PLEASURE AGAINST THE MACHINE: musings on hacking with care

(this is an excerpt of Sosa’s “Twerk/Torque: anti colonial strategies for thriving and survival in web 2.0 times” PhD text)

There is a widespread campaign of disinformation that pain is completely inbuilt in the femme/feminine/womxn body, and immanently inscribed in our subjectivity.  Whether it is in the biologically wronged apparatus inaccurately called “female sexual organs”, or womxnity and/or femmehood as more abstract locations, you have to tend to it infinitely, so as to achieve an always forward moving finite amount of cessation of pain, which almost never gets to the beginning of pleasure.

Being femme, feminine, womxn is to be in pain, be it having your period, not having it, losing your ‘virginity[1]’, transitioning, sustaining the transition, giving birth, being child-less, being “pretty”, being “ugly”, being menopausal, being feminine and visible in public, being, passing, not passing…   The choice in this is often non-existant for those of us that identify as femme, feminine, womxn.  We are continuously in danger of feeling pain, or in pain.

My experience as an AFAB femme afro-descendant scholar leads to think many of these pleasurable hacks from my own experience of pain, cessation of pain and occasional beginning of pleasure.  This does not remove me, the epistemic subject, from the practice of desiring truth, but it does place me in a certain location that needs to be acknowledged.  I do not believe in a unique femme/feminine/womxn pleasurable body.  Bodies and their pleasure are not natural givens.

In the making of this text I want to keep myself alert to my own gender experience which has traditionally been continuous and remained unchallenged in public and private spheres, and therefore listen and amplify folx who’s experience has lead them to be able to see further and deeper into this particular necro-colonial construct that draws a cartography in the body where there are no-go zones, ghettos, gentrified areas, pretty neighborhoods and towers of control.  Embodied experiences of sexuality follow a colonial, kyriarchic spacial distribution, extracting pleasure from the peripheria and accumulating it somewhere else, often a phallocentered, cis gender, hetero, eurowhite elsewhere.

The epistemic ignorance –lack of representation, misrepresentation, incomplete information, lost archives, etc- around pleasurable femme, feminine and womxn embodiment is a fertile site to think about the “epistemologies of ignorance”, such as posited by Nancy Tuana in her essay Coming to Know: Orgasm and the Epistemology of Ignorance. “Ignorance is not a simple lack. It is often constructed, maintained, and disseminated and is linked to issues of cognitive authority, doubt, trust, silencing, and uncertainty.”  Paying attention to what is ignored as being as intentional as what is known leads to potentially revealing the role of power in the confection of such knowledge, or a more intersectional understanding of how knowledge is produced and disseminated.

I can therefore posit ignorance is a practice and also a theory, with its pertaining ensamble of behaviours, social sanctions and consequences. “Ignorance and uncertainty can be manufactured, maintained, and disseminated”[1] (1995,8), just like knowledge. “Ignorance effects can be harnessed, licensed, and regulated on a mass scale for striking enforcements” [2](1990, 5), just like knowledge effects.  I’d like to examine the profusion of self-actualizing psychic and physical painful narratives which are more or less democratically available to be known, spread and often “scientifically proved” vs. the absence of pleasurable ones to match two and two together:  there is intentional ignorance manufactured, maintained, and disseminated around femme pleasure, and there is intentional knowledge manufactured, maintained, and disseminated around pain in femme, feminine and womxn embodiments.

Our pain being inevitable is part of a necro-colonial extractivist extension that self-actualizes to generate and accumulate wealth.  As such, pleasurably hacking femme-hood and womxnity is one of the strategies I’d like to defend in the making of liberatory practices, theories and economies.  Orgasmic agency is one of the elements I will use to exemplify a pleasurable hack, but it is nor the ultimate nor the only one.   Pleasurable creation and transmission (theoretical and/or practical, artistic and/or scientific, sexual and/or cognitive, etc) are some other ones I am particularly interested in examining through this epistemic lense, and ones I have been actively engaging in even when I didn’t have the language to identify them.  I believe there is something evolutionary deeply inscribed in this way of seeking, obtaining and redistributing knowledge.

[1] Robert Proctor, Cancer Wars.

[2] Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet

SABER ES PODER ES PLACER

Pleasurably obtaining knowledge, fabricating it, and redistributing it, seems to be at the core of an intersectional understanding where knowledges, power, and pleasures and pain are interrelated.  Whose pleasures are enhanced by ignorance? and whose are suppressed by knowledge? are complex questions that must be asked repeatedly in any look of liberation.

In her essay, Coming to Understand, Orgasm and the Epistemologies of Ignorance, Nancy Tuana comes all the way through citing scholar LaDelle McWhorter who states:

“Instead of refusing normalization outright, we need to learn ways to use the power of its disciplines to propel us in new directions” (1999, 181).

Though we cannot simply remove ourselves from disciplinary practices, she argues that it is possible to affirm “development without affirming docility, [through] affirming the free, open playfulness of human possibility within regimes of sexuality without getting stuck in or succumbing to any one sexual discourse or formation” (1999, 181).

McWhorter, following Foucault, suggests that one path to this playfulness is to deliberately separate practice from goal and simply engage in disciplinary practices for their own sake, for the pleasures they bring, rather than for some purpose beyond them:

“What if we used our capacities for temporal development not for preparation for some task beyond that development but for the purpose of development itself, including the development of our capacities for pleasure? What if we used pleasure rather than pain as our primary disciplinary tool?” (1999, 182).

Following Foucault, what we must work on “. , . is not so much to liberate our desires but to make ourselves infinitely more susceptible to pleasure.”

McWorther’s concept of “work-as-play” as a potential evolutionary impulse behind non invasive discipline is not new. Gray’s research about pre-desertification Saharasian hunter-gatherer groups situates the existence of a pleasure based sociability that enabled a permanent state of playfulness through adulthood. Work-as-play made possible their egalitarian, nonautocratic, intensely cooperative ways of living.

“Hunter-gatherer bands, with their fluid membership, are likened to social-play groups, which people could freely join or leave. Freedom to leave the band sets the stage for the individual autonomy, sharing, and consensual decision making within the band. Hunter-gatherers used humor, deliberately, to maintain equality and stop quarrels. Their means of sharing had game-like qualities. Their religious beliefs and ceremonies were playful, founded on assumptions of equality, humor, and capriciousness among the deities. They maintained playful attitudes in their hunting, gathering, and other sustenance activities, partly by allowing each person to choose when, how, and how much they would engage in such activities. Children were free to play and explore, and through these activities, they acquired the skills, knowledge, and values of their culture. Play, in other mammals as well as in humans, counteracts tendencies toward dominance, and hunter-gatherers appear to have promoted play quite deliberately for that purpose.”

The existence of a highly cooperative common ancestor transmitting knowledge and building community through play and pleasure is routinely ghosted in the modern vision of human evolution. I can’t help but look at this absence without interrogating how the colonial body of knowledge apprehends transmission and confection of saber -in our body.   A disciplinarian version of “education” so as to subdue folx into forced labour has in fact been used to subsume the indigenous and Black bodies of knowledge and ways of knowing related to pleasure, and is entrenched in a judeo-christian sexually repressive organisation of the classroom and an extension of the plantation.

“Disciplines” as a system of categorising knowledge are confectioned with this directive of extending the aforementioned epistemologies of ignorance, sealing the access to any otherness as local to the knowledge, effectively expatriating subjectivities as “non-scientific.”

Linda Tuhiwai Smith mentions how “Academic knowledges are organized around the idea of disciplines and fields of knowledge.  […..] Most of the ‘traditional’ disciplines are grounded in cultural worldviews which are either antagonistic to other belief systems or have no methodology for dealing with other knowledge systems. [….] Some of these disciplines, however, are more directly implicated in colonialism in that either they have derived their methods and understandings from the colonized world or they have tested their ideas in the colonies.  New colonies were the laboratories of Western science. Theories generated from the exploration and exploitation of colonies, and of the people who had prior ownership of these lands, formed the totalizing appropriation of the Other.”  These categories were heavily involved in the “geographical and economic absorption of the non European world by the West.”

This victorian engraving depicts a classroom with “improved arrangement of school desks.”

The student desks are checkered and placed in lines.  The teacher desk is bigger, sturdier, and faces the students dominating the space.  This, Paulo Freire tells us, is the famous “banking model” of learning.  From the age of 6, children are made to sit down in ranks, a formation that stems from the military. This kyriarchic system reposes on the unquestionable authority of a teacher operating as a tower of control to oversee the student population.  During the most useful hours of the day, children are made to sit down in the colonial classroom,  forbidden to communicate in their mother-tongue, and commence a 12 year long educational praxis primarily based in the disciplining, regulating and rigidifying the child’s body, and more precisely their hips.

This process being gendered, masculine and feminine embodiments absorb discipline differently. Both have the same result: a loss of mobility,  sensation, awareness, vitality, flexibility in the lower spine, chore, and hips.  Many structural problems ensue in the body of knowledge when this pleasurable, innate pathways is endangered.

In western medicine, when something is in pain, weather the soul or the body, it is recognized as pathological. Many of us are more in touch with our pharmacist than with our own bodies and their cycles, their tides and their boundaries, and the less invasive technologies this inner solidarity proposes.

This is particularly interesting when analyzed in terms of economical gain:  “Epistemologies that view ignorance as an arena of not-yet-knowing will also overlook those instances where knowledge once had has been lost. What was once common knowledge or even common scientific knowledge can be transferred to the realm of ignorance not because it is refuted and seen as false, but because such knowledge is no longer seen  as valuable, important, or functional.  Obstetricians in the United States, for example, no longer know how to turn a breech, not because such knowledge, in this case a knowing-how, is seen as false, but because medical practices, which are in large part fueled by business and malpractice concerns, have shifted knowledge practices in cases of breech births to Caesareans. Midwives in most settings and physicians in many other countries still possess this knowledge and employ it regularly.”  

In this excerpt, Tunua exposes that unmistakably, the more pleasurable/non-invasive tools that are part of “common knowledge”, specially surrounding sexual/reproductive functions, are discarded as “unscientific” under capital based economic pressure.  As such, a cesarean and its technologies will be constructed as knowledge, but abdominal massage and turning a breech in utero will be constructed as ignorance.   It is interesting and exciting for me to imagine/remember a time when a pleasure-centered economy regulated behaviors, social sanctions and consequences.

Orgasm distribution is probably one way to draw intersections among ourselves to examine privilege and oppression.  Who is orgasming honestly, mind-blowingly, life chagingly?, Femme folx, feminine people and womxn of color are at clear orgasmic/economic disadvantage.

Femmehood and/or womxnity as pathological is ubiquitous, so our commitment to pleasure needs be transversal, intersectional and anti-colonial. We existed once in pleasure, and feminine folx still know that knowledge produced in pleasure is sustainable.   

As an act of rememberance we acknowledge our existence once in pleasure, before the invention of intangible private property laws and regulations.  Femme, feminine and womxn orgasmic agency was the pillar of a khunt centered pleasurably self hacking economy.

In McWhorter’s words, im tryina “live our bodies as who we are, to intensify our experiences of bodiliness and to think from our bodies, if we are going to push back against the narrow confines of the normalizing powers that constrict our freedom” (1999, 185)

Pleasure is power.  Pleasure is resistance.  Pleasure is remembrance.  Pleasure is knowledge.

1. Pretty hurts

Your pretty doesn’t hurt.   Your pretty is the fairy god-entity, the loving guardian warrior of your well being, of your health, of your emotional and physical integrity, your inner wealth, your capacity to thrive in any given environment.  Your pretty is the calm and compassion you use to look at yourself, because you know that results in how you look at others.

Beauty is such an important concept for you though.  You really feel the need to learn how to exist outside feeling attractive, outside being desirable in a way? Because there is definitely an expectation to be something, in your case, you definitely feel like being hot gives you life.  It’s so ridiculous.  Growing up u had experiences and narratives (or lack of thereof) that informed u that u was too short, too brown, too queer, too precocious, too ambiguous and too fat: short black hair, a moustache and boobs at 10.  This invalidated any form of emancipatory speech departing from womxnity in the Argentina you experienced in the 90s.  It was all aryan looking skinny long haired tall women, like Xuxa or Valeria Massa, that were looked at and offered agency to exist, to thrive, and to be seen.

“I am beautiful” you claim, “because I exist, and not the other way around”.  “Aint I Beautiful Too”? was your cry from as long as you can remember.  Your cultural legacy is based on reclaiming pretty, fabulous, beautiful, hot, desirable, attractive, from your brownness, your ambiguousness, your shortness, your hairiness… and your compassion.  Sometimes you can be bound to it in ways that do not look like liberation.  But you keep making sure of something, and that is- that u get your life!

That it doesn’t hurt.

That it feels good.  (and if it hurts, that it’s the kind of hurt that feels good)

2. Not the church, not the state, womxn must decide they faith

So one of the best well-hidden secrets in this disinformation campaign is the fact that birth is actually an incredibly life-changing orgasmic moment.  The faculty of giving birth, bringing forth, dar a luz a new generation is not an inherently painful process.  What neurological pathways are destroyed when we’re born from a stressed out mother ripped in two in a sterile white room with an unbothered doctor leading the process?

Hear me out.

Giving birth is not painful.  Giving birth is orgasmic.  I think it would be useful to start applying this logic to everything painful around femme/feminine/womxn embodiments: the pain replaces the pleasure, there is a reason why and there is a way out.

The technologies around the pregnant person, birthing and motherhood are burdened with the most ridiculous prejudices, and tainted with speciesm, white supremacy, and gender terrorism.  Pregnancy is as sexually pleasurable at the beginning of the journey as it is at the end: the baby is born with an orgasm, just like they was conceived: such is the fractal, cyclic nature of nature.  I used to resent reproduction narratives where “female” (help) orgasm is not necessary –although beneficial- to conception. Until I realised that orgasm is actually at the other end of the pregnancy, and that the ignorance around the clitoris, the prostate and their role in birthing is one of the extensions of colonial warfare.

Orgasm is the evolutionary tool that our body has kept in place even though its technologies and epistemologies have been assassinated, privatized, demonized, deemed dirty, dangerous, terrorist, morally corrupted, primitive, unholy, neurotic, hysteric, and unruly.   This is why the clitoris is still there, unbothered, erectile, and huge under your belly: it is an evolutionary tool that, when knownt, used and explored, offers us sexual, economic, and medical autonomy.

You do not know much about khunt technologies.   You try to remember, you talk to the Black orgasmic elders you know about their cycles.

The disinformation campaign is set on divide and conquer, and as such, has divided –yet not fully conquered, because de la concha venimos, y a la concha nos vamos- our reproductive organs from our sexual organs, using a Mother/Whore binary terror to keep us in pain.

The Mother system is the uterus, the ovaries, and the cervix, and they are all crying tears of blood, forever in pain.  The Whore is the visible part of the clitoris, the vagina, and the anus, and they better be continuously wet and orgasming with no particular care from your hetero partner, lest you be a frigid, sexually immature individual.  The clitoris, the uterus, the ovaries, the cervix, the pelvic nerve, the pelvic floor, the prostate and urethra are thouroughly ignored and/or mis-represented in our pleasurable femme psyche.  The only rudimentary narrative of pleasurable organs is an obscure notion of gaping, endless holes, flattening and censoring the erecticle and phallic abilities of the Khunt.

Just like the necro-colon accidently discovered America, because he was looking for business in India, he discovered the G spot, because he was looking for business in the Khunt.  He got down from his necro technology, set a diseased foot on this ancient soil, and claimed it property of some inbred king because daddy issues.

To be born in a white room to a parent drugged and cut open by the pharmaceutical military complex is to be divided and conquered, discovered and colonized, and as such we enter this world already defeated, crying, depressed and scared, delivered by a doctor who’s main worry is lunch break.

The myth of the “female” Eldorado, the G spot as the key to sexual maturity, squirting, and effortless hetero sex, reposes on this divide and conquer technique, or this discover and colonise technique.  Naming the G spot after a yt man called Graffenberg –or whatever, i just want to forget- has taken our sexual and erotic autonomy away.  It makes us dependant on inaccurate medicine to unify our scattered pieces, to treat the alienation this fractured state engenders in our sex.

The G spot is actually the same body than the clitoris.  The clitoris is part of the reproductive system, and it has a concrete function: to relax and expand the cervix so it can open, to test out surroundings for possible predators by generating orgasmic cries, and edify and tonify the uterus so it can push the baby or the orgasm out.  Orgasm comes from the uterus, just like all life.  The erectile clitoris and its technologies are the midwife of generations, the gate keeper of evolutionary, easy, non traumatic birth.  Try a wand on your clit when giving birth next time.

You refer to this unified, re-indigenized, decolonial sexual/reproductive system as the Khunt,  The Khunt is an orgasmic unified gateway, channel, and resonance box, where reproductive and sexual systems and organs are one and the same, yet distinct, acknowledged, and pleasurable.

Khunt is inherently pleasurable and joyful, as all act of deliverance is.   Khunt is Black, wet, deep, and it smells of Khunt, as all places of creation do.

_______________

[1] “Ancient moon priestesses were called virgins. ‘Virgin’ meant not married, not belong to a man – a woman who was ‘one-in-herself’. The very word derives from a Latin root meaning strength, force, skill; and was later applied to men: virle. Ishtar, Diana, Astarte, Isis were all all called virgin, which did not refer to sexual chasity, but sexual independence. And all great culture heroes of the past…, mythic or historic, were said to be born of virgin mothers: Marduk, Gilgamesh, Buddha, Osiris, Dionysus, Genghis Khan, Jesus – they were all affirmed as sons of the Great Mother, of the Original One, their worldly power deriving from her. When the Hebrews used the word, and in the original Aramaic, it meant ‘maiden’ or ‘young woman’, with no connotations to sexual chasity. But later Christian translators could not conceive of the ‘Virgin Mary’ as a woman of independent sexuality, needless to say; they distorted the meaning into sexually pure, chaste, never touched. When Joan of Arc, with her witch coven associations, was called La Pucelle – ‘the Maiden,’ ‘the Virgin’ – the word retained some of its original pagan sense of a strong and independent woman. The Moon Goddess was worshipped in orgiastic rites, being the divinity of matriarchal women free to take as many lovers as they choose. Women could ‘surrender’ themselves to the Goddess by making love to a stranger in her temple.”

Monica Sjoo, The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth