pornography communicative I hear you ask? Yes but not as a conversation. It functions communicatively as any novel, movie, image, etc. It follows the same rules as any aesthetic production, and as such this is a moot point.

Personally I find sex far more interesting than religion (as did Lord Bertrand I might add), so what are your thoughts on the ‘sex as communication’ definition? I might even be arsed writing it up in its expanded form.


Samuel said...

The model you suggest of "sex as communication" seems to explain some things helpfully, but I'm not sure I've grasped it properly. Perhaps the idea of "sexual behaviour as speech" might be useful- speech being intended for commnication, although it doesn't always acheive that purpose. I could further complicate the matter by suggesting that communication is supposed to involve knowledge, that speech can involve knowledge, and that (according to Foucault) knowledge is a species and function of power, and that sex is the location of much movement of power.
I'm not sure where that all leaves us.

Rowan Blyth said...

Just to clarify, I was very drunk when I wrote this post, and I referred to Williams, as in Bernard, for some bizarre reason, when I really meant Tommy Nagel. Stupid ethicists, all writing about moral luck and confusing my poor drunken brain.

The gist is that if you treat communication being an exchange of 'performative' statements, then voyeurism, exhibitionism, sadism and masochism will all be able to be passed as reasonable sexual practice within social fields where the members are not unwilling. Thus most consensual sexual practices will be permitted as reasonable sex, even if the 'speakers' are not intimate as such, so long as a dictionary of allowed performative terms can be established between participants. Note that there can be the role of the 'speaker' and the 'listener', so to speak, and the former need not actually be aware of the latter other than that they might exist.

By this treatment rape, necrophilia, bestiality and many other 'perverse' activities can be morally legislated against while allowing a variety of acts which are relatively harmless to willing participants.

The movement of power is irrelevant to the definition, but this definition allows for such a Foucauldian analysis to be made of power relations within or surrounding sexual practices meaningfully, and hence my claims of 'fruitfulness'.