Thursday, May 28, 2015

Masochism in Literature - Introduction

Erato by Francois Boucher, 1758
Masochism seems to be connected to modern Western culture. There are not many records indicating sexual masochism in other cultures or other times. Indeed it existed - and exists - everywhere and every time, but its existence was never expressed so openly as it is now in our culture. And it is not because we are living in the most permissive or sophisticated society - many sexual variations are tolerated in other cultures better and overall attitude towards sex were more tolerant in history.
Erato by Virgil Solis, 1562
Born of masochism as recognised sexual behaviour can be connected with 18th century. We can see rare records of similar behaviour before, but with Rousseau's confession it started to be cultural phenomenon. Sadly, nearly 250 years later it is still seen as something unnatural, dishonoring, degrading. Rousseau - great philosopher, but masochist? Is it a joke? Nietzsche, gay, maybe, but masochist? Common... Kafka as masochist? No way... Joyce? Just charming and innocent games of troubled genius... Sacher-Masoch, who? Writer? You call that Literature? Really? Surrealists worshipping the divine Marquise, but masochism? What? For Women, maybe...
Erato, 1560
Pain, loss of control, humiliation. Who can desire that? Who can make it part of sexual excitement? Such perversity... Kraft-Ebbing found name for it and destroyed very successful writer. Freud categorised it, Stekel made it a part of our human instincts. Reich saw it as nothing but demand for love, Reik made it part of our modern life, legitimate social behaviour. And Deleuze mixed everything together and made it, by using French philosophic terminology, accessible to all modern scholars. It's pity that Foucault died before he could finish his History of Sexuality...
Erato by Charles Meynier, 1800
Nevertheless, there is something that allows modern people to have masochistic feelings and desires and not only to realise them within their intimate life, but also to express them, give them some particular shape in their public manifestations. Whatever masochism is and regardless of its origins, it can bring some meaning into modern western world...
Erato by Samuel Wale, 1768

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