Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry has a philosophical take on the Emily Witt essay about the public BDSM porn shoot in San Francisco that several of us on TAC have been talking about this week. Excerpt:

The question that Rod and Noah and Alan are sort of batting around is: are some kinds of sex intrinsically degrading? If yes, what and what does that mean; if not, why not and what does that mean. (There’s also a sub-debate about the difference, and whether there is one, between participating in sexual rituals and watching them over the internet.)

That’s an important discussion to have these days but I do think within the context of this essay it risks missing the forest for the trees.

There are several threads to Witt’s essay: there’s the Kink shoot, but there’s also the San Francisco Googleplex of smart beautiful healthy empty robotic people, there are also as Alan notes glimpses of the human devastation that San Francisco’s sheen hides but that all San Franciscans know (“A Greek chorus of the homeless and mentally ill”; “a side street haunted by drug addicts and the mentally ill just south of the Tenderloin”), and there is finally Witt’s own ruderless personal life.

What is the thing that binds these things all together? It’s not kinky sex. It is, and the piece screams this at me, an utter absence of love.

What this piece is is a description of is what happens when not only people don’t love each other but don’t even have the idea that that is something they ought to do.

You should read the whole thing, but a warning: PEG’s blog post is not pornographic, but it does mention a certain sex act that is the centerpiece of the Witt essay, because it was the climax (ahem) of the public BDSM ritual. I think it is telling that the ultimate act of this rite involved a fist, that is, a hand made into a weapon. But that’s appropriate, because they’ve completely inverted the meaning of sexuality, taking it from an expression of the greatest intimacy and tenderness and love between two people, and turning it into a freak show of public cruelty, pain, and degradation. Such is “love” to these people.

Run. 

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