The Fear Of Being Seduced

If seduction is a passion or destiny, it is usually the opposite passion that prevails - that of not being seduced. We struggle to confirm ourselves in our truth: we fight against that which seeks to seduce us.

In this struggle all means are acceptable, ranging from relentlessly seducing the other in order not to be seduced oneself, to pretending to be seduced in order to cut all seduction short.

The hysteric combines the passion of seduction with that of simulation. She protects herself from seduction by offering booby-trapped signs which, even as they put themselves forward in exaggerated fashion, cannot be believed. The scruples, the excessive remorse, the pathetic advances and endless entreaties, her way of spinning events so that they dissolve and she herself becomes elusive, the giddiness she imposes on others, and the deception - it is all seductive deterrence, whose obscure objective is less to seduce than to never let oneself seduce.

The hysteric has no intimacy, emotions, or secrets. She is entirely given over to external blackmail, to the ephemeral but total credibility of her "symptoms," the absolute need to be be-

lieved (like the mythomaniac with his stories) but at the same time, to disappoint all belief - and this without appealing to some shared delusion. An uncompromising demand, but completely insensitive as to its response. A demand that is put into question by its choreography, and by the effect of its signs. Seduction too mocks the truth of signs, but makes it into a reversible appearance, while the hysteric plays with the signs but without sharing them. It is as if she appropriated the entire process of seduction for herself, as if she was bidding with herself, while leaving the other only the ultimatum of her hysterical conversion, without any possible reversion. The hysteric succeeds in making her own body a barrier to seduction: a seductress paralyzed by her own body and fascinated by her own symptoms. And who seeks to petrify others in turn, by an elusiveness that seeks to allay suspicions, but remains only a pathetic psychodrama. If seduction is a challenge, hysteria is blackmail.

Most signs and messages today solicit us in this hysterical manner. They would make-us-believe, make-us-speak and make-us-come by dissuasion. They would blackmail us with a blind, psy-chodramatic transaction, using signs devoid of meaning, that multiply and hypertrophy precisely because they no longer have any secrets or credibility. Signs without faith, without affect or history, signs terrified at the idea of signifying - just as the hysteric is terrified at the idea of being seduced.

In reality, the inner absence that inheres in the self terrifies the hysteric. She must drain herself, with her continual play, of this absence in the secrecy of which she could be loved, and could love herself. In this way she forms a mirror behind which

- near suicide, but turning suicide, like everything else, into a bothersome, theatrical process of seduction - she remains immortal in her "spectacular" domain.

The same process, but reversed, can be found in anorexia, frigidity and impotence. By turning one's body into a mirror

- but a mirror that has, as it were, been turned against the wall by effacing the potential seductiveness of one's body - by disenchanting and desexualizing it, one is still resorting to blackmail and delivering an ultimatum: "You will not seduce me, I dare you to try." Seduction, however, shows through in its very negation, since the dare is one of its fundamental forms. A challenge must be met with a response, (without wanting to) a challenge has to let itself seduce - but here the game has been closed down. And closed down all the more emphatically by the body, by its dramatization of a refusal of seduction - while the hysteric gets out of the game by dramatizing a demand for seduction. In both cases, however, seduction, whether as seducer or seduced, is denied.

The problem, therefore, is not one of sexual or alimentary impotence, with its train of psychoanalytic reasons and unreason, but concerns an impotence as regards seduction . The disaffection, neurosis, anguish and frustration encountered by psychoanalysis comes no doubt from being unable to love or to be loved, from being unable to give or take pleasure, but the radical disenchantment comes from seduction and its failure. Only those who lie completely outside seduction are ill, even if they remain fully capable of loving and making love. Psychoanalysis believes it treats the disorders of sex and desire, but in reality it is dealing with the disorders of seduction (which it has helped, not inconsiderably, to place outside seduction and imprison within the dilemma of sex). The most serious deficiencies always concern charm and not pleasure, enchantment and not some vital or sexual satisfaction, the (game's) rule and not the (symbolic) Law. To be deprived of seduction is the only true form of castration.

Fortunately, the latter continuously fails. Seduction rises like the phoenix from the ashes, with the subject being unable to prevent all this from again becoming, as with anorexia or impotence, a last desperate attempt at seduction, and the denial from again becoming a dare. Perhaps it is in these aggravated forms of sexual self-denial that seduction expresses itself in its purest form, since it still asks the other to: "Prove to me that it's not just a matter of 'that.' "

There are other passions opposed to seduction, though fortunately, they too usually fail when taken to extremes. The passion for collecting, for example, the fetishism of the collector.

Its antagonistic affinity with seduction is strong, perhaps because it too involves a game with rules, whose intensity is such that it can substitute itself for any other game. For it too invokes a passion for an abstraction that defies every moral law, in order to maintain the rigid ceremonial of the closed universe within which the subject confines himself.

The collector is possessive. He seeks exclusive rights over the dead object with which he appeases his fetishist passion. Reclusion and confinement: beyond all else he is collecting himself. And he is not to be distracted from his madness, since his love of the object, the amorous stratagems with which he surrounds it, display a hatred and fear of seduction. And not just the seductiveness of the object: he is just as repelled by any seduction that might emanate from himself.

The Collector, the film and novel, illustrate this delirium. The protagonist, being unable to seduce or be loved (but does he want seduction and the spontaneity of love? certainly not - he wants to force the seduction, he wants to force love), kidnaps a young woman and confines her in the basement of his country house, which has been specially equipped for the purpose. He installs her, cares for her, surrounds her with numerous courtesies, but checks all attempts at escape, outsmarts all her ruses, and will spare her only if she admits herself defeated and seduced, only if, in the end, she loves him spontaneously. In time, however, with this forced promiscuity, an indecisive and troubled connivence forms between them - and one evening he invites her to dine upstairs, with all precautions taken. And what happens? She genuinely tries to seduce him and offers herself to him. Perhaps she loves him at this moment, perhaps she only wants to disarm him. Both no doubt. But whatever the case, her behaviour provokes a panic reaction, and he hits her, insults her and throws her back in the cave. He no longer respects her, he undresses her and takes pornographic pictures which he places in a photo album (he collects butterflies, and has shown her his collection with pride). She gets sick and falls into a sort of coma: he no longer cares for her- she dies and he buries her in his yard. In the last scene, he is seen looking for another woman to kidnap and seduce at whatever cost.

A need to be loved, but an inability to be seduced. When, finally, the woman is seduced (it is enough that she wants to seduce him) he cannot accept his victory: he prefers to see it as a sexual malediction and punishes her. It is not a question of impotence (it is never a question of impotence). He prefers the possessive spell cast by a collection of dead objects - the dead sex object being as beautiful as a butterfly with flores-cent wings - to the seduction of a living being who would demand his love in return. He prefers the monotonous fascination of the collection, the fascination with dead differences, this obsession with the same, over the seduction of the other. This is why one senses from the beginning that she will die, not because he is a dangerous madman, but because he is logical, motivated by an irreversible logic. To seduce without being seduced - without reversibility.

In this case, one of the two terms must die, and it is always the same since the other is already dead. The other is immortal and indestructible, as in every perversion. This is illustrated by the fact that the film ends where it began (and not without humour - possessive people, like perverse people, have a good sense of humour outside the sphere of their obsession, including in the minutiae of their proceedings). In any case, the collector has enclosed himself within an insoluble logic: all the signs of love she can give him will be interpreted in a contrary manner. And the most tender will be the most suspect. He might perhaps be satisfied with the appropriate signs, but he cannot bear the genuine enticements of love. Within his logic, she has signed her own death warrant.

This is not a story about sadism - it is too moving. Who said that the best proof of love is to respect the other and his or her desires? Perhaps the price paid by beauty and seduction is to be confined and put to death, because they are too dangerous, and because one will never be able to render her what she has given. One can then only reward her with her death. In a sense, the girl recognizes this since she responds to this higher seduction offered her in the metaphor of her confinement. It is just that she cannot respond except by offering herself sexually - and this appears trivial relative to the challenge she herself poses by her beauty. Sexual pleasure will never abolish the need for seduction. Formerly all mortals were obliged to redeem their living bodies with a sacrifice; today all seductive forms, perhaps all living forms, have to redeem themselves by their death. This is a symbolic law - which is, moreover, not a law but an unavoidable rule, that is, we adhere to it without grounds, as something arbitrary yet obvious, and not in accord with some transcendent principle. .

Should one conclude that every attempt at seduction ends with the murder of the object, or that it always - and this is a variation on the same theme - involves an attempt to drive the other mad? Is the spell one exercises over the other always harmful? Is one only seeking to avenge the spell,that the other exercises over you? Is the game being played here a game of life or death, or at least closer to death than the serene exchange of sexual pleasure? To seduce implies that the other will pay for the fact of being seduced, that is, for having been torn from him/herself and made into an object of sorcery. Here everything obeys the symbolic rule of immediate apportionment which dictates the sacrificial relations between men and their gods in cultures of cruelty, that is, relations of recognition and dispensation of unlimited violence. Now seduction belongs to cultures of cruelty, and is the only ceremonial form of the latter left to us. It is what draws our attention to death, not in its organic and accidental form, but as something necessary and rigorous, the inevitable consequence of the game's rules. Death remains the ultimate risk in every symbolic pact, be it that supposed by a challenge, a secret, a seduction or a perversion.

Seduction and perversion maintain subtle relations. Doesn't seduction imply a form of the diversion of the world's order? And yet, of all the passions, of all the movements of the soul, perversion is perhaps the most opposed to seduction.

Both are cruel and indifferent relative to sex.

Seduction is something that seizes hold of all pleasures, affects and representations, and gets ahold of dreams themselves in order to reroute them from their primary course, turning them into a sharper, more subtle game, whose stakes have neither an end nor an origin, and concerns neither drives nor desires.

If sex has a natural law, a pleasure principle, then seduction consists in denying that principle and replacing it with a rule, the arbitrary rule of a game. In this sense, seduction is perverse. The immorality of perversion, like that of seduction, does not come from abandoning oneself to the joys of sex in opposition to all morality; it results from something more serious and subtle, the abandonment of sex itself as a referent and a morality, even in its "joys."

Play, not sensual pleasure. The pervert is cold when it comes to sex. He transmutes sex and sexuality into a ritual carrier, a ritual and ceremonial abstraction, a burning concern with signs rather than an exchange of desires. With the pervert, all the intensity of sex is dispaced onto the signs and their sequence, just as in Artaud this intensity is displaced onto the theaterical unfolding (the savage irruption of signs into reality). Their violence is ceremonial - and by no means instinctual; only the rite is violent, only the rules of the game are violent, because they put an end to the system formed by reality. This is true cruelty, and has nothing to do with bloodlust. And in this sense, perversion is cruel.

Perversion's power of fascination comes from a ritual cult based on rules. The pervert is not someone who transgresses the law, but someone who eludes the law in order to dedicate himself to the rule, someone, then, who evades not just the reproductive finality of the sexual order, but that order itself, with its symbolic law, in order to link up with a regulated, ritualized, ceremonial form.

Perversion supposes a contract that is not a contract, that is, a transaction between two free agents, but a pact upholding the obsevance of a rule. As such it establishes a duel relation (like a challenge) that excludes all third parties (unlike a contract) and cannot be dissociated into its individual terms. It is this pact, this duel relation, with its web of obligations foreign to the law, which renders perversion invulnerable to the external world - and impenetrable to analysis in terms of the individual unconscious, and thus to psychoanalysis. For the realm of the rule is not part of psychoanalysis's jurisdiction, which concerns law alone. Perversion, on the other hand, belongs to this other universe.

The duel relation abolishes the law of exchange. The rules of perversion abolish sex's natural law. Arbitrary, like the rules of a game, the contents are of little consequence; what is essential is the imposition of a rule or sign, or system of signs, which abstracts from the sexual order (it might be, as with Klos-sowski, coins that, oblivious to the natural law of exchange, become the ritual carrier of perversion).

Hence the affinity between convents, secret societies, Sade's chateaux, and the universe of perversion. The oaths, the rites, the interminable Sadian protocols. What joins them together is a cult of the rule - and not its absence in licentiousness. And within these rules, the pervert or perverse couple can admit social strains and distortions without difficulty, since the latter concern the law alone (thus, according to Goblot, within the the bourgeois class, one can do anything provided the class rule, the system of arbitrary signs that defines it as a caste, remains unharmed). All transgressions are possible, but not an infraction of the Rule.

Thus, in their common challenge to the natural order, perversion and seduction resemble each other. But on numerous occasions they are violently opposed, as in the story of The Collector, where a perverse, possessive passion triumphs over seduction. Or in the story of "The Dancer" related by Leo Scheer: A concentration camp guard forces a young Jewess to dance for him before her death. She does so, and as her dancing leaves him spellbound, she is able to approach him, steal his weapon and kill him. Of the two universes, that of the SS, exemplifying a staggering, perverse power, a power of fascination (that vested in the sovereignty of the person who holds a life in his hands), and that of the girl, exemplifying seduction by the dance, the latter triumphs. Seduction invades the order of fascination and turns it upside down (though most of the time it is not even given the chance to enter). It is clear here that the two logics exclude each other, and that each represents a mortal danger for the other.

But isn't there a continuous cycle of reversion; between the two? The collector's passion ends up, after all, exercising a kind of seduction over the girl (or is it only fascinatiĆ³n? But, once again, where's the difference?). A certain vertigo results from strategy.

The pervert always gets involved in a maniacal universe of mastery and the law. He seeks mastery over the fetishized rule and absolute ritual circumscription. The latter is no longer playful. It no longer moves. It is dead, and can no long put anything into play except its own death. Fetishism is the seduction of death, including the death of the rule in perversion.

Perversion is a frozen challenge; seduction, a living challenge. Seduction is shifting and ephemeral; perversion, monotonous and interminable. Perversion is theatrical and complicit; seduction, secret and reversible.

Systems obsessed with their systematicity are fascinating: they tune in death as an energy of fascination. Thus the collector's passion tries to circumscribe and immobilize seduction before transforming it into a death energy. It is then the flaw of such systems that becomes seductive. Terror is dissipated by irony. Or else seduction lies in wait for systems at their point of inertia, that point at which they stop, where there is no longer any beyond, nor any possible representation - a point of no return where the trajectories slow down and the object is absorbed by its own force of resistance and density. What happens in the environs of this point of inertia? The object is distorted like the sun refracted by the different layers of the horizon; crushed by its own mass, it no longer obeys its own laws. We know almost nothing about such processes of inertia, except that at the edge of this black hole the point of no return becomes a point of total reversibility, a catastrophic point where death is pulled tight to be released in a new seduction effect.

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